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Archive for January, 2008

The following post is taken from our GCF Monthly; the monthly newsletter that we send out from GCF.  As we get ready to move into Lent, it is my hope and prayer that our church focuses in on prayer and finding intimacy with the Father.

There are the names of three specific people in my prayer journal.  I have been praying for several weeks now that these people would enter into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus.  While praying last week, I recommitted myself to continuing to pray for these three people.

Sometimes when we try to become persistent in our prayers, it may seem that the law of diminished returns goes into effect. 

The law of diminished returns is a Wall-Street term.  It works like this:  when you’re playing the stock market, it doesn’t really make since to keep investing in a company that doesn’t yield good returns.  When the law of diminished returns goes into effect, you pull out what you’ve invested and move onto something that is more lucrative.

When it comes to prayer, persistence is important; even when there seem to be no immediate returns.  One pastor tells the following story of an encounter after a baptism in the church he serves.

I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying.  I thought that this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful.  I asked her if she was all right.  She said, “No, I’m struggling.”  She continued, “My mom was baptized today.  I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years.  The reason I’m crying is because I came close to giving up on her.  At the 5-year mark, I said, ‘Who needs this?  God isn’t listening.’  At the 10-year mark I said, ‘Why am I wasting my breath?”  At the 15-year mark I said, ‘This is absurd.”  At the 19-year mark I said, ‘I’m just a fool.’  But I kept trying, kept praying.  Even with weak faith I kept praying.  Then she gave her life to Christ and she was baptized today.  I will never doubt the power of prayer again.

Inside of this month’s Monthly you will find a list of times when the worship room will be open for communion and prayer during the Christian season of Lent.  Make room in your schedules for these times of persistent prayer and seeking the face of the Lord.

Also in my prayer journal for the last three weeks has been this prayer:  “Father, pour out on GCF a desire to pray and a willingness to seek you during these Lenten Prayer times.  Allow these times of prayer and communion during Lent to become times of healing and intimacy with you.”

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 Here I am sitting in my “pastor’s study” beginning the day with the same routine:  writing my blog post for the day.  I have my planner in front of me on my desk and I can see all of the things that are before me today.  I enjoy my work.

BUT there are times.  There are times when I begin to wonder if any of the things that I am doing are really making any difference at all.  Is this all “much ado about nothing”?

During my Bible reading this morning, the following verse (I Corinthians 15.58) caught my attention:  “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know taht your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

This was a good reminder for me that my “work/ministry”, if done in and through the power of Jesus, is never done in vain; even if I dont’ always see the immediate results.  There are times when I can see them; people come to Jesus, experience freedom over addictions, experience recovery from illness, marriages are healed, and people serve the poor and love their neighbors in very tangible ways.  But there are times when the results aren’t so visible.

I had to learn to deal with the invisible results while directing a preschool for six years.  As we worked with young children, we knew that there were many results that we could see.  Children were potty-trained, they learned their alphabet, they learned to count, they developed a love for art and explored the world.  But at a deeper level, we had to remember that we; through developmentally appropriate care and education, were laying the psycho-social, emotional and spiritual underpinnings for a child’s entire life.  We had them only until they were 5 years old.  Beyond that we had to trust that our work had not been in vain and that we were sending children into the world with a love for learning!

“Laboring in the Lord” is much the same.  There are some results that can be seen, but we also know that there are some results that will only be seen on the day of Christ’s glory; when we become all that we were intended to be through the love and justice of Jesus!

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I first learned to use the Franklin-Covey planning system about five or six years ago.  Only a year or so later, my terrific mother-in-law bought me a copy of Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I worked through the book when I got it and developed a life mission statement.

That was four or so years ago.  I am currently in the process of reviewing my life mission statement and rewriting it, while reworking my way through the book.

Here are a couple of things I’m learning:

1.  My life mission is less tangible.  When I am pressed to think about the things that I really think God is calling me to be about, they are much less tangible than one might think.  Gaining possessions, money, and more stuff just doesn’t make the cut.  I find that I want to invest in people’s lives and invest in the expansion of God’s coming kingdom.

2.  If we don’t live by a core set of values, we are simply chaff in the wind.  Reviewing my mission statement has regrounded me in God’s call for my life and is giving me an unwavering desire to live with integrity in Jesus Christ so that I can serve the expansion of God’s kingdom.

3.  Relationships become clarified and much less muddy.  I realize just how important my wife and my kids are and I have experienced a renewal in just how much I want to be with them and give to them.  This, in my opinion, is one of the biggest assets of Covey’s system.  It is a “total life” thing.  It’s not just about your work.  It’s about how you live out a life of values and integrity in all of your roles.  My wife will tell you that I am much more like Jesus in my marriage and as a father when I live by my mission statement and my values.

