Some things I am wrestling with …

It is a fact that things are different in our culture today than they were 20, 10 or even 5 years ago. Many of these differences are simply progress and some of them could easily be classified as a regress of some sort. With all of the differences in our world, many methods of reaching people and making a difference in their lives are no longer as effective as they once were. This leads me to wrestle with things such as …

-How to communicate more effectively to the world I live in so that people are drawn to the life-changing message of Christ’s love? This is always something I have strived to do in my life and ministry. Recently, I feel that I am spinning my wheels without getting much traction with people.

-How to live in my community without being viewed as someone who really isn’t part of the community? It seems that many people no longer view me as a “true member” of the community when they discover that I am a pastor. I am working on it, such as coaching at the local middle school and have been invited to help at the high school next year and I am teaching a class at the prison.

-How to lead without dictating what should happen? This involves finding the balance of doing, teaching, encouraging, empowering, discipling and releasing. If there is a balance to be found in those things. Seeking to do much better at the team building aspect of ministry.

-How to confront sinful attitudes, and actions, in those who claim to be following Christ and seem to be blind to their own issues? I am referring to those who likely attend a church and make a claim of faith, but they do things that are in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus. Not just what they do, but their attitudes about what others do as well. The attitude issue seems much more difficult than the actions.

-How do know when I am no longer being effective? I do not want to be one of those “he should have sat down a while ago” pastors. I know how easy it is to fool oneself and not see our true effectiveness, or ineffectiveness.

-How to expand the ministries without losing the value of gathering together? I desire for us to “be” the church all over the community, not just “do” church in our building. However, I believe in the value of gathering as a body to encourage, unify and be accountable.

These are just a few of the things I am wrestling with currently. These are things that often dominate my thoughts and prayers recently. What are you wrestling with? What thoughts do you have for me these areas I have shared?

 

Dennis

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Quick Thoughts on an Easter Morning …

In less than 3 hours we will be worshipping, and I will be preaching the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. What an honor to be able to share this Good News with people. I am praying for a mighty move of God in our worship today. I am praying extra, because this week has been a wild ride.

On Monday morning I did the funeral for a great lady who fought a long battle with cancer and she eventually won that battle as she is rejoicing with Jesus this Easter morning. I taught the Fatherhood class at the prison with my good friend Rob on Wednesday and that evening led the final class for a small group study. Friday morning was my normal turn as Chaplain at our local hospital. Friday afternoon I did the funeral for a special man and he is now walking around without his walker as he explores heaven. Friday evening, we had our Good Friday service. It was a powerful service. Saturday afternoon I did the funeral for another special lady who was 5 days shy of her 92nd birthday when she stepped into heaven. After the service I drove 45 minutes to visit a lady from our church who has been in the hospital for a few weeks. Earlier this week we were very concerned about her and what was coming next. Yesterday she was smiling, talking and doing much better.

My early Sunday morning routine got interrupted as I was doing my normal Sunday preparation of prayer and running through my sermon. Therefore, I am praying fervently that God will step in a special way. I am not confident all about my part this morning. But I am very confident in God.

This week has been awesome. This week has been busy. This week has been humbling. This week has been emotional. This week has reminded me that my plans don’t matter, what matters is being obedient in serving others.

I am going to celebrate. I am going to share the Good News. I am going to leave the results up to Jesus.

Have a blessed Easter.

 

Dennis

Monday Evening Musings …

I had a funeral early this morning and am just now getting around to my Monday morning post. As for my later musings …

-I had a funeral this morning for a precious lady who had battled cancer for many years. She was funny, kind and was one who persevered through many trials. I was not her first choice for the funeral. She informed me a while back that I could do her funeral now that her first choice had died. I asked who her first choice was, and she answered “Don Rickles”. I loved her and her sense of humor. It was a joy and privilege to lead her funeral service.

