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, July 31, 2012

THE CORRECT IDLING SPEED


DIFFERENT CARS have different idling speeds. That’s the speed at which the engine is running while it is waiting at the traffic light. It’s the minimal speed the car needs to keep the ancillary equipment running, but not enough to let the car do any real work, like moving forward.
     Many of us here are reading through the Bible this year, and the past few days we have found ourselves in 2 Chronicles. As we read through the successes and failures of the various kings and the nation Israel, we see that different kings had differing idling speeds (Idol worship would be the proper term.) When you buy a new car the idle speed is set by the manufacturer. It used to be you could adjust this setting pretty easily, but with the new cars you need a PhD in computer science. The reality today is, the manufacturer doesn’t want you messing around under the hood.
     This got me thinking. Does God create us with a preset idling (idol) speed? The answer to that question is, “Yes!” When God wrote out the operating manual for us He made it very clear that we were not to mess around under the hood. We do have a preset idol speed, and that is no idols. In the words of the Manufacturer, “You must have no other gods but Me. You must not make for yourself no other idol of any kind … you must not bow down to them or worship them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affections to any other gods.” (Exodus 20:3-5) In other words, no messing around under the hood! God has set our idol speed and it is ZERO!
      In our reading we read over and over again about the kings who worshiped other gods and the destruction it brought about in their lives and in the nation. We also read of those good kings who tore down the false gods, some removed all, some removed some, and to the extent that they worshiped the one true God was the extent to which they enjoyed the blessings of God.
     How’s your idol speed? Have you been messing around under the hood, trying to reset that which God, our Creator, put in place for our own good? The truth is when we keep our spirits running by the Manufacturer’s design, we run our best. That will save us much wear and tear, and keep us running at our optimum.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

THE SIMPLE FACT


THE TRUTH IS NOTHING IS SIMPLE, at least not in the world in which you and I spend our days. Life in the 21st century is complicated, in fact there is even an option on Facebook when relating about a relationship that simple states, “It’s Complicated.” Is it any wonder that at the end of the day we drop into our beds, plop our heads down onto the pillow and stare blankly at the ceiling which stares blankly back at us and wonder, “What really happened today? Did I really accomplish anything of meaning? I dare say most, if not all of us, increasingly find ourselves in that situation.
     Along with the many things that crowd my life I have enrolled in a self-enrichment course hosted by Willow Creek Community Church. The course is entitled, The Leader’s Soul, and as the title clearly represents it’s about how we can increase the health and well-being of our soul. The course is a discussion about spiritual disciplines (prayer, solitude, fasting, journal-keeping) and seeks to help us put them into practice. I was moving along quite nicely in the course until this week’s focus on simplicity.
     The theme of simplicity deals with removing some of the clutter of our lives, things that clutter our time and our space, and the effect that this clutter has upon our soul. When our lives are filled with too much stuff and too much activity it makes it difficult to find the time needed for the deep development of the spiritual disciplines.
     I was challenged, OK convicted, by an article entitled, “An Extreme Simplicity Makeover.” The article dealt with the stuff that many of us keep, refusing to throw away. You know those closets, junk drawers, back sections of the garage. The author wrote that most often the reason we do not get rid of the clutter (junk) is because of two overriding fears. The fear of what if I need that thing later and the fear of regret that stems from not completing certain projects or maintaining a certain hobby or interest. This second fear is the fear that people will see that I am really not the person I claim to be. Let’s make it personal. I have tons of fishing stuff that I refuse to get rid of because if I do the men would see that I really don’t care that much about fishing. So, instead of simplifying my life by getting rid of the fishing equipment, I keep it in order to project the coolness that comes from being a fly-fisherman, but the truth is I’m not. But I dare not get rid of the stuff…well, I think you get the picture. Thus, the rafters of my garage remain cluttered with fishing paraphernalia.
     Many of us have lives filled with clutter. This clutter can keep us from experiencing the peace that comes from a life of truth and rest. The simple truth is; to simplify our lives can open the space for the Spirit of God to speak and for us to hear.
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Sunday, July 08, 2012

