Friday, January 30, 2009

Trying or Training

This week in our small group Bible Study, we watched a video featuring John Ortberg. The Bible Study is a six week series focused on Spiritual Growth. This week's topic was the role of the Holy Spirit, and the role that we play in Spiritual Growth. One point Ortberg made in the video has stuck with me the last several days. The point was so simple, yet thought provoking at the same time. He simply said that we so often "try" to live the right way. We "try" to do the right thing. We "try" to quit our bad habits. The problem is, we usually let ourselves down. Our "trying" ends up in failure most of the time. So, what do most Christians do? They quit trying. Better to not try and not have to suffer the guilt of repeated failure. But, as Ortberg stated, the better plan is to "train". Training is quite different than trying. Our trying always has good intentions. When we first start out trying, we usually mean it. Ask anyone that has ever made a New Year's Resolution. They had all the best intentions, but eventually their trying ran out. They failed - again. That is where training comes in. Training takes a longer approach. Training involves a goal. Training recognizes that we are not there yet, and it is going to take many steps. So, for me, I'm looking at some training. I want to treat my spiritual growth much like an athlete treats their preparation. This requires each day making good, disciplined choices. Sometimes I'll do better than other times. Somedays I will read more and pray more. But, underneath all of this, I am training. Hopefully, in time, my training will pay off, and I will be able to endure better. Much like an athlete gets stronger and has to stretch themselve further with more distance or more weight, I hope to do the same. This will take daily commitment and discipline to my spiritual training.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

View From Above

I got an opportunity today to see Panama City and Panama City Beach from a whole new perspective. I went up in a plane today and saw "all" of the city at one time. From up there it seems so small. The trees look like carpet. There is so much undeveloped land (hard to see from the ground). Yet, on the ground everything is busy. People are rushing, streets are crowded. There are people everywhere. It's kind of an odd feeling to be in a small plane high above all of the busyness. Up there the only sound is the rumble of the engine. Everything is otherwise, peaceful. Down below, in the midst of all of the action, there are so many people with so many challenges. Down below me today were marriages that are hurting. There are addicts trying to kick their habits. There are many worried about finances and the next meal. There are those in abusive situations. There are pains and difficulties that are too numerous too even know. But, up where I was, it was just peaceful.

While we go through different situations and challenges here on earth, it seems that our situation is the only thing in the world. It seems as though it is the only thing going on. The weight of the world is on us. But, when we can look at things from a different perspective. When we can see things "from above", we gain a new understanding. Above all of the "junk" of life is that "peace that passes our understanding".

I have many things that bring me down from time to time. Thoughts on my mind, worries on my heart. I hope to keep my new perspective in mind as I approach future challenges.

God I pray for Panama City and Panama City Beach. We need a Holy Spirit movement. There are so many that need to know You. God work through me and work through The Dwelling Place Church to reach more. I long to see a movement of God.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Commitment. It's almost a "bad word" in our society. Before I get too far into this, this is not going to be a rant about "committing to church". However, that is a thought that is constantly on my mind. How do you help people commit? Why do they not commit? It's my observation that the things that we commit to are the things that we get the most out of. For some it is career, for some sports, for some a hobby, for some a talent. As we commit we find ourselves growing and getting better or more successful in that area. This success seems to breed more commitment. Our self-esteem rises as we see ourselves growing and getting better in an area. So, back to the question that is on my mind. Why not commit to church? I know the immediate answer by the holy roller types is: We don't commit to church, we commit to Christ. Yeah, I know. Don't you hate having a conversation with a "spiritual know it all" like that. I know we start with a commitment to Christ. I know that includes spending time in the Word and prayer. I know it is a commitment to spiritual disciplines. That is not what I'm talking about.

As I type these words, my thoughts are circling. This is not a well planned out and researched subject. I am typing as I think it through.

A thought that pops in my mind is that making spiritual commitments (such as doing the spiritual disciplines or even church attendance) does not have the immediate response that other commitments do.

The Bible says that, "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." When we make spiritual commitments, we are committing to the unknown, the unseen. Spiritual growth is not quite as obvious as perfecting a talent, or getting more efficient in our careers. However, a commitment to spiritual matters has much more of a return, actually it is the only thing with an eternal return.