-Yesterday was a long day. I only slept about 3 hours Saturday night, my mind was racing with many things. We had our regular schedule of Sunday activities. Then I was at the funeral home for a couple of hours during the visitation for the lady whose funeral I did this morning. Then my wife and I went to another town, about 45 minutes away, to visit a lady from our church. When we got home I attempted to do some studying and preparing for this week, but my mind would not engage for some reason. So I went to bed early in an attempt to make up for the short sleep time the night before.

-Some of the children in our church led the congregation in a song during worship yesterday. Another group of our younger children were moving through our sanctuary singing and waving their palm branches. The group of children was about half our normal size due to school being on Spring Break. The kids did great and our people sang well as they followed the kids.

-We had sleet and snow arrive on Saturday so the ground was covered with snow Sunday morning. Not fun for the last Sunday in March.

-Our people were very engaged during all parts of worship yesterday. There were even some “Amens” and other comments spoken out loud during the message!

-In our family Bracket Challenge for the NCAA tournament I will finish in 9th place among 12. Not a good showing at all. My bracket was shattered early in the tournament. But, I have loved watching this tournament. Some outstanding games and some fun stories about players, coaches and even a team chaplain. I picked Virginia to win it all. Since they lost their first game you get an idea about my bracket. How is your bracket doing?

-Preparations are being made for Easter Sunday and our Good Friday service. I always look forward to preaching these services.

-Have you thought about the fact that Easter Sunday is on April Fools Day this year?

-One reason I try to go to a funeral visitation, and hang around for a lengthy time, when I am doing someone’s funeral service is the stories I hear. Also, to see the family interactions. I learn a lot by being an observer during this time. I love hearing how those coming to the visitation were impacted by the deceased. It always helps me as I put together the service and message.

-The people in my church are awesome. Watching them set-up, serve, and clean-up for a funeral dinner is inspiring. They go above and beyond what is expected. They also do it without thought of getting any recognition for their service. I love them! Our people also make great food.

-I am getting the itch to fish. Looking forward to fishing a little more this year than we did last year.

-My wife and I are going to get away for a couple of nights right after Easter. I don’t think we will have any internet or TV service in our little cabin. We are not going all the way off the grid, we will still have some phone service, but we will be at the edge of the grid for a bit. This is a much needed, and much anticipated, time of relaxing and refreshing.

-I am very excited for the series of messages that will begin the Sunday after Easter. We will be looking at how Daniel, and some of his buddies, handled adversity and unexpected circumstances. We all face difficulties. How we respond to, and handle, these difficulties is what causes us to soar or crash.

Here’s hoping that you will take some time this week to reflect on the love that Jesus has for you and how much he sacrificed to show you his love.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Wow God! God showed up, spoke where my words failed, and lives were changed. That is a full day. As for my musings …

-Many people received help from God during our worship yesterday. We looked at Romans 7 and the struggle of doing what we don’t want to do and not doing what we desire to do. The struggle is real, and God’s solutions are real. Many people switched their focus from their struggles to their Savior. As a result, their chains came loose.

-Yesterday was gorgeous day. There was a hard frost, but when the sun started shining the frost melted, the temperature rose, and moods got better.

-Our attendance was a little better, but still not what I would like to see.

-There seemed to be a lot of distractions during much of our worship time. Maybe no one else noticed, but I felt distracted.

-I thought about my Dad a lot this past week.

-I was scrambling with my words during yesterday’s message. I am so thankful for God’s intervention and speaking to people’s hearts and minds.

-Very burdened this morning for several people, and families, that are wrestling with the emotions of very serious physical concerns for loved ones.

-Been studying for the sermon series that I hope to begin the week after Easter. I am excited for this series and the potential for impact and healing. The series is entitled “Yes You Can … because God Will”.

-Our stagnant attendance is confusing. We have so many good things taking place in our ministries, but it is not being reflected in our weekly worship attendance. Praying and analyzing this, trying to discover if there is any obvious reasons.

-Looking forward to Easter weekend.

-Feeling grateful for those who lift me in prayer often.

