A simple thought for a Friday –
This past year we have baptized 10 new believers at Adrian Christian Church. I believe that fact is worth celebrating over and over. Interestingly enough all of our new converts have been people under the age of 18. They are young people with their full lives ahead of them. It makes me do a little personal reflection as I was 8 when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was baptized.
This reflection has me thinking about all of the experiences I have seen as a Christian and as a pastor. I really wish I could set down with anyone wanting to be a Christian or with anyone who is new to the faith and tell them a few things. Here is what I really want you to know:
1. A life of faith is full of hard choices. To stay true to God you will sometimes have to stop doing something that feels good in the moment. You will have to choose your family over money and fun. You will have to sever relationships and form new ones. You will have to tell people hard truth. Usually if the choice is easy, it is not from God.
2. You will never know where God is taking you. Just keep doing the right thing that is right in front of you. God will lead you in directions you never imaged to do things you never dreamed. One day you will look back in wonder at the journey of your life.
3. Many of your friends will quit the faith. This will be one of the most painful things you experience on your journey with God. Cherish those people who stay committed to their faith for a lifetime.
4. Evil will attack you. This will come in many forms. Bad things will happen. People will hurt you. Your body will give out. People you love will die. Your emotions will be scarred deeply. It happens to everyone. That does not mean that God does not love you.
5. There are days you will want to give up on God. Every Christian I know has struggled with doubts. There will be times you want to take the easy road. Days will come when your faith will feel weak in the light of the hard choices you have to make and the evil that is attacking you. Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.
6. Become deeply connected to a local church congregation. Yes, every group of believers has their problems, but the good far outweighs the bad. These people will serve you, care for you, pray for you, teach you, push you and make you into a better person for God. Do not give up on them.
7. There will be times when you are utterly surprised. God will show up. People will do the right thing. Generosity will abound. I have often been shocked at the unpredictability of Christian and the God they serve. I still cannot believe some of the events in my life and I saw it all first hand.
8. Thank God every day for all the good things in your life. It is easy to focus on the negative, which is why so many people do it. Everyday thank God in your prayers. Every day tell someone how you are glad God brought them into your life. Fight hard against bitterness and the negative emotions that come naturally. Be grateful and as your life progresses you will develop into a sweet spirit instead of a bitter old person.
9. Let go of grudges and guilt. Forgive others and accept God’s forgiveness. Do this daily, weekly and yearly. It will help you in every way. Do your best to make things right and then let it go. Don’t live as a hostage to your past.
10. Never forget that eternal life is our goal. In the Gospel of John numerous people hear a message from Jesus and begin to quit following him. Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life.” The Christian life will have huge high moments and some very deep low times but we endure those for the reward of life eternal. You will one day attend a funeral and wonder “Where are they now?” Live in such a way that no one has to wonder that about you.
I would love to explain all of these to our young believers but I know one more thing about youth. They will have no clue until they have experienced it themselves. I only hope that one tiny little piece of information lodges in their brain and it helps them in their life of faith.
Last week I shared how I often battle with the thoughts I have each day. I shared some of my most common struggles but a moment after I hit the “post” button on WordPress I knew I had left out one of the biggest struggles of all – at least for men. And that is the struggle with lust.
Jesus in Matthew 5 calls men to a high standard of living. We are not just to keep ourselves from adultery but we are to keep our thought lives pure as well. We are not to even look at a woman lustfully. In a world filled with porn as accessible as a phone, gratuitous sex scenes in most movies and where women wear form-fitting yoga pants out in public, it is hard for a man to keep his thoughts pure … even this pastor.
So how do men win in the battle for their thought life? Here are a couple of thoughts that have helped me and might help you or someone you care about.
1. Use the Tools. There is software out there designed to help you in your battle. There are websites that have all kinds of helpful information. There are groups that meet just to help you keep your mind clean. The resources to help you are there if you are willing to use them.
2. Talk to Someone. It is extremely rare that someone is able to conquer their thoughts without the help of other people. We all need someone to share our guilty feelings, help hold us accountable and be a sounding board. This cannot be your spouse. I have never seen this work because the spouse takes it personally and cannot identify with the struggle.
