Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Learning to Follow

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it."
Luke 9:23-24

What does that look like? In my life, it looks like learning to follow, better than ever. A life lived in the belief that Jesus is guiding me, daily, and I am determined to follow.

1. Deny my 'self.'
2. Follow Jesus.
3. Lose 'my' life.
4. A life totally dedicated to Jesus.
5. A life totally dedicated to the gospel.

Because I am about to begin a new adventure, I want to commit myself once again to live a life not dedicated to 'me', but rather living with open hands. I want Him to have all of me.

He is leading – I will follow!

Living with a compass rather than a road map created by me.

A life determined by Jesus – not 'me' or others.

A life of being sensitive to the Holy Spirit: asking, listening, being led, obeying, believing that Jesus will put in my path what He wants.

Giving my time and energy to what He asks me to do.

A life of adventure - what new and different things might He ask me to do - that I might not see or experience otherwise.

I TRULY do want Him to lead me; and I TRULY do want to follow.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Beginning of a New Chapter

I have never faced this season in my life before. I had a heavy construction job, at the age of 19; and got laid off because the job was over. I was out of work for a week, signed up for unemployment;, and never got to collect. I then worked in 3 different grocery stores over a period of 10 years. Soon after completing my college education I was hired by my employer to manage a grocery store he had just purchased. I was then hired as the Church Administrator in the church we attended. You get the idea, I've always had a job.

I remember, so clearly, the day Ginger and I drove out of town in a U-Haul truck, headed for Montana. I was filled with anticipation for this new adventure the Lord was providing for us. You know the rest of the story. Since being appointed as the Pastor of Faith Chapel, almost 36 years ago, I have enjoyed a career at the same place. Always having a job and knowing what I would be giving my time and energy to has characterized my life to this point.

In a few weeks, my tenure as the Lead Pastor of Faith, comes to an end. Do I feel un-employed? Not at all! Am I retiring? No. But what I do feel, is what I felt as I was in that U-Haul truck headed for Billings, over thirty years ago: a new adventure, a very real sense of expectancy, and the question looming in my mind, "What does the Lord have for us next?"

People keep asking, "So, what are you going to do when you retire?" Others ask, "I bet you are excited about retiring!" I never know how to respond to those questions about retirement. So, here it is. I feel like Ginger and I are crossing the finish line in terms of one assignment from the Lord; and we are about to cross the starting line for another season of assignments from the Lord - that are yet to be determined.

I get glimpses, once in awhile, of what life might be like. Being a guest speaker at Faith, wow, I like the sound of that. Speaking in other churches; I love to teach so why not. Coaching pastors – helpful, fun and fulfilling. Serving the denomination I have been part of for most of my adult life – satisfying and making a difference, why not? Who knows what else? Only the One who has my total allegiance. And it's quite nice, frankly, to be in a place where I don't know exactly what I am going to do everyday. Adventure!

Of course, there will be more Harley time; and more time on the golf course. But those will be 'fill-in" between the adventure; allowing my soul to catch up with my body.

Most of all, I am looking forward to a lot of time with the one who has loved, supported, and participated wholeheartedly in this adventure with me – Ginger. She said to me recently, "I'm sure glad I like you. It would not be pleasant spending the rest of our years with someone we don't like." Whew!

Time with my adult children, grand children, and great grand children. Living at a different pace of life; free from the stewardship of a large congregation; free from the wonderful anxiety of Sunday is always coming; time to reflect and write my thoughts; time to simply sit and talk with people I love; the freedom to say no; helping others who are not quite as far along in the journey; enjoying Jesus; enjoying serving and being part of a church I love; praying and encouraging my Pastor, and encouraging others to do so. Now that sounds like a great adventure to me. Retired? Hmm. I don't think so.

One of my favorite Bible characters, Moses, didn't begin to do what God created him for until he was a senior citizen. I'm not sure that is true of me, but maybe.

I am viewing this time not simply as the end of something – but as the beginning of something else.


Stan

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mayan Calendar!

Every so often someone predicts that the world is going to come to an end. How do we think about that? How do we respond to the questions of others?

This coming Friday, December 21, 2012, is the world coming to an end? There has been a lot of discussion about that recently, in light of the fact that the Mayan calendar ends on the day.

Let’s look at the Scripture to guide our thinking.

  •  We do know that the world, as we know it, will come to an end one day. 
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” (2 Peter 3:10, NIV)

  • In light of that fact, we are to examine how we live. 
“Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (2 Peter 3:11, NIV)

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:14, NIV)

  •  It is important to remember that no one knows the day or the hour that the end will come, only God our Father. 
“He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7, NIV)

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36, NIV)

  •  We are to live in a state of readiness at all times. 
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” (Matthew 24:42, NIV)

  • Jesus was clear, in light of the fact of His return, we are to share our faith with everyone we know – there is an urgency. 
“He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'” (Mark 16:15–16, NIV)


So many people are pre-occupied with ‘when’ Jesus is coming; instead we are to live in a state of readiness; and to live a godly life at all times.

