Saturday, March 6, 2021

Day 63 of 365: Put The Book Down

I will admit right away this isn’t going to be a very long blog. It is about a funny thing my dad said when he was over earlier for my son’s birthday. While sitting on the couch he began to read a book I have regarding small churches and growth strategies. 

After he read a few pages of the book he simply asked “are you reading this book?” I said, well I have begun but am not sure I will continue. My dad continued to say “I take it you have to take what this book says with a grain of salt?” He went on to tell me, I thought each church was unique and that God is going to build his church. 


You know…my dad was never a pastor but he made a whole lot of sense with his comments. I think this book will go back on the self. 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Day 62 of 365: Which Way The Wind Blows

 Earlier this week I posted on Facebook that I have a song on repeat in my office. It is called "Which Way The Wind Blows" by 2nd Chapter of Act. I suppose I could go on and on about how awesome this group was from the Jesus movement era but the proof is in the pudding. Here are the lyrics...

Feel the feeling
Say the saying
But youll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment
Do a doing
Mourn a mourning
Still wont get you off your sorrows
So go ahead and cry your tears
But you cant cry and look at tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Run a running
Hide a hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And you ask for the proof
You wont listen (listen)
Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you dont know wrong from right
Oh, wheres your wisdom
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You dont know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Die a dying
Resurrecting
By believing

There is something about this song that has given me a great peace. The other day I received word that my MS is no longer on my record. Today I learned that my surgeon wants to see me because of a potential complication pertaining to a hernia surgery. It is like a wind that will take you anywhere and everywhere. Regardless...I cling to Jesus and know that he is in full control. It has been said that the life of being a Christian contains mountain tops and valleys. One must cling to Jesus through it all. 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Day 61 of 365: Multiple Sclerosis...The Final Chapter? No...The End

 

"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven." ~ James 5:14-15


In March of 2015 my life was changed after having an extreme "aura headache" only to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). The old pentecostal in me instantly told the church and the world about my ailment. People began to pray and support me in my journey. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer. I saw my friend come back from the dead, another healed of cancer and more. That is just here at Radiant Fellowship. Growing up in church, I have countless stories of seeing healings happen. I ought not be surprised at these stories but am still amazed when it happens. 


Towards the end of last year which was very trying my smell was officially gone and it wasn't COVID related. I thought perhaps I was having an MS flare-up. You know the story with my sinuses requiring ANOTHER surgery at the beginning of this year. All was fixed though I am still working on getting my smell back.


Awhile ago I messaged my neurologist to see what they determined regarding my MS. It ends up the brain lesions they found in 2015 were iron deposits due to an iron condition I have which is under control. Today I received word from neurology that they are taking MS off my record and that I do not have it. PRAISE THE LORD!! Living with that on your mind all the time (pun intended) was very taxing. But I wanted to share the great news that I DO NOT HAVE MS! 


Thank you to those that supported me in prayer and words of encouragement. It is a blessing to have such friends of faith.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Day 60 of 365: My Finest Sermon (In My Opinion)

 

If someone were to ask me what my best sermon was in my 25+ years of preaching, it would probably go back to the fall of 2000. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The week prior I was away at a silent prayer retreat. The entire time God was speaking to me saying “it’s okay not to be okay. The things you deal with are of no surprise to me so don’t be afraid to talk about it.” 


After reading a book that was really influential in my life I put together a sermon talking about dealing with depression. I realized this would be a risk and I knew it would be one I would share in the “adult service” when the opportunity arose. After all, I was “just” the youth pastor and so speaking gigs in the adult service were very few and far between. I knew it was a message that I had to deliver though because the pastor I served under would often times make the congregation repeat after him “I am to blessed to be depressed”. Each time we were told to repeat it, I felt it was a slap in the face to those in the congregation that were dealing with depression. 


So that Sunday came and I began to talk about being broken before God. I gave many scriptural examples and drove the point with an illustration. After a lot of research, I expounded on how awesome revivalist/theologian Charles Spurgeon was. I read his writings, I studied his life and despite all that he did for the cause of Christ, he not only dealt with chronic pain but severe depression. This started at the age of 22. While he was preaching someone yelled “FIRE” and though there was no fire, it caused mass panic and seven people died. In fact 28 others suffered severe injuries.

