It’s Time To Go

Jesus was a master planner. He knew when to wait and pray and He knew when to step out and act. There is a time for both. There is a season of consideration and planning, and then there is a season of acting and carrying out the plan. Wisdom demands both seasons. If we act without planning we find ourselves in a self-inflected trial. If we plan, but never carry out the plan then we are nothing more than thinkers and not doers, and ultimately accomplish little.

In Luke 14 Jesus is telling a parable. It is a story about counting the cost of following Him. In verses 28-30 He says, For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

The spiritual point of the story is clear. Don’t follow Jesus without first considering the cost. It’s not easy to follow Him in this life. So before you commit, take a season to consider.

This principle of considering before acting can be applied to many areas of our lives. I want to apply it to our renovation project.

For the last two years one of the prayers of our Elder Board has been a simple one, “Lord we need more facility space, show us what we should do?” We then entered a season of thinking, praying, planning and considering. We asked the congregation to pray with us. We watched as the Lord seemed to open doors, only to watch them shut again and again.

We now have a renovation plan we believe to be the answer to our prayers. It is a conservative plan, a practical plan, and an affordable plan. We will be incurring additional debt in the near future to help accomplish this plan, but believe the Lord will help us accomplish our desire to be debt-free as soon as it is reasonable.

But there does come a time to pull the trigger and go! We can continue to plan, pray, and try and project into the future and eventually do nothing. There comes a time where you’ve done your due diligence and you’ve prayed enough, and it’s time to act. Our church has reached such a time. It’s time to move forward with this renovation project. It’s a risk, it’s a challenge, and it could end in disaster. But the planning has been solid, the prayers have been diligent. The affirmation has come. It’s time to move!

This renovation project will begin sometime this summer. It will be completed by next Easter, maybe sooner. This will open the door for more effective ministries and

Christian growth opportunities. We are not building the Taj Mahal, or anything ginormous, just some larger spaces for ministry.

There are FIVE ways to get involved. Certainly EVERYONE can participate through one of these five ways:

  1. Become a prayer warrior for our congregation. Set aside regular times of prayer and fasting focused on this season of renovation. Construction projects can be hard on church congregations and staff. A list of specific prayer requests is available from the church office.
  2. Some are able and excited to give financially to this project. We will have special Sundays for giving. The first such Sunday is set for May 19th. Those willing can come and give to the renovation fund. We will have other giving opportunities in August and in November.
  3. Contractors can bid on specific trades. Check the church website under ‘Construction Project’ for the latest details on how to be involved in the construction trades.
  4. Donating skilled labor. People who have a specific skill can be a part of the various projects and lower costs by donating a day of labor during the renovation.
  5. Simply coming and offering helping hands. There will be a need for people who can come and get their hands dirty. Keep an eye on the church website for the list of opportunities to come and volunteer a few hours here and there.

I know the Lord will see us through this project. I truly believe this can be an exciting and significant season for our church family. We have prayed, planned, and waited for His timing to be revealed. We’ve sat down and counted the cost.

Now it’s time to go! Please keep your church family in prayer. I love being your Pastor. See you on Sunday!

A Bump In The Night

I’m suddenly wide awake. I thought I heard a sound coming from the front door. I’m a bit groggy. I lay still and listen intently. A few minutes go by and I hear nothing else. I think of the big stick I have under the edge of my bed. It’s a handy way to pound intruders into submission; all in the name of Jesus of course.

I look at the clock; it’s two in the morning. I remember two of my kids are driving home late tonight from college in Southern Cal. Maybe my sudden awakening is some kind of premonition. Maybe they have broken down and are stranded on the side of the freeway. Worse yet, maybe there has been an accident. I sit up and send them a text message asking how their trip is going and where they are at. I lie back down and cover up.

Ten minutes goes by, no reply to my text. That’s not like them. They usually reply right away if they can. Maybe one is sleeping and the other is being good about not texting while driving. A few more minutes go by. Now my mind is turning to darker thoughts. What if they are unable to reply to my text? Maybe they are off the side of the road, or hurting, and unable to get to their phone. I feel a sense of fear coming into my thoughts and heart. My mind pictures them hurt and in the hospital. Maybe the phone is going to ring any minute with the news no father wants to hear. What would life be like after losing a precious child? In the course of just a minute or two I have almost worked myself into a state of panic.

