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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Hurting, but Joyful, Smiling with Tears …

I have been wrestling for some time with this truth about myself. My heart hurts, but the reason my heart hurts also brings me joy. How can that be? Am I just fooling myself? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is true. I am sure that you don’t understand, at least not yet.

I have shared many times that my son, daughter (in-law) and their 5 children (my grandchildren) are serving as missionaries. They are serving in Africa. The country in which they were serving, Central Africa Republic (CAR), has been through tumultuous times in the past and is currently going through them again.

My kids, and the team on which they were serving, had to be evacuated on the Saturday before Easter. A day before the celebration of Christ’s resurrection that provides the Good News. It was called an emergency evacuation. They could only take a small bag with them as they were rushed away. They didn’t have time to say any proper goodbyes to neighbors and other friends or the community in which they were serving.

As a parent and grandparent, I am grateful that they were removed safely. But my heart hurts for them and the people they were reaching. Much of the town in which they lived is destroyed. Nearly everyone living in that town, a few thousand people, have fled. The reports are that the only people remaining are those who were physically unable to flee.

The people have scattered and not all of them know where members of their families are located, or if they are even alive. Some crossed the border into Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), some made it to other towns in CAR and others may have gone even further.

It is heartbreaking for my son, daughter in law and grandkids. The people who fled, and are now refugees through no fault of their own, were friends and neighbors. Some had come to faith in Christ. Many of them helped them to adapt and adjust to the town, the country and the culture. Those people are not just numbers in a news report, they have names and faces that my kids can still see in their prayers.

My joy is in knowing that God is still God and he is Lord. My heart hurts for my kids and for those people who loved my kids. My joy comes from knowing that my kids and grandkids know Jesus as their personal Savior and that they are physically safe. My heart hurts for the people who had to flee from their homes, their families, their friends, their work and their land because some others wanted to exert power over them.

My joy is knowing that no matter what my kids and grandkids are facing God is with them and that he loves them ferociously. My heart hurts knowing that I so often take for granted the ease with which I can minister and live for Jesus when so many live in daily danger.

Frequently, during the past 4+ years I have been asked by people “How can you let your kids and grandkids go so far away into dangerous situations?” My answer has been, and still is, that God is leading them. I either trust God or I don’t trust him. I am convinced that he is leading them, and that he was leading them when went to CAR. Therefore, I trust. That doesn’t mean I don’t hurt. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever have any fear. That doesn’t mean I don’t shed tears. That doesn’t mean that I don’t pray for their safety. But it does mean, that I also pray for their relationship with Christ. It means that I pray for their ministry. It means that I pray that I can what they need me to be as a supporter and prayer warrior on their behalf.

So today, with tears often escaping my eyes and landing dangerously near my keyboard, I pray and I trust. Today, I am joyful and have some pain as well.

Isn’t how it should be every day?

 

Dennis

Is this your spot?

Where is your spot? You know that place you where you always end up. As a pastor I can tell you where the “spot” is on Sunday mornings for most regular attenders in my church. There are a few who end up in other spots from week to week. But most of them have the same spot each time they attend. The good news is that I know if they are in attendance or not just by looking at their spot. The bad news is that sometimes someone new arrives before them and lands in their spot. Watching the reaction of those who are displaced from their “spot” is an interesting study in the art of adjustment.

My favorite memory of the need for adjustment was in the first church in which I was the lead pastor. We outgrew our building and the small lot on which it stood. We had to relocate and build a new facility. In the new  building, we used movable seating in our worship space. Nearly every week this couple sat in the second row, on the left side of the center section. If they were in attendance, which was 98% of the time, you would find in their “spot”. One Sunday we rearranged the seating. There had been a Saturday evening wedding and the seating had been changed to have a center aisle and therefore only two sections of seats. Rather than make everyone do the extra work of rearranging I said to just leave it that way for Sunday morning. This meant that there was no center section. When this couple entered the worship space they walked to the second row and then stood in the center aisle looking rather perplexed. He then turned to her and said “Well now where do we sit?” 

This change of circumstances were more than he could handle that morning. The good news is they found a seat and were not upset. They didn’t leave the church and they didn’t complain to me. I loved that couple, but that was a humorous moment. Most of us have our “spots”, don’t we?

First row, second seat in from the center aisle of the west center section. This has become my spot. Where is your spot? This is where you will find me nearly every Monday and Friday morning from 5:30 am to 6:30(ish) am. This has become my spot. 

