Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I admit I still have hope

I admit I have been fairly silent on #BlackLivesMatter. I have been watching from afar. Maybe it is because I do not know all the facts. Maybe it is because I am one of the pastiest white guys I know with blonde hair and blue eyes. I admit I have no idea what it is like to walk around with dark skin, to be profiled by someone else just because the color of my skin. But I do know I cannot be silent any longer. Black lives matter and when us “white folks”   respond with all lives matter we are missing the point. In our country we have enslaved people because of the color of skin. We have devalued people not allowing specific rights because we feel supreme. We have had segregated schools because we thought that was best. Even today because of the systemic problems a black man is sentenced more harshly for the same crime as a white man. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit that I have never met a poor policemen. Every cop I know has lived with integrity and when they put the badge on they really mean they are here to “Serve and Protect.” I admit I have no idea what it is like to wear the uniform to observe and watch over a community always having to respond to what the worst of humanity has to offer. Our church honored first responders on September 11 and I am proud of each one of them. They sacrifice their time and safety to protect our community. For them I am thankful. Their hard work is being overshadowed by some police that do not serve with the best integrity or intentions. Even though there are some problem cops I would guess that 99.9999% of policemen put on the uniform each day and use the best judgement they know how. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am a Christian who may look at the world a little differently than most. I am a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven before I am a citizen of the United States. Jesus is my King and I follow his truth before I apply any of the Bill of Rights or the Constitution to my life. While I love my country and consider myself to be a Patriot I worship Jesus and not a flag. While I stand to the Star Spangled Banner putting my hand over my heart during it is difficult because my heart belongs to no one other than Jesus. While I recognize we are the leader in the world on freedom we may not have the best ideas on everything we do. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am a Pastor who loves the people I have a chance to lead and serve. I err on the side of grace and love.  I share truth but do not condemn. I try to live out the Great Commandment of Loving God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and love my neighbor as myself. I have been called to live out the Great Commission of going to all nations to make disciples. I have seen the best and the worst of people. I have met with people who have had affairs, going through a divorce, suicidal. I have had a chance to marry and bury. Rejoice with them in babies birth and celebrate with salvation and baptism. I have seen fights tear friendships and churches apart. Through the twelve years in ministry I have heard racist comments at most and ignorant comments at least about minorities, refugees and other religions. All I can do is pray for God to have mercy for they know not what they are doing. Our church in the last few years has become more diverse. I would now consider it to be a multi-cultural church. I love what God is doing within our church community. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit I am or at least used to consider myself a traveler. I have been to four continents and hope to be in the other two at some point. I am ok not experiencing Antarctica. It has helped me to see the world and people differently. We may look different, speak in different languages and come from a different background.  But we have a lot more in common than the things that are different. We truly live in a beautiful world with beautiful people created by a wonderful creator. In the world a terror is sweeping through and killing people who do not side with them. Our first response to fear is to stay away. Some brave soul might choose to go and rescue. The world can be a dangerous place. With all these things I admit I still have hope.

I admit that I am not a republican or a democrat and I will vote for… Well I am not going to admit everything today.

I admit that a blog like this probably will not have a dramatic change in the world. But I hope that the three or four people that might read it might ask how they might be able to bring good to the world. People are looking for hope and I hope that I am one that can bring that to them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Returning from Vacation

July 4th we started vacation. We left the world behind and I shut my electronics off until July 12th. I really like the ability to get away, focus on family. I almost forget that the rest of the world is not on vacation too. A lot happened during those days and I feel like I have spent some of my day today catching up on world events.

1. It seems like there are shootings every day. People are dying. Lives were lost. Cops. Black people. White people. This is never good. There are some some great thoughts that friends and others have written so I want to share those blogs here.

Wayne Schmidt- General Superintendent (Pope) of the Wesleyan Church
Kyle Ray- Pastor at Kentwood Community Church in Grand Rapids, MI (for context he is also black)
Kory Kleinsasser- Pastor at Waite Park Church in Minneapolis

There are many others. These are three people I highly respect. But I think we can all agree we must be in prayer for all involved. We need to learn to listen to people. Hear why, what, who. There is always more to the story and until we have lived in someones shoes we have no idea what someone goes through on a regular basis. This is bigger than me, I don't have the answers but I will continue to look to Jesus. #blacklivesmatter

2. Perry Noble was fired from his position at NewSpring. NewSpring has a weekly attendance of over 32,000. He was fired over his over use of alcohol. This is a big deal and affects a lot of people. I have followed NewSpring for a while as I used to live close to the church. I pray for Perry Noble, his family, his future, his recovery, and all those who have been impacted by his ministry Ed Stetzer wrote on it here. Noble released a video today on Facebook. In it he claims "he ran to it instead of Jesus and because of it I am sorry."

3. Pokemon Go- I understand very little here. All I know is Nintendo's stock went up 25% and in a weeks time there are 65 million users. There seems to be pros and cons for this new app. If you have Pokemon Go and like it please let me know, I would like to understand it. Check out an info video.

