Stand up and Lead!

Called to LEAD

Today I’m reading along in my quiet time and I come across a verse, a passage, a teaching from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. Now you should know I am trying to grow in my own leadership capacity. I want so bad for the Lord to be proud of me for being obedient, for following my call, for loving his children; all of them. So, I have chosen to study the Church in Corinth. (They get two whole letters from Paul as does the church in Thessalonica.) As I read along it would appear that pastoring the church in Corinth was no easy feat. This church was planted right in the middle of a seething pit of pagan humanity and was embracing open, flagrant, sin.

Paul planted this church, trained up this church, and then moved on to Ephesus; but he kept in touch with this church. Was he the overseer? Was he the Area leader? The Regional leader? I don’t know, but he clearly visited a couple times on his missionary journeys.

Man that hurts!

I think if I could sum up what I believe his impetus is for writing to this church (knowing full well that he was sent a letter with many, many, questions, and probably a report) it would be found in verse 17. How would I feel if God called on someone very close to me to write me a letter saying, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, your meetings do more harm than good.” WOW! I cannot imagine the feelings and emotions, that had to smart when that was read out loud in church. It would appear that the leaders were running from various conflicts rather than confronting them and leading the flock out of them.

Wimpy, wimpy, is for paper towels

We seem to have this idea that the church leaders are supposed to be this wet doormat that gets walked all over, has no backbone, won’t stand firm, will “take it if they really love Jesus.” You would be surprised at what I hear “Christians” saying leadership in a church should be. It’s incredibly ignorant (unlearned) for the most part. Christ is our example and he tells us to love, heal, minister to and teach, but that doesn’t mean being a doormat. Real, historical, Biblical leadership also requires showing courage! Want some examples? Paul NAMES Alexander the metal worker (1 Tim 1:20) in one letter and tells Timothy to be very wary of him because he hurt Paul’s ministry: the church. He NAMED HIM in a letter read to all the people in the church FOR ALL ETERNITY! That’s pretty radical leadership. He also named Alexander and Hymenaeus in a letter which is still read out loud in churches. (2 Tim 4:14) In this situation he tells Timothy he “handed them over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme …” SERIOUSLY? And finally, we cannot escape the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? The church was responsible for their demise. (you could argue that God did it, but come on)

Leadership is called out by God to lead, to be strong and courageous, to not run when the lion and the bear or the wolf in sheep’s clothing come. No, the hired man runs, but the sons of God lead by example. They go down into the valley to face the giant first. I am all about, “teaching them gently …,” but we cannot and should not use that as an excuse for poor leadership. Love the flock, care for the flock, protect the flock and lead the flock.

Lead by loving them like Christ
Lead by washing their feet
Lead by instructing them
Lead by serving them all
but sometimes you have to lead INTO the fray.

Left unattended infection can be fatal

In Paul’s statement, “In the following directives I have no praise for you, your meetings do more harm than good.” I hear him calling out leadership. Paul trained these leaders but they were afraid to lead. Seems they had the same problem that we see today: leaders want to be popular, they don’t like conflict and try to avoid it. I understand that, I honestly don’t like conflict. I try to avoid it. But I also know what happens when you have an infection and rather than deal with it you ignore it and hope it goes away. It turns into death. Gangrene will rot a body to death. The same thing that is true for your physical body is true for the body of Christ, is true for your soul: if you ignore or embrace the infection, it will kill you. When you allow your soul to drift from your doctrine, from what you actually know to be truth, you allow the enemy to infect you with a spiritual gangrene. Leader know that they need to clear the flesh of the infection by addressing it directly.

When do our meetings do more harm?

Meetings do more harm than good when truth is sacrificed because of the fear of the people.
Meetings do more harm than good when the goal is to make people feel good.
Meetings do more harm than good when the goal is to avoid pain.
Meetings do more harm than good when the goal is to get huge numbers.
Meetings do more harm than good when lives are not expected to change.
Meetings do more harm than good when harsh is the only tool in the toolbox.
Meetings do more harm than good when religion is more important than salvation.
Meetings do more harm than good when I forget my call is to lead and protect the flock.

The Church rises and falls on leadership. The vision is defined, plans made, mission statements clarified, and people gathered and saved based upon leadership bestowed by Christ. So, as you lead your family, your business, your job, your churches, what do you hear Paul saying to you? It’s a hard question.

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TWO THINGS: 2

“So how are things going for you?”

