Monday, September 29, 2008
Highlight # 6: Outdoor Baptisms! We have half an hour between our two services on a Sunday morning. With six individuals slated to be baptized during our second hour, we decided that the dunking must go on. So once again, the great volunteers of Grace rolled that hot tub outside onto a large grassy area, dried up the auditorium floor and filled the hot tub with water (warm water no less) and had us up and ready to go before the second service got rolling into full swing. It was wonderful to have these six individuals share their testimony in the auditorium and then move outside to be baptized (in a hot tub that was still leaking like a sieve) to the cheers and applause of hundreds of people who came out to watch. I'm not opposed to doing baptisms indoors (especially during the winter months) but there is something really special about doing them outdoors.
Final Highlight: Club 56 Event! Last evening finished off with a Club 56 Purity event that my son was a part of. Club 56 is our pre-teen program for fifth and sixth graders at Grace. Last evening was a night when fathers and sons were invited to an evening of sports in our gym, followed by pizza and a talk on purity. (Mothers and daughters were at the opposite end of the building) The highlight for me was to spend an evening with a bunch of other guys and their sons playing sports. I have never really seen any of these guys in a setting other than a Sunday morning, so it was really cool to hang out together as guys and get competitive for a few hours with our boys. I must confess that I still feel like I got it when it comes to staying competitive with sports... but I must also confess that my failing to stretch and warm up is costing me dearly today. The moans and groans as I sit into my sofa are a little louder than normal as the evening wears on. All in all, it was a great night with my boy on so many levels.
Final, Final Highlight: PENN STATE WON ON SATURDAY NIGHT!!!
As I have sought to show, it was a very busy weekend, but one full of great highlights.
Highlight # 2: The Ephrata Fair! I enjoyed a wonderful evening with my family on Friday night at the Fair. Each of my kids had a friend to hang out with which always provides me the opportunity to hold my wife's hand and hang out with my best friend. We had supper before we went, but enjoyed funnel cakes, candied apples with sprinkles and waffles with ice cream. The rain held off and we all left with smile's on our faces. It's always fun to people watch, but I always come away with an awareness of how many people need Jesus. There is much work to be done before His return.
Highlight # 3: Night of Worship! Saturday night was yet another powerful evening of worship under the leadership of Matt, our Director of Worship at Grace Church. It is an evening that always refreshes me in the Lord as we focused upon so great a salvation. Thanks for a great job Matt and worship team.
Highlight # 4: Baptism Sunday! Yesterday, I had the privilege of baptizing 14 individuals. As we wrapped up our series on the Antichrist, how powerful it was to finish the month of September with these individuals publicly identifying themselves as nothing less then devoted Christ followers who celebrate what God has done and is doing in their lives. To hear their stories always moves me as it is amazing the lengths God will go to rescue people from their sin to set individuals and families off on a path of life, hope, love and joy in Christ.
Highlight # 5 will pick up with the excitement that accompanied our baptisms which forced us to make a quick change.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
1) The Ephrata parade is a huge deal!!! My whole neighborhood was buzzing about this yearly event weeks ago.
2) I saw a driver block an entire line of oncoming traffic with her SUV to let a long line of people who wanted to go left make the turn. I heard more honking and foul language in those 30 seconds then I have heard since moving to Lancaster County. Nothing like Fall Fair Fun!
3) I must confess that the reason I know number 2 is that I was one of those left turn drivers that took advantage of this drivers gutsy move. Thanks whoever you are.
4) I really don't know my way around Ephrata that well yet.
5) I learned a big lesson regarding the need to stake your claim at least 5-7 days in advance if you want prime front row seating for the parade. Thankfully, us parade rookies found a few families from Grace that were kind enough to let us sit with them for our viewing pleasure.
6) I felt immense pride as a father watching my daughter dance her way up the street to a wonderful Irish jig with a huge smile on her face enjoying every moment of life. Those few minutes in that 4 1/2 hour trek made it all worth while. What a blessing it is to be a dad of two great kids!
7) I thought Halloween had come early with the amount of candy my son and his friend took in from the parade. The kids actually come with bags and make out like bandits as many of the parade participants throw candy to the cheering crowd. I'm not convinced throwing candy into the middle of the street is wise when the next parade participant is a transport truck, but it works.
8) Apart from my daughter, my favorite part of any parade is still the Pipes. There is nothing like the sound of the bagpipes filling the air on a beautiful fall night. It brought back some great memories of the Pipe parades we would watch every Saturday evening throughout the summer when the little town of Kincardine (where we lived) would shut down main street so a 100 pipers or so could walk down the street and play. It's the Scottish in me!
9) At the risk of raising controversy, I can appreciate a church's desire to participate in a parade, but I'm not convinced the outdated tracts they throw into the crowd are going to draw the multitudes of people we saw last night into church. It would be an interesting thing to measure how effective that method of outreach really is.
