Passion and Information

When you have a passion for something, it drives your desire to get more information.  The more information you obtain, the more you fuel your passion. 

For example, I enjoy metal detecting.  Therefore, I am a part of several Facebook groups about metal detecting.  I had a couple of magazine subscriptions for years, along with purchasing their annual special issues.  I watch videos on TV and YouTube to learn from people who know how to get the most out of each trip. 

With each new piece of material I view or read, I get more excited to be out in the field with my machine.  Then, whenever I go out hunting, I realize there is so much more to learn that I go home and reread the same material to get all the parts that I missed the first time.

Passion and information are intimately linked.  It doesn’t matter what your passion in life is today. The same principle applies if you like running, dogs, race cars, cigars, model airplanes, or possibly faith. 

When you are walking with the Lord, you should want to know about God.  The more you know, should fuel your passion for serving and loving him.  And on and on, this merry-go-round goes. 

If you lack passion in your faith, then get more information. On the other hand, if you are on fire for God right now, be sure to gather information about your faith at the same time, so you do not run out of gas.  One will fuel the other and make you into all the God desires.   

Under Further Review

It all happened so fast that even trained professionals had a hard time figuring out what exactly happened. Finally, the official walked to the middle of the football field, turned on a microphone, and announced to the fans, “The previous play is under further review.”

People in booths with monitors and access to the latest technology will watch the play from all camera angles.  They will use slow motion and stop the play to get an exact look at what happened. Then, after a couple of minutes, the replay officials arrive at their decision, and the man on the field announces it to the fans. 

How many times have I wished I could stop my life and say, “The previous interaction is under further review?” There are things in my life, marriage, parenting, work, and Church that I wish I had time to review in detail before moving forward.  But alas, life does not come with the option of a booth review. 

Before instant replays were a part of the game, there were so many blown calls.  This led to many questions, angry participants, critics, division, and sportscasters calling for a change.  The goal of the replay was to make the game better and please everyone involved. 

Unfortunately, since life doesn’t have a review plan, feelings get hurt, stories get retold negatively, division occurs, and people are angry over what happened.  The result is that we need to develop a plan to review our actions regularly.  We need to spend a few quiet moments and think through all we have said and done at the end of the day. 

We cannot go back and change the past, but I imagine if you spent a little time in further review, you would become a person who says, “I am sorry” more often.  A regular part of your conversations will be, “Please forgive me.” This will also lead us to be more gracious people because we will see how much grace we need ourselves.  Finally, it will help us to appreciate all we have in Jesus. 

Mistakes are always made; how you handle them after the fact is a true sign of your character.

Congregational Appreciation Month

The month of October is recognized as Pastor Appreciation Month.  I love it what people show their appreciation for my work and know many have pure motives who participate.  But I hate the concept.  There are reasons for this that I have written about, and if you have thirty minutes, I will explain it to you.  But I do not want to focus on the negative; I desire to flip the month over and call it Congregational Appreciation Month.

The truth is that I get paid to do my job.  I draw a salary from the Church, and there are weeks that I work 60 hours or more and other weeks that I work 35 or less.  It all balances out, and I am compensated nicely for the work I do each week. 

What I appreciate as a pastor is all the people who help our Church without a cent of compensation.  They show up night after night and week after week, pouring their life into our community of believers because they want to serve Jesus.  Without them, there would be no childcare, no youth group, no worship, no leadership, no dinners, no greeters, no guest gifts, no small groups, no Sunday schools, and a host of other things. 

Every week, Churches across the world will open their doors to worship, serve, and bless the lives of others because of a volunteer force that is beyond number.  The people who keep the Church community vibrant and growing are those unpaid heroes who give themselves selflessly because of their love for Jesus. 

Today, as a Pastor, I want to say, “Thank you” and “I appreciate you” to all the people who served in their Church in the past month.  It is because of you that the faith is spreading and reaching you.  It is because of you that the Church is able to help and heal broken and hurting people.  It is because of the average congregational member that the Church is a wonderful place to belong. 

For everyone who serves their God in any local Church, I want you to know that Pastors appreciate you far more than we could ever say. 

Preaching New Material 

My wife was recently asked if she had heard all my sermons and material over the years of ministry.  I will admit she has listened to some stuff a few times over.  As a leader for five Churches as a full-time minister, you are bound to have some material repeated. But it may surprise you that most of what I preach every week is new. 

