Taking the Necessary Steps

Learning how God answers some prayers

There is a famous story in John 2 about Jesus turning water into wine. I think it teaches us all something about the way God meets our needs.

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it.  – John 2:6-8

I don’t know exactly how they filled the jars with water but it appears to me that they had 2 choices.

  • They could carry the jars to the well and fill them up to the brim and carry them back, or
  • They could go to the well with smaller pitchers, fill those up, walk back and fill the larger jars, and repeat that process until it was finished.

Either way, we’re talking about a pretty good amount of work.

I did some research and if you split the difference between the 20 and 30 gallons these jars held, you get 25 gallons of water, which would weigh about 200 pounds. So each of these jars, when full would have weighed 250 lbs or so including the stone jar itself.

So, they either carried six 50 pound jars to the well, filled them up and carried six 250 pound jars back, or they carried 1200 pounds of water one gallon at a time.

Often when I pray for God to do a miracle or answer a prayer I want it done RIGHT NOW. I’m looking for those “Suddenly” moments from Scripture, and He can do that. But what if God meets needs another way too?

What if the answer to your prayer looks more like a process and the miracle you seek takes more than a minute?

You pray and ask God to “fix” your marriage. You want it fixed by the time you say “amen” and open your eyes. But what if God is fixing it one counseling session at a time?

You pray and ask God to “help” your finances. You mean give me more money or lower my bills. But what if God is helping your finances every month you create a budget?

You pray and ask God to “give” you a promotion at work. You’re expecting the boss to offer you the job today over lunch. But what if God is teaching you some things in this job so you’re ready for that job 3 years from now?

Our miracles are usually the culmination of faithfully walking to the well time after time to fill up the jars, and carrying the heavy things because Jesus asked us to.

I think my favorite part of this story is when Jesus asks the servants to draw “some” out and take it to the master. Draw some what out? They had just put water in those jars, why would they give the master water? But they drew it out and the master tasted wine.

What you put in during the miracle isn’t what you draw out after the miracle.

Be patient. Don’t get frustrated. Do what Jesus is telling you to do and…

TRUST THE PROCESS.

 

The Last New Years Resolution Post You Need to Read

4 Things to Focus on in 2017

We’re only one week into the new year, but I’ve already read about more resolutions than I care to remember. I’ve broken one resolution already, but I don’t want to talk about it.

So I won’t bore you with the same old things you’ve already read somewhere else…maybe.

This past Sunday I spoke at our church on “4 Things to Focus on in 2017.” If you’d like to listen you can CLICK HERE.

While there are a number of things you could focus on this year, I believe these 4 things will lay the foundation for everything else.

1.  Spend more time with God

Now I realize there’s almost no more cliche thing for a Pastor to tell you than to spend more time with God. But I wouldn’t tell you, if I didn’t believe it.

Pastor Chris Hodges tweeted recently,

“2017 will be the best year of your life if it’s the best year spiritually.”

I genuinely believe this to be true.

Pick a Bible Reading Plan and stick to it. Commit to pray daily. Be in Church. Surround yourself with people who are growing in their relationship with the Lord.

Look at this from the book of Matthew.

Matthew 14:22-23 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,

If Jesus knew it was important to spend time with the Father, you and I should too.

2.  Trust God More

It’s an amazing thing that God forgives our sins and saves us. I am so thankful that He is my Savior. But did you know that He also wants to be Lord of your life? He wants to lead and guide and direct our lives. Who better to do that, than the One who is writing our story?

Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not in your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

Maybe the greatest thing you could do in 2017 is trust God beyond your ability to figure it all out.

3.  Forgive more

The 1st two really focused on you and God. The 3rd thing I think you and I should focus on more in 2017 is forgive more. Look at this:

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

I don’t think the point Jesus was making is that you have to forgive someone 77 times, but once they do wrong for the 78th time you can write them off. I think He was trying to make the point that we should be a forgiving people.

It has been said that “Forgiven people forgive people” but I’m not sure that’s always the case. I know a lot of “christians” who can’t, or won’t, forgive others.

