Learning about Myself

Yesterday, I did something I have very rarely done. I slept in on Sunday morning. Normally I rise about 7:00 (or earlier) and get ready for Church. I drive to the Church building alone and there I pray and finally practice my sermon. I usually finish about the time the worship team shows up to practice. When they are done I teach Sunday School and then go right into worship. Well, yesterday I knew through several scheduling conflicts that most people were going to end up missing Sunday School, so I canceled it. On top of that, my family was leading worship for the Sunday so they decided to practice on Saturday. All of this together meant that we did not have to be at the Church building until 10:30 for worship. For my family that meant we could all sleep until almost 9:00 am. That may not sound like a big deal to you, but I only get to sleep in on Sunday once or twice a year on vacation. This was a special treat for us to enjoy. And to be honest, I started the day off rested and feeling great. That is, until we got to Church.
Then the worship seemed to be out of sync. Things did not flow real well. Finally my mind was struggling to get through the sermon. I stammered and struggled through the material unlike I have in a long time. After the program I was talking to my wife and we both stated how the day seemed awkward just by getting a late start.
All of this has made me realize what my weekly routine does for me. It gets me in a groove. The timing, the practice, the memory of my sermon all come together naturally. When the routine is thrown off, my brain struggles to adjust. I can honestly say I never really knew this about myself. I never completely understood how important it is to develop a Sunday routine in order for me to function properly.
Then I began to wonder about other people. Maybe that is why some weeks people seem engaged to learn and others want to sleep. Maybe that is why some people are here early and others arrive late. Maybe the difference between experiencing a great Sunday and a not-so-great Sunday is what each of us do before we arrive.
What if you were to take that one Sunday you truly loved and recreate your routine for that week. Would it change Sunday morning for us? Knowledge of yourself may help you to learn better the knowledge of the Holy.

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My thoughts on Santa

Yesterday I was sitting for lunch with a group of college students. They were having a deep discussion about whether you should pretend there is a Santa with little kids or not. I listened to all of their stories and arguments and remained silent on the matter. But today I want to post my thoughts on Santa. I know it sounds simple, but I think there are some big issues underlying the question of Santa for me and my family.
First, I personally tell my kids that Santa is a nice story that people like to tell. It is kind of like Batman, Superman, or even Huck Finn. Nice stories created by nice, well-intentioned people. The stories may have some roots in history, but primarily serve the purpose of communicating a truth. With Santa, I learn that giving is better than receiving.
Second, my objections are more biblical than personal. What does it benefit my kids to lie to them? If I act like some mythical person (or creature) is real like Santa, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy or whatever else is real, “How does that help them?” I tell them that mommy and daddy (along with grandma and grandpa) bought them their gifts. We did it because we love them and want them to enjoy the holiday. More than that, I tell them that God provided us with the money to purchase those gifts. God is the ultimate giver and that is the biggest lesson to learn. Then, I want them to understand that we are to giving people – just like God.
The bigger problem I see is what happens when my kids find out Santa is not real. I think I lose some credibility with my children. “If my parents are lying to me about this, what else are they lying to me about?” My deepest fear is that they will question the existence of God. If I lied to them about Santa, whom they have never seen, maybe I lied to them about God, whom they have also never seen.
I have yet to have one parent give me a descent answer when I ask the question, “What does it benefit my children (or me) to lie to them about Santa?” There is no benefit that I can see. So, I spend Christmas telling my kids about the great God we serve who gave us his one and only Son.

Not a Game Changer

I love sports and as a result I am a Sportscenter junky. I also like to watch or DVR “Happy Hour” on ESPN with the shows “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption.” I know most of what is going on in the sports world and very often I know why. All of that is to say that twice in the last two weeks I have heard someone say the someone is a “game changer.” Someone bragged that a particular coach is changing the game of college football. Another boasted that a freshman basketball player was changing the game of basketball for future players.
What struck me as interesting in both of these situations – that weekend both teams lost. This person who was supposed to be changing everything we know about a sport lost when they met a better team.
I have thought of a few lessons from this experience. The biggest is that no one is really changing the way the game is played. It doesn’t matter what game it is. You still have to master the basics better than others. You still have to pass accurately, catch securely and run faster no matter how fancy your offense looks. A team or player who has better fundamental skills almost always wins.
I suppose this stuck in my mind because in the past few years of my ministry I have heard repeatedly that a pastor is a “real game changer.” His approach to purpose or service or preaching or organization is the best we have ever seen. Lately, I am learning that a Church needs to master the basics before anything else matters. Are we committed to Jesus above all else? Do we value other people? Do we share the gospel? Are we grounded in the spiritual disciplines?
Most Churches that are making an impact are not really doing anything different from what has been done for centuries before, but rather they have committed themselves to the basics of the faith. Churches and Christians that are grounded in the basics will often see results from their efforts as God gives the increase.
I need to continually remind myself that I do not need the newest, latest and greatest in my faith. What I need to do is work on the basics of the faith in my life and in my Church. The game may look like it is changing but those who master the fundamentals will always see better results. True in football and in faith.

Story of My Life

Slowly over time I am losing all touch with the popular music of the culture. As a teen I was deeply involved in popular music, in college I listened to more fringe music and after college I stayed pretty current. The children came and I slowly started loosing touch with popular music. Now I listen to my teenagers music and I realize I have drifted into a new category of person. I now listen to what my children call “old people music.” I have tried to explain that my music was cutting edge when I was a young, but that just gets a casual eye role.
Well, to stay a little in touch my wife and I try to watch some of the top 20 shows on the music TV channels plus we watch some of the award shows. The other night at the American Music Awards the boy band named One Direction performed a song called “The Story of My Life.” We both liked the tune and I went on to download the song.
If I understand the song correctly it is a song about lost love. A boy has loved a girl but she decided to end it. He then is left to pursue her without reciprocated feelings. In the end, the story of his life is about loving a woman who doesn’t love him.
What catches me about the song is this simple question, “What will be the story of my life?”
Let’s be clear – we are all writing some story with our lives. It will be summarized in an obituary or in a eulogy one day. What will be the story of my life?
Will it be the sad story of lost love? Will it be the story of loving one woman? Will it be the story of a loving parent? Will it be the story of a serving Christian? What will your story be?
Maybe better yet, what is the story you are writing right now? Is it positive? Is it negative?
Maybe the song is a simple wake up call to re-write your story into something worth reading. Maybe we could take today and wipe the slate clean and begin to write a new story. Maybe the story of my life will come in two parts – the first years and then the second chance to do it better.

Final Effort

By now you have probably seen the final play of the Iron Bowl played between #1 Alabama and #4 Auburn. I know you have if you watch any football or sports. Alabama tried to kick a field goal with 1 second left and the Auburn player caught it and ran the length of the field for a touchdown, giving Auburn the win with no time left on the clock.
I am sure thousands of words will be written about that play and millions more will be said about it, but let me add my one thought to the mix. I am simply impressed by how one final effort changed the game. Auburn had nothing to lose, at worst they were going to overtime, but the team made one final push. One man ran and everyone blocked their way to glory.
I know of another blog that has made every week “No quit Monday.” As a pastor, many of us want to quit on Monday – either from a lousy Sunday experience with people or with the sermon or we want to quit from exhaustion from another week down and only a week till we do it all again.
In my life I have realized that everyone needs those “no quit days” on their calendar. A lot of people live with these thoughts; “When I make it through this holiday I am going to give up on my marriage.” “When I make it through this event, I am going to give up on this Church.” “When I make it through this year, then I am going to give up on …” You fill int he blank
So let me encourage you today to never give up. That one final effort may be the one that changes everything.