Monday, January 24, 2011

You Can't Ride That Horse

One day while my daughter, Devin, was at the ranch where she took horse-back riding lessons one of her friends had come along to watch. Her lessons usually lasted about an hour or more. As the lesson progressed Devin stopped by where we were all sitting to rest Flash, her horse. Flash is a small horse, not a pony, but a bit less than the average horse. Make no mistake his size is in no way relavent to his heart. He is a jumper and will go over anything you set infront of him. My daughters instructor was even heasitant about letting Devin on him when she first started. So while Devin was standing there with Flash in hand her freind said, when do I get to ride? The way she said it was almost demanding, so what Devin said next really put things in perspective. " You can't ride this horse", Devin replied without hesitation. Her friend made some kind of reply that showed she really didn't know what she was about to get into. Flash was not a trail riding horse, he was fine tuned, easy going, but you could get into trouble if you didn't understand how to ride him. Devin had spent many hours learning how to ride, the parts of a saddle, how to care for a horse, grooming and mucking stalls before she ever stepping into the saddle. And even then she learned on a "lesson" style horse the kind of horse you could put a two year old child on and walk around the arena with. So Devins' reply wasn't to be selfish rather she was being practical even the instructor invited her friend to come back next week and start on a program but this isn't a horse you just hop on and ride.

I tell you this story because lately a few things have come to my attention that I thought need s'plaining. In ministry, many times I come across people that feel called to use their talents for Gods work. That usually comes after a moment of personal inventory and guidance by a pastor or church leader. Starting a ministry is only one part of your walk with Christ and should not be taken lightly. In your ministry also comes a responsibility to maintain that relationship with God. That relationship is developed through worship with others. If you occasionally go to church or not at all how will your relationship with Christ deepen and how will you see Him at work if you go slip back into the worlds way of doing things. It won't work.

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer.

A ministry requires being ministered to. You can't bring others to Christ if you don't know how yourself. The bible warns teachers to take inventory of what they are about to do and don't enter into it lightly. You may have heard the saying if you run with dogs you'll get fleas. James 1:3 says it like this "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors."

We must all take inventory of where we are in our walk with Christ. If your ministry is without Christ and leadership at it's center you may just have a hobby. You must take inventory of your heart, is it full of anger, bitterness and resentment? Is Christ really at your core, is it all about Him or all about you? Only you can answer these questions. In my opinion you're kidding yourself if you are in a ministry without accountablility.

"But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." Luke 8:15

I've lost my cool before and made mistakes in my ministry, yet at every turn and decision Christ is at the core of everyting I do.

Are you prepared for the ride? Is this a horse you can ride?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

View from the Porch

What do you see when you look out your front door? One of my favorite views is the one out our front door. On a sunny spring day we see pastures of grass, our two horses and my Mom and Dads house which is about 400 yards away. We also see across the tree tops and sometimes our neighbors dog Lucy walking up our gravel driveway for a visit. On a snowy winter day the view from our front porch looks like a postcard or a Merle Norman painting. My Mom has even commented that she likes the view from our front porch. To the east the sun rises above the mountains and then makes it's way across until it sets in the west disappearing over the Blue Ridge mountains. If you wanted to you could sit on a rocking chair on our front porch and watch this scene unfold right before your eyes.

Ephesians 3:17 and I pray that Christ will make his home in your hearts through faith. I pray that you may have your roots and foundation in love,

God watches us from his heavenly home through starry skies and the vastness of space. From His creation seemingly endless stars and galaxies He looks at you and I through the eyes of His son Jesus. Just as there are days when the view from my porch is filled with clouds which diffuse the sun and rain turns a gravel drive into mud. It is still a sight to see because I know the clouds will part and the land will soak up the water and use it to grow lush green grass for our horses to eat. Our Heavenly father sees the times when darkness fills our lives and the daily challenges over power us we strain beneath the weight. Yet He knows our potential and watches and guides us to make sure we have strong roots that allow us to with-stand the wind, rain and snow.

One of my favorite views is a half acre of mature white pines that stand in a parcel all by themselves. I've watched a hawk sit for an hour on the highest limb and then dive as if he's falling to the ground and them pick his prey out of the pasture beneath him with ease. On a windy day the sound is like a freight train and the wind blows through the limbs and the pines sway in unison. I like to stand under one of the trees and watch it bend as it is pressed by gusts, yet it never yields completely it merely bends as if to pay respect and let it pass.

In life when the storms come do we yield to the distraction of the opposing force or just yield as gail blows knowing it will pass, knowing all the-while that our strength is build on a solid foundation, with deep roots. Those deep roots come from knowing the truth about who God is and who he made you and I to be. Children of the most High God.

Jesus said in Mark 4:39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

In great strength comes great peace. Jesus was able to command the wind while the men in the boat along with him only saw turmoil. The fishermen feared the storm yet in their presents was the wind maker the creator of life in their midst yet they couldn't see it.

We must learn who to place our strength in even in the darkest times. Gods strength is enough for all us who depend on him yet in order to tap that power we must have a daily relationship with him and that relationship comes through his son Jesus. Storms will come and go, place your trust in the one who has the power to command the wind and waves as well as the power to forgive. Place your trust in Christ.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Church Grower or Church Goer

Since my wife and I began our path as church planters one thing has been consistent, opposition from other church goers. Now I don't think it is on purpose or malicious for the most part but as much as we have made it a point to reach the unchurched those that attend a traditional church have provided little or no support. Most of the people we meet and talk to about our church planting efforts are kind and supportive in word only. And that's ok with me. However it should be pointed out that a few denominations are on church planting sprees. If you go to a State Convention meeting or regional ministry association gathering you will probably hear them applaud someone who has started a church. (I think the applause is a nervous response of "glad it's not me") The only problem with this process is that this message hasn't got to the local congregations, the individual in the pew. Local church congregations and pastors talk about supporting missions overseas yet, America is slowly falling into a secular nation mind set.

