Saturday, August 30, 2008

My Selah Week

Following Monday, I haven’t been in the office this week. It’s not a vacation or a busy schedule. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’ve been having a “Selah.” Selah is a term that Bible scholars don’t always know how to translate—in fact, some have called it the most difficult word in Hebrew to translate. (I’m not a Hebrew expert… but I dare say there are a lot of difficult Hebrew words to translate. So for “Selah” to be in the conversation as the “most difficult word” then probably this little e-mail is not going to do justice to the hours of scholarship needed to adequately discuss the word). Whew…. having given that disclaimer, the most basic and simple translation of the difficult word, “selah” is based on the possibility that it is a musical term (it’s found a lot in the Psalms) and means something along the lines of “Stop and Listen.” So with that perspective as my guide, my goal this week has been to “Stop and Listen” to the Lord—selah, in other words.

What exactly does that mean? What does it mean “to stop and listen” to the Lord? It means that I am trying to put aside all distractions so that my entire focus can be on God.

How do you do that? I’ve gotten away (not far, just away.) I’ve unplugged the TV. (No Democratic National Convention, no ESPN, and no Seinfeld reruns for me this week). I originally wanted to have internet access in my room where I am staying and originally they said I would have internet, but when I got here—I don’t. I now think that’s a good thing. (Didn’t someone preach on godly “detours” recently?) I think God wanted me to be more on my knees than on-line.

I have determined to focus on prayer and fasting. So to that end, I am praying a lot and listening a lot and skipping at least one meal a day. I am using the Psalms as a guide. In these three days, I will read all 150 psalms. Not in one sitting. It’s not a race. It’s more like a three day journey. So I will read them (no more than 10 at any one time, and then pray.) Sometimes, I will put some praise music on my MP3 player and sing along. (I hope these walls are thick! The manager hasn’t called to complain… yet). Sometimes, I have gone on a prayer walk. Determining to pray for the sights and sound and things and reminders that God has put in my way. Sometimes I have been journaling. Sometimes I’ve read other Christian’s words on their spiritual journey. (I’ve liked Henri Nouwen’s stuff the best).

Here’s a good quote from Nouwen: “If we really believe that God not only exists but also is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give God our undivided attention.” Not to be outdone, here’s a good quote from Jesus on the subject: “Here’s what I want you to do: find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:6, The Message). That’s I want this “selah” to be about!

Throughout this time, I have been seeking the Lord in regard to the church and to my own journey with God. Quite frankly, I have felt like the “batteries were a little low lately” and needed a fresh charge. I think the Master is providing that. As I write these words, I am about half way through the journey and already sense a keen closeness to the Shepherd. God and I have had some heart to heart chats so far. I’ve been honest, and He’s been faithful. “Sweetness” is one way to describe what’s going on.

God is giving me rest too (another thing I desperately needed.) For those of you who know me well, you know that sleep and I are sometimes strangers. I wake up early no matter what time I go to bed—frequently getting by on just a few hours of sleep each night. Moreover, when I am away at a hotel or someplace not called “home”—it is usually worse. But guess what? Last night I went to sleep at 10 PM and I didn’t wake up until 7 AM (for me that is majorly sleeping in! Nine full ours of sleep? Are your serious? Wow! God knows what I need this week—and he is providing.

And the last part of this Selah week is to map out some directions for Central and goals and do a little sermon series planning too (through the end of 2009). As I prepare for the months ahead, I really have needed to take time to seek the Lord for his purpose for the next 18 months or so at Central. He is providing that too—I think we will have some great sermon series and great days in the coming months!!

So that’s where I’ve been this week. I am thankful to you and the church board for allowing this time of solitude and rest. I think I will be a better pastor, husband, dad, and person because of this time with the Lord.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I can't wait for the Weekend!

This weekend is going to be great!

Saturday is the youth BURGER BASH. It is one of their yearly outreach events. Be praying for a great night!

Following that, I am going to sneak into our Saturday Night Arabic service-- I've been hearing great reports about what God is doing.

On Sunday, it will be the first time since the beginning of Summer that I will be preaching both AM services and the Night service too. In the Morning, I am really excited about this week's message "iServe with Joy." And in the Sunday @ Six, I'll be wrapping up the Summer series: Being a Person of Integrity from James 5. We will be meeting in the Student Center in the PM Service--

And keep praying for our Spanish Service. Last week, two young men who had never been in our church before, were here and accepted Christ! How about that!!!!

