Friday, November 27, 2009
Have you ever read the small print? I wish I had before I ran out this morning. But in the process of being disappointed, a thought occurred to me that we often do the same thing in church. --Not to confuse you, let me start at the beginning...
I hadn't planned on being a part of the game. I have done mine in the past, and have somewhat retired from the Black Friday thing. I still do Christmas shopping, but not on this day. Rising early to be in line somewhere at 5 or 6 AM, rushing through the crowds and struggling to get that one or two items, then rushing to another store. I remember the adrenaline rush as I was successfully mastered the game. But for me, at age 56, the thrill is gone. I am at a point in my life where I had rather pay another twenty bucks or even fifty bucks more to avoid the hassle.
So my wife and I are sitting in the living room this morning discussing some plans for one of the bedrooms. I am going to convert it over to a mini office, put in a recliner, while at the same time allowing it to serve as a bedroom when needed. I mentioned that it needed a TV, so she said they are on sale today, I should run out and get one.
Wow, what a deal! I was going to get a 32" Plasma for $258. I would not have to strain my eyes to read the small print when changing the channels. It would be worth getting ready, and going out in the cold this morning. It would also be worth facing the crowd and waiting in the lines. Looking at the Wal Mart website, I found a great deal, from 5 to 11 AM. It was 9 AM at the time, so I ran out, got there about 9:30. However, when I arrived, I did not see my TV. I didn't even see anything close to being the same deal. That is when I read the small print. Limited supplies, no rain checks. Here I was, I had gotten my expectations up. Disappointed? You bet!
It seems the door buster advertisements are there to get you in the door. There will be only a few, for first come. Trickery? Maybe not in the legal term, but realistically, yes. I walked out the door without buying anything.
Then I thought of the slick advertising we sometimes do in the church. We will put it in our bulletins, fliers, post it on our doors and walls, plaster it on billboards and signs. We will have our people announcing it everywhere. We're telling of the "great deals", the signs and wonders, the revival taking place. Please don't take this the wrong way, because as a pastor, I appreciate all the excitement and positive news we can get for the local church. But I must say, sometimes I walk away disappointed. I think the conference offered a lot of bling, but short on substance. We've got people walking out of the church talking about a wonderful service who can't tell you a thing about what happened or what was said.
Yeah, I have seen the Black Friday Madness. I was there. Been there, done that. I have also seen the Black Sunday Madness. When there was a lot of hype, but somewhat like the giant store, the church didn't produce as advertised. I can't control the game they play on Black Friday. But in my corner of the world at the church I pastor, by the grace of God we can change ours. No more false (or misleading) advertising, we're keeping it real!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Yes, we love it. It is quality time with our family, and we enjoy the moments. The tables will be different this year, minus some spots. At mom's house, dad won't be there. He passed away in March. And as we sit at our table, Michael will not be here. My son in law passed in July. I am sure our celebrations and fun will be tempered somewhat. What I would give to be able to turn back the clock one more time for them. But no, life goes on.
I know that our family is not alone. Not in the traditions, nor the festivities. Not in the joys, nor the sorrows. You can probably identify. The holidays are great times of blessings. But they are also times when the stress level gets high. Busyness leads to tiredness. Stress can easily elevate in shopping lines when you neither have the money nor the patience for your purchase. In the midst of it all, take a breath. Say a prayer, enjoy the moments. These times are precious.
And don't go stressin', go blessin'!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Not long on the road, my wife and I would hear the words coming from the back seat... "Are we there yet?" They would be repeated several times during the course of the trip. Our children always enjoyed the destination, but not necessarily the grind of the trip.
I see myself that way sometimes. I enjoy the blessings of the powerful services when we gather together at church. With the electrifying praise and worship, it is easy to preach. We seldom have what we be called a "bad service" but lately the good ones have been even better. There is a sense of expectancy as we gather together, and the atmosphere lingers during the week. This has been going on for several weeks now. God is good!!
And yet I know that this is not all there is. I still find myself saying, "Are we there yet?" Is this it? I see some of the signals of the beginning of revival, but there are also the lingering signs that reveal the desired place is not yet...
Struggles with the flesh, lusts, indifference in the church tells me we are not there yet. The giving of the saints doesn't match up with their shouts, we are not there yet. Divisions, quarreling, and gossip, no we're not there yet. We're getting there, but we're not yet there.
And yet, in an imperfect church with an imperfect pastor, this I know: While we are not "there" (the place we desire to be in Christ), he is "here." In the midst of the church, Jesus walks, moves, talks, acts. Look in the book of Revelation. To the imperfect churches of Asia Minor he comes.
I am in a pursuit to get to HIM. Others in the vehicle with me are as well. We see the lights of revival, but we are not yet complete, not yet restored. The good news is that Jesus comes to us. It is an ongoing process. Like a vast array of mountains or ocean waters, we are on the verge.
