Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Thoughts From My Reading Today

24The people refused to enter the pleasant land,
for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them.
25Instead, they grumbled in their tents
and refused to obey the Lord.

I read this passage from Psalm 106 this morning and started wondering how many pleasant lands I have missed because I won't believe God's promise to love and care for me.  I have crazy low self-esteem, and am continually trying to hold that up to the truth of God's Word and to remember that I am His creation, purchased by the blood of Jesus, because God loved me. I am His son.  Because I have struggled to believe His promises at times, I have not been bold and courageous in decisions, nor have I walked through some doors to some great opportunities.

I just wanted to encourage you today, whatever day it is and whoever you are, to believe and hope in the love of God.  Know that you are His and he wants good for you!  He wants to take you to "pleasant lands".

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 14th, 2015 (Or National Forgiveness Day as I like to call it)

December 14, 2015, a Monday, one year ago today, was a day that sent my little part of the world into a tailspin of sorts.  My father, who was also my lead pastor and boss, was asked to resign from the church he had served for over 31 years of his life, literally half of his life.  There was no moral failure or anything like that, the elders of the church felt he was not doing a good enough job in casting vision and inspiring the staff, or them, to lead.  December 14, 2015 was the day my father turned in his resignation.

Rewind to the summer of 2003 when I was in conversation with the same church about the possibility of coming on staff as a Pastor of Creative Arts.  The questions and discussion revolved around nepotism and whether or not I could work with my father and respect him as a leader and submit to his authority.  The answers were all yes, and I had considered the possibility that one day, Dad may have to let me go, or fire me, and I would need to be okay with that.  Never did I consider the possibility that I may not be the one being let go, but that I'd have to stand by and watch it happen to my father.

Well, it happened.  And let me tell you, IT SUCKS!

Anger and hurt dictated the next few months of my life.  I could not do much more than process what had happened and pick apart every decision and every word the elders of the church would say.  I could not believe this was happening.  I did not agree with their assessment and decision, and especially the way they handled it.  I felt that my father was disrespected and dishonored after he poured his life into the church body here, into us as staff, into them as elders.

If not for my father, I'm not sure I would still be here.  He set the tone during his departure by not speaking ill of the elders, and by not raising a stink with the body.  While many encouraged him over the next several months to start a new church in the area so they could follow him, he rejected the idea and continued to try to preserve and protect the unity of the church body he had labored for and served for 31 years.  Dad kept encouraging me to stay with the body here and help her to grow and heal and move forward.  

So, I prayed.  I prayed mainly out of confusion.  I did not know what to pray for or how to pray, but as the Word promised, I believe that the Spirit interceded on my behalf.  As the Spirit interceded, he also started working on me and my heart toward the elders, the body of men who started this process and put the wheels into motion.

I had so much anger in my heart.  I was working hard to hate them.  I did not want good for them.  I did not want good for their families.  I was having a really hard time practicing a love and forgiveness that I have preached and declared for most of my life.

I prayed and the Spirit continued to chip away the crust of hate and bitterness around my heart.

During the whole time, I was communicating with the elders back and forth through email for a couple reasons.  The first, being that I could write, and edit, and try to say what I really wanted to say, without letting too much emotion get in the way.  The second being that every time I saw them in person, I really wanted to punch them in the throat.  I mostly heard responses back from one elder.  I don't know if that was by design, or because this elder and I had been close before.  But, I believe this communication, and the conversations we had helped in the forgiveness process as well.

In my anger-fueled hatred, I had made a lot assumptions about the hearts of the elders.  I had presumed to know their intentions and made a lot of judgments that were not founded on truth nor fair.  Those open communications helped me to see some truth and realize error in my judgments.

During all this time, my parents were still here in the area.  Mom was still working for a local Christian college and Dad had started filling in as a preacher at a small farming community about 25 miles away.  They were praying about what their next step would be.  They were in their early 60s and were not ready to retire yet, but this was home.  Here they were within a 2 hour drive of all of their grandkids.  They owned their home outright.  

