For Whom do our Lives bring glory?

For a while now, I have had some thoughts floating around, that only occasionally rise to the surface.  Like a trout on a sleepy mountain stream, their timing, intensity and duration have been unpredictable and often unremarkable.   It seems these thoughts  brewing in my mind have recently been turned up to a simmer. Nothing scary or drastic, but certainly disruptive to the tranquility of the past.

This change is due to things I have been reading (and in some cases re-reading) lately: A.W. Tozer (The Pursuit of God), C.S. Lewis (Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity), Alan Hirsch (5Q, The Forgotten Ways), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Cost of Discipleship), and others.  The commonalities I have found, point to a jarring message of warning to us “the church,” and in particular to us it’s leaders.

For the next few posts I am going to invite you to join me as I ponder some of the thoughts I have been considering in a bit more detail. I covet your input and comments as we journey along together.

We’ll begin here: Romans 11:33–36 (NIV) Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” 36 For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

From Him; through Him; for Him …are ALL things.   In your life, in your church, in your business, in your family, are All things… All His and forever for His glory?

We live in a world where the church we grew up in has accepted a dualism that coyly slithered in among us hundreds of years ago.   We sat up churches, temples, cathedrals, and meeting houses to give us “sacred spaces,” specifically for the worship of God.  These spaces have been broadly called “sanctuaries,” implying that they are places which are safe, set-apart, and separate from the rest of the world we are forced to live in.  This “two-worlds Christianity” is a far cry from the one we read about in The New Testament, and has given many permission to exclude some life decisions from Biblical influence.

Today, that dualism has led many to believe that an idealized Christianity of Sunday, has no lasting power over our lives Monday through Saturday.  There is a belief that what we “must do” to retain our jobs (no matter how morally compromising or disruptive to our sharing with church family) takes precedence over what would fit our stated faith. The thought that life’s schedules and demands, family expectations, and job requirements are acceptable as distractions from living our faith as we ‘know we should and wish we could,’ has made our churches, families, and lives lukewarm.

T.S. Eliot wrote: The greatest proof of Christianity for others is not how far a man can logically analyze his reasons for believing, but how far in practice he will stake his life on his belief.

What would change in your world if you decided to purge your life this week of all distractions from your faith?  What if you strategically, thoughtfully, and sacramentally dedicated All things to God?  How would your schedule change if you sanctified (chose to glorify God) with every moment of your day? This doesn’t mean becoming a Monk/Nun, it simply means bringing the sacred life from Sunday into every moment at work, at home, and at play so God is infused (not excused) from life all week.

Share: What if…? What if everything you did, everyplace you went, and everything you read, or watched, or listened to, were all done for His Glory?   What would this look like for you? How would it change your life? What might it jeopardize? How would it affect your relationship with God?  Where could one start?

As always, please give this a like, & a share.  Mostly share with us your thoughts.              Blessings,  Pastor Tim

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Leadership begins at Home

I have often written that leadership is a topic for more than the boardrooms of America. We suffer from a lack of leadership all around, including our churches (my professional workspace), as well as in our homes.

My wife gave me a copy of a newspaper article the other day. It was a reprint from John Rosemond’s “Parenting with Love and Leadership” website (http://www.rosemond.com/).  Though John does not include a Christian perspective in this writing, he brings the subject of effective leadership into the home with this thought provoking article.

While I don’t want this to be a space for people to post their favorite “rant” about how bad they think things are (John does a pretty good job of that here), I would like us to explore positive responses to improving the condition he describes. Please let me know what you think.

“The problem in American parenting is the 1960s. Among other things that defined that very interesting decade was the replacement of rationality by emotionality. It was during the 1960s that the media, various self-appointed spiritual gurus, and the mental health professional community urged people to “get in touch with their feelings.” And it was during the 1960s that parents were told by mental health professionals that children had a right to express their feelings freely.

