06 September, 2017

Learning From Setbacks

David Jeremiah wrote:

British inventor James Dyson spent 15 years making 5,126 prototypes of a revolutionary kind of vacuum cleaner—all of them failures. The 5,127th version was a success. James Dyson learned about the mechanics of design from each failure, but "learn" is the key word. That is the benefit of disappointment or failure in life... the opportunity to learn. There are many things to learn, of course. Jesus learned obedience (Hebrews 5:8), which is another way of saying He learned about trusting His Father God. We have the opportunity to learn about God as well, with every disappointment. The psalmist wrote that his afflictions reminded him of the faithfulness of God. There is an infinite number of ways to learn about God from life’s disappointments.

If you are disappointed today, use it as an opportunity to learn more about God and His love for you. Don’t view disappointments as obstacles, but rather as gateways to learning.

05 September, 2017

A Truthful Look at Our Smaller Churches

The following is part of a conversation that took place on Facebook a year ago. It came up today and I thought this needed to be shared again... especially the second part, which was a comment made by my friend and fellow pastor, Jon Prain. There were many other comments in the discussion, but I chose only to share my original post followed by Jon's post. 

I spent some time chatting with one of my former members tonight who was very upset because her pastor had announced his resignation yesterday and is moving to a new church. In talking with her she was telling me how the church had been in a bit of a decline for the past year, but as we talked about the situation it turns out that no one has actually left the church at all. In fact, there are new people attending. The issue is that a good number of people from the church are gone every week, so even though the same people are there, the average attendance and giving is down by about 20%. I asked her if she had considered how the fluctuating attendance and giving makes a pastor feel. I asked if she had considered that it might really hurt the pastor when people feel no responsibility to be there every week or to pay tithe regularly? She said she'd never really thought of it. I told her that I could tell her first hand that if feels like a punch in the gut and leaves the pastor feeling very unappreciated. Then, I asked her if she had considered how a pastor might feel his church is showing little appreciation, respect or concern, and then another church begins wooing them, telling them that they want them to come be their pastor? She thought that was selfish of a pastor to feel that way. As I told her... "Don't you think we pastor's have feelings too?"  The truth is that when people stay away and cut their giving, we tend to take that very personally and it hurts. People wonder why pastors leave. The answer is not always that God has spoken to them... but the people sure did!

(Jon's comment)
Pastors typically get blamed for declines in church membership, attendance, and giving---even though the pastor is often times NOT the source of such declines. 
1) Many towns (especially in Illinois) are shrinking in population. 
2) Schools are consolidating due to small enrollments (i.e. there are less families with children in the community). 
3) In general, in our country, church attendance and church membership are down in most denominations. Thus, as older church members die, younger people are not coming to ANY denominational church in order to replace the dying members. 
4) Average household incomes have dropped by close to $5,000 during the Obama years. At the same time, expenses--especially healthcare costs--have gone through the roof. 
5) Percentage wise, less people are in the U.S. workforce now than at any prior time in our nation's history.

Yet, church members (and denominational leaders!) will hold THE PASTOR accountable for drops in attendance and membership. THE PASTOR will be blamed for a lack of young families and children in the church. The PASTOR will be blamed for a drop in giving--or be blamed when church expenses are higher than church giving (even if giving is increasing). Even if the primary cause of a church's numerical and financial decline is the death of older members---THE PASTOR will be blamed. For some reason, national trends, declining populations, fewer young families in the community, the world economy and the death of elderly people are THE CURRENT PASTOR'S FAULT.

What makes matters worse, is that church people (erroneously) think that changing their pastor will create a long term solution to the problems that their church is experiencing. (As if rearranging the deck chairs could have stopped the Titanic from sinking!). 
NEWSFLASH: The next pastor won't be able to change the economy and population any better than the previous pastor!).

Experience (and research) show that people tend to come to a church, stay at a church, and LEAVE a church more due to the actions of their fellow LAY PEOPLE than due to the actions of THE PASTOR. Yet, churches will get rid of their pastors LONG before they get rid of problematic lay people and long before church members change THEIR OWN behaviors (in an attempt to attract and retain members). When a church is experiencing financial issues, a church is more likely to change PASTORS (and/or reduce the pastor's salary and benefits) before the members will increase their own financial giving.

Church members are quick to want a change in pastoral leadership. However, that is becoming more and more of a risky pathway for churches to pursue. In most U.S. denominations, there are more churches that NEED pastors than there are people who want to be pastors of those churches. Many churches are having trouble attracting QUALITY pastors. However, many quality pastors have many churches to choose from--IF they wish to continue in the ministry AND if they wish to serve the struggling, contentious, low paying, and pastor chewing churches that are seeking new pastoral leadership. 
If you get rid of your current pastor, the chances are pretty good that you might get an even WORSE (and less qualified) pastor the next time. (While your pastor is probably going to step up to a somewhat better position). So, churches would be well advised to work with the pastor that they currently have--than to think that a pastoral change will make things better.

