Great Week

I believe one of the things we should do in ministry is stop and celebrate what God is doing. That is what I want to do today.

Last week we held our Vacation Bible School at Adrian Christian Church and I believe it was a huge success. In fact, it was the biggest VBS I have ever been a part of in my ministry.

I do not have the exact numbers yet, but here is what I have been told:

– Our largest night had over 150 children.
– Altogether we have over 175 different children through the doors
– The class I helped with had over 20 Jr. High students come to help serve our community every night.
– We had dozens of adult volunteers in every area.
– We had dozens of teenagers volunteer to help
– Yesterday at Church was packed as we had almost every seat full in the auditorium, people were standing in the lobby and a few were in the kitchen overflow with me.
– It was great to see the children perform their songs and see their enthusiasm during our worship time.

I could probably go on and on about how great last week was for our Church. God used our Church to touch the lives of our community. This week I want to thank God for all He is doing, thank the volunteers for all their hard work and thank the children (and their parents) for participating.

Faith is alive and well in our community and especially our Church. Thanks be to God.

More Personal Info

I am amazed at how many people have responded to my post last week about myself. My favorite comment was that it helped people to know me outside of being a preacher and church leader. So I thought I would share a few more things today that are my favorites. Maybe not as thought-provoking as last week but still revealing.

Favorite Food
5. Pizza (tie for favorites)
4. Fried Fish
3. Thick juicy hamburger
2. Crab legs
1. Grilled Ribeye Steak

Favorite Dessert
5. A second helping of the main dish
4. Cheese Cake
3. Chocolate Milk Shake
2. Chocolate Silk Pie
1. Fudgy Brownies (absolutely no nuts)

Favorite Hobbies
5. Watching Movies
4. Hunting
3. Metal Detecting
2. Fishing
1. Watching my boys play sports

Biggest Fears
5. Personal financial collapse
4. Sight of blood and guts
3. Spiders and Snakes
2. Something bad happening to my family
1. Bridges – Especially narrow, high bridges

Unique Things You Might Never Guess About Me
5. I like to enter sweepstakes
4. I have gone dumpster diving and trash digging for items I own
3. I obsessively claim free stuff offered almost anywhere (I have a bunch of free gifts from Marlboro:-)
2. I enjoy thrift shopping
1. I collect and redeem reward points of all kinds – credit card points / coke rewards / Kellogg’s rewards / etc.

Once again, I hope these reveal a little about me – and not in a bad way. I live a very cheap life so that I have money to enjoy doing and eating the things that I love.

That is really all I have to share about me for a while, unless you have a special request of something thing to know about me. Thanks for reading. And thanks for letting me be your blogger and possibly your pastor.

Life Lessons from Jesus

I was looking through my computer at a group of older files I have about Church leadership. In my search I ran across a list I have had in the files for about 15 years. It is directed at Church leadership but it can apply to most of life. I do not really know who created it, but it is pretty good.

LEADERSHIP LESSON FROM THE LIFE OF JESUS

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love and trust them anyway.
“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
“And Jesus told them, ‘you are like children who don’t know what they want. John the
Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and you said he had a demon. The Son of Man
comes eating and drinking, and you say I am a glutton, a friend of sinners.'” (Mt.11:16-19)

3. If you are successful you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
The crowds who cheered Him on Sunday and called Him King were the same who on Friday cried, “Crucify Him.” (Lk. 19:36-40 and John 19:1-6)

4. The service you render today will be forgotten tomorrow. Serve people anyway.
“Were not ten lepers cleansed, and only one returned to give thanks.” (Lk. 17:11-19)

5. Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.”
(Matthew 18:15-20)

6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest ideas. Think big anyway.
“During the supper the Lord Jesus foretold that one of them would betray Him … the disciples questioned which one it might be, and a dispute rose among them as to which was the greatest.” (Luke 22:22-24)

7. People pretend to love the “little” people, but sell their souls to the “big” people. Fight for the “little” people anyway.
“Let the little children come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.” (Lk. 18:15-17)

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
“Judas came, kissed Him, and they took hold of Him…then all the disciples deserted Him
and fled.” ( Mt. 26:47-56)

9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help. Help people anyway.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…to preach good news…all the people in the synagogue
were furious when they heard this. They got up and drove Him out of town.” (Luke 4:16-30)

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.
“Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus, who is called the Christ?’
‘Barabbas,’ they answered.” (Mt. 27:11-26)

“In Spite of” and “Because of”

Much of life is live “in spite of” or “because of.”

For example:
– Some people have faith in spite of experiencing deep loss. Others have faith because of some enormous blessings.
– Some people have deep relationships with others in spite of bad encounters. Others have strong relationships because of some great connections.
– Some people become great leaders in spite of their lack of support. Others become great leaders because of a strong support network.
– Some ministries have a great impact in spite of poor organization. Other ministries make a difference because of a strong structure.
– Some Churches grow in spite of poorly put together worship programs. Other Churches grow because of an exciting worship experience.
The list could go on and on.