10) It was fun to be reminded that my little girl has a special place in this daddy's heart. There was a brief moment when I wasn't sure where I would meet up with my little girl after the parade and my long legs had me moving at a pace throughout that crowd to find her that was impressive for a man my age. To finally see her at a distance with that big smile on her face and to have her run up to me and give me a hug made that whole evening all worth it. I'm pretty sure what I was feeling at that point is what my heavenly father feels every time I come running into His loving and secure arms with a smile on my face because I love living life in and through Him.
It was a fun family night!
Monday, September 22, 2008
As I came away from one such meeting recently, I could not help but think about how easy it is for me to use Biblical language that is very familiar to me with people that don't necessarily have that same level of understanding. I wonder how the seeker/unbeliever feels when they get around a group of Christ followers using terms, concepts and theological frameworks that are foreign to them.
I'm in no way suggesting we dumb down the gospel message of Jesus, but rather creatively think about how we can present the important truths of Scripture (in no particular order) like redemption, salvation, justification, repentance, reconciliation (and the list could go on) in terminology that communicates powerfully the truth of God's Word in language the average Joe can understand. I believe we as Christ followers need to get serious about how we communicate truth in a relevant way so as to not leave those seeking for spiritual answers feeling like I did when I left some of the meetings mentioned above. I don't want seekers leaving a conversation with me feeling like the waters have only been muddied because I didn't clearly communicate their need for a Savior in terminology that resonates deep within their hearts.
I'm thankful for an accountant who speaks "user friendly" accountant talk that helps me understand the main points without me feeling lost, confused and stupid. It was a good reminder to put myself in the listener's shoes when sharing the truth of God's Word with them. I want them to be drawn to Christ through my words and His Word, not turned off because they feel stupid for not understanding.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Friday, September 19, 2008
BUT... I sit here this morning with a smile on my face writing this because with great confidence, I by faith hold on to the truth of the gospel which means my life in Him and with Him is not in vain. As I thought about this truth, here are some of the very practical aspects of my life that are not in vain as I live in the power of 1 Corinthians 15.
Pursuing a life of holiness through spiritual disciplines is not in vain as God wants to transform and conform me to be like Christ my Savior. All the spiritual training is worth it because of the resurrection.
Loving my wife as Christ has loved the church is not in vain as it is a picture of the church's relationship with Christ here on earth. All the hard work that goes into marriage is worth it because it's a beautiful picture of the love Christ has for His church and a reminder that our risen Bridegroom will soon return.
Raising my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord is not in vain because I want them to grow up to love and follow Jesus because He is truth and He is the only way to God. All the hard work that goes into raising my kids for Jesus is worth it because they need to know the freedom that comes from sins forgiven and a life lived in Him.
Serving Christ on a daily basis is not in vain as it is nothing short of an immense privilege to be engaged in the work of my risen King. It is worth it all as there is nothing more exciting than to be a part of Christ's powerful and victorious work here on earth.
Loving people in a fallen world is not in vain even though it is tough and can lead to hurt, betrayal and heartache. It is worth taking the risk to love because there are so many people living without hope because they haven't yet experienced the love of Christ. The world needs to know and see my Savior through my desire to take a risk and love others with the love of my gracious, faithful and loving Savior.
Standing at the grave of a loved one with hope is not in vain. To stand at the grave of one who knew Christ as their Savior with a smile on my face amongst the tears may seem foolish and even sac religious to some, but it is done in the confidence that the grave is really a place of hope where one day all the dead in Christ shall rise to be with their Savior in the sky. Without the resurrection of Christ, this is indeed foolishness.
I would be lying if I said there wasn't times when I step back weary and wondering if it is worth it all. But a quick read (or discussion) of 1 Corinthians 15 reinvigorates me to keep on keeping on because I am no fool and I am not to be pitied. I without a doubt believe that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, has ascended to the right hand of His Father and is soon to return as my victorious King. That truth makes it worth it all!!!
Monday, September 15, 2008
I doubt that 9 will ever be one of those birthdays that holds a significant milestone in this world like sweet 16 or middle age 40, but it has become very significant for me. It's significance lies in the fact that I may be to the 1/2 way point of launching her off onto her own. My desire is to see both of my children graduate from high school and then move on to pursue their Bachelor's degree. If they both fulfill my desire, then by 18 they will be looking to venture out on their own into the wonderful world of higher education which begins a new and significant part of their lives. If my plan actually works, that means in 9 short years, my little princess will be venturing out on her own to explore and become the woman God would have her become.
The part that has my attention today is the fact of how I must once again commit to investing myself into the lives of my kids. For a very brief period of time, God has entrusted them to me to teach, lead and live out my faith in Christ so as to prayerfully see them move down the same path as they launch out on their own. Now that I'm 1/2 way there with my youngest, it was fascinating to take some time to think about how I've been doing. There have been many successes and many failures but I have so much to be thankful for and I'm looking forward to the next 9 years with my little princess.
