Saturday, June 30, 2007

Becoming Old and Gray—What will your legacy be?

Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come. Psalm 71:18

I’ve been gray since my mid-thirties. It has been said that my mother turned gray in her mid-thirties; so did my older sister but getting older has been a different thing.

Today I will attend the 60th birthday party for, Chuck, my same-age, life-long friend and cousin. Chuck is a western Minnesota Dutch farmer with a free-wheeling sense of humor and buoyant attitude towards life. He has had a kidney transplant and battles skin cancer with “this is part of life” attitude.

But we’re getting old, or should I say older. I don’t regret “getting older”, it’s part of life but what concerns me is how quickly I got here—to sixty, I mean. It seems like yesterday I was in the military; getting married 36 years ago seems only a short time ago; and the birth of our children still “fresh” in my memory in many ways. Like they say, “time flies when you’re having fun.”

At sixty, I believe most of the world views us as a “has been”. That ok, I don’t have anything more to prove but it’s definitely not time to give up, whine and complain about getting old, and in “horseman terms” complacently wait for the final long trip to the glue factory.

The Lord has called us to be His witnesses all the days of our lives. Even when I am old and gray” – Psalm 71:18. Our prayer should be that God would not forsake us. Our side of this picture is that we are to declare to the next generation God’s power and might. If I am 60, 70, 80 or 90, I have a job to do: “declare God’s power to the next generation, God’s might to all who are to come.” I believe what He is saying is leave a legacy; a legacy of God’s love and faithfulness demonstrated by His power and might.

As I look back over my sixty years of life, I look with amazement how God has worked. He did things I did not understand; He did things that looked like failure and tragedy and turned them into good…things too wonderful for me to fully comprehend.

What will our next generation say about us? He sure was a “good fella” or will they declare and share the stories of the work of God’s sovereign hand in our lives. Will the Lord be lifted up or will they just refer to us as “another good fella”? What stories will they tell—good fella stories or stories of a mighty and powerful God’s work in our lives? What will your legacy be?

Lord, even when I’m old, may I declare Your power and might. May I always be found faithful. Come Lord Jesus, come. Amen.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ministry Suggestions

In response to my last blog, I was asked to provide some suggestions on what we could do as direct ministry. I am including a list that may spark your imagination. BUT, the first and foremost thing you need to do is PRAY for God’s leading in what He wants you to do. Remember, God has given us all talents to be used to glorify Him—let the glory begin!! Some ideas:

Clean up vacant lots in the neighborhood (get permission)
Paint lousy looking houses—church buys paint; tenants to work together
Pick up roadsides—Do NOT expect a sign
Host a single mom’s night out/young mom’s night out
Watch kids for a mom to do something alone
Mow lawn for someone--busy young family, old people
Be aggressive and share excess produce with neighbors you do not know
Take cookies & go visit old people in community for 15 minutes
Wash someone’s car
Guerilla service young people – when people are gone, mow lawn, clean flower beds, scoop snow, trim trees, pick up trash anonymously. Leave card – "Guerillas for Jesus"
When you go shopping, ask neighbors if they need anything
Help people with budget, insurance forms, VA forms, social security forms, etc.
Write letters to local service people
Assist soldier’s family
Write letters for nursing home patients
Develop church web page; allow people to leave prayer requests anonymously.
Follow up on a prayer request to see how things are going
Use church web page as community news site/bulletin board
Rent tent for county fair/community function. Recliners; cold water fountain; wash feet; massages with massagers.
Teach kids/adults things: to fix bikes, bake, sew, use computers, cell phones, digital cameras, etc.
Offer to clean up county property
Visit shut ins
Take someone to the store, doctor, etc.
Go out for coffee with someone you normally would not go with
Tell someone what God has done in your life—tell your story
Monthly birthday party at church
Volunteer to work at the Thrift Shop and/or Hope Pregnancy Center
Read to children or adults
Make a meal for a neighbor—bring it over or invite them in
Interview older person about their life and write about it
Interview a veteran and record it for history
Make & fly a kite with someone
Share hobbies, collections
Organize “electronic free” night
Take a neighbor child or adult out for an ice cream cone
Help someone with gardening
Visit someone who has lost a family member in the last year & talk about that person

I'd like to hear your ideas, too. May God bless you in your ministry.

Friday, June 22, 2007

What is ACEDIA?

Acedia is a culture of apathy and boredom. In William Bennett’s book “The Book of Virtues” it makes reference to America currently experiencing a culture of boredom and apathy. We live in a time of “so what” and “whatever”. Sad to say, the same culture has taken root into the church.

I have preached in 27 different churches in Central and Western Minnesota over the last 8 years, and the best of our knowledge, only 3 of those churches are holding steady or growing. The other 24 have lost significant numbers of people. The young people are gone or leaving and I don’t blame them. Why?

Our young people are bored to death. In a culture that adores “extreme” behavior—bungee jumping, stupid and dangerous stunts, sky-diving and “extreme” immoral behavior, excessive drinking, and “girls gone wild”, we the church, sit transfixed while a generation flees the church. Young people do not want to be entertained. They want to be challenged to live out their faith; faith and actions, faith and deeds. Live on the edge, do good not talk about it. Sad to say, I believe we slumber while a generation slips into hell.

