Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Pastor

I am about to have a 24 hours that encapsulate why I love pastoring a great church like Central. Here's how my 24 hours from Saturday morning at 10AM until Sunday morning at 10AM will go...

Saturday 10 AM to Noon: MEMORIAL SERVICE for Charlie Yourdon. Charlie had been an important part of Central Church-- coming to Kansas City to work as an editor at the Nazarene Publishing House following 30 plus years of being a successful pastor. Charlie was successful, not because he pastored the largest church in the denomination, rather he was successful because he did things right. He loved God, loved his family and loved the people that God called him to shepherd. Charlie is rejoicing in heaven today—and what an honor it will be for me to be a part of his memorial service!

Saturday Noon to 1:15 PM: MEMORIAL SERVICE LUNCHEON. The luncheon provided for the family by the wonderful ladies of Central is always terrific! The ladies who work the kitchen, provide the meal, and clean up afterwards epitomize what it means to be servants of Christ. They always make me proud of the love and care that they display to grieving families.

Saturday 1:15 to 2:00 PM: RUSH HOME. I’ll check to see if there are any last minute duties that Karla has for me before the Amanda Fisk baby shower that will be at our house. She won't ask me to cook (and all the ladies said, “Hallelujah!”) or clean (the place will be spic and span before I get there), but she might have a last minute item that will need to be picked up from Price Chopper. I don’t know much about baby showers—but I know we want to keep all the ladies well fed and happy so they will have plenty of energy to “ooooooh” and “aaaaah” at all the cute bibs, outfits and other assorted gifts that Amanda will receive.

Saturday 2:00 to 3:30 PM: FISK BABY SHOWER. (Please notice the time change.) I will skeee-dad-dle as the ladies begin to arrive and commence to do whatever it is ladies do at baby showers (see above comments on “oooohing” and “aaaaahing”). I am glad that our ladies will celebrate with Pastor Forest and Amanda the soon-to-be coming of Baby Fisk.
Saturday 3:30 to 6 PM: HONEY DO DUTY. As the party/shower is winding down, I will return to the Prince Palace in order to help clean up from the party and get ready for our dinner guests that night. Whatever Sergeant Karla requests, she gets! (Tonight’s gathering will be the third event that she is hosting for the weekend—she’ll need any help I can offer.) You didn’t know it, but I married Super woman!

Saturday 5:58 PM: WHOOPIN’ CHECK. Get an update on my phone and see if my beloved, first place Tigers put “a whoopin’” on the Minnesota Twins.

Saturday 5:59 PM: BURGER BASH BROODING. This will be the first year I will miss the Burger Bash—I love seeing our students getting together and having fun all in the name of Jesus. We have a great youth group! I’ll miss eating a burger and seeing the students enjoying the fun games from the creative minds of Pastors Cory and Malorri.

Saturday 6 to 9ish PM: HOSTING A DINNER GATHERING. Sunday’s missionary speaker, Carla Sunberg and our missionary president and her husband, Stacey and Bob Lareau are coming to dinner. I wish everyone could come and sit around the table and hear the exciting reports of what God is doing around the world! (Oh wait…. you’ll hear about it on Sunday morning… you’ll love it!)

Saturday 9:01 PM: A SPORTS CENTER quick check to see if my beloved “This is Our Year” Detroit Lions beat the “only-thing-good-about-them-is-Tom-Brady” New England Patriots in the pre-season football game.

Saturday 9:02 PM to 10 PM: CLEAN UP from the dinner and the day. Dishes are my specialty—I can fill a dishwasher faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR crew can change a tire. Record time baby!

Saturday-Sunday 10 PM to 5 AM: NIGHT. NIGHT. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite, bite, bite.

Sunday 5 to 5:45 AM: UP AND AT 'EM. Get up, Clean up and Gear UP for a great day!

Sunday 5:45 to 6AM: DONUT SHOP. I have gone to a donut shop on my way to church nearly every Sunday that I have been a pastor. I know, doctor, it doesn’t fit with my diet. I know, Karla, it doesn’t fit my waist line. But I am not sure I would be fit to preach without a tasty chocolate glazed donut in my tummy. (Who said, “You’re not preaching today so you don’t need a donut!”? I say, “Who asked you?”)

Sunday 6 to 7:30 AM: GETTING READY FOR THE DAY. This includes prayer, quiet devotion time and―since I am not preaching—I won’t be doing any final tweaking of my sermon, but I am teaching, so I will look over my lesson.

