Thursday, August 30, 2012

WHOA! Wait!

It has been quite some time since I sat down and attempted to write some thoughts on this blog and probably by now I am the only one who even remembers that this is here, so I am writing for posterity I suppose. Beyond that it has also been a time filled with several ups and downs in life and ministry. Church is a consuming thing in my life and the life of our family. I am a pastor of a struggling church that struggles due to its pursuits of God's Word and also because we are situated in a community that would rather deny the existence of God over dealing with the reality of God. But we also struggle because we want to see God do it, and do it now.

What is "it"?

"It" is that work, that manifestation, that sign, that miracle that we believe will revolutionize our ministry, increase our average attendance, bolster our monthly reports, and bring the bottom line up just a bit more each year. "It" has a way of being different for so many different people and different ministries, but "it" is what we are all pursuing it seems. However, in this past year our church has faced the "it" syndrome and been forced to deal with "it." It is not about what we want or what we think.  It is about what God wants and what He thinks. I know....Duh!

But please, bear with me here. Do we not get so easily sidetracked, and easily sideswiped by the push and pull of marketing, management, and manipulation? We all want our churches to grow, but in what and at what costs? I have struggled with why God would bring in such quality people and then usher them all over the U.S. in job moves. I have struggled with why we were seeing so much growth and now, very little. What is this all about and am I the problem?

Ok, enough about the downside of this. Over the past few months, God has really challenged me to remember whose church this is. To hold up, stop for moment and focus on the real purpose of our ministry. You should do that sometime. What are you as a body good at? What are you doing that makes you distinct from the other 2-20 churches in your little area of impact? For us we are focused on discipleship. We are focused on believers and that means we will be growing slower and it will mean those who do not want to grow will not be as comfortable with us. It means that our people do evangelism on their own and occasionally with the group instead of counting on me to do all their evangelism for them. So, that leads to a slower growth because our sphere of influence is growing as fast as we communicate the Gospel individually.

I have also needed to remind myself that I can't make people come to my church and convince them that this is where they need to be. That is a work for God. I am just to be patient, plodding, and persistent in the areas that are founded upon the integrity of His Word and the talents and strengths He has equipped us with in the local assembly.

Today I was reading in a devotional, Morning and Evening. The focus was upon Psalm 27:14, Wait on the Lord. I loved the thought that came from that and wanted to share it here to help me remember and anyone of you that happened upon this today.
It may seem an easy thing to wait, but it is one of the postures which a Christan soldier learns not without years of teaching. Marching and quick-marching are much easier to God's warriors than standing still. There are hours of perplexity when the most willing spirit, anxiously desirous to serve the Lord, knows not what part to take. Then what shall it do? The writer then gives some obvious human reactions like worry, fear, or just plain rushing ahead in a spirit of presumption. But the words that came next challenged me and instead of such faithless reactions the words of encouragement were to instead, Wait in prayer. Call upon God and spread the case before him; tell him your difficulty, and plead his promise of humble as a child, and wait with simplicity of soul upon the Lord....Wait in faith. Express your unstaggering confidence in him....Wait in quiet patience, not rebelling because you are under the affliction, but blessing your God for it. Never murmur against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses....accept eh case as it is, and put it as it stands, simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God.
I have a two year old who loves the excitement of jumping in the car or being allowed the opportunity to step outside with his older brothers or me when I am working or just going out for the split second. I often hear him yelling, "Wait, Wait!" He wants so desperately to go with me or to enjoy the freedom that moment affords him.

How true it is for us when we wait. Spending time with our God, rushing into the freedom of His presence and walking step by step with Him. Be patient, observe the moment God has you in, and allow Him to be the "it" that you are truly seeking.

Just Wait!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The End of the World!? Who knows? Does this fellow?

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My mind rushes to the following passages:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

Also, I place myself in that apparent minority that DOES believe the book of revelation to be true. God did forewarn that such events will happen and that this world will continue to grown under the weight of corruption brought on by sin.

Japan, Chile, China.....The fact is that God is setting the stage for the unrepentant world to see the hand of God, yet we also know that the world will still respond like this fellow..."I know!" Do you really? If he did, then he would be very careful to evaluate the situation differently.

I am not a Glenn Beck guru, but here comes the evidence. God is still in control and the effects of sin are mounting. He will one day be proven correct and the rest will be forced to own up to the truth.

Friday, September 24, 2010

How To Raise Boys That Read

Recently I was reading a blog by Justin Taylor that obviously for me stood out. I am the very proud father of four boys. My wife and I have a boy that absolutely loves to read and another boy that truly struggles to spend time in a book. Justin Taylor references an article he found in the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal about the struggles of our modern boys to become readers. There is an old saying, "Readers are Leaders." We are finding a drought of solid leaders in our males and perhaps one of the issues is found in there lack of motivation to grow and mature.

I am going to leave the entire article here for you to read for yourself. I am under no delusion that the author is looking at this from a religious vs. secular viewpoint. I think he is simply looking at this from a realist standpoint. May I as a father of boys show my boys the joy of reading over the joys of sitting in front of a Brain Drain like the TV or computer screen. Let's demonstrate the amazement and the thrill of being immersed in the story of a good book rather than the numbing of carpel tunnel causing computer gaming. Here is the article.


When I was a young boy, America's elite schools and universities were almost entirely reserved for males. That seems incredible now, in an era when headlines suggest that boys are largely unfit for the classroom. In particular, they can't read.