Some form of that question is asked on any given day as we pass people, come to work, show up at the coffee shop; it is a greeting that suggests familiarity, pretends some sort of compassion and empathy, but is lived out in apathy. What if you actually answered it for yourself today?
It the midst of life, Jeremiah, the prophet, TELLS us how things are going rather than asking us how they are going. (Well he does for Israel thousands of years ago any way.)

Jeremiah that prophet

Jeremiah is just not a happy guy. He is a downer. You just want to say, “Come on man, say something encouraging!” I’m reading Jeremiah right now and it has the same appeal as reading the actual contents on the side of a tube of Preparation H. Just a lot of scientific words I don’t know, and lacking in encouragement; right now at least. As I’m beginning this book I find myself with Facebook open in front of me and I’m reading Jeremiah 2 at the same time. There is a lot of looking from screen to page, from screen to page over and over. Not because I need to see what is happening in the digital social construct we call our world, but because there is so much correlation between what I am seeing and what Jeremiah is saying.

Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV)
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Jolly Rancher

It is some pretty relevant scripture right there. Our souls would do well to take time to ponder this. Think of “pondering” like putting a Jolly Rancher in your mouth and just swirling it around and around. (it may be true that I have a raspberry Jolly Rancher in my mouth at this moment; don’t judge me) Explore the reality of your relationship to God in heaven for a while and your relationship to this passage. Fight against the human machine and the social extreme by grabbing the brake and giving it a YANK!! Slow down today for a moment. Let’s just be with God and hear this word from yesteryear.

TWO THINGS: #1

There are two things that God needed to tell Israel about. The first one is that they have forsaken God. There is a lot of this world that is attacking your heart and your desires as you go through life: things, attention, popularity, fame, love, sex, and a whole host of material possessions. God is calling us to not allow anything to take his place of priority in our lives. Clearly the Israelites had decided that the other “gods” (that are actually not gods at all); gods of various immoral worship practices; sexual as well as infanticide would be more fun. God is calling them out for walking away from him. He is GOD and he will not be ignored, cast aside or get off the throne. So, God allowed them to receive the consequences of not remaining under his protection. People talk about where is God when things go south, or go wrong, and the answer is always the same: You rejected God and pushed him away, now you are reaping the consequences of this choice.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

What about you? Are you confessing being a theological Christian or Christ -follower, yet you are living like a practical Atheist? You read what Jesus said but you don’t do what Jesus said unless you like it. Don’t rise up in angst or feigned umbrage, (there’s a word for ya! It means, “offence or annoyance”) you know this happens all the time. For some reason we are “selling” Jesus like he is a club, or a group to join, when truly he is God to whom we surrender. God is not a Sunday morning checklist item. He is not a daily Bible reading chore to fulfill. He is not a good work that will earn you a right standing “in the end.” God is our father: he is a relationship to rejoice in above all others. He wants to walk with you. It does start in the Bible but it continues on as we learn to walk in the Spirit. But be honest, there are a lot of people that claim to follow Jesus, but they live in rejection of his teachings because the teachings don’t make personal sense to them. So they rationalize a whole new God that cannot be supported without serious hermeneutical calisthenics: TWISTING OF THE SCRIPTURES. Doing what Jesus said to do is costly and doesn’t always, or often, make sense; do it anyway. God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Is 55:8.

TWO THINGS #2

The second thing is that Israel is digging it’s own cisterns. (a cistern is an underground tank or reservoir for storing rainwater) God contrasts cisterns with a spring of constant cisternconsistent fresh water. What God offers in our relationship to him is good, it is fresh and it is eternal. Cistern water is stored water. It can get algae in it. It can become stagnant and putrid. Spring water is always being refreshed, it is moving through. God wants what is best for us. God is good, God is love, God gives eternal life. But we are a people that want what we want for some of the dumbest reasons at times. Even Israel in her early days rejected God being their leader for a King so they could be like every other nation around them. We want to be like everyone else. We want to keep up with the Joneses. We want more than everyone else so we can be impressive and important. We want to be a people that can “do it ourselves.” We want to brag about what we have accomplished. We want to leave out God and his part in our lives; he won’t stand for that though. The world we live in says, “Look what I did,” and even when we become Christians, we tend to revert to “Ok I got this God thanks, leave me alone now, I’ll do it myself.” But we are dependent upon God even when we don’t know it. We don’t make the sun run its course. We don’t keep the world spinning on its precarious axis of 23 degrees. We do not determine how much rain will fall and where or when it will fall. We don’t create the droughts. As humans we cannot even tell people where existence came from. The fool has said in his heart there is no God.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Back to the same question, “What about you?” Are you living your life on your terms, by your own created, rationalized, standards, or are you in a living relationship with God? In Matthew 7 Jesus said not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Those people did good, religious, and spiritually powerful things, but apparently it wasn’t what God was telling them to do, it was what they wanted to do. They were digging their own cisterns and asking God to bless it.

