I Need You to See …

God is speaking. I am doing my best to listen and hear everything He is saying to me. I have sensed Him moving in me in some very uncomfortable ways in recent weeks. Honesty compels me to admit He has been trying to get my attention for longer than a few weeks.

I still don’t know if I am seeing everything He is urging me to show me or not. It is not all clear, but it is beginning to have some focus. Right now, I feel a lot like the blind man in Mark 8. Jesus spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him. Then Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” The man responded, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” The man who had been blind could see, but he could not see clearly.

I sense that I am beginning to see. I believe that I am beginning to see what God wants me to see. However, it is not clear. There are shapes, and I am guessing what the shapes are, but it is not obvious, at least not yet.

God is telling me that he needs me to see what he sees. He wants me to see what he sees for what is coming next. I have been praying for God to move in me, in our church and in our community. For several months, I have told people that we are at a tipping point. A place where something, needs to push us over and then we will experience a flow of God that we may have never seen before.

I have been frustrated with how long it is taking for us get past this tipping point. This evening I know God is speaking to me. It is possible that I have been the problem.

I have been praying for God to move and for us/me to see him clearly and to clearly see what he desires.

Tonight, I think I am beginning to see. Tonight, I believe I am beginning to understand somethings I must do. Tonight, I am a strange mix of excited, overwhelmed and fearful. Tonight, I am praying for the faith to take the next right step. I am praying to see what he sees. I am praying to have the courage to act on what he is showing me. I am praying for the courage to share what I see with some other people.

That phrase, “I need you to see” keeps echoing in my heart and my mind. I believe it is beginning to reach a place in me that I find indescribable.

That phrase, “I need you to see”. I believe I am going to need to say that phrase to several people in the coming days and weeks if I am going to be obedient. I want to be obedient. I want to see what he wants me to see. I want to be able to share it with others. I want to share it with the people I need to share it with.

I would ask you to pray with me that I will see it, that I would be obedient and that I would share it.

Last Sunday I preached on trusting God. I challenged my people to write some specific things on paper. I asked them to write them down twice. Then I asked them to keep one copy and lay the other copy on the altar if they were committing to trust God with those things. 50 people responded. It was awesome. I wrote down 4 things and placed it on the altar and I placed the other copy in my Bible. What I believe God is speaking to me about and what I believe he is trying to get me to see, fits some of what I wrote down on Sunday.

Wow God!

So here I am, trusting. Here I am listening. Here I am trying to see. Here I am on the tipping point.

In Mark 8, Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes a second time. After the second touch, the man’s eyes were opened, and his sight was restored.

Do it again Lord.

 

Dennis

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I’m Tired …

I have made that statement too often in recent weeks. The irony is that I am tired of being tired. I have figured out the biggest reason that I have been tired so often recently. It is time to make a change. Actually. it is a reboot and a return to something.

What I have come to realize is that my fatigue is a result of something lacking.

It is not sleep that I am lacking. It is not healthy food or vitamins. It is not exercise and it is not time off. My wife might comment at this point and say that I have been lacking all of the above. She might be correct. But those things are not why I have been tired.

I have been tired because of a lack of creativity. I love to dream of possibilities. I love to imagine what could be. I love to create, sometimes to a fault. I realize that I have been tired because I have allowed some things, and some people, to steal my creativity, and I am tired of it.

It is time for a reboot. It is time to be creative. It is time to make some changes and release my creativity again.

I am annoyed that I allowed this to happen. I am grieved that I stifled some other people’s creativity during this time. Please accept my apology.

Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” This verse from Acts is quote from Joel 2:28. Old or young, I want to be a part of this holy creativity. I love that in God’s plan, we are never too old or too young to a part of His creative plans.

This afternoon I shook loose some of the junk that has been weighing on me. I began typing some thoughts on possible things. It was invigorating and it was convicting because it has been too long. But I am focusing on the invigorating part because I have dealt with the convicting part.

It is time for this change/reboot on my God-given creativity.

Look out and hold on, this could be a bumpy ride. One thing is for sure, it won’t be boring and if you join in it will be a blast.

