Pastor's Blog
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January 26, 2015, 6:10 AM

Too Busy

For the past several months, my life has been jam-packed with activities.  From the time I get up until the time I finally collapse in bed at night, I have been on-the-run with countless activities.  One recent month, I averaged two-meetings daily for the month.  Between the demands of directing the relocation of our church, finishing another Masters degree, writing sermons, getting through the Christmas season, leading the daily operation of the church as a whole, and trying to still function as West Side's pastor...my days have been filled with activities.  I have been too busy!  Many have asked if we rested on our recent two-week vacation to Florida.  Most have been surprised to learn my main activity the first four-days was SLEEPING!  Even Peggy was shocked at how exhausted I was.  My flight to Tampa seemed only ten-minutes long because I fell asleep slept  as we were taking off and slept the entire two-hour flight.  Peggy and I were physically well-rested upon our return to Decatur!   

When we find ourselves "too busy," we inadvertently omit some things from our lives...like writing blogs.  We simply do not have time for the non-priority items.  It is in these overwhelmingly busy times that we reveal the true importance of spiritual disciplines in our lives.  Amidst the busyness, are we taking time for meaningful prayer; for daily time alone with God; for connecting with God through reading His Word and applying it to our lives; for sharing our faith with others?  If we disconnect ourselves from our spiritual lifeline, we will not only drift away from God, we may lose touch with Him altogether.  Spiritual backsliding begins with one single-choice to NOT DO what we know we SHOULD DO spiritually.  Like a snowball rolling down a steep hill, that single-choice quickly becomes a repeated decision to move away from God.  If we are too busy for the things of God--we are TOO BUSY!   There is not one of our countless activities that is worth losing our closeness with the Lord!  

Years ago, Bill Hybels wrote a classic book called, "Too Busy NOT To Pray!"  If you have not read that book, I strongly recommend you read it.  It is convicting, probing, and reminds us nothing is so important that it should preempt our daily time with God.   Perhaps I should not confess this because pastors are suppose to be "super saints," but my personal spiritual disciplines were altered during these months of chaotic scheduling.  I was not investing 60-90 minutes in prayer each morning and my Bible study was not what it normally is.  I felt the spiritual impact of my altered devotional life.  The keen edge in my relationship with Christ was dulled.  The urgency of prayer was not as pressing while everything else demanded my attention.  The unexpected people who came into my life seemed more like "interruptions" than "opportunities."    Rather than allow all these things to sink my soul, I called out to God for help.  I requested prayer from my fellow Christians who knew my situation.  I determined that no matter how busy life became and regardless how busy my demanding schedule was, I would not miss daily time with God...even if it was an abbreviated time.  

While the craziness of my daily schedule is not over, it is letting-up a bit.  I hope to return to a semi-normal schedule within the next month.  Through these months of stress, I have become convinced of the wisdom and importance of God's command in Psalm 46:10 to, "Be still and know that I am God."   I urge you to NEVER allow yourself to become too busy for God.   

 




November 27, 2014, 9:14 AM

Thanksgiving 2014

Growing up, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays.  Thanksgiving was a day for being with family, laughing a lot, enjoying great food, and having fun with those who meant the most to me. Thanksgiving meant going to my grandparents’ farm near Lilbourn, Missouri, for a feast of amazing country cooking!  Most of the vegetables eaten had been grown in my grandparents’ garden. Even though they had been frozen, they were still delicious beyond description.  I still miss my Grandma Cecil’s enormous homemade yeast biscuits.  Her yeast biscuits were better than any bread I have eaten anywhere!  There was always far more food than could be consumed in one-day.  My aunt and her family were there, which meant I got to spend the day with my two male cousins.  We had a wonderful time playing on the farm. 

Today, on Thanksgiving 2014, three of our four children who live many hours from us are basically spending Thanksgiving alone.  Our second daughter is trying to make the best of her situation as she spends the day with her two small children while her husband, due to his job, is stuck in a lonely motel room some ten-hours away from them .  Our third daughter is spending the day by herself in a dorm room in Oklahoma.  She plans to invest the time studying for her upcoming classes and prepare for Finals.   Our son will have his two-year-old daughter with him part of the day, but will spend much of the day by himself.  Peggy is working today, which is what caregivers do on holidays.  I am alone with my lengthy list of “To-Dos” I hope to accomplish. 