We serve a God that still speaks today. Through the Bible, through circumstances, through other people, through music, through prayer and through community: God wants us to listen and obey.

God, What happened in Florida?

You might want to buckle up for this one. It’s worth the read, it’s a little longer than usual, but then ask yourself, “Where do I fit in?”

Go Social Media

I saw a meme on FB the other day that said,

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“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

Another one says,

“Share if you think we need to put prayer, or God, or the Bible, back in School.”

All of this implying that, God in School curriculum, or prayer in school, or Preachers preaching someone’s idea of “The right Christianity,” can solve this problem, as a Pastor for the last almost 25 years, nothing could be further from the truth. I haven’t seen this kind of really poor understanding of theology from people that claim to be Christians in quite a while. But hey, social media gives us this platform to screw up Jesus’ teachings and call it truth; and you wonder why things are the way they are.

Florida is evidence of a problem

What happened in Florida last week was a horrifically evil event that did not happen without forethought and some serious planning. It would “appear” that the government was in fact told of this individual, his words, and ideologies, his social media posts, and to some degree, his intent, and he slipped right through the cracks. This is not a gun problem. I’m not a big raging fan of guns and I’m not raging against people having guns. I finished 12 years of school in the public school system and then a couple in the college level; guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Should people have access to this kind of gun? I don’t care. I won’t own one myself. But that’s not the point of this post.

Oh the ignorance of people

I’m interested in the question, “How did our world, our country, our state, our community, come to this kind of place?”

I do not believe the awful things happening to our children or in our nation is because,

“We need preachers that will preach that Hell is still hot, Heaven is real, that sin is still wrong, that the Bible is God’s word and Jesus is the only way of Salvation, Amen.”

This just strikes me as ignorant: just plain, straight up, hillbilly ignorant. Just because a person preaches that something is sin doesn’t stop the people that claim to follow God from doing it. If that were the case, divorce would simply stop, adult people (not even talking about high schoolers: ADULTS) would stop having sex before they are married, would actually tithe to their local church, would serve in the children’s area, would raise their children IN CHURCH instead of chasing every traveling league and teaching their children to skip church, but don’t skip the team. The church would be diversified instead of segregated: FROM BOTH SIDES not just one. People would realize that women should make as much as men if they do the same job with the same level of productivity. (This can go on and on and on.) Preachers preach that Porn is wrong but church folks like it. Preachers preach that “50 Shades of Grey,” “Game of Thrones” and such, isn’t healthy for Christian people and they get emails about not judging. Hahaha are you kidding me? “Preachers need to preach that Hell is real?” REALLY?

The people posting these memes cheat on their taxes, lie to their spouses, ignore their children, and look down their noses at people that are a different color than they are. People posting these memes don’t share their faith, or the love of God in Jesus with their neighbors, or their co-workers and you want me to believe that the preacher isn’t doing their “real” job?

What are you actually teaching your children?

People that teach their little children to hate people they are mad with post these memes; they have no sense of local church loyalty or accountability at all. Preachers say something they need to hear, they cut and run. Preachers won’t let them do what ever they want; they cut and run. Preachers say something they disagree with; they cut and run. Preachers hold them accountable for their sin, i.e. creating division, sowing discord, immorality, lack of compassion or not getting involved in ministry, they cut and run.

Tell me again the preacher isn’t preaching the right message and I will show you a NATION of people that barely know who lives next door. I will show you a nation of people that underpay teachers and EXPECT them to raise their little bundles of sunshine. I will show you a nation that will do more to protect the drug dealer than the police officer sent to arrest him. I will show you a nation of people joyfully led around by the nose by entertainers, and corrupt politicians, and media moguls instead of their supposed “Christian Values.”

What did Jesus do? Then what should you do?

We live in a world of sinners according to what the Bible says. And Like Paul, I have not lost sight of the fact that I am the worst. But these same people do not have to believe what I believe and I do not believe that shoving my belief system down their throats is what Jesus said to do. The Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ is and always will be, an invitation, not a HAMMER! People said “No” to Jesus all the time and he didn’t cuss them, meme them to death, slander them, or ignore them, he loved them, served them and then died for them while they were yet sinners. He wasn’t trying to create a “Christian Nation” at all. He didn’t get involved in the affairs of local politics. He even went so far as to say “Father, forgive these men that just did this to me because they don’t even know what they are doing.” Live your life like this and you will change the world.