-The NCAA tournament, March Madness, was true madness during it’s first weekend. Our family has done a bracket challenge for many years. It began when my kids were younger than most of my grandkids are now. My bracket is shattered after this first weekend. The good news is that I have a lot of company. It was a lot of fun seeing so many underdogs come through with the win.

-My wife and I are going to try and get a brief getaway soon. We had one planned about 5 weeks and circumstances prevented that one from taking place. This one will be nearby so if any urgent things take place I can get back here quickly. The short distance away is what gives me confidence that we will get this one accomplished.

-I need to get to the hospital and visit a couple of people from my church.

Here’s hoping that you recognize God’s presence as go through this day.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was the Sunday pastors dread. The Sunday after the clocks are moved ahead is a difficult day. Yesterday was a difficult day for a lot of reasons. As for my musings …

-Many people evidently forgot to move their clocks ahead. We were missing a lot of people and it had a negative effect on the atmosphere in our worship. We had to work hard to engage people yesterday.

-Last week was a long and emotional week. We traveled to Kansas on Sunday and we had a memorial service for my Dad on Tuesday. It was a very good service. On Wednesday we traveled to Indiana and on Thursday we had a graveside service for my Dad. That was a small service with 90% of those in attendance being family members from my Dad and Mom’s extended family. We traveled home on Friday.

-Last week did have some great times. The best of which was a lot of time with some family. There were a lot of memories shared. It was very encouraging.

-One of my struggles yesterday was still trying to recover from the week physically and emotionally. Fortunately, the Lord is gracious and filled in a lot of spaces where my thoughts and words failed.

-Even with a smaller attendance and change in the atmosphere we still had a good time of worship.

-Yesterday we had a soup lunch for some of the people serving in our greeter, teaching and security ministries. We wanted to thank them, encourage them and remind them of the importance and purpose of these ministries. It encouraged me to spend time with this great group.

-My wife and I are heading out in a few minutes to attend a graveside funeral service that is about 30 miles away. It is a service for the uncle of someone in our church. There is little family around and she is having to deal with all the arrangements. We just want to support and encourage her.

-I am more tired this morning than at anytime in the past week. I think with the travel, services and emotions of last week, getting home and needing to gear up for Sunday and go through everything on Sunday, that my body decided it was time for some recovery. I need to make sure I am careful with decisions today, as my mind is not sharp.

-Yesterday was encouraging because of conversations with people and reminders from people that they are praying for me.

-This past week was a reminder of the sacrifices that those who serve as missionaries make to serve. My son, and family, wanted to attend my father’s services, but with the time and cost of travel from that far away it was not possible. My Dad would have understood and was always thrilled that they are serving in this capacity. But it was still difficult for them to miss the opportunity to be a part of the services and the resulting time with extended family. Remember to pray for those who serve in other countries and pray for peace with the things they miss.

-I have been wrestling with a lesson I learned this week as I shared at one of my Dad’s services last week. I will write about it later this week.

Here’s hoping that you will encourage someone today.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Here I sit, back in Kansas once again. This time getting ready for the beginning of some great times of honoring my Dad. We have a service here tomorrow and then one in Indiana in a couple of days. This will be a long, difficult and wonderful week as we remember and honor a great man. As for my musings …

-During worship yesterday, we gave a significant check to a local ministry. It was half of our “Give it all Away” offering from a couple of Sundays ago. We had the director of the Pregnancy Center there to receive the check. It is fun to bless other ministries.

-I am loving our current sermon series, “Moving to Yes”. This series will take us to Easter. This morning we looked at the costs of moving to yes and the costs of doing nothing. This series is really challenging me, I am praying that it is challenging others as well.

-The people in our church are amazingly generous. They blessed us yesterday with money to cover the costs for our travel this week. I am so humbled by their encouragement and support.

-Yesterday we had someone step forward to say yes. That never gets old.

-Our attendance was down, even with great weather. Makes me worry about next Sunday when we spring ahead 1 hour.

