Monday, February 28, 2011

Do I really need that?

The one profession which lends itself to less accountability than any other is the pastorate.  Any pastor who doesn't want to be accountable for his actions can easily make that happen.  Too often, the pastor is looked at as THE spiritual leader of the church and no one is ever allowed to be close to him nor to question him.  Most pastors rarely have anyone ask them, "So how was your quiet time today?" or "How is your marriage going?" or "Have you been having any struggles lately?"   Seminary teaches us that we are to have all the answers and we are to be the leaders.  But the truth is that pastors have the same struggles as anyone in the pew.  We get discouraged, frustrated, angry, bitter and can even feel overwhelmed, underappreciated and totally insignificant.  There are a multitude of reasons why a pastor falls, but one of those strong reasons is a lack of accountability.

Why am I putting this on a blog for the world to see?  Because I am trying to buck that trend and open myself up to be accountable and allow fellow pilgrims into my journey.  I am sharing this because I need others to speak into my life.  I need periods of refreshment when I can be taught and simply listen and learn.  I need opportunities to not be a leader, but someone who is being led.  Every pastor needs these things, we just don't like to admit it.  That's why I am grateful for the times Shane has been preaching at our church as he works through his final semester of seminary.  That is why I am grateful for the pastors who meet at Hillcrest every Wednesday morning to pray and encourage each other.  That is why I am grateful to have a group of twelve men who receive monthly prayer letters from me and who pray for me.  That is why I am grateful to have deacons who deac and are not afraid to ask me about my personal life and my faith journey.  That's why I am grateful to have the opportunity to go to BASS this weekend and listen to others encourage me and speak God's Word into my life.

Do you need that?  Of course you do.  But do you HAVE that?  Who speaks into your life?  Who knows the times you may go astray or be putting on a happy front while inside you are dying?  Who can call your bluff and speak a hard truth to you?  How are you being led by the Spirit?  The church is the body of Christ - More than one.  We all have a part and we need each other.  Make sure you have a brother or sister in Christ with whom you pray, share and encourage.

This past Friday, I got to speak time with one of my best friends in the world, Evan Dalrymple.  Many of you have heard him sing and he is gifted in this area.  But he is also a close brother.  I have called him in some of my darkest moments and he has been the encourager.  He has told me hard truths that I didn't want to hear, but I needed to hear.  The tables have also been turned and I have had the honor of seeing him in some of the most hurting moments of his life.  We rarely get to see each other since he lives in Denver.  We try to talk consistently by phone and find out what is happening in each other's lives.  The few hours I spent with him on Friday passed way to quickly, but it felt like we had just seen each other yesterday.  There is only one reason for that:  Jesus. 

II Timothy 2:2 says, "And the things you have heard me say int he presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable me who will also be qualified to teach others."  The goal of the church is to develop men and women who can be entrusted with the truths of Christ and teach others.  Are you trustworthy?  Are you passing these truths on to others?  How well are you teaching?

May this Sip bring a desire to have refreshment in having a brother or sister who walks with you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you tired of anxiety?

Before reading this Sip, please take a moment to read I Peter 5:5-7 and meditate on those words for a few moments.

This past Sunday, we spoke about guilt during the sermon.  Guilt is one of the many things that cause us anxiety.  If we stop to think about all that is going on around us, we might be too anxious to even move.  On an international scale, there is the incredible unrest in the Middle East with revolution on everyone's lips, there are Somali pirates attacking and killing innocent victims, there is the growing power of China looming as a giant economic force and the list goes on.  On the national scale, we have massive debt, governments at all levels are broke, gas is heading quickly towards four dollars a gallon, and the hits keep right on coming.  There is such anxiety that the drug industry cannot keep up with the demand for more powerful and "effective" tranquilizers.  One a personal scale, we all have our own struggles.  Each of us have individuals struggles and anxieties tailored to our own personal experience.  Anxiety is a universal experience, even though as Christians we tried to hide our anxiety.

This passage is I Peter gives a powerful antidote to anxiety:  Humility.  That doesn't sound right, but it is.  Notice,t he passage begins by telling younger men in the church to submit to the elders of the church.  The only way we can really submit is with an attitude of humility.  However, humility is hard to come by today.  We see athletes preening for cameras, thumping their chests and do dances over making a routine play.  We see stars in Hollywood strutting around with a self-importance that makes them feel qualified to speak on every subject as if they were experts.  We see politicians ripping each other and telling the world how smart they are and how ignorant those who oppose them are.  Yes, in America, humility is in short supply.