We say one thing and do another. Oh, we sing about, preach about, “marching into hell for a heavenly cause” but in reality we don’t move. We believe being moral and good is the sole purpose and extent of our faith. That’s good but we are to HATE EVIL AND CLING TO WHAT IS GOOD. (Romans 12:9-11). We are to be men and women who “live out” their faith not just go through the motions. Titus 2:12-14: "It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good."

We are sitting; glad God has chosen us, acting moral and good while the world around us goes to hell. We are to hate evil and cling to what is good. Let’s do it.

In Matthew 28, Jesus said to us, “GO”. We say “come.” They (the world) are not coming; as a matter of fact, our pews are emptying out at a rate that alarms me yet I find few, if any people concerned (pastors and church leaders included).

I have spoken about his topic on three different occasions. I feel it has been met with indifference by the older people but with appreciation by the younger people (younger people is people under 35). If our experiences in Western and Central Minnesota are any indication of the true spiritual state of our churches, we are in deep trouble. I can’t soften it in anyway. I am tired of our excuses for our deadness. In Matthew 24:12 it says: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." I believe most have grown cold.

“You’re just a complainer, Jerry,” they say. May I suggest some action?

Each and every one of us should give one hour a week direct ministry in our community. If we do that and we have 200 people in church, effectively we live out 800 hours of direct ministry in our communities in one month. This would transform our rural towns. For the believer, we would be stretched, we’d be scared, we will be pushed into areas of own communities where we’ve never been before. We will find talents we never knew we had. It will be exciting not boring. Living out our faith is exciting and challenging. The community will benefit. How? It will see the love of Christ demonstrated to them. When we live out our faith developing relationships outside the church, this makes easy our invitation to know Christ. It flows naturally, it’s not contrived and, all this would not require one committee meeting.

What do we do? Help people! We all like to help. Pray for eyes to see needs and act. I know what you’re saying, “I’m so busy.” Yes we are. Let’s take a look at our time:

168 hours in one week:
- 24 hours for all day Sunday off
- 48 hours for 8 hours of sleep for 6 days
- 12 hours for family time of 2 hours/day x 6 days
- 52 hours work & commute
32 hours remaining

So, if you perform 1 hour per week of direct ministry that would be 1/32nd of our life. Is this too much to ask?

Open our eyes—use us to your glory. Amen. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come.

Friday, June 15, 2007

None Dare Call It Sin

Hebrews 4:13 - Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Representative William Jefferson, Democrat from Louisiana, was indicted Monday on Federal charges of racketeering, soliciting bribes and money laundering…This is part of the first paragraph in an Associated Press article written by Laura Jakes Jordan in regards to Representative Jefferson’s indictment.

I was in my car driving when I heard comments on the radio concerning the Jefferson indictment pitting the Right against the Left and the Left against the Right. I am concerned. I do not know all of the details; he is innocent until proven guilty but this is not a question of the Right verses Left or the Left verses the Right, this issue is dishonesty; it is sin, not Left or Right politics.

We as a nation have failed to call sin for what it is—SIN. We can spin it, call it reactionary political payback, a misstep, a misunderstanding, a personal failure, but none dare call it sin. Even in our churches today, we seldom talk about these things—sin, hell, heaven, abuse and divorce.

Research indicates most people feel they will get to heaven some way, some how. I mean we are for the most part “good fellas” aren’t’ we? Oh, I may tip a few now and then but “at least I’m not a drunk like Bill”. Unless we realize the standard we need to keep does not arise from the standard of our next door neighbor but from Christ’s holy standard, we are in big trouble. Unless I address the sin issues in my life, I WILL at SOMETIME have to deal with the reality of sin and the consequences of hell and the hope of heaven. Remember…to whom we must give account.

Have I dealt with my sin? Have you dealt with your sin? Remember the gift of grace and forgiveness which reconciles us to God and brings us peace. Thank you, Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Using words we seldom think about

I use words every day, some with little thought of what they really mean. In scripture; we are urged to trust God. What does trust mean? The short dictionary meaning is… “A firm belief in the honesty, truthfulness, justice or power of a person or thing; confidence, credence, confident expectation and hope.”

Trusting God or anyone else involves knowing them well enough to trust them. I have insurance with Teresa; I trust her because I know her. I do not have to read all the fine print. Why? Because I know her. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says: This is what the Lord says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the Lord.”

How about YOU and the Lord? How well do you know Him? Well enough to trust Him for all things? Or have you just heard of Him and honestly do not know Him? Job 42:1-6 in the Message says: Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans. You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?' I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head. You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.' I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand - from my own eyes and ears! (NIV states: “I heard of you but now I know you.”) I'm sorry - forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."

Jesus desires a relationship with us. He gave His life so we could have that relationship. Trusting God involves knowing Him. How do we know Him? Read His word, develop a prayer life, and continue to meet with His children and worship Him.

The truth is, we will never FULLY know Him because how can the finite know the infinite Jesus came to be our mediator, Lord and Savior. Our relationship with Jesus and the resulting walk through life are out of this world! Come Lord Jesus, come.