God is working!

Olympics and More Olympics

This week, like most of you, I have continued my nightly ritual of watching the Olympics before bed time. Last week I watched a lot of swimming. This week’s it’s been gymnastics. In both weeks, I’ve gotten a little less sleep than normal.

In the swimming competition, it was easy to determine the winner. There’s a pool. There are swimmers. The first swimmer to touch the wall after swimming one or two or four laps wins. Pretty simple. And as we saw, Michael Phelps (from the University of Michigan, by the way) was the first to touch the wall in all of his races—once by merely .01 of a second. Wow!

But gymnastics is not like that. Gymnastics is much more complicated-- judges decide the winner. Judges that can be subjective and political and down right dumb. (I have had some conversations where I have made the case that if a judge decides the winner then it’s not really a sport. It’s a competition maybe. It’s an athletic endeavor, no doubt. But does that make it a sport? )

Of course, in the Gymnastics competitions we’ve all complained about the Chinese girls who “look like they are twelve but their government issued passport says they are sixteen so they must be sixteen” snafu. Not so in swimming. There’s a pool. There’s a swimmer. Who’s fastest? Period. (Well, actually “question mark”… but you know what I mean).

Not only that, when I was a kid a perfect 10 was the best score a gymnast could get. Remember Mary Lou Retton? She got a ten. She was the winner. Simple. But now, a “10” won’t get the pint sized, whirling dervish on a four inch beam even into the final round. A "perfect 10" in gymnastics is not so perfect any more. I remember that a pretty girl used to be called a “10.” It meant that she was incredibly gorgeous. Now when I see a pretty girl (read: Karla, of course!) do I have to say she's a 16.725? That just doesn’t have the same romantic zip.

All this is to say, I am ready for track and field or basketball or some of the other sports that are not going to be decided upon by a judge.

Of course, the Bible says that one Day, we will all stand before the Judge. On that Day, He will not be concerned on whether we could do a perfect jump or flip or pirouette. (And thankfully, He will not care if we can spell “pirouette” either, which-- just to let you know--took me a couple of tries before I was successful.) On that Day, Jesus said: But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

37 "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40 "And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'( Matt 25:31-40)

On that final Day, no “10’s” will be given out. No “16.725s” either. Unlike at the Olympics, when all is said and done, I won’t need a gold medal or a bouquet of roses. There need not be a podium and the National Anthem doesn’t need to play. On that Day, all I will want to hear is one thing: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” That’s it. If I hear those words from the Master, then I won’t care one bit if a gold medal is dangling around my neck. Besides, for those who hear the Master’s “well done,” in the place where they are going, gold is used like we use asphalt-- to pave the roads!

The Judge is paying attention. Are you living your life in a manner that will result in a “Well done!” from the King? Are you running to win the prize? In the end, it’s better to have gold under your feet than around your neck.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wild Goose Chase (Book Review)

Mark Batterson, author of a book that I have recommended in the past (In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day), has a new book coming out tomorrow. Guess what the title is? Central folks you should love it, the title is: Wild Goose Chase.

And like our Wild Goose Chase Sunday Nights—when we pursued the Holy Spirit—this books is all about pursuing the Holy Spirit. It’s about getting free from the cages that so frequently bind us (things like guilt, failure and fear), and chasing after God sized dreams.

Here’s an excerpt to which I would give a “Preach it!” and a hearty “Amen” to:

If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you're following the Spirit, but you have settled for something less--something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God's purposes, we want Him to serve ours. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty; it's also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.

Listen, if you have been trapped into some spiritual boredom… read this book. In fact, I have a free copy of it to the first person that sends me an e-mail asking for it.

(If you want to know more about Mark Batterson or the book check out: Mark’s 10 Steps to Setting Life Goals.)

And if you aren't the first e-mailer to me--and you want to spend your own hard earned money-- you can pick up Wild Goose Chase at a Christian Bookstore around town or at any of these places:

Speaking of A Wild Goose Chase, we are wrapping up our Sunday Night Series from James this Sunday Night… It will be a Wild Goose Chase night… plan on a great night in pursuing the Spirit!