I was in graduate school at the time. My professors taught that (a) feelings—especially children’s feelings—held deep meaning, (b) therapy was all about helping people recover the feelings their parents had made them repress, and (c) getting in touch with one’s feelings was the key to happiness. To be polite about it, a crock if there ever was one.

I now know—and beyond a shadow of doubt—that with rare exception, one’s feelings are more apt to deceive than promote good decisions. I also know that pre-psychological (pre-1960s) parents insisted that their children control the expression of emotion for the good of those children (as well as the good of everyone who were ever in contact with those children). I also know that people who are ruled by their emotions—people who cannot think straight, in other words—are not happy people. In their own enslaved minds, they are perpetual victims. Furthermore, the undisciplined nature of their emotions is destructive both to themselves and others. Undisciplined emotions destroy relationships, property, and spiritual health.

Fifty years later, America is paying a terrible price for having ever believed that when it came to children (and most other things), mental health professionals knew what they were talking about. They claimed, without evidence, that insisting upon emotional control was repressive and authoritarian (and therefore harmful). They claimed, without evidence, that enforcing shame upon a child who had behaved anti-socially—they named it “shame-based parenting”—would result in psychological problems (when the opposite is true).

Granted, shame can be taken to extremes, but shame is essential to the formation of a conscience, which is essential to responsible self-government. Children are not naturally disposed to shame. It must be trained into them by loving parents who are not supposed to enjoy what they must do. A child so trained is destined to become a compassionate, responsible human being, not an emotional basket case.

Happiness is not a matter of letting “it” all hang out. Quite the contrary, it is all about holding most of “it” in. It is about self-control, respect for others, and responsibility. It is about a value system that places others before self. A certain amount of repression is a good thing.”

 

So, is there anything we as parents, grandparent, aunts and uncles can/should do to improve the development of leadership skills within our families?  Please share your thoughts.

And, as always, please comment, like, and share as you feel it’s appropriate.

Blessings,

Pastor Tim

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Thanksgiving Isn’t Just for Thursday’s

This has been one of the strangest Thanksgivings on record for our family. While I know many of you have suffered, and are suffering, much greater trials than this, I am writing only to share the perspective I have received these past days.

I have been dealing with some strange ailment that has kept me mostly down with strong headaches, and …intestinal issues, for over a week now. Trips to doctors and the ER have left me feeling like I’m living in an episode of some spinoff of House. As I have (all too slowly for my liking) began to recover my strength, it is hard to accept that I still have a long way to go before I could ever hope to digest my fair share of a Thanksgiving feast. Graciously our family has chosen to postpone our annual turkey coma until Saturday (today) in hopes that I will be more or less myself. All this is background for you and really has very little to do with what I’m learning.

When I spent more than half of last Saturday in the ER getting scanned, prodded, medicated and rehydrated, I had no expectations that I was still going to present the sermon I had prepared for the next morning. But, lo and behold, at 5:00am on Sunday I awoke feeling normal. Praising God for his miraculous work in my body, I got around and made the preparations to preach after all.  I had prepared to speak our final sermon on a series covering Kyle Idleman’s book, not a fan. In his closing chapters he challenges us to look at what our response is to Christ’s invitation: “follow Me.” He illustrates for us three ways we all need to respond with our “Yes Lord”: Wherever; Whenever, Whatever.

Wherever: So many Christians are willing to follow Christ, as long as they don’t have to move out of their comfort zone. They often feel reluctant to pray for a meal in public, share their faith with an inquisitive co-worker, invite a neighbor to a church service, etc. “Yes Lord, I’ll go wherever you want me to go… except maybe to serve at the smelly nursing home.”

Whenever: All pastors would be rich if we had a nickel for every time someone said “Oooo. If it were any other time, I’d love to help out.” The truth is, most Christians will sacrifice much more of their weekly schedules for sports, hobbies, or mind numbing leisure activities, than they are willing to offer Christ in service to His people, or their community.

