Today I just finished reading through the Bible. It takes me a little longer than others but I am okay with that. I have developed a plan that works for me and I am happy with that. For years I tried using the “One Year Bible” or a one year Bible reading plan. Honestly, I have never finished any of them. Most of them became very frustrating to me for a couple of reasons.
One, most reading schedules are based on reading everyday seven days a week. Well, I try to take most Saturdays off completely. I know this sounds sacrilegious, but I read magazines on Saturdays or maybe an occasional article on the internet – nothing serious. Then on Sunday I am busy with Church most of the day. I read the Bible in class and in sermons and sometimes in discussions. I usually do not have any private quiet time because of the busyness of the day. I am easily able to make time Monday to Friday to read because of my normal routine but weekends are hard.
Two, I have a hard time focusing when I try to read my Bible alone. I am slightly ADD and when I start reading I get sidetracked in my mind and I never seem to get my chapters read. You add that to a plan that reads one chapter of Old Testament history, one chapter poetry, one chapter gospel and one chapter from the New Testament letters. I am usually so distracted that I cannot remember what I read.
So a few years ago I developed a simple plan that works for me. I bought the Bible on CD to listen to – they now have Mp3’s that do the same thing. Then Monday through Friday I listen to 3-5 chapters read to me. The number of chapters read usually depends on the length of the chapters. Each day I take out my Bible and read along while underlining favorite or important passages. I don’t worry if I miss a day but I try to stay fairly disciplined. As a result I am regularly (not yearly) reading through the Bible.
This is a simple plan that works for me. What works for you? My encouragement is to find a plan or a method that works for you and simply do it. You may try several things that don’t work first, but if they do not work I would suggest you not try the same pattern again. Try something different until you find a plan that works. I never thought I could read through the whole Bible and I just finished doing it again. I know you can too.
I am preparing a sermon for this Sunday on King David and King Saul. The series of sermons I am preaching is focused on the relationships that believers have with other people. This week is about how David related to Saul. There is this interesting contrast between David and Saul in the Bible. Initially Saul looked like a man who should be king. Scripture tells us that he was a head taller than everyone else. I am sure he was a large man with big muscles. He looked like a king.
David is the exact opposite. Initially he is a small shepherd boy. He does not look tough and probably lacks much muscle. He does not look like a king. And yet, the scripture affirms that David is the better king because his heart was right with God.
I mention this because of a contrast I see in my life and ministry. For one year I subscribed to “Outreach” Magazine. It seems that on almost every page there is some pastor’s head shot. There are hundreds of pictures in each magazine of different pastors who have written articles or books. Some of the pictures are straight on shots while others are at an angle. Some of them have the pastor drinking coffee while in others they are holding their chin. Some of the pictures are casual dress and others are suit and tie. Page after page of pictures of pastors who have “the look.” They look like pastors with the appropriate haircut, facial hair and wardrobe.
I wondered, when did we become so enamored with the pastor’s picture? When did the exterior become more important than the soul of a man? It appears from scripture that man has always been trying to get the guy with the right look for the right position.
For me, every morning I have to look in the mirror and remind myself that God looks at the heart. Everyday I need to spend more time working on my soul than my body. And everyday I have to ask God to use me even though I do not look much like a pastor. Some days I have to remind myself that the grace of God qualifies me as a servant of God and not how I look – praise Jesus!
We live in an incredible age. If you need to know how to do something then all you need to do it “Google” it. With a few simple key strokes you have access on everything from computer repairs to automobile restoration. Just this week alone I have used this incredible tool to access info on a computer error message, investigate a hotel and connect with an old friend’s blog.
I say all of that and everyone would quickly agree, but we have even taken the internet into the realm of our relationships. If the number one way people find my blog is through searching for the Kilchers (see earlier posts), then the number two way is through searching information about marriage. In fact, my articles and links on marriage issues are read almost everyday.
While all this technology is wonderful because it gives us access to so much information, the same basic problem exists. The real problem is not information but action. I recently had a lady who had searched the internet on marriage and she had run across several descriptions of what a marriage should be like. She read me an article that was very well written and articulate about the essence of marital love. The problems in her marriage were then presented to her husband. Now they both had some accurate information on what real love looks like in a marriage and how they were missing the boat. Here is the sad part of the story. Neither of them have done much to change their marriage in light of this new information.
With the internet I can randomly watch videos on how to build knives and think, “I should do that someday.” Then I read about marriage and think, “I should do that some day.”
