It is a Prayer

A Lukewarm coffee sits beside my computer in the bagel shop.

Cars pass by the window, driven by people I only glimpse.

A smell of burnt toast wafts through the air.

A running man passes the shop window.

There’s a quick bang of a pan or two behind me in the kitchen.

A customer in nursing attire stirs creamer into her coffee at the counter. She has a black headband.

The coffee equipment is making an electrical, rattling noise.

An elderly couple graze over their food. They have careful hair; she with thick make up, and him with a shirt buttoned to his neck.

The workers are bantering at the end of their shift.

I have a message and a mandate of which to tell them.  Where do I begin?

It is a prayer.

Dueling Jesuses

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“My God is a God of love; My God would not send anyone to hell!” –Oprah Winfrey

Okay Oprah lovers, forgive me in advance, but Oprah could not be more wrong with this opinion.

A few years ago I heard her make this comment after I had momentarily stopped on her show while channel surfing.  The topic of the show is irrelevant; but her comment is.

While I appreciate her sentiment of wanting a loving God (which He is) and her best desires for people (which God shares), the God she is talking about simply doesn’t exist.  While God is loving as she suggests; he is also perfectly just.

The God she holds to is a God fabricated in her own mind.  She may as well have taken a piece of wood and carved her ideal image of God and worshipped it, because this is what she has done in her  imagination.

We hear similar quotes and opinions about God, Jesus, and religion from the media and celebrities.

Specifically, everybody has an opinion of Jesus. Just do a quick Google search and you will find a plethora of ideas about Jesus. Everybody wants a Jesus who matches with their views and sentiments.  They want a “user-friendly Jesus.” There are hundreds of “dueling” Jesuses out there.

A question – does Jesus give us the liberty to define who he is and what he is like? I don’t think so.

Do we get to do this with other personalities?

Can we fabricate a fictional image of, say:

  • Abraham Lincoln?
  • Mother Teresa?
  • Ronald Reagan?
  • Barbara Walters?
  • Princess Kate Middleton?

No.

Well, I guess we do have the vampire-slaying Abraham Lincoln.  But you get the idea.  We can’t just make up what we think these very real people were or are like.

Although people might disagree about their legacy and their personalities, we have to take what they’ve said about themselves and what they’ve done to determine who they are and what they are like.  Then we can like them, hate them, or dismiss them; but we can’t make them into something they aren’t.

Jesus is no different. We do not have the liberty to “make Jesus in our own image.”  The absolutely only place we know about him is from the New Testament.  It is the only place that has any record about who he is, what is important to him, what his teachings are, what his personality is like, what his instructions are for his followers, etc.

To be honest about what Jesus is really like, we must look seriously at the source.  And once we get a picture about him from the source, a decision has to be made about whether we will believe it or not – or believe in him or not.  He can be accepted or he can be rejected.  He can also be marginalized.  The one thing that can’t be done, at least honestly, is to make him into something He is not – which is what Oprah has done.

If you want to find out who Jesus really is, jump into the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

And yes, Oprah, Jesus does love us and he is also the coming King and Judge.

Pastors – A Lesson on Enthusiasm from Jim Harbaugh

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Jim Harbaugh, upon being selected as the new head coach for Stanford in 2006 (now with the 49’ers), made this statement:

“I vow I will attack this endeavor with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

I love it!  At heart I love the enthusiasm of successful coaches, teams, and individual athletes.  Their determination and dedication are infectious.

It goes without saying, that what we do as pastors is infinitely more important than what any coach or athlete will accomplish.  With that in mind, are you and I “attacking” our responsibilities with “enthusiasm unknown to mankind?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about ministering in our flesh or outside the direction of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I’m suggesting exactly the opposite – to be so full of the Holy Spirit, of God-derived courage, and of motivation from an anointed calling that our enthusiasm is God instilled and just as infectious.

Pastors, I hear the same whispers you do.  Around every corner there is always a naysayer telling you to “calm down” or to “to take it slow.”  They say things like:

  • Don’t be too ambitious.
  • Don’t get ahead of God.
  • Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit to someone.
  • Don’t dream too large.
  • You can’t change the world.
  • We’re just a little neighborhood church.

