Fine Line

I have come to believe that there is a fine line in most of the activities of life. A fine line that separates something great from something … well, less than great.

For Example – There is a fine line between: Childlike & Immature or Smart & Smug or a Hard worker & a Workaholic or Self Concerned & Self Absorbed.

In many things it is great to walk a fine line, just make sure you are always on the right side of the line.

Good Reading

We are leading up to Father’s Day and I ran across some interesting blog posts on the web. Enjoy

Church for Men had an article on the Futility of Father’s Day Services

Brian Jones has an article on “What Your Husband Really Wants for Father’s Day”

In Addition –

The Resurgence had an article that hit close to home for this father called “Four Ways Pastor’s Kids Need Grace”

A Big Ministry Question

Everyone has an idea for a ministry that the Church should start. All of us see a gap in what the Church could and should be doing. And most people have some idea of how they would fix it. Unfortunately, most of the ideas and suggestions are based on what we have seen in the past. It is suggested that the Church add a children’s program or a Sunday school class or some other tried and true method.

For me there is a ministry question we need to ask, “Is this the best way to accomplish our goal?”

Before we can answer that question we have to ask the big ministry question, “What is our goal in this activity?”

Those are two different and unique questions. First we need to be very clear on what we are trying to accomplish. Are we trying to educate new Christians or are we trying to reach the unchurched? Are we trying to connect with children to reach their parents or to educate the children themselves? Are you teaching senior citizens or twenty-somethings? All of those tasks are very unique.

Before a ministry gets started make sure you are very clear on what you are trying to accomplish. Then ask if this is the best way to do it. It sounds simple, but it is vital to always be asking.

Personal Cleansing

The past week I have been cleaning house. Not just a little dusting and polishing, but packing and evaluating. The one good thing about moving is that you have to evaluate everything you own. This is especially true when you are moving 4000 miles.

Do you use it? Do you need it? Does it have value? These are the vital questions that my wife and I are asking about everything we own. These questions have led us to make numerous runs to the dump, trips to the Salvation Army store to drop off, lots of gifts to people we know, a large garage sale and a little Craigslist posting. It is a great deal of work and takes a lot of time, but it is a great personal cleansing.

It is amazing how much you can accumulate through the years. Some items all of us need for daily living. Some items are local needs like a snow blower here in Alaska. Some items you just hang on to because you think you might use them one day. It is amazing how many things a family of 6 can accumulate when you put all of our needs and extras together.

There is a simple Biblical truth underlined in all of my evaluating – Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)”Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. (20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There is also a practical side to this truth – You need far less than you think you do. In fact, I imagine that much of the stuff you own is not truly needed. I know its true for me.

Precious to Me

My boys have been an active part of the worship program in our Church. They play guitars and sing almost every week with my wife as the lead. As a group, my four boys have sung numerous Church both new and old. They love all types of music and are very familiar with all types of music, but like all people they have songs that are their favorites.

I am no different from my boys. I have been a part of number of Churches and I have sang songs from almost every page of the hymnbook clear to the latest song from the Passion album. Through the years I have developed a list of songs that are my favorites. Some are favorites because of the lyrics, some are favorites because of the tunes and some are favorites because of an emotional connection.

This last week for our worship program I picked the traditional hymn “Amazing Grace.” During rehearsal on Wed night they began signing the song. They have sung it before but usually we do the updated version by Chris Tomlin called “My Chains Are Gone.” As they tried singing the song they struggled with the tempo and it was a little high for their vocal range. Quickly they began laughing and joking about the song. Now, honestly, I have to say that I was a little offended. This song has special memories to me. It has solid lyrics that express the essentials of the Christian faith.

Suddenly I was reminded of a simple truth – What is precious to me is not precious to everyone. Actually I was reminded of a summer I spent in England. The Church there did not sing Amazing Grace on Sunday morning because the song was traditionally used only at graveside funeral services. The people (in that community at least) did not see the song as a worship song, but rather a song of parting and sorrow.

I have seen this truth played out another way. When moving from one Church to another I have often been told that their Church sings several traditional old hymns. Then when I arrived I found out that they did not sing “my” traditional old hymns. They had their own set of favorites usually influenced by their song leader or even their songbook.

I have my mist of favorite songs. So do you. So does everyone. But often I need to be reminded that my list is not the same as your list. People have favorites for different reasons and what is precious to me may not be precious to you. And the what is precious to you may not be precious to me. That’s okay. It is part of human nature. It is part of Church culture.

With all that said, lets all make a deal. I will sing your songs to the best of my ability with seriousness and honor … and you do the same for me. Then maybe instead of being a group of unconnected individuals we can be individuals who are connected together as a group.

Back Story

Things are not always as they appear.

I was in the airport waiting for my plane to board. There were two young kids running wild. They were running around the area with toys and climbing over people. I looked to see the parents of these two little “monsters.” I was growing more and more agitated along with everyone else who was waiting to board.