The problem isn’t that Preachers aren’t preaching right, the problem from my perspective is that Christian people want to be in the “FUN Church Club” but don’t want to DO what Jesus said to DO. You solve that one problem, just that one problem, and you will turn this nation upside down for the good. You want God in charge? Then get off your own throne and put him in charge of you first. When was the last time you had some new people into your home for dinner? Just asking.

Finally, you want prayer back in school? You want reading the Bible back in school? I don’t. I don’t want a non-Christian, atheist, pagan, or apathetic humans or even nominal Christians, leading my grandchildren in prayer, and interpreting the Bible for them. That is the parent’s job. You want your children following the teachings of Jesus? Then teach them at home with some small modicum of integrity and example instead of twisting the scripture to fit your idolatry.

Well now, that’s pretty heavy stuff, but it is the stuff pastors and preachers put up with everyday of the week. The solutions to the horrors of our lives is never simple, never easy, and never cheap enough to simply put on a meme. LifeWay says in their poll, 250 pastors quit each month. I wonder why? I’m not writing this because I’m perfect or even sinless. I wish I could get through one day without having to go to Jesus and confess and ask forgiveness; I need my savior. But, I love that I get to lead a group of people that want to be like Jesus, want to love, and serve, and get involved on a personal, one-to-one level, I love that. They put their rocks down, we have no right to stone people, we have been called to love them and stick to the truth, and introduce them to Jesus of the Bible.

You want to solve this “Problem,” (pick one problem to focus on) then stop talking about who should do it and you be the one to go do it. Yeah, it’s like that.

BLESSED ARE YOU …

I’m reading through Matthew 5, 6, 7, as a discipline as I continue to preach through this teaching in anticipation of going deeper spiritually and taking people deeper spiritually. Jesus was with a great crowd of people and he and his disciples, (don’t think just 12), went over to a mountainside. (The hill region) The mountainside acts as a natural amphitheater. Jesus understood this and fully expected that he needed a place where he could speak to many, many people. So he sits down and begins to unfold the very core offeet of Jesus his teaching: this constitutes his “yoke.” From a teacher-student relationship a “yoke” is the burden of understanding or interpretation of, a given teacher in relationship to the subject at hand. So when Jesus says, “take my yoke upon you and learn from me,” he is speaking of people buying into his interpretation of something; in this case the Law of Moses.

Jesus begins with the word “Blessed.” Blessed is “Makarios” in the Greek and it is translated 44 times as blessed, 4 times as good, 1 time as fortunate and 1 time as happier. (in the NIV 1984) So as Jesus unfolds his interpretation of life and the Law at the beginning, he starts with the fact that your life is favored, good, and happier, when and if … these things apply to you. There seems to carry in this word the understanding that the face of God seems to be attuned to, or turned toward the person that is poor, that is mourning, that walks humbly, who longs to do right by others, that is merciful to those around them, that is focused upon one thing, who choose to make peace in peaceful ways and means, and even find themselves persecuted because of their desire to do what is right for everyone.

“Blessed are” does not seem to “inclinate” that these people go through life without any problems or getting everything they ask God for. It appears more right to understand this is a list of people that are giving their lives away; that live in contentment in their circumstances and focus a little more outward.

Jesus was teaching in the presence of a military state. The Roman army and culture that was trying to push into their existence occupied them. Everywhere they turned their lives and subsequently their religion was bumping into the laws and expectations of Rome.

In the midst of all of this Jesus begins what we call the “Beatitudes”, the list of blessings. This is in direct relationship to Isaiah 61, which Jesus reads in the synagogue (Luke 4) as he launches his ministry.

1“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NKJV)

The Kingdom of God has broken through into a dark world. The focus of God is upon this world and specifically all the people of this world. All of this teaching has an eschatological focus: The Kingdom is here but the Kingdom is coming as well. As children of the Kingdom our transformation will be evident to all when we can find our peace and relationship to God the father in being content that God is with us in all of this. Whether in the “now or the not yet,” we WILL find relief and salvation from God.

Blessed are you today in your present circumstance, your desired circumstance and your eventual/ eternal circumstance, for the gaze of God is upon you. Find your contentment today in his shadow.