Sunday 7:30 to 7:45 AM: STAFF MEETING. All the pastors get together for prayer and a game plan for the day. Have I told you what a privilege it is to work with the best pastoral staff anywhere?! I’d stack our pastors up against any church, any denomination, anywhere! We have a great team!

Sunday 7:45 to 8:25 AM: WAITING for folks to arrive. I’ll station myself out by the parking lot to say, “Welcome!” I love greeting folks as they gather to worship. I want everyone to know how happy I am that they have decided to worship the Lord at Central and how ready I am to praise the Lord! And I love it when new visitors think I am the parking lot valet!

Sunday 8:25 to 8:30 AM. PRAYING. Did you know every Sunday morning I meet with a group of people who will be praying for you and the needs of the church during the 8:30 service? The Pastor’s Prayer Team is the power behind the pulpit!

Sunday 8:30 to 9:45 AM. WORSHIPPING, praising the Lord, and listening to Rev. Carla Sunberg tell how God’s mission can be our mission! Sunday morning will be the best hour and fifteen minutes of your week! You are going to love hearing from Carla! (Karla with a “K” only preaches at me; Carla with a “C” preaches all over the world and is one of the best preachers I know!)

Sunday 9:45 to 10 AM: NEWLYWED CLASS, HERE I COME. I love being with our newlywed Sunday School class—they are a great group and I get to teach this week!

Whew... that’s my ministry packed 24 hours… and the next few hours that follow will include one more morning worship service, two services in the evening, lunch, and maybe just maybe a Nazarene Nap stuck in there somewhere.

In a 24 hour period, I will mourn with those that mourn; rejoice with those that rejoice, and worship our awesome God! In those 24 hours, I will I get to see love in action as meals are prepared and served; and I get to hear how love can be taken to an even greater level through our Global Outreach Day. In 24 hours, I will preach and teach and sing and laugh and cry and eat and sleep and enjoy every bit of the life to which God has called me. I’m going to love those 24 hours!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Things I think I think (August 2011 edition)

It's been a while since I've given Ten Things that I think I think....So here goes.

1. I think that the summer has gone by entirely too fast. Is Ben really in school or is he sneaking out of the house, carrying a back pack, and doing homework at night all in an effort to pull a fast one on Karla and me? (A. He’s not that sneaky and B. He wouldn't get up before 7 AM for anything... School must be in session.)

2. I think that Darren Worcester who provided the "sciencey" props for the God’s Mythbusters series must be a terrific teacher. He is so passionate about his work and students at Olathe Northwest. I'm praying for Darren and all our teachers and students. And by the way, if one week is any indicator, God's Mythbusters is going to be a terrific series-- this week we are tackling: Faith Can Fix Anything.

3. I think Summit Marketing is awesome! The creative minds of Summit are providing our sermon logos (free of charge!!!!).

4. I think the Detroit Lions will be a better football team than the Kansas City Chiefs this year. OK Chiefs fans-- we will know for sure who is better on September 18 when the two teams play. On September 19 somebody will be doing some talking-- will they be wearing red and yellow or Honolulu blue and silver? (Of course, in the pre-season for the last 47 years I've said about the Lions: "This will be our year." I'm still waiting).

5. I think our Missions Speaker for our Faith Promise Sunday is one of the best missionaries and speakers around-- Rev. Carla Sunberg will be with us in a couple of weeks!

6. I think our Labor Day Sunday-- (one combined service at 10 AM and dinner on the grounds following) is one of my favorite Sundays. Praising Jesus and eating chicken... what a great combo!

7. I think the server at Panera is nice; she just gave me a free coffee! I still meet with some fellas at 6 AM on Tuesdays. Any early rising guys are welcome to join us-- I can't promise you a free cup of coffee, but I will promise good conversation and prayer! (We meet at the Panera at 87th and Lackman).

8. I think we have had 8 families move away from the area in the last several weeks (going everywhere from South Africa to Tennessee to Oregon and all places in between)-- not to mention a great freshman class of college students who are heading to pursue their dreams all across the country. I miss everyone already!

9. I think there are few men as godly as Charlie Yourdon. Charlie is struggling with a lung disease that has moved upon him very quickly-- yet Charlie is ever confident of God’s blessings on his life. Keep Charlie and Sharon and their family in your prayers!