Are we there yet? No.... but Yes!
Monday, November 23, 2009
We were working at the church the day before, and I had climbed a ladder to get some items out of the attic. We have a storage area there, and my purpose was to get some Christmas decorations down. It was Saturday morning, and a gentleman in the church had leaned the ladder against the wall. I hurried up, only to find myself in a free fall as I got at the opening to the storage area. The ladder was falling, and I was clinging, with nothing to grab to, so down I came...breaking shelves below which were set up for our coffee shop.
I survived the accident and the fall, but I have a couple of big bruises and an aching back to show for it. One bruise is on my back side, just above my hip. It is black and purple in color, and about the size of a baseball. The other bruise is about an inch long, on my leg. I am grateful to the Lord, I know things could have been much worse.
If you've lived any length of years in life, you've gotten bruised. Bruises usually heal in a matter of days. But it is another type bruise that is on my mind, the inner bruises. Wounded spirits, fragmented relationships. Feelings of being wronged, left out, forgotten. These kind of bruises are more difficult. I find myself, as a pastor of a community of believers, tending bruised feelings from time to time. Sometimes it is between a husband and a wife, other times it is relationships in the church. And whether the feelings are justified, or just imagined, they are nonetheless real to the one who is hurt.
Both natural bruises, and the inner bruises of life, are going to occur. It is how we respond to them that determines our outcome. Some people are always running from their bruises. Running from relationships, jobs, churches, marriages. Yes, you will get hurt. But there are things you are assigned to that you must face, deal with, and work on. If it needs to get better, make sure that you make it so.
When dealing with people, we often deal with those who are bruised in life. A precious person is offended. There have been times when I have tried to get involved, to be a mediator. Upon investigating the matter, I may not feel it is justified or of as serious a nature as the reaction, but it is nonetheless real to the wounded. In those moments I sometimes feel my help has ran its course. And so I have to realize my limitations. How to repair it, I know not. There are some bruises I cannot heal... Only HE can.
I climbed back up the ladder. I got the items out of the storage area. Didn't know I was bruised at the time, but I knew I needed to be up there. That's what I want to encourage you to do. Get back up, go again, stay with it!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The cake was Zach's idea. He wanted one for his mom and his aunt Ti Ti, his nickname for Tina. A white cake with purple icing was Zach's request, and the Ingle's bakery baked the cake and decorated it accordingly. If you follow my blogs, or know me personally, you know Zach is my 5 year old grandson.
As we were finishing the food, fellowship, and cake, Zach proclaimed, "This is the perfect birthday." Then, as in retrospect, he said, "If my daddy had been here, it would be perfect."
Daddy... he doesn't attend much at fellowships or parties. Works a lot. Our oldest son, he has a lot of good qualities. But, like a lot of men, he misses what is important. Family time, friend time. The moments of life together. I tell this story, not to embarrass a son whom I love dearly. I tell it for the fear of a man missing out the precious moments and a child recognizing it. I tell the story for all men out there who are too busy for their own good.
"If daddy had been here, it would be perfect." Zach said... I almost cried. It was an almost perfect birthday.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Pastor charged with sexual battery
The following report comes from the Charlotte Observer. Bessemer City is located about 45 miles from Forest City NC, where I pastor. The post from the Observer is between the lines, the other is my observations.
BESSEMER CITY, N.C. -- Gaston County Police have arrested a 72-year-old pastor who is accused of sexual battery.
Harley Michael Keough, pastor of King James Baptist Church in Bessemer City, is charged with five counts of sexual battery.
Police say the charges stem from incidents that allegedly occurred over a three-year period from September 2006 through October 2009.
According to a news release from the Gaston County Police, the crimes involve five women between the ages of 23 and 46. Police say the victims went to the church food bank for assistance, and they were allegedly assaulted during their visits.
Keough is being held in the Gaston County Jail under a $50,000 bond.
Apparently the pastor is more concerned about guarding the reputation of the King James Bible than he is about taking advantage of people in need. This is sad for the church and for the community.
Friday, November 13, 2009
To rejoice in the Lord is not based on mere happiness or pleasantness of situations and circumstances. Sometimes they will be favorable, and sometimes they will not. There will be days when you feel as if you are on top of the world, and other days when it seems as if the world is crushing in on you.
Last week was an easy time for me to rejoice. My wife and I took a retreat and got away for a few days. It was a brief time, but provided us the rest and relaxation we needed. The cabin by the river provided the atmosphere, and the weather was perfect. What seemed as a problem turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The TV channel was only programmed for a few local stations. I am not sure if it was all that was offered, but suspect it was something in the remote that I could not figure out. There was no ESPN, which I tend to watch too much of. The TV was turned on very little. Reading from a newly purchased book, reading the bible, and spending quality time with my wife was just what I needed. We came home refreshed, and the service this past Sunday at the church I pastor was sweet! God moved in a tremendous way!