This realization has led me to two conclusions;

One – God can and will do anything He wants despite our best efforts to mess things up.

Two – Life is not so much about what happens to us and to how we react to what happens to us.

Sometimes in life our list of reasons we could give up are longer than our list of reasons to hang on. Our problems are often not just the circumstances going on around us, but the faith within us to do the right thing in spite of those circumstances. And yet, if we hang on and react in the way that God would have us to act then I believe He steps in and makes the best of our lives, ministries and Churches.

Almost every week I have to tie a knot in one of my ropes and hang on until God shows up and my “in spite of” turns into a “because of.”

Bezalel and Oholiab

I have never heard a single Sunday school lesson or sermon that I can remember on the lives of two men who are a huge part of Israel’s history. In the book of Exodus God gives great details about how the tabernacle and all of its furnishings will be built. About two-thirds of the way into the story of the tabernacle in Exodus 31 God tells Moses about Bezalel (son of Uri, the son of Hur from the tribe of Benjamin) and about Oholiab (son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan). These men are “filled with the Spirit of God, with skill ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts” (Ex. 31:3). They are introduced in Exodus 31 and their story picks up again in chapters 35 and 36. In 35:34 it states that not only do these two have the ability to do the work but they also have “the ability to teach others.”

Bezalel is the primary builder of all of the religious furnishings for the nation of Israel. Oholiab is his right hand man. Apparently they work side by side like old friends. Together they build and craft while teaching the people how to replicate what they are doing.

Moses is the leader who receives the word of God and tells the people. These guys are the men of action. They take the word of God and build and mold the future of Israel’s house of worship. These are the guys who built the ark of the covenant as the center of God’s presence.

This story grabbed a hold of me recently and I have been reflecting on it the last couple of weeks. I have come to understand a few things:

1. All of us have some skill God can use. You may not be a preacher or leader, but that does not mean you are unnecessary in God’s kingdom. Building and making things for God’s glory is a valid ministry. What skill do you have that God could use?

2. You may not lead but you can serve. There were numerous craftsman who helped Bezalel and Oholiab who never get mentioned by name. They served and brought glory to God without their name ever being mentioned. What is holding you back?

3. No matter what you do, be sure and teach someone else how to do it. It is easy to get the “I’ll do it myself” mindset. Sometimes projects are just easier done that way. I completely understand that thinking, but these two guys take the time to teach others. This makes their work easier in the long run. It helps to develop other people’s gifts. It allows my work to continue if something happens to me. Finally, it enabled the work to get done faster than two man could have done it alone. What ministry are you sharing with someone?

4. You may do something great and quickly be forgotten. I never remember hearing anything about these two guys in Sunday School or Church but that does not mean they were not pleasing to God. They performed a great act of service that blessed people for generations. Being famous is not the same as being faithful.

I am sure there are other lessons we could learn from these two Biblical characters but you get the idea. I guess I have been thinking about this because our Church is kicking off a Vacation Bible School (VBS) tonight. I have watched people serve behind the scenes designing, decorating, preparing food, getting lessons ready and preparing for a week with large group of kids. Some days I feel like Moses leading the people but I realize without all the Bezalels and Oholiabs the Church would get nothing done.

You Are Weird

Somebody thinks your are weird. They think that you are strange because you like to do that. Others think you are freaky because you like to eat that. Still others think you are odd because you collect that item.

I have the opportunity to talk to a large number of people. It seems that everyone I meet has unique hobbies, tastes, collections and obsessions. Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Wow, that’s unique.”

One good thing about life in the 21st century is that I can go onto the internet and find a tribe like me. Personally I can find whole sites dedicated to metal detecting with forums where “my people” can communicate with one another. There are whole websites dedicated to people who like to hunt bears and other websites dedicated to people who like to catch crappies. The possibilities are almost unlimited.

The local Church is often the exact opposite. We come together each week with almost nothing in common. Yesterday we had a fellowship luncheon and I talked to people are retired, who are self-employed, who are unemployed and those who have had the same job for 20 plus years. I talked to people who have grandchildren, who have adopted children, who have several children and those who have no children. I talked to those who love football and basketball and I talked to people who are very unAmerican 😉 The list could go on and on about the vast diversity that exists in each and every local Church.

The Church is not a group of people brought together because we have similar likes and dislikes. In fact, some of us think some of you are weird.

What brings us together is our common faith in God and His son Jesus Christ. We are brought together by faith in the eternal God who loves us.

The Church is then presented with this one interesting struggle – taking totally unique people and forming them into one community. Sometime it comes easy, but most of the time it is hard. I think for it to work we are going to have to look past each others weirdness and embrace the individual who needs a Savior just like I do.