3. Skip Movies with Sex Scenes. I know this sounds knit picky but it has been the single biggest thing that has helped me. That one scene in a romantic comedy can be a “gateway drug” to a lust filled heart. If you struggle with pornography take the time to list the last 10 movies you watched. Then ask yourself how many of them had sex scenes. [Ladies – be aware of this when picking movies.] Trust me. Eliminating these types of movies will help you in your battle with lust.
4. Look once and then turn away. You cannot help but to see some things one time. Taking a long look and a second look can be prevented. A preacher friend of mine says when he is tempted to look a second time he stops and prays for the woman and her relationship with her husband or future husband. I sometimes just repeat to myself, “Get out of your head.” The longer I let my thoughts run wild the more I open the door to fantasy and lust.
5. Get a hobby that keeps you active. Sounds simple enough, but it keeps you focused on something other than the world inside your head. If you have enough time to look at porn on the internet, you have enough time to take up a productive hobby. Remember – “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
6. Develop a strong relationship with your wife. For all the married men that struggle with lust, you need to hear this. There is no defense like a good offense. Take your desires for another and put that energy into your spouse. Take time to kiss your wife, hold her hand, rub her back, take hot showers together, touch, rub and whatever else fuels the romance in your life. Lusting after your spouse is allowed. In fact, I recommend it.
The male thought life can be a dark and dangerous place. The battlefield in the mind of men is a place where there many casualties have been suffered. I do not know of a single man who has not struggled with it at some point. None – including your father, your husband and your son! The call is not for us to ignore it or keep quiet about it, but to wage war with all of our energy. Today and every day.
Each week I wake up on Sunday morning and wonder what in the world I am doing. Honestly, I am not very qualified to be a pastor. I have a lot of reasons that I think this way. In fact, there are so many that I started a list:
-I am an introvert.
-I would rather avoid people more than embrace them.
-I have skeletons in my closet that embarrass me.
-I am trying to follow Jesus but I am still confused about “loving” him.
-Christian music is okay but lacks variety, so I don’t listen to that much of it.
-My sense of humor is different from many people.
-I might quit ministry but I have no other skills.
-I am opinionated.
-I received the grade of a “C” in my college writing class.
-I don’t care to ever visit the Middle East – aka “the holy land.”
-I read my Bible but wonder why half of the Old Testament is even there.
-I have never been asked to speak at a big conference or national convention; in fact, I find it hard to get the people I lead to attend Church to hear me.
-I still struggle with sin daily.
-My children are not perfect.
-I am not very creative.
-Occasionally I swear.
-I forget people’s names.
-I am sure there is someone better qualified than me to do this.
This list could go on and on.
Every Sunday and then again on Monday and then on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday I struggle to fill my role as a pastor. Friday and Saturday are usually okay since I take most of those days off. But on any ordinary day I wake up, roll over and ask God what in the world I am doing here.
The amazing part to me is that somehow God uses me. He takes my life and my words and puts them together with His power and does something far beyond me. For some reason people respond to my preaching. God takes all of my inadequacies and does his work in spite of me. He takes my messed up, incompetent and undereducated life and reaches people with the good news of Jesus. Every day I think about quitting but then God shows up and covers over all of my issues.
So when someone tells me that they have this reason or that reason as to why they cannot serve. I just want to look at them and say, “Somehow, it will be alright.” God is bigger than you. He will take your efforts and do what you could never do on your own. I am living proof.
Now what was your excuse again?
Occasionally I need to do a run down of things going on in the Church and a few things in my personal life. Today is one of those days.
1. We finally finished our sermon series entitled “Finding Your Way Back to God.” I thought everything went really well and I had a lot of positive feedback. I would love your honest feedback so that we can have an even better “big series” next fall. All sermons are available on the Church website – www.adriancc.org
2. For the series we had a few “public” decisions – 1 person requested prayer, 1 person wanting help to make a change, 1 person wanted to talk about baptism further and 1 person was baptized. All in all it was a productive time for our Church. I am sure there were other non-public decisions as God worked on people’s hearts.