So today, I am not providing you with any new information. I am challenging you to go and do one thing you already know. Tell your spouse you love them, buy them a little gift, kiss them passionately, hold their hand, write them a love letter, take them out to eat, listen to their boring old stories, etc. etc. etc.
Having a great marriage has nothing to do with having all the right information it is about doing the right thing repeatedly.
I went to Church youth group as a teenager with a boy named Justin Davis. He is now a national speaker and teacher about marriage. He wrote a good blog post HERE about a fight you must have in marriage.
This week I have looked at several different issues surround life in Alaska and how it affects Church. Today I want to add one final thought.
*You have no concept of Alaskan life until you live here *
I could not have imagined all the lessons I have learned in the last several years. I thought I would come here and be hunting and fishing all the time. For fishing, salmon only run a couple of months in the summer. You need a boat to fish the ocean and those are expensive. For Hunting, you need to either drive thousands of miles to get away from people or have thousands of dollars to invest. Most of my wild game meat has come from road kill.
Winters are long and hard. Summers are fast and furious. The joke is that there are actually two seasons – Winter and Company – since everyone wants to enjoy our summers.
Alaska can be very, very transient. People move here with all kinds of expectations and they often fall way short. TV has perpetuated many myths about Alaska that make people confused.
Homer is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but even looking at glaciers and mountains can get old. Everyone who visit my house says that if they lived here they would just sit on my parch and enjoy every minute. While it is beautiful it does become normal.
Finally, Church here is nothing like I had experienced before. The people who move here with dreams of a Church like they had down below will be greatly disappointed. The seasons are different, the people are different but thank God we still have the same Lord. I am an American on American soil, but most days I feel like a missionary in a foreign land. If you don’t believe me, come for a visit. Well, that will not give you the whole picture:-)
Today I want to finish up my thoughts about life and Church in Alaska.
5. In Alaska, You can lose touch with the world “Down Below.” Since life up here is so different and separate from life in the lower 48 (we affectionately call it “Down Below” or simply “Outside”) it is easy to lose touch with everything going on in the rest of America. I read local and state papers and they have only small sections about the US or World news. Just think of it the opposite way, how much do you know about what is going on in Alaska?
For Church – I touch on big issues in sermons but I focus more on local issues. I try to address Alaskan needs and viewpoints in my sermons. Most of the info and assumptions I brought from down below do not fit here. That has made preaching hard here at times since I don’t know the issues and that is why the most effective ministers have lived here a long time.
6. In Homer Alaska, My town has a Church everywhere. There are roughly 4,000-5,000 people who live here and we have at least 28 different Churches. There are 35 if you draw the circle a little wider. I totally expected a frontier life with rugged people and hard lives who had never heard the gospel. Instead I found a place where most people attend Church. It is a mixed blessing. It is great to have so many people of faith everywhere you turn. It is also very hard to do any kind of outreach to lost people. My analogy is this. Imagine 28 people are asked to pick 100 pieces of fruit and now imagine 28 people picking 1,000 pieces of fruit. The second group is likely to pick much more fruit per person based simply on the larger numbers. My theory about the number of Churches is this; since Homer is such a beautiful place to live every Church group had one person very willing to come and start a new Church here. As a result there are Churches everywhere.
There are numerous more conclusions I have drawn, but these are the big ones. If you have any questions I would be more than willing to answer them in the comment section or as an entirely different post. Life in Alaska is different and I hope you know a little bit more about it.
I continue with my thoughts on Church and life in Alaska from yesterday.
3. In Alaska, holidays are different. That is only partially true. Holidays here in Alaska are still about family, but you often leave the state to see them. If you do not leave the state to visit family over the holidays then you leave the state with your family to spend time together in a warmer climate – often Hawaii.
For Church – this has really messed me up at times. Thanksgiving, Christmas and even Easter used to be big days in the life of the Church I was leading. In Alaska, I usually expect the attendance at holidays to be below average. People are out of the area and usually out of the state. Also, I expect the people who do attend to be warn out from travel and company.
4. In Alaska, summers are an exciting time. In the summer the days are incredibly long with nice weather. All the people who headed south for the winter (we call them “snowbirds”) are home for the summer. The local people stay here because there is a lot of money to be made from fishing and tourism. Besides that, who wants to leave Alaska in the best part of the year? Guests overflow the city and our population swells. New people move to town with dreams of this wonderful life in the big state. All the shops are open and life is buzzing all the time.
For Church – That means there is usually a summer “hump” instead of a slump. For the last 4 years our attendance has grown and grown over the summer usually peaking in early September. We do not have a lot of extra activities at the Church in the evenings, but people still come every Sunday and usually with an attitude of excitement. Everyone is here and they are happy to be living in this beautiful part of the country and they get to meet new people every week from all over the country. Summer is wonderful and the only down Sunday is the week the red salmon hit the rivers, but that is another story.
