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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

LIVING THE DESIRED LIFE

WE ALL HAVE DESIRES. Some of them are spoken and some are not. Some are lived out and others hidden deep within our hearts. Some remembered and some forgotten. Some are kept as hopes to be realized, and sadly some have been thrown away as unfulfilled.
I have had desires in my life, things spoken in prayer and from the pulpit and then over the years forgotten…until I see them blooming right in front of my eyes, only to remark, “That’s what I was desiring years ago.” I have come to see that God just might give you the desires of your heart, but not at the time and place you desired, but always in a way that makes you stand back and say, “Wow! God is so good!”
I would like to take a few moments of your time to share with you, the church family, some of the desires of my heart that I had years ago. The reason is because you are part of the answer to those desires. To continue with the gardening metaphor, you are the soil in which I am witnessing the blooming of God’s answers to my prayed desires. So I share them with you here, not in any specific order because in truth they are all interrelated, one can not happen without the other.
Early in my ministry days I read of pastors who served in their churches for decades. Not churches that found themselves on the map of ecclesiastical greatness, but simple, caring, growing churches. Groups of God’s people who were experiencing the transcendence of God in the trenches of life. Thus, one of my earliest desires was to be allowed to pastor a church over the long-haul. Well, I have not been here decades, but after 5 ½ years as youth pastor and 12 years as senior pastor, I am beginning to see God answer that desire. I have still be blessed to be part of a church family through numerous seasons of life.
One of the other early desires was to be part of a church family that raised up its own for ministry. Over the past 30 years the church in America has been lead to believe that the people that you need for ministry are always, “out there somewhere.” I have felt that the church would be best served when it could help those within the local body develop and use their gifts for the building up of the Body of Christ. I am seeing that desire take place here at FBC. It is a joy to watch both young and old rise up to use their gifts and meet the needs that exist, both inside and outside the walls of the church. Author Marva J. Dawn in, The Sense of the Call, describes the church as places where, “the saints each and all together fulfilling their call, mutually grow as vessels in the Body through which God’s Kingdom reclaims us, revitalizes us, and renews us and thus reigns through us before others, on behalf of others, sometimes in spite of others and always with others.” I believe that is the church that our Lord desires, and I believe we are becoming that church.
One other desire that has been upon my heart for years has been that the local church of which I would be a part, would be a church without walls. A church body that would know the reality that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) And that this ministry takes place in the midst of our daily lives rather than just in the midst of our corporate opportunities for worship. It is found in living out our worship of the Most High God 24/7/365. I believe God wants us “to know that the world is the place through which God will indeed accomplish His sovereign intentions.” (The Sense of the Call, p.231) I believe we, as the family at Felton Bible Church, are seeking to bring that message of reconciliation to our world, locally and globally.
I don’t know best how to wrap-up this edition of the Pastor’s Pondering, except to say, “Thank you for being part of God’s work in bringing forth His desires in me. Good-job, faithful ones, at seeking to be Christ’s Body in our world today!” May our gracious Lord continue to give us the desires of His heart, and may we see them bloom and develop to His glory.
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A WITNESS TO ANSWERS

BEFORE EACH OF MY CHILDREN WERE BORN I prayed that God would bless them with a double portion of His Spirit and that their spiritual growth in Jesus Christ would not be limited by their father’s. Sometimes I have been a witness to the answer of that prayer. Today is one such day.

Today marks the culmination of my daughter Trinity’s professional service here at Felton Bible Church as the Director of Student Ministries. I can honestly say that 29 years ago when I was praying for God to bless the little bundle I would hold in my arms did I ever imagine that my child would serve alongside me in ministry in the very church where I had begun my own professional ministry. God is not only good, He is amazing.

The years we have served here together have been growing ones for each of us. I have been stretched as a pastor and as a dad. The church has grown to love and embrace its first full-time female ministerial staff. The youth have been challenged and have grown into a group that is beginning to understand the depth of ministry through service. Yes, we have all been witnesses to God’s answered prayer.

Now new prayers are being lifted. Prayers for Trinity as she enters a new ministry as part of a church-planting team in Rome. Prayers for our youth as they step into deeper roles of leadership and as they learn to love the new adult leaders God is bringing to them. Prayers for all those who have stepped up to serve in so many areas. Prayers for our church as we continue to seek and follow the Lord on our journey of faith.

For what should we pray? For a double portion of Your Spirit, O Lord, unto Your glory. Amen and amen!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

SIGNAGE

SITTING ON A BENCH GAZING AT THE BLUE PACIFIC, my lips quietly speaking prayers of praise and intercession. My eyes are focused upon the horizon, my ears gathering in the sounds of crashing surf, my skin feels the gentle spray of the rock-spent waves, and my heart is being lifted heavenward. Then, as I move my gaze, a sign starkly interrupts my meditation.