Spurgeon plunged into a deep depression. It could hit him so intensely that, he once said, “I could say with Job, ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life’ [Job 7:15]. I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.”


Through it all and despite his chronic pain he continued to preach. He loved Jesus and Jesus loved him. I was so proud of that sermon. Afterwards people were talking with me about what they were dealing with. Sometimes a person just needs permission to know it is okay to be vulnerable. We should understand this because “God loves us as we are; not as we should be because none of us are as we should be”. 


Some Christians just aren’t ready to hear that type of sermon. The next morning I was asked to step into the sanctuary so that the pastor could have a one on one with me. I was belittled and told my theology was off due to my misunderstanding of scripture. That moment resonated with me and I will never forget it. It so defined my path regarding how I treat people. Not with a heavy theological hand but with a tender heart filled with grace. Lord knows that is how God sees me and I certainly do my best to extend the same amount of grace to others. I don’t always succeed but I pray that all of us would understand that we are ragamuffins doing our best to accept and embrace the love of God. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Day 59 of 365: Treating Others With Dignity


This evening a group of us from Radiant Fellowship went out with our outreach program called the Rock. We have had this program going for many years. Each month we bring gently used clothing, toiletries and a warm meal to folks living in very low income housing. 


Tonight was a special time as it was one of our larger nights. I had fully planned on grilling but the weather this time of year is very temperamental which caused us to order some pizzas instead. 


When we pulled up there were quite a few folks in the lobby awaiting our arrival. We always begin by bringing in the totes of clothes first. We had many helping themselves to those items. There was a new lady that came to see what we were doing. After she heard there might be a winter coat for her, she began to dig through everything. I am please to say that she found a very nice winter coat with a big furry collar. She was thrilled to say the least. This lady and others found pairs of shoes, clothing and more. We never charge for this outreach and to be honest; unless they ask we do not tell them what church we are from. That is not the purpose of this outreach. It is to simply serve. 


As we were handing items out I began to joke around with a couple of them. The others from the church also engaged them in conversation. My father comes along and he was so proud to know the jacket he donated is still being used by the man he gave it to over a year ago. 


When we arrive I always strive to serve these people in a way that maintains their dignity. We don’t ask how they got there, what they are doing to get out of it...we just serve. I speak to these folks down on their luck the same way I would speak to someone running a successful business here in town. I see no need to view them any other way than as a child of God. If they want to talk about how they got there...I will engage but mainly listen. Regardless though, I point out flaws in my life and that we all go through moments in life. As I told one lady this evening “it takes a village” to help one another and that was why we were there. In my opinion a Christian that looks down on these people ought to check their heart. 


I became a pastor to serve. Sure that happens regularly inside of the church but why can’t it happen outside of it as well? Why do some Christians have to view these people as charity cases. You serve a person and you win every time. We now have one of the former tenants attending our church regularly. In fact he even got his own apartment across the street from the church. It is my opinion that the church would do well not to look away from people who are not like us but rather serve them as if we are serving Jesus himself. Wait! That sounds Biblical (sheep and goats). 


 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Day 58 of 365: My Desk

A desk…it’s the one thing I want from my former youth pastorate. I have never been fired from a job. The only time when I quit a job on the spot was when I was working at a Christian bookstore in downtown Milwaukee. My former and colleagues and I put up with the owners garbage and verbal abuse because he was “well known” in the city for putting on the governors prayer breakfast. In fact he was such a head case that he felt he could berate us employees including his personal secretary. He would often refer to her weight which made me sick. It got to the point that I would fume if/when he would come in to his office. 

It all came to an end when in the middle of one day I taped the store key to his office door with a note not fit to be read on a Christian blog. I walked out and that was that. There was only one other time I quit a job and stuck around out of pure spite. That was when I was told “they don’t want you here” by the interim pastor of the church I gave 8 years of my life to as the youth pastor. 


The desk I had represented what I went through. When I became the youth pastor (and associate pastor) of this church, I was shown my office and the old desk that sat there. I remember asking “is there a possibility of getting a new desk?” I was told no because they knew they were bringing on a new youth pastor so I would have to work my way up to a nicer desk. 


