Monday, August 27, 2007

last post from michigan

I know people get sick of hearing that you're doing the "LAST" of this or that. About 3 weeks ago our family decided to stop using the phrase, "Well...this is the last time we'll ever...(drive on this road, eat from this Chinese place, sit on that park bench)." You get the point. However, this really will be the last time I write from Faith Church in Lansing.

Yesterday at church, it was so touching to hear stories of how God has impacted people's lives over the years. It is really encouraging to know that this church is going to be more than just OK. They're going to be great. The leadership team is doing a fantastic job through this time of transition. And the date has been scheduled for a pastoral candidate to come and go through the "show pony" routine so everyone can "kick his tires". Faith Church is in the same position that Tuscaloosa First Wesleyan was in earlier in the summer. They've identified who they believe God has divinely appointed, and are now going through the final stages of that search process.

Meanwhile, I've been hearing great things from Alabama. The spirit of enthusiasm and unity has been rising like a Crimson Tide!!! It is crazy to think that I will soon be on site as a pastor of one of the greatest churches in the South. First Wesleyan is not great just because of its location, facility or size. It's not even great because of its storied history or its celebrated leaders (although those are certainly undeniable factors). First Wesleyan Church is great because of its dependence on an amazing God.

It will take us a while to get settled in and to begin the process of evalutation and really getting to know and trust one another. But I have the sense that there are thousands of people in Tuscaloosa who need a touch from Jesus, and this is the church that has been uniquely called to be their connection point with God.

Schedule of Events

Today at noon is the closing on the sale of our home. Tomorrow (Tuesday) is the long-distance closing on the purchase of our new home down there. Please pray for these transactions!

The moving truck arrives tomorrow, first thing in the morning. Depending on how everything goes, we hope to be in our new home by the end of the week (although we'll be there for as long as a week before the truck arrives with all our stuff). The kids are excited about camping out in a house without any clothes, furniture or personal belongings. It will be an adventure. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get up and running with the next post to this website.

We can't wait to see everybody at First Wesleyan this Sunday on Labor Day Weekend. And I am SO much chomping at the bit to get on the platform to teach for the first time on September 9th! We're going to be exploring one of the most likely causes for the lack of spiritual power in the life of the average Christian. If you're in the area, come and check us out.

Have a great week and we'll see you this Sunday at First!

Monday, August 20, 2007

last teaching at faith

This has been an amazing weekend, filled with both joy and sorrow. Yesterday morning I stood on the platform at Faith for the very last time as Senior Pastor.

For weeks I had been pondering the focus of teaching for that day. I believed that I had come upon the right subject. I prepared this fantastic message about being a "Hope Addict". We were going to study Romans 8 and end with these exciting words of encouragement. That's how I wanted to be remembered, as leaving a legacy of optimism. I envisioned it as an exciting day of commissioning. I would offer these words of blessing over the future of Faith Church and everything would be happy, happy, happy.

But everything changed Saturday night. After performing the wedding ceremony for Pastor Mark Potter and Jen Norris Potter (congratulations!), I went home to spending time in my normal Saturday evening rituals. This is when I spend time in prayer, go through and practice telling some of the stories, mark up my notes, and make any last minute changes.

With a highlighter in hand, about half-way through my notes, I stopped dead in my tracks. All of a sudden the thought came into my mind that this was not the right subject for the day. I tried to put the thought out of my mind, but the strong conviction began to grow that God wanted me to speak on something totally different. To be honest, this is not what I wanted to hear. It takes a LONG time for me to prepare a teaching. And this was a teaching that I was excited about. If God wanted me to do something different, why didn't he reveal that to me at the beginning of the week...rather than Saturday evening? (Perhaps it was because he didn't want me to have time to overthink it and mess up the words that he wanted to speak)

I was immediately drawn to the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus from Matthew 5-7. Instead of having my last words at Faith Church be the words of Joel, the last words from my mouth were simply to be the words of Jesus.

