Not Good Enough?

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Our home away from home for one week in January ’17.

I’m continuing a series of blogs on things I saw and learned during our vacation in January on a cruise ship.

One of the things we hope to enjoy when we go cruising is the on-board entertainment. The entertainment on the ship was very good, notably the dynamic and extremely talented young people who put on the Vegas style shows. But one thing stood out. The floor was packed but the balconies were vacant.

I was shocked.

One of the shows featured some magic tricks, very good ones in fact. In the midst of their fast-paced music and exquisite choreography, they did these slight-of-hand tricks there were quite impressive.

No one applauded.

They were the kind that you’ve seen on television several times. Apparently it was a “been there, done that” crowd. What a shame. They did it so well.

I hate to even think this way, but how could someone think they were not good enough?

This kinda makes me think about current trends in church. Church for baby boomers has been all about excellence and new stuff. Of course this leads to problems when everyone has seen it all before.

It is interesting the things we go through to present a 2,000 year old message. Perhaps this present generation of millennials, who no doubt have a liking for doing things well, but will reject all of it if it is not genuine.

Hummmmm.

Pastors across this country are struggling with getting younger people into the church without alienating the older folks. One of the things I did to move the churches I served forward was to introduce a band that played more progressive music. I used to say to those who didn’t like the new music, “Twenty years from now I’m going to hate the music but love what it does for our grandchildren.”

I think I’m getting closer to that twenty year mark…and that pains me. Am I not good enough?

My current job has forced me to take a “one beggar to another” approach in sharing the 2,000 year old message of the gospel of Jesus. I have no fog machines or special lighting, no band or coffee bar with a hipster pulling shots. It’s just me, the other person and the Holy Spirit.

The funny thing is, slowly but surely it’s working.

Pastor, be creative! YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! Do whatever it takes to reach people in your community. Church attender; help your pastor try new “stuff,” even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. But may all of us remember that eternity is written on our hearts and those who would listen, and that’s more than good enough.

What kind of church would you attend? One that focuses on music, the hipster, the special lighting or story-telling preaching style? Is it one where there is excellence or authenticity? What about one where the focus is old school with a choir and all of the “normal” programs and style of a traditional church? Remember that being “traditional” has more to do with being within our culture and not one seen in the Bible. What attracts you? Friends? Life stories? Mission? Why?

Ecclesiastes 3:11

 

Son-Tan Anyone?

p1010530With my wife Tami on beach in Costa Maya, Mexico

Okay, I’ll admit it. My wife and I are cruise people. We enjoy cruising as our most desired form of vacationing. We enjoy relaxing, having new port experiences and meeting new people. When our kids were younger, we were pleased to be able to use these trips to give them experiences they would never forget. For example, on one cruise during their Middle and High School years, they were in five different countries in a week.

While we are cruise people, I’m not really a sun person. That’s right. We cruise during the winter months to be in a warmer place…which is easy to do when you live in North Dakota.

As a point of order here, I will have you know that we have more sunny days in North Dakota than much of the rest of the country. However, some of the sunniest days here on the plain also come with a minus 25 price tag.

Brrrrr…

So, while I enjoy the warmer weather, I’m not a lay-on-the-deck-sun-tan-guy. But our trip in January of this year I decided to spend more time with my wife by being out tanning with her. I donned the sun screen – EVERYWHERE. I even hit the growing bald spot on the back of my head (the visor is a “no fly zone” in sunny weather for me these days). I sat through two significant tanning sessions on deck of our cruise ship. The only parts that I enjoyed of those experiences were being in proximity of my amazing wife, and to return home looking “browner.”

After the second session I woke up the next morning with a rash in all the places I used sun screen. No joke. Apparently soaking up the vitamin D isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be…

I’ve been working on my walk with Jesus. I’ve been journaling a great deal, reading the Scripture, talking to Him a bunch AND working at listening to Him more than talking to Him. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been a pastor for decades and been raised in the church all of my life and have advanced ministry degrees. Those facts don’t make me immune for my need to build relationship. And yet it’s the same reason why I wanted to be near my wife – because she is awesome and means the world to me…

Jesus means the world to me. You know as I think about these facts, investing in the nearness of Sonshine in my life contributes more than vitamins. It is life itself.

Son-tan anyone?

What are the activities you participate in to build better relationships? If you are a Christ-follower, what do you do to build your relationship with Jesus? If you are not a Christ-follower, what intrigues you about reasons why I would want to pursue a better relationship with Jesus?

John 8:36

The Green Monster and the “Less” vs “More”

 

05_30_3_webOne of the aspects of the human condition is that as a general rule everyone is a socialist until it’s about their own money. Those with “less” love to direct and tell those with “more” where their “more” should go. But when the same directive is thrust back in the face of the “less,” the coughing, running and excuse making begins in earnest.

