It is hard to embrace good things in life when you are holding onto bad.
Let go of your guilt and shame
All of us have failed. Some of us have failed in big ways. It was public enough that other people know about it. It is embarrassing. You feel shame. You know you were wrong and you feel guilty. Run to grace and let it go.
Let go of your pride and arrogance
You might find yourself on the opposite side of the issue. You have no real guilt or shame and you are happy to let others know it. You feel self-confident and would never allow yourself to be less than perfect. Your pride is also your downfall. You can’t sympathize with weakness. You are demanding. You are self-centered. Your quest for perfection has left you feeling smug… and alone. Face the truth and let it go.
Let go of your anger and hurt
Your struggle is not just about you. Someone said something. Someone did something. And in their words and actions you were hurt. How could they have done that? It hurts. The natural response to being hurt is to go one of two possible directions. You can be crushed spiritually or you could get angry. Most people let their hurt simmer long enough that anger is the main byproduct. You have all these open wounds that whenever someone gets close you lash out for fear of being hurt again. Fill your mind with forgiveness and let it go.
Let go of whatever is holding you back. Empty your heart, mind and soul of the evil that keeps pulling you down. Let it go. Open up your mind. Say you are sorry. Offer forgiveness. Embrace grace. Put away your selfish pride. Let it go. Let go so that you can grab ahold of something better. The only person you are hurting is yourself.
Frequently people come into my office because they “need to talk”. Whenever someone schedules a meeting like that I know it will not be good news. Often their marriage is falling apart. Occasionally they are having problems with their children or grandchildren. There are a few other varied possibilities, but it is extremely rare that anything good is happening. For most people the relationships in their life are not going as planned and they are looking for help.
Quite often I have several suggestions that will turn their lives around. I can make suggestions for both parties that will get things started the right direction.
Unfortunately I have found two common beliefs that stand in the way of better relationships. First, most people believe that their problems are really the result of the other person. They accept little responsibility and place lots of blame. Second, if they were to admit they needed to change then that change should be easy. People want a quick fix from a few rehearsed lines or activities.
It is very rare in my experience that things get better until I admit my share of the blame. Then once admitting I made mistakes there is a need to change the damaging behavior. This change is never easy. We get into trouble with one set of behaviors and we stay in trouble by continuing those behaviors. Improvement takes deep systemic changes in my thoughts and actions. All of that is unbelievably difficult. It does not come easy. There is always a price.
So if you are struggling in some arena of your life, the solution will not come through repeating what comes naturally. It only comes by doing the difficult thing. Changing your miserable situation will not be easy.
The good news is that you have that power to change. Plan a different course of action and follow the difficult path. It is hard, but it leads to a better tomorrow.
In a few days we will load up my oldest boy and drive him off to Southwest Baptist University. So this Sunday will be the first time he attends Church without his family. He is off on his new adventure which will include a preacher other than his father and a Church other than the one I am leading. That has me thinking about his 18 years as a preacher’s son.
1. He spent every Sunday in the nursery
From the first Sunday after he was born until he was old enough to move to the next class he was in the Church nursery. We learned to trust the care of the workers. When we found problems in the nursery we took steps to fix them and not give up. He was never a distraction to anyone, including us.
2. Children’s Church was never an option
We never asked him if he wanted to go to Children’s Church. We just took him and he loved it. I won’t lie, not every Sunday was a great experience that made him excited about God. But with every passing year he learned more and grew in his faith.
3. Church programs were mandatory
Whenever the Church was hosting some sort of program from VBS to candlelight at Christmas we were going to be there. We don’t make plans late Saturday night and never on Sunday morning. We don’t skip youth group or Sunday School. The programs are created to help you grow and missing them seems like an unproductive thing to do.
4. Serving started young
When my kids were old enough to help, they started setting up at Church. At the time I was working in a new Church and we had to set up everything on a college campus each week. My son started by setting out toys or wiping them down after Church. He moved on to setup and tear down of everything starting at 6:00 am on Sunday morning. As he got older we moved him into worship ministry where he sang or ran Powerpoint and sound. Every week there was something he could do for God.