-I am sitting here listening to my 2 youngest grandkids being cute. I am sitting in the home of my brother in law and sister in law. They have opened their home to me often in the past 13 months. They have simply said, “Come when you need to, you don’t need to let us know, just come on in.” What a blessing to be with some family as we celebrate my Dad’s life and influence. My daughters are here, and my sons in law. My son and daughter in law and their family are missing, but since they are serving in Africa it is understandable.

-I just got a text from a pastor friend who had 2 people come to faith in Christ during a funeral he was leading over the weekend and they had more than double their average worship attendance yesterday. I love to celebrate with others.

-I am encouraged by the increasing number of prayer requests from people in my congregation who are praying for their family and friends who don’t know Jesus as their personal Savior.

-We hopped in our van about 20 minutes after I said amen in our worship yesterday. In fact, I never made it into our house because my wife was backing out of the garage as I walked over to the house. 6 hours later we were walking into my brother in law and sister in law’s home.

-Last evening, I was grateful for the prayers of my congregation. We had stopped for a potty break and as I was turning to get back on the interstate an SVU came flying through the intersection even though they had a red light. I was watching when our light turned green and this SVU didn’t slow at all. I was turning, but I stopped, and they flew by us. We said a couple of prayers of thanks.

-I need to make this a short one today.

Here’s hoping that you remember you are loved today and that you let others know they are loved as well.

 

Dennis

Well Done Dad …

If you are talking about a steak, well done means no pink and some crust on the meat. If you are giving a compliment to someone, well done means that what you accomplished was done with excellence. But if you are talking about the evaluation of a life, well done means a life lived to the fullest in obedience of service for Jesus Christ. It means a life of impact and influence. It means a life that made other people’s lives better. It means hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done describes my Dad’s life.

If a mischievous smile and a twinkle in the eye were an Olympic sport my Dad would have won a gold medal. When it came to teasing people, and still making them feel good, my Dad was a master. When it came to encouraging you to keep going and not give up, my Dad may have been the best. When it came to making you feel better just with his presence, there may have been no one better than my Dad. Well done, Dad, well done.

When it came to motivating a group of people to grow as followers of Christ and become a church that makes a difference, my Dad excelled. When it came to giving a challenge, one that you remembered, he always came through. When it came to being the pastor that you wanted for your church, it was my Dad. Well done, Dad.

When it came to living what he preached, my Dad did it better than anyone I have ever known. A person who worked with him at factory when Dad was a bi-vocational pastor said of Dad, “The direction of his walk always matched his talk.” Well done Dad.

When it came to making the loudest finger snap known to mankind, Dad was the best. If I was not listening, or if I was beginning to misbehave in church he would drop that right hand outside the pulpit and SNAP his fingers. It was so loud the whole congregation would sit up straight. My head would pop up from wherever I was and then I got the look. This is etched in my memory because I heard it more times than I could count. All of this took place without Dad missing a word of his sermon. He kept me in line, he kept me listening and he kept me interested in Christ. Well done Dad, well done.

When it came to embracing people and making them a part of the family Dad was outstanding. He did this with all of us in the family, he did this with all who entered the family, he did it with all whose family he entered and everyone who was in his church family. He left no doubt that we were loved. Well done Dad.

Between my Mom and Marge, Dad was married for more than 69 years. Dad did it with excellence and set an incredible example of what it meant to be a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Well done Dad.

Most of all, Dad took the admonition of John 10:10 to heart “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” You lived life to the full Dad. You showed us how to live life fully for Christ, for your family, your church and everyone you came across. Well done, Dad.

Enjoy your eternity. Enjoy reconnecting with so many who are in heaven because of your influence. Enjoy no more pain. Enjoy the return of a strong voice. Enjoy eating ice cream again without worrying about your blood sugar numbers. Enjoy running and jumping again. Enjoy hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done Dad, thanks for the example.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a very difficult and wonderful day. God is still God and he showed up in a powerful way, for me personally and in our worship. As for my musings …

-On Saturday morning, just past 7:30, I received word that my Dad had passed from this life to his eternal reward in heaven. I knew this was coming, but I wasn’t really expecting it on Saturday. It hit me a little harder than I expected.

