Month: January 2017

Hey…Take a Shower!

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Ever feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed, frustrated asking forgiveness for the same sins over and over and over and over again?

Every once in a while, I might figure out a new way to sin, but most of my sins are very predictable – lust, jealousy, anger, pride, etc.

There are times I wonder if God ever gets to the point where he says, “You again? This again?! How many times are we going to have to do this?”

Showers. I like showers. They make me feel clean. I like the feeling of clean.

I shower regularly because I get dirty regularly. I don’t do particularly dirty things that get me dirty like working in the yard, or chopping down trees, or marching through the swamps.

It’s just living in this world, I get dirty just by being in it.

Wouldn’t it be dumb if we ever said, “Dirty again? How many times are we going to have to shower?!”

Well…for everyone’s sake…everyday.

That’s what daily prayer time is. It’s a daily cleansing from our sins. Most of us don’t go out of our ways finding new and creative ways to sin. Just by going through the day, living in this world, and being human – we sin every day. And because we sin every day, we need to be forgiven every day.

Thank God when we ask for forgiveness, God forgives us every time. There’s no ceiling or limit to how many times God will forgive us.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he (God) removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

The dumbest thing we could do is not pray for forgiveness because as long as we’re in this world, we’re going to get dirty.

Being forgiven. I like being forgiven. Being forgiven makes me feel clean. I like the feeling of clean.

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Don’t Do It

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Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 1.11.05 PM.pngMaybe it’s just me…but I have a suspicion that I’m not.

My thoughts and the desires of my heart sometimes are so horrifying, so wrong, so heinous it shocks me…

The thing about these thoughts and desires is that they surface all on their own. They arise without bidding. I didn’t ask for these thoughts or desires. They just happen.

The issue is not that these thoughts and desires happen. That they do only goes to prove how right God is when he tells us “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).

The crux of the problem comes down to whether we choose to allow these thoughts to hold us captive and whether we allow these desires to take residence in our hearts. It’s the entertaining, welcoming, and giving space to these thoughts and desires that is the problem. For by giving these thoughts and desires residence and space, sin is conceived, and sin – unless it is repented and checked – leads to sinful behavior.

So check yourself.

Don’t be ashamed that these thoughts and desires happen. That’s part of what it means to be a fallen creature.

But if you allow these thoughts and desires to take you captive and take up residence…well, that’s all on you.

Don’t Do Stupid

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When things are going well in the life of a church – the giving is good, the church board is healthy, the vision is clear, there is growth and vitality, etc. – there are two sets of people who can derail all the great things God is doing: Staff and leaders.

It’s amazing how arduous, time-consuming, difficult it is to be in a position where growth and health is present. It takes years to build such an ethos and environment. And one person, with one stupid act, can derail the entire thing in minutes.

This typically happens in three arenas: money, sex, and relationships.

The Little Church on the Prairie finds herself in a healthy place. We are positioned for God to do some amazing things in the future.

I have been reminding both the staff and the elders, and most importantly me, “Please don’t do stupid things. Be pure and God-honoring in our dealing with God’s money, sex, and relationships with one another.”

 

Someone Has to Break the Cycle of Retaliation – Reflection on MLK Jr

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Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 2.42.50 PM.pngSomeone has to break the cycle of retaliation…

Let that sink in. Read it again.

Someone has to break the cycle of retaliation.

A week doesn’t go by without stories of hatred, bigotry, violence, rape, atrocities committed against humanity. Stories bombard us from abroad and from our own communities.

One way to respond is to build bigger and better walls. Let’s protect what we can. Better alarm systems. Better lighting. More surveillance. Bigger walls. More guns. Keep the evil out.

That’s one way to respond.

And violence and atrocities continue to march on. Nothing changes.

Someone has to break the cycle of retaliation.

The cross of Jesus Christ is the ultimate breaking of the cycle of vengeance and retaliation. The cross is God saying, “I’ll take it all. Bring it! Bring the hatred. Bring the violence. Bring the evil. Bring the violence. Bring the frustration. Bring the pain. Bring it! I’ll take it all!”

On Good Friday, Jesus bore the brunt of sin and evil. Jesus bore it all.

And by rising from the grave on resurrection Sunday, Jesus crushed hatred, violence, frustration, pain, and evil.

What our world needs is not better ways to keep people out and apart. What we need, and what our world needs is a people called and a people who will answer the call the break the cycle of evil and retaliation with the hope and love of God in Jesus Christ.

May we be such people. May this be the generation that turns the cycle of violence and retaliation.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Follow Your Heart

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Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 3.13.48 PM.png“What does your heart tell you?”

“Follow your heart.”

Sounds right. It makes for great movies and stories. The main character pursuing what they know to be right, but their heart being tugged in a different direction…and in the critical moment, they choose to follow after their heart…and everything ends up happy ever after.

Everything…happy…ever after.

Yeah. That happens in the movies. That rarely happens in real life.

The problem with the heart is that the heart is wrong more often than not. At one time the heart thought Lisa was the one…then it thought Jane was the one…then at another time, the heart was sure Jenny was the one…The heart lies. The heart has no clue.