Jesus tells a story later in Matthew 18 about a man who owes 10,000 pieces of gold. The king calls the man in to pay his debt, but the man says, “I don’t have it to pay.” So the king orders that his wife and kids be thrown into prison until he can pay it. He begs and the king relents and cancels the debt. The man gets up and goes outside where he bumps into a guy who owes him 100 bucks. He asks for it, but the man says “I don’t have it.” So he orders that the man be thrown in jail. The king is informed about this man who was forgiven much but refused to forgive and he has him thrown in jail and tortured. That story leads me to ask this question of me and you.

What if we could only receive as much forgiveness as we gave?

The last focus for this year is

4.  Pray Big Prayers

In the book of Joshua there is an amazing story.

The children of Israel have captured Jericho and defeated Ai. So the kings in the area get scared thinking that they might be next. So they band together to protect themselves and they attack the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites call out to Joshua for help and he leads them on a march all night to come to the Gibeonites’ rescue. When they get there, they attack, defeat the enemy and chase them down. Then we read one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible.

Joshua 10:12-15 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

I know sometimes when we read the Bible there is a temptation to think, “well that was back then, this is now, that can’t happen anymore.” But what if you started praying big prayers just on the off chance that God could actually answer them?
Pastor Mark Batterson doesn’t call them Big Prayers, he calls them Bold Prayers. He says “God honors bold prayers, because bold prayers honor God.”

I know it doesn’t work like this, but I want to pray the kind of prayers that gets God’s attention in heaven. Prayers so bold He has to stop what He’s doing to make sure He heard me correctly. Again, I know that’s not even theologically correct, but it sure does illustrate how I want to live my life this year. I’ve been asking myself the following question to get me started.

What could I ask God for that makes me a little bit nervous?

Maybe you could ask yourself the same thing as you focus on

Spending More Time with God

Trusting God More

Forgiving More, and 

Praying Bigger Prayers!

Happy New Year!

The Power of “The 1”

This past Sunday I spoke out of Genesis 18 about the story of Abraham negotiating with God about the salvation of Lot and the “righteous” before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra. It was my contention that Abraham cared less about the 50, 45, 40, 30, 20 or 10 that he was asking God for than he cared about “The 1”: his nephew Lot.

You can listen to the message HERE.

Well, here’s what I didn’t know…

A guy in our church, Rick, has a guy he has coached baseball with over the last few months for their sons. Rick’s friend has experienced some personal tragedy during the time they’ve known one another and Rick has offered to pray for him and his family. Last week while they were talking Rick was trying to encourage his friend regarding some of the things that were happening and his friend said, “I just need what you have. You have something different and want that.”

Rick responded, “well then you need to come to my church Sunday.” And his friend said he would. Sunday rolls around and his friends does indeed show up. Rick admitted to me later that he was nervous because he didn’t know what songs we were singing or what I was going to be speaking on, and how his friend would respond. His friend stood with arms folded during the first portion of worship. I came up during a “pastoral prayer” moment and encouraged everyone to turn and tell their neighbor that God loved them. So Rick leaned over and told his friend who “kind of snickered.”

Later I started my message and our guest services team had passed out a penny to everyone in attendance. So as I’m talking about God valuing “The 1” everyone is holding 1 cent. Later I asked this question of those in attendance in each of our 3 services as they held their penny, “whose salvation are you begging God for?”

Rick’s friend leaned over and asked, “Rick, who’s your 1?”

To which Rick replied,

“You are!”

They both began to cry. Eventually their tears were more than either of them could control and then we all prayed.

Rick’s friend handed him the penny after church and said, “since I was the 1 you were praying for I guess you should keep this.” Rick took it as a reminder to pray for his friend everyday this week and he invited him to come back to church this coming week. His friend said he would.

Rick would later tell me, “this is one of those amazing stories you only hear about…and this time I get to be part of it.”

Living a life that seems “different” to those around us.

The power of an invitation.

The work of God in the life of “The 1.”

Who are you begging God for?

Oh the Places You’ll Stay

Today is a big day in our house. Today is the first day of school. It’s also a milestone first day of school in our house because our oldest starts middle school and our youngest starts kindergarten (the middle 2 aren’t being overlooked, they start 2nd and 4th grade).

One of the really cool things about our daughter going to Kindergarten is that she has the same teacher that each of her 3 older brothers had.