There on rusted red and white sheet metal are stark black words declaring:

Warning! Cliffs are Dangerous! Unstable cliffs, high water, Slippery rocks can badly injure you. Remember! Hazardous and Changing Conditions May Exist! Be Cautious! Play Safe!

There is probably more truth there than I would care to admit. Just as I am trying to be content to see God at work, when I am when I am seeking to rest in His care, as I am laying my prayers before Him, there comes this kick-in-the-ribs reminder of the real world.

The truth is this, even as we take time to rest in God’s gracious care and enjoy His bountiful grace, the conditions before us are still dangerous! Even as I find solace in the Creator and Sustainer of my soul, I am reminded that I must be on the alert; for to paraphrase the Apostle Peter, “Satan waits, like an unstable cliff, like a slippery rock seeking whom he can cause to fall.” (1 Peter 5:8) I guess there’s something to be said about praying with your eyes open.

So let us pray!

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

STRONG WORDS!

MY MOM TOLD ME TO NEVER SAY THE WORD, “HATE.” It’s such a strong word, filled with great emotion, and can do much damage to a person. Yet sadly, I said that word way too often. I would declare that I hated so-and-so for doing such-and-such. Sometimes, if I was really mad, I might even say it to their face, though more often it was behind their back and under my breath.

Jesus told His disciples that there was a good chance that the world was going to hate them. Not necessarily because of something they did or said, but because they were attached to His name. The world hates Jesus, and it hates Him without reason. (Psalm 35:19) Jesus did not come to condemn the world, but to express the love of God to the world (John 3:16-17) and yet some how in that, the world is drawn to hate Jesus, and to hate His followers as well.

As I have grown older (wiser?) I realize why my mom would reprimand me for using that word. It is a harsh, hurtful, and usually causes the one hated to hate in return. It produces a vicious and possibly violent downward spiral. In our world hate begets hate.

That’s where Jesus steps in. His plan is to stop the violence and to respond rather with words of forgiveness, acceptance, grace and love. Even to His crucifiers Jesus responded with words of grace and forgiveness. Therein lies our example. When given hate we are to respond with love. When struck down, we are to lift up. Though the world may hate us (and not all will!!!!) we are to respond as the One whose Name we bear; with even stronger words of love!
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Sunday, September 06, 2009

LIVING DANGEROULSY

I LIKE COMFORTABLE SPACES. I seek comfortable within my home, my office, my favorite eating establishment, and of course in my relationships with people. I enjoy order, and plans, and especially to live at peace with as many people as possible. Clean, safe, ordered, comfortable, yes these are the spaces that I gravitate toward. This makes what I am going to write even more amazing.

For awhile now I have found myself praying what I have come to know as a very dangerous prayer. The wording of the prayer sometimes changes, but in essence it goes like this, “Lord, I desire Your eyes, in order to see what You see. I desire Your ears, to hear what You hear. I desire Your heart to feel what You feel. And I desire Your strength to do what You do. Amen.” As I have come to discover this is not a very safe or comfortable prayer to pray.

To see, hear, and feel as our Lord does often brings us to dangerous places. What He sees and hears is not always comfortable, and the actions that are required to do what He does are not always easy. In so many ways I would rather be blind, deaf, and dumb to what the Lord knows by His loving involvement in His creation, but to that “comfortable place” He has not called me, nor you, for that matter.

I invite you to live dangerously with me, and to join me in my prayer. It might not be comfortable nor pretty, but I have this sneaky suspicion it’s just what the Father ordered.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Fragile Faith

SUNDAY AUGUST 16th a brother in Christ and a ministry partner from my earliest days of ministry, tragically ended his life. My brother and team-mate in ministry loved Jesus and served Jesus faithfully for years. He led many to Christ, and encouraged some into full-time pastoral service. It is not an exaggeration to say he was a hero to many a young person. But something happen along the way.

I am not sure of all the details of his life over the past 30 years, but I do know that hard times came, as they come to all of us. Somewhere, at sometime, his faith became fragile, and then broke. And with broken faith, hopelessness often follows. Those of us who called him brother, team-mate and friend are wondering where things went wrong, and we are playing the “what-if” and “only-if” game that also paints ourselves into this tragic picture.

Some lessons can be learned too late. But one lesson we can take home with us is that as long as faith is attached to this human form, it remains fragile. Life beats against it, seeking to shatter it into a thousand pieces. Without the constant protective covering of the Holy Spirit, without the constant bathing in God’s Word, and without the constant love of the family of God, our vessel of faith can break.

How is your faith today? Do you find it firm and strong? Then seek those around you to whom you c youyoan give strength. Is your faith fragile today? Then come to the Lord, be refreshed in the Word, and let the Body of Christ enfold you.