4. Personal- Vacation was good. Some of the highlights were.
- Family time- This is alway nice. From Aunts and Uncles, cousins, niece to siblings and parents. It is nice to always see them. I was also able to spend the whole week with my grandmother. She is 90 and not sure how many moments like that I will be able to have.
- East Grand Lake- One of my favorite places on Earth
- Beulah- First time at family camp. I can see why it is a big deal. Here I was able to catch up with friends I haven't seen in over a decade, to former ministry partners.
- Caleb's Ordination- He is my brother and I am very proud of all he has done.
 Some lowlights
- I was sick... on vacation... again. I think I need to learn how to slow down and relax.
- Weather. For the majority of the trip it was cool 50-60s and rainy. This hurt our ability to be outside and enjoy one of the most beautiful places (Grand Manan) I have been in my life.

5. Overall Vacation was good. I was glad to get away from Presidential election ads/news. I was glad to not have to think about Church or meetings or people. I was glad to eat Houlton Farms, Mrs Dunster's Donuts, and Brenda's Cinnamon Rolls. But, I am ready to get back to life. I flourish on the routine. I like exercising regular and controlling my diet. I like my own bed and pillow. I like sitting in my recliner at night. I like my life. I like my job and am blessed to be able to do what I do. I love Heartland Community Church in La Porte City and look forward to worshipping with them on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Soul Care

In a small group, John Wesley would always ask the question, "How is it with your soul?" I think this is a question that we need to ask of ourselves and others. But there is only one person who can answer it, you. You are the only one that has the ability to know the answer. You are the only one who has the responsibility to feed you soul.

About a month ago I was talking with a mentor and asked him about soul care. He encouraged me in this simple way. Daily devotions, Weekly Sabbath, Monthly day alone, and Yearly Retreat. I have heard this before but had had only practiced the first two. My mentor encouraged me to take the next Monday as my first Monthly Day alone. I was planning to but it never happened. A pillar of our church passed away that Sunday and I put it aside because I had to prep for the funeral. I didnt have time to get away.
Sure I am a Pastor and I know I need to read the Bible, to pray. So many days it can become routine or even dry. This is why over the years I try to change up my methods so it wont become stale. I have gone through periods where I would read a passage from the OT, Psalms, Proverbs, and NT. I have gone through other periods where I would read from only one book at a time. I would pray at one specific time a day, I would listen to sermons when I run. I would continually mix it up so I could keep my faith fresh.
I find as a Pastor it is even more important to fill myself up by taking care of my soul. I spend a lot of time pouring out myself on others so I like my car needs to be regularly filled up and needs routine maintenance to keep myself going strong. 
A full month later and what was a really draining month personally and ministry wise later I finally took the much needed Day Alone. I am realizing more and more that in order to fully serve Heartland and La Porte City I need to take care of my soul. Some people may take what is called a sick day or a mental health day to get back to where they want to be. But I would encourage you to take care of your soul. 
Take a morning just to walk and pray. Lock yourself in a room just to read scripture. If you are a musician take your guitar and sing out to the Lord. Find a way to connect with your Savior. What did I do? I went to Chick-Fil-A, I read Scripture with no time limit. I started to read the book All In by Mark Batterson. I was there for about 5 hours. It was an awesome time. 
Today I am full. I should not have waited a month. You should not put it off either. If you need help to find a way to connect with Jesus I am more than willing to help. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Stages of Discipleship

Thankful for the platform from The Progress Review they give Pastor's in La Porte City.

Check out my latest article here.

I will be writing during the month of March. Come back to the blog each week to have the next article.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do not fear... (My thoughts on Refugees)

Do not fear… Anything

The last few weeks at Heartland we have been in a series borrowed from Andy Stanley at NorthPoint Church called The N Commandment. In this series we have been called by Christ to Fear Not, Worry Not, Doubt Not, Sin Not and this coming week will close out with Judge Not. This is a great series that helps us to understand these commandments in the light this side of the Resurrection. We are able to truly live without fear and worry.

Peter was a great example of a life changed due to the resurrection of Christ. He tried to do things on his own, sometimes even out of fear and worry. He almost drowned when he was walking on water and focused on his fear of the wind and waves. When Jesus was arrested he tried to protect Jesus with a small sword, and among the trouble after the arrest Peter denied Christ three times.

But after the resurrection of Christ Peter lived a live of complete surrender spreading the Gospel to all those that needed to hear. He saw the resurrected body, saw the scars and knew this was the real deal. He was even willing to give his life for the cause. He lived a different life after the resurrection.

I think this is also our call to live differently in the light of the resurrection and trade our lives of fear for trust, worry for peace, and doubt for hope and faith. In the light of the recent events in the world many online are sharing stories about ISIS, Muslim extremists. People are sharing their opinions. And most of these opinions are based in fear and worry. I struggle with what exactly the best thing to do is. This is above my pay grade and there are no easy answers. I do know very few people are using scripture to back what they are saying. I know very few are using personal experience. I know people will never come to a consensus but let me share a few things I have learned over the years about what I have learned.