I do not share that for sympathy, because I know so many others who are spending this day alone...like my aunt in Texas who I plan to call this morning.  I share this as an acknowledgement of how radical life changes in just a few short years.  I think back to the noisy, bustling, aroma-filled house I enjoyed every Thanksgiving during my childhood.  Words cannot accurately convey how much I miss that!   While today does not appear to be anything like those days I remember from my youth, I am thankful to God for allowing me such cherished memories!  I thank Him for a beautiful, loving wife who puts Him first in her life and actually puts me second!  (I am thankful to be that high on her list!)  I thank God for four wonderful adult children who I keep in touch with by phone, Skype, and text.  I am grateful for six adorable grandchildren who still think PaPa is the best!  Most of all on this Thanksgiving, I thank God for His love for me!  The older I get, the clearer it becomes how unworthy I am of His love.  His forgiveness and His acceptance of those who come to Him with a humble spirit is beyond understanding.  I am so thankful for His mercy.  On this lonely Thanksgiving Day, Christ’s promise is richer than ever:  “I am with you always” (Matthew  28:20).  Whether you are alone today or in the midst of a noisy household, give thanks to God for His blessings in your life! 




November 19, 2014, 6:57 AM

STRESSED OUT!!!


My life has been filled with an abnormally high level of STRESS in recent months!  It has affected my memory, thrown my schedule into chaos, and caused me to feel as if I were running in all directions at the same time!  Preparing our West Grand church location for vacancy; packing items at West Grand and determining what we need to take to the new location; trying to sell the items of value we no longer need in order to fund the remodeling of our new facility; doing demolition at the new facility in order to prepare it for the contractor; buying items for the new building; dealing with governmental “red tape” on a host of issues;  trying to fulfill my role as pastor; finishing another Masters degree; plus dealing with my on-going health struggles; all these items and more have added to my excessive stress levels!  The cartoon attached with this blog entry is one of my favorites regarding stress. 

I have to regularly remind myself of Jesus’ words found in Matthew 6:25-34.  He reminds us there is no reason to worry or be unduly stressed because He has everything under control.  My favorite part of these vereses is when Jesus says, “But seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”  I have never been one to worry, but there are times when the stress load becomes nearly unbearable.  I have been at that point a lot in recent weeks. 

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 remind us God is going to fully take care of those who live for Him.  If I am an obedient follower of Jesus Christ, one thing I can know for sure is  GOD HAS IT ALL COVERED!!  I may not see HOW He is working on my behalf, but I can rest assured He IS working!

Jesus gives us several keys for surviving life’s stresses.

  • 1st—We need to remember that God knows we need these material things.  Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The promise is to supply our needs, not our “wants.” 
  • 2nd—We must keep right priorities in our lives.  We must view life from Jesus’ perspective. What is important to Him should be the priority items in OUR lives.
  • 3rd—We must realize that with Christ at the core of our lives, He will take care of the ‘details.’
  • 4th—Jesus gave us a lifestyle example of getting away from the stresses for a brief time to rest, relax, pray, and be alone with God:
    • Matthew 14:13—Jesus withdrew to a solitary place
    • Mark 1:35—Jesus got up early, withdrew to a private place to pray
    • Luke 4:42—at daybreak Jesus went to a secluded place to pray
    • Luke 6:12—Jesus went to a mountainside where He spent the night in prayer.

Stress is a normal part of our human existence.  Jesus was exactly right in Matthew 6:34, there will be new stresses tomorrow and more new ones the day after that.   He is ready to help us survive life’s stresses if we will let Him.