4. All of the sermons from the past series are available on the website. Yesterday’s sermon is actually listed twice. It is listed as the last sermon in the previous series and it is listed individually. The reason I did this is so that you could share the individual sermon with other people. It is entitled “I have decided to follow Jesus” and I would love for everyone who calls Adrian Christian Church home to listen to it at least once. Then ask yourself, “Where am I on my journey with God?” and “What is the next Step for me?”
* You never know what you are going to see or what you are going to miss at Church programs. Some of you missed a great song!!
6. This is the final week of our “Operation Christmas Child.” We have been collecting items and money to put together shoe boxes to send overseas for Christmas. We are putting the boxes together on Wed. night at 6:00 pm at the Church. We have invited our youth group to participate but all are welcome to help. I will be serving pizza if you come to help:-) Any donations also need to be dropped off by Wed. afternoon.
7. RUSH – our youth program – is helping with Christmas boxes and then having a small Halloween/costume party till 8:00. It will be a night of food, service, fun and fellowship. Start at 6:00 and go till 8:00 pm. Hope your teen can make it.
8. This Sunday – November 1 – is Daylight Savings time. Don’t forget to Fall Back.
9. Also this Sunday we are not having our traditional Sunday School. A couple from Show Me Christian Youth Home (a ministry we support) will be here to present information about their work. There will be a special offering for them as a way to further support their ministry. We really hope you will stay around and hear about this great ministry.
10. We now have sign up sheets for our Thanksgiving dinner in the lobby. Our dinner will be help don Sunday November 22 right after Church. We will be having several soups this year and we are looking for sides to go with it. Please mark this on your calendar and sign up for something this Sunday.
11. This next Sunday I am kicking off a new sermon series entitled “How to Be Rich.” It is not a sermon series about getting rich or about giving all of your money away. It is a series about what we are to do with the blessing God gives us. For example, we are to be grateful and we are to take care of our needs. But what else?? Come this next month to find out.
12. I just want to say a special Thank You to everyone who has severed this last month in every way. You are what makes the Church a great place to be.
This is priceless …
I have just gotten home from spending the last 2 weeks with my parents. I drove to Indiana by myself to pick them up and drive them back. Then they stayed with the whole family and were able to watch 6 football games – 2 Jr. High, 2 Jr. Varsity and 2 Varsity. Then I loaded up with them and drove them back to Indiana. Finally I spent a couple of days visiting and doing several little miscellaneous jobs before traveling back to Missouri alone. All total I have spent 16 days with my parents.
So today I am reflecting on the time I spent with them and some little lessons I have learned or at least remembered.
1. No one knows what tomorrow brings. Last Christmas I made plans with my parents for the year. We knew when and how they would visit and how the year was going to work. Then in April my dad had a stroke and everything changed. No plans remained and life had been different since that day. We never saw it coming.
2. At some point you need to let people help you. Dad did not want me to drive up to bring them back to Missouri. But at this point there was really no other choice if he wanted to see his grandkids. At some point all of us need help, but most of us are resistant to ask. To be honest I was glad to help.
3. Marital love means serving. I watched my mom take over and help my dad in every way. She checks his sugar and gives him his shots for his diabetes. She helps him do almost everything right now. It is sad to watch and beautiful all at the same time.
4. It doesn’t matter who wins the ballgame. I can get emotional about games especially if they involve my kids. I told mom that I am sorry they had to watch a couple of bad losses by the boy’s teams. She kindly explained that the score didn’t matter, they just came to watch the kids. She was right, it didn’t matter who won the game.
5. Take time to relax. With four boys life can be go, go, go. But everyone needs time to just set and let the world go by. It is okay to not be busy. It is especially good to take a nap.
6. Time together is the best part of life. My two favorite parts of the time with my parents were simple times we spent together. First was traveling in the car with my mom beside me. We talked and talked while dad took a nap in the back seat. My other favorite time was sitting in the garage talking with my dad while we waited on my mom to return from the grocery store. We spoke of birds and stuff and life in general. The best times in life are just being present with the people we love.
