Thursday, December 15, 2011

Celebrate...with a Fast???

I think one of the things I really enjoy about leading a church, just one of the things not the only thing, is God has given us freedom to be a bit unorthodox.  To challenge the way things have always been done...or the things you do to be more successful as a know, get your church bigger.  Now I am not opposed to growing larger in fact that could be kind of fun...not at the expense of allowing God to be God...and have His church back.  This is not criticizing anyone else...because I suspect they are doing what they feel God has called them to do and they should have the same freedom I want to do what God has called them to. 
A couple of years ago God lead us as a church to begin the New Year with a 21 day came at a time of desperation for me as a leader. It was right after Christy Wimber had been with us and really challenged me to be a leader...when people were angry with me and leaving...many did not even know why they were mad, they just were.  I started in December to get a head start on the rest of the body and did a forty day fast.  The whole thing was life changing...and church changing. Couple of things happened for sure...I had to call the church to the fast and lead them in it. They had to respond...and they did. For me it was a somber time as I sought God for huge changes in my life...healing had to happen for me to go on...and it has...with more to come.  It brought the church together...the stories from families were was a somber time for sure.  
Last year we did the fast again...not as hurting as the year before...but crying out for God to move among us.  In the past I have always come up with a saying for the New Year, but last year I did not come up with one. In the middle of the year God really began to lead us into some really cool thing...hard things, but awesome.  It became a year of choosing life...over death.  Hard things were preached and people responded...really felt challenged to challenge us to live a life that honors God and not to live for ourselves and our own happiness....the American dream. We wanted to be a people “preoccupied with God” giving Him room to work in our lives individually and corporately.
So this year I was getting ready to write a devotion to send out to the church for the week and begin to prepare them for the time of our fast together. I began to sense God was speaking something to me concerning the fast...this will sound weird but I think it was Him...that this fast will be one of celebration and gratitude.  As I thought about it my heart filled with thanksgiving as I thought about God and His blessings.  Then I wondered can you fast and celebrate?  Can you fast and be joyful?  I mean can you really be happy without food? Or technology? Or TV? Or????  I am thinking YES YOU CAN! Jesus said...”I have food to eat that you know nothing about.  My food is to do the will of Him who sent me..” “I am the bread of life...” That’s it...i want to celebrate the Bread of Life...I am going to wash my face...comb my hair...well shine my head...and celebrate the bread of life...sent from God...for my consumption.  So it may seem odd but I really believe this will be a season to celebrate taste and see that the Lord is good. Doing a fast forces you to slow down...slow down and focus...On Him. 
As a regular guy who leads and amazing church family...I have much to be thankful step aside as I fasting...hmmm. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas thoughts...where will you be on Christmas morning?

I cannot believe Christmas is on Sunday again this year!  Seems like it was just a couple of years ago it happened, turns out it was seven.  What’s the problem?  Culture, Church culture has changed so much over the years that the question comes up, “Are we doing a service on Christmas morning?”  In the past the answer would have been, “Of course we are! It’s Jesus birthday!”  Well yes and no about the birthday thingy, but it is the time we celebrate His birth, I get that part.  So what do we do?  A reporter from our local newspaper called the other day to see what we were doing on that Sunday since it has been kind of a hot question all over.  I love when he calls because I know the way I answer will never be the right answer for many of his readers.  I usually read the paper online and the online edition allows readers to make comments.  Oh boy!  
He had called me another time to get my opinion when a big time college football coach was fired for doing some cheating, well mostly for not being honest.  This coach is well known and had written books on ethics and integrity and he was known to be a Christian.  The reporter asked how the church should respond to someone like this.  Well I gave my response and used some scriptures to talk about our responsibility to walk with him through this hard time.  Well the comments that came from that was amazing...and mean!  So now I get to be quoted as saying, “ We are not holding services that morning, not wanting to interrupt family time. Also we will let our people know who is doing services on Sunday so if they feel the need they can go.”  Sure enough as I read the article, there was my name and quote.  Ahhh...we all want to be in the paper don’t we? (well not if we broke the law...but to be quoted..sweet!)  Not really...not if you are going to read the comments...”those churches who are not having services on the Sunday are not churches at all! they are fake!” (not the exact words but close)  Goodness, I don’t feel fake. Well sometimes I suppose I do when I read about Jesus and look at my life...but not about church.  
Kind of harsh words from someone who does not know me...or our church family.  Well part of the disconnect is this...we don’t go to is who we are.  Will our church family be in the same building on that Sunday celebrating Jesus? No...but we will the our homes...our family homes...and we will remember why we are together.  Do I feel guilty about not doing a Christmas celebration on that Sunday?  Not really...well in a religious way, sure I do.  But I remember Jesus having numerous arguments with the Pharisees over the Sabbath and how religious they had made it.  It was cumbersome and was a heavy load put upon the shoulders of the people...not at all a rest like God had intended.  Not a day to focus on God and all He had done for them...instead it became another rule to be kept and not broken. Jesus healed on the sabbath...and got threatened...set people free...and was criticized...because He broke a rule. 