The heart has no boundaries. The heart has no concern for morals. The heart doesn’t have any other loyalty other than getting its desires met NOW!

Thing is, people have followed after their hearts and left their spouse and children, leaving devastation in its wake. Why? Because it felt so right. I was just following my heart.

People have followed their hearts and ignored all the warning signs, all the statistics, all reason that clearly showed it couldn’t possibly work out and find themselves in impossible and violent relationships.

The heart can’t be trusted.

So what do you do?

Do what’s good and right.

Things are good and right because…they are.

So please…for your sake…whatever you do…do not follow your heart. Do what’s right and good.

God is Up To Something Great in 2017 at the Little Church on the Prairie and Lakewood Grace

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“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’” (Joshua 3:5).

At the closing of my annual review with the personnel committee and the session, I shared, “I believe we are in a fantastic place to see God do amazing things in our future. I believe the future is bright for the Little Church on the Prairie. I believe that the best days for the Little Church are still ahead of us.”

It’s normal for leaders to say such things about the organizations they lead.

But I don’t think this is just leadership fluff. I’m not just saying these things because I think it sounds like what leaders ought to say. I say these things because I believe this is where God has positioned us.

I believe the Little Church on the Prairie is perfectly positioned to see God do amazing things in the future. I say that based on these four factors:

  1. We are healthy

    I work with congregations in the denomination by coaching their leadership. I have seen many churches and worked with my share. The Little Church on the Prairie is one of the healthiest congregations around. We are not perfect. No church is. But we are healthy. We are able to love one another through difficult times. We name and call relational “violations” when they occur. We find Godly ways to disagree and find a way forward. The Little Church is a healthy congregation.

  1. We know where we’re going

    We have a clear vision of who and what we’re trying to achieve. We have a goal by 2016 to be a congregation of 600 worshipers in 3 worship services. We will continue to strive to provide excellent ministries to the Baby Boomers and Builders here at the Little Church campus. And we have launched Lakewood Grace at Harrison Prep to reach the millennials and generation X. We will continue to do this through excellent worship, FOCUS Groups, outreach/mission, and family ministries.

  1. We have fantastic people

    Most leaders say that their organization has fantastic people, and when you see how they operate and treat one another, it’s clear that there is much dysfunction. That’s not the case at the Little Church. Again, we are not perfect. But we recognize that. We are a church and a staff who say, “We’re faced with some challenges. But we’re in this together! Let’s figure out how to serve God and God’s people together.” That’s what makes the Little Church people such fantastic people. We know we’re going to work it out. And we will work things out together. We don’t bolt and run when things get hard. When things get hard, Little Church people roll up their sleeves and get to work.

  1. We are debt free, and we have a strong financial base

    The Little Church is very fortunate to have a working facility that is completely debt free. The recent success with our capital campaign where you pledged over $800k in the next three years, and your continued strong support for the yearly budget positions the Little Church in a strong financial position.

All these factors place the Little Church in an ideal position to see God do amazing things in our near future. But most of all, the best days are still ahead of the Little Church on the Prairie and Lakewood Grace because God is at work here. God is up to something great at the Little Church and Lakewood Grace in 2017!

In Christ,

Pastor James <><

Circumcision – Proof of God?

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I’m a guy. I have lots of friends who are guys. And one of the things about guys is that no guy likes having his stuff, you know…his most private stuff…messed with. When it comes to our most private part, don’t be messin…don’t be joking around. There are few things more painful than when our most sensitive area gets mishandled.

So what does any of this have to do with God?

Well, I’m reading through Genesis and I come across Genesis 17 where God reaffirms his covenant promise to be Abraham’s God and as a sign of that covenant, God wants Abraham, his sons, his descendants, and all males in his household to get circumcised.

Now, remember, before Genesis 17, no man had ever been circumcised.

I’m trying to imagine the scene when Abraham shows up around the camp fire after having a conversation with “God”.

“Um guys…” Abraham says hesitantly. “Well, you know God’s been talking to me for a few years now…and God spoke to me again…He says that we’re his people and that he’s our God.”

“That’s great Abraham,” says the guys around the camp fire.

“Well, there’s more,” Abraham says. He takes a deep breath. “You see, to show that we belong to God, God wants us to take a flint knife and cut off….”

Listen. At this point, there’s no amount of beer or whiskey or anything else on planet earth that’s going to make okay what Abraham is just about to share with his boys. There is no way that any man is going to think that taking a blade to his thing to chop off…yes, chop off…is okay.

Look! There’s no way that sounds like a good idea. There’s no way that sounds like any idea. That’s insane! What guy is going to think that that’s an okay thing to do?

That there is circumcision. That there’s a whole nation of guys who thought this was a thing to do proves only one thing…God spoke. God is real.

No way Abraham thought this up for himself and convinced a bunch guys around his campfire to do the same.

So yeah…I’m thinking circumcision is one of the greatest proofs that God exists and speaks to his people.