01 September, 2017

Rewind and Reset

I had one of "those" dreams last night. It was really weird, yet I knew it was the Holy Spirit speaking to me. In my dream, I was sitting in my office at the church and on my computer screen, I saw things rewinding... you know, how on a DVD you can run it backwards a bit and you are watching everything happen in reverse. It was so strange, because at various points of the rewinding, there were events that jumped out at me and stuck with me, even after I awakened from the dream. I won't go into all of that, but will focus back to where the dream took me. In the dream, I saw myself sitting in my home office eleven years ago. I knew when I saw myself exactly what it was, because on that day, I received a vision from the Lord, and as I saw it, I got out of my chair and laid face-down in the floor weeping for hours. It was the day the Lord gave me what I have termed, "the river vision." In my dream I heard clearly these words, "I have rewound the days and resetting the vision. Walk in this."  And I woke up at that point. I jumped up out of bed, literally and looked at the clock. The time was 4:22 AM. I did not know why, but that time stuck in my mind. 

I tried to sleep after this, but could not rest and finally got up, got myself a cup of coffee and checked my email. In my email was a link to an article in Charisma Magazine. The title of the article just jumped out at me as is read:  Prophetic Word: God Is Resurrecting Your Former Dreams and Visions (You can read that here, if you like) 
When I had read this article, I began thinking about the dream and I went to my blog and searched for the day I had written about the River Vision. I found it and as I re-read it, things I'd seen during the rewind began to come to mind and things were beginning to make perfect sense, in light of what I'd written in April of 2006. I thought of the time and looked at the date of the article thinking there had to be a correlation to the time I had awakened. Nope. I wrote the blog entry on April 24, so that did not make any sense.  Then it hit me. At the beginning of that article I mentioned that in my last blog entry prior to this one, that I'd mentioned a vision the Lord gave me. So I went back and looked for it... You guessed it, the date I had received the vision was April 22 (4-22). That was cool, but I knew there had to be more. I began to pray about it and was drawn to Mark 4:22 which says: "For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." When I read those words, I knew that I was supposed to share this. 

Some will laugh it off. Others will doubt. But I know this was from God to myself and to this church. "He who has ears, let him hear."

* I've had a couple of requests to link to the original blog containing the vision I was referring to. Click here and it will take you to it. 

30 August, 2017

Watch And Learn!

Finding Someone to Blame

This week I had someone who was once involved in my church tell me that it was my fault that their family no longer went to church. I asked this person to explain how it was my fault and they said to me that I "gave up" on them. I reminded this person how many times I'd been to their home, visited in the hospital, sat over lunch with them and in many other ways tried to pour into their lives and to help them all. I was told that when they needed me most, I was not there. I asked when this was and I was informed of events that took place long after they had left the church where I pastor that I knew nothing about. I was told that if I cared, I would have known and been there. I reminded this person that they had not only left this church but also trashed the church, me and my family verbally as well as on social media and informed others that they had left and advised others to have nothing to do with me or my church and then posted numerous photos and stories about their new church, that was a "real" church and they had found their new home . The person's response was that if I was any kind of pastor that I would have pursued them, even if they did push me away. I told this person that if it somehow helped them feel better about the condition of their life, to go on and blame me, but that was not going to "fix" anything in their lives or marriage, that what really needed to happen was they, as a family, turn their hearts back to God. That did not seem to be what this person wanted to hear either. This seems to be a real problem in America today. People do not want to be responsible for themselves and someone else always has to be at fault. It may work on social media, but that is not going to hold water when we all stand before the judgment seat of God.

17 August, 2017

It's Really This Easy

One thing that irritates me to no end is when people start spreading gossip and/or talking smack about a person or a church. I've noticed that, especially on Facebook, that once this starts, people, like cockroaches, start coming out of the woodwork and joining in on the bashing party and smear campaign. Just yesterday a woman started trashing a church, and in her bashing that church basically trashed every church for "not having a caring heart" if they did not do what she thought should be done. In this case, she said that the church she had been attending had "refused" to minister to the deaf when she requested it. Then she added that any church who did not have a deaf ministry did not have the heart of Christ. I confronted this and said that many, if not most, smaller churches did not have anyone in the church who could interpret to the deaf but would if they had the ability. She back-peddled then, saying she did not mean it that way, but again went on a rant about the church where she had attended. I finally decided to contact the pastor of this church and ask him if he had in fact "refused" to minister to the deaf.  The pastor was shocked beyond belief. I told me that most people did not know it, but he, in fact, was partially deaf and was dependent upon hearing aids. He further told me that he had never spoken to anyone about this and most certainly would not "refuse" such a ministry. Then he said that he currently had two people in his church taking a course in sign language and interpretation and that as soon as they were able, they were, in fact, launching this ministry in the church where he pastors. Funny what happens when you simply check out the story...