5. We never sheltered our children from some Church people
Some things in Church can be ugly. Some people in Church can be unchristian. We talk openly about it in our home. Some ministers shelter their kids from negative experiences but I wanted them to be fully aware of the people in the Church. We all need grace and some people desperately need to change. I did not want him to grow up and be shocked by people as an adult.
6. We strove to underline everything at home.
It has been a struggle to do this as he got older, but for most of his life we had daily devotions. We have also talked about spiritual issues on a regular basis. My wife and I have tried to model faith in our lives. Faith was not just something for Sunday morning. Church is an extension of a families faith and not the only part of it.
7. Our biggest regret was other Christians
I have frequently had to have the same conversation. Why are my boys expected to attend and serve when the adults don’t do it? That is a hard question to answer. I can’t always explain why other people refuse to participate when they claim to be Christians. It is a hard lesson for a 14 or 15-year-old boy when he realizes how little other people live out their faith.
After all of the years and all of the experiences both good and bad I am proud of the adult Christian my son has become. I am excited to see where God takes him next and how he will bless God’s kingdom where he lives. I pray God will use him, teach him and grow him into a wonderful man of faith.
We want our Church to be a place of prayer. It is one of the biggest things we do. If you are in need of prayer we can handle it several different ways –
1.Prayer before worship – Each week a group of 2-4 men gather before worship with me to pray about the program and any special pressing needs.
2. Prayer during our worship – Every week, except special Sundays, we stop during our worship program to pray. You can give us your requests and they will be listed on the back of the program or you can turn them in before worship. We want to share the needs people have and take time to pray.
3. Prayer after worship – Our elders would love to step over to the side or into a room and talk to you and pray with you. If God has laid something on your heart this is a great time to stop and talk to him in prayer.
4. Prayer over email – If you send an email to email@example.com we will send your request out to a group of people who are committed to prayer. This is better than Facebook for making sure your needs are addressed by other believers in prayer.
5. Prayer on our own – Most of our leadership has a daily time of prayer. I know that for me, if I have a special request, I put it on my own personal prayer list.
6. Prayer in private meetings – One or two of our leadership are always willing to come to your house and pray with you. I have also had people schedule special appointments just so that we can meet and pray in my office.
7. Prayer in elder’s meeting – Our elders meet regularly (at least twice a month) for the specific purpose of prayer.
8. Prayer in Hospitals – If you are headed to the hospital and would like prayer before a big event like surgery, then just let someone know. You can email the office, tell the elders or write it on a prayer card. Communicate it with us somehow. Some people don’t want prayer, some don’t want us to know they went to the hospital and some do not know they are headed to the hospital beforehand. These are some of the toughest for us to know about.
Our Church is full of people who pray and they want to pray for you. There are a lot of ways we can pray for you. Just let us know.
I am fully aware that every Church has different thoughts when it comes to giving and finances. Today I want to share a few of my thoughts on these topics.
1.I Believe in Sacrificial Stewardship –
I believe that God owns everything under heaven. He simply allows us to use it (or steward) while we live on the earth. He gave us our gifts and abilities. He put us in the right place at the right time to have this job. As a result we are to share part of what he has given us to further the work of the Lord on earth.
Do I believe in a tithe – or giving 10%? Well … sort of. In the Old Testament people were to give a 10% of everything. Now we live under the grace found in the New Testament. We are not required to keep the law, but I do think it is a good starting point. Bob Russell gave a great illustration years ago. He said, when he had one child the babysitter asked him for $25 an evening. Then we he had a second child the sitter said, “give me what you think is right.” Now, should I give more or less? God said give 10% in the Old Testament when we struggled under law. Now we are covered with abundant grace and he says, “do what you think it right.”
2. I Don’t Believe in Fundraising –
Fundraising is usually an exchange. I wash your car and you give money. I sell you this overpriced item and you give me money. You eat a meal and overpay for the plate of food.
I hate fundraising. I believe in faith-raising. Faith-raising is where people are stretched to give to the work of the Lord. They do that to stretch their faith and learn to trust God’s provision. Fundraising pays bills but faith-raising grows people.
