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.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

DROUGHT!


RAIN IS COMING!!! Or so they say. As I sit here on Tuesday evening with the sounds of scores of AWANA kids reverberating in the background, the National Weather Service for our area is reporting that it is supposed to rain tonight. Well, given the rather dry weather thus far this season I hope it does, but then again a few of the last “storms” didn’t produce much reservoir filling precipitation. Things have been pretty dry around here, and this is coming from a guy who doesn’t like when it pours and the river around close to my home rises, but the fact is we could use some rain.
     A couple of weeks back I listened to a conversation between a new reporter and someone from our state Department of Water Resources . The reporter asked how soon they would be calling our lack of rain a drought and put the water conservation measures into action?  The answer surprised me a little. The gentleman from the Department of Water Resources said that the State has roughly enough water reserve for over two years, and a drought is not called until our water resources drop below that. So, even if we don’t receive much more rain this season, we are not officially having a drought. I guess that is good news. A good thing to remember if we don’t get much more rain and our woods become tinder dry.
     As I was thinking about our “non-drought” situation it got me musing over the other kinds of droughts that we face in life. We can have times of emotional drought, where we find it difficult to feel that there is any good in our corner of the world. There are times of financial drought when there is little resource to pay the bills that are coming due. And there is of course, spiritual drought, where our spirit is parched and our hearts become like a dry cracked riverbed.
     Yet, wait, there is good news. We need not ever be under a spiritual drought because there is plenty of resource available to us. The heavenly streams never run dry, and the Holy Spirit is always ready to offer to us from the streams of living water.  Our Lord Jesus said, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (John 7:37) In the Book of Revelation we read, “The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.’ (Revelation 22:17)
     Now, this is not to say that you and I don’t have those times of spiritual dryness. Sometimes we bring them on ourselves by staying away from those spiritual disciplines that can keep our bucket full. Disciplines which include such activities as spending time reading the Scriptures, or resting in times of quietness and prayer or simply calling upon the Lord to fill our empty cup.  There are those times as well when the Lord may lead us through the desert wilderness, not so that we suffer, but rather so we learn to trust in the One who can call refreshing waters from even a rock. (Exodus 17:6)
    My fellow traveler, if today you find your soul thirsty, I urge you to call upon Him from whom living waters flow, and is in fact ready to pour out His life-giving water upon you. (John 4:10-14)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A SABBAH FAST #1


LEGALISM OR LOVE? At the beginning of 2012 we asked you to join us in reading through the entire Bible this year. Is it a step toward legalism or a movement toward love? Last week I invited you to join me in entering into a fast during the season of Lent; again, is this leaning toward legalism or is it an embrace of love? I have also encouraged you to daily pray 5-4-5, that is taking 5 minutes each day to pray for 5 people who need to experience the life-changing grace of God, again, legalism or love?
     Honestly, my heart-felt prayer is that each of these disciplines would be born out of a heart of love: A love for God, a love for His Word and a love for His work. I know that a good number of you have chosen to embark upon this journey of Scripture reading, fasting and evangelistic prayer…not to mention seeking the Lord to use us, as a local church, to see 350 people make a positive response to the grace of God offered to us in and through the Person and work of Jesus, the Messiah.
    The thing that differentiates between whether an activity is one of legalism (trying to earn brownie-points with God or His Church) or one of love, is the attitude of the heart. As I mentioned last week, one of the key purposes for fasting is so that we can grow in our intimacy with the Lord. We don’t do it to earn His favor, He already loves you perfectly and completely, we do it so we can take the time to draw closer to Him. With that in mind I want to remind you that there is no failure in the disciplines we are attempting. We might miss some days in the Word, that’s OK; just pick up the Book and start reading.  We might let up on our fast, that’s OK; just turn your heart back to the task at hand.
     Here’s more good news; When the church began to celebrate the Lenten season, they felt that to fast on the Lord’s Day was to miss the joy of what that day was to remind them of; the resurrection of Jesus. So, feel free to rest from your fast today, and celebrate with great joy the reality of the risen Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LESSONS FROM THE MUDDY MEADOW TRAIL