Leading a growing Church is extremely different here that in the lower 48 and that it is always a struggle to figure out how to plan and prepare for the future. These are the two biggest trends that help me plan.
I have now been in Alaska for over 4 and a half years. It seems every time I talk to someone in the lower 48 they have a thousand questions about living in Alaska and Church in Alaska and anything related to life here. So I thought for a couple of days I would share my insights about life and Church in Alaska. Some of it you might expect, but some might be surprising.
1. In Alaska, your concept of distance changes. I often quote a T-shirt that says, “If we cut Alaska in half, then we would just have two states bigger than Texas.” With a state this big and so few people you find yourself always going a great distance to do anything. For example: We have a local grocery store and a hardware store that has everything, but a Wal-mart is about two hours away. A visit to a mall requires a 4 hour drive to Anchorage. Simple purchases like jeans, shoes and groceries require a long distance trip. For sports, my son recently had a 4 hour bus ride followed by an hour and a half flight to get to a tournament. All games are a minimum of an hour and a half away.
For Church – that means people are gone from town a great deal for the time. They fly south to visit family, they go to Anchorage for a weekend to stock up on everything, they travel all across the state for sports which require whole day trips or entire weekends. While here the Church has gone from 25 in attendance to 50 each weekend, but we now have about 80 people who call the Church home. Most weekends we have families all over the state.
2. In Alaska, your concept of money changes. Everything in Alaska is expensive – I mean everything. Because of shipping costs to get items to Alaska everything costs a little more. For example – our local McDonald’s does not have a “Dollar Menu.” Instead it has a “Value Menu” where prices start at $1.80 and go up. We have no $5 foot-longs at Subway, instead we have $7 foot-longs. Take that concept and add it to every item you can imagine.
For Church – There are several layers of implications. One, a pastor’s salary has to be higher than most places. This is true in every Church I know. Two – giving needs to be higher to pay the inflated bills we face. For years our heating bill has been killing our budget. Third – I rely heavily on the internet for all resources and materials. Thank the Lord for Amazon’s free shipping. Finally – Churches work together to share resources. Since having an outside speaker for any topic is costly, we openly promote the Churches working together to maximize resources.
I know these are simple, but this is life in Alaska. I will give you a couple more tomorrow.
All of my children are very active in sports. They really enjoy playing football and especially basketball. The longer they are involved with sports, and as they start to get into high school sports, the more they hear about the need for leadership. Their coaches are constantly talking about how their teams are in need of leaders and leadership.
The problem comes when they try to define a quality leader. The coaches seem to convey to my children that leadership is about what you say. One coach really applauds a boy who likes to shout cheers and is loud and overly vocal. Another coach allows an older student to lecture the younger players. He allows him to give speeches and talk about what other players should do.
This is a problem for me because I believe real leadership is about your actions. A real leader makes the plays. A real leader makes the players around him better. A real leader stands up for a weaker player. To me a real leader does the right thing.
I do believe that there is a vocal aspect to leadership, but you only speak after your actions have proven you to be a leader. A leader expresses himself in his words but his actions are what makes him a leader.
I have to agree with the coaches, our teens are definitely in need of some leaders. I just hope they are really leaders.
Today is Valentine’s Day. It is a day of love and roses and chocolates and gifts. But for my wife and I it is just another day. I don’t say that in an angry way and I do not mean it in a frustrated tone. I mean that for us it is simply another day to love one another.
Early on in my ministry my wife and I noticed couples who spent very little time together. They had separate lives with different friends and they spent much of their time apart. Then a holiday or anniversary would come and they would take a big trip or buy a big gift for one another. It appeared as if every special occasion was just a chance for the one to remind the other that they existed. So we determined that the best thing we could do for our marriage was to treat everyday as special.
We have tried to make a habit of telling each other “I love you” everyday. We try to do everything together besides work. We try to enjoy fun activities together that we each enjoy. She enjoys shopping and I go along. I enjoy fishing and she goes along. While we do not always enjoy what the other person enjoys we do love being together.
That is not to say that we do not buy any gifts or cards for each other. We simply have decided that true love is expressed everyday in time together, in kind words, in listening to each other and being friends. It is only accentuated by special days. The times we have had problems have not come from missing a special day, they have come from missing the everyday. Honestly, I would bet the same is true for you.
So today – Tell your spouse that you love them and show it to them some special way. But I also propose that you do that tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the …