3. I Believe in the Mission of the Church –
I believe the Church is called to live and function on purpose. We are to spread the gospel while making the kingdom of God present in the world. The Church can do this in many ways. We can have food pantries, go on mission trips, host a VBS, support missionaries and a number of other things. The Church collects people’s giving with the purpose of continuing this great work with the money given.
4. I Don’t Believe in Multiple Ministry Accounts –
Many Churches have multiple accounts all over the Church. There is a ladies aid society fund, building fund, youth fund, library fund and on and on. I once visited a Church with 9 different accounts. The problem was that the Church was not unified. Some people wanted their money to only go to kids and never buy a book. People were territorial and givers were courted by each ministry. It was a mess. I believe in one account. People give their money to the work of the Lord and the leadership strives to do the best with what they are given. One church with one account working together as one body.
Some of these ideas may not sound radical to you, but in some contexts they have been revolutionary. Hopefully they will serve as a guide for you to think about the finances of the Church … at least where I preach.
This afternoon my mom will lie down and a doctor will use a high-tech machine to shoot radiation into her lung. A little over a month ago they discovered a small lump in my mom’s lung. A biopsy was done and it was confirmed as cancer. Then they did a Pet Scan and decided that it was only this one spot in her lung. It is about the size of a nickel and is in the upper part of her right lung.
I went back and met with the doctor along with my sister and my niece. He explained what she was facing for a treatment plan. She went back and they made a mold of her body and monitored her breathing. It sounds like a doctor, a scientist and a mathematician are taking all the numbers and developing a plan to shoot radiation into her body to remove the tumor. The doctor said it will be precise to within one millimeter.
Today she goes in and will lie down on that mold and get prepped for the treatment. We were told it will take 20 minutes or more to get ready and 2 minutes to receive the radiation. She will repeat this process for 3 days this week and 2 days next week and she will be done. The doctor actually said it will continue to work for six full months once the final appointment is complete.
I have been thinking about this whole process for a couple of weeks. Why would anyone willingly shoot themselves with a laser to kill off a part of their body? Why would anyone purposely kill part of their lung? Why is my mother putting herself through all of this?
The answer is simple; because left alone, cancer will kill you. The tumor will not stop growing on its own. A change in diet, happy thoughts and more doctors visits will not put an end to the enemy that is trying to destroy her body. The only thing that will stop it is total removal.
Sin is a tumor. It latches itself to our soul and seeks to destroy us. You can analyze it. You can talk about it. The best action is to remove it with pinpoint accuracy.
Stop going there. Stop doing that. Change your patterns. Throw that out. Cut it off. Whatever it takes to remove the sin needs to be done.
It may takes months or even years to complete the process, but the final result will be spiritual health. The doctor did tell mom that there will be scar tissue left behind. And I know that all sin leaves behind scars and ugliness – but a scarred life is always better than death.
Today starts the treatment, but I am not talking about mom, I am also talking about you.
My grandfather was a farmer. My mother’s father spent his life in the fields raising grain. He also had dairy cows along with some other livestock. He and my grandmother raised chickens to eat and for eggs. For most of their life they lived off the land and what it could produce. He spent his life as a farmer.
My mother is not a farmer. While she grew up on the farm she eventually became an occasional farmer. She moved to town and then got married. She settled in a small town where she has lived the rest of her life. She and dad raised three children away from the farming life. We occasionally returned to the farm. Mom would help with the garden or she would help with the chickens. The best I can remember we went to my grandfather’s farm about once a month.
I am not a farmer in the least bit. I don’t drive a tractor. I have never even raised much of a garden. All of my grandfather’s ways are lost to me. The once proud lifestyle of my grandparents is now a thing of the past.
I believe faith is a lot like farming. If we are not intentional about what we are doing with the next generation, much will be lost.
Yesterday our Church had a leadership meeting of the elders, deacons and staff combined. I told my wife after the meeting about how we had laughed and laughed during the meeting. She had been in a nearby area when we first started and she said we sounded like a group of children.
I love that our leadership laughs together.
First – Our leadership honestly likes each other.