Humility basically says this, "I don't have all the answers and I need to learn from others."  The passage in I Peter reminds us to learn from those older and more experienced than us.  When we are facing a stressful situations, we can never go wrong by talking with an older brother or sister in Christ - Sharing our fears and struggles with them.  Chances are, they have been through much worse and have come out on the other side with a renewed faith and joy.  Humility makes the most of the opportunity God gives us when He puts these elders into our path.  That's why the church should always show honor and respect to those who have been in the faith for a long time.  Their experience, wisdom and peace can bring us back to our senses and calm out nerves as we trust God to do what only He can do. 

When we were in Hawaii, the church was planning to build a building without incurring any debt.  The first thing the state required us to do was to pay for our own fire hydrant, which was going to take up all of our reserves.  So that meant, we still had a $200,000 building to build with no money - Not the best way to approach a construction job.  After sharing with the church what we needed to do and probably venting a little more than I should have, I was worn out.  Before leaving the church, Margaret Sanders pulled me aside to talk with me.  She was a Godly woman we all called "Tutu", which is the Hawaiian word for grandmother.  She took both of my hands in her hands and said, "Kahu, is God leading us in the building?"  I gave a rather meek affirmative response to that question.  Her response was stern and yet filled with joy, "Then He will provide what we need when we need it".  With that, she hugged me and walked away.  This marvelous saint had seen God move in so many majestic ways in her life that she was not fazed by $200,000.  At just the right time, I heard the voice of God speaking through an elder to my soul.  For those of you who may not know the rest of the story:  It took two more years to complete that building, but it was finished debt-free and God always provided what we needed at just the right time.
What is causing you anxiety.  Would you allow the Holy Spirit to take you by the hand and remind you that God will provide just what you need at just the right time.  Then find an elder who is walking with the Lord to be your prayer partner in this endeavor.  When the anxiety begins to rise, call and pray.  See if you cannot learn the lessons from those who have gone of before you.  If you will take a sip from their well, you will be refreshed!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Are you trying a shortcut?

This morning as I was listening to the news, a report has just been published about the dangers posed to youth and children who drink energy drinks.  Though this study is not comprehensive, there has been very little information about the impact of energy drinks on people.  The ingredients listed for "Monster Energy Drink" are:  carbonated water, sucrose, glucose, taurine, sodium citrate, color added, panax ginseng root extract, L-carnitine, caffeine, sorbic acid, benzoic acid, niacinamide, sodium chloride, glucuronolactone, inositol, guarana seed, pyridoxine hydrochloride, sucralose, riboflavin, maltodextrin, cyanocobalamin.  There is also a warning label which tell the user to not drink more than three per day.  Now, I am not the sharpest tack in the box, but I can look at the ingredient list and know this probably isn't something I should be ingesting.  If it comes with a warning, I definitely need to stay away from it.  So why are these drinks so popular?  They are a short cut to having energy.  Rather than doing what is necessary for the body to have energy (Get a good nights' rest, eat healthy/balanced meals and exercise), we take a short cut.  Eventually the body, spirit and emotions pay a price for taking this short cut.  The report this morning warns that teenagers drinking energy drinks can have serious physical and emotional problems as a result of consumption.  This is just a reminder that short cuts really don't work.

Jesus was tempted to take short cuts in becoming the Messiah.  In Matthew 4:1-11, Satan tempts Jesus in three different ways.  But all three ways boil down to one temptation:  Take a short cut since you have the power to do so.  Take a short cut to satisfying your hunger by turning stones to bread.  Take a short cut to having people worship you by throwing yourself off the Temple and the people will be in awe as the angels keep you from death.  Take a short cut to being Lord, rather than dying on the cross, worship Satan and have all the Kingdoms.  Do you remember how Jesus fought the temptations?  Yep, He utilized Scripture - The Scripture that He had spent the first thirty years of His life learning, studying , memorizing and living.  Thirty years of preparation for this time of temptation.  He didn't take the short cut.  Even at the end of His life, as He prayed in the garden, He was wanting a different solution to our problem of sin.  When God revealed that Jesus must drink the cup of suffering, He went out to face persecution, abuse and His death.  He became sin for us.  There was no short cut He could or would take.

How often do we want to take short cuts to maturity?  Rather than spending time alone with God studying His Word and praying, we want to "mulit-task" by listening to Scripture while we drive or cramming our prayer time into our commute.  God rarely gets uninterrupted time with us, yet we expect our shortcuts to bring about spiritual maturity.  Sorry, it just don't happen that way.  Jesus knew Scripture because He had actively memorized Scripture.  There is no short cut to having God's Word hidden in our hearts, but to study it, memorize it and put it into practice.