Whatever: All of what we have and hold dear. Of all the things we consider precious, are blessed with, or the accomplishments that have given us satisfaction (dare I say… have filled us with some pride). Of all those things you filled your Thanksgiving list with …would you give them all up to “Follow Christ?” Are there any of those things that you hold out in reserve as “yours,” while you offer everything else to Him? That kind of sacrifice is what Christ calls us to.     All… is what we are required to surrender.

As I spoke last Sunday, and felt the strength draining from me like a leaky balloon, Christ asked me to consider what “whatever” I was holding too dearly.

You see for the last several months I have been on a personal journey to improve my overall health. I have lost some weight, gained some strength, and improved my systems to the point that I no longer need some of the medications I was taking last winter. It has often been difficult, with setbacks and plateaus, and I still feel I have a long way to go. But, if I may confess to you, I have a certain sense of pride as to how well I have done thus far. Because of how much I (…and God, of course) have accomplished, I believe I may someday reach my health goals. And there I was, after hours in the ER the previous afternoon, standing before His church speaking His message to His people! P.T.L.

“Ahem.” Christ whispered to me as I spoke, “Will you surrender your health to me, or do you expect it is something you have now earned?”   I had no glib response to Him. He was serious! As I felt my strength depleting while I stood there, He was asking if I wanted to grasp after it …or Him?

You see we all have some things we struggle to surrender. For some it’s our “wherever,” for others our “whenever,” and still others it is our “whatever.”   Over the years, Christ has pointed me to each area, and asked: “Will you follow Me?” This week He asked me to lay down this one more “whatever” and follow Him with my whole-self, even if would mean doing so without health or strength. Yes, I confess, I struggled for a few moments. Yes, I felt that His request was unfair. But, before our worship time was over, I had placed this one more “whatever” into His hands.

What I have realized is that my wherever whenever, and whatever, are much better served under His Lordship than my own.  This Holiday season we could (again) let ourselves become distracted from “Who we celebrate” by focusing on “how we celebrate.” Instead, let me encourage each of you to consider fully surrendering your leadership and energies to following Christ. Serving and ministering in His power and name with all your: Wherever, Whenever, and Whatever.

Blessings, Pastor Tim

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November 9th… What now?

Friends,

After a long night of election coverage followed by a night of fitful sleep, I awoke to something more disappointing than any local, state, or national election results that didn’t go “my way.”

I am disappointed with many of the comments I have read today. I understand the emotions of both loss and victory, but if we want our leaders to be civil and respectful, I would hope we would do better as citizens.  I would hope that we could lift the conversations above our fears and focus on our faith in God’s sovereignty, and our ability to be good leaders right where we are, no matter who is in Washington, or our statehouses.

The father (Dr. Kelly Flanagan) who wrote the post below chose how to lead his family before the final votes were counted last night. It’s worth a read.  Also consider focusing our emotional energies on God’s healing for us all: 2 Chronicles 7:14.

 

 

Dear Little Ones,

You are already asleep in your beds. It’s late, and I’m going to bed. It’s been a long election day.

election results

When this day began began, I woke up, and I walked to the corner coffee shop in the dim, predawn light, down streets already aglow with Christmas lights. Ordinarily, I would have been cynical about the early start to the holiday season. This morning, I was grateful for the reminder that there is light in the world and, soon, we will be celebrating it. I arrived at the coffee shop. It was more crowded than normal. Almost certainly, these were voters who had awoken earlier than usual. But for a moment, just one blessed moment, I didn’t see voters. I didn’t see politics; I saw people. Just human beings, trying to wake up to yet another day, trying in some more profound way to wake up to this one life. They weren’t, at that moment, casting votes; they were just breathing. Eating. Drinking.

