Today I had a humbling experience. I’ve learned that humility is an art. Pride is easier to attain than humility. Throughout God’s Word He tells us how much He hates pride.
I have worked all week on my message for today, just like every week I’m up to speak. It wasn’t a difficult message. We have been mirroring our children’s ministry all summer, so the passage was already laid out for me. Today’s story was the resurrection; a message I’ve preached many times before. I could probably tell you most aspects of the story without my Bible in hand. The challenge is to bring freshness to a story most people think they already know. I decided to go simple; realizing that because of the newness of our church that there are many who aren’t familiar with the story.
I put together a scripted, verse-by-verse account from Luke 23. Yesterday I did my final edit. What normally takes me 3 or 4 hours on Saturday to edit my Sunday message took only about an hour. I left frustrated with myself thinking it was a horrible message, but frankly I didn’t know what else to do with it at that point. I went out to eat with friends last night complaining to the guy who is also in the ministry that I didn’t want to do this message. It just wasn’t that good. I woke up at 4 AM this morning ready to scrap the whole thing and start over, because I didn’t feel it had anything to offer people. I made a few changes, but really walked into church thinking this would be the worst message I’ve ever done at Grace. It’s still summer, I thought, maybe I wouldn’t scare too many people off and we could rebuild next week. I even shed a few tears of frustration before I went on stage.
Within five minutes of beginning today I knew I was no longer in control. I’m not saying I had a great message; it may have still truly stunk, but I left knowing God used it in someone’s life today. That’s a humbling, incredible, wonderful feeling.
It reminds me of a story told years ago about a young pastor fresh out of seminary who showed up to preach his first sermon at his first church. He was so confident, but his message simply bombed and he knew it. He walked off the stage deflated. A senior deacon in the church gave him some great advice, “If you had went up on stage the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.”
That’s a good principle for me to remember every week.
Thanks God for allowing me to work for you and thank you for humbling me today!
Last fall I was running on a country road in the middle of Kansas and was stopped dead in my tracks with this scene. Instantly thoughts flooded through my mind. One day I suppose a man came home from work and said to his wife, “Honey, the house is ready. The place you dreamed of is complete. It has plenty of room, there is an upstairs like you wanted and wait until you see the rock I found with which to build it. This house is what we’ve been working so hard to get! We are going to be so happy in this place.” Today, this is that same house.
This is where most of what we invest in on this earth ends up someday. If we buy the nicest car with the best warranty; someday, unless extreme care is taken, it will be in a junk pile. The greatest house money can buy will one day no longer be the greatest house. Have you ever acquired the “latest” technology? Is it still the latest? How soon did the Apple iPhone need to be upgraded to be the “latest”? In the end, the things in the material world just don’t last.
What’s the moral here? Well, Jesus said it best. (Matthew 6:19-21) “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be. “
Someone’s dream house sitting abandoned 100 years later was a good reminder to me to make sure I’m investing my life into things that outlast time.
Here’s a great evaluation question: Are the places where you are investing the best part of your life in the areas you most want to grow and build something that lasts?
Okay, forgive the poor attempt at humor here, but I’m not even sure this is funny. Today I got a letter. I won’t tell you who from, but I think it’s too good (or too something) not to share. (My wife says I share too much.) What would you think if you got this letter?
You recently received a letter of invitation to the Pastor’s Update held at _________________ September 10th-12th.
Please disregard this invitation – this is a training/informative seminar for Black Pastors and Planters.
Wait a minute! I already had it on my calendar! Not really, but I am disappointed I don’t qualify. Plus, how do they know I’m not black. I am not aware that I ever indicated that on any documents this organization would have. I’m sure it was a huge error to send out the original invitation, which I don’t even remember receiving, but the retraction is hilarious. So much for bridging the barrier lines in our churches.
Just for that, I’m not going to their little party. You can take me off the list!
Today begins a week long 100th anniversary celebration of the Model T Ford in Wayne County, Indiana. Is anyone living that could say today, “That was my first car. I bought it new.”? Probably not; this is a really old car. Affectionately called “Tin Lizzie” it was America’s first “affordable” automobile.
To most of the world, really including me, this celebration will not be a major event in our lives. As an observer of culture, however, and someone who truly loves change, I’m reminded today that “the more things change, the more they remain the same. The author of Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun”.