Just as my relationship with my son is changing as he totters on the ledge of adolescence, so too will my relationship with my little princess soon change. But, the one thing that will never change is my love for them. They are both God's gift and responsibility to Susan and I and we're loving the trip so far.
I know the weight of raising our kids for Christ in a fallen world is heavy at times, but I would encourage everyone to keep at it because I realized once again today just how quickly those first 9 years went by and I know how fast the last 9 will go.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRINCESS!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
1) Although we as pastors are surrounded by scores of people, we know the feelings of isolation, loneliness and solitude very well. If we are not careful we can become closed off from the world and leave ourselves very vulnerable to an accountability breakdown.
2) I can avoid accountability breakdown by being vulnerable with other men of integrity.
3) I need to be committed to gut-level honesty as self betrayal is a dangerous path to try and walk.
4) Am I deliberately engaging myself with those who will keep me honest as the backlash of accountability breakdown is huge.
5) I need to regularly answer some of these questions as noted by Swindoll:
"Have I been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?"
"Have any of my financial dealings lacked integrity?"
"Have I exposed myself to any sexual explicit or other forms of inappropriate sexual material that leads to improper thoughts?"
"Have I spent adequate time in the Word and prayer?"
"Have I invested sufficient priority time to my family?"
"Have I fulfilled the mandates of my pastoral role?"
"Have I just lied about any of these?"
These are not easy things we as guys like to think about, but as Swindoll put it "the pain of real accountability is nothing compared to the pain from a lack of integrity and an accountability breakdown."
I'm thankful that God has helped my guard my heart thus far and for the genuine accountability I have enjoyed with other guys along the way. GREAT REMINDER CHUCK!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
- I started my day off with an hour of prayer with a number of staff members. You really get to know and appreciate those you serve with when you pray together.
- I had a great meeting with some of our office staff. The amount of work these ladies get accomplished on behalf of our ministry is incredible. I'm blessed to work with them.
- I moved into an HR meeting that dealt with Health Care. It was both enlightening and confusing all at the same time. Thank goodness for an HR manager that knows what she is doing!
- I had a blast at a welcome lunch for our Pastor of Connections. There's nothing like having lunch with 8 of the guys I get to do ministry and life with daily. I came away feeling very blessed to be serving alongside these guys.
- I then moved into a meeting with our Pastor of Connections where we spent an hour talking about connecting people to Christ and each other. There is not much that is more rewarding than to sit and talk about growing Christ followers in God's Word with a brother in Christ that shares the same passion. Great hour!!!
- My next move was into a marketing meeting. WOW! It's incredible to think about how marketing can serve the local church to make us more effective in communicating our desire to meet and move. I look forward to more of these discussions.
- As evening began to roll in, I spent an hour talking with the Sr. Pastor about the future of Grace Church ministries. How incredible it is to sit and think big together about what we believe God is going to accomplish in and through this local church. That's a fun hour!
- I then moved into my evening that saw me working with an employee who is leaving. It's never easy to say good-bye, but it's easier when the individual feels they are in the will of God.
- I then had a fun hour with a couple that is getting married on November 1st. What a privilege it is for me as a pastor to marry this sweet couple that loves the Lord and each other. These are the special moments of ministry.
- My evening then finished by once again talking with my Sr. Pastor who had the privilege of leading a young man to Christ who had been attending our church for 1 year searching. I had met this young man a month ago over lunch and it was so exciting to see him take this step of faith tonight. GOD IS GOOD!
It's been a crazy busy day, but I'm getting ready to head home with a big smile on my face because I get to wake up and do this all over again tomorrow. Call me nuts, but I love being a pastor!!!
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Between pastoral ministry, two kids in a multitude of activities, a wife committed to her call as the Children's Ministry director and a dog with ADD, the days blow by in rapid succession leaving me feeling weary at best some nights. Yet, I'm feeling stronger than ever these days. I must admit that it has nothing to do with a regimented exercise program or even much sleep (even though these things are very good), but rather a faithful God. I've been listening to a song recently that speaks well to the truth of what God is accomplishing in and through me on a daily basis as I seek to rest and wait upon Him.
The song is Everlasting God and I enjoy the arrangement sung by Chris Tomlin. The lyrics are:
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
We will wait upon the Lord
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
Our God, You reign forever
Our hope, our Strong Deliverer
You are the everlasting God
The everlasting God
You do not faint
You won't grow weary
You're the defender of the weak
You comfort those in need
You lift us up on wings like eagles.
I'm still feeling pretty young, but it sure is nice to know that God still renews the strength of young guys like me even though 9:00 PM on the sofa sounds pretty good even now! Isaiah 40:30-31