I say, “Get thee behind me Satan!”  There is always going to be someone wanting to throw water on every spark of God-ordained enthusiasm in your church and life.  Rebuke them in the name of the Lord! God did not call you or me to be timid, passive, or to think small. We serve the King of Kings who has called us to serve in His Kingdom!

Consider these thoughts …

1)      You are a servant-leader in the one thing Jesus said he would build – the Church.

2)      DL Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do through one man fully consecrated to Him.” You can be that man!

3)      God promised, “My Word will not return void.”

4)      You have the words of life for the walking dead.

5)      You may not have earthly cheers; but you have a “cloud of witnesses.”

6)      You stamp eternity with your work.

7)      Your prayers enter the ears of One “who does not slumber nor sleep.”

8)      Size is relative, you’re work is “Mega” in the eyes of God.

9)      That little boy or girl, man or woman saved this week will be the cause of a celestial party.

10)   You are on the team of the eternal God of the universe.

For those who say, “how sappy and over-enthusiastic”.  I say, “I hope so.”

I pray that you and I will take Harbaugh’s example and:

“attack our Godly endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to Heaven.”

Confessions of a Normal Pastor

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Okay…here it goes:

  • I post pictures of bugs on my FaceBook page.
  • I’ve memorized every word in Tom Cruise’s movie, “The Last Samurai”
  • I take a sleeping pill at around 9:00pm most nights (yes, it is over-the-counter)
  • I work at really weird hours sometimes.
  • I tend to procrastinate and be unorganized.
  • I can skin a muskrat.
  • I sometimes go to Wal-mart in sweat pants, flip-flops, and unshaven (and always see someone I know even when trying to avoid it!)
  • I like to kayak.
  • I love Long John Silver’s fish.
  • I once took a 4ft lighted Santa to a pastor friend’s house on Christmas morning at 5am and left it on his porch (just to kind of freak him out).
  • I read books other than the Bible, “My Utmost For His Highest,” and Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”
  • I once mowed the lawn in my underwear.
  • I like BlueGrass music, and the Newsboys, and “Crown Him With Many Crowns.”
  • I think Cream of Wheat may be one of the best foods in the world.
  • I like squirrel gravy.

Oh also,

I invited 8 people to church in the last two days, I’ve given out a dozen Gospel tracts this week, my latest book purchase was, “Ancient Greek Papyri, Volume II”, I’ve spent about 6 hours so far this week studying the Bible for the upcoming Sunday message, I wept over the shootings last Friday, I talk to my accountability partner every day,  I prayed over everyone in our congregation this week, I love to talk about the Bible, my wife says my mind never turns off about “pastoring” and church stuff, I drive around our neighborhoods praying for people and dreaming about the best ways to reach them for Jesus.

Here’s the deal. Most pastors are normal people (well, if you can call those things listed above normal).  The majority are not Chuck Swindoll, John MacArthur, Max Lucado, or Bill Hybels – and neither am I.  And by the way, those guys would all say they are pretty normal also.

We have families, quirks, bad habits, temptations, experience joy and sadness, hobbies, etc.  Most of us are as normal as Folgers coffee.  We want to be good examples, exemplary pastors, students of the Word too; but we’re pretty much just normal people that God called to preach, teach, and lead in the local church.

So I’m normal; however, I have a huge passion to live for Jesus, reach other people for Him, see them grow in Christ, and see them eventually learn to repeat the same thing.  I bleed for those things. I pray for those things. I love to see people encounter Jesus and learn new things about following him.

I want the world to get saved!  I live everyday believing that someone I encounter (or that you encounter) could and might come to faith through a personal witness for Christ.  Yes, I believe you or I could walk across the street, share Jesus with someone, and they could get saved over a cup of coffee – now.

I dream about those conversations and love the work God has called me to.  I love pastoring.  I love reading and studying the Bible. But then, I also like to go crappie fishing once-in-awhile, attend a HS wrestling match, and eat a bowl of homemade ice cream.