Each year I plan on preaching around 49 times.  When I put the schedule together for the year, I make sure about 40 of those are on topics or texts I have never preached before.  If I pick a topic I have used, I will try to land on a passage of scripture that looks at it from a different angle. 

The reason nine of them are the same is that they are essential to the Christian story.  Every year I will focus on the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Some stories must be told every year as they are central to our faith.  Everything else is fair game. 

Why do I do this?  Because preaching different material stretches me to grow and learn.  When I come to a new sermon, I am forced to read and comprehend passages in detail.  A topical sermon makes me engage in what the whole scripture says about an issue.  I am pushing myself to learn about texts and topics that will help me as a believer.

One dream of mine is to lead a congregation of people growing in their knowledge of God.  I want to preach and teach in a way that helps to produce that goal.  I also want to be a person who models it in his worship and work. 

Denial

The first step of recovery is admitting you have a problem.

This statement has been used repeatedly to the point that it is trite.  And yet, it remains one of the most significant steps for people to turn their lives in a new direction.

Unfortunately, so many people have spouses, family members, and friends making destructive decisions, and they don’t know how to get them to stop.  When someone denies having a problem, they need someone to break in with the truth.  This can be an intervention by an individual or by a group of people.  My colleague used to call them “Come to Jesus meetings.” No matter what form it takes, people need to hear how their behavior negatively impacts themselves and others.

Through the years, I have been a part of counseling, private meetings, individual conversations, and even preached sermons to help people see their issues.  Most of it has generated little results because people in denial do not think anyone sees their choices as an issue.  It is the very definition of the problem. 

What would happen if you were finally honest with yourself and others?  What if you asked hard questions about your attitudes, words, and actions?  If someone told you that you have a problem, would you be willing to listen to them?  Would you get angry and push away those who are trying to help you?  Are you ready to listen to the voices around you and not just your inner dialog that always tells you that you are a good person?

What would it take to get you to the point where you would make changes?

Only you can answer that question but know the first step of recovery will always be admitting you have a problem. 

Looking Through Rose-Colored Glasses

The first time I heard the expression, “Rose-colored glasses,” I was six years old, and country music legend John Conlee was singing it through my radio. I had no idea what he was singing about, but people enjoyed it with a country twang. It wasn’t until years later that I realized he was expressing the way we view people and the world. 

Most people believe the phrase became a figure of speech in the 1840s. The first known publication is generally accepted to be from the novel “Tom Brown at Oxford,” written by Thomas Hughes and distributed in 1859. Through the years, the meaning has remained the same; looking through rose-colored glasses was to be optimistic, cheery, and hopeful. 

There are a couple of theories on how this expression came into existence, but no one is entirely sure of the origin.  Various studies on the eye reaffirm that specific lenses impact our moods and perception of the world.  People who look through rose-colored glasses indeed tend to be more positive and upbeat.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Church in the city of Corinth, and he says, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:16 – NIV 2011).  Paul indicates that when he became a follower of Jesus, his thoughts about Jesus changed along with his view of other people. He no longer saw people as the culmination of their past mistakes; instead, he saw that a “new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 – NIV 2011)

Paul advocates that when people come to Jesus and make him their Lord and Savior, their vision changes.  They view the work of Jesus differently, and they view other people in a new way.  Christians see the world through glasses that are tinted red from the blood of Jesus.  Each person is made new in him or can change if they come to faith.  The world is no longer a dark place where evil reigns; rather, it is a place of unlimited potential for the kingdom of God in the lives of people.

Some may label people who wear rose-colored glasses as being overly optimistic.  Others may laugh and tell them to take the lenses off their face.  I think Paul would tell all believers to put on the corrective glasses of faith and view the world the way Jesus did.  There is so much potential for God to do his work in the world if we will only see it.  Because of the blood of Jesus, we have every reason to be optimistic and happy.

Leaving Church


There are several Facebook groups that I have joined to connect with people about hunting, fishing, pastoring, Church, and humor. Every day my feed is filled with pictures, links, and discussions that I find educational and enjoyable.  But there is one thing that happens in one of my groups at least once a week.  Someone will get upset over a comment, joke or content shared and make a big post about leaving the group.

I suppose this should not surprise me as this is precisely how some people leave the Church.  Sure, there is a group of people who go quietly. They drift away or decide not to return without telling a soul.  Then some people leave with shouts, and they contact as many people as possible to get sympathy.  I know that people who do this are crying out for attention.  They want people to listen, sympathize, and spend time on them. 