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The good news is that influential people have noticed this problem. The bad news is that many of them have perfectly awful ideas for solving it.

Everyone agrees that if boys don't read well, it's because they don't read enough. But why don't they read? A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.

For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."

There certainly is no shortage of publishers ready to meet boys where they are. Scholastic has profitably catered to the gross-out market for years with its "Goosebumps" and "Captain Underpants" series. Its latest bestsellers are the "Butt Books," a series that began with "The Day My Butt Went Psycho."

The more venerable houses are just as willing to aim low. Penguin, which once used the slogan, "the library of every educated person," has its own "Gross Out" line for boys, including such new classics as "Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger."

Workman Publishing made its name telling women "What to Expect When You're Expecting." How many of them expected they'd be buying "Oh, Yuck! The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty" a few years later from the same publisher? Even a self-published author like Raymond Bean—nom de plume of the fourth-grade teacher who wrote "SweetFarts"—can make it big in this genre. His flatulence-themed opus hit no. 3 in children's humor on Amazon. The sequel debuts this fall.

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."

"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."

This kind of training goes against the grain, and who has time for that? How much easier to meet children where they are.

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

The other problem is that pandering doesn't address the real reason boys won't read. My own experience with six sons is that even the squirmiest boy does not require lurid or vulgar material to sustain his interest in a book.

So why won't boys read? The AP story drops a clue when it describes the efforts of one frustrated couple with their 13-year-old unlettered son: "They've tried bribing him with new video games." Good grief.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

People who think that a book—even R.L. Stine's grossest masterpiece—can compete with the powerful stimulation of an electronic screen are kidding themselves. But on the level playing field of a quiet den or bedroom, a good book like "Treasure Island" will hold a boy's attention quite as well as "Zombie Butts from Uranus." Who knows—a boy deprived of electronic stimulation might even become desperate enough to read Jane Austen.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I offer a final piece of evidence that is perhaps unanswerable: There is no literacy gap between home-schooled boys and girls. How many of these families, do you suppose, have thrown grossology parties?

Mr. Spence is president of Spence Publishing Company in Dallas.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Not building Museums, but being part of a Movement

One of the people coming to our church passed along a link to this site recently. On the site was this video where Darrin Patrick spoke of a church that was planted and then within two generations, died. Watch the video. It is alarming, yet it is filled with hope. Young and old alike need to heed the warning and may it truly challenge our churches to mature and build for a future that is anticipating the coming of Christ, but willing to work faithfully until He does so.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A "WOW" Moment!

I had a "Wow" moment this morning. In order to get to that let me take you back to...oh.... the beginning of this week. We have had a lot of rain here over the past few weeks. Now, if you are in the southern parts of the States, please do not take that as a snub to you. But we have. We keep getting these huge gully washers. You in the south know what those are. Heavy deluges of sheet after sheet of rain. Needless to say, my grass has grown over those days. Problem? Well, the timing of my week has been mismatching the available moments to drag out the mower and actually cut that lush blanket of green stuff that needed to be brought under control.

So...(getting to the "wow")....I woke this morning knowing that again I would have no time to cut it this evening and knowing that tomorrow was pretty much shot and that of course Sunday is not the day of mowing but the day of musing. That leaves Monday...NO, I am taking a van load of kids to camp! So....I had the idea of seeing if my eldest child could handle the responsibility of mowing the lawn.

Caleb is now 10 and will be 11 in January. He is a responsible boy, but is he able to handle the job? I have him drag out the mower. We go through the pre-mow checklist. Gas? Check. Oil? Check. Primed? Check. What is that thing under the mower called that actually cuts the grass? "Blade, Dad." Ok, Check. What happens if you get your foot under the mower? get the idea. This is serious business. Life or death in the power of a 10 year old! I gave the lecture on watching out for rocks and to not get cute while mowing. He pulls the cord, it cranks, I lecture on cutting the tall stuff and doing a good job. He takes off and as far as I know, has done a great job.


Where has the time gone? When did my firstborn child become tall enough, strong enough, and even decisive enough to be able to handle such a job? It has been happening everyday for the past 10 years. (Pause while I grab a kleenex.)

Where is this all going? In reality, I don't know. I mean, yes, I know what I want to say here, but what is next in his life, for him as a growing young man? I don't know. That is somewhat scary, yet I have a responsibility to teach, live, and just simply allow him to expand as he is ready. Problem is....I don't want him to be ready. I want him to stay little, controllable, maintainable, and even dependent upon me. I don't want to let the rope out and let him step out, and sometimes mess up.

But the beauty of God's Word states that I have to train him and teach him, why? Because one day he will be most likely having the same conversation with his son or daughter that my father had with me. Not just about mowers, but about life, and about making wise decisions and even how to handle failures and mistakes.

I need to teach him the joy of doing it God's way and the pain that comes in trying a wrong way. I have to warn him, but in the end, I have to remember that there will be a day when I won't be there to grab him or choose for him. What then? Will he choose wisely? I hope so. I hope that there will be many more "wow" moments where I am able to see the growth, maturity, and power of God working in him.

One thing that comes to my mind in all of this is that I can't stop leading and living the kind of life before him that shows how important God is and how involved God wants to be. I want to show him, not just tell him, how wonderful God is and how special it is to be called a child of God. That it really is a "WOW" thing to be in the will and arms of a gracious, loving God.

Oh,and another thing....Now I have someone else to mow the lawn!