They prayed and God opened a door.  This door would lead them over 600 miles away from their closest grandchildren.  This door would lead them to a place where they did not have established friendships.  This door would lead them to having to sell their home they owned outright, our family's home for 31 years, and try to find something else and start over again.  Despite the above, they chose to be faithful and walk through the door.

Their decision to move, again refueled some anger in my heart toward the elders.  They were wrecking our happy, comfortable, family existence.  We had to tell our children, who have grown up with Grandpa and Grandma for their whole lives, that was no longer a possibility.  My children basically curled up into the fetal position and cried for a couple hours.  How could the elders do this to us?  

Again, unfair, and misplaced, anger and emotion aimed at the elders, but the Spirit and the Word kept working in the background speaking words of love and forgiveness to me.  If only I would stop taking the time to fuel those fires, and stop building up a fortress of stone around my heart.

Finally the day came when I could not fight against what was right anymore.  I know love is the most excellent way.  I know forgiveness is the way of the Father.  I know that to the extent and measure that I give mercy, it will be given to me.  I know all these things in my head.  It was time to start putting them into practice.  If I am going to be a Christ-follower, the time had come to live out those beliefs in this season where they had been tested like never before.

So, again, I wrote a letter to the elders.  I could say things best that way.  I could speak my heart without emotion getting in the way.  I wrote forgiveness and love.  I wrote confession and asked for love and forgiveness.  I freed my soul of hatred and anger.  I will never agree with the elders' decisions on this matter, but I will not hold it against them any longer.  The hurt they caused my family will not be held over their heads any longer.  I will seek good for them.  I will serve them.  I will love them.

It is a year to the day since the start of this all.  It took a good ten months for me to come to the place that I was willing to forgive.  I am still serving with the same church body.  I am still serving with the same elders.  The forgiveness, and the pain, are still very fresh.  There are still hurts and feelings that I have to fight and bring into submission to the Spirit and the Word.  But, I have chosen to fight that fight.

My friends.  love is the most excellent way.  It is the way of the Father, God.  Seek it and pursue at all costs.  As far as it depends on you, brothers and sisters, pursue peace and unity.  

I write this because I know there are many of you out there that still hurt, that are still wrestling with whether or not to submit to love and forgiveness.  Let  me encourage you to take the steps necessary to swallow hurt, pride, or whatever else is holding you back, and give in to the most excellent way, love.  Do it for Willie, who gave 31 years of his life to help build and grow this body up to maturity.  Do it for your brothers and sisters around you that call WestWay home.  Do it for your own soul.  Do it for the sake of Christ, who gave his life on a cross and shed his blood for the sake of love and forgiveness. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Waiting Is the Hardest Part

In the words of our beloved Tom Petty, waiting is the hardest part.  At least it seems to be for many Christians today.  We always seem to be in a holding pattern, waiting for the big message from God to be revealed to us so we can be busy about His work.  

"Burning Bush" by Will Borden
We've read in the scriptures concerning what we should be doing: loving God, loving our neighbors, keeping a watch over our tongue, taking care of orphans and widows in their distress, keeping ourselves from being polluted by the world, etc.  But, we tend to want, and wait, for something more...for something bigger.  We want our burning bush moment.

What if that moment doesn't come?  What if God has no big task for you outside of the task of simply loving the people he has placed around you?  What if He doesn't need you to be the next Andy Stanley or Chris Tomlin, but just simply obey in your simple life?

It's easy for me to get wrapped in waiting for bigger and better.  Our world has trained us for it.  Even the Church leadership culture of today somewhat cultivates it.  And so, instead of simply obeying in the simpleness of my life, I can make excuses and claim to wait for my burning bush.

As I read from 1 Samuel 10 today, verse 7 stood out to me and made me think about all of this,
"Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you."
Saul was just given his marching orders from the prophet Samuel.  He was just informed that he would be king of Israel and that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon him in power and he would be changed into a different person.  But this little phrase after all that was encouraging to me, "Do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you."

I can remember seeking counsel and advice at different times in my life when I was making big decisions.  My desire was that to make a decision that would please God and benefit His Kingdom.  In several instances, more than one option seemed good and it drove me crazy.  The advice I received from wise men and women seemed to all ring with the same truth: be faithful wherever you go and God will bless.