Fast forward to the move into the newer building. I came back from my first anniversary trip which was protested by the pastor and board because I was going to be gone for the move. I was excited to get back to the new building and settle into my new office. I heard there were new desks awaiting. When I came back there was a new desk in the secretary’s and pastor’s office. My office was there but it was all in the garage. My desk included. They decided that I got the smallest room in the place and that my desk would not fit. When the pastor came in I asked what I should use and he said “you will have to find a card table to use since there are no funds for a new desk.” I knew this wasn’t the case so I literally walked out of his office, got in my car and drove to the local office supply store to pick up a new desk out of my own money. I had to pick up book shelves also since apparently the shelves I had were left at the old building. 


I recently reached out to that church and asked about my old desk. Last I knew it was still sitting in the garage. The youth pastor told me that it was good timing because he is going to be getting a new desk and the old one was going to be hauled off. Needless to say, I will be getting a picture tomorrow to confirm it is my desk. If it is, I will be driving down to Milwaukee to bring it back to Waupaca. I couldn’t be more thrilled to get this desk if indeed it is the one. It will serve a great purpose here. 


So why do I want my old desk? Because it held such great memories for me. It was my first youth pastorate and if the church planned on getting rid of it, I will use it in one of my two offices here. A remembrance of where I have come from in ministry. I am all about momentos and this is very special to me. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Day 57 of 365: Pastors Only Work on Sundays

“Pastors only work on Sundays don’t they?”. That was the question I was asked today for about the one thousandth time. Pastors get asked this ALL THE TIME be it “in jest” or a genuine question. Today it was the latter. 

I never really get upset over this question unless it is “in jest” which means it was meant as sarcasm and we all know that there is always a bit of truth in sarcasm. I kindly told this person that is not always the case. In fact it is NEVER the case. 


As a pastor of a smaller church, I maintain a strict daily schedule which I keep posted on the bulletin board in my office. Smaller church means the pastor wears more hats. I will admit that outside of Sunday mornings; Tuesday is my favorite day. You will see why. Here is what my schedule looks like…

Monday

- Record 7 days of My Utmost For His Highest

- Data entry

- Sermon rough draft


Tuesday

- Tech Day

- E-Newsletter

- Online Church Update

- Radio Show

- Post Podcasts


Wednesday

- Breakfast Huddle

- Royal Rangers


Thursday

- Sermon Prep

- Pastoral Care


Friday

   - Setup Church Computer for Sunday

     - Post songs


Looking at that schedule it can seem light to some but many steps are involved. Like recording My Utmost For His Highest. I love doing this but each recording needs to be edited down. I do not just record and post. The same applies to the radio broadcast, etc. Weekly online church updates involves a lot of coding each week. The embedded live service, messages, etc. don't automatically post each week. Royal Rangers is a solid 4 hour investment of my time which includes the meeting itself. Building maintenance is an ongoing thing that can be sprinkled into the week at any given moment.

One of the items on the list is pastoral care. Now Thursdays are my day to specifically reach out to individuals I have in mind. I am available for people to reach out to me anytime. For instance, this afternoon I went to sit down in my office and instantly I am talking with a manic depressive person using illegal substances so that they can relax. I was then notified of a friend of the church involved in a drunk driving accident. This was followed up by a person battling severe depression. I say all of that to mention I don’t mind this one bit but by time I was done “counseling”, it was evening and I had not gotten to the things I needed to get done. This means everything gets bumped to the next day since I do like to hang out with my family. 


For the record, I put the word counseling in quotes because people often mistake pastors for licensed counselors and we are not. There are a handful that are but as a general rule; pastors can provide wise counsel but we are not licensed. 


So…do pastors just work on Sundays? Not at all. In fact that is the easy day! The icing on the cake if you will because we get to deliver the message and hang out with awesome church folks. I am so thankful for the ones that help keep the church afloat by volunteering, etc. As I stated in a previous blog there will always be those who suggest things trying to put more on a pastors plate as well. At some point a pastor has to say no or...if your not willing to run with it then it simply will not get done.