Just don’t invite me over for green bean casserole, because that is way too weird for me:-)

A little about me

This is not like my normal posts. I am doing this because I know many of my readers are part of Adrian Christian Church where I preach. I wanted to give them a little insight into my life and share some of my favorites. This may interest you or it may not, but I hope it shows you a little about myself.

Favorite Movies:
5. Spiderman – all of them
4. Forrest Gump
3. Dumb and Dumber
2. True Grit (original John Wayne version)
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Favorite Animated movies:
5. Chicken Run
4. Toy Story (all 3 really)
3. Finding Nemo
2. The Incredibles
1. Up

Favorite Songs (Non-Christian):
5. [Tie] Iridescent by Linkin Park / Leave Out All the Rest by Linkin Park
4. Secure Yourself by Indigo Girls
3. The Cave by Mumford and Sons (I like a lot of their stuff)
2. Chances Are by Garrett Hedlund on the Country Strong Soundtrack
1. Goodnight Elizabeth by The Counting Crows

Favorite Christian Praise Songs:
5. Lord of Eternity by Fernando Ortega
4. From the Inside Out by Kristian Stanfill
3. Let my Sing by Todd Fields
2. How Great is Our God by Chris Tomlin
1. Mighty to Save by Ben Fielding

Favorite Books:
5. [Tie] Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller / My Beautiful Idol by Pete Gall
4. Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
3. Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias
2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
1. The Bible

All of us have favorites in different areas of life. Many of those favorites reveal something about our life and what we have been through. What do my favorites say about me? Well, I watch a lot of movies and with 4 kids we have watched a lot of animated movies. I also listen to a lot of music and read as much as I am able. I could write about each one of these categories for several days. Then within each category are words that touched my heart and life in a unique ways.

What do your favorites say about you?

What I will miss most about Alaska

Alaska is a beautiful place. Every morning I looked out from my front porch at the mountains, a bay from the ocean and a glacier. The beauty was all around me. I had a mother moose with her two calves walk through the yard frequently. Sandhill cranes nested near our house and I could hear them honking as they flew over. I have watched them walk across the yard with the little ones following behind. They are beautiful creatures.

Alaska is an amazing place if you love the outdoors. I have caught an 87 pound halibut. I have caught dozens of salmon. The fish are big and beautiful. My favorite time of the year was catching Dolly Varden on the Anchor River in the fall. The cold dark waters and the fish that appear out of nowhere are breathtaking.

I could go on and on all day about the sights and sounds of Alaska. If you have never been there, you should go once to see it. It is an amazing place to visit.

With all of that beauty I have come to a clear understanding of what I will miss the most about Alaska. I will miss the people.

Honestly, there are a lot of amazing places in the world. There is beauty all around us if we stop to look, but people are unique. I would be lying if I told you that I would miss everyone. In fact, to be truthful, there are some people I am glad I will never have to encounter again. But most of the people I knew are full of love and life and the faith that unites us all as believers. I have come to clearly understand what Paul meant when he said to the Church at Philippi, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”

I heard a preacher once encouraged every believer to write down a list of the people who have impacted your life for God. Then go through those names one by one and thank God for each person. The world is a beautiful and amazing place but people are the real treasure.

Transition Lessons

I am still in the process of transitioning from life and ministry in Alaska to life and ministry in Missouri. I have learned a few lessons in the first week that are simple yet I hope I never forget them.

1. The joy of simple things. I love sweet corn and only had it once in the last 5 years since it does not grow in Alaska. Almost every night someone has brought us corn. I am so thankful and I am enjoying every bite. Having grown up in the Midwest I took something as simple as sweet corn for granted. I deeply appreciate it now.

2. The glory of summer. Summers in Alaska are warm (60 and 70 degrees) with lots of rain. It is wonderful to feel the sun and heat here most days. The 90’s with humidity are a little much but those days allow my boys to enjoy the local pools. They have spent more time in the water in the last 10 days than the last 5 years combined.

3. The pleasure of proximity. My family is now within a 30 minute drive (or less) from thousands of stores, activities and sites. In Alaska everything is so spread out. We drove 2 hours to Wal-mart and 4 hours for a big chain type restaurant like Olive Garden. Having those things close makes like much easier (and cheaper!).

4. The happiness of home. I grew up in Indiana and went to college in Missouri and while I enjoyed Alaska it feels good to be back home. I better understand and now appreciate some of the aspects of small town life in the Midwest. I could spend days talking about the familiarity of Missouri.

Here is what I know. If you spend all of your life in one area or with one group of people you might start taking things for granted. I know I did. It was not until I left for Alaska that I saw the joy of so many little things.

I wonder if it is possible to pause for a moment and be thankful for the common things in our life without moving away. To thank God for family that is nearby. To thank God for simple luxuries and pleasures like sweetcorn. To appreciate modern conveniences like Wal-mart. To express your gratitude for being a part of a community of people. Maybe today you could take a moment to pause and appreciate all you have in your life.