So, the question is still there for me: How do you get people to make spiritual commitments? The only way I can answer at this point is: It has to be a work of God in a person's heart. The Holy Spirit has to do the prompting, the "drawing". My role is to encourage and even challenge people to make commitments. But, ultimately it is a role of the Holy Spirit and a personal choice that each person must make.

Lord help me as I challenge others to commit to You. I pray for a movement of Your Holy Spirit in the church. Not just The Dwelling Place, but all of "Your church". God, I pray that a new level of commitment to You and Your church will rise up.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Entertainment Itch

The "entertainment itch". It's a disease infecting most Americans. Even as I type this, I have a football game on screaming in my left ear. I even stop typing from time to time to check out what is going on. My life is always filled with noise, or lights, or excitement. A classic "good TV show" is the famous "Little House on the Prarie." While the show was good and well written, it is the lifestyle of those living in that era that intrigues me. I mean, how did people function without TV's, Ipods, Cell phones, video games, movies, Blackberrys, computers, and on and on. How did they function? What did they do to occupy their time? Were people truly happy back in this time era? Obviously, I think they likely were. Maybe they even had it easier. With so little competition, things like family, friends, and conversation were essential. I know they had reading as a source of entertainment, which in a way is a lost thing in our society. Oh sure, we read, but it is more in the form of small pieces of information in blogs, articles, and such. Today, we are addicted to our "entertainment itch". The tough thing about this one is that it is not diagnosed. It is not seen as an issue. Sure, if someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is obvious and it destroys. But, what about the one that is addicted to the "entertainment itch". Is it not just as addicting? Does it not tear us away from deeper relationships and meaningful conversations? I know, I know, you may be thinking, "this is the world we live in", and Jesus said, "in the world, not of the world". Before you see me as an extremist that is ready to smash all of my televisions in the front yard and burn all of my mp3's (that's a reference to the old record burnings - those from the 80's may remember), I'm not saying that is the solution. I'll still have a television. I'll likely get a new cell phone (Blackberry) soon. I am a gadget freak. What I am proposing, however, is that we all take an honest look at our "entertainment itch". Quit scratching it, and it might just go away. Less time entertaining self, and more time developing self and others will go a long way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


This Sunday we continue the series "ALL" at church. I am teaching how to get "all" out of life. The underlying theme is "to get ALL you have to give ALL". This week the topic is "ALL for My Family". In preparing, I was drawn to Ephesians chapter 5. This is of course the traditional "wives submit to your husbands" passage. I've heard a hundred plus sermons in my lifetime from these verses. Usually, they all make the point that yes the wife is to submit to the husband. However, the husband is to treat the wife "as Christ loves the church". I believe this to be a correct interpretation. The interesting part is that just following these verses is the beginning of chapter 6, where children are instructed to obey their parents, and then slaves are instructed to obey their masters. Remembering that this was a letter written by Paul to the church at Ephesus, it got me thinking. They didn't have that little bold print that says "Husbands and Wives". They didn't have the verse numbers or the chapter numbers. And, just preceding all of this is verse 21. This is before the whole "wives and husbands" section, and definitely before chapter 6 (where children and slaves are given instructions). This verse simply says, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." I think that is the key, the thesis to all of it. If we can just submit to each other, because of our reverence, our "revering" of God, then our relationships would all be stronger.

Lord help me as I deliver your message on Sunday. I pray that my words and thoughts are Yours. God, I want them to get the "ALL" out of life.

The State of the Church

I just started my role as pastor this past Sunday. Though I've been in the ministry for years as a worship leader and youth pastor, this is my first experience as "the pastor". Sure, I've preached before, and I've led before, but not the "whole" church. I have an excitement to lead, but also a good dose of fear. Yeah, I know, God is in control, "just give it to Him." Faith is not the issue. I do believe He is in control. My fear is that I will not lead appropriately. My fear is that I will not teach authentically. My fear is that I will become too absorbed with growing the church, that I do not preach the truth. I guess having these thoughts and fears are helping me stay in check.

Now, there is much to be done. I serve at The Dwelling Place Community Church, which is presently running about 70 in attendance. We are a 3 year old congregation. We are in an area that has so many unchurched people. How can we reach them? How can we make a difference? I long to see a movement from God. I'm praying for it. God move in my life, and move in our people. Draw them closer to You. Help us reach our community.

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