So I can feel bad about not keeping a religious tradition...or I can freely worship the One who the day is set aside for...with my kids and grandkids, in-laws and outlaws and friends.  I choose that. Sorry...well no I am not sorry...should I be...I don’t think so...what do you think?

Now as I finish this blog, please do not hear me accusing those who will do Sunday Services on Christmas morning as being religious or legalistic...I just want the freedom to lead my fellowship the way I sense God giving me permission to lead...I may go to a friends celebration that Sunday...and will enjoy myself.  


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Can I Have This Dance???

This blog is mostly about my struggle with being a leader...or at least being in a leadership role.  I believe some of my older posts have covered my struggle with it and how, during some services with Christy Wimber, things began to change inside of me.  A few years ago Barb and I took some ballroom dance classes with some friends from the church at a nearby Y.  We took 4 or 5 set of classes...swing, box step, rumba,etc. Well, it was kind of fun...but not a lot...see we spent most of the time on the dance floor fighting over who would lead the dance.  Barb would argue and say she was letting me lead but the whole time we were dancing she would say things like, “I want to do what that couple is doing!...why can’t we do that move?” Now it is hard to lead when you are just learning yourself...and even harder when the one you are leading is looking all around the room seeing what others are doing and wanting to follow them...not me!  
So with some fear and trepidation we joined a small group at church, a common interest group, for ball room dancing. Same instructor as before...would we get the same results? It has gone really well...and Barb is following my lead!  Really! One difference, I believe, is that I am leading...with some confidence as we learn the steps.  It is hard to lead when you are unsure yourself where you want to go next.  Also I am the kind of person that can get comfortable doing something one way and not really press myself to do something different.  If I am happy doing a box step and walking in the same pattern over and over why try to do a new step?  Why can’t the box be enough?  Barb on the other hand is always looking for the next new adventure...the next step...the next trip...the next... 
As I grow more to understand the steps and the act of leading it is more fun for both of to be stretched...and she can quit looking around the room to see what others are doing.  She has to focus on being me.  
Now an odd thing has happened in my leading the church...and the staff.  Now this may sound arrogant here, but stay with me for a moment.  As long as I have been leading the church it has seemed to me like God has been working on me night and day for 17 years.  Healing stuff...pointing out junk that needed to go. Then Christy comes and seems to spend 3 days preaching to me...right to me...about leadership issues...and without mentioning my name, pointing out what happens when I do not lead.  Someone will. They will look around a the success of others and want to know why it is not happening here. The other thing that happens is people wear out trying to follow a leader not sure of where he is going.  
Now the arrogant part...I always wondered why God never seemed to be doing anything with Barb or Dave..(my brother in law and worship leader) why could they just stay the same?  Where was the crushing they needed to go through...why just me?  Lately God has been doing some big time work in both of them...that is their story and not mine but trust me...BIG.  As I thought about this a bit more it came to me...God really would not move to change things or maybe more likely, they would not be in the right position to change until I took my role as leader more seriously.  Until I chose to be PASTOR and lead they were frustrated by the wobbling around...would challenge me...would be angry with me.   They both were better at leading what they were called to lead than I least more sure of themselves.  Now as I take my position and calling seriously and am still growing in it...God is breaking through in some areas they needed to address...and He does it so well. It changes the atmosphere around the whole church family...tension is leaving...probably not gone fully but on its way out.  God is moving with freedom and power in our celebrations...we are making room for the Spirit to move and to touch people.  I think I am sorry it took me 17 years to address some of my own stuff...but then again, God never seemed like He was in a hurry.  
Am I saying I am a finished product??? Not at all...I am still a work in progress...I have confidence He will finish this work He began in me...and I have a desire to finish this race well.  So I will keep dancing...leading those I am supposed to lead...and being led by the One who knows all the steps.