Weekend Recap

The Weekend services were great!
  • Our Mission team from Iowa returned and told how it was a good trip-- but much more work needs to be done to help the flood victims!
  • Saturday Night's Arabic service was very good from all reports.
  • Both AM English services were great as we looked at "iServe using my gifts,"
  • In the Spanish service-- two men gave their hearts to the Lord! Awesome-- it was the first time they were in our church, too!!!
  • And in the Sunday @ Six, Pastor Cory did a great job in continuing our study from the book James.

This week-- we will continue iServe in the morning-- "iServe with Joy" and in the Sunday @ Six, I will wrap up the James series. Of course, both the Arabic and Spanish Services will be worshipping too!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Olympics and Central

If you are like most Americans, you have been tuning into the Olympic Games. You’ve been seeing the American quest for Gold and Silver and Bronze. You’ve been watching “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Me too. And as I’ve watched, I’ve come across a few questions and lesser known facts from the Beijing Olympic Games that in some cases pertain to Central Church in Lenexa. For instance:

1) Michael Phelps, the Gold Medal Machine, eats between 10 and 12,000 calories a day! A day?!? Wow! That is closing in on the caloric intake possibilities of all who will be at Central for our annual Labor Day Sunday Picnic on August 31!

2) With the news coming out of China that during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies some of the fireworks were fake and a little girl singer was deemed to not be cute enough to be seen worldwide (the so-called homely kid was replaced with a more cute, lip syncing replacement), I want to assure the good people of Central, that we have never used phony fireworks in any of our services and according to his wife, Julie, and his mother, Diane, our resident singer Pastor Kevin is more than cute enough.

3) How come the guy beach volleyball players are wearing shorts and t-shirts and the girl beach volleyball players are wearing not much more than dental floss? Is modesty only a male event? (Don’t ask the male synchronized divers that question—they have their own modesty issues.)

4) We have been kicking around the idea of having a Synchronized Baptism Event at Central, but have decided that since we have no underwater cameras, a small baptistery, and questions whether the baptismal robes would be a help or a hindrance for a Synchronized Baptism Event—we have decide to “tank” the idea (pun intended).

5) If “Central Super-Counter” Ruth Vail were in China—we would not only know the exact ages of those “aren’t even close to 16 year old” Chinese Gymnasts, but we would also know why those little 12 year olds weren’t in Sunday School last week.

6) Gossima, Whiff-Whaff, Flim-Flam and Ping-Pong are alternative names for the Olympic event known as “Table Tennis,” but in my basement that same game is referred to as “The game that no one can beat dad in.”

7) Speaking of “The game that nobody can beat dad in” (Ping Pong), should it even be an Olympic sport? And if ping pong makes the Olympic cut, why not have other basement games like pool, darts, air hockey, foosball and, of course, video games? If video games were an Olympic sport, I know some basement dwelling, Nintendo 360 playing Centralite teenagers who could quite possibly qualify for the 2012 London Games.

8) And while we are adding Olympic events, since Badminton is an Olympic event, why not have other back yard activities like croquet, lawn darts, and, better yet, outdoor grilling as Olympic Competition? I have tasted some of the barbequing of some Centralites and I would say it is “world class” and gold medal worthy. Yum! Who knows -- with a Hibachi, a little practice and just the right marinade maybe I could be an Olympic class Barbequer too!

9) I have other burning questions about some Olympic events that I wish Bob Costas or someone at the NBC studios would answer for me, such as:

a) Isn’t “Women’s Yngling” missing a vowel? Can’t we buy yngling a “U,” “O” or an “A” from Pat Sajak? In case you don’t know, yngling is a sailing event. There is also a sailing event in the Olympics called “49er.” I think a San Francisco football fan had something to do with that name.
b) Why do the synchronized swimmers wear a nose plug? The weird kid in my swimming class growing up wore a nose plug? Don’t you think those swimmers should know how to swim without a nose plug? You don’t see Michael Phelps wearing a nose plug.
c) Apparently “Men’s Trap” has nothing to do with a gold digging woman looking for a “Sugar Daddy.” Men’s trap is a shooting event. Strange but true.
d) And “Women’s Sculls” has nothing to do with anatomy or pirates or poison. Sculls is a rowing event. Who knew?

I might not get answers to my Olympic questions in the sport pages of the newspaper, but there are some life answers in the sport pages of the Bible (You didn’t know that there is a Sports Section in the Bible? There is. Check this out:) Paul writes: Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26 NLT)

How is your race coming along? Are you running to win an eternal prize? Paul says to “run with purpose in every step!” In other words, make each step of your life meaningful, thoughtful and faithful!