I love the highs, don't you? It is easy to rejoice in those times. But this week has provided opportunities that try my mind and my spirit. The weather has been yucky, with rain, rain, and more rain. My wife got sick, hardly able to get up. A couple of situations with some people at church bothered me and got under my skin. I was wanting to ride the high of last week. After all, momentum is our best friend. It is sometimes difficult to make, so you want to ride it as long as you can. As of yesterday, I felt my frustration level rising and my momentum level descending.
Thankfully, the Lord reminded me of this verse. It is in my spirit, and I want to encourage you with it, as it has encouraged me. The verse did not say to rejoice when all is well. It did not say to rejoice when you feel like it. It says to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, in all situations.
To rejoice is a choice. To rejoice means to choose to take joy. That's the key. The joy of the Lord is our strength.
I am thankful for the reminders of the Lord. In addition to the verse, a song also came to my mind this morning. "When I think about the Lord, how he saved me, how he raised me, how he filled me with the Holy Ghost, how he healed me to the uttermost." Yes, I want to shout, "Halleluiah!"
Thursday, November 12, 2009
I went into the kitchen to put on some coffee and make some toast. We purchased some jars of apple butter at the Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge last week, while we were there. I thought of how good toast and the apple butter would be. That is when I noticed the mess. I hadn't noticed it before, but I am sure it was there yesterday.
The kitchen was a mess. The sink was piled up with plates, bowls, cups, glasses, and utensils. I decided I would put them in the dishwasher, but it was full. Thankfully, everything in it had been washed. Being the perfect husband I am (yeah, right) I decided to put everything in its proper place. After I had done so I emptied the sink of all the unwashed items and put them in the dishwasher, putting the detergent in it, and turning it on.
I then proceeded to place a paper towel in the trash. Guess what? It is full. Looks like I am going to have to take care of that. All this work is making me tired, so I decided to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while I make out a game plan. Oh no! I hadn't seen this before, and don't know why I am seeing it now--- the living room is a mess! My grandson, Zach, who is 5 years old, was out of school yesterday due to the holiday. Between the two of us, we made a mess. Papers scattered, cookie crumbs littered, things where we left them. It looks like the carpet needs vacuumed.
My mind is racing to my sickly wife. Not only does she keep a clean house, she takes care of two boys (Zach and I), works in both the church and church operated daycare. I don't know how she does it all.
I sure hope she gets well soon. My mind is on overload from thinking about all the things that need to be done, lol. Seriously, I love Trish so much. I realize in times like this how much I take her for granted.
Get well, Sunshine!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today is Veterans Day. It is both a national and state holiday for the citizens of the United States of America. Veterans Day is set aside to honor those who have served in the military.
The bible tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. And honor is certainly due to those who have stood guard over our land. We are a free nation today because of the commitment of both those past, and those present who have served.
God bless our military. Bless our men and women, sons and daughters, who make it strong. And God bless the USA!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
If you are within driving distance of New Harvest Church, in Forest City NC, I invite you to join us this Sunday at 10:30 AM for another powerful service.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The two days thus far have been refreshing. We are reading books, studying our bible, praying, and relaxing. I am enjoying this time away, and want to return home fresh and full for our church family.
Thanks for praying for us!
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
The bible gives us the history of great attacks from the enemy after great victories. David knew this. One of his greatest moments of despair came after a victory. I have witnessed this in church life. After great undertakings and accomplishments, we become under attack. We may be vulnerable at these moments. Tired physically, mentally, and spiritually. We don't mean to let our guards down. But it happens. And the enemy launches a full fledged attack.
The need to refresh, reload, and refire is not just due to unforseen attacks of the enemy. It is needed in order to be replenished. Jesus told the disciples on one occasion to "come apart and rest a while." The word of God said the disciples had no leisure. They had no rest, no relaxation, no refreshing. They were constantly giving out. Jesus knew the danger in this. He told them to pull away-- yes, pull away from the busyness of life.
And so Trish and I are taking a few days this week to do it. We have wanted to for some time, but it just didn't work out. We have decided to make it work. We love church life, and we have had some amazing things going on. We are proud of our church family. But we are tired. We need to be refreshed for them, and for others the Lord sends us to. We are going to the bookstore this morning. Going to buy a good book to read, maybe a new worship tape. We'll take our bibles. Somewhere in the mountains of Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, we will find a spot to stay. We will read, pray, study, and enjoy the company of one another. And we will come back down from the mountain in time for church Sunday morning. We plan on being...
Refreshed, Reloaded, and Refired!!
Monday, November 2, 2009
Our kids were in some extravagant praise and worship. At one point my five year old grandson went to his aunt, my daughter, and told her, "I'm stirred up." Zach was indeed stirred up, and I think the rest of the kids were as well.
I want more of Him, and I want Him to have more of me!