Posted tagged ‘Philippians’

That Illusive Feeling of Peace

October 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       October 13, 2014

                                    

“Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?…Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25 and 27)

 

Let’s be honest! Peace is something we long for, but find it hard to grasp. Currently there are many areas of unrest in our lives. In case your list is short, here’s a few to add to it:  ISIS, ebola, mall shootings, school shootings, burn scars, cholesterol levels, cancer, gas prices, stocks falling, collapsed pension plans, processed food, college tuition, aching knees, overdrawn bank accounts, hacking Target and Home Depot, pit bulls, gun right advocates and opponents, Republicans and Democrats, Obamacare and lack of health care, meth addicts robbing homes…

As you know, I could go on and on and on, but I’m sure there were a few things on that list that resonated with you.

Worry is like water! After yesterday’s three inches of rain there’s plenty of it for everyone!

But what about peace! Is it on sabbatical? Have we ticked off God so much that he’s taken back his peace and gone home?

Aren’t followers of Jesus suppose to be peace-filled? Isn’t there suppose to be a sense of tranquility in our spiritual lives?

Let me answer that with a “That would be nice!” and “Sometimes yes!”

There’s an inner peace and and outer sense of peace. The inner peace is a promise of God. Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

That inner peace develops as we take a breath of prayer…as we trust that He will never leave us nor forsake us. It’s believing more in the presence of God and the power of God than the destruction and depression of Life.

The outer sense of peace comes and goes like the winning streaks of the Colorado Rockies…most of the time, too few and far between! Life can be good and then the news comes on. We talk about peaceful moments, but they are suddenly plummeted by torrential rains.

The fickleness of our outer peace raises our worries like the yeast in baking bread. Sometimes our worries cause us to forget that we DO have the promise of inner peace.

Jesus asks, “Why worry?” And we respond, “Because it’s one thing we’re really good at!”

We will even worry if there suddenly isn’t anything to worry about!

We are followers of the one who was known as “The Prince of Peace.” If we could just follow him as closely as my shadow seems to follow me!

Playing Football at Sixty

August 28, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 28, 2014

                                       

It seemed like a good idea! Lace up the cleats…dust off the jersey…”stick-em” spray on the hands…let’s go!

Last Sunday night I played football with the “young guys” from church. “Young” seems to get older in it’s definition each year, but for this group it is boundaried by years number 25 to 32.

Last May I turned 60! That’s twice them! Two times as long, twice as many Christmases, double their hair loss…and more than two times at risk for injury. The menu for injuries for me now includes things like broken hips, strokes and heart attacks.

But I ran on to the turf like a Johnny Unitas in low-cuts! I could feel a growl in my soul!

The eight of us warmed up for at least three minutes before figuring who was on which team. Let’s get it on!

We received and marched down the field before stalling at the twenty yard line…our own twenty, that is! Our friends in blue jerseys scored in one play. Lucky!

I quarterbacked the next series and threw a perfect go route pass to my son-in-law. We were clicking!

From there the clicking stopped! The guys on the other team started intentionally kicking off aiming at me! They hadn’t seen my career stats! And then I stretched to make a two-hand touch on a young buck named Austin and my left hamstring didn’t accept it…the stretch that is! It refused to be extended. It’s amazing how one muscle can redirect the entire body! The rest of me got in line behind my rebelling ancient inflexible hamstring and joined the coup.

When Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13 about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”, I don’t think he had a hamstring in mind, but my strained hamstring now gives me a different interpretation of the scripture!

A little disgusted I had to become the rusher on defense…on one leg!

I actually had a great time that night, and the young guys applauded my effort, even as they snickered at my slowness. The next day every…and I mean every…muscle in my body hurt! I popped Advil as I prayed for healing!

Several have asked me why I subjected my body to such torture? Because althoiugh my body is sixty my mind is still thirty. When my mind feels as old as my body I’ll take a padded cushion to the field with me and watch from a distance.

But for now I think I still have Johnny Unitas-potential!