October 29, 2014, 1:56 PM

Memories of Church Days Past

On October 26, 2014, Peggy and I attended the 100th anniversary of the First Church of the Nazarene in Dexter, Missouri.  That is the church in which I grew up.  My immediate family began attending Dexter First Church around 1963.  Mom attended faithfully until advancing Alzheimer's forced her into a nursing home.  My sister and her family still attend and are a vital part of the church.  The centennial service was excellent!  Great music; great fellowship; a challenging message by the District Superintendent (who happens to be my cousin); a delicious lunch; and a tremendous southern gospel concert in the afternoon.  It was wonderful to see so many people from my past.  It was a truly blessed day!

As I sat there in the service, the video-of-my-mind rolled with memories of so many services from long ago.  I recalled the very distinguished-looking Berry Holder standing at the podium leading singing.  I remembered specific services when Dale Purcell filled-in as song leader...and Dale "got blessed" as we sang the hymns about God's redeeming power!   I thanked God as I thought of Sister Renfro, Sister Caudle, Sister Trammell, and Mrs. Woodard...those dear little ladies who were the "Prayer Warriors" during my formative years.   I was thrilled to visit with Earl and Neva Young, both in their 90s now.  From the time I was a young boy, Earl has been a Godly influence on me.  He regularly prayed with me during my many trips to the altars during my teen years.  While in college and in my early years in ministry, Earl prayed faithfully for God's anointing upon me.  He has been a powerfully positive influence on my life.  It was a joy to visit with him once again.  Most of those I remember from my growing-up years at Dexter First Church are no longer alive.  The old church is not quite the same as it use to be, but I am not the same as I use to be either.  Life goes on.  

The thought God challenged me with over the weekend is this--what am I doing to impact lives for Christ the way those saints from Dexter First Church have touched my life?    I wonder if people will think of me with the fondness that filled my heart as I recalled so many precious friendships of the past?  Let me pass that challenge along to you--how are you allowing the Lord to use you as the positive influcence for His Kingdom that will leave a lasting legacy on those whose lives you touch?  Allow God to create life-changing, positive memories in the spiritual journey of others because of you.  

 




October 14, 2014, 8:50 AM

Don't Miss The Obvious

Back in February, we traded cars.  The 2013 Honda Civic we bought was brand new and had the features we wanted.  I wanted a sporty-looking car and Peggy desired a sunroof.  We both wanted a car with very good gas mileage, and one that was within our budget.  The car we bought has those features, plus “bonus features” that are fun, but nothing we really felt we needed.  One of those features is a back-up camera.  When you put the car in reverse, a monitor on the dash shows you what is immediately behind your car.  I have joked that you can see what you are about to back over! 

While on vacation in Florida, I brought back a souvenir I definitely DID NOT WANT!  As I backed out of a parking space, I was very careful to watch the back-up monitor, check the rearview mirrors, and make certain I avoided the cars in the parking lot.  As I backed out of the parking space, I turned the steering wheel and immediately felt a very slight ‘bump’ on the front, passenger side of the car.  Instinctively, I knew it was not good!  I had scraped something.  Prior to getting into the car, I walked around the vehicle and saw several concrete barrier poles guarding a ‘no parking area.’  They were in plain sight…except when you are seated in a car.  The poles were below my sight line.  As I backed out of the parking place, I gently scraped one of the poles.  Had I backed-up an additional four-inches, I would have missed the pole entirely.  I was sickened!  My only consolation at the time was seeing all the other colors of paint on the concrete pole and knowing many others had experienced the same feeling I had at that moment. 

Just as I should not have missed the obvious fact that obstacle was two-feet from our vehicle, we must be certain we do not miss the obvious in our spiritual lives.  We can become so busy doing all the stuff Christians are suppose to do, that we miss or neglect the most obvious of spiritual disciplines.  We can become so involved in living our Christian life and serving in church that we fail to make Prayer the foundation of our lives; Bible Study can become a mere routine rather than a time feasting on God’s personal message to us; Tithing can degrade to little more than a “tax payment to God”; Sharing Our Faith can become limited to talking with other believers rather than being the message of hope God wants us to share with unbelievers; and Personal Spiritual Growth may be ‘assumed’ instead of pursued.  We must be careful to not wreck our spiritual lives by neglecting or missing the obvious things which will keep us strong in our faith.

 


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