The Noise of Life

Shannon’s down with a migraine and the Satellite is out (due to a decent snow storm).  What’s a guy to do?  Have his kids color and try to do some studying!

Sometimes I lose track of just how “connected” I am.  Times like these I realize just how much more I hear God when there’s silence rather than the TV going, kids running around, and work on my desk.  These times give me a greater respect for 1 Kings 19.  I try to surround myself in a cloak of business for protection expecting God to come in the form of a great wind, or an earthquake, or a fire, when all along He’s whispering.

Too often do I find myself longing for a miraculous sign, a pillar of fire, directing me which way to go and what to do.  When all along He’s whispering to me, all I need to do is quiet myself and my surroundings and listen.  With the church plant getting closer I really need to get away to my quiet place for a few days of prayer and study.  This isn’t my church plant, this is God’s and I need to make sure it stays that way.  If it’s God’s church plant, I need to make sure it’s going the direction He desires.

But it’s not just the church plant that is his.  I gave Him my life, seemed only fitting since He gave His son for me.  So if my life is going to go His way, I need to know what He wants for me.  I think a short trip to my quiet place is coming here soon.  If you don’t have a place where you can get away in piece and quiet, I would suggest finding one.  When I feel lost and forgotten I can spend a day or two with no TV, no radio, no people, just me, the Bible, and God.  Prayer, fasting, and reading the Word.  It’s absolutely amazing what happens.  I always leave knowing what I need to do, what God wants, and how much He loves me.

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Hospital Blues

I’m down at the hospital visiting my father after his surgery.  He’s doing well, thanks for the thought.  Looks like he’ll be released a littler latter today.  Oh the joys of never getting 10 minutes of privacy.  Nurses, respiratory technicians, physical therapists…and so on ad nauseum.

Hospitals never seem to make me feel really comfortable.  I’ve had several surgeries, my wife is a cancer survivor, and I’ve had too many family members die in hospitals.  Top this off with today is one of the incredibly few snow days this area gets, and you have a winning combination of terror and bad memories.

Oh well, he’s getting out today and that’s good news.  Something else I guess I need to get used to.  And hey, at least they have cable!  I think this is a great example of needing to find contentment in trials.  Thanks Paul, I could have used a shorter bar to reach here.  I guess that’s just how God works, go big or go home.  I stand firm on my foundation of Christ, that’s the only way I could ever make it.

Surgery Time

My dad is having his 2nd hip replacement this morning.  It’s funny, my father will be under the knife while my mother and step father will be roaming the beaches of Hawaii.  One will be dreaming while the other will think she is dreaming.

My father’s hips had degregated to the point that he was hunched over constantly in pain.  Zero cartilage in one hip and practically none in the other and both had large amounts of arthritis.  He had the worse of the two replaced late last year.  It helped tremendously and the doctor scheduled the other replacement right after the first surgery.

When my dad told me about needing the first one replaced he told me “I now know the pain you were referring to with your knee.”  I have a knee that has no cartilage and what would be bad arthritis for a man in his 70’s – according to my orthopedic surgeon.  Considering I’m not quite 30, it’s interesting.  I blew my knee out playing Nerf darts on hardwood floors sliding in my socks.  My knee buckled and I hit it hard on the floor.  My patella was rotated all the way behind the back tendon and my knee was bent at a 90 degree angle to the side.  I shredded the cartilage in my knee and had two experimental surgeries to repair the damaged cartilage, causing much of the arthritis.  The surgeries worked, and the cartilage lasted me until I was 26 (about 13 years).

Since I’m so young and have young children, my surgeon said he wouldn’t perform the needed knee replacement until I was at least 40.  That’s right, I was told to wait 14 years for the needed surgery.  Thank God I can get Chicken Shots.  If it wasn’t for these shots I just don’t think I could be the type of father I want to be with my children.

I’m excited for my dad to have this surgery.  I’ll be getting my shots here soon again and we should be able to go hunting again this year.  We haven’t been for 3 years now due to my knee and his overall health.  I miss these bonding times.  I miss bonding with my dad through hunting and bonding with my stepdad while fishing.  Two things I love to do and with people I love doing them with.

I’m of the opinion that God uses human medicine to heal people.  Yes, I believe that He heals some directly.  But most of the time, I think God uses people to help people for this type of thing.  I pray that my dad’s surgery goes well and that he has a speedy recovery.

Poverty, Wealth, and Loyalty

It always amazes me where inspiration comes from.  Often times I find that throughout a normal, and seemingly unimportant, conversation I get hit with a single line thought that ends up erupting into either a long blog post or a song.  Bang, pow, out of nowhere.  God is amazing isn’t He?