  • Let’s not live in fear but in the hope He has given us. 
  • Let’s be expectant about our future with Jesus and let’s be prepared to meet Him at any moment. Let’s live every day as if it were the day of His return. 
  • Let’s not be careless but be ready. Some people say, “Well let’s eat, drink, and be merry – if this is the end what have we got to lose.” Instead we are called to live in holiness – ready to meet Him at any moment – without apology. 

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.” (2 Peter 3:8–14, NIV)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Change


Do you see an area of your life where you would like to bring about change? It’s not all up to you!

PRAY FOR:

1. DIRECTION – clearly describe what you want to see change. Does the Scripture give you any guidance?

2. DESIRE – ask the Holy Spirit to create in you a deep desire to change.

3. DECISION – make a decision, by God’s grace, to act.

4. DISCIPLINE – seek discipline to follow through on a daily basis.


· Write it down so you don’t forget.

· Pray on a daily basis until you see results in those four areas.

· Don’t forget to thank the Lord for His help and care in your life.

Monday, October 22, 2012

MANAGING THE TENSIONS OF LIFE


Life is full of ‘tensions’ that must be managed.

Saving ---------------------------------------------- Generosity

Humility ------------------------------------------- Confidence

Wait ------------------------------------------------ Act


We dare not choose one over the other all the time.
There is a time for each and we must be wise in our choice of which is appropriate now.

An example would be: “Do I rely on the Holy Spirit for guidance or the Holy Scriptures for guidance?” The answer is, “Yes, we trust both.”

I once heard someone say, "The Word without the Spirit and you will dry up; The Spirit without the Word and you will blow up; The Spirit and The Word and you will grow up.”

Truth --------------------------------------------- Love

We all know what happens when someone speaks the truth in an unloving way, or someone, in the name of love holds back the truth; either is much less than the truth spoken in love.

Time alone --------------------------- Time with people

As you pray for wisdom – pray for the wisdom to know what to choose and when to choose – recognizing life is filled with tensions to be managed.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

SIMPLICITY

There is a huge difference between 'simplicity' and 'simplistic.'

Simplistic means to treat complex issues as if they were much simpler than they really are; that can get you in a lot of trouble. Easy answers to complex problems; try that one on in a dating relationship, marriage, or at work – oops!

Simplicity means that something is easily understood or uncomplicated. I like simplicity:
Tough problems become managable.
Complex relationships become a joy.
A busy life is now exhilarating.
Relationship with Jesus comes back into perspective.

When I first started leading a church it was fairly simple; not easy but simple:
Stay close to Jesus.
Study hard.
Preach clear and compelling messages.
Love people well.
Surround yourself with smart, godly people.
Don't do 'stupid'.

As the church grew, things got a lot more complex: more people, more resources to deal with, more buildings to build, more and bigger decisions, more critics, and a lot less time to deal with all of it. At one point I felt like, "Everybody wants something!"

Thirty five years into leading the same church has brought me full circle. At some point you have to decide to start deleting tasks, simplifying your schedule, and start a 'not to do list.'

I've discovered I can only handle a few things well. When you simplify and focus on the right things the dust settles and things come back into perspective again. It's also beneficial to restore fun into your life.

We live in a very complicated world and people's lives are way too busy. I think if we can make church life more manageable, we will be doing a great service to our congregants.

Here it is – my version of 'simple church.' I call it 'KEEPING YOUR EYE ON THE BALL.'
Weekend services that focus on "Worship & The Word."
Friendships that are authentic and include honest dialogue about Spiritual matters.
Daily time alone with Jesus.
Living every day like you started – I want to make a difference – remember?

The life of a follower of Christ is all about Jesus: vital relationship with Him; allowing Him to shape your thinking and behavior; and viewing every relationship through the eyes of: "How can I influence this person for Jesus?"

Pretty simple – JUST KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL! When you say, "Yes," to Jesus it's easy to say, "No," to lesser things.

Monday, July 30, 2012

First Love - Don't Settle for Less!

In my devo's template I have some questions I ask myself regularly. These questions are directed toward evaluating my spiritual health; somewhat like putting a thermometer in my mouth and taking my temperature to see if all is well physically.

The first of these questions: "Is my relationship with Jesus growing deeper?" Amazing, isn't it, the notion of knowing Jesus personally; talking to someone who walked on this planet as a real live human being over two thousand years ago. But, of course, that is the very essence of Christianity, relating to Jesus.

Like any relationship, our relationship with Jesus ebbs and flows; sometimes we feel very close to Him, other times distant. We realize, of course, He is always present. The ebbs and flows have more to do with our attention, or our awareness of His presence rather than any change with regard to proximity.

Recently, I have been reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Tozer's words have stirred me to, once again, to be more intentional about sitting in a quiet place and listening, focusing, paying attention to God's Presence. He is always there, all the time, but I have been more attentive recently. It's quite refreshing, spending time reading Scripture, not simply to gain insight, but to listen for the still small voice of God, to speak to me personally; and to kneel and talk to Him, and listen, focused on Him, not just saying words.

So I can answer in the affirmative, "Yes, my relationship with Jesus is growing deeper." But, like any relationship, my relationship with Jesus must be consistently monitored, evaluated, and nurtured. He is always there waiting for me, so it's up to me to move toward Him.

How about you? Is your relationship with Jesus growing deeper? Make the move; He's waiting - for you!