Peace

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”
Ephesians 2:17-18 NIV

peace2Are you experiencing peace today? Peace in your soul, peace in your heart, peace in your health, maybe peace in your everyday life? Jesus came and preached peace. To us that were far from God, Jesus brought peace. Stewing in the fog of chaos and sin, Jesus offered peace. He offered me the peace that begins with being right with God. I don’t owe him.

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I have a motorcycle. I put down a significant amount of money but I still owe the bank. There is a very real bondage that comes with owing someone something. Knowing the consequences of a debt not paid off. I found the same thing when I owed someone personally. Afraid of what this person could do. Afraid of the feeling that I could never pay it off. Not only was I struggling to reduce the principal, I found myself actually compounding the principal, not just the interest, in my attempts to fight my way out.

You see I was born a sinner. I was not born innocent as some well meaning but totally misinformed and/or delusional people would tell you. No, I was born with the nature to sin in my heart already there. Much like an apple is formed with an apple seed alreadyApple seeds in it. GUILTY BY BIRTH! My capacity to sin only grew as I grew. The more I sinned the more I became aware of sin. The debt I owed God couldn’t be offset or paid for by my good works or acts of kindness. I could never be good enough, or nice enough, or even give enough, to make up for the attitudes of my heart, the filth I was immersed in, or the sins I acted upon. Like a man cast into a raging sea, overwhelmed by the waves, drowning, I needed a rescuer: a savior.
I owed God!
In the midst of the ocean, as death threatened to swallow me and drag me down to the depths of the sea, God sent his son to do the one thing nobody else could do; save me from myself; my humanity.
I don’t know the actual or intrinsic value of the blood and body of a man that did in fact live a perfect life. The price for my life, the salvation of my soul for eternity, the peace that I need was found in having my debt to God cancelled. This is the “person” I owed: I was in ever increasing debt to God almighty.
Somehow, for some reason, he chose to love me enough to send his son to earth to be bloodied, beaten and viciously crucified for my debt. As a result I owe God nothing. passion-of-the-christ-nailNothing except the ever increasing love that I have for my savior. Nothing except the desire for intimacy and presence of the king of the universe. Though I have not seen him he has been very obvious and present in my life. Though I have not touched him, I have very clearly heard his voice and obedience is my act of reciprocal love. How can I not love him that endured so much for me?
His one request of me? Love.
Love my creator.
Love my enemy.
Love my family.
Love my friends.
Love those in need.
Love.
It isn’t easy, it isn’t always fruitful, but it is always the call from my savior. I fail, but thankfully his invitation is to get back up and try again. “Press on,” he said, “your going forth is sure.”
Do you have peace in your life? I mean is there peace when you wake up?
“Sin” in your life robs you of peace.
“Unsettled relationships” rob you of peace.
“Debt” robs you of peace
“Not knowing” steals your peace
Having faith that life has purpose and meaning, knowing that you can trust your future to God who is infinitely bigger than you, brings peace.
That peace is waiting on you through the free gift of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. He who had no sin became sin for all of us. Repent (stop doing things with the worlds wisdom, stop living for your own pleasure) and give God your life. (Read the Bible and then do the Bible as literally as possible) then watch things change as your life takes a new shape, the shape of peace.

 

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Move Forward

So I have this picture and I want to share it with you. Here it is, it was given to me by a young man that I got to shepherd. It is a privilege to pour into his life and I am honored to even know him and call him friend. I was wrestling one day last Fall with hearing God and he noticed. I was IMG_0861sitting in the coffee shop he managed and he walked over and gave me this note. It is written on a torn off piece of a coffee filter, (how apropos), I now have it up on my wall under my writing Plexiglas. Let me share with you the situation.

 

I’m sitting in a coffee shop sipping my $4.00 latte’. This day I wasn’t so much talking and visiting as I was praying and listening. I needed to hear from God. I needed to be quiet. I was trying to understand the next physical step our church needed to take: to build or not to build? See, I have a 4 phase plan given to me from God for our physical location, but I was trying to skip phase 3 and save up some money for phase 4. We were doing well, but something was off. That something was that I believed God had given us a plan and asked me to lead it; all the phases, in order, and timely. I clearly was hearing God say, “If you don’t do what I ask, how can I lead you forward?” But, I was still wrestling it was a scary number to me.

How long are you going to ignore God?

So this young man comes over and pops down a note on 2 cents worth of paper product and it became one of the catalysts for a $250,000 build out. “Take the next step. Move forward.”  The project was 7 months from “go” to finish and we only owe $11,000. Wow God you are so faithful. I ponder that note often since it is on the wall next to my head. I look left and there it is at eye level calling to me to heed.

