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Working the Room

You know how, when you are hosting a party or some get-together, you try to mingle, and visit a little with all your guests? You want everyone to feel welcome, and you can help those who aren’t connecting get acquainted.  Recently as I arrived at church I noticed Greg making his way to the back of the room, stopping here and there along the way. Same thing, but it’s not his party. Or not his alone, anyway. Worship is a big celebration, and the party is ours. We’re celebrating  God and we want to get it right. We work together so the service will come off without a hitch, and so the coffee will be hot and ready. Now it’s time to focus on our guests.

That night, since it’s my party, too, I decided to go around the room and talk to a few people I don’t know. I  hope you do the same. Is someone visiting for the first time? Do they seem clueless? Maybe someone is sitting alone, and feels like he doesn’t belong. Maybe you see the same ones, week after week, and they come and go, alone, and never connect.

“Father, help us to be tuned in to those around us as we prepare to worship. Give us open hearts and open minds to listen to your Spirit, so we’ll know what to say and do. I ask that you to call them to you, by name, and place us in the way to minister to their needs, even if just with a friendly smile. I pray for open hearts and minds for them, too, Lord, so that they will come to know you as we do.”

yellow shirtYou know what this saying means: Back up your words with actions. I’d like to take it more literally than that.

If it bothers you to know (and it should!) that children are being used as slaves to produce the chocolate and coffee you usually buy, spend a little more to buy fair-trade products. Don’t just pray for the homeless, give them a meal or a cup of coffee. Or support a ministry to help them. (Just don’t give cash to the homeless. Nothing good can come from that.) If you’re thankful for the work your church does for the sake of your family and community, don’t just drop your loose change in the offering plate on Sunday, make a conscientious plan to give generously.

If you pray for someone, and have an opportunity to meet that need, do it. That’s the Holy Spirit nudging you, and you don’t want to get into the habit of ignoring Him! If you are passionate about a cause, that’s a God-given call to action. Move.

Ivy Tech Chancellor's DinnerChrist follower, I want you to be all in. I want you to live a life fully devoted to the One who gave all He had for you. It’s not about the money; it’s about your life’s journey with God, and the huge blessings He offers. Here’s a little bit of my story…

When I got divorced about ten years ago, one of my first thoughts was, “How am I going to make it on my own?” I had been working part-time at Home Depot for a few years already, but I got a second part-time job, hoping it’d equal one full-time job, and it did. During the first few years, God provided for me in such amazing and miraculous ways, that I can’t begin to repay, or pay forward. I felt closer to Him than I had ever experienced before, and I asked Him to never ever let me forget how much I needed Him and depended on Him. I even said, “Don’t ever let me make so much money that I forget where it comes from.” Now that I’m doing very well for myself, it’d be too easy, like the Israelites, to forget. And whenever I start to lose sight of that, and begin to wonder, I know it’s time to give more. That’s stepping out of the boat.

Suncrest, this is my prayer for you. It is my prayer for all believers. I want you to experience what I have experienced, and more!!! It’s not about the money. Really. But money is a very tangible way to test God, and in fact, the only place in the Bible where God asks you to test him. Whatever your view on the tithe, I pray that you will stretch your faith by giving more. He’ll prove himself faithful every time!

In His Shoes…

Tim's shoes

You’ve seen the articles in the tabloids. Celebrities buying kiwi at a local market. Celebrities tying their shoes. Celebrities playing with their kids. Who’d’ve thought? They’re just like us! Well, maybe, but yeah! We’re alike in so many ways, and we all have needs that are not as obvious in photos. The need to feel loved, and affirmed. The need to feel useful and a sense of purpose. The need for a savior!

Pastors are just like us, too. Surprised? Some people are. Yes, pastors do tie their shoes just like us, but some people think pastors never have problems. One of my pastor friends is supporting his wife as she goes through a second round of chemo. Think that doesn’t weigh on him as he prepares a sermon, or addresses a counseling issue? Another friend is moving to a new church ministry. Remember your first few weeks on a new job? Multiply that by the number of people in the congregation on Sunday morning to imagine how that might feel.

Some pastors have their own illnesses to deal with. They have doubts. They struggle with insecurity. They have children that have gone astray. They have marital problems. Sadly, not all of them handle temptation well.

Please pray for your pastor. EVERY SINGLE DAY. Pray for faithfulness to God, and to his calling, to his wife and children. To his church. No one is immune to Satan’s tricks, unless backed the prayers of faithful believers. Folks, that’s you and me.

Your pastor thanks you.

porch 011I love the front door to my house. The front door is great! It’s painted dark red and has a full-view storm door, which I love. There are pots of flowers and herbs on the steps. I hope it’s welcoming and friendly. But the side entrance needed some work. That same old door has been there for at least 24 years and was getting worn. Since we don’t use it much, we kind of let it go. Time to take care of that, and at this moment a new door is being installed. Yay!

Pray for your church to have a great front door. Welcoming people with friendly smiles. Delicious coffee. And you know I’m a fan of good landscaping! But also pray that people aren’t neglected after their first visit or two. Discipleship involves follow-up, nurturing, and maybe even some coddling at first. Just like a newly planted tree. (There she goes with the plant analogies again…) Pray that people won’t come hopefully and expectantly into a welcoming front door, only to eventually slide away through an unattended back door.

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Today Suncrest celebrates twenty years of ministry, and what a blessing that’s been, to my family and countless others. When I look around the room during a worship service, I see people whose lives have been changed. That’s our mission: “To be used by God to change lives.” He has certainly used us to change lives in the Lake County area and beyond, to the “uttermost parts of the earth.”

“Father, thank you so much for what you’ve done through us for the past twenty years. Thank you for pastors and elders who have faithfully led us and served us, trusting in you for wisdom and guidance along the way. Thank you for each and every Christ-follower who has ever called Suncrest “home,” and for the service to others that they provide. Thank you for every seeker who has come searching for hope and life, trusting us to be part of their faith walk. I pray that we haven’t disappointed them, or you.

“Today I pray for continued blessings on our church, for I know that’s the only reason we are still around to celebrate. Keep us faithful, and true to our mission. I pray that for churches everywhere, Lord, large churches or small. All have pastors who faithfully serve you, and I pray for their faithfulness. I pray for the reputation of every church, to keep your name guarded and holy. I love you!!! Thank you for your faithfulness to us, and I pray to be faithful to you all the days of my life.”

30-Minute Church

30 minute church

A church near us has come up with an out-of-the-box way to reach people who don’t have time for a traditional Sunday morning church service. 30-Minute Church.

Whatever works! My prayer today is that people will be drawn to worship God, period. I pray that a 30-minute service or a 2-hour service reaches their hearts and pulls them into his presence. Our Father God is the awesome creator of the universe. He gives us so much, and we can never outgive him. Half an hour is not nearly enough, but then…what is???

“Father, I pray for community, the church the way you designed it. I pray us to be fully engaged in worship, not distracted.I pray to be totally sold out to you, and for the world’s worries and concerns to be lost in your presence. I pray for open hearts and open minds. I worship you, not only because of the things you’ve done and created, but just because of who you are.”