10. I think whenever I am tempted to complain about the broken A/C in Karla's car, (proving that I can occasionally be a good husband-- Karla and I have temporally switched cars until the A/C is fixed)-- I remember all the blessings driving in a non-A/C car can bring. What blessings could there possibly be in driving around in a hot car in the middle of summer? Well, try these on for size:
A) Spitting seeds doesn't require a cup for the husks-- the windows are open, I can spit at will;
B) The wind whipping through the car messes up my hair-- some of my folically challenged brethren can only dream of those days; and
C) When it seems a bit warm, I am able to reflect on the fact that our troops are in even warmer conditions and more dangerous places. Moreover, there are only about 2 billion people in the world who would gladly change places with me.

In other words, driving around in my wife’s non A/C car reminds me that I have much to be thankful for—God’s love, family, health, America, and pastoring a great church like Central!

God Heals

Have you heard the old joke about the Pentecostal televangelist that taught his dog to speak? He called out “Speak, Fido! Speak!” And the dog immediately jumped to attention and barked, “Meow!”

If you didn’t like that one, you’ll probably hate this one. That same televangelist taught his dog to heel. He’d yell, “Heel, Fido! Heel!” and the dog would jump up on his hind legs, howl a couple of howls, and bop its paw on a stranger’s forehead.” (Grammatically, I should have written “Heal, Fido!” but that would have ruined the joke.) OK, the joke was already ruined….those were both dumb. As you can obviously tell, my calling is not stand up comedy.

Phony televangelists and their dogs notwithstanding, the reality of healing is no joke. God still heals!

I’ve prayed for hundreds, if not thousands, of sick folks down through the years. You name the ailment, virus, or disease—and I’ve probably prayed for God to heal the afflicted.
I’ve prayed that God would knock the snot out of head colds.
And swat swine flu bugs back to the pigs of Timbuktu.
I’ve asked God to change mean, nasty, ugly cancer cells into happy, healthy, pretty cells.
I’ve prayed that hurting and broken bones would mend together.
I’ve anointed so many people with oil; I ought to have stock in Crisco.
I‘ve called upon God to relieve the distressed before surgery, during surgery, after surgery and that He would miraculously make it so no surgery was needed.
I’ve requested of God to use medicines, doctors, nurses, technicians and any other medical equipment or hospital personnel that might wander in the operating room during a procedure.

I guess I won’t know until heaven (and then I probably won’t care) just how many hospital rooms, emergency waiting areas, doctor’s offices and homes I’ve been in to pray with sick folks.

Point of all of this: I am convinced that God still heals. I don’t think for one second that all those prayers uttered were a waste of time. Oh, I might not believe in healing the way some white-suited televangelists do―who at times appear more intent on emptying out people’s wallets than emptying out hospital corridors. Still I believe that God heals. I believe that just as Blind Bart (who was blind as a bat before he met Jesus, and then could see a gnat on a mongoose’s nose after he met Jesus) was healed―people can be healed from what ails them today.

God heals those afflicted physically, emotionally, spiritually and every other way. Our God is a mighty healer.

James was not just exercising wishful thinking when he wrote: Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15) That passage is true and I have quoted it in sermons and to sick folks probably as much as any verse in the Bible.

Hence I think old FB Meyer was on to something when he wrote: “The real tragedy of prayer is not unanswered prayer—but unoffered prayers.” Our issue is not that God doesn’t answer—too often our issue is that we don’t pray. A POINT OF CLARIFICATION: I am not suggesting that if we pray hard enough or long enough or utter some magical word that God is compelled to heal us. I have no clue as to why some sick and needy are healed and why some sick and needy are not. Those decisions are above my pay grade. (I tell folks I’m in “sales” not “management” when it comes to the question of answered prayers.) Nor do I pretend to have the nature of intercessory prayer completely figured out. I’ve been praying for years—and I still don’t know the exact nature of it all.

But this is what I know: God’s Word tells us to pray for the sick and needy. And when we do, we are to trust that God Almighty knows exactly what we need when we need it! As such there are times when we are not healed in the manner we would prefer (but faith is still saying, “I am trusting God!”); and then there are other times― like the lady who had a bleeding disorder for 12 years in Mark 5 discovered― when God says, “Enough is enough. You’ve been sick long enough. No need for fancy words. No need for anything other than actions.” And it’s BOOM! HEALED! “Go in peace!”

God still does the miraculous!