I snap myself out of it, telling myself to get a grip and relax. My phone finally vibrates and my son says all is well and they will be home in twenty minutes. Sure enough they come walking in the door and drop their bags, say hello and head off to bed. All is fine and it’s been fine all evening. No intruder, no accident, no hospital, no…

Fear is a powerful emotion. Especially fear of the unknown or fear of what could go wrong. Fear can not only make your blood pressure rise and your heart rate increase, but it can actually consume your life. In those few minutes fear could have made me panic. I could have woken Ruth up and shared my fear, or called the CHP to see if any accidents had occurred. I could have called the kids and yelled at them for not responding quickly enough to my text message. Don’t they know what anxiety their delay caused in me?

I see so many people driven by fear today. Not everyone, but it seems like there is a lot more fear floating around than usual. Fear over security issues, fear over economic issues, fear over political issues are just a few I hear about. Certainly there is always the possibility of disaster. We do live in a fallen world filled with fallen people who sometimes do crazy things.

But for us believers, followers of Jesus Christ, fear is not an option. Did you know that the phrase ‘fear not’ is used in the Bible 143 times (NASB). Obviously if God tells us something almost 12 dozen times He means it. Fear is not to be a part of the Christian’s emotional makeup. There are legitimate times to be frightened, but a life that fears the unknown or the possible is not what God intends.

The opposite of fear is courage. Courage comes from prayer and spending time with God. God told Joshua to follow Him and His word and let fear have no place in his life as the new leader of Israel. God would tell us the same today. Live a life of courage instead a life of fear. This can happen as we develop the better skills of prayer and Bible reading. God can replace fear with peace. It is clearly His desire to do so. But we have to let Him conquer those tumultuous emotions of fear and anxiety.

I need to get back to sleep. Those darn kids have kept me up late again. Next time I hear a bump in the night and my mind races toward fear I will try and stop myself right away and pray for God’s peace. Let’s all try this. The next time you’re up in the middle of the night worrying about things that could or might go wrong, try to stop and pray or read your Bible.

I love being your Pastor. See you on Sunday

Pastor Phil

My Name Is In The Book

Today I sit in the snow and I am freezing cold. I open the box; pull out the little book inside. I flip through the book to the next empty line and I sign my name and write the date. I pass the book to my buddy and he enters his John Hancock. We close the book, put it back in the metal box and shut the lid. There, we’ve done it. Mission accomplished. My name is in the book! What a great feeling. Anyone else combing through the pages will see my name, scribbled among so many others.

This is my third attempt to write my name in this book. I failed the first two tries, but have finally succeeded. I’m proud of the effort and determination I was able to muster to write my name here. I sit for a few minutes with a deep sense of satisfaction. My buddy and I shake hands and congratulate each other. Physically this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I did it just to get my name in that book. After a short time we pick up our gear and head back down the mountain trail.

The metal box with the book sits at the summit of Mount Shasta; just over 14,500 feet above sea level. I’ve finally summited on my third try.

My first attempt was two years ago. We were camping nearby and tried to summit because it looked fun. After getting about half way between base camp and the summit my son and I turned back, realizing we were ill prepared for the wind and cold. The second attempt was last year. I made it to the base of Agony Hill, about two miles from the summit. I was out of water and dehydrated. I turned back disgusted with my lack of planning and preparation. But I knew I should not go on.

This year I trained harder. I hiked the Cool canyon many more times. I was in better physical shape. I also prepared myself mentally. I was determined to not turn back for any reason. We woke up at base camp this morning at 3:30 am, ate a light bite of bagel and peanut butter, then, with headlamp on, we started up the steep slope. We found the tracks of the hard core climbers who left base camp an hour before us. We followed their trail and used their steps in the snow. The wind howled, altitude sickness set in, the pre-dawn air was crisp. But we kept a steady pace. When the sun came up we began to sweat more. The wind made the sweat turn cold. But we kept going. We climbed Agony Hill, dropped our back packs, and could see the summit ahead. A few hundred yards from the top we dropped our outer gear to lighten our load as much as possible. We climbed the last of the trail and spotted the metal box. We sat, rested, drank some water, and wrote our names in the book.

It took so much time, energy, preparation, and determination to get my name in that book. It made me excited and proud to know that I had accomplished something significant and it was recorded for posterity.