4.  Covey often gets a bad wrap from many Christians . . . I’m not sure why that’s the case (maybe because he’s a Mormon).  Nonetheless, I have been before the Lord as I rework my mission statement; asking him to infuse it with the power of Jesus so that I am involved in a spirit-filled process of being made more into Jesus’ image.

5.  It’s personal . . . a PERSONAL life mission statement.  Don’t advertise it.  Putting it on the wall of your office or reading it to other people doesn’t make it so.  The mission statement must be personally internalized and LIVED OUT . . . people shouldn’t know what you value because you are talking about.  They should know what you value because you are living them out.

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“Do you want to be one of my millionaires?” was the question that a televangelist posed to his listeners yesterday morning.

I did something yesterday that I have not done in a long time.  I don’t recommend it to anyone as a regular habit, but it was very good for me to do yesterday in a whole variety of ways.  I handed the preaching responsibility over to someone else and took the day off.  My initial plans had been to visit another church, but at around 8.45am, I decided that I was going to stay at home and spend some personal time with the Father.  After some Bible reading, journaling and prayer time, I turned on the television.  Here is a sampling of yesterday morning’s public expressions of Christianity.  I am going to reserve any comments on what I saw and let you draw your own conclusions.

“Do you want to be one of my millionaires?  That’s a question God is asking you,” said one of the preachers on television.  I did not recognize him.  He was holding a book that was titled something like Reaping God’s Harvest for Your Life.  The one quote that really caught my attention was this one:  “a day of God’s financial favor is better than a 1000 years of money earned by hard work.”

The Pastor of our area’s largest church; a mega-church, was talking about the importance of building relationships with others and was sharing some of his heart concerning the church’s vision to begin planting satellite campuses throughout our area.  He spent the last 10 minutes of his message talking about having had to ask the church’s associate pastor to resign during the previous week.  There was one moment where he broke down as he was talking about doing this.

The Pastor of our area’s largest Southern Baptist Church was preaching on mentoring.  A 45 year old woman, who the pastor had informed us was struggling with cancer and chemotherapy treatments, was dressed as a women nearly 2x her age and delivered a monologue just before the message.  Margaret, the character she was playing, was talking to her deceased husband and expressing her deep felt belief that older people needed to mentor younger people.  I only heard 10 to 15 minutes of the message because the church service is broadcast live for an hour, but the service usually lasts about an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and a half.

Another local pastor; with only a 30 minute slot, was explaining the story of the Good Samaritan.  There was no congregation and he was teaching directly into the camera.  His exegesis of the passage:  the Priest represented the moral law, the Levite represented the ceremonial law and the main point of the story was that the law cannot set anyone free from their sin and brokeness, but Jesus can.

I ended the morning by watching some of Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power.  Schuller is the founding pastor of the famous Crystal Cathedral in California.  He interviewed Mandisa; the former American Idol contestant who has made a career in the Christian music industry.  After she was finished singing, Schuller spent several minutes regaling the beauty of Mandisa’s eyes.  Halfway through the worship service, Schuller’s son – who is now the Senior Pastor of the church – talked about the need for people to join the Eagle’s Club by sending in $1000 to support the ministry.  In exchange, the givers would receive a lovely porcelain Eagle figure to place in their homes.  After that brief announcement, the senior Schuller preached a sermon about the initial vision for the Crystal Cathedral; explaining that everything that happens at the church or in worship at the Cathedral is intended to turn people into achievers and positive thinkers.  He lamented an early associate pastor who came from what Schuller described as a “negative” seminary. This former associate had attempted to make the case to Schuller that a pastor of the Gospel must talk about sin and the cross of Jesus.

That was my journey through television church yesterday.  Like I said, I leave it to you to form your own opinions about these very public expressions of Christianity.

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WARNING:  what I am about to write will probably make me sound like just another uptight, evangelical Christian.  Oh well . . . so be it.

We elected a Governor in Kentucky last November, or at least that’s one way to look at it.  It may be more accurate to say that we unelected the sitting Governor.  His administration – at least in the press – had been played up to be a great disaster.  There were definatley some “management” issues with the last administration.

Our new governor has promised that he will put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this coming fall that would make casino gambling and gaming legal in Kentucky.  Currently, gaming is restricted to our horse racing industry.  During last spring’s primaries, the governor not only guaranteed the constitutional amendment to be on the ballot, he promised that he would deliver on casino gambling.  His bill to put the amendment on the ballot goes before the General Assembly in early February.  Two northern Kentucky Chambers of Commerce have come out strongly in favor of the amendment and of casino gambling.

I’m no idealist.  I fully expect that Kentucky will have casino gambling before Beshear’s administration comes to and end.  But I’m also a realist.  Casino Gambling will do to Kentucky the same thing it has done to other states that have approved it.

