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God is Known Here

February 1, 2016 2 comments

It was a few weeks back that I was sitting in my office asking the Lord to illuminate the passage I was supposed to preach on Sunday.  It didn’t take Him long to challenge me with a question.  I read Psalm 76:1 which says, “In Judah God is known; his name is great in Israel.”  And it was there that the Spirit of God asked a question “Am I known here?”

God is known here

A picture one of the kids drew after the sermon from Psalm 76

I was very quick to dismiss this question, to be honest.  Do I know God?  Yes, I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior years ago.  But I had to stop for a moment because while that is where that relationship begins, it is not where it ends.   If I just stop there, I run the risk of getting comfortable with a mediocre Christian life that just gives God leftovers of my life and not the very best.  Knowing God is something that we continue to grow in every single day of our lives.  There is a treasure chest filled with things about God that we will never see the bottom of in all of our digging. But that is not the end of it.

Is He known in me?  Is He know through me?

 Verse 1 says that in Judah, God is known.  That is a powerful statement to make.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing testimony if we could say that in Battle Lake, God is known?  What would it take for God to be known in the town you live?  I mean, really known.  Just like every small town in America, there are many churches here.  But really knowing God is different than just knowing about God.

And where God is known, His name is great!  His name is great whether we acknowledge it or not, but when we worship Him, exalt Him, put Him as first among all others – His name is great to me and His name is great through me!

So I ask the question today:  Is God known in you?  Is God known in your hometown?  What will it take?  What part do you play?

Reading the Bible to Dad

January 26, 2016 1 comment

If you don’t think reading your Bible to your young kids is important, take a look at this. Here is my 4 year old daughter reading her Bible to me.  Keep in mind she does not know how to read.

Parents — Please don’t underestimate the stories you are teaching your kids. Passing on our faith is the most important thing we do for our children.

True Worship Practice

January 13, 2016 Leave a comment
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Peanut

My daughter got a hamster for her birthday this year.  This hamster is probably the most well-loved hamster that has ever lived.  She talks to him, sings to him and reads here Bible to him.  If hamsters could know Jesus, Peanut would be a follower of Jesus by now.   Often we will be just sitting in the other room and she will say “I am going to go sing to peanut” and off she goes.  She will sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” over and over again to Peanut.   Anyone who comes to the house has to see Peanut.  Everyone she sees has to hear about Peanut.  She is glad we moved to a place that has a pet store so she could get a hamster.  Her hamster is loved!

There is something refreshing about hearing my 4 year old daughter talk to her hamster about Jesus.  This is just a natural way she loves him.  I think it is an important link to make for us ‘older’ people.   Psalm 76:1 says that in Judah God is known; that His name was great.  The reason?  Because God was there and His people worshiped Him.  Worship naturally leads other people to God.   My daughter is learning to make Jesus known; she is practicing what it means to make His name great!  That is such a treasure for me to have her being able to articulate that.

Worship is more than just Sunday mornings.  Worship is all day and worship is everyday.  And it seems to me that the more we practice this, the more natural it becomes to just praise God in every circumstance.

Goal: Be a Worshiper of God

January 12, 2016 4 comments
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Set your gaze on the Lord in 2016

Since I started this blog, many things have changed.  My kids are continuing to grow up- despite my efforts to slow them down.  I started writing this when my daughter was just a newborn baby.  She is now 4 years old.  In that time, I have moved from Cape Cod to Wisconsin and then to Minnesota.  I have learned a few life lessons and I have gained new skills.  I am a pastor, yes, but I have developed a wider ministry.  I have also become an EMT , which has opened up opportunities all over the place.  Why do I share all of this?