Little Ones, we have far more in common than in conflict, and we would know this if, instead of seeing fear and anger and ideology, we could see beneath the surface: our beating hearts, the blood pulsing through our veins, lungs filling and emptying, joints aging and aching. This morning, for one peaceful moment, I saw all these people this way, and in that moment, the lights on the trees outside weren’t the only lights I could see in the world.

It is late, and I’m going to bed, and it’s not clear how this whole disgraceful American season is going to end. I don’t know who will be the leader of our land. I don’t know how that leader will influence the laws of our land. These are things we cannot control. But as I turn in, I can tell you what we can control: the law of our family’s land—the law of this land inside our four walls.

We will love everyone who crosses our path.

Those who are most in need, are those who are most in need of us.

Fear is fired. It doesn’t get to call the shots for us.

Anger is okay. But not when it harms, only when it redeems.

Arrogance is natural, but we will call upon something supernatural within us to put it down.

Grace is a way of seeing. It is Love seeing the beauty at the center of everything. We will see to the center.

All those things your kindergarten teacher told you to do? Be kind. Share. Include. Create……Do them. Be laughed at for doing them all the way into adulthood. Keep doing them.

Remember, each of you play an indispensable role in this family of ours. Remember, everyone plays an indispensable role in this great big family of ours called humanity.

Little Ones, like those lights on the trees of the street, and like those lights in the people in the coffee shop, there is a light inside each of you. Here is the most important law of our little land:

Let it shine.

Yours,

Daddy

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this!

Greetings,

It has been a long summer, and if the weatherman is right we have a lot of summer yet to come. During these past weeks I have been with family, on trips, and in lots of meetings with colleagues. I went camping, I went to the coast with family, I traveled across the country to visit more family, I went for bike rides, I took lots of pictures, I napped, and I worked hard in the yard. I had fun with my wife, daughters, in laws, grandkids ad lots of friends. One thing I haven’t done very much is think about what I wanted to post on this blog, so week after week you have not heard a word from me. It’s been bitter-sweet for me as well.

Today I want to share some thoughts I have about how to handle really difficult times. While I have enjoyed most of my summer thus far, it has been cluttered up with difficulties. As a pastor of a small church, I have the privilege of sharing good and bad times with my people.   This summer some of them have been carrying great burdens, and I’ve tried to come alongside them with comfort and love. I can’t take their pain away, but as a church family we can all lighten each other’s load, by sharing Christ’s love together.   Many of the meetings and professional conversations I’ve had these past weeks have focused on one of the greatest denominational struggles I have ever witnessed. As “Friends” (Quakers) we are in the middle of a storm that is tearing us apart, and threatens to destroy us as a gathered people. It is hard to see disagreements encouraged within a group until real antipathy for each other settles in. My heart breaks as I watch a portion of Christ’s church tearing itself apart.  For so many of us in my life we see all the trial and strife around us and say: “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

When I have sat long enough to really ponder all the trials that are swirling around me, I’ve come to some conclusions as to how we should respond. Please let me share, even though some of these might be repeating myself from previous months.

First: Don’t be surprised.   Matthew 18:7 (NIV) Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!   Jesus tells us that trials, offenses, traps, and stumbling blocks will come. In fact, they are necessary: “Such things must come!”

God will, if I let Him, use every trial to teach me, draw me closer, and soften my hard heart. If I ever want to be known as one who is growing more and more to be like Christ, then I know “Such things must come!”

Second: Resist making it personal. So many time we find ourselves taking our trials personally. “Why me? What did I do to deserve this? What did I ever do to you? Why do they have to be so mean? Why do they hate me? Why can’t anything go right for me? Sometimes I have to laugh at myself because this kind of reaction pre-suppose that others or circumstances are inherently malicious and intentionally out to hurt me. I heard someone once say that “others really don’t think about you as much as you do.” In other words, most likely, no one woke up that morning trying to figure out how to ruin my day or life.