Eventually I saw the two little kids come up to an elderly couple. From everything I could gather, these two sweet senior citizens were the grandparents of the two children. This elderly couple was trying to keep the kids out of people’s way, but the kids were just to young and fast.

I began to picture it clearly in my mind. The parents of these two young trouble makers are probably off on some expensive trip. They left their poor parents to care for their kids while they were off vacationing in Europe. The stories began to swirl through my mind and with each thought my anger was growing.

As people began to rearrange in the lobby to board the plane the elderly couple moved closer to me. The lady was talking to another lady as they waited in line. I hate to admit it but I started listening to her conversation. I did not hear all she was saying to the other lady clearly as they talked but I could hear some of what was said. The word I heard a few times was “funeral.” From what I could gather they were either traveling to or from a funeral.

Suddenly my feelings changed. “Did one of the parents die?” “Did one of the parents loose a loved one and have to have the grandparents step in to help?” I could think of several sad scenarios because I knew the travel with these two children was prompted by a funeral.

Knowing some of the back story to these kids totally changed my perspective. They were no longer just annoying little kids. Instead they were just a little energetic. Instead of being spoiled brats from some rich parents they were victims of loss that they may feel for years. Knowing part of their back story deeply affected how I viewed these children and the situation I was experiencing with them.

All of this has me thinking about other people’s back story. That angry lady at the post office, the frustrated cashier at the grocery store, the distracted Church attendee and the happy high school boy are all living complicated lives. Maybe if I knew the rest of their story it would affect the way I viewed that person. Maybe the lesson this experience taught me is to learn more about a person and their situation before I make a judgment about their character.

Personal Perspective

Last night I was watching a movie with my family when my boys started talking about the main character. They talked about how they knew they were not going to die because they were the “main” character. Then they started talking about what they would do if they were the main character. What they would say and where they would go and how they would live.

Suddenly my mind started racing through numerous ideas. I thought about how we are the main character in our own story and we can chose to take any action. Then I thought about the story that happens after the movie. Usually we only see a 2 hour glimpse of the main characters lives and how we never know what happens to them after the cameras stopped.

Finally I landed on this concept. When we hear or read or see a story played out, we always seem to identify with the good main character. We always interject our lives into the story of the superhero or the star. We are always Rocky and never Apollo Creed. We are always Rudy and never the third string quarterback who gets demoted to the practice squad. We are always Spiderman and never the Oscorp employee.

What makes this even more interesting to me is the fact that this happens when we read the Bible too. We always identify with Jesus or with Paul or with one of the disciples. We are never a Pharisee or Judas or one of the people chanting “crucify.”

I wonder how would your Bible reading change if you changed your perspective in the story. What if your life was not seen as the hero of each story but on the opposite side? What if you were a Pharisee who had given your life to keeping the Old Testament instead of the disciple who jumped to follow Jesus? How would the Bible sound to you if you were an outsider to faith? A change in perspective might change the way I apply the story.

Sometimes our Bible reading reveals more about us than we even realize.

Taking Responsibility

Yesterday I preached a sermon on taking responsibility for our lives. I taught that each one of us will be accountable to God for what we did with the life he gave us. I went to 2 Corinthians 5:10, Hebrews 4:13 and 1 Peter 4:5 to underline this truth. I told people that we need to stop making excuses for what happens to our lives and start doing the right thing with our lives. We are not the product of other people’s actions but the product of our reactions.

Anyway, this morning I was reading though the blogs on my blog reader Feedly and saw this from “Indexed”

Index card

In a way, it was my sermon in a sentence. 🙂

Think Before You Speak

The hardest part of moving to another Church is telling the Church you are currently serving. It can be a gut wrenching time. I love these people. I hate to leave these people. I know they are going to feel mad, hurt, betrayed, unloved and sad.

After having done this a couple of times I have found that after I have announced my resignation that it is good to disappear for a week or so. I take few calls, I work at home and I do not have any meetings.

The reason I do this is simple. It gives people time to think. The people who contact me that first week are often the ones who are feeling the situation very deeply. Give them a week to think and their words sound very different.

But there is a second side to this that is just as simple. You need to speak. There are a few people who withdrawal and never want to speak to me again. At least it seems that way. Honestly that can be the most painful thing.

My advice to any Church whose pastor is moving on is to take a little time and reflect on what this moves means to your pastor. Then drop a note or an email and say what is on your mind. I know I appreciate it. I imagine anyone would.

Another Seth Godin Post

Seth Godin posted in a blog entitled “Treating People with Kindness”

One theory says that if you treat people well, you’re more likely to encourage them to do what you want, making all the effort pay off. Do this, get that.

Another one, which I prefer, is that you might consider treating people with kindness merely because you can. Regardless of what they choose to do in response, this is what you choose to do. Because you can.

Good stuff!