Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Forward or Backwards?

I am sharing through my blog this article which also appears in our April Newsletter.

A new automobile advertisement on television makes a point about innovation. It says, if you are not moving forward you’re moving backwards. After hearing the ad a few times my mind has made the connection to the life of the church.

I’ve known lots of churches that determined they didn’t want to grow or really improve their ministries. They believed they would be just fine holding their own. Many times they get stuck in a particular decade and lose the ability to be relevant to the times in which they really live. However, it never works because the advertisement is true… whenever you stop moving forward you are immediately beginning to move backwards and you get left behind. Nothing will stand still; everything will just move past you and leave you wondering what happened.

The children of Israel disobeyed God when they had the opportunity to move forward into the land God promised them. As a result they wandered around the same mountain in the same wilderness for forty years. In the end an entire generation passed away having done nothing more than walk in circles. Finally God said (Deuteronomy 2:3) You have been wandering around in this hill country long enough; turn northward… It is as if God in frustration yelled, Just, stop it! It isn’t working – change.

The Apostle Paul puts it best in Philippians 3:12-14 (it’s worth reading). He says that he never stops working toward the time when he will actually be all Christ wants him to be. He never believed in just settling. He never felt he had the personal right to determine how far and no further. Christ was always out in front with Paul pressing to stay up with Him. Paul says, that he focused all his energy on one thing and it is not looking back fondly on the past that was. No, all his energy is poured into looking forward to what lies ahead. He is always straining to reach the prize.

It is true that churches settle and miss out on what could have been but it is also true that individuals do the same thing. Have you settled? Remember, if you are not moving forward you’re moving backwards.

Pastor Doug

Monday, March 26, 2012

It Never Stops

It's Monday morning and I have a long list of tasks starring at me as I've arrived at the office. This comes right after a very big Sunday and our annual picnic. Even more so than normal I went home yesterday and found a chair for most of the remainder of the day. Come Sunday evening I watched some TV.

Now it seems that Sunday evening is the time I watch the most TV and when I feel there are some better options to view. Recently, I've gotten into watching what I think are reruns of Brothers & Sisters. I've been sort of captivated with this large families string of life circumstances. Last night the uncle told one of the young men who was struggling with med school, pregnancy and marriage those three important words - It never stops.

That is so very true. Life with all its ups, downs and crisis never stops. We never "arrive" beyond it all and really there are no pauses. Just like getting past a big Sunday there is no slow down. Life doesn't wait for us to catch our breath, it just never stops. If we can come to terms with that then I feel we can have some peace moving into a new week. It's a new week, a new day and its going to be filled with real life drama. Some of the drama will bring joy and others will bring stress and pressure. If it were any different it wouldn't be life.

Life is a continual flow and it always has been. Life didn't start when I was born and it will not even slow down for one second when I pass away. During this very brief time I am part of that flow. Life is not achievement, arrival or even success or failure. Life is simply an ongoing process. All I can determine is the kind of person I will choose to be in the midst of life. So, here goes a new week. I only think I know what it will hold because it can turn on a dime. I do pray that I will be a good and kind person no matter what life brings my way. I encourage everyone to be at peace with the reality that it never stops.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

What's Wrong With Us?

Over the years I have enjoyed following politics, especially the Presidential races. I have my favorite political news programs and like staying up late to watch the returns. But, it is getting increasingly harder to endure what is happening to our country. It is no surprise when other nations make fun of us. We increasingly lack any civility and respect at all. We make ourselves look foolish.

I could mention hundreds of examples from this political cycle but just this morning I was reading the paper about one current candidate who was in Louisiana shooting a semiautomatic pistol at a police range. Now that is worthy of some serious thought in and of itself. Anyway, while he was shooting, a woman in the crowd shouted, Pretend it's Obama. Which raises the question - What's wrong with us? What would make any American say such words about their President. It simply shows the level to which we have stooped.

What adds to this sorrow is that many to these type of remarks come from people who link what they say to God and Country. I'm sorry but I do not believe that God is pleased or that it does anything but degrade the view others must have of Christianity. More and more Christians who claim to know the literal word of God seem to have forgotten the basic teachings of Jesus. All of this demeaning conduct be it from the crowds on the sidelines or between the candidates itself is beneath us. We are Americans and I pray that someday we might act like it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day

I just noted that this was a day to honor women and their role in your life. So here are a few off the cuff comments. I am glad as a pastor that I have always been a defender of women's rights and women's involvement at all levels of life. In particular for me, in the life of the church.

All of us have been influenced by women starting with our mothers and grandmothers. We do not always have the perfect relationship with those so close to us but I can look back and see how my mother loved me and I also know my grandmother was my greatest supporter growing up. I always felt her love. I have an awesome wife who as sacrificed herself for me so many times it would break a calculator and a daughter who challenges me.

I had a number of very positive role models in women teachers over the years from the early days of school and throughout college. Almost any honest pastor will tell you that the women of the church have bee the most faithful and dependable supports of the congregation and I have to fully agree. Over and over again it has been the women who rallied to a cause and did the hard work to make things happen. In a number of churches I've had to personally push, shove and even fight to get women a place at the leadership table.

Financially, I've experienced women (many widows) who sacrificed to help my wife & I in our ministry. They made a trip to see family or a meal out possible and showed their love to us.

In the ministry I am thankful that I've been able to encourage a few ladies to pursue their call into ministry and pastoral service. I strongly support women in ministry because even growing up some of the finest sermons and the best ministry that touched my life came through women ministers and women missionaries.

As a pastor in a community some of my finest peers have been women pastors. I've been honored to stand with them when they were put down by those with a male only mindset. Side by side we've done the work to which God called us. It has always been my privilege and I have always been blessed by them - far more I'm sure than I was able to be a blessing to them.

During my lifetime the rights of women have made a great deal of progress but rest assured there is still a lot of work to be done. Recent events only point out what a great distance we have to go before we can begin to talk about reaching equality.

Many women (some I know well) will tell you that women can take care of themselves. True, I am blessed to know some really strong women. But, it doesn't hurt for men to say thank you to the women in their life. Additionally, every man needs to stand up and defend women not just when they see the suffering of overt injustice but when women are ignored as if they are not in the room.

Thanks ladies - thanks for the memories, the blessings, the encouragement - true we men will never understand you but we'd be even more of a mess than we are without you.