I want to provide some context for the things that are now on my heart.  I care a lot about the local church and what it does.  I have read many things about the health of churches, making disciples, and strategies that have worked all over the place.  I believe in the church (obviously) and still think that it is the primary means by which the message of Jesus Christ is shared with the world.  I also care about the message of the Word of God, which is still relevant and real today.  I care about people and the complicated issues that so many are facing.  But the more I think about all of that, the more I realize that what drives it all is a desire to live with a proper view of God.  I want to be a better worshiper of God.  Being a worshiper of God is a full-time, life-changing, decision-making, Jesus-honoring pursuit.  It means that all of who I am somehow exalts God.  This involves some inward looking because there are plenty of things that will distract any of us from this. But  doesn’t it seem like worship of God is really what is lacking today?  Why so many issues in the church?  Why so many issues with people deciding for themselves what truth is and what it isn’t?  It is because we are not worshiping God well.

I have started a series in the church to start the new year focused on worship.  I believe it is so foundational to who we are as believers.  We must get it right!   I wonder what would happen if we really were worshipers of God.  What if our lives reflected a sense of awe?  Would it change our relationships?  Would it change our attitudes?  Would it change our communities?  Would it make us appealing to those who are searching for answers?  One thing I do know is that inwardness increases as worship of God decreases.  It is at times when I lose sight of God that I start to look at me and then the complaining starts.  God why don’t you do this for me?  God why is my life so difficult?  God why do I need to reach out to that person when they don’t even care about me?  A worshiper approach would be “God you are….good…faithful…loving…kind..forgiving.”  Starting prayers with God you are, I believe, is one way to help get us in that right mindset.

So a goal this year for me:  Be a better worshiper of God. So I wonder:  What are you doing to keep God center this new year?   How do you keep your heart close to God? Do you think there is more to it than what I suggest here?   May the worship of God increase in our hearts, homes, and churches this year!

Nothing Wasted

February 3, 2015 1 comment

I was listening to talk radio yesterday on my way back from a meeting.  The content of the conversation was revolving around the recent snow we received and the debate over when to cancel school.  On the one hand you have people who say that it makes more sense to cancel it than to have a day of school with only half the students — this one man said that he felt like it was a wasted day.  That got me thinking about Sunday morning here.  We had our worship service in the midst of a snow storm.  There were about 20 people here; was that wasted?

I just cleaned you up!

I just cleaned you up!

In the framework of life there are many things that feel wasted.  I feel like I might say something to my kids all the time and they still miss what I say.  I know in youth ministry I would have phone calls that would make me want to throw my phone against the wall.  It is frustrating to see someone go so far in their faith only to turn so far backwards in an instant.  It is in those moments that I wonder how effective my ministry really is.

When there are deep issues to deal with in any arena of life, it can make us weary.  Even Paul in the book of Galatians got a little frustrated with the people.  They had heard the Gospel and had receive it.  So, why were they living in the old way again?

“I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”  Galatians 4:10

I think we all have days like that.  Whether it is with my ministry or with my own family, I sometimes look at all that goes on and wonder “what am I doing here?”  “Why do I even bother with this?”   But when the dust settles I always end up landing right back where I began; with a deep sense of purpose in this life.  I know that things won’t always go my way — in fact, if they do go my way I start to wonder if I am missing something.  What I do know is that there is no such thing as “wasted efforts”  if my efforts are done under the empowerment of God.

So what does that mean for you today?   You will never have this day again.  So let’s not waste it.  If today is not a good day from your perspective, perhaps it is time to look for ways to praise God.  I know I have a hard time being grumpy when I stand before the God who knows my heart. I know for me I will continue to press on in the challenges I face knowing that God is not wasting anything — including what I perceive as my time.

Beyond Children’s Church

September 25, 2014 4 comments

It involves a change of attitude, which comes from small, intentional steps.  That is what I keep telling myself with the attitude toward some people in the church toward children.  I have been in churches where they actually said “let’s get the kids out of here so it is quiet”  Sometimes the church brags about having children’s church for the kids, but it really is for the adults.   In my own ministry, I have fought the notion of “keep the cookies in the basement” and “children should be busy during worship so they are not bored.”  That drives me crazy because if you give a kid a cookie, he will ask for a glass of milk, sure, but just let them eat it wherever he wants and if you are encountering God in worship, kids will not be bored.   We must go beyond children’s church!  I often talk with the kids during the sermon or intentionally share something that will connect with them as well.  But then again all of that only comes because I take time to be with the kids relationally.   More adults need to do this.  Talk with kids. Have a snowball fight, go fishing, throw a football around — whatever it takes.  Show interest in them and remember their names.  It makes what you say much more meaningful to them.