This isn’t always my spot. Sometimes my spot moves as I walk through the rows of chairs. Sometimes my spot is kneeling at the altar. Sometimes my spot is on the floor in front of that seat on the first row. At home it is nearly always the brown recliner in our front room. Sometimes sitting and sometimes kneeling. That has become my spot. Every other week my spot is at a table with 4 to 8 other pastors sharing and praying. Do you have a spot?

The spot isn’t sacred. I won’t even be upset if you are in my spot, as long as you are participating.

There is nothing special about my spot(s) but special things have been happening in my spot(s).

The special things are because this is where I often pray. I am also a walking pray-er. I especially love to walk around and through the sanctuary and the rows of seats praying.

What I have discovered is that more important than the location of my spot is what I am doing in that spot. There is something to having a spot, or two, but what takes place there matters more. The more consistent I have become in my times of prayer the more I am changing, growing and seeing God move. Interesting how that works. The more often I pray. The more consistently I pray. The more I read the Bible and the more consistently I read my Bible. Then the more God seems to work in and through me.

I love getting to my spot(s) no matter what day it is, no matter which spot I happen to find myself. I look forward to getting to my spot(s). I approach them with anticipation. 

The big revelation is that my spot is wherever I meet with Jesus. Whether in prayer, reading the Bible or in worship. What matters most is that I meet with Him. The place isn’t what matters most. What matters most is that when I am in my “spot” I meet with Jesus, listen to Him, talk with Him and then go and live for Him.

So, where is your spot?

Here’s hoping that you find some “spots” to meet with Jesus. My prayer is that when you are in your “spot” that you hear how much you are loved and that you are never alone.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a very difficult day in worship and a good day in conversation and fellowship. It was a very “burstrating” day for sure. (see previous post for definition of “burstration”) As for my musings …

-My wife and I had a great time of sharing and conversing with another pastor last evening. We definitely needed that time.

-We had technical problems again at my 9:00 church. We have to get something figured out. 

-At my 10:30 church I could hear a funky sound while I was preaching, evidently not everyone could hear it. It got so annoying to me and was messing with my head while I was preaching that I shut off my mic near the end of my sermon and went old school. In other words I spoke really loud (some might call it yelling, to each his own).

-There was a dryness that seemed to hang over both churches like a dense cloud during worship yesterday. I found it very difficult to push through it while preaching.

-There was a family that returned for the second time in my 10:30 church and a single person who returned in my 9:00 church. It is always encouraging to see people visit and then return.

-Overall attendance was down in both churches.

-I think when attendance is down, especially following some good attendance Sundays, that it often brings the atmosphere in the service down.

-I was bummed after the services yesterday in part because I had some great times of prayer last week and especially on Saturday. I came into both services with high expectations and greatly burdened to see people respond. Time to “dig deeper” in my prayer and preparation this coming week. 

-There have been 5 of us in the 5:30 to 6:30 am prayer times this morning and last Friday. I am encouraged that we are having a handful really getting serious about prayer.

-I got called out to the hospital on Friday evening. I serve as a chaplain one day a week at our local hospital. There are 5 of us that rotate days and then we are the first ones called if a family with no church is in crisis and desires a pastor. I was the one called on Friday to comfort a family who had lost a loved one. Those are difficult and wonderful opportunities to minister. It is great to share the love of Jesus with people and to just be a sounding board for them in a difficult time. I count it a real privilege to able to serve in those times. 

Here’s hoping that you find an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with someone in need this week.

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

Tuesday’s Thoughts …

Sunday was an outstanding day and this week is going to be epic. Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have ever had in my ministry. I was awakened Monday morning at 1:30 am with a phone call. Since then a couple of other emergencies have arisen and my thoughts and emotions are exhausted. As for my thoughts (they can’t be musings because it is Tuesday not Monday) … 

-My 10:30 church had our Vacation Bible School last week and the kids shared a few songs, there was a lesson shared and I got to share that the 50+ kids who attended brought in $900. They gave enough to cover the school costs for the next year for a girl we support in Africa and they will be sending a good amount to help with a program that feeds 16,000 students a day in Kenya. Some of the kids brought in money they have been saving and one boy had been saving coins since last year’s VBS. He brought in gallons of coins. One day when I took the coins in to the bank’s coin counter, the machine was overwhelmed and stopped working!