Someone just shared some cruel news with me. Johnny Unitas passed away twelve years ago!

What?????

Adult Bullies In Pastor Bodies

February 21, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           February 21, 2014

 

Earlier this week I wrote a blog about “Adult Bullies in Churches”. It got more views, clicks, hits, or whatever you want to call it then any other blog post I’ve had except one. One of the comments about it was from someone who wondered about pastors and churches that are bullies. I promised that I would pursue the suggestion. Since I’ve been a pastor for just shy of thirty-five years it is right in my backyard. I’ll try not to be threatened by it, but also offer a balanced view of the situation.

Quite honestly, I think there have been, and are, pastors that bully. Most of the time the bullying is veiled behind an appearance of spirituality. The pastor conveys the idea that he/she is closer to God because he/she is more into the Word of God, and spends more time meditating about the ways of the Lord. People who question the pastor’s leadings and motives are often subjected to scorn and ridicule “in the name of Jesus.” 

When a pastor communicates by words and actions that he is closer to the Lord than anyone else a power play in is the works. When a pastor keeps promoting his vision that the Lord has given him…that, ironically, needs to be funded by the congregation, beware of the pleas that question how committed the people of the Body are.

I remember the words of an American Baptist pastor from Michigan, Jack Harris, spoken many years ago. Jack who served churches for a span of time just shy of Methuselah, said that the pastor was the sheep dog. Jesus was the shepherd. The pastor is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the congregation headed in the direction of the Good Shepherd, not trying to be the Good Shepherd.

Some are uncomfortable with such a picture. They think a sheep dog has a little bullying in his actions, but the sheep dog is always about keeping the herd safe and headed in the direction they should be headed. Sometimes that requires a little more barking, but it is never to make the barker look more important than anyone else.

There are also pastors who firmly believe that they have been empowered with the authority to do anything. They view themselves as being like Moses, who was up on the mountain with the Lord receiving some divine words, and then had to return to the chaos of people dancing around a golden calf. I think it is easy for pastors to take on the “Moses Mentality” that the people they lead are prone to screwing up their lives. Thus, they need a strong voice that doesn’t put up with any nonsense and indicates it is either the pastor’s way or the highway. If such an ultimatum doesn’t work the pastor will sometimes even bring Satan into the equation. In other words, it is either his way or he’s going to hand them over to the Dark Side.

Accusing people of being of the world is a favorite bullying tactic. Sometimes I get discouraged by those who choose to follow other pursuits and interests instead of being at church on a consistent basis on Sunday morning. The temptation to focus on the lack of commitment gets especially strong around June and July.

A last thought! A pastor has been called to lead, but the leading must mirror the Philippians 2 passage about Jesus, who “being in very nature God (Not us! Don’t think that I’m saying we’re God, or God-like, but rather with a leaning sometimes towards being “Godly!”), did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7) Being a pastor is more about serving than it is about getting one’s way. A pastor gets the privilege of administering the communion elements, baptizing a new believer, talking to someone about a major life decision, conducting the union of two people coming together in the covenant relationship of marriage, saying the final words as a follower of Jesus is lowered into the ground, sitting with a heart-broken family who has lost a special person. If a pastor’s base grows out of bullying and intimidation it leads to a fracturing of everything else, including the devastating fracturing of people’s lives.

Being like Jesus will always be more about a basin of water and a towel than a charge up a hill.

 

Getting Through It

November 14, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    November 14, 2013

 

 

      I’ve discovered that life is filled with “getting through it” moments! People talk about getting through it in a variety of ways. Getting through final exams week…getting through potty-training…getting through the coming month of work overload…the list is endless!

There is a danger for people to go through life “getting through it.” Life is rarely enjoyable and productive when it is saturated with just trying to get past things. Sometimes it is necessary, like when someone is going through a divorce and he is just trying to get to the next day.

As a pastor I’ve had those times where you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. You start memorizing verses from the book of Ecclesiastes. There is no joy in Mudville…and you’re the pastor…the one who is suppose to always have a happy face on.