There is no doubt that the world is changing fast. I saw the phrase “temporary contemporary” recently and that seems very true about our society. Nothing seems to stay the same for long. Cultures and paradigm shifts that used to be measured in decades will soon have to be measured in years. Just to keep up these days it is important for organizations to be continually adapting. We should be changing before the next paradigm shift gets here if we are to be successful. Futurists and others who monitor trends and can predict where society will go next are in high demand and will remain valuable to any organization.
While all that is true, we must never forget that there will always be those who resist change and there will always be elements of society that places a high value on tradition and things of the past. (Keep in mind, things of the past is a very relative term these days.) The balance of celebrating “retro” and adapting to “modern” will continue to be a true art in the days to come.
The issue came up today about the lack of front porches. Years ago every house had a front porch and we knew all our neighbors. Now fewer homes have front porches; in fact many neighborhoods have none; we invest most of our money in our backyards with pools, patios, gardens, etc. and most of us couldn’t tell you our neighbors names, much less anything about them. Yet, interestingly, we are evidently desiring more than ever community, as evidenced by the dozens of social networking websites that are so popular. We have become introverted neighbors and extraverted bloggers.
Which reminds me that our oldest son, the extraverted Jeremy has said many times he wants a big front porch on any house he owns! Go Jeremy! Bring back real community!
We could use a little competition in the church. I know, that’s a “bad” word around most church people, but frankly, I’m not your average church guy. I guess coming from the business world into the church world one of the things that has baffled me the most is this anti-competitive spirit among pastors and churches. I really believe a little competition could do us all some good.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m advocating. I believe we are all on the same team. I think, if we have a passion to reach people for Christ (the one and only Jesus Christ, Son of God, King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the Universe who died and rose again and only through Him we receive eternal life Christ….just so I’m clear) then we share the same basic vision for our church. We are all trying to disciple people to reach more people for Christ (Yes, that same Christ.)
What has seemed strange to me is how many tend to view any church that honors Christ opening near their church that also honors Christ. (Again, same Christ.) When we started our church one would have thought we were starting a war in some people’s minds. This is my second church plant. This one happens to be in my hometown. The first one was not. Because I was an unknown planter I didn’t bother anyone there until we started to grow and then it seemed every large church in town wanted to get to know me so they could figure out what we were doing. I always felt the main thing they wanted to know was how many of their people we had. People can criticize the way we began. (I’ve seen the Ed Young Jr. video criticizing what he calls “church pirates”.) They can argue against our methods (to reach people for the same Christ I remind you), but the bottom line most of the time, at least it appears to me, is that in the church world some feel there is to be no competition. This is especially true within particular denominations.
That appears exactly opposite of the business world. Competition in business serves a great function. Today in Philadelphia I saw a Ted’s Montana Grill right next to a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Of course, anyone who goes to Philly is made aware of Pat’s and Geno’s steak sandwich war that’s been going on for years. They are right across the street from each other. Almost everywhere I see a Lowe’s I also see a Home Depot nearby. Some say the best pace to open an independent coffee shop is near a popular Starbucks. Why do the best malls have the nicest food courts; with dozens of restaurants located next to each other? Have you ever been to a farmer’s market? Just wondering: is it still called a farmer’s market if there is only one farmer there?
Could it be because the business world knows something about competition that the church world needs to learn? Perhaps we need to learn a valuable business principle that competition drives interest, which generates traffic, which translates into bigger sales; which happens to be the like goal of each of the businesses. If we are all in it for the same end purpose, maybe we need to be less afraid of competition and more grateful when someone in the same “industry” of leading people to Christ (same Christ) opens nearby. We might even want to help them get started. It might be good for “business”.
By the way, in addition to greater sales, competition also has a way of generating better quality and we all know a few churches (including mine) that could always use more of that….
I was just thinking today. Name an industry that does not have to change rapidly in this current economy and culture?
Here are a few industries I can think of that I have read or heard news stories in recent months that are facing significant changes:
Should there be any question that the industry of church (the way we do church) would need to be undergoing change also? The product stays the same. The way we get people interested is changing rapidly.
What do you do with an extra hour in your schedule? I had an hour in between meetings today and not enough time to go back to the office. I wondered what to do with my time. I came up with these options:
· Write a blog (Obviously I did this one.)
· Call my mom. (She loves when I do, but I’m in a crowded place. Not sure that’s a viable option.)