I think about that as I wait for my "burning bush".  I think about that as I face questions that I have no answers for.  I need to continue to be faithful and do whatever my hand finds to do, because God is with me.

I don't know if you are waiting for something bigger and better to come along.  If you are, don't let the waiting handicap you from doing what your hands can find to do now.  It's a lesson I'm learning.  God is with you, and He desires to use our simple, quiet, non-burning-bush lives to maybe kindle a Spiritual burning in the lives of those around us.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Disunity: The Us vs. Us Mentality

"Disunity" by Wojtek Kowalski
I am saddened today by Christian "brothers" and "sisters" that point at other church bodies around them and tell others not to attend there because they have heard this or that about them.  I have to use quotes around "brothers" and "sisters" because I'm not so sure they consider me a brother if they think it necessary to dissuade others from attending the church Body that I am part of.

I am of the mind that if you believe in Jesus, God's only son, for your salvation, and you are seeking Him, you are my kin.  I don't care what you think of all the other doctrinal issues in our world.  I don't care if you are pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, Calvinist, Armenian, Wesleyan, Methodist, Four Square, Catholic, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Non-instrumental, Baptist, Lutheran, Open Bible, etc.  But, I am continually reminded that there are those in this world who are arrogant enough to believe that their way of thinking and interpreting the Bible is the only way and will continue to bad-mouth the Body of Christ, His Bride, until the day He returns.  

I am reminded of Jesus' prayer for us recorded in John 17.  I continue to pray this over myself, over you, over the Church universal.  May we get it!  May we continue to grow in unity and love until Jesus returns.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  John 17:20-23 (NIV)
God, forgive me for when I have bad-mouthed your bride.  Help me to love Your Church the way you love Your Church.  Continue to work in us compassion, understanding, and love.  May there never be competition or envy.  May those who cause strife and division be silenced.  In Jesus' name! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What Life Are You Waiting For?

In reading from Axiom by Bill Hybels, in the chapter, "What Life Are You Waiting For?" Bill penned this:
Many years ago I shared a conference stage with Joni Eareckson Tada.
Joni Eareckson Tada
She did a Q&A session following one of her talks, and someone in the audience asked her how she kept going - how she kept leading and serving and creating - despite her obvious physical challenges.
I'll remember her answer for a long, long time. She said, "This is the only time in history when I get to fight for God. This is the only part of my eternal story when I am actually in the battle. Once I die, I'll be in celebration mode in a glorified body in a whole different set of circumstances. But this is my limited window of opportunity, and I'm going to fight the good fight for all I'm worth."
 Joni got it right at the conference that day, and I came away from the event more resolute than ever that if I'm waiting for some other life to be courageous, then I'm kidding myself.
Then later at the end of the same chapter Bill writes,
This is the only leadership life I get, my one and only shot at following God the way I feel him prompting me to do so. This isn't some pregame warm-up. It's the game, and the clock is ticking!
 What life are you waiting for?
It's a good question and truth for me to ponder.  I am one that has allowed fear and doubt to control me. I have allowed those fears and doubts to become bigger in my mind than my God.  And I know the truth of the matter, that He is more than able and when I am weak, He is strong.  I need to walk according to those beliefs and be a good steward of this life I've been given to "fight the good fight for all I'm worth". 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading Thoughts- November 12, 2012

In reading today there were two concepts that spoke to me.  One is John the Baptist's words in John 3:30, "He must become greater; I must become less."  The other is in John 4:34, "'My food', said Jesus, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.'"

Both verses really point to the same issue within me; selfishness.

If I am going to be a disciple, I really need to get these concepts down.  God must become greater in my life.  His will, rather than my own, needs to become the driving force in my life.  

God, I submit to your authority and lordship.  I lay down all I have, and claim to be, at your feet to be used for your purposes.  I confess my selfish thoughts and pursuits, and desire your Spirit to transform my thought and pursuits in order that your kingdom be furthered through me.  May Your will be done.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Excuse To Use Creativity

"It's the most wonderful time of the year."  So goes the tune inside my head as I think about this time of year.  No, I'm not talking about the "Christmas in July" sale happening at your local mattress store, but I'm talking about preparing for Fantasy Football Season.