-When I got the word about Dad I was getting ready to go to a volleyball match out of town. That ended up being a nice distraction for me and my wife. Sadly, we lost the match and it was the last match of the year for the 7th grade team. It has been a joy to watch them develop and grow this season. They are great young ladies.

-I was struggling the rest of the day to finish my preparations for Sunday morning.

-On Sunday morning I kept having waves of memories of my Dad. He was a pastor for 44 years. He and I talked about church and pastor stuff nearly every time we talked. He was still thinking clearly about such things until the last 3 or 4 weeks. I am going to miss those calls.

-God showed up in our worship. It is always my prayer that God will take over when we gather and when I preach. On this Sunday it was imperative that God show up and take over, because my thinking was a little foggy. He showed up in a powerful way.

-There were 4 or 5 people who prayed to receive Christ as their personal Savior. They said yes to accepting Christ’s forgiveness. There were another 4 people who committed to surrender everything to Christ. There were a few more who said yes to handing a current difficult circumstance to God and his care. Wow God! That would have been a fun call to tell Dad about the service. I believe he knew and was rejoicing.

-Due to some timing and travel issues my Dad’s Celebration of Life service won’t be until next week. Then we will have a graveside service back in his home state a couple of days later. Next week is going to be a long, emotional and wonderful week.

-We are in the process of going through pictures and paperwork. The process is a little more difficult because my brother, step-mom and step-sister and I are in 3 different states. Prayers for my step-mom are appreciated for this time of transition.

-We had a few visitors yesterday and a visitor who was in attendance for the third Sunday in a row. I think that means they are no longer a visitor. We were missing a lot of regular people, but our attendance was near our average.

-I am loving the sunshine we are experiencing today and the temperature that is rising to above 50. Bring on Spring.

-I am having trouble believing that Easter Sunday is just over a month away. We have a lot to do.

-I am in the process of writing some things about my Dad, his life and his impact on my life so I can share at his service. It is difficult to put into words, especially into a few words, the influence and impact of someone who was your single biggest influence about following Christ.

-After I get some things written about my Dad I will share them on this blog.

-I need to get going, there is much to do in addition to teaching twice this week and preaching this Sunday. I am praying for a clear mind and sharp focus as I study and prepare for this week.

Here’s hoping you find your focus this week and take each step with the knowledge that you are loved.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a wonderful, powerful and crazy day. As for my musings …

-Sitting in a Starbucks in Kansas this morning.

-I am back out here to see my Dad. He took a couple of steps backward after we saw him last weekend. So, I made the crazy decision to throw things in a suitcase and make the nearly 6-hour drive as soon as our worship service was finished.

-Last night, Dad was doing okay, and I had a nice visit with him. Going to see him again in a few minutes.

-Our worship service had a powerful spirit all through the service yesterday. That was a great encouragement.

-Began a new sermon series yesterday, “Moving to Yes”. This series will take us right to Easter. Part of the message from the feeding of the 5,000, was “Remember who is asking” and “Remember, Jesus always has in mind what he is going to do”. So, say yes and then keep moving your feet to the yes He is calling you toward.

-Yesterday we received our “Give it All Away” offering. Everything that was given will be given away. Half of it is going to a church planting project in another state. The other half will go to a local pregnancy resource center. I haven’t gotten the numbers as of this posting. I love that my church does this act of generosity.

-Our attendance was back up to our average, or a little above.

-The 8th grade volleyball team I help coach finished 2nd in our county tourney last week. It has been a long time since our school finished this well in the county tourney.

-We are just 6 weeks away from Easter.

-I am so grateful for my family.

-I am working on two sermon series now. The “Moving to Yes” series that began yesterday and will take us to Easter. Also, the “Yes You Can … Because God Will” series that is to begin the week after Easter.