While I have lots more I could share, I won’t unload it all here in this one posting. So lastly: Guard your heart. While the actions, words or responses of others just might be sinful, and/or the circumstances you find yourself in be un-Godly in every way, don’t let the sinful place you find yourself in sully your own heart. If you are attacked with words, don’t plot a 10 page reply that will vindicate yourself. If you are accused wrongly, don’t plot the demise of your accusers. If your world is crumbling around you, don’t let yourself lose faith in the one who holds all things in His hands. Take to heart, and infuse your responses with, these pearls of wisdom from Scripture:

Ephesians 4:26 (NIV) “In your anger do not sin.” While anger is an uncontrolled response, sin is a personal choice. Guard your heart, and choose to restrain any sinful responses.

Proverbs 19:11 (NIV) “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Often the offense is unintentional. “It’s usually not really about you.” Don’t look at how you are offended, but look at the root, the message, the misunderstanding or failure that caused the disagreement. And don’t take up an offence against God. He really can fight His own battles without us blustering and taking up the fight. Our greatest work for the Kingdom is done on our knees.

Romans 8:28 (NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  You might feel this is trite, but it is more true than we give it credit for. My greatest joys have come when I waited and watched God work out something that seemed impossible in a way that amazed and blessed everyone involved. We truly serve a Great God. Let’s as leaders give Him more than half a chance to work out our little trials.

Blessings,

Pastor Tim

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Remodeling for the Kingdom

Greetings all!

Today I have a guest post by my eldest daughter Tammi Wenzig who teaches in Seoul Korea.  She presented this yesterday during our worship service.  Enjoy!

*******This one is for all the leaders who take the mic and deliver powerful truth Every.Single.Week. This is for the leaders who live their lives as examples in front of us with vulnerability and strength even as they’re in the process of growing, surrendering, and finding themselves in Christ. This is for the leader who speak truth over us over and over and over… until we hear it.

Are you giving God the right– the invitation– to rearrange furniture in your world? The fact that he has the right is no small detail: He has purchased the house and everything in it– you are already His.      It doesn’t matter that He’s right, –that it IS –His- right-, you might hold it against Him for the rest of your life if He moves your stuff.  But His plans are bigger:

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

Can He have His way? Blueprints and materials are at the ready, but set aside because the permits are tied up in your red tape. It’s an epic fight: just to move your favorite chair from that dark corner over to the window.                                                                                                  Listen to the truth. This comfortable place — You’ve carefully built around yourself, lovingly called “home” and “me” must- be- dismantled! He’s not willing to wrestle it away from you– He’s committed to loving you into freedom. Do you perceive it?

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

Can we trust His Goodness? Will we allow His good pleasure to be our great pleasure? Will we let Him even rearrange the furniture first?  How is it that we allow people to rearrange our things without question while refusing entry to the One Who purchased the house– and when that goes wrong, as it so often does, crying bitter tears– how often do we blame the Owner?  “You’re powerful, You’re LORD, yet you allow… This disaster??” He answers my broken question with a real answer:

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

Now, I begin to see my stuff and my room for what it is– not the comfortable, beautiful, place I remember, but a dim, dusty, crowded (and yet sparse) prison cell of my own design. Everything is just where I like it. I’ve strategically placed everything exactly the way I want it– in fact, this is the only place in my world that I can arrange as I want and all the change around me can’t change that.

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

All of this is the substitute I’ve resorted to in desperation for “thy kingdom come” when the reality I can see, feel, and touch is so far from it.                                                                  But what if I invite His plan? When the Holy Spirit rearranges furniture, He’s not timid. He hauls stuff from one side of the room to the other. It’s easy for Him, though I stand in the corner and fret about how little I can help, making excuses for why it’s not all cleaner… If I invite Him to move that chair… reality will be revealed. I don’t even know what all is hiding under there… dirt? Junk? Old toys and treasures I’ve forgotten about?