How often do we try to take a short cut to building a relationship.  Rather than turning off the TV and computer and video console to spend time talking/listening with our spouse and/or children, we try to make quick moments happen on Valentine's Day.  Instead of going out on dates and having honest communication, we stay busy doing our "important" things, like church work.  A meaningful relationship takes time, sacrifice and investment in each other.  There is no such thing as quality time without quantity OF time.  We give our spouse and children our leftover energy or try to make up for it with a family vacation.  The time passes much to quickly to do this.  We must be actively involved in their lives on a daily basis.  There just isn't a short cut for this.

When a difficulty comes our way, we gripe and complain to God and ask Him to take away the pain.  We want a shortcut out of this struggle.  Yet God has incredible lessons for us if we will simply persevere and be faithful to Him.  He has brought this struggle at a specific time for a specific purpose.  Taking a shortcut will keep us from growing the way God planned for us to grow.  I have a book which puts it this way:  "There Are No Instant Grapes In God's Vineyard".

The list of shortcuts we try to take goes on and on.  If we are honest, we can truly admit the shortcuts we are trying to take.  We know that eventually they harm more than help.  It is in the moment of decision when we are tempted to cheat and go in the wrong direction.  Would you ask God for the strength and wisdom to take the long way and learn in the process.  He's a loving God and will answer that prayer.  Take a Sip from the Well of His leadership and be refreshed on your journey.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Thoughts from the Super Bowl

This past Sunday, we once again witnessed the American cultural icon, the Super Bowl.  What began forty-fives years ago as a game between two rival sports leagues has now become the must-see event of our culture.  If you ever want to see the impact of the Super Bowl, go shopping during the Super Bowl.  You will have the store to yourself.  Or drive on the deserted streets of your city during that time.  Life revolves around this one event in our culture and everything bends to the will of the National Football League.

Having said all that, I wanted to share an insight from this year's event.  I could mention the close finish and talk about the struggles we are facing and how God will give us a victory.  I could mention the injuries that did not keep the Packers from coming out victorious, reminding us that we may be hurt, but God will strengthen us to persevere to the end.  I could mention the mangled version of the National Anthem and talk about how many times we as Christians mangle the worlds' view of Jesus because of our sin and hypocrisy.  I could have mentioned seeing the game for the first time on High definition TV and how disconcerting it was to see announcers in high def, seeing every wrinkly and age spot.  The Bible is the high def view into our own soul because it lays bare every flaw, sin and attitude not pleasing to God.  I could talk about the celebrations by Packer fans across the nation and remind us that as followers of Christ we are victorious and we can celebrate every day!

However, there was one potent moment during this event which struck me even deeper than any other.  My six year old son was watching part of the game with us.  You see, our TV at home has no cable, dish or satellite and we can't even pick up regular channels.  So to see the game, we had to go to a friend's home.  This means my family and I rarely see any commercials.  Some of the commercials during the game were funny, others plain boring, but one commercial was embarrassing.  The commercial could have rated as soft core porn as a man and woman began to act as if they were being intimate.  At this point, I turned my son away from the TV and I joined him.  In the presence of mixed company, it was a very uncomfortable moment brought on by this "commercial".  At the end, we found out the sponsor was Sketchers and they were advertising their latest shoes.  I was not shocked by this commercial because I'm sure there are many other commercials which have much stronger sexual content than this.  However, it was a deep reminder of one of the main reasons we don't have cable or the Dish.  I wondered how many Christians would be so sensitized to sexual innuendo and suggestion that they would not even flinch at this commercial.  You may even be reading this blog and think, "Ted, you are such a prude and live such a sheltered life.  Get out into the real world".

I am reminded of what the Bible says in I John 2:15:  "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires will pass away, but the man who does the will of God will live forever."

As followers of Christ, we are aliens and strangers in this world.  When we get too comfortable in world, it is usually a sign that we have some serious compromises.  God will not share His possessions with anyone or anything, and we are His possessions.  We need to guard our eyes and our desires, because they can either lead us to passionately follow Jesus or to blindly be led into destruction.  Marriages falter because the eyes of ones spouse wander towards pornography or a handsome co-worker or a woman at the gym.  The eyes open the door for the heart to be deceived.  Certainly, we live in a fallen world and America is a country obsessed with sex.  However, our call is to rise above and enjoy the things which are eternal - Those thing which will last. 

What are your eyes viewing?  How are you guarding your heart, even as you are on-line today?  What is your passion in life?  May your passion always be to serve the Lord and His purposes.