-Many of the kids who attended VBS were here Sunday and we had a few parents who don’t normally attend our church here as well. Our attendance was good as was the energy and spirit in the service.

-My 9:00 church had a nasty rain storm arrive about 25 minutes before our worship began. It was dark as night and raining very hard as the service started. An hour later it had stopped and the sun peeked out. Our attendance was down but we worshiped with passion anyway.

-The reason this week is going to be epic is because my son, daughter in law and 5 of my grandkids are arriving back in the states tomorrow after serving the past 3 years in Kenya! My wife and I will pick them up at the airport tomorrow along with their 21 pieces of luggage. We are taking a vehicle just for the luggage and then a minivan that has been loaned to our kids as well. We are very excited. 

-The greatest part of this week is that all of our kids and grandkids will be at our house this weekend. That will be 18 of us. We have added 2 since the crew went to serve in Africa. Someone is allowing us to use their RV while everyone is here to give us some extra sleeping space.

-My heart is breaking over a couple of the emergencies that have come our way in the past 36 hours. I was already planning to begin a new sermon series this Sunday that focuses on going deeper, praying harder and living authentically.

-Prayers are appreciated as my planned study time has been destroyed yesterday and today.

-This morning my wife and I went out for breakfast and one of our kids who comes with someone other than his family came into the restaurant with some of his family. He came straight to us and gave each of us a big hug. We talked with him and his family a little and reminded the family members that they are always welcome to come to church with him. That was a nice little bright spot.

-With everything that has taken place the past 2 days here and the past few weeks around the world I have been reminded of the phrase my Dad continued to share in his 44 years of ministry. “No matter what is happening, God is still God”. I have been saying “God is still God” over and over to myself and to a few others. I am grateful for this truth and for a Dad who continues to live this out. 

-I recently wrote this during one of my prayer times “My inaction is an indication that my prayers are empty words. If I prayer with the desire to be surrendered to Christ and to see Him move in my life then I must follow Him. Following requires action on my part.” I pray that inaction will never again be descriptive of my life.

Here’s hoping that you find a bright spot today. I am praying that you will recognize and live with the truth that God is still God echoing in your life.

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

From the Heart of Your Pastor …

Here I sit at the desk in my study/office late on a Saturday afternoon and my heart is breaking as I picture our time of worship tomorrow. As I go over my sermon again and add a few words here and there I am having trouble seeing my computer screen. Turns out there is no problem with my computer. The problem is that it is difficult to bring words on a screen into focus when my eyes are full of tears. My eyes are full of tears as I picture each of you and wonder how these words will impact you.

I desperately long for the words I have prayed over and prepared to make a difference. I am praying that you will hear much more than my words. I am crying out to God for you to hear from him as we worship tomorrow. My prayer is not for me to preach a great sermon, don’t get me wrong I hope that it is great but my greater desire is for God’s voice to be louder than mine.

This is just a reminder that you are being thought of as I prepare for tomorrow. If you are not a part of either of my congregations I am confident that your pastor is praying for and thinking of you tonight as he/she finishes preparations.

So tonight, rest assured that you have been prayed for and will be prayed for again before we gather tomorrow and worship together.

I am getting back to going over this sermon and picturing you in worship.

Here’s hoping you connect with the sermon tomorrow, but more importantly that you allow God to speak to you in worship tomorrow.

Dennis

The Approval Trap …

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Politicians seem to live and die by their approval ratings and in an election year we are inundated with reports of the various candidates and their approval ratings. It is easy to be critical of them for making decisions and adjustments based how they think others will react. But politicians are not the only ones caught in the approval trap, many pastors, and others are as well.

There is a great temptation as a pastor to judge things in our ministry by how much approval we receive for the things we do. This is not a fun thing to confess but it is huge temptation for pastors and many others.