My name is also in another book; a better book. In this book I don’t actually scribble my name, someone else writes me in. In order for my name to be in this book someone had to climb a mountain. Not a snow covered mountain but one covered in trash and smoldering ashes. That mountain was name Galgotha. Jesus was the climber. He didn’t carry a backpack full of food and drink, but instead carried a wooded cross up that mountain. I know it was physically the hardest thing He had ever done. He was exhausted, bleeding, hurting, fainting as He climbed.

But He was prepared to summit Galgotha. He had the strength of the Father and the angels behind Him. When He summited there was no box, there was no book. There were Roman soldiers who took Him and nailed Him to the cross He carried. For six hours He hung on that crossed, then He breathed His last, and died.

Jesus scaled that mountain so that my name could be written in His book. Instead of opening the book of success and writing His name He opened the book and wrote my name, and your name. He climbed the mountain of Galgotha in my place, in your place. He accomplished that feat so our names could be in that precious Book of Life.

As a result of my name in His book I am guaranteed a spot in His everlasting kingdom. He never erases names from His book. Those names are forever the roll call of heaven. I am so glad that I did not have to climb His mountain. I would have turned back every time. I’m also so grateful that He summited Galgotha and that He did not giver in or give up. And when He cracked open the summit book He wrote my name, and your name, and every name of those men and women who have given their lives to Christ. AMEN!

Jesus was the greatest mountain climber of all time.

I need to get moving. I need to descend to where it is warmer and I can breathe easier.

If you’re ever at the summit of Mount Shasta, and you are writing your name in the book, flip back a few pages and see if you can find my name there. Before you head down, pause a moment and thank Jesus for climbing His mountain so many years ago. And thank Him for writing your name in His summit book, the Book of Life.

I love being your Pastor. See you on Sunday.

 

Pastor Phil

Shoes That Don’t Fit!

Why do these kinds of things happen to me every so often? Not all the time, but frequently enough to show me there is a pattern. I regularly find myself is strange predicaments. Tonight I’m sitting on the dugout bench on the local softball field. Our church men’s softball team is getting ready to play a game against another superior team. We were asked to move up one division because the rec softball coordinator is a friend of mine and our usual league was full. Now we are over our heads. But that’s not my real issue tonight.

When I was walking out of the garage to come tonight I threw my bat bag and cleats into the back of the truck without much thought. When I arrived at the ball field and pulled my gear out I realized the cleats were not my cleats. They looked the same, and they were sitting right next to my bat bag, so I assumed they were mine. Low and behold they were Amanda’s cleats, my daughter’s shoes. Now I wear a size ten and a half, sometimes I can squeeze into a ten. Amanda wears a 7.5. I knew I was in trouble. I could either play in the sandals I drove over in, or try to fit into cleats three sizes too small. I decided to try the latter.

I loosened the laces and stretched out the sides as much as I could, but only had five minutes to get ready to play. I jammed my fat feet into those little shoes and surprisingly they didn’t feel too bad. That is, until the end of the first inning. They soon hurt; then they hurt a lot. Try hitting a ball and running the bases with club feet. Half way through the game I felt the blisters forming. I’ve never had toe cramps simultaneously in all ten toes before. It was a night to remember. For that game, loosing was not the most painful part of the evening. After the game I peeled off the shoes to find redness and blisters on both feet. Note to self: In the future, don’t wear your daughter’s shoes.

The Bible teaches us that God has given to all believers spiritual gifts. These gifts include mercy, teaching, wisdom, hospitality, leadership, etc. The Bible mentions almost two dozen unique gifts that are given to His children at the time of salvation. We each have one, or a mix of two or maybe three. The purpose of these gifts is to encourage other Christians. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the Holy Spirit distributes these gifts to each one as He sees fit. We can be confident in the truth of obtaining at least one and then implementing it somewhere within the ministries of your local congregation.

There is a danger, however, in wanting one gift, but being given another. We may want the gift of leadership, but in fact, have been given the gift of mercy. In such an instance this individual will be a fish out of water. They are trying to serve in an area where they are not gifted or passionate. Soon the experience will become painful for both the leader and the followers. Like shoes that are too small, serving in an area outside of our gifting and passion becomes very uncomfortable. Blisters begin to form.