So that's what happened. Yesterday morning I got up on the platform, opened my Bible and began to read. At various points I would stop and comment and provide some application or clarification...but mostly it was just reading the words of Jesus. And God showed up! Half of the church stood and responded to the call for commitment. The other half of the church gathered around those who were standing in order to lay hands on and pray. It was a beautiful moment of surrender as many prayed to receive freedom from bondage. Sins were confessed and I believe many victories were won.

Then in the pattern of Matthew ch.8 we had those come forward who desired prayer for physical healing. Again we prayed for miracles and I can't wait to hear the stories of what God did in those lives.

It was not the way I had pictured my final Sunday here. But I have come to discover that God's way is always the best way. And it is such an honor to be used as his servant.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

times of change

"When it comes to change, there are three seasons of timing: People change:
when they hurt enough that they have to,
when they learn enough that they want to,
when they receive enough that they are able to."

—John Maxwell

Thursday, August 09, 2007

family tension

Do you ever get stressed out by family stuff? Sometimes we get this idea that once you become a Christian, Jesus just automatically takes care of all that family tension and your relational stress just floats away... (yeah right).

And yet the New Testament gives us pretty strong indications that there was even sarcasm, jealousy and negativity in the "Holy Family".

For example, there’s a SNAPSHOT of this in the Gospel of John. It’s at a point where Jesus is very early in his ministry. Jesus and family grew up in the town called Nazareth, up in the Galilee region. And early on, Jesus is just starting to go around to some of these little nearby towns to teach and do miracles.

But there’s also this huge event coming up. It’s called the “Feast of Tabernacles”. It’s one of the big Festivals that all the Jews would go to. And people from all over Israel, and all over the world would come to Jerusalem for this big celebration.

Look closely at how the half-brothers of Jesus treated him. (John 7:2-5) “But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to him, "You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world." For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

Do you see how they’re mocking Jesus. They’re making fun of him. Can you sense the family tension?

So next time you get stressed out because of your relatives…just remember that even Jesus had family problems. And he was… (uh) Jesus!

So why should we expect our family stuff to be any easier?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

better than the next

Have you ever received a compliment that really was not all that encouraging?

I once heard a story of a pastor who was told after church, "Every Sunday your teaching is better than the next." He said, "Why thank you. Those kind words are so encouraging."

But then the pastor went home and began to think it over. If "every Sunday you teach is better than the next"...than you are headed on a downhill slide.

It's easy to let people's comments get you down. But for every negative, there are probably 10 positives that you've forgotten. We (self included) tend to fixate on the negative. But what good does that do?

Just keep doing your best and learning to depend on God more and more. Jesus said, "When someone slaps you on the cheek, smile and say: 'Thank you may I have another?'" Easier said than done.

Friday, August 03, 2007

finding a new home

After a whirlwind weekend of meetings and greetings, and after having been poked, prodded, questioned and evaluated, and after speaking and receiving the Sunday came the challenge of finding a home for our family. We had one day to accomplish the task!

So the entire day Monday was spent with a wonderful and patient real estate agent who led us from house to house. After about house #6 we were starting to get quite discouraged. The price tag of homes compared to Lansing was staggering. People think of the south as being an affordable place to get lots of house for the dollar. Not so in Tuscaloosa. Especially not in the area surrounding the church.

We spent a few weeks beforehand researching real estate online, so we had a really good idea of what to expect. And we had the houses ranked in order of priority. But there are a lot things that you can't learn from a computer listing until you see the house in person.

Some of our top choices ended up being knocked out of the running because of floor-plans and indadequate features for hosting guests in our home. There was, however, one house that Tracy had been really excited about from the information we read online. It was at the very top of our price range, but it seemed to be a fantastic value for its neighborhood and Tracy kind of had a feeling about it from the very beginning (maybe there's something to this whole "women's intuition" thing, but I would prefer to call it "the Spirit's leading").

This particular house was just about the last house on our schedule for the day. We were kind of feeling the pressure, because if this last house was no good...we'd be in a pickle. We walked through the door and took a big sigh of relief. It was the only (absolutely the ONLY) house we found that didn't need lots of work and was pretty much ready to move in. The floor plan worked well. They yard was great. It felt like home.

That had been our main prayer before the search began. Tracy and I prayed together that there would be just one house that day that felt like home. And that is exactly what happened.