This may sound simple, but it is one of the first times I have ever experienced it. Quite often the Church leadership has one big bully. There is a guy who gets his way because of his anger or possibly his influence in the community or maybe even because of his money. Everyone at the table knows it, but no one talks about it. I feel like the leaders at this Church really care about one another as brothers in Christ.
Second – Our leadership enjoys our time together.
I do not dread our leadership meetings. Some Churches have meetings with anger and shouting. Others have meetings with a heavy demeanor. People go into those meetings with a heavy heart and mind. Our meetings are often the highlight of my week. We laugh, we tell stories, we pray, we ask questions and we enjoy our time together.
Third – Our leadership only takes the important stuff seriously.
I have been a part of hundreds of leadership meetings through the years. At one Church we spent 3 or 4 months trying to decide how to put in a sump pump. I mean we needed to decide if we wanted a barrel or a bucket? Should we surround it with sand or gravel or both? How big of a pump do we need? How much money should we spend? Every meeting there was a heated discussion of nothing really valuable. I am glad to be a part of a group that is taking our mission for Jesus seriously and making everything else easy.
Fourth – Our Leadership understands grace.
A teacher of mine use to say that laughter was the surest sign of grace that he knew. That special ability to say “I am flawed, but I am forgiven.” My mistakes do not define me but are forgiven and now laughable. No one in our groups acts as if they have everything figured out. In fact, we openly acknowledge our mistakes, our shortcomings, our physical failures and our need for God. No one is better than anyone else and therefore we can laugh at ourselves and at others without being mean or condescending.
Fifth – Our leadership has the total package.
I do not want you to think that our leadership is all laughter and nothing else. We have elders meetings where we pray. There are deacons meetings where they hand out benevolence money. There are work days and teaching times. We do not rely on one meeting as a sum total of our leadership. All of us are busy in multiple areas and in multiple ways for the kingdom of God. Our leadership meetings are just a small part of all we do.
These things may not seem like much to you, but to me they are like a breath of fresh air. After years of leading Churches I am finally happy to be a part of a wonderful leadership team. Maybe it won’t last. I pray it will. And I want the Church to know that God is at work even in the sound of laughter.
This weekend I am starting a new Sermon Series at Adrian Christian Church. It is simply entitled “Sunday Worship”
The goal of this series is to examine what we do each Sunday morning and why we do it. It will be a series of sermons that will help us to better understand and appreciate the time we spend together as a Church each week.
Hope you will consider joining us.
August 7 – “Worship”
August 14 – “Singing”
August 21 – “Fellowship Time”
August 28 – “Offering”
September 4 – “Communion”
September 11 – “Baptism”
Great preacher and teacher Fred Craddock once said that when he graduated from Bible College and was ordained into ministry it was like he was given a $10,000 check. His dream was to spend that check all in one place. He would lie awake at Church camp and dream of giving his life for Christ. Standing before the firing squad and being asked, “Do you deny Jesus?” “No.” “Then ready, aim, fire.” Flags would be put at half mast, news teams would report his story worldwide and they would build a monument in his honor.
The problem was, as he saw it, that no one ever asked for the $10,000 check. His life was not spent in newsworthy displays of service. Rather his life was spent a few cents at a time. 52 cents here and 89 cents there. He soon came to understand that a true life of serving was not about some big display rather it was doing a thousand little things.
Jesus said in Matthew 25 that the actions of his followers are giving food to the hungry. Offering a cup of cold water to the thirsty. It includes inviting strangers into our homes and visiting those who are sick or in prison.
Many Christians I know are still looking to spend there $10,000 check. They want to travel to some exotic mission field on the other side of the world. They want to serve in some dramatic way that gets media attention. They want ministry to fun and exciting. If serving does not seem like a big deal then they are not interested.
I understand there is a place for those things. But I tell people, “Don’t worry about traveling across the globe to do what you will not walk across the street to do.” Most ministry is not very glamorous. It is local and it seems small. Bringing the kingdom of God to earth usually means making a meal or offering a ride. Occasionally it means emptying the trash and cleaning up. Other times it is sitting quietly while people share their deepest emotions. Ministry is a thousand little things.
One day God may call on us to do something noteworthy, until then just keep spending your life a few cents at a time.