 

Dennis

Sometimes I Don’t Like Me Very Much …

Can you relate to this title? I am not looking for pity and this is not a passive aggressive attempt for pats on the back. I am simply stating a fact. There are times that I don’t like me very much. These times are usually triggered by my failure to do something that I know needs to be done. Or at least putting it off so long that it becomes an emergency that must be rushed. I don’t like myself in those situations. I usually have some intense conversations with myself in these moments. It is not a pretty picture. But it is true, at least for me. Do you ever have times like this?

I have been wrestling with the why of all this recently. Why do I do this? Why don’t I simply do what I know needs to be done, especially considering that I am painfully aware of the feelings that will pop up if I don’t? Why do I repeat this behavior and put myself into such a frustrating cycle?

After much reflection, I have come up with 3 big whys for this tendency of mine.

My 3 Whys …

-I often delay, avoid, or run from, what I know I need to do because I will have to change some behavior. Ironically, I am a person who generally likes a lot of change. When I hear “We’ve never done it that way before”, my default response is “Great, let’s try it!” And yet, I still resort to familiar, comfortable or convenient behavior when I don’t really want to do something. When this happens, I don’t like me very much.

-I sometimes don’t want to do something because I am not sure I can do it well. As much of an adventurer as I normally am there are times that I back off just because I don’t think I can something well enough. This seemingly random reaction on my part reveals some natural insecurities. Whether it is normal or not, doesn’t help me to like myself any better for not doing it.

-There are also times when I just don’t want to do something because I am afraid that it will work. Think about it. While it is true that if I attempt something and it doesn’t work or I fail at it, I will be sad, maybe embarrassed or mad. It is also true that if I don’t do it well the expectations for the next time will be lowered or, I might not even be expected to do it again. However, if I go for it and it works, then things may never be the same again. This can be a little overwhelming when you think about it. And I think about it a lot. I don’t like myself much when I realize this is the reason I don’t do what I know to do.

I am convinced that these 3 whys are not just issues for me, but that many people struggle with the same or similar issues. I am certain that they show up every Sunday in churches of all sizes, shapes and styles.

What are your whys? Is there one that plaques you more than others?

I am comforted to know that God’s grace is sufficient for all of us. I am motivated to reduce those times of not doing what I know to do by this same amazing grace and by the fact that there are others watching. Let’s encourage one another to make a change, to get over our fears and do what God has created and called us to do and to be who He longs for us to be.

 

Dennis

The Power of Pain …

As I sit here it is 4:00 AM on a Saturday morning. My thoughts are on the fact that my stomach hurts. Don’t feel bad for me there is considerable evidence that I created this pain. I created it because I ate too much Chinese food last night. It tasted so good that I thought a little more was okay. The problem is, I thought a little more was okay several times. So here I am sitting at my computer instead of sleeping.

Then I thought of pain. I am feeling some right now, evidence suggests it is due to the afore mentioned overeating. That led me to thinking about the power of pain. Pain can destroy or it can strengthen and there is much debate about which is more likely. We have all learned, there is no denying that pain is powerful.

Pain often dominates our thoughts when it is present. (It is dominating my thoughts tonight.) Anything that dominates our thoughts is powerful.

Sometimes it is physical pain. It can be temporary, the way I am hoping mine is this morning. Temporary pain can be from an injury that we know will get better quickly. The temporary can be planned, knowing that what we are doing is for our benefit and will be gone in a short time. Exercise can even fit in this category, as in “no pain, no gain”. A minor medical procedure can fall into this category. The key to using the power of temporary pain is to focus on how soon it will be gone and look for how it can bring strength for the future.

There is long term pain. Chronic illness or when an injury is not going to heal in a short time are examples. It is often heard around this type of pain “I am just going to have to learn to live with it”. The power in this pain can be how it can chip away at us physically and emotionally.  This type of pain can wear a person down. There can be strength gained in long term pain when we look at how we are surviving in ways we hadn’t imagined before the pain.

There is another type of pain that might be the most powerful. That is the pain of shattered expectations. The pain that comes when what we were planning and expecting doesn’t happen. This can be somewhat minor as when our team loses or the package doesn’t arrive on time. It can be major such as when the job is gone. When the person we loved is no longer present. When a person we depended on doesn’t do what we expected them to do. This type of pain can be devastating.