My point of this post is that rather than simply hearing accusations and running with them, it is really easy to do a little fact checking put a stop to malicious gossip and attacks. The sad truth is, most people are not interested in the truth... they just want to join in on the attack and further damage reputations and especially if it is the reputation of a minister of the gospel.

16 August, 2017

America Is Being Sucked In

The events of this past weekend have America so deeply divided and to be honest, I believe most people are confused as to what the issues really are. It seems the arguments are being pushed into political ideology and some have made it that if you are against the Black Lives Matter and Anitfa groups, then you must be a white supremacist.  I contend that people are missing the real issues here. What this really boils down to is two opposing sides, (both sides being equally evil and stupid, in my opinion) and the question is really about our rights as American citizens and even deeper, how those rights are being stripped away by political forces that seek to control us and limit us. Let's take a quick look at what took place.

A group of white supremacists organized a protest which was done legally, obtaining a permit to do so from the city. I do not agree with the racist views of this group, but I want to be clear, they have the right in America to free speech and to peacefully assemble and I support that right. The vice-mayor of Charlottesville, Wes Bellemy, illegally revoked the permit for this event, and (get this) the ACLU stepped in, took him to court and the permit was reinstated. After all of this, a counter-protest was organized utilizing two groups, Black-lives Matter and Antifa, who have shown again and again to bring chaos and violence to every protest they are a part of. These counter-protesters did not have a permit and came with the express purpose of starting trouble.

I challenge the reader, DO NOT focus on race here, rather, focus on what was done legally and what was done illegally. Focus on the fact that "someone" funded these counter protesters to bring them in from all over America to cause trouble. If you are honest with yourself, you will be forced to admit that someone with power and resources is behind something bigger than black vs white here. Keep in mind that this group of white supremacists was relatively small, especially for something that was planned for an extended time and people came from across the Nation, and yet the number was only (depending on which report you believe) between 200 and 300 people.  This small number shows how small the percentage of Americans align themselves with this sort of thinking. And keep in mind that some of those who assembled are not white supremacists, but were there simply because they disagree with the removal of historical statues and monuments.

Now allow me to ask a very important question. What if the counter protesters had not shown up? What if people basically ignored this protest and the media did not cover it and make it into a racially-charged event?  I contend this would have been an insignificant event and the world would not have even known they were there. But "someone" wanted to make sure it was more. The question is "who" are the people stirring this up? Who decided to bus in counter protesters, fueling the fire in such a way that they knew would cause an explosion and draw international attention. And how did this become a vehicle to attack the President, Donald Trump? People, we are being played. Today, 5 days later, all across America people are divided along racial and political lines because someone saw fit to set in motion events that would explode and cause division. I contend that this was their intention all along. I'm not saying they intended for someone to be killed, but in their eyes, that is only fuel for the fire.  There are calls now to label all white supremacist "domestic terrorists." There are calls to run anyone who thinks or speaks "differently" out of this country. From coast to coast, people are arguing and fighting over racial issues and political issues and the focus has been lost.... In America, we have freedom of speech and the right to peacefully assemble... and right before our eyes these powerful forces are introducing the notion of stripping those freedoms from us. We are seeing the idea of "thought police" being introduced and anyone who thinks differently can and will be eliminated from our society. One of the things that has made America so great is the freedoms we have... the right to be different and to think differently. Today the talk is doing away with those who are "racist". But what if tomorrow the talk is anyone who does not agree with gay marriage? Or flip that... what if the winds of change blew in and they said they wanted to eliminate anyone who did believe in gay marriage? What if tomorrow the Gospel of Christ is labeled offensive and they want to eliminate anyone who believes in or teaches the gospel. Some would say that is ridiculous... but once this can of worms is opened, anything can be labeled "offensive" and targeted for destruction.

Don't get so focused on the black/white issue that you miss what is really happening in America. Things are about to change and once they do, there is no turning back.

09 August, 2017

Are We All God's Children?

I hear it said at least 2 or 3 times every week, "We are all God's children." But is that true? It is true that we are all God's CREATION (see Colossians 1:6), and it is absolutely the truth that God loves us all (John 3:16) but let's be clear, it is not true that we are all His children. To be one of His children is reserved for those who have been born again. Yes, that's what I said... only those who are born again are children of God. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
Then we read where Paul writes in Romans 8:15-16 and says, "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. (We had to be adopted in, meaning we were not his children before salvation) And by him, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children."
If there is still any doubt in your mind concerning what I am talking about, read carefully what John has to say to us in 1 John 3:1-10: "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, NOW (not before) we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister."
Pretty clear... don't you think?