You just want to get through it!

My toughest time in 34+ years as a pastor were the summer months before my oldest daughter got married. The church was in turmoil, people were jumping ship like it was the American Baptist Titanic, the “joy” of a pastor had changed one letter to the “job” of a pastor. Each Sunday I was just trying to get through it.

And I did…with the help of some great friends who stood alongside me and kept me propped up.

So…life does have the “getting through it” moments, but life is meant to be more than that.

And so you ask someone how their week is going and they respond “Just tryoing to get through it.” Wednesday is viewed as a time of achievement point because a person is over the hump in regards to the work week. That doesn’t really apply to pastors. I’m not sure what “hump day” is!

Following Jesus was always meant to be about green pastures and quiet waters as much as it is to be about perseverance and turning the other cheek.

And, as I led off with, there will always be “getting though it” events in our lives. Ask a student what his favorite thing about fifth grade is and he may very well answer “Getting through it!” What comes after fifth grade? Summer vacation. Ask a high school student what their favorite thing about biology is and you will rarely get an answer like “Dissecting animals.” Most students, if given a multiple choice, will choose “Finishing” as their answer.

I see parents who have a hard time enjoying this moment in their kids’ lives because they think it will be better in the next phase.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  He was living the moment, because he didn’t know what tomorrow would hold for him.

Let me encourage you…to walk a day at a time, live in the moment, be present in this time, and know that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t be content to just get through it.

Churched Practical Atheists

June 18, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  June 18, 2013

In the clergy group that I’m a part of it was recently stated that there’s a growing population of “practical atheists.” Let me define what a practical atheist is.

There is the atheist who does not believe in a higher power. I know, I know…that is not really new news for most of us.

A “practical atheist” is someone who believes in Christ but lives as if he doesn’t exist.

How is that possible, you might ask?

Easy! Unless a person has been crucified with Christ he thinks it’s still all about him. He is the center of his universe. There may be verbal buy-in to Paul’s words “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21), but not belief buy-in. Belief buy-in is being so committed to a belief that I am willing to order my life around that belief. It becomes my life priority.

I’m afraid that I seem to be hearing more and more horror stories from pastors across denominations and across the country that minister in churches where people can’t get over themselves. They say they believe and yet the message their lives convey communicates a lack of belief.

It’s not just absence from worship. People can be as regular in worship on Sunday as “left-overs” night was a Tuesday dinner ritual for us when we were growing up. (Friday was Chef Boyardee Pizza! Domino’s didn’t deliver…because Domino’s didn’t exist!)

It isn’t the absence of good intentions. Good intentions abound. There are multitudes of people who have good intentions about praying for a person they know, but they just don’t get around to it.

It isn’t that practical atheists aren’t nice either. Most of them are super people who you’d feel comfortable eating pasta bowls at Noodles with.

It isn’t for a lack of Bible knowledge either. There are throngs of practical atheists who can turn right to the passage that the pastor is about to preach about. They know the Word. Give them a subject and many of them can immediately share a passage of scripture that speaks to it.

It’s just that…they don’t believe in a way that changes everything…that changes their view. It hasn’t gripped their lives, it’s just become another subject in their curriculum.

Practical atheists are like people who haven’t shown a bit of interest in their college basketball team  until it reaches the Final Four, and then they buy tickets and buy school jerseys to wear to the game. These practical atheists believe in a Gospel that their lives are not rooted in.

There isn’t a detection machine that identifies them, like the metal detectors at the airport. Only God knows who these people are, even though we know they exist!

The difficulty is that the corporate church is hampered by practical atheists. We become comfortable in systems that don’t change much, and associate God tugging on their hearts as acid reflux from that morning’s free cup of coffee before worship. They believe that this too shall pass!

As I said at the beginning, however, the number of people who believe in Christ but live like he doesn’t exist is growing. And, this, untimately affects the effectiveness of the church.