When the pain is from shattered expectations we need help from outside ourselves. We may turn to a friend. We may turn to family. We may turn to a counselor. We may turn to God and the Bible.

The intersection of our pain and the need to gain strength to go on is a great place for a turnaround to begin.

In our pain, it is likely that our vision is clouded. The pain can be so dominating that we struggle to focus on anything but the pain. That is where having someone else to grab our hand and guide us in toward a turnaround. Turnarounds are not “scar free zones”. It is rare to come through deep pain without some scarring. But scars are signs of healing.

If you are in pain I am praying for you.

Recently I have had an overwhelming burden for people struggling with pain. Some in physical pain and especially those with long term physical pain. Some in the loss of a loved one. Some of those losses have come through death, others through divorce and some through indifference, but all feeling the pain of the loss. I have also been grieving for those who have been devastated by shattered expectations.

Take some comfort in knowing that someone is praying for you today and part of that prayer is for a turnaround.

Dennis

Do you see what I see?

What does the mirror of your mind show you?

What do you see when you reflect on who you are?

Do you see the failures? Do you see shadows of past sins?

Do you see the times you were paralyzed by fear?

Do you see the times you stumbled?

Do you just close your eyes so you won’t see?

God asks, ‘Do you see what I see?’ He says, ‘I see one of my children.’

What do you see?

God says, ‘I see one who has been forgiven.’

What do you see?

Too often we are blinded by our past and even our present.

Too often we only see what the enemy attempts to distort.

It is time to look and see what God sees. It is time to view yourself

as He sees you.

He says, ‘I see one of my children. I see one for whom I sent my Son to redeem.

Do you see what I see?’ God asks.

You are not the sum of your past, you add up to much more than that.

It is time to re-calculate and see what He sees.

God is asking, ‘Do you see what I see?’

He is firmly and lovingly saying, “I see one of my children.”

“I see one that I love. One that I loved so much I sent my Son to redeem.”

“Do you see what I see?”

 

Dennis

I lift my eyes up …

I made the decision early this week that I had to stop navel gazing and look up. I realized that my grumbling was doing no good and that I had to change something. So I chose to change my view, so that my attitude could change and then I changed my behavior. 

Looking up is not a novel thought in fact it is right out of scripture. Psalm 121:1-2 “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” 

Since making the choice to look up I have had several reminders that God is at work in me and in my churches. Whether it was a text, a Facebook message, an email, a phone call or a conversation, I have received clear reminders that feeling sorry for myself is of no value. These reminders were encouraging and humbling. I definitely got confirmation that God is really up to something good here.

I often pray with people in the hospital that God would give them some clear reminders that God is with them and loves them. Someone must have been praying that for me this week. Whoever you are thanks, I needed it. 

I suspect that I am not alone in needing to change my view. I encourage you to join me in looking up and recognizing where your help comes from. I further suspect that you know someone who needs to be reminded of this as well.

Let’s encourage one another to look up. Let’s pray for others to get some clear reminders that they are not alone that God is with them and that we are praying for them.

Here’s my formula “Look up (to the Lord). Look out (toward others instead of feeling sorry for myself). Move on (toward all that God has for me). 

Dennis

I can’t do it anymore …

A truer statement has never been given, “I can’t do it anymore.” I never could do it. It should be a very obvious statement as well. I have at times fooled myself into thinking that maybe I could do it. Or at least maybe I could be a major factor. I was wrong. I was dead wrong. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can’t do it. 

I can’t build a church into what God desires. I can’t bring revival. I can’t move people’s hearts to real life change. I can’t do it. I am a complete and utter failure. 

Finally I am at the place where God can do it. Because either God breaks through in the power of His Holy Spirit or we are doomed.

In Luke 11:1 the disciples were with Jesus while he was praying. When he finished praying the disciples said, “Lord teach us to pray …” They didn’t ask him to teach them to preach, or to write, or to lead and they didn’t ask him to teach them how to strategize. Preaching, writing, leading and planning are all good and important things, but they had been with Jesus. They had heard and seen him pray. They had learned that prayer was the foundation and the most important thing to learn and to do. 

