The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Drawing Close

IF YOU WANT TO GET TO KNOW SOMEONE then do the things they love to do.  If the person who want to draw closer to loves to run, then you had better get yourself some running shoes.  If they love to listen to classical music, then you might want to change the radio station in your car. If they love to eat pizza four times a week, then your diet plans might have to be put on hold.  Doing what a person loves is one of the best ways to really get to know what makes them tick, and can also communicate to them that you really want to know and be with them.
     One of my goals for the our church family this year is for us to all draw closer to God. When you think about drawing closer to God the thoughts that come to mind often include more time praying or studying the Bible.  These are great places to start, but allow me to offer another way to draw closer to His heart.  That is doing what God loves to do.
     When Jesus was walking and talking with His followers He told them that He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)  Later on the Apostle Paul would write to the church in Philippi that Jesus did not come to Earth to show forth His God-ness, but rather He humbled Himself, becoming an obedient servant, being obedient even unto death on the cross. (Philippians 2:5-12)  Even on the night that would be His final one before His death, Jesus girded Himself as a servant to wash His disciple’s feet. (John 13) You see serving was at the very heart of our Lord and God.
     If serving was what was closet to the heart of our Lord, then one of the best ways we can get to know Him is through serving as our Savior did.  As we serve those around us in the love and grace that the Lord provides we are drawn close to His heart, we draw close in doing what Jesus loved to do.
     Throughout this coming year my prayerful desire is that we would all draw closer, grow deeper, and serve wider  (see the illustration below) as we seek to love God and make His love known. I hope you will join me in bringing an answer to this prayer as we work together to see God’s kingdom built for His glory, and in doing so draw closer to the very heart of God.

A New Year. A New You.

     THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW YEAR is often a time when we seek to start afresh.  The old year is past and we have hopes for doing better in the year to come.  We plan to handle our finances better, or to lose weight.  We make plans to spend more time with the family and less time at work.  To begin a new hobby or end a bad habit.  The new year is time for new beginnings.
     Each year I discover that the Lord gives me an area of focus. This focus often comes in the form of a specific word or phrase.  Throughout 2005 I was driven by the word “transformation.”  This word became the focus of my prayers and my personal study.  I prayed for a transformation in my heart and in the heart of our church, as well as for God’s transforming power to work within the midst of our community.  Have my prayers been answered?  The best I can say is, “yes and no.”  The Lord has been transforming my way of thinking, and even some of the ways I am approaching life, but there is so much more to be done. Transformation is definitely an ongoing process.
     But what about 2006?  Is there a direction for me, for us?
     So far I have been moved by three words: Closer. Deeper. Wider.
     I believe that the Lord is calling us to move closer to Him, to each other, and to those who still need to come to know Jesus as their Lord and God.  I believe the Lord is calling us to grow deeper in our relationship with Him, each other, and our world. And finally, to serve wider in expressing the love of God to those around us.  How will all these thing be worked out in the life of the Felton Bible Church?  I am not 100% sure, but I do know that we are taking steps to further God’s transforming work in each of us, and thus to be transformers of the world around us.
     I am excited about the possibilities which are before us. I am excited about some of plans in the works that will help each of us grow closer, deeper, and  wider.
     One of the ways in which we ca grow in this way is through a deeper experience of prayer.  With this is mind we will be embarking upon a deeper walk of prayer starting during the Lenten season by uniting our hearts through concerted daily united prayer.  I also encourage you to become an active part of our e-prayer chain.  Check out the sign-up form located in this edition of the Chatter.
     Another new opportunity for growing closer, deeper and wider will be through the new Community groups which will be starting in the fall of 2006.  I realize that this seems like a long way off, but there is much planning, recruitment and training of facilitators, as well as group development, that needs to take place in order to have a great kick-off experience.  
     Finally, I will be challenging all of us this year to get more specifically involved in our local community with the purpose of living out the good news about Jesus Christ before our neighbors, classmates and co-workers.  Please be in prayer with me about how you can live out Jesus in your little corner of the world.
     Yes, the new year is time for new beginnings.  I hope and pray that you will join me in the exciting new adventure of growing closer, deeper and  wider in our relationship with our Lord, with each other and with the world to which He has sent us to spread the good news, making disciples of all nations.