The small church planter is strong and focused. He may not have a huge church backing him but never-the-less is called to grow the body of Christ. I think to my own experiences to planting in Western North Carolina. A church on every corner and yet the majority of them only have a handful of members left and the church membership is aging with hardly any young families. That's the WNC area. Our first year here we spent going and visiting with churches and various people that we thought wanted to be part of a church plant and to put it mildly it has fallen flat on it's face. And to be quit honest it has left me frustrated and feeling ill about the whole process. The blame is all mine. Even though I trust in God to guild me I have let my feelings get the best of me at times. This area even started a Church Planting Network but to be a part of the Network you had to pay a coaching fee which I thought was a bit corporate for my taste. Again this came from a very large church that had members putting money into church planting efforts that they picked not what was being planted. That has beed some of my experiences.

A church grower has a different mindset than that of the typical church goer. The church grower takes the task of spreading the gospel literally. The bible commands us to go make disciples. In 2011 the church is going to have to change to reach the young families of this generation. This will hit alot of nerves and make some that read this think who is he to say these things!? All you have to do is look on the bookshelf at the local Christian bookstore and look at the church starting section and you will see volumes of covers sharing the latest greatest church planting strategies. And even on Sunday morning it preached from the pulpit but the hearts of the congregations are not available or willing to support church planting. I'm not talking about money. Yes, it takes cold hard cash to start a church but even more important is the maturity of the Christ follower to help grow and reach the next generation.

The church goer may show up on Sunday sit in a Sunday School class and then occupy a seat during the preaching. Beyond that it may not go any further. If you are still reading take time right now and pray about your relationship with your heavenly Father and your own worship. Most preachers I've heard speak usually say at some point that we are not meant to merely occupy a pew. Yet, he would lose his job if he actually preached about the lack of vision and apathy in the congregation.

The Church Grower is a visionary. He is focused on the equipment it will take to get it off the ground. Lets just take for granted that the church planter has spent hours on his knees seeking Gods will and countless pages of study reading the bible for guidance. It takes getting people together finding equipment and letting the community around you know where you are. Although it can't be done by one person it usually is, the pastor/planter and his wife. Talk about burn out. There are no church planting support groups that can understand what he goes through to plant and start a church. One things for sure the people that need to read this won't ever see it. If they do please call me I will suggest how to help.

This post isn't for the weak hearted or those who don't like confrontation, ugh. It's for the one with a vision and a heart for adventure. Gods great adventure.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year New Yawn

Could you watch it? The memorial service from Tucson, Arizona of the January 8th shooting at a political gathering that killed six people, was televised yesterday. I couldn't watch it. It was on the TV but just couldn't bring myself to listen or see the images. A very tragic event.

Instead I went outside and watched my son and his friend sled down our hill. The joys of my family are made in memories every day. My daughter who is bored from the snow-days just wanted to get out of the house, so we put dry clothes on and went to the mall to walk around. Living in Asheville is challenging because our two children grew up with neighbors right across the street to play with. Not so where we live now. But I am proud of the way they have adapted to the area despite the cultural differences.

Strength comes in various forms. During an open house at my daughters school one of her teachers commented as I walked through the door "You're a large, tall man, I wouldn't mess with you". It was a funny comment because I don't see myself that way, but it helps with the guys that want to date her. My philosophy has always been that our family draws on our collective strength and we draw strength from our faith in God.

My wife is source of great strength and inspiration with a strong faith. The snow continues to fall, the temperature will be well below freezing but the sun is shinning and the best is yet to come.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Have you heard

The other day I came across an announcement for a message entitled "wake up call for Gods people". It made me think, "are Gods people asleep?...yeah, pretty much." If we lived our lives as true Christ followers would we need a clever marketing strategy, book and cd series to wake us up.
Micah 6:7 "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
What do we do to make things right with God? Do we increase our activities at church, enroll in a new committee, teach another class, become more involved in the church, tithe more? NO! Instead get on your kness and ask for forgiveness of the pride, the hatelful way you have treated people, for not standing up for what is right, for keeping silent when you should have spoken out, for putting your own agenda before Gods. The church, you and I, are not to be political machines in our worship. How are you and I different in Christ?
Matthew 3:8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Pride and self-importance don't bear repentance instead it looks more like "what's in it for me." You may not act like it on the outside but the heart reaveals true motives.
Jeremiah 4:14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?
Keep reading, it gets' better. If you and I are to make disciples and share the life changing message of Christ in this world our lives must reflect Christ in us. The "wake up call" may simply mean getting your life in perspective to Christ. Before Christmas I read the story of George Washington at Valley Forge December 24, 1777. The story moved me and I told everyone in my family to read it before Christmas. It reminded me that men have taken a stand for whats right despite the overwhelming odds against them. Today we have forgotten what it means to stand-up for the right. Boldness is viewed as an undesirable trait. Yet these men stood in the face of great opposition and it proved victorious.
Have you heard that God loves you and wants to know you. Only through a repentant heart will you have access to the Creator and Father of Jesus our savior. Have you heard that your mistakes, pride and willful disobidience can be forgiven if you will ask. If you know Jesus as you Lord but have fallen into the trap of doing it your way repent ask Jesus to search your heart get right with Him and begin to live a life filled with the power of the Holy Spirit residing in you. Have you heard? Now tell someone.