So if something ails you today… pray on! Do you need a miracle today? Pray on! Today might be your day of healing. Today could be the day when God says about your issue, “Enough is enough.” Boom! Healed! “Go in peace!”

Why We Do What We Do at Central

Why do we do the things that we do at Central? Good question.

Here's why we have Vacation Bible School: A lady who attends Central invited her co-worker's children to VBS. They accepted the offer and loved every second of it. One of the children, a fourth grade girl, was overwhelmed by the love and kindness shown to her. She kept asking her teachers why everyone was so nice. She asked lots of questions about God, too. And sometime during the week, she invited Jesus into her heart. Last Sunday, her family came to Central. They almost didn't come-- it had been a crazy morning (ever have one of those kind of Sunday mornings?). But they came anyway. During the morning service, we talked about baptism and I asked if anyone would like to be baptized. This fourth grade, first time-in-our-church-that-wasn't-a-VBS-program girl told her mom that she wanted to be baptized. She knew that Jesus was in her heart and she wanted the world to know! Way to go, VBS!!

Here's why we have young adult ministries: A young lady had been coming to our Narrow Gate young adult gatherings. The Narrow Gate group gets together a lot― for fellowship and Bible Studies and just hanging out time. They are a great group. The young lady was an army reservist, and she invited an army buddy to join her. This young man, from Tacoma, Washington joined them. Soon afterwards, they both were deployed to Afghanistan. Our group has been praying for both of them and sending notes of encouragement. Last week, Alex Bennett―the young man who came with his friend―was one of the 31 U.S. soldiers on the Chinook helicopter that was shot down on a mission searching for the enemy. We won't know the impact of our ministry on this young man's life, but I am so thankful for their outreach. (Keep Alex's family and all the families of our service men and women in your prayers.)

Here's why we do mission trips: While in Jordan, one of our team members noticed a boy who had some serious physical problems. The boy needed immediate medical attention. They insisted on taking him to the doctor, which happened. After we returned to the U.S., we discovered that the boy needed further treatment which would cost several hundred dollars. Of course, there is no health insurance in Jordan and the family could not afford the medical expenses. So, this family from Central―which had already “done their duty” and spent a lot of money to make a difference in Jordan―sent over the additional money to our missionary to help cover the expenses so that this boy could be healthy and well. They were a blessing while in Jordan and continue to be a blessing from here!

That’s just three examples of why we do what we do at Central. The ministries and people of Central are making a difference—it’s what we do!

Don't Sweat It

Maybe you heard, on Tuesday it was a tad warm in these parts. Some areas of Kansas City hit 111 degrees. When the temperature is higher than my last golf score-- I know we are in trouble. Rob Bell disagrees, but I think the temperature was only a few degrees cooler than H-E- double hockey sticks. I take back all the snide comments I made last January about internet inventor and former Vice President, Al Gore's global warming theories. All this to say-- it was HOT!

Also on Tuesday, in the midst of our eleven hour return trip from the Holy Land (a.k.a. Michigan), the A/C in Karla’s car stopped working. So, for the last leg of our journey, we went "old school”―windows down, wind blowing, sweat dripping, shouting when we spoke so that the others could hear―it was awesome.

The A/C failure was only the latest in a line of calamities in what has become known around our house as the “Summer of the Broken Stuff”. So far, our house was hammered by hail; our refrigerator went kapooey; my car had a fender bender; the pool pump pooped out; a crown crumbled (unlike Jack while fetching a pail of water, I did not fall down, but I broke a crown); even my watch stopped (it's not a stop watch-- it's just a watch that stopped).

Don't feel too sorry for us-- all of the aforementioned breakage is the nature of stuff. I believe "Stuff" stands for: Stupid Things Ultimately Fail Forever. In other words, stuff breaks. Things quit. Our junk becomes junk after a while.

Jesus reminded us: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

He was meaning, "the most important things in life aren't things at all”.

Too often we get that mixed up and we think things do matter. We strive for things, want more stuff, and do everything possible to acquire junk that will one day break or lose its luster or become outdated.

Jesus went on to say that He knows about the tiniest sparrow and takes care of the lilies of the field-- so don't worry. He knows about you and your needs. The lesson is true on hot days or cold ones. Things are just that-- things. People and relationships and, most importantly, God are what matter in life. Bottom line: God knows you. God loves you. God will take care of you.

Translated to my situation: When your A/C breaks on the hottest day of the year, don't sweat it. Jesus is in control!