I LOVE WALKING THROUGH HENRY COWELL AFTER THE RAIN, and to do so with the love of my life on an early Valentine’s morning made it all the better. That is until we hit the Meadow Trail on the way back to the car; lots of mud, lots of puddles. Some slipping and sliding, and definitely some muddy shoes!
     As I was slipping and sliding some thoughts crossed my mind regarding the times when life brings storms into our lives and the muddy residue that is often left behind. Storms are inevitable and they often do leave behind messy places that have to be traversed with care. So, as I traveled the muddy paths of Henry Cowell State Park here are some lessons I learned when one encounters the muddy messes of life.
     First, you need to keep your eyes downward toward the path. Staring up into the treetops will often leave you walking in places that you shouldn’t. The spiritual application for me when facing the messy place in life: Keep my head bowed in humble prayer.
     Second, you need to be careful where you step. As on the Meadow Trail today, even though there were puddles and mud, there were also ways to get around those areas. It may take a little extra work, but it sure beats slipping and falling. The spiritual application for me when facing the muddy places in life: I need to watch my step by walking holy. Righteous walking is imperative when we find ourselves in the messy places.
     Finally, it’s good to travel these trails with a good companion: someone who can help you find the driest path, and who can help you regain your balance should you begin to slip and slide. The spiritual application for me as I walk through yucky times in my life: I need to walk with a good brother or sister in Christ, and most of all I need to walk with the Holy Spirit leading the way.
     Storms will come. Paths will get muddy and messy. But prayerful, righteous walking with a fellow-believer can get you through even the messiest of spots.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THE OUTGOING INTROVERT

YES, THE TITLE SOUNDS LIKE AN OXYMORON, but we introverts can in fact be outgoing, all it takes is walking across the room and saying, “Hi” to someone new. I realize that looks a lot easier on paper than in real life, but it is true, we introverts can be outgoing, and with a little practice we can get quite good at it.
     Recent reports, as in the February 6, 2012 issue of Timemagazine, say that we shy introverts make up about 30% of the population. That means that the majority of the people and the life that surrounds us is geared to those 70% who are extroverts by nature. Even church is often designed by and for extroverts.
    All of us, even those like me who are introverts, are called to greet people, raise our hands, get into small groups, and worst of all, told we must share our faith with everybody we meet. YIKES! It’s enough to make us run and hide in the closet, where our Lord told us it was good to go and pray, (Matthew 6:6) and praying is what we are doing, we’re praying nobody will find us!
     And then there is the guilt. Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19-20) and that we were to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8), and now the pastor is telling us we want to see 350 people commit their lives to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Really? Can’t we just come to church, sit in our regular spot, interact with our chosen few, and then go home? It’s just not within me to be an evangelist.
     Take heart my shy friend, you’re in good company. If you haven’t noticed by now throughout this Shepherd’s Staff I have included myself amongst the quiet group of introverts, and yes, it’s difficult for me to share my faith as well. Not because I can’t  share it, or don’t know how to share it, it’s mostly because it’s not comfortable for me to meet and converse with those I don’t know.
     So, what’s an introvert Christian to do? Simply learn to walk across the room and greet a new person and let the conversation (or lack thereof) flow from there. Remember, the Lord is the One who desires most to see people come to trust in Him. If we will take the first step, I have found He will guide us the rest of the way. 
     So, come on, introvert groupie, take the step. 
     I am, so come and join me!
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Tuesday, February 07, 2012

WALKING AND WAITING


MY SCOUTMASTER WAS LESS THAN TRUTHFUL! There was more than one time I caught him in what some would call an outright lie. I’m not out to defame his name or reputation, but I think I have held this in too long.
     The lie consisted of his constant encouragement to me that the campsite was just around the next bend in the trail, or over the next rise along our path.  Truth be known, I really don’t think he had the foggiest idea how far it was until we reached our camping spot for the night.  He just kept saying, “Come along scouts, our campsite is just around the bend.” It never was…or at least it never seemed like it was. All we were doing in that hot, dusty, tinder-dry, tree-less and rattlesnake infested area was walking and waiting, (As well as berating ourselves for sucking our canteens dry on mile two of the ten we were traversing.)
     As I have grown older (mature?) I have learned that much of life is walking and waiting. I have found this true especially for those who are seeking to follow after and to obey Jesus Christ. We often refer to the Christian life as a journey: a journey not only of destination, but of becoming. We are not given the exact map coordinates, but rather called to continue to follow the Master along the trail.
     Our Lord Jesus has promised to lead us to a wonderful place and we long to arrive and have the journey completed, but we soon discover that the journey itself is part of the process. As a young Boy Scout the goal for me was the campsite where I could rest and enjoy an evening around the fire. The problem with only being fixated upon the destination was I missed all the discoveries along the way. This is true as well for those of us seeking to follow Jesus; we are so intent about reaching the goal of our lives we miss the beauty along the way.
     Sure, sometimes that trail is steep and dusty, and yet there are also times in which we stroll across verdant alpine meadows. 
     Destination and journey. Walking and waiting. It’s all part of the adventure of following our Lord and Savior. The lesson for today: enjoy the journey and the destination becomes even better upon our arrival.
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