I would love to talk with you about Deutero Isaiah, the issues around open theism, and the documentary hypothesis; but I would really rather discuss how to reach your neighbor for the Lord.  After those discussions, I would also love to hear from you the best place to find morel mushrooms (I would REALLY like to talk to you about that!).

I want any church I pastor to know that I’m a normal person.  I’m approachable.  I’ll give them good counsel from the Word and I’ll pray for them and I’ll get them plugged into ministry.  But I’ll also eat a grilled hamburger,  throw a Frisbee, or laugh at the movie “Elf” with you.

So what’s the point?  God uses normal people like me, you, and pretty much everyone else for Kingdom work.  He wants to use you.  He wants to use me.  Let’s not wait until we think we’ve got it all figured out.  Walk across the street and have that cup of coffee today.

Oh yeah, and that “mowing-the-lawn-in-my-underwear” deal – there’s a good explanation for that.  Really.

GET OUT…of the office

I’m at Bruegger’s Bagels this morning.  Their coffee is great and I’m becoming a bagel connoisseur; but that’s not why I’m here.  My books, computer, and Bible are in front of me and I’m studying for upcoming messages; but that’s not why I’m here.  I could get coffee and something to eat at home.  I could study in the GREAT office some dear people remodeled for me.

So why am I here and not studying in my office or getting something cheaper to eat at home?

I’m here because I’m a church-planter/pastor/Christian.  I need to meet people, be around people, understand the community, and develop relationships through which to share the Gospel.

I could study in my office (and I do).  In fact, I would probably get more done and be more efficient in my office.  However, sitting here reminds me of what I’m called to do.  It reminds me about the many, many people in our area that God loves and for whom Christ died.  What I need is not a quiet place to study; but a sense of urgency for souls (that sounds so old school).  But souls are in the balance. Jesus told his disciples in John 4:35 to, “…lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

I can’t see the fields from my office or home.

So, this morning I’m at Brueggers…to study, to pray over our body at Grace Fellowship, to remind myself of God’s purpose, to meet people and to maintain a sense of urgency.

Oh yeah…and to enjoy this great Bruegger’s house blend.

Who Is This Guy?

 

“Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well…”  John 4:12 

The woman at the well asked Jesus a question that is still being asked today.  Jesus told her that he could give her living water; water that was more satisfying than the water in her well.  Her response was, “Who is this guy?” Or, in the words of Scripture, “Are you greater than our father Jacob…”  She wanted to know who Jesus was, how could he do this, what made him greater than any other man that he would be able to give her living water. 

In essence people are still asking the same question today.  It’s phrased a little differently; but essentially the same.  Some of the questions you hear are: 

* Was Jesus greater than just a good teacher?

* What makes Jesus greater than any other prophet or religious leader?

* Were his miracles greater than others done in the day  (or did Jesus do those miracles – from the skeptics)?

* Is Jesus great enough to make the claims he made?

* Is Jesus greater than my current god?

* Just who is this Jesus anyway?

In a nutshell, “Jesus, are you greater than ____________”.  Fill in the blank yourself. 

Interestingly enough, Jesus answered the woman’s question.  She told him in further conversation that she knew a Greater one was coming and would “tell them all things (vs. 25).”  She also called this anticipated person, the “Messiah” or anointed one. 

Jesus answered her first question by stating, “I who speak to you am He (vs. 28)” 

The answer today to those asking the similar question, “is Jesus greater than ____________,”  is…

yes.

Using Your Hobby for Evangelism

I like to mess with coins.  Am I a collector?  Not really.  I just enjoy messing around with them.   I buy and sell a few and keep a few that I especially enjoy.

Last year I got the idea to combine this hobby with my passion for telling others about Christ.  So I wrote a tract that incorporated some info about the Mercury Dime AND with each one I actually include a real example of one.

Below is what the tract looks like and the text which is inside.  Any hobby can be used for evangelism if you get creative. 

I’d enjoy hearing from you on how you use your hobby to share the Good News.

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