My mind is kidnapped every time

I don’t want to write to you about a building project, but rather that God still speaks to you in very conventional and unconventional ways. His voice is ringing out, but sometimes we can’t hear it for all the noise in our lives. We sit down with our Bibles but the kids, the day, the dogs, and work, steal our minds and runs off with them. We have been mentally kidnapped. We try to just stop and breathe during the day but the phone rings, someone comes in our office and we are kidnapped again. Some days it feels like we are going nowhere and we don’t know if we should take a step or not.

Move Forward

This post is for you. You have been hijacked by the problems of life. Maybe your kidnapper is bad decisions that you made and now the consequences have come calling. Maybe the kidnappers are rejection and divorce, indebtedness or deadendedness. Maybe your abductor is the lie that, nothing will change, so you might as well sit down and stew, and whine, and mull, and wallow in your self pity. It may be something else entirely. I want to say to you, “Look at the picture.” Just stare at it for a second. Here is a word from God from an unconventional place: “Take the next step. Move FORWARD.” (emphasis mine) You need a word today and that word is, “Take the next step. Move forward.” It might be scary, it might be ridiculous, it is entirely possible that you will be the only one that understands the need to do it, but do it!! God is in front of you saying, “Follow me,” he is not behind you screaming, “Get a move on.” May God reveal himself to you today!

Kevin and KelseyOn a side note

It just so happens that this past Sunday was this young man’s last Sunday with us after 7 or more years. I performed his wedding, blessed his children and now, this past weekend, we blessed and commissioned him and his family to Detroit Michigan, to go on staff at a church there.

He took the next step and he and his wife are moving forward.

Is it well with my soul?

I saw someone post on social media the other day that it was well with their soul. In context I believe they were referring to a thing going well in their life, and for that they wanted to thank God; absolutely and entirely appropriate. As a matter of fact, in the Joseph's Pictures 219“Law” we are instructed to bring sacrifices of thankfulness on the occasion that our hearts are so moved. God does a thing and we are excited, bring a sheep, bring some grain, bring some kind of sacrifice (that costs you something besides energy) to God to say, “Thank you God.”

When was the last time you stopped complaining and said, thank you to God? Seriously. In the midst of all the political pandering still going on, all the hate that is still being perpetrated in the guise of pretend offendedness, personal family drama, work place struggles, financial ruin, have you even stopped to look around and see what all you have to be thankful for?

When God does something wonderful in my life, I say thank you. The other day I was at home and I mowed my yard. As I mowed I thanked God for a yard to mow. I thanked God for our home, our dogs, food, a sunny day and a hot wife. (Or was that a hot day and a sunny wife I confuse them some times.) I stopped to thank God in the midst of a good day for all the good in my life.

What about when it isn’t fun?

As I sit here remembering that person’s “It is well with my soul” post, I wonder, shouldn’t I thank God when things don’t go my way? Don’t I believe he is always sovereign?

James 1:2-4 (NKJV)
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Are you focused on coasting?

Life doesn’t always go the way we want it to go. It isn’t always easy. I have also come to the understanding that just like church, there is never really a “coasting” time: a time when things are perfect and we could live like this all day. There is always, I say ALWAYS, something coming at us. What I see determining peoples “joy factor” is their focus. Are you focused on the “coasting life?” If you are, let me tell you, it will NEVER come, but you will live in a state of constant frustration, discontentment and grief as you strive for it.

Rejoice, rejoice and then rejoice

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and tells them,

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

This is Paul; ship wrecked, left on the open sea, beaten and left for dead, persecuted over and over, jailed and beaten but singing through the night. He found it inside of his belief in God that he could learn and grow in the midst of suffering if he changed his focus. I cannot recall a single passage from Paul where he is in jail and says, “Pray for me to get out this is awful and unjust.” No, he says, pray that I might have boldness to proclaim the gospel in these chains.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National ParkAnyone can bring a thank offering when things are going their way. The question is, will you do it when you are floating in the ocean, hanging on to a piece of the boat that just broke up, and you see the sharks? Can you count it all joy then? Can you see God trying to teach you something eternal, or do you just scream at God because this isn’t fair?

Joy is found in a long range, eternal, “I’m here for a moment,” focus. Happiness is found in our circumstances. Happiness is a wave that crashes on the beach over and over, but it can drown you. Joy is a buoy that you can hang on to and it will keep you from drowning.