I’m from West Virginia, for example.  When gambling became more widespread in West Virginia it was only within months that porn stores and strip clubs popped up everywhere.  West Virginia is now littered with casino’s, sex shops and bill-boards for Gambler’s Anonymous.  Gambling was not economic salvation for West Virginia.  In fact, West Virginia is still the only state in our nation that is not the home to at least one Fortune 500 company.  And the culture of the state has grown a bit more dark and dismal with the addition of casino’s and sex shops.  Gambling and sex shops feed on economic and cultural depression and there is no shortage of that to feast upon in West Virginia.  Creating an addicted and dumbed-down state population is not exactly the way to attract companies looking for well-educated and effective work forces!

Simply put:  Governor Beshear and other political and business leaders may assume that you can solve one set of social ills by creating a whole new set of social ills.  I simply do not follow that logic.  Maybe its OK to create a generation of gambling and sex addicts so the state can maintain solvency in its employee pension programs.  I don’t follow that logic, either.

If our political leaders are really worth the salt, certainly they could come up with something more creative than “sin-profits” and “sin-taxes” to solve the state’s problems.

 I do not usually step out to publicly protest public policies, but this one is so assanine that there is no way I can sit by quietly while our state government and our Governor try to shove Casino Gambling down our throats as the source of our economic salvation!

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After titling two posts within one week Signs of America’s Increasing Ignorance, I am a bit ashamed to say that I have a relatively empty brain this morning.  Nothing big and flashy floating around up top.

So, here are a few random thoughts about life . . .

1.  It is cold in Kentucky today and it is snowing outside right now.  I’m not big on winter, but I’m really in a “snow” mood.  It would be nice to just sit back and watch the weather.  It helps that my office windows look out on GCF’s 7 acres of meadow surrounded by trees 🙂

2.  I rearranged my office this week.  It feels much more like “home” now.  When I had it all finished yesterday, I realized how much I missed my office at the preschool.  It’s nice to have a place to work.  The best part of it all:  I was able to find a wooden desk about 50 years old at a local office supply store.  The guy told me that if I would come and get it, he’d let me have it for nothing.  I took him up on that offer.  It’s not a big, flashy desk, but being an antique, well, it’s got lots of character.  It even has the old fashioned pull-out writing boards above the top drawers on either side.  I’m typing this on my laptop on one of those writing boards right now.

3.  I am not preaching this Sunday.  The break has been nice and has given me some time to think about some upcoming sermons.  Sometime after Easter, we are going to focus on some teachings regarding spiritual gifts, based mostly out of I Corinthians 12-14.  In the fall of the year, we are probably going to do a series of sermons focused on Jesus’ “I am” statements from the John’s Gospel.

4.  The word of God is a powerful guide for the life of prayer.  I’ve been getting up at 5am and spending about an hour reading the word, journaling and praying.  As I journal about the scripture I have read, it is amazing to watch how God uses those scripture passages to guide my prayers.  Instead of praying out of my own angst or frustrations, I have been praying from the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the word of God.

5.  The passage that struck me this morning:  John 14.5-6:  Remain in me and I will remain in you, Jesus says.  What a powerful promise.  I’m going to be printing out this passage today and putting it up in my office as a reminder that the best fruit is born from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

6.  I can’t believe that the NY Giants are going to the Superbowl.  I know that they are most likely going to be pulverized by the Patriots (most sports sources already have them posted as losing by two touch-downs, but its cool to see another Manning playing in the championship.  As you might guess, being a Colt’s fan, I have experienced no loss of love for the Patriots so I’m pulling for Eli and the Giants.  On the other hand, if the 12-7 Giants beat the 19-0 Patriots, well, that will be a game to remember for the ages.

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Kyra loves realitivy TV shows.  Her favorites are “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Dancing with the Stars,” “Dance War” and now, she is in heaven because “American Idol” has returned to television.

I usually watch some of these shows with Kyra, but there is something about these first weeks of “American Idol” that always leaves me a bit disturbed.

Yes, there are people who can’t sing and think they can sing.  Yes, there are people who know they can’t sing and are just trying to get onto television.  And there are people who can really sing.

But there are also folks that come in for auditions who obviously have mental illnesses and personality disorders.  As a counselor I always find the judges’ responses to these people or the blatant display of these mental illnesses for the monetary gain of 19 Productions to be extremely disturbing.

Last night, for example, the judges openly laughed at a young man who obviously had a mental illness of some sort.  This happens at least once and often several times in each of these early episodes.  I just don’t find it funny.  Really, it makes me feel pretty dismal.  These are people who need to be helped; not ridiculed while they make a spectacle of themselves with the cameras rolling.

Oh well, maybe I’m just a prude.

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