Approval is a very enticing thing. Who doesn’t prefer approval over disapproval?  But this seeking approval can create problems such as …

  1. We may avoid difficult topics or conversations – If we are seeking approval we are looking for more “thanks, that was nice” than we are “I hadn’t thought about that” comments. As pastors we often seek the “nice sermon pastor” comments rather than “ouch, that one really hit me hard”. I told one of my congregations to not bother telling me “nice sermon” because I was more interested in my sermons making an impact than making them feel good. That was a bit of overkill on my part, but I knew that I could become addicted to “nice sermon” comments and preach in order to receive them. I am not proud of that truth, but it is the truth. I am confident that I am not alone in this area. Have you avoided some conversations recently because you were seeking approval?
  2. Seeking out those who give us approval rather than those we can help – We are here for a purpose and a major part of that purpose is to help others. We may be motivated to spend our time and energy doing things for the approval of those who will give it rather than seeking to help those who may not heap their gratitude upon us.
  3. We may become discouraged or depressed when approval is not received – When we seek approval we easily become discouraged when we do not perceive that we are receiving enough of it. When we continue to seek the approval of others and continue to believe that we are not getting it we can eventually become depressed. This is not an overnight event, but if we don’t recognize why we are discouraged we can spiral down this path.
  4. We can begin to make poor decisions while chasing the approval we crave – If we are chasing approval and not receiving it while doing what we believe to be right, we can start to make compromising choices hoping for approval. It starts out slowly and those first poor decisions can be easily rationalized in our minds. But unless this is recognized, confronted, confessed and changed we may begin to make some very harmful choices, all for this elusive approval.
  5. We are hesitate to confess that we have been snared by the approval trap – A powerful statement used in recovery ministries is that you are only as sick as your secrets. When it comes to recognizing that we are in the approval trap, we (especially pastors) can be very slow to confess this issue. The main reason is that we convince ourselves that it is not a real trap and that it is really not a big deal. The second reason for our hesitation is that we are usually ashamed to admit that we have been trapped by the desire for approval.

There are other problems with the chase for approval, but these 5 should be more than enough to make us stop and consider if we are being trapped. If the answer is yes, then admit it and talk with someone. I will try and address some steps to conquering the approval trap that I have had to take, and continue to take, next week.

Here’s hoping you can be honest with yourself as you determine if you are caught in this trap. Here’s hoping that you can talk with someone you trust about this possibility. I will be praying for all who read this post, and if you would like for me to pray for you specifically then leave me a comment and if you do not wish for others to see the comment just add that to your comment.

Dennis

A Pastor’s Thoughts on Saturday Night …

Saturday nights are interesting for a Pastor. You have been preparing for Sunday morning all week so Saturday night becomes Sunday Eve. It is the night before. It is the night before the culmination of a least a week’s worth of studying, praying, fretting, practicing, worrying, anticipating, wondering and questioning. It is the night before the big test and there is another test just a big coming in a week. It is the night before an evaluation of how much your congregation likes you, at least that is how many pastors think. Saturday night thoughts are not all logical or helpful but for a pastor, at some time or another, they are all true.

There are many questions and thoughts rattling around in a pastor’s mind on Saturday night. Those questions or thoughts create a unique Saturday night prayer list for pastors. Such as …

…I studied, did I study enough?

…People were scheduled to get the building ready for tomorrow, I pray that they all did their part.

…Our teachers and small group leaders have been preparing all week, I pray the people in their classes or groups show up tomorrow.

…I am burdened for ______________ I pray that they are in church tomorrow so that they can be encouraged by the message and the people.

…Our giving has been running behind the expenses recently, I pray the offering is good tomorrow.

…I am really burdened for tomorrow’s message, I pray that I am able to get the right words to come out of mouth as I preach. I pray that the words I have prepared are understood and reach people’s hearts and minds.

…I pray that everyone who is scheduled to minister tomorrow shows up.

…I pray that our technology works tomorrow.

…I pray that some of my people are praying for me tonight.

…We have a lot of things happening in the church, I pray that people pay attention to the announcements and the bulletin.

…Many people have been invited to attend tomorrow, I pray that some of them show up. I also pray that our people really welcome any visitors.

…So many people are hurting in many ways, I pray that our people embrace one another and show real compassion.

…There are several who regularly attend without their spouse, I pray that tomorrow some of those spouses show up.

…What have I forgotten? I pray that I haven’t forgotten anything.

…I pray that I am able to stay focused amidst all the chaos that can take place just before the worship service begins.

…I pray that I don’t fall down as I go up to preach.

…I pray that I don’t mispronounce anything tomorrow (again).

…I pray that I am able to rest well tonight.

Here’s hoping that those of you who are pastors can rest well this Saturday night and that all your prayers are answered tomorrow. Here’s hoping that those of you who are not pastors will spend a little time thinking of and praying for your pastor this Saturday night. If you do pray for your pastor be sure inform him/her on Sunday, you just might be an answer to their prayers.

Dennis