So talking with my parents the other day, I don’t even remember about what, but I had a line thought that I texted myself so I would remember it.  Here’s what that text says: “If you can’t trust God in poverty, how would you honor God in wealth?”  There’s a thought for you.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things, and thought things, like “If I just had more money, I would….” insert your own ideas there.  Some are innocent and good like paying off the church mortgage or paying off your house mortgage so you can spend more money helping people.

And really, any spending is going to help people.  If you buy things at all your giving more business, the more business the more profit for businesses, the more profit and more business received the more employees they hire and the more they can pay said employees, and so on.  Too often we think that the only way to help someone is directly, when really helping their place of employment helps them more than giving them $20…it keeps them employed.

I’m no stranger to living on a shoestring budget.  And no, I don’t like it.  I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who does, and I doubt that I ever will.  That being said, I have had times in my life where we’ve had more than enough money to make ends meet and have fun.  I can honestly say that during those times I prayed less, read the Bible less, and relied on God less than I have when I haven’t had money.

As a Christian with no money you tend to rely on God for everything, and this is good.  It’s really how we should be, in reliance and constant contact with our God and Savior.  But all too often people think that they could do so much more for the kingdom of God if God would just give them more money.  “I wouldn’t have to worry so much, so I could be out there making a better impact if I just didn’t have to struggle financially.”  And yes, I’ve thought that thought a lot.

Ever hit the wall and say “there’s just no way we’re paying this bill this month.”?  I have.  If you struggle trusting God to provide for a $50 cell phone bill what makes you think that you’ll be praising His name and giving credit to Jesus when you can supply all your needs and desires without asking Him for anything?  Chances are, you’ll be like the rest of us and believe that you made it happen and God had nothing to do with it.  When you believe that, you don’t honor God, you spit in His face.  Sadly, I’ve spit in God’s face too many times.

With this in mind, I praise Christ for my struggles.  Why?  Because not only has He delivered me from the wages of sin, but He also provides a means for my family and I to survive.  It’s plain to see.  When I crunch the numbers we simply don’t make enough money to pay all the bills, keep gas in the cars, and keep food in our bellies.  But we do, and we do it without racking up debt.  No, my math isn’t just “that bad,” God provides; there’s simply no other explanation.

So the next time you talk to God about how much better the world would be if you made more money, think – if I can’t trust God in my lack of wealth, how can I honor God with an abundance of wealth?  It might just change how you view your circumstances.

Sad Email

I just got a sad email from a friend of mine.  This friend is a pastor at a local Internet based church.  On top of his Internet based church he has also been running a ministry helping the needy in the local community.

Suffice to say that he’s leaving the ministry. He’s closing down his Internet church and his local ministry because of financial difficulty.  I know all about struggling financially while doing ministries.  It’s an extremely difficult challenge that produces an overabundance of stress.  It’s also one of the main reasons that ministers leave the ministry.

I wish this was an isolated incident, but it’s far from that.  Sadly, this is really an all too common occurrence.  Pastors are leading a group in their walk with Christ, writing and doing sermons, counseling, studying, leading and grooming other leaders, developing materials for classes, and so on.  And on top of that, for this particular friend and for many others including myself, he was bi-vocational (worked a regular job while doing the other list).  Imagine taking your already full schedule with your work and family and then adding additional study, writing, prepping, meetings and so on to it.  Now realize what you just added to you immense schedule was ultimately more important (in the overall scheme of things) than your normal schedule.  Add to this situation that the more important things you are doing aren’t providing financially for you and your family, so you have to do the lesser important items to fund doing the more important.

Welcome to what being a bi-vocational pastor looks like.  The truly sad part of this is that you begin to go around in circles.  Your finances are okay so you put more focus on the ministry.  Then your finances struggle so you put more focus on “work” and the ministry suffers.  Then you begin to focus back on the ministry as a reaction to complaints or issues you’ve noticed, then your finances begin to suffer even worse.  The death spiral.  It’s all too common.

I do know some pastors who are surviving the balance of ministry and work, but it’s very difficult and sadly more common for people to fail than to succeed.  I’m finding myself praying extensively for us to make it through this phase in ministry.  Also, I’m praying for it to be a short phase.  I’m already finding myself concerned with my ability to put the focus on ministry and trust God to provide financially.  Prayers for funding, not for our comfort but for us to be able to focus on what’s truly important.  And please pray for my friend as he goes through this stressful situation as well.

What’s Your Paradigm?