I can’t do it, but God can.

I am praying for a breakthrough. A breakthrough in my spirit, in my mind and in my heart. A breakthrough that can only be explained as “God showed up”.

I am praying for a breakthrough in my churches. A breakthrough in our sin, in our pride, in our traditions and in our plans. A breakthrough that can only be explained as “a God thing”. 

I can’t do it, but God can and He will.

There is a real sense of relief at the realization that I can’t do it but God can and will. There is also a real sense of fear as I wonder what God will do and what will change when He does it. There is also an incredible sense of excitement as I pray and anticipate what God is going to do. In the meantime I am going to pray and then pray some more. Samuel Chadwick is credited for saying that the greatest answer to prayer is more prayer.

I can’t do it, but God can and He will as I pray and then act on what He leads me into.

Have you realized you can’t? Will you join with me in praying for God to breakthrough?

Dennis

My Monday Morning Wreck …

My wreck happened early Monday morning. It took place in the sanctuary of one of my churches. I am still reeling from the impact and have both physical and emotional evidence of the wreck. The impact occurred when I began praying around 5:30 am. 

The Lord came and wrecked my thoughts. He got a hold of me in a powerful way. He got my attention and it rocked me. I am still reeling and trying to wrap my mind and heart around all that He impressed upon me.

I am wrecked. And though I know it is a good thing it is still a painful thing. Maybe this is one of those “no pain, no gain” moments for me. God is working in me like never before. Shouldn’t I have this all figured out by now?

But what about you? The events of the past few months, and especially the past two weeks, have rocked our country. But what about you? Are you shook up? This is not about sides it is about life and a burden for hurting people.

I have had a growing burden for prayer the past few years. The heat was turned up several notches the last 2 and a half years. But the past few days have simply broken me. What about you? 

I have a sense that this is exactly where God has been trying to get me for a long time. Broken over my own lacking. Broken over the brokenness of our world. Broken over those who are hurting, including those who are angry. Anger is sometimes an expression of brokenness. I am broken over the passivity of so many of us who claim to be followers of Christ. I am broken over pastors who are having to leave the ministry. I am broken over the lack of impact that I am making in my community, compared to what God desires to do in me and through me. I am broken over my inadequacies in communicating the love of Christ to my hurting community. I am broken. What about you? 

In my prayer time Monday morning God really got a hold of me. He got a hold of me in way that I have never experienced before. It is humbling, exciting, frightening and even a little frustrating. I don’t know what is coming next. If I act on all that I am sensing/hearing from God what will happen? Did I mention that I am broken?

Very likely I will share much of how God wrecked me on Sunday July 24 in both of the churches that I pastor. When I do I will also be sharing what I am being guided toward and what I am convinced God is calling my churches into.

I realize that this post is a little scattered and seems to be moving in a few different directions, but it is how I am processing the impact that I experienced on Monday.

In the meantime, how are you doing? Are you hurting? Are you broken? What will you do now?

Dennis

Why not?

Have you ever had a unique thought that just seemed to make sense but then you realized that as far as you know no one is doing it that way? What has been your next thought? Was it, “It must not be possible because no one else is doing it”? Was it, “It must not work because no one else is doing it that way”?

What if you turned those thoughts around and instead asked, “Why not?”

Isn’t it possible that no one has tried it the way you are thinking? Isn’t it possible that no one with your unique skills has tried it before?

Many years ago I sat in Lyle Schaller’s living room with a few others. We were there to interview him and ask his impressions of some discipleship ideas we were considering. I was part of a group in my denomination who were attempting to create a new approach to disciple making that would excite and inspire our people, and the churches they were attending, to do discipleship in whatever way would work for them.

While sitting and talking with Lyle Schaller that afternoon we listened as he shared from his years of research and experience. In the midst of our discussions Lyle made a statement that deeply impacted me and my ministry. He said the church is not really afraid of failure. He went on and said that the church’s hesitation to try new things was not from a fear of failure. That statement went against the traditional thinking of trying to bring change to a church. I asked why he thought the church wasn’t afraid of failure. His response was that the church was used to failure. That if a church tried something new and it failed then everything was likely to go back to the way it was before the new thing was attempted.