These are not the people who concern me.  Rarely have I had someone leave the Church in a loud way that it was better for everyone if they stayed.  What concerns me are those who quietly leave and never speak to anyone about it.  Sometimes this happens because of life changes like a job, family situation, or sports.  Because of those things, I often don’t know if a person is gone for good or planning to come back.  I hate that, but it is hard to know when to contact and how much to do it because each situation is unique. 

As a Pastor, I want people to know that the elders and I care about every one of you.  If you are having personal struggles, we want to pray and try to help.  If you are having trouble with something or someone at the Church, we would like to address it and make it better.  We know that the Church is filled with sinful people, and sometimes things don’t go as planned.  But we want to work together as a Church to show love, concern, and aid to everyone. 

I am not asking people to make a loud proclamation of their departure. Unfortunately, that is the stuff for attention hogs on social media.  But if you are considering leaving or haven’t been to church for a while, know that you are missed, and we would love to connect with you and develop the opportunity to grow together as followers of Jesus.   

Not Really Seeking the Truth

“Do you think it is the mark of the beast?”

I have been asked that question or something similar more times in the past year than in all my other years of ministry combined.  Previously I would try to have a Biblical discussion about the topic and do some teaching.  Lately, I have taken a different approach entirely. 

My response now is, “Can you tell me what chapter of the Bible the mark of the beast is located?” Occasionally I double down and say, “Have you ever read the book of Revelation from beginning to end?” Then, if I am really wound up, I may ask if they have ever read any part of the Bible?

I am usually greeted with hostility.  How dare I not answer their question and instead probe into their Biblical knowledge?  What kind of a pastor am I?

My response is based on my experience.  The majority of times I am asked this question, it is people looking for one of two things.  One, they want someone to confirm their conspiracy theories and not affirm a Biblical understanding.  Two, they are looking to argue and want to get into a heated discussion about their views which are rarely based on the Bible. 

Honestly, I enjoy teaching the Bible. However, most of the questions I get about the end times are not seeking the truth.  They are sound bites meant to generate confirmation or argumentation.  I am not into that as a pastor or a believer.  If you really want to know what the Bible says, then try reading it, and we can talk about the scriptures together.   

Empathy for Cheese

There is a children’s song that I learned many years ago.  It is called the Farmer in the Dell.  After the first verse, there is this continuous cycle.  The farmer takes a wife, and the wife takes a nurse, and then it switches to animals.  The dog takes the cat, and the cat takes the mouse, and the mouse takes the cheese.  Then the final verse states, “The cheese stands alone.”

The original song dates to 1826 in Germany.  It came to the United States, probably from German immigrants, around 1883.  It is based on a nursery rhyme and is a fun song for children to sing with each other. 

The final line would go on to be used as an idiom in America.   That means it is a phrase with meaning beyond the definition of individual words, like saying, “you are in hot water.” That means you are in trouble and does not involve a tub or any real water.  The cheese stands alone has been used to describe people who do not fit in with everyone else. For example, a person might ask if you were invited to a party, and you could respond by saying, “No.  The cheese stands alone.” 

This weekend our Church will gather to worship the Lord.  One of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian community is that the cheese never stands alone.  No one should ever feel like an outsider who doesn’t belong.  The Church is a community of people where even the cheese finds someone with which to connect. 

New Stories of Faith

He was sharing his insights on trusting God and living a life of faith.  He used a personal story to illustrate the point.  The first time I heard him use this one story, I thought it was perfect and helped everyone.  Then I heard him repeat the same story the following year.  After that, the congregation could expect an annual rehashing of this one experience this man had where he trusted God completely. 

At first, it was compelling.  Then it made the congregation wonder if he had forgotten that he used it the year previously. The more times it was repeated, the more people began to ignore it.  Finally, everyone felt sad when he started to tell it.

How old are the stories you share about a time that you trusted God in faith?

(To get clarity on this, please ask your wife, children, or best friend.)

Maybe it is time for you to write some new stories of faith.  Maybe today or this week, you should do something that will only work out if God shows up.  Perhaps this would be a good season to do something where you must rely entirely on God for the outcome. 

Occasionally you need to throw all your old stories away and start fresh.  God has not changed his willingness to work in the world.  There is just a need for more people to use their faith and allow him to work.  And when you do … oh, the stories you will have to tell.