I am glad my parents came to visit and I hope they can make it back in the spring. I enjoyed our time together and they continue to teach me about life, even after all these years.
Over the past few weeks I have been traveling a lot. I have done a little radio channel flipping but mostly I have sat in my vehicle thinking. On top of that I have taken a little time at my parents to do some metal detecting. Again it is more of an opportunity to spend time inside my own head.
With all that time on my hands to think I have to battle to keep my mind from certain thoughts. Today I was thinking about a passage of scripture from Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (NIV)
A big part of the Christian life is transforming our thought life. Fighting that battle between our ears. If we are not careful we can slip into non-Christian thinking.
I have to battle some of these things.
1. I Need to Remember that Not Everything Is About Me. It is easy for me to think that they said that to hurt me. They did that because they know it irritates me. I can somehow think that people are secretly plotting to make my life more difficult and unpleasant.
I think most of us would be surprised at how little other people think about us. I am almost sure that no one is plotting against me or against you. Their actions usually are the result of chance more than hate.
2. I Usually Expect the Worst from Other People. Often I think that one comment from a person means they are mad at me. I think that one time they gave me that dirty looks means they do not like me. I often read the worst into other people’s actions and words.
Yet, my personal experience is that most people are fairly good-natured. They want the best for other people, especially those people they know well. Why do I never assume the best?
3. I Fight Worrying About Everything. If you are late my mind often slips into fear that something awful has happened. I am afraid when my kids are out by themselves. I fear when my wife travels alone. I worry about finances, strangers, faith, work and a thousand other things.
I have to continually remind myself of the Biblical concept that worry cannot change anything. Worry cannot prevent anything and it cannot fix it when it does happen.
I have to keep fighting this battle in my mind daily. There are other battles that each of us fight along with these. If I am not careful I can have complete arguments in my mind with someone I have never talked too. I can make enemies out of people who never meant to hurt me. And I can live in constant fear of things that never happen.
Christians are called to transform their thinking. We are to have a different mindset than the rest of the world. It does not come easily because it is the biggest battle most of us will ever fight.
Recently I have been traveling hundreds of miles on the highway (or is it a freeway?) as I have taken my parents back and forth to Missouri. Yesterday I was getting back onto the road and I was coming down the entrance ramp I didn’t see anything in my mirrors so I started to merge. Then a mid-size black SUV took off from my left ahead of me. He was right there the whole time hidden in my blind spot.
This got me thinking about the blind spots in my life. Things that I am doing wrong or thinking wrong that I do not see. Is it possible that I could be doing something really stupid and no one says anything to me about it? I know I have heard it from the other side. Someone makes a big mistake in life and as I talk to people about it they say something like, “We saw it coming all along.”
How do you avoid blind spots in your life?
1. Ruthlessly evaluate your life regularly. This is the process of asking yourself some hard questions. Questions about faith, marriage, parenting, work and personal life. Are you growing in your walk with the Lord? What do you need to work on in your marriage? Are your children growing into strong Christians who will make it in the world?
2. Develop honest relationships. This is the hardest by far, but all of us need it. My suggestions for you. If you have a relationship with someone and they tell you something honest about yourself – Don’t get mad, don’t respond with accusations, don’t avoid them, don’t over react and don’t spin it and play the victim. These actions kill a relationship. The Bible says in Proverbs that “wounds from a friend can be trusted.”
3. Pay close attention to what people say and do around you. If people are avoiding me? Maybe I need to work on my relationships? Do all my conversations end up with me talking about me? Maybe I need to develop better communication skills. Does my spouse show me respect? Do my children speak of godly things? Do my Christian friends seem to be getting distant? The list could go on and on.
4. What do you suggest? What are you doing to keep your life focused and growing?
I am working hard to build the best life I can build within the will of God. I know that does not come naturally. In fact, I may have some huge blind spots that will one day leave me in an accident. So for now, instead of drifting blindly into traffic I want to install those little mirrors to help me see what I am missing. Maybe you need to do the same.