The Secret is Out -- Part Two

In the last edition of  “Church Chatter” I addressed my “Ponderings” to the first of two secrets we hold as Christians, and that secret was prayer.   Now we move to secret number two.  The Word of God, commonly referred to as the Holy Bible, the Scriptures, the Good Book.

We have known for a long that the Bible is not just some other book filled with man’s thoughts about God, but rather it is God’s thoughts about man, and our relationship to Him.  It is the text by which God has communicated to us who He is and how we are to respond to Him.  As some have stated, it our guidebook to life.

In these Holy Spirit written pages we discover the truths which will help us love our families, care for our community, make sound financial decisions and understand who we are and what is God’s desire for our lives.   Sadly, this Book, which is so filled with truth, is very little studied, understood, and applied by God’s people.  It’s as if we were trying to keep the whole thing a secret, even to ourselves.

In the previous “Church Chatter” I sought to encourage each of us to become more involved in the work of prayer.  I “pray” that some of you are doing just that.  Today I would like to encourage you in the study, and application of God’s Word.  What a great and glorious gift we have been given by our gracious God.  He has not remained silent.  He has spoken.  Will we hear and obey?

One of our great desires, here at Felton Bible Church, is to be a place where people can grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.  That is why we offer Sunday school classes for all ages.  It is the reason we place such an effort in programs such as AWANA.  It is what drives us to offer classes in our new Discipleship Training School.  It is the impetus for our small group Bible studies, our email study group, and the passages listed in the sermon notes, not to mention the sermon itself.

This desire is not just driven by the need to acquire more knowledge, but to equip us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, our Lord, (Romans 8:29) and to empower, by His Spirit, to the work of service, which is worship. (Romans 12:1-2)

As your shepherd, I want to encourage you to begin to devour the Word of God.  It is food to our soul.  I want to challenge you to join with a group of fellow pilgrims in its study, for it is a light unto our path.  It is time to declare the truth we believe.  Let’s not keep God’s Word a secret any longer . . . to ourselves, and to those we encounter.

Fellow-pilgrims, read on!

The Secret is Out

There are truths which we know as Christians, we espouse them with our lips, and yet they seem to be hidden from the daily activities of our lives. For all intents and purposes they are secrets. We speak of them in hushed and holy terms. We believe in their power and their importance, but for some odd reason they are absent from the actions of our daily experiences. I think it is time for the secret to be let out. It is time to make it visible, not only to ourselves, but to the world in which we live. If it is truly the truth of God, this secret we hold, then is it not meant to be lived out? Is it not meant to be experienced? Is it not to be shared?

There are two secret truths which tug at my heart as I write this “Ponderings,” but time and space only allow me to consider one, the other will have to wait until the May “Church Chatter.”

First, is the truth of prayer. Trite as it may sound prayer is our link to the power and the presence of God in our lives and in our church. it is not just something to be done before meals, or in the time of crisis, but it is to be a lifestyle. It is our communion with the Creator. It is not just about asking, but about listening. it is more than just a time to tell, it is also a time to be taught. it is not something to be rushed in and out of, like a lunch at Burger King, it is to be savored and lingered with like a fine dinner at the Shadowbrook.

I know you may be thinking, “I don’t have time or the resources for a dinner at Shadowbrook.” Granted, in this world we are rushed, and we are poor, and sadly, we are satisfied with luke warm burgers and warmed over fries. Don’t you long for something more? I know you do. It’s time to make the effort.

Just like making a date for the Shadowbrook, so too prayer, takes discipline and planning. Planning in making sure the time is free, and discipline to carry out the plan. Prayer must not be left to the left-overs. It must be a priority. Why? Because it really about God, and your relationship with Him. It is the place of meeting with God which will bring the peace and the power for which you long. Is it worth the effort? You know it is . . . you know its secret.

In this edition of “Church Chatter” you will find our Monthly Prayer Guide. It is just one tool to get you praying, I hope you will find it useful. I also encourage you to join us for one of our Wednesday prayer meetings, should your schedule allow. And of course, on the first Sunday of each month, as we pause to celebrate the Lord’s Table, we also extend our time of corporate prayer. These are all opportunities to help you experience the joy of communing with the Sovereign God. If you so desire to increase your appetite for prayer, to move from Burger King to Shadowbrook, stop in and see me, I would love to help you let the secret out.

Until the next time we ponder together . . . Pray on!