25 July, 2017

Pride Is a Funny Thing

A couple of days ago someone told me that God hates pride. They were referencing someone we both know who had done well in a given area and took pride in their accomplishment. I tried to explain to this person that there is a difference in taking pride in a job well done or an accomplishment, and being a prideful person. The truly ironic thing is that the person who was tossing condemnation on another for having pride in their accomplishment was now filled with pride over their own intellect and told me that I could not tell them what pride was, that they knew full well what pride was and just because I had more education than them did not make me smarter than them. I finally told the man that it was he who was now displaying the kind of pride and arrogance which God really does hate. It only went downhill from there. The truth is, some pride is a good thing. It is pride that makes you arrogant and unteachable is a bad thing. Pride that will not allow you to admit you were wrong is a bad thing. Pride that makes you feel superior to others and look down your nose at them is bad. Pride that causes you to sever relationships rather than apologize is the very thing that God hates. But some people are so full of pride that they'd rather cause a firestorm of damage than to say, "forgive me"... and this is the kind of pride that God hates and brings about destruction because that pride takes one's thoughts far away from God and godly things.

19 July, 2017

Thinking Out Loud: Come As You Are

The following was written by Madison, the daughter of the best friends I ever had. I'm amazed that this teenage girl has this insight and wisdom.  Rock on, Maddy!  Good Word hon!

Thinking Out Loud: Come As You Are: Anyone who really knows me knows that I am without a doubt a perfectionist. I constantly feel pressure for everything to be perfect at all t...

04 July, 2017

Expand Your Boarders

There's an old story about a frog who was born at the bottom of a well. There in that well he had water and food and he was comfortable. He thought life was splendid and that it just could not get any better, until one day he looked up and he saw sunlight. Climbing to the top of the well to investigate, he was amazed to find a much larger pond than the one he lived in at the bottom of the well. He decided to move out of the well and to set up housekeeping near the pond. One day he heard cows mooing and he ventured away from the pond to investigate, where he discovered a lake that was much larger than his little pond, so once again he moved. One day he began to investigate further and he found a rolling river, and diving into it, he was carried off to the ocean. Climbing out of the ocean onto the beach the little frog was amazed that as far as his eyes could see, there was nothing but water. Standing there gazing out at the ocean it dawned on him how limited his thinking had been while living at the bottom of that well. He thought all he ever need was down in that well, but now he had discovered that what he had experienced was but a drop in the bucket compared to all that was out there for him to enjoy.

Many people are living in their own little "well," reluctant to leave their comfort zone and they have settled for a limited and safe existence while all the while God has so much more in store for them. Isn't it time to climb out of the well and expand your borders? Isn't it time to quit staying in the safe confines of the "box" of safety you are in? Perhaps you've settled for where you are because you feel like circumstances of life have limited you. Remember, the enemy will do everything he can to keep you focused on your past in order to limit your future. Bruce Wilkinson says, "It doesn't matter whether you're short of money, people, energy or time. What God invites you to do will always be greater than the resources you start with."Don't let fear limit your vision when God is your source because His supply is without limits! Just one idea, one dream, from God can change not only your life, but the lives of others as well. But first, you have to climb out of the safety of your well.

17 June, 2017

What's The Most Important Thing?

I speak with people all the time who tell me that they really need to get their family in church. The thing is, they are sincere, and they really mean it. They know that it is important. The thing is... life gets in the way. There are family outings. There is baseball, softball, hockey, skating, gymnastics and so many other things that keep them busy and they just can't find time to squeeze going to church into their busy schedules. I've heard this for years as a pastor. But I've also been on the receiving end of the call when the son has been in a wreck while partying... the daughter has told them that she is pregnant. The kids are unruly and will not obey them. Their child tells them that they are gay. The adult kids reject God and the church altogether. And the parent wonders aloud where they failed. I'm going to be bold enough to say it... you failed when you chose to forego church so that your child could participate in their favorite sport. It's parents living a vicarious dream through their child, with the notion that "someday" they will do what they know is right and bring their children to church. But that day never comes, because, rather than thinking of eternal things, they focused on the temporal things... and they trained their children in the belief that God will always be there when they need him, rather than train the in the belief that we are here to serve God. If you are the parent of a young child... wake up! Ask yourself what is more important to your family on an eternal scale? If your children are already grown... you may think it is too late. It's not. Go to them and confess your failure and beg them to understand that serving God is the most important thing we can do in this life. Those trophies and pictures will mean nothing when life is over and they stand before God to be judged for eternity. Make the change today!