He went on to say that what the church (meaning those of us in the church) was afraid of in trying something new was success! Because if we tried something new and it worked, then that church would never be the same again. That, he said, is what frightens us and gives us pause about trying something new!

Wow!

I have found that Lyle Schaller was correct all those years ago and unfortunately that same thinking is still prevalent in most of our churches today.

In fact as I was reading, thinking and praying today I have come to the realization that I have been getting squeezed into that thinking in my own life and somewhat in my ministry. I have been struggling to pull the trigger on trying some things that I believe God is prodding me to do personally and I have been dragging my feet in leading my churches toward some change that is absolutely necessary.

I believe it is time to start stepping out in some fresh ways in my life and in my leadership. This afternoon as I have been processing all of the thoughts racing through my mind and all of the possibilities I keep coming back to this thought, “Why not?”

If I go for it and I bomb it will have been quite an experience and I am confident I will get many sermon illustrations from it. However, if I go for it and it works … I have a big smile on my face and tears in my eyes as I consider the possibilities. The same is true for my churches.

So, why not?

What is your why not? What is it that you have been sensing the thumb of God in your back to do? Why not give it a shot?

Should you pray about it, absolutely! But I am guessing that you have already done that and still not started. Why not? Should you consider the good, the bad and the possible ugly of going for it, certainly! Then consider this, why not?

Here’s hoping and praying that my courage holds and I go for it. Actually it is several “its”. Here’s hoping that you really ask “Why not?” and then consider going for whatever you are sensing from God.

If my going for it crashes and burns at least it will provide some warmth for a while and will likely attract some others to investigate what happened when they see the flames.

So, why not?

Dennis

Nodding My Head, or Moving My Feet?

I found myself doing it this week as I listened to a podcast. The “it” was nodding my head because I was agreeing with the information the speaker was sharing. I was agreeing that what was being shared was what needed to be done in order to bring change to the problem that had been presented. Nothing wrong with nodding my head in agreement. The problem is that I didn’t get up from desk and do anything with what I was agreeing with. Can you relate to this scenario? Ever said that would work, and then not do anything about it?

There seems to be some disconnect between my head and my feet. I find it much easier to nod in agreement than to take steps of agreement. Evidently there are some people in my churches that have a similar disconnect. I know this because of how often I see people nodding in agreement during a sermon or saying amen to a statement and then coming in the next Sunday with nothing changed. The truth is that sometimes I nod at my own sermon and then start working on the next sermon before I take steps to change. Man I hate to admit that, but it is the painful truth.

Maybe we need to start a support group. You know, we could gather together frequently and say “Hi, my name is Dennis and I nod in favor of change much more than I take steps to change.” Maybe that would spur us to move from nodding to walking.

As I listened to that podcast I found myself not only nodding in agreement but saying “That’s right. That will make a difference.” Then the speaker answered a question that had been sent from a listener. The essence was that the listener wanted to know how to move from gaining knowledge to taking action on the subject being discussed. The speaker informed the listener that if they were just continually gaining information with no change of behavior then they probably didn’t really want to change. OUCH!!

Wow! That was a truth bomb that really hurt. Did you feel it?

I must confess that at times I say I am interested in change more than I am willing to take the steps to change. In other words I am too often more into nodding my head than moving my feet. “Hi, my name is Dennis and I am more of a head nodder than a feet mover.”

So here’s to us encouraging each other to take a step toward our goal. To take some of that energy we are using to nod our heads and use it to move our feet. Who’s with me?

How about you? Ready to take a step? It can be a small one, just slide your foot forward. No matter how small the step is it is better than just nodding your head, isn’t it?

Here’s hoping that this Sunday many of us will move our feet. Think of the possibilities. We could begin changing our homes, our communities and beyond with just a step. Especially is we move them on Monday, or Wednesday, or, well you get the idea. Excuse me as I get up and move my feet toward my goal.

Dennis