· Pray. (I have lots to talk with God about.)
· Send emails to check on people I’ve not seen in a while. (I did some of this yesterday.)
· Read my Bible. (Actually doing some of that.)
· Dream. (This is a constant for me.)
· Work on next week’s message. (I’ve already got 2 pages of notes that I could organize.)
· View my calendar for the next few months. (The second half of this year appears much busier than the first. How could that be?)
· Interact with strangers here at Blondie’s. (The strange may come out of me if I do that now, according to who is here.)
· Twitter something. (If I can get it to work.)
· Sing along to the music playing in this place. (Current tune: Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley)
· Get another cup of coffee. (Never too much caffeine for me!)
· Search the web. (Thank God for filters should I go this route!)
· Write devotionals. (www.mustardseedministry.com needs new material.)
Suggestions? What would you do with an extra hour if you are away from home or the office?
I’m conducting a very official hygiene opinion poll. Results will be tabulated and sent to the Harvard School of Family Behavioral Sciences for further evaluation. (Just kidding…it’s not official. You didn’t fall for that though did you?)
My family is divided on a hygiene issue. Let me explain. Jeremy, our oldest son, moved out a few weeks ago to live at the fraternity house near the college he attends in our city. He came home this past weekend to be here. We have better food than the fraternity house. He forgot to bring his toothbrush. Of course the fraternity house is a good 4 miles from our house, so it would have been much too far for him to drive to get it, so in lieu of having his own toothbrush (Apparently as you will see, we are a weird family in that everyone has their own) he decided to use mine. When I realized this I threw up (vomited).
I confronted my family about this serious health violation and we were split in our opinion on the wrongness of this act. Cheryl and Jeremy think this is an okay thing to do if you need a toothbrush. They seem to believe you can share germs and bacteria if you are related. (“Just run some hot water on it”, they said.) Nathaniel agreed with me saying, “That is the grossest thing I’ve ever heard of.” In an attempt to break a tie vote I asked Jeremy’s girlfriend her opinion. I was sure she would agree with me. She didn’t. She responded with the same “Run hot water over it” answer.
I need your help. Will you agree with me that using someone else’s toothbrush is WRONG? Don’t you think it would be better to brush your teeth with your finger than to use someone else’s toothbrush?
In the meantime, I have purchased new toothbrushes and all their handles have been wrapped with masking tape. I’ve warned anyone who touches them that they face cruel and unusual punishment.
Being 17 is an awkward, life-altering, figuring out who you are time of life. As parents we try our best to help them through these days, giving the best advice we know to give. Yesterday was an example of one of those delicate times in the life of our 17 year old (formerly known as Nathaniel funny sometimes jerky son Nate, ). Let me explain. He was going to see a movie with some friends. He was concerned it might sell-out before he got there, so he asked me to purchase his ticket online. I was hurrying out the door for an event and so I quickly purchased the ticket. This morning my accountant wife sent me this email.
I don’t know if you know but when you purchase tickets for the movie online they charge a few. The ticket last night cost $9.50. Don’t think they charge fee when you purchase it from kiosk. I know he didn’t want to chance them selling out or have to stand in line, but just thought you would want to know how much those tickets costs.
I simply forwarded her email to Nathaniel so he would have it for future reference. Here is his reply: (As the title of this post indicates, this movie ticket purchase mistake has caused him to deal with some very serious spiritual stuff.)
heeew, thanks for the heads up. Next time I’ll try and consult you guys beforehand. I’ve been thinking and praying, and I feel like God is telling me that yesterday I really just blew past a life altering decision without giving Him a chance to offer his insight. He says that my life is too short just to make every decision on the fly, and that a life that truly glorifies Him is a life that challenges me to live by the Word and see what the Bible would say about life situations. Obviously in 1 Cor 10 we are to do EVERYTHING to the glory of God, and I’m really sorry that God’s glory was sacrificed here because of the extra $1.50 we spent at the movie. I’m going to try and do so much better when it comes to online shopping because as you know I spend way too much time wanting to buy things online. This is probably the biggest struggle I’m facing right now and I just want you to be praying for me in that area. Thank you for your guidance as a parent and I
understand if you think I should stay home the next few nights and think some more about what I’ve done. May the Word penetrate my heart and character!
Thankfully, the conviction of sin still leads to repentance.