  1. Read Matthew 25:31-46- “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” “whatever you do for the least of these you have done for me
  2. Matthew 2:13-18 As a baby, Jesus and his family were refugees to Egypt. They feared for their life.
  3. Genesis 47- When there was a famine in Israel Joseph’s brothers and family came to Egypt. The pharaoh gave them the best land (vs 6)
  4. Hebrews 13:1-2  Do not forget to entertain strangers.

This is just the beginning of what scripture says we should do.

Another thing that I want to tread lightly on is that we are not looking at this with a world view. We are looking at it through the only lens that you might know, as an American. First, I am thankful to be an American. But I am a follower of Christ first. My allegiance is to Christ over everything.  I am called to Love God and Neighbor. Neighbor is not just the person you live next too but also includes everyone, including the refugee.

Next week we will gather around tables celebrating refugees coming to this great land fleeing religious persecution. If no one immigrated to America we would not have a United States and American Indians would be the only people group here. Our country was formed by a bunch of refugees. So if anyone should be willing to welcome a refugee it should be us. 

I also look at this through another lens. When I married Jenny I married into a family that has multiple ethnicities and religions.  Jenny’s aunt Lisa met and married a Muslim man Mustafa Al-Ramly while attending Indiana State University. They have lived in Kuwait ever since and have two awesome adult children. So when I think Muslim I think also of my family who are some of the kindest gentle people I have ever met in my life.

Our scope is very narrow. Most writing comments on Facebook are people I believe are good hearted people coming to conclusions based on fear and worry rather than trusting a loving, compassionate, generous God.

These are my thoughts, they are still being developed. I hope I can listen more than I argue. I hope I love more than I hate. I hope I have compassion more than I judge. I hope I am a peacemaker more than I cause conflict. I hope I pray for the least more than I condemn. I am called to so much more in my life than I actually fulfill.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cause for Salvation

Last week I went to a leadership conference in Sioux Falls. One of the speakers was Roddy Chong. He is a very talented violinist. He shared a story of when he was growing up he would perform at different events. Every now and then he would make a mistake. When he was young he would stop and start the whole song again. When he was a little older and a little more talented he would start again just before the place he made the mistake. It took him a while to learn that most people watching never noticed the mistake. When he learned this he said it was an epiphany. It was then he learned to play through the mistake. Not to look back on the mistake at least in the middle of the performance. Roddy Chong refused to be defined by his mistake.

So many people let mistakes rule their life. They let the mistakes impact their decisions. They choose to avoid certain activities. They write people off because of their mistakes. As a Pastor I have met many people that say they could never step inside of a church because of their past. How I respond to one person is how I respond to all people. You are not your mistake. You are not defined by your worst act. We are not our mess. We all have something better that God has planned for us. Unfortunately so many people are allowing guilt to dictate what they do. This should not be so.

Throughout this month I have been encouraging Cause to invade your life. Causes are important. Causes are something we stand up for, fight for and maybe even willing to put our life on the line for. I have addressed different causes like Celebrate Recovery, Slavery, the Food Pantry and digging a well in Sierra Leone. Every one needs a cause. Some causes involve taking a risk.

Last week I mentioned how you are the cause of Christ that he was willing to risk and eventually give up his life for you. Through his death on the cross and his resurrection a few days later he opened up the door of grace for you and I. This door of grace allows us to leave our mistakes behind us. The door offers forgiveness for us, and the freedom we need to move forward and not to be held down by our past.

Most causes eventually end. Maybe a cure was found. Or the needs were met. But the cause of salvation is eternal. It lasts forever and gives life to those who have a relationship with Christ. Salvation is a cause worth standing up for, fighting for and laying your life down for. If you have any questions about salvation give me or one of the other Pastors in town a call. We would be happy to help. Salvation is our cause.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Celebration of Discipline- Solitude

Well it has been a while since I have read/wrote my thoughts on a chapter. It has been a busy summer, which is why this chapter for me has been really good. It seems like I am always going from one thing to the next. From one loud thing to another. About the only time I am alone is when I am in the office working on something for the church.

Foster says, "without silence there is no solitude." If this is the case I rarely have solitude. It is easy to not have silence. Even now as I type this I have Spotify playing in the background. (But I still do acknowledge the importance of silence, in fact I am shutting off Spotify right now.)

A lot of people have problem with silence. Why is this? Maybe because it leaves us alone with our thoughts? This silence is referring to also not talking. We struggle with silence that we want to even fill it with our own voice because it is awkward. Foster says, "One reason... is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustom to relying upon words to manage and control others... The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation."  He adds, true freedom is to "let God be our justifier."

Foster challenges us to live one entire day without words at all, 4X a year to withdraw for 3-4 hours of solitude, once a year to have a 2-3 day retreat with no other purpose than for solitude.

This chapter has been really good because it comes in a time of my life where my tongue has brought me into a little bit of trouble with one of my relationships. There is a lot of truth in this book that if I learn to apply it should help me in this area.

Being okay with silence is hard but every now and then maybe we should shut down all the noise so we are able to think, pray, connect with our Creator and see what happens in that time. I do not think I have ever regretted a time when I could have solitude. But in order to have it we must make room for it in our lives.