By the way, I would identify as one of the “less.” Welcome to the club!

The struggle is simple and multifaceted at the same time. Everyone wants to enjoy the fruit of their labors without others hindering them by making their monetary decisions for them. That last sentence opens several proverbial cans of worms. Dump in talk of national economies, job creation and satisfaction, the discussion never ends well in a world divided by the activities of The Green Monster in the heart of mankind.

This is what makes the following even more remarkable. That American Christians would give fully 10% of their gross income plus offerings for a wide range of needs with a cheerful heart is nothing short of shocking. It is to visualize The Green Monster trapped in a cage, unable to find mastery over an individual. What is even more remarkable is when these tithes and offering are given by a group of people who have the very same needs as those whom the funds are directed toward, outside of a local church. This is a miracle that repeats itself over and over again. And yet even at this point, some of those with “less” outside the Church would like to dictate where those tithes and offerings go…

That’s the human condition for you.

Christian giving is counter-intuitive within socialistic and capitalistic cultures. The reason why is pretty simple. It is given within another economy – a supernatural one. Giving works in God’s economy. From Scripture, a Christ-follower does not give to get, but instead gives out of obedience. And yet time and again the faithful find their needs being met, often seeing the miraculous in the process.

The subject most spoken of in the New Testament is money, that Green Monster that lurks in the shadows, tempting us for control of our life situations. Jesus said,

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 NLT

This life encouragement is a discussion starter to gain control over The Green Monster by elevating above the “less” and “more” battle into a new economy. And yes, personally my wife and I have found the Scripture to be true. While we give out of obedience, time and again we find our needs being met. And yes, we’ve become acquainted with the miraculous…

How big is The Green Monster in your life? Do you know others in your life that can help you transition from an earthly economy into a supernatural one? Who has control of our wallets? What greatness would be unleashed in your life should you step into a new economy? What are your financial goals for 2017, and what are you willing to do to reach those goals?

 

 

Peace

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As we are moving through this Christmas season I think about the concept of peace that a Christ follower can have because Christ came. This topic humorously reminds me of the lengths we will go to try to find a measure of peace in our own strength and power…

I had a series of interesting experiences in my first foray into the world of building security. It occurred while my wife and I were on staff at our home church in Auburn, Washington.  There had been a couple of break-ins, and so the church invested in an alarm system.  The problem was training the staff that when they entered the building, they had about 60 seconds to disarm the alarm. There were more than a few times that the alarm was not turned off and the police department came screaming into the parking lot!  My favorite time occurred when my wife was surrounded one evening by Auburn’s finest.

Peace, on whatever terms or levels, comes at a price.

That alarm system was expensive. When we consider the coming of Christ 2,000 years ago, there was a price that was eventually paid as well.

What does your peace cost?

Philippians 4:7

 

 

Tool Time

 

pexels-photo-65043I while back I was at the venerable store, Sears. They were having a huge sale from 7 AM to 11 AM.  I was sent there by my wife to buy some new towels for our kid’s bathroom.  After scouting out and purchasing the towels that she wanted, I made my way toward the reason why I didn’t complain about going to the store to buy towels.  It just so happened that the sale was store-wide, and Sears is well known for their hardware.

There I was in the seat of earthly male bliss!  It was a glorious time!  They even had special lighting for all of their drills and saws.  I thought I was at a well-lit smorgasbord!  It was almost humorous as I stood there looking at some tools that I would love to have someday.  I heard wives pulling their husbands along with, “We didn’t come here to look at tools!” and “Come on honey!”

As I was standing there, salivating over a set of tools, another fellow engaged me about which of three sets was a better buy.  I had never met the fellow before, but in the midst of the tool department at Sears, hey, we’re brothers!  After an in-depth discussion about the needs that he was trying to fill, we together decided that the cheaper set would do him just fine.  He even went around the corner, picked up the box, and brought it back to me to confirm that he had made the right choice.  If he only knew…I didn’t work there!

The tools at Sears, Home Depot, Menards or Lowes, they have a way of bringing a sense of camaraderie among like-minded individuals, connecting us through the tools we use and want to have.  We love the new ideas they bring us, not to mention the opportunity to engage in some household project that our spouses might have for us, thereby validating our hardware wants and purchases. And so, the like-minded tool and hardware lovers everywhere, are bound together by the commonality of desiring something that makes things a little easier at times.

One of the key aspects of the Christian life that binds us together around the world is the peace that we have in our hearts because Jesus came to this earth 2,000 years ago. And yes, that fact does make life a little – to a lot easier at times…

What are commonalities to that connect your life to another? If you are a Christ-follower, what aspects of your life bind you with other Christ-followers? What matters most as you head into this Christmas season of reflecting on the coming of the Christ child?