I suppose I'd still be considered a newbie, but this is my fourth year playing fantasy football and I am hooked.  My love of fantasy football even drove me to watch the actual NFL draft this year follow closely every move made in free agency.  Today I rejoiced as Matt Forte and Ray Rice signed long-term contracts, because I had already drafted them in a couple of my early-draft leagues.  

Part of the process of fantasy football is coming up with the right name.  A lot of times a name will have something to do with current issues in NFL football or it will be a play on a certain players name.  I like to add a bit of humor in with some of them myself.

So, all that to say, I want to share my 2012 team names with you.  Ready?  Here goes:

  1. Hoomanawanui To You Too- not much of a back story on this one other than this particular Rams tight end has a crazy name that barely fits on his jersey.
  2. The Bountiful Vilmas- you have to have lived under a rock to not hear about the bounty scandal with the New Orleans Saints this year.  Jonathan Vilma is one of the players that has been suspended for the year because of his alleged involvement in the bounties.
  3. 1K4A Cart Off- this one is in regards to the above mentioned bounties where players were supposedly offered $1000 to hit someone hard enough that they would have to be carted off the field.
  4. Scoblo Beefy Boyz- this is a result of me being lazy and not being creative with my name.
  5. Scoblo Blackshirts- this name isn't too creative either, but it fits with the league.  The league is a Nebraska Cornhusker league, so I wanted to rep the community and have the team name tie in with something Husker.
  6. The Yellow Perils- here is another example of a league dictating the name.  This team is in a Green Lantern league.  The Green Lantern is a comic book character.  I had to do a little research to get creative with this one.  I researched villains of Green Lantern over the years and in different spans of the comic books existence and came up with this one.
  7. The Harbaugh Backslaps- last year there was an incident between two coaches during an after game handshake.  Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions and Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers met in the middle of the field for the "good game" handshake and good ol' Harbaugh got a little zealous with his handshake and gave Schwartz a little shove.  It turned into a little yelling match and if Schwartz would've had his way they would've thrown down right there.
  8. APs Off-Duty PoPos- derived from Adrian Petersen's recent run-in with some off-duty officers moonlighting as security officers in a night club in Texas.
  9. Tannehill?  TannYerHyde!- is just a clever little play on words inspired by the 8th overall draft pick by Miami Ryan Tannehill.
  10. Weeden Out The Bad McCoys- is another play on a couple names in a tricky situation.  Brandon Weeden was the new QB drafted in the first round this year to come in and replace Colt McCoy who hasn't been doing a stellar job in leading the Cleveland Browns.
  11. Manning's Last Nerve- is an homage to my favorite team, the Denver Broncos, and their acquiring of this season's hottest free agent, Peyton Manning.  He had sat out last year with the Indie Colts because of neck surgeries and nerve damage that was not allowing him to have control over his arm like he needs to have.  Here's to hoping that problem is solved and we'll see the Broncos in the Super Bowl this year.
  12. The Wilfork TD Machines- is probably my favorite name this year.  It is in honor of Vince Wilfork, a massive defensive lineman with the New England Patriots.  The great thing about this 350 lb machine is that he had several interceptions last year, of which I can think of two, that he ran back for touch downs.  It does my heart good to see a big man like this running for his life toward the end zone.
  13. Scoblo Shank-O-Potamus- in another ode to laziness possibly.  It was derived actually because I saw the logo first of the outline of a hippos head with a little knife and it said "Shank-O-Patamus" along the bottom.  I instantly fell in love.
So, there you have it.  A piece of my nerdery.  This is part of why it is such a wonderful time of the year.  I am waiting just a little impatiently for September when all the action of games start.
If you haven't tried fantasy football and are thinking about it, don't be afraid to plunge right in.  It's cheap and easy and provides hours of entertainment.  It also provides you with in depth understanding and studying of America's most-loved game.