Merriam-Webster‘s definition of paradigm is this: “a philosophical and theoretical framework of a scientific school or discipline within which theories, laws, and generalizations and the experiments performed in support of them are formulated; broadly :  a philosophical or theoretical framework of any kind”

The ending of the definition is the easy way to understand paradigm: “a philosophical or theoretical framework.”

In the last little while I’ve been personally struggling with the thought of the God of the Old Testament.  Specifically the parts where He wipes out entire civilizations.  Yes, these parts of the Bible make for some great reading; but if the only point to the Bible was “great reading,” why would there be books like Numbers and Leviticus in it?  The Old Testament is a beautiful compilation of Law, history, poetry, prophecy… but the best part of the Old Testament is the revelation of God’s character.

Our God is a loving God, but why on Earth is there so much death in the OT?  God is a loving God, but he is also a jealous God.  Really, He’s the only one with the right to be jealous.  He created everything; the universe, the sun, the world, the plants, the water, the bugs, the animals, and us.  Of all His creations, He see’s us as something especially special.  All creation cry’s out praise to God, all except man.

There’s the issue, and the issue that I am having grasping with this.  We are told to love our neighbor, not to judge unless we will be judged, help and pray for even those who hate us.  Why?  Are they hating us or are they hating God?  Both.  But here’s the deal, once we are saved we are property of God the Father, wearing Christ the Son, with the Holy Spirit inside of us.  Property isn’t a good way to say that, we are son’s of God with full inheritance.  When someone sin’s agains a Christian, they are ultimately sinning against Christ, against God.

God is the one who has the only right to judge that action, since the action was against Him.  In the distant past, God did some amazing things to show man His authority.  He did things to shape man’s mind into seeing Him for who He really is.  He even did so much as to flood the entire Earth saving only a few.  He parted a sea allowing for an escape for His followers.  He fed His people food that came from nothing and nowhere, kept a few alive inside a fire that was so hot that a man literally died getting close to it.  All to ultimately show His glory and power.

That’s it, it’s His glory.  We show His glory by loving others because of how He has loved us.  He has shown the world His power and majesty in major ways in the past.  He continues to do so, but these actions are His.  As the body of Christ, our job is to love, share the Gospel, and allow God to manage the rest.  This includes all of humanity.

While it’s still difficult to grasp why God has done the things that He has; it’s merely my being human and not God that makes it that seem off.  Because I have been given guidelines for me to follow how to live and treat humans, it’s easy to assume that’s also how God should treat humans.  But humans are God’s creation and His to do with as he pleases.  This is because of God’s sovereignty.  His will isn’t always our will.  His way isn’t always our way.  It’s our duty to praise and worship God even when we don’t understand what or why He’s done what it is that He’s done.  Remember “We love because He first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19

How Can We Do This?

This blog is here for multiple purposes.  Firstly, I do this in hopes that people will read it and find some encouragement and knowledge in here.  Secondly, it’s a venue for me to get my thoughts out there as a release and a sort of virtual soapbox.  Finally, it serves as a bit of a journal for me personally.  It lets me look back and see where I’ve been and where God has taken me and my family.

This post is definitely more of a journal post.  Don’t stop reading though, you might find your self in my shoes someday and having the same questions.  Over the last week I’ve found myself with a little more stress over finances and life.  On top of starting a church plant, I own and run a computer business, take and pickup the kids from school ( kindergarten and preschool = short school days), take care of the kids after school, and so on.

Most planters that I know, and smaller church pastors, are bi-vocational.  Meaning that they are a pastor and work a job, be it either part time or full time.  But I haven’t met another one that does both those while taking care of the kids during the day.  I’m sure I’m not alone out there in this, but I just haven’t met or heard of anyone else doing this much.

Because I’m doing so much, my work only gets so much attention…meaning it’s not producing much in the way of funding for the family.  That’s been alright, because we haven’t been paying for daycare making things even out.  (If the work only gets so much attention, imagine hoe much attention the church plant is going to get.)  But things have been crazy busy doing everything and plenty stressful.  Now that we’re adding the church plant in the mix, I just don’t know that I can maintain it all.  I’m already burning the candle in three or four places, now we’ll be adding multiple more flames to it.

Shannon and I have been praying about potentially closing my computer company so that the church plant can get the attention it needs.  But we just can’t afford it, we are barely making as it is.  So if we’re going to do this, we need to find a way to raise funds for a salary.  Please be praying for us as we are praying over this difficult decision.  It’s stressful enough as it is, but we really believe the church plant is where God wants us right now.