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Archive for December, 2008

Choir at the Mall

mall-choir

This past week I was doing some Christmas shopping at Alton Square Mall in Alton Illinois. I was walking out of a department store and  noticed people looking down over the railing to the bottom floor which is an open area. I decided to take a peek and I say a high school choir getting ready to sing. The choir started off with Noel which is a great song for this time of year. They followed with a few familiar Christmas Carols and sprinkled a few hymns throughout the performance. It was refreshing to see high school students being led to sing traditional Christmas Hymns in a politically correct age that seems to despise the true meaning of Christmas. Throughout this day I also heard “Merry Christmas” from more people than I can count. It seems that those who have issues with saying “Merry Christmas” and who are not in tune with the true meaning of the season are fewer in number with those of us who celebrate the gift of Jesus.

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John Piper on Prayer

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Into The Unknown

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This past weekend my wife and I spent time with a Baptist Church that we have been talking to since October of this year. There was several informal times of talking with the congregation on Saturday which was fruitful and tiring. The more I sat with this group of believers the more comfortable I felt. I have been through this process before, but have never felt more at ease at any other time. On Sunday morning I preached a sermon and received a unanimous vote which never happened before. My wife and I accepted the call of the Church and will be moving there hopefully before the New Year begins.

Due to the tough circumstances that me and my family have been through this year I have a greater faith in the future than I have ever had before. When you go through tough trials it changes you in ways that you can never imagine. I have a greater hope in God, His Church, my family, and my faith. For the first time in ministry I have a peace that I know only comes from God. If there is one definite praise that I can give God for everything in the past year it is the fact that my approach and excitement level for ministry is at a all time high. I say that knowing that like any ministry there will be difficulties and criticisms. I am ready to embrace the unknown again after stating at the end of the summer that I would never enter into full time ministry again. God gets all the glory for my changed attitude and heart. We serve a good God who is faithful to those who trust in Him.

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A Firm Place to Stand

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This past year has had many different turns in it for me and my family. After returning from vacation in July I was asked to resign from my Church by the elders and not given a clear explanation of why. We were notified that we had 60 days to vacate the parsonage that we were living in as well which only added to our frustration and dismay. Within 45 days we moved back home and began to start over fresh and see what God had for us. This was a time of our faith being tested and learning to trust God moment by moment. It is times like this that you realize how close to God you truly are. In Psalm 40:1-2 David writes;

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

Those verses became a mainstay for me during the past 5 months. The Church that I was a part of is known as the Independent Christian Church or the Restoration Movement. It is known for letting preachers go for any and every reason imaginable. During the past 8 months of being associated with this group my theology had been changing through my own personal study of Doctrine. While I was crushed by this event initially it was a release from a tradition that I could no longer agree with.

Before my family and I moved I began a dialogue with a Baptist Denomination. While I was not sure if I was going to ever enter ministry again I talked to them at the advice of my former Pastor and mentor. This dialogue lead to further discussions which opened a door of ministry to do some Interim Pastoral work at a small country church outside of my wife’s hometown. Through this experience I have enjoyed preaching and pastoral work in a much greater way than at any other time in ministry. I have preached with a greater sense of the Spirit moving through me than ever before. While doing Interim work I was approached by another Baptist Church about the possibilities of becoming their Pastor. Talking with them has been a bigger process than I had ever experienced with the Independent Christian Church which I have grown to appreciate. As of now I am at the tail end of the process with this Church still not knowing what the outcome will be. I have learned through this process that God can be counted on and trusted. Whether I am Pastoring full time by the beginning of 2009 or not I still am doing ministry in the context that I love and considering what happened 5 months ago that is a praise and testimony to the grace and movement of God. King David was correct in Psalm 40! God does give a firm place to stand to those who wait patiently for Him. There is no other choice we have as Christians no matter how it looks on the outside.

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Invitation

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I wonder sometimes how much people in the church really pray. I hear people saying all the time “we’re praying for you” but I wonder how true that is.  The many problems that we have in our lives and at the Church would probably work out much better if all of us who call ourselves Christians would spend adequate time each day on our knees. When I became a Christian and began to read through the Bible I was immediately drawn to the book of Psalms. This book reveals the character of God and how the Saints of old use to call upon His Name. One of my favorites through the years has been Psalm 34. When I look at it I see an invitation to come and meet with God. It talks about what life is like for those who are willing and serious about communing with him regularly. In the middle of this Psalm there is an exhortation to holy living and after that is another reminder of how God listens to those who walk in His commands and how he responds back.

Maybe part of our problem in the Church is that we don’t know how to pray. I think sometimes people might be intimidated worrying about what words to use. The best way to begin is by making sure you are taking in a steady diet of the word each day and getting on your knees and talk to God about how you don’t know how to pray and your desire to see this area of your spiritual life grow. If you do those 2 things that are so very basic you will begin to notice a change in not only your prayer life, but you will also see that your desire for God and true Christian growth will begin to matter much more. If those of us who make up the Church do not learn to pray on our own how can we begin to do so together and expect God to change us? We are being invited each day to come before God. We need to answer His invitation.

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