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While I think this would be a cool thing for any family, it’s especially cool for me because my family moved around a good bit when I was growing up. My mom and dad were in ministry, but their administrative position with the church had a 4 year term limit. So we knew when we moved to a state that 4 years later we would be moving to a new state. It didn’t really make it easier, but at least that part was consistent. There were so many positives in my childhood, and I wouldn’t change it at all, but for the sake of this post, the moving was a negative in this one area.

While I know that military families, some ministry families, and other vocations require people to move more often than we did, I attended a different school for Kindergarten, 1st-4th grades, 5th-7th grades, 8th-11th grades, and 12th grade.

Again, our family moved because of term limitations on their job and not just randomly switching jobs, but switching jobs is pretty prevalent in our culture.

The average person born in the latter years of the baby boom (1957-1964) held 11.7 jobs from age 18 to age 48, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As you might imagine in the current generation where loyalty is even further down the list of priorities the numbers are even crazier.

Ninety-one percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years, according to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations @ Work” survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. That means they would have 15 – 20 jobs over the course of their working lives!

The average worker today stays at each of his or her jobs for 4.4 years, according to the most recent available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the expected tenure of the workforce’s youngest employees is about half that.

I get that many of these situations have legitimate reasons. Boredom in the present job. Conditions changed, so a new job was necessary. New skills or education compels us to find a place to use our new skills…

But sometimes…it just “looks greener on the other side”. Sometimes, if we’re honest, we just move to move.

Pastors aren’t exempt from this reality. While statistics are hard to find on pastoral tenure, most studies show that pastors stay 3-4 years at a church before moving on to another assignment.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that the average megachurch pastor has been at their church 13 years+. Every successful, long-term pastor I know has made some statement similar to this:

“I wanted to leave in year __ , but I stuck it out. I’m so thankful I did, because the next few years after were some of (greatest/most fruitful/most fulfilling/etc) years thus far.”

 

 

It has been said that “we tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in the short-term, and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long-term.”

I’m trying to take the long-view. I’m blessed to be in a city I love, at a church I love, working with people I love and I’m looking to be here for a long time.

My grandparents on my dad’s side of the family pastored the same church for 31 years. I’m hoping to break his family record.

When times are good I file it away for later. When times are tough I remember when it was good and remind myself that there would be problems “there” too.

Obviously there are benefits to staying somewhere longterm beyond family. However, today my daughter is reaping the benefit of 10 years at the same church, living in the same town. I’m thankful for that. I pray that 12 years from now she has the same homeroom teacher her Senior year of high school that my oldest son has 6 years from now.

Pastor, be encouraged today to stick it out. Don’t look with longing to greener pastures. Keep watering the grass on your side of the fence and trust God to bless you where you’re at.

Adding a New Worship Service

I announced last Sunday to our congregation that beginning August 7th we will add a 3rd Sunday worship service. Currently we meet at 9:15 and 11am for identical worship experiences, but beginning on August 7th we will have 8:30, 10 & 11:30am services.

We have experienced great growth in our initial season in our new facility and this move is one that we feel like helps us accommodate those who are already attending and prepare for those who aren’t here yet.

Here were some of the determining factors in our decision:

  1. What is the % of capacity of both our existing services? Depending on who you read or listen to, no one, especially guests, likes to be in a room that is 100% full (except the preacher and the worship leader). So once you hit 70-80% (this number varies by the set up of your room) you are actually full.
  2. What # makes the room feel empty? While we obviously want to consider how full the room is, we also want to be aware of the # of people in the room that makes it feel empty. We want to try and insure that moving to 3 services doesn’t slow the momentum that we have by creating multiple less energetic, empty services.
  3. How many volunteers do we have, and how many would we need to add a service? We ran the numbers to understand what our current number of volunteers was for 2 services, and how many we would need to do 3 services. We didn’t just multiply the # for 1 service by 3, we tried to be strategic in our assessment of the needs for each individual service.
  4. What was the Lord saying to us about this move? While this is listed last, it was first and on-going for us in the entire process.

Obviously, since we are making this move all of the answers to the above questions were positive. We felt that our capacity numbers were right, our volunteers needs were attainable, and the Lord was leading us in this direction.

We are excited about this next step in the journey. I’ll keep you posted about our process.

What has your experience been in adding new services?