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

And I see that this pieced together jigsaw of comfort is nothing but a shadow. Longingly I gaze at my precious chair. Only I know how to sit just right so the arm doesn’t fall off. I have to curl into a ball on top of the old, lumpy cushions because it’s really too small now–I’ve known this for a while… I think. And I hear again,

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

But this is the only place I can control! My little house, my little part of the world…    But…it’s not really mine, is it? I’ve signed the deed over to my Savior and my God. He paid for it with His blood. In truth, it never was mine. I was born into a home that was mortgaged beyond anything I could repay in a lifetime– always on the verge of eviction, but I thought salvation just meant I get to keep the house.

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

Is it true? I’m built for more than just a house– I was bought into a Kingdom… A Kingdom, yes, but no one said anything about moving my chair!

My child, you belong on a throne in the light.

Finally, I hear it. REALLY hear it! My fight is gone, the truth has won. He’s loved me into surrender.   As if for the first time, I gaze at Him. In wonder, I ask “how have you waited so long?”                                                                                                                                                     He dries my tears of shame and says: “I have never been afraid of the work, the mess, the empty spaces the dirt… but you’ve been so afraid, so ashamed, my sovereignty has looked to you like a wrecking ball swinging to destroy all you’ve built to contain yourself; Your imagination– the one I gave you– has made you see what was never there. But I’ve been soaking your eyes in truth– and now you’re beginning to see. I have always been FOR you.”

With this, He unfurls a massive set of blueprints, and I look… Then, with eyes healing to clarity, what I see is an endless inheritance– not just mine, but seamlessly joined with others. He’s got a plan for my place, yes, but He’s been reaching in and rearranging furniture all over the city… This HAS been personal, it’s been about me BUT it’s never been just about me! God’s has a plan to knock down our 4 walls, to build a Kingdom… but He’s starting with the furniture.

Will you invite Him to move your chair?                                                                                        My child, you belong on a throne in the light. ******

If you are blessed by this, please consider sharing it with others, and sharing your thoughts back as a comment here or on facebook.  I’ll get them all to Tammi.

Blessings, Pastor Tim

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Avioding Failure

Has there ever been a time when you needed someone to challenge you to overcome an impending failure, but lacking their nudge, you ended up accepting some level of defeat? I remember a time in business when I had achieved a personal goal, and found myself kind of coasting. With no real goal in mind, I was blindsided by an event that set my progress back. I was coaxed into making destructive decisions through an emotional ploy because I had no life mileposts to give me a reference point. Without guidance, reference, or goals, I drifted along as I was being told, and experienced a personal failure as a result. Today I realize that I would have made different decisions, and avoided those mistakes, if I had someone trustworthy to nudge me by speaking reason into my ear.

Different people need these nudges to come in different forms.

Some people are motivated by competition. They see other’s gaining success, or a friend encouraging them to “keep-up,” and that’s all they need to push them to succeed.

Some people need to be shamed into success. They find drill sergeant like people to come around them and chastise them into success.

Some people need a friend to encourage them with positive reminders of what they have overcome in the past.

Some people seem to find motivation from inside. They succeed for themselves, and always seem to be striving for some far off goal. Unfortunately, someone standing alone, is more likely to fail in a crisis, and even these folks need someone to help then with perspective in life.

While as leaders we need to help our team members find what motivates them, we first need to make sure we are setting ourselves up for success not failure.  I encourage you to personally find a friend that you can regularly meet with and confidentially share with each other your struggles, triumphs, dilemmas, and wisdom. Think about what kind of friend that needs to be (motivator, competitor, drill sergeant, mentor, etc.) to help you be your best. Next, then set yourself a goal of making a plan to begin meeting with such a person before the summer is out. If you already have such a relationship in place, don’t let the summer drift away without keeping up your regular meetings.

We all need a nudge now and then, and the wisest of us have brought people into our lives that are ready to point us back onto the right path whenever we’re getting off track.

Hebrews 10:24–25a (NIV) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Blessings, Pastor Tim

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