Saturday, November 24, 2007

Is Everyone Right?
In 1980 I had a spiritual encounter while at a college retreat in North Dakota, while kneeling in front of a window overlooking a lake, the Holy Spirit spoke a simple word into my spirit, "I have called you to be a pastor!" From that time I have desired to pastor a growing congregation, a group of people who love God with all of their hearts, who worship with passion, who minister to others with zeal and a harvest mindset, who give generously, who believe in global missions and most of all, believe that life is all about God! Simple as it sounds, that has been my dream and mission for nearly 29 years. The Body of Christ is in a season of transition, shifting, a time of decision, we are seeking to follow Christ and to be all that we can be, and it isn't always easy. There are many voices telling us which way to go, conservatives that tell us just hold the fort, don't make any waves, traditionalist that are convinced they are the only way to go, moderates that say we must blend yesterday and today in order to reach tomorrow, and then there are the emerging, those that say the past really doesn't matter we must become the church eventually...We debate over styles of dress and worship, wear jeans and t-shirts, suits and ties, sing old worn out hymns and new found worship songs, it seems that we are trying to determine what is right. Could it be it's all right? Could it be that we need to hold on to the foundation of our faith given by our forefathers, that some traditions have a place, and yes, we are constantly growing, or emerging into what God has always desired for us to be? Is it possible that in some places jeans and t-shirts are ok, while in others suits and ties are more appropriate, and that what is happening is we are trying to create a cookie cutter church where everyone is just the same? For me, I believe we're in a crisis of faith, we must know what we believe and who we are, how we express it and what each church does to make their ministries effective is going to be different. Our foundational truth can never change, who we are deep inside must always be secure, truth never changes and the Word always works! Solomon said that when it's said and done we need to love and fear God, keep His commandments, this is the whole duty of man while on earth!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The scripture keeps going through my mind that says that in everything we are to give thanks, to rejoice in the Lord always, and to be thankful and bless His holy name. I am thankful today for the Lord, His amazing grace and constant love...I'm such a loser, who knows why He cares for me, but I'm so thankful that He does. I am thankful for my family and friends, for my church and pastoral family...I'm thankful that it doesn't snow in Florida and that we aren't freezing to death...I'm thankful for the freedom to express myself and for the opportunities that have been afforded me...I'm thankful for the huge Thanksgiving dinner we enjoyed today, turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, no stuffing, and punch bowl angel food cake...Can you say stuffed? I'm thankful for my blogland friends and wish each of you a Happy Holiday Season!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

football fans
We're sitting in Beef O Brady's this afternoon having lunch when our oldest daughter starts giggling. There are two little old ladies sitting at the bar wearing Indianapolis Colts Jersey's watching the football game, one of them has a sign "Go Colts!" that she holds in front of the television periodically....sports fans just aren't right! My wife is the sports fanatic in our home, I just go to my room and shut the door. When she gets a sign to post in front of the television I'm her a special with rubber sound proof walls!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Past, The Present, and The Future
I returned to my home state of Illinois last week to minister in Carmi, IL. Though I am from the Chicago area and Carmi is in the southern part of the state, it was quite the joy to be home for a few days and to enjoy fellow Illinoisan's! In fact, on my last full day there I traveled further south to Golconda, population 750 where I spent two and half years of my life as a child, and on down to Dixon Springs, a quick visit to the Chocolate Factory, owned and operated by Jim and Linda Meherg, friends and family that I've known and loved my entire life. While in Carmi I ministered to a congregation that has a tremendous past, established many years ago, pastored by some top notch pastors, this church has such a rich history, I drove past their first building, and their second building, and I preached in their new third building. The congregants of this church are middle age and up, many of them past 60, and maybe even 70. As you look down the walls you see the old stain glass windows of the old church embedded and lit up in the walls of the new church, and you hear the echoes of the past shouting into the present, prophesying to the future...Your time is now! I loved yesterday, it was a great day, it created opportunities for today, it blessed me with a fantastic foundation. In my yesterday someone paid a price that I could never have paid, they paved paths for me to follow, and they prayed that God would raise me up to take the reins when they could no longer lead, but that was yesterday...I live in today! Today is a great day, it was tomorrow yesterday, just as today will be yesterday tomorrow! Today I have the opportunity to pave the way for others, to impart into this present generation, into my family and friends, to impress upon my children the urgency of living in today, or as Martin Luther King Jr. said, "The fierce urgency of now!" Today is the day the Lord has made and now is the time to rejoice and be glad. Today is the day to touch others, to impact lives, to make a difference in the world I live in...To live in My Space to the fullest! Tomorrow will never come, it will become today, what I want to be in my tomorrow must be planted today! In his book "The Present", C. Spencer Johnson offers these three options for life: a.) Appreciate your past, b.) Live in your present, c.) Plan for your future! We cannot afford to forget yesterday, but we must live in today, we cannot afford not to plan for tomorrow, we must sow into tomorrow...Today! I am convinced that we can learn from where we've been, enjoy where we are, and become what we've always been destined to be!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hanging Around The House!
Since August I've been gone as much if not more than I've been home, so when I flew in Thursday it was a thrill knowing that I am home for four weeks...That's right, four weeks! As I was flying into Tampa on Thursday my wife was flying to Dayton, OH to visit her family in Hamilton, her Dad turned 80 this week and her birthday was on Friday. So I'm here at home with my two daughters, one of which is rarely home and the other is either trying to be gone or to have some one come over, and then there's the pets, a dog, a cat that is crazy, and a new goldfish...if history proves to be true the fish will have a limited tenure here, we'll see! Last night my little one and I made the quick trip to Duncan Donuts, after 2:00 PM if you buy six you get six free...we bought six and got six, five are already gone, thank goodness only two of us are home, we'd be fighting for that last donut! Have you ever snuck into the kitchen to grab the last donut before your child got it? I have to admit, that's pretty bad but I've done it! There's no place like home, getting back into the swing of things, getting caught up and reconnected...There's probably a spiritual lesson to be learned here...for now I just want to quote the great prophet Ty Pennington, "Welcome Home Smith Family, Welcome Home!"

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Intense Searching
Have you ever lost something that you just knew was still around, you just had to find it? You turn the car, house, office, briefcase, whatever you can find and wherever you have either been or think you've been or even thought about going in hopes that the item will show up. I have, it's one of the most frustrating feelings in the world, especially when you either don't find it or it was right out in the open and you looked over it forty times...Kind of like loosing your keys and they're in your hand! In Luke 15, Jesus told the parable of three lost things: a Lost Sheep, a Lost Coin, and a Lost Son, while He dealt primarily with the concept of being lost, He also revealed the necessity of intense searching. The fact that the lost item had such value that it could not remain lost, it had to be found regardless of the time and cost it took to find it. We generally use these scriptures to describe the lost sinner, the person who doesn't know the Lord and have a walking relationship with Him, but what if it goes beyond that? What if we can be saved, know and love the Lord, and still be lost? Is it possible that we become lost to ourselves, to others, and yes, lost to the relationship we have with Jesus, but not lost from Him? Is it possible that there are times when we lose our joy, our spunk, our desire, our intensity and must seek diligently until we find it? I think so, personally, there have been times when I just wasn't certain who I was anymore, I knew my geographical location, but wasn't sure of my place there, I had to search for myself, had to refind myself, and sometimes it required intense searching... I've also found that I and my stuff are usually where I left them, much like the student who came to the prophet sorrowful that he had lost a borrowed axhead. The prophet asked a simple question, "Where did it fall?", to which the student, in the water...he knew exactly where he lost his edge and I contend that most of the time we do too...We just have to look for it!