Tuesday, April 29, 2008

God Speaks Daily

I want to do some blogging about the daily devotions. I hope that others will join me. The three that I use are the Upper Room, the Transformation Journal, and a Max Lucado book "Grace for the Moment". I would encourage you to pick one and the only reason I am doing three at this time is because I hope that you will choose one that you like to do with me. Normally I do not use three.
Well, today two of the three spoke specifically about personal time with the Lord each day, so I had to praise God for his miraculous timing. I plan to share the Lucado devotion at Men's Breakfast, so I won't spoil that fun for those men here, but the Upper Room today was an encouragement.
The devotion was basically about regaining our zeal for the Lord, which happen to be my sermon on Sunday. The thought in the devotion was to remember when you first turned your life to the Lord. So that took me back to the summer of 1992. I went to a Summer Games camp, as a counselor even though I did not have a relationship with God at the time. The first night there I realized how much God loved me and I gave my life to him.
Especially that first summer I had no idea what exactly I was doing, but boy was I excited to do it. I just listened and learned from the other counselors and repeated whatever they said. Then that fall I "helped" teach confirmation in my home church. Actually I was sitting in on three confirmation classes absorbing all that I could.
I do still try to absorb as much of the Lord as I can through reading the Scriptures, other Christian books, and prayer, but I still would not mind more time for that.
Well, I hope you are finding a place to receive some nourishment from the Lord and are excited about the possibilities of the future the Lord has planned for you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Grow up

Our minimum factor according to the Natural Church Development survey is passionate spirituality. I would love to hear any comments about your reaction to this minimum factor. To me at first it was kind of a slap in the face. Who is this survey to say I am not passionate about my spirituality or that the church I serve is not passionate because I see passion there. But after I prayed about it I began to come to terms with the idea that if we do put some effort into that area of our church life we will see some good results.
Today I thought about my personal growth with prayer. My top spiritual gift is faith. It is a blessing and curse. I completely have blind faith in the Lord. No matter what I am facing I believe God is in control and he will bring about his purpose. This is a blessing because I don't let things of this world hold me down. No matter how many times I hear something is not possible I know that with God all things are possible. It is a curse because not everyone sees the world with this faith. Most people without the gift of faith are more cautious and tend to keep their minds closed to the extravagant possibilities of God. So it can be frustrating to always be trying to share this blind faith. It is not something you just give to someone.
Well, that faith was also the enemy of my prayer time when I was new to the Christian life. I felt prayer was about asking God for things and in my faith I knew God already knew what I needed, so why waste my time asking. It was not until I grew in my understanding of prayer and that it is not about asking God for things, but sharing my life with God. I do share with God the wants and desires of my heart, but I also listen to him as he shares with me. I realized prayer is part of building my relationship with God. It is like any relationship, if you do not communicate with another person your relationship will not grow. Your relationship will just stay where it is. It will not get deeper. Prayer helps us grow up in our relationship with the Lord.
I hope everyone will grow in their faith and find a way to build that relationship with God.

MISSION: Discover the best way for you to have 5-10 minutes a day with the Lord and share it with someone else. Also let me know what draws you closer to God in your daily life. Ideas: reading Christian books, Devotionals (www.ginghamsburg.org/tj, www.upperroom.org/daily), Bible reading, Christian music, etc...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Everyday Worship

Pastor Helen led us in a wonderful worship experience yesterday. As I went forward to dip my fingers in the water at the altar, I was taken to the well where Jesus ministered to the Samaritan women in John chapter 4. I thought about the refreshing received from cool water on a hot day in a place like Israel. Hopefully we have some hot days coming soon and we too will be desperate for the coolness of water to flow over us.
And I thought about the refreshing offered in worship. Now worship is about focusing on God and it is about praising God, and yet I often am refreshed through worship because I stop trying to play God. I know as a pastor I can get caught up trying play God for other people. I feel like I need to solve their problems, answer all of their questions, and never fail them. When I finally realize I can't do that I often turn my head towards the sky and worship God because he can. He is the one that never leaves us. He is the one that speaks to our hearts. He is the one who will catch us when we fall. IF we allow him to and IF we recognize him at work in our lives.
Worship for me is not just a Sunday morning thing. It is an everyday thing. Everyday I need time to worship. I need reminders of God's worth. I take advantage of those opportunities more and more, and I encourage you to do the same.

MISSION: When God makes himself known to you this week, whether through prayers, through conversations, through actions, honor him with your worship. It doesn't have to be out loud or obnoxious, just let him know you appreciate who he is. Try to have at least one moment of worship each day this week.

Monday, April 14, 2008


The Natural Church Development survey has told us that our top two strengths are Effective Structures and Empowering Leadership. I am curious about what people think about these strengths compared to some of the other characteristics? (If you need a refresher the 8 are listed in my previous blog.) These were not the two strengths I wanted at first glance, but I think they are encouraging.
I believe with good leadership God can change the world. The world will not be changed by followers in the sense that followers are not leaders. If a follower decides to take a different path, they are no longer following, but leading. There are many paths this world leads us down: king of the hill mentality, get all that you can ideas, it does not really matter mindsets. It takes a leader to stop going down those paths and decide to make a difference. It takes a leader to say I want to help someone else. It takes a leader to say no one deserves to be treated that way. It takes a leader to say my life does matter and so do the decisions I make. God calls us to lead the way on loving God and loving others.
So I am excited that we have a strength in our leadership. And as they are empowered by the Holy Spirit we lead for growth in our other areas to have a quality environment where God will grow us in health.

MISSION: Reflect on where your power for leadership comes from. Is it from other people encouraging you? Is it from the experiences you have had in leadership? Does God just place it in your heart? Where are you using that leadership right now?
Please share with me your thoughts on the strengths of our church.

Monday, April 7, 2008


After church yesterday I was talking with someone who shared what came to their mind as I talked about Natural Church Development. He said that talking about creating an environment for growth reminded him of the medical profession. So many times we give doctors credit for healing our bodies, and I don't want to take away from what they do because doctors are important and well trained.
However they really do not heal our bodies, they create an environment for our bodies to heal themselves. And most doctors will tell you this themselves. God has given us amazing bodies that heal themselves. What a doctor does is help create the right environment for the healing to occur. They keep the injury clean. They realign bones and put on a cast. They do the best they can to help the body heal properly, but they do not cause the healing.
If we are to have a fully healthy church we are to do the same kinds of things. We are to create an environment where God can heal us, strengthens us, and grow us. This is our job in the Natural Church Development Process.
I want to give you the areas we will be looking at as the 8 characteristics that help create the right environment in the church: Empowering Leadership, Gift-Based Ministry, Passionate Spirituality, Effective Structures, Inspiring Worship Services, Holistic Small Groups, Need-Oriented Evangelism, Loving Relationships. Think about which you think we do well at St. Paul's UMC and what you think we need to work on. Over the next three weeks I will share what a survey tells us about ourselves.

MISSION: Think about the environment that blesses you in our church and share this with someone else.