LINCOLN LOGS & LEGOS

Lego Church Complete with Pipe Organ
BEFORE LEGOS THERE WERE LINCOLN LOGS and Erector Sets. They allowed me create for hours on end, but they never matched the creative flexibility that Legos allowed. Lincoln Logs and Erectorsets are items of a by-gone era. (Well, not really gone, but overrun by so many other "Build" items.) Walk into a Lego store and you can see that the sky is the limit. With the right amount of blocks and gizmos you can build just about anything.
     In 1 Chronicles 22 we encounter King David acquiring the right building supplies for his son, Solomon. He not only gathered the needed supplies, but also the needed craftsmen, so that his son would have all that he would need to build the very thing that King David could not; a dwelling place for the Most High and a place in which the Ark of God’s Covenant could rest and where the needed sacrifices would be performed.
     As I read through this short chapter I was drawn to the question my own preparation work upon which my children could build a temple for the Lord. Was I providing the needed supplies which they could use to build the temple of God that now dwells within them? I found it challenging that King David not only gathered the needed supplies, but he also passed on to his son the command to build. “David said to Solomon, ‘My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the LORD my God.’” David went on to tell Solomon that the LORD would not allow him to build it because the bloodshed in his own life, but rather the temple would be built by a man of peace. He told his son that he would be that man.
     The sermons within this chapter are manifold, but the one which struck the greatest resonance within my heart was how was I doing at giving my children the supplies and stipulations needed to build a house in which the Lord to dwell, especially with Lizzie turning 18 (Happy Birthday, Bean!) this past week and getting ready to head off to Biola University? What legacy of word and work am I giving to those given to me by the Lord?
     May the Lord grant us hearts filled with the desire to see His dwelling place formed within our own children and the children who make Felton Bible Church their home. May we all provide that which is needed by the grace God supplies.
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Tuesday, July 03, 2012

AT WHAT COST?

ON JULY FOURTH I PLAN TO RUN in the annual Santa Cruz Firecracker 10k that starts at Harvey West Park and climbs through Pogonip and back again. There is a pretty good elevation gain at the mid-point of the race and so I have been running (OK, plodding) up some local hills to get ready for the Pogonip climb. It would be much easier for me to stay on the level paths, but come race day that 400ft. + climb would be my undoing. I would like to run this race faster than I have in the past, and the only one to make that happen (besides God giving me wings) is I, so uphill I go.
     To accomplish anything greater or even different, than what we are presently doing and used to, demands that we change the way we are doing that thing. For example, if we are constantly wearing our tires down because we are not keeping them properly inflated means we need to change the way we do things, or in this case, not doing things, like keeping our tires properly inflated. If we merely stay the course, then we can only expect much of the same results. If we want things to be different we need do things differently, and sometimes that difference-making comes at a high cost.
Cover of
Cover via Amazon
     One of the books that I have had my nose in recently is entitled, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading (Linsky & Heifetz.) The authors write about the cost, even that of one’s life, involved in bringing about the needed, and often radical, change required to bring about a different outcome than that which regularly occurs. Some changes, like keeping your tires inflated, can come about with little cost, but other changes like getting out of debt, or changing the disciplines of your life may demand a higher cost and sadly it is a cost we often are not willing to incur.
     The church in America is in a place of needed change.  I believe we need to take a hard look at how we can consistently and confidently build God’s Kingdom within a culture that certainly does not pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) How can we as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) communicate the grace and love of God to a community that does not believe in the One, nor see the need of the grace and love He offers?
     Part of the answer is to be found in our willingness to not only count the cost, but also to be willing to pay it. Will we be content to do church to the exclusion of being the church?   
     Why is it we can shout “GOD’S NOT DEAD!!!” with arms lifted in a show of grand assurance of that fact during Vacation Bible School, and we can barely raise our voices and surely not our arms, when we sing that same grand truth on Sunday morning? Is it because we fear the thoughts of the one next to us, rather than the heartfelt praise to our Redeemer? Is it because we seek to worship decorum rather than the Divinity? Is it because we are more concerned about self than the Sovereign God? I pray that none of those are true for me.
     What is the cost we must pay? I am not sure. Are we willing to pay it once it is made clear? I am not sure of that either. Is our God worthy and worth whatever the cost? Of that I am sure! The road before us is steep and rough and strewn with rocks, but it is a hill that this church must climb if you want to finish the race. We may not be able to run up that hill with reckless abandon, but climb it we must! Our legs will strain, our lungs will gasp for air and sweat will pour from our pores, yet as we near the top of that hill there will be One there yelling, “You’re almost there! The road is easy from here.” So, dear church, let us run the race that is set before us, not to gain a crown that fades, but one we can present to Him who is truly worthy. (Hebrews 12:1-3) The race was His to win, we must follow His course.
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