-Thinking of the great legacy my Dad had created throughout his lifetime. 44 years of ministry as a pastor. 5 or 6 years as a representative for our denomination’s publishing company. Years of assisting my step-mom with senior adult retreats. Many times, sharing devotionals, or leading services at nursing homes and retirement homes until a couple of years ago.

-I think his greatest legacy will be the impact on his family. His example of being a godly man. His example of perseverance through many difficult circumstances. His example of enjoying life and always seeking to make others smile or laugh. His example of being a wonderful pastor.

-Seeing some pictures recently of the grandkids in Africa makes me swell with pride (the good kind), tear up from missing them and increases my prayer time. It also makes me appreciate the times that I am able to be with, or talk to, my grandkids who are living in the states.

-Started another group at the prison, teaching about fatherhood for 12 weeks. Each group has gripped my heart in a special way. I love the opportunity to speak into their lives, to pray for them and with them, to see them begin to believe that they can make a difference as a dad.

-I am excited that baseball spring training has begun. Go Cubs!

-I have been reminded often recently of the power of a word of encouragement.

-Missing my wife. She was not able to make this trip.

Here’s hoping that you will encourage someone today and that you will be encouraged by someone or something today.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

This morning is a much different feeling since my wife and I were gone yesterday. I am still getting reports of how things went while we were gone. As for my musings …

-On Tuesday I received word that my Dad was back in the hospital.

-On Wednesday I was informed that the seminar in which I was to teach on Friday, Saturday and Sunday was being cancelled.

-On Thursday my wife and I decided to make an impromptu trip to Kansas to check on my Dad. Since we had already arranged to be gone on Sunday it didn’t take us long to pull things together and take off.

-I am very glad we made the trip. It meant missing 3 volleyball matches (there was a tourney on Saturday), which I hated to do, but they won all 3 of them (maybe I should do that more often).

-It was great to spend time with family. My brother and sister in law (who live in Georgia) decided to make an impromptu trip as well, arriving on Friday afternoon. We were all together (myself, my wife, my brother and sister in-law, step-sister and her husband) for a while and I believe that encouraged my Dad and stepmom. My wife and I stayed with her brother and sister in law who live in the same town. We were able to catch up with a lot of family in that time. We didn’t get a lot of rest, but it was worth it.

-My Dad was doing a little better on Saturday and Sunday, but he is not out of the woods yet.

-One report I received about the worship service here yesterday was that it concluded about 15 minutes earlier than our normal time. People might wish I would take a few more trips.

-Attendance was down a little again. We received a few inches of snow Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, but none of the predicted ice. I don’t know if that, or illness, was the main contributor.

-On Saturday we left to head back home. We drove about 2/3 of the distance and then stopped for the night. Where we stopped got a couple of inches of snow and a little ice.

-We took advantage of being gone on a Sunday to attend church somewhere else. It was a very good experience. We attended worship at a satellite location for a church that has 9 locations. They are doing a lot of great stuff in their communities. Yesterday was the beginning of a series that is kicking off a 2-year campaign of expansion of ministry and locations. We came away with thoughts of things we are doing well and some thoughts on improving some details in our Sunday morning routines.

-Since we rarely get to attend another church we love it when we get to attend somewhere that does things very differently so that we can observe some new things.

-This coming Sunday is our “Give it All Away” offering. We call it the ultimate love offering. Everything that we receive we will give away. This year it is being split between a local pregnancy center and a church planting project in North Carolina.

-Beginning a new sermon series this Sunday, “Moving to Yes” that will take us to Easter.

-Easter is just 7 weeks away.

-Really burdened for people who are attending church most Sundays but are not allowing God to make a difference in their daily lives and relationships. They are still running their life they way they want to run it and trying to stuff God into it. It doesn’t work that way.

Here’s hoping that you get a fresh sense of God’s amazing grace and love for you and allow yourself to surrender to him and his will.

 

Dennis