The ChurchOne of the big shifts has been creating a small group that is for families.  What I mean is not that we have kids there and they do some sort of craft on their own away from the adults, but we have the kids and adults together the entire time.  We play games together, eat a snack, pray together, and talk about what God is doing in our lives.  This past time we spent time making notes for the shut-ins in our church and have ministered to them through that.   The group teaching is geared at the kids, but the adults find the time to be encouraging for them also.  Their kids are talking about God’s Word together!  Is this not what the Church is supposed to be?

Perhaps one of the most telling events was our baptism service.  We used a water tank for cattle and set it all up outside. This tank was a nice looking pool.  That day was a hot day so keeping the kids out of it was very difficult.  But after we were done with the baptism, the kids went in, some of them in their clothes.  We maintained the respect for what baptism is and made sure we exalted God in it.  But once that was over with, it was time to get wet. This is just another piece, I feel, that makes what we are about as the Church authentic and inviting for kids.  This is important because if it isn’t authentic and inviting for kids, they will most certainly check out.  But if we can get them to understand that the Church is them, now, then perhaps they will grow to be an active part of it.

So, I wonder — are there specific ways your church has tried to connect with children beyond children’s church?

A Monday Above

September 15, 2014 4 comments
It's a great day!

It’s a great day!

The world is a tough place.  I don’t need to convince you of that.  There are significant and real terrorist threats around the world today; these are poignant reminders to be vigilant.  This September 11th was the first year we really had an in depth conversation with our oldest son, who is 10 years old.  Watching video of the events that took place 13 years ago are quite fresh to all of us who watched it unfold that day and tough to explain to a child.  There is something in us that still cannot comprehend the evil that needs to be present in a life to intentionally target innocent people.  It rattles us and brings out emotions that are not able to be adequately described.

Terrorism is a insurmountable challenge in the world today.  Peace is hard to come by.  But most people don’t walk around worrying about what ISIS is doing or whether or not we will be attacked by some outside group today.  What is on most people’s minds everyday is daily life.  The kids are sick, the dog ran away, the car won’t start and the mortgage is due.  The battle that most people are facing is an internal one that constantly nags at us about inadequacy or frustration over missed opportunities.   Of course it seems like there is always some other unforeseen situation that comes up, especially during a busy week.   How do we keep our minds in the right place?

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” – Colossians 3:1-2

Why do I set my mind on things above?  Because Jesus Christ is there and He is greater than all I will face today.  I need to think above because it is the only hope I have.

We were driving back from somewhere recently and my daughter, who is almost 3 years old now, was singing the song “Give me your eyes” by Brandon Heath.  “Give me your eyes for just one second.  Give me your eyes so I can see.  Everything that I keep missing.  Give me your heart for humanity”  She had no idea what she was signing, but it brought me back to where I need to be.  There are plenty of places for our mind to dwell.   There are plenty of selfish priorities that I have each day.  Keeping my mind above will keep my mind off of my own problems and position me to do all that God might have for me to do so I don’t miss out.  Thinking above might allow me to love someone today that I might have otherwise ignored.  Thinking above might position me in a place that will allow the love of Christ to be shown through me to my neighbors and community.

Today is Monday.  While that might not be great news for you, maybe what can make it better is a perspective that keeps Jesus in view and your position with Him. I guess we just need to keep our eyes in the right place and maybe keep asking God for His eyes.  What a difference we could make if we set our hearts and minds on heavenly things where Jesus Christ is.