On the other hand, discovering, developing, and then implementing one’s accurate gift or gift mix is exhilarating. There are few things in life more fulfilling than going home from a church gathering in which you made a difference in the life of another Christian brother or sister. Because we are all called by God to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10-11), and we are gifted by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) we know this is God’s will for our lives.

When we serve each other, let’s make sure we are doing so in the area of giftedness that God has provided. Let’s not simply try and choose when, where, and how we want to serve. But let’s get the right shoes to fit our feet. In doing so we will serve the Lord with gladness, not to mention be far more comfortable in the process.

Shattering The Myths Of Our Faith

Hello everyone,

This Sunday I am starting a new series on Sunday morning and I would like your input. I am looking at some of the myths that Christians tend to believe.

Such as:

God spares Christians from having major setbacks or defeats; If we do it must be our own fault.

Or: Christians who love God never go through deep personal pains or dark valleys; we should always have joy

Or: Obedience to God is always rewarded with physical blessings, i.e. a job, a nice house, money in the bank.

Or: Christian morality is old fashion; God is not that concerned with my actions, He really just wants my heart devotion.

These are just a few of the myths that many Christians believe to be true.

Do you have one to add to my list? I want to spend about 6 weeks in this series, so I’m looking for a few more myths to investigate. I would love your thoughts…

Have a great day.

Phil

God Doesn’t Forget

This afternoon I’m sitting behind Roy. He is the pastor of a small church in a small town. Today we are at an annual conference we both attend. Roy is now in his sixties and he is winding down his ministry journey. Sitting directly behind him I notice the back of Roy’s head; he appears to be in need of a haircut. I’ve noticed that, as I age, my hairline recedes and hair sprouts from new places elsewhere on my head. I have come to the conclusion that maturing men don’t actually lose their hair; it simply migrates back into the scalp to later reappear in the regions of the ears and nostrils. Roy’s hair seems to have been doing a lot of migrating lately. I suffer from the same fate.

I know Roy because my first year at this retreat I was his roommate. I was randomly placed with Roy in a two-bed room. Roy was in his late forties; me in my late twenties. I was new to this Pastoring thing but had big aspirations. While rooming with Roy for a few days I learned that his ministry was not going well. Being young and wet-behind-the-ears I kind of looked down at Roy. I thought I knew the solutions to his Pastoral struggles. All he needed to do was this or that and things would improve. If I were at his church I could get it to grow.

Today, as I sit behind him, I’m reminded of the words he has shared over the last few years as we’ve prayed together at this retreat. In fact his words have been difficult to get out of my mind. For the last two years, when I have spoken with him, he has declared with a sense of sadness, ‘I’m asking God to show me where I’ve made a difference.’ After all these years in ministry he is wondering if there is any fruit for his toil and faithfulness. Can you sense the sorrow in those words? ‘Have I made a difference?’ ‘Where is the evidence of my toil and labor?’ My heart aches because I don’t seem to have any real answers to his deep questions.

I’m reminded or Hebrews 6:10; ‘For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.’ Read this verse again slowly… God will not forget your work and love shown… What a wonderful promise. What a wonderful Lord. The work we do in His name and for His people, and the love continue to show them, will NEVER be forgotten by our God. He will record them in His book. He will reward His servants for their faithfulness. God never forgets.

Over the years I have come to admire Roy. He is a gentle and faithful Pastor. His church is lucky to have him. I believe God is going to richly reward Roy for his acts of love to the saints in his church. I too have experienced both ups and downs in my vocation as a Pastor; some are a result of my choices, some the result of the choices of others. The downs are difficult and the ups are fulfilling. But God is not a forgetful being. His memory is long and detailed. His rewards are generous. I want to emulate Roy’s faithfulness.

Maybe you’ve been serving God faithfully; You’ve been a faithful spouse or parent; maybe a faithful employee or boss; maybe a faithful friend or neighbor. You’ve been hanging in there for His glory and kingdom. Maybe today, like Roy, you’re wondering when the good stuff will become evident, when will the fruit be revealed? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that question. But I know for a fact that God is watching your good works and He notices the love you’re showing. He has a keen eye and a sharp pencil with which to record all your good works.

Hang tough, keep fighting the good fight. Keep loving; keep working and serving. For our God never forgets. He sees Roy. He sees way beyond haircuts and whiskers. He sees Roy’s labor of love to his people. And God Never Forgets!

I love being your Pastor! See you on Sunday.
Pastor Phil

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