Archive for April, 2011

Goodbyes Stink!

I guess it has finally begun to sink in.  This Sunday is my last Sunday in my current position.  After resigning as associate pastor and giving my notice, I began focusing on all the things I needed to get done in order to leave smoothly.  I moved computer files to a flash drive to be handed off.  I organized file drawers to make things easier to find for those who will be picking up where i have left off.  I have tried to tie up all the loose ends of my current position at the church so that my leaving will not be a burden on anyone.

Then there is the packing – how can a person collect so much stuff and put it into one office in 9 years?  And where will I put it all?  My new office needs paint and organization before I can even move in.

All that to say, I have not really focused on THE DAY.  But here it is . . . this Sunday is my last day at First Baptist Church in Levelland.  Monday, I will officially begin my journey as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Littlefield (for those of you not familiar with God’s country in west Texas – yes, our founding pioneers were not very creative when they named our cities!).

At least, I had not thought about it until last night.  The family and I sat down to watch one of our favorite shows, The Office.  And last night’s episode was Michael Scott’s last day on the job as manager of Dunder Mifflin.  As I watched the episode it began to sink in.  For those of you who have remained distant from the shenanigans of Michael Scott and are not familiar with the show, Michael has been the boss for the entire run of the show and he is now moving and leaving the company.  So last night’s episode was his goodbye.  As I watched him trying to say goodbye to all the employees individually, I began to realize that I will be saying goodbye on Sunday.

At one emotional point in the episode, Michael said, “Goodbyes stink.”  I could not agree more.

Even though I have no doubt that God is at work in this transition, saying goodbye to all our friends here is going to stink!  But that is part of life I suppose.

It has been an incredible journey here in Levelland, but as we part ways, I know that God has even bigger plans for our friends who remain here as well as my family as we make this transition.

I encourage you to continue to follow our journey through my posts here.  Nothing will change with Clay In The Hands.  It will continue . . . just from a new location.

Goodbyes stink, so I will simply say, “Be blessed!”

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Yesterday, I talked about the importance of the church being accepting of anyone who comes through the doors realizing that no one is perfect.  One comment I received yesterday was from a friend who said, “Well, I guess you are telling me I can’t come back to church – since I am perfect.”  Ricky, love you brother – I think your safe to come on back. (smile)

As I had my prayer and reading time this morning, I was reading through the first few verses of John chapter 3.  I would venture a guess that anyone in America who has ever watched a professional football game has at least seen the reference to John 3:16.  This is a very foundational verse and one that most people are at least aware of and possibly even read.

But are you familiar with John 3:17?  Here is what it says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  On the heels of the verse that tells us that God loved this world enough to send Jesus here to save it, we see that the plan was not to have Jesus come in and condemn everyone for all they had ever done wrong.  The focus was not on where we have failed, the focus was on saving – verse 16 is clear that this plan was formed out of love.

What pierces me about this verse is that Jesus, the very son of God – the one who had every right to condemn – chose to love instead.  So how can I, a very imperfect human even consider taking the stance of doling out condemnation?  Jesus came and loved people, all people, in spite of our failures and sins.

Notice, it does not say that Jesus dismisses our sins.  In fact, the very reason he came was to save us from our lifestyle of sin – to save us from ourselves.  But this passage shows us that his approach is based in love.

Our task, as Jesus followers, is to reach out to the fallen, the hurting and the sinner (that’s everyone) with love and acceptance.  We are to love and accept the person without accepting the sin.  That is what Jesus came to do and still does today.  As his followers, that is our calling.

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Special X-Ray Glasses

You remember those ads for X-Ray glasses when you were a kid (or at least, when I was a kid)?  I never had any to know if they really worked – I am going to go out on a limb here and say probably not.  Supposedly, you could put them on and see through things.  I won’t mention the things that went through the mind of an adolescent boy when he thought about such glasses.

At any rate, how cool would it be if there were special X-Ray glasses?  What if theses glasses allowed the wearer to see what was really going on in a person’s life?  And what if we handed out a pair to everyone who walked through the doors of the church on Sunday morning?  I wonder if the gathering would be any different?

I started a book last night titled, No Perfect People Allowed.  The book reminds us that churches should be welcoming to everyone, regardless of what is going on in their lives.

Somewhere along the line, the people in the pews got the idea that they should cover up their problems.  I guess, in a way, we have done it to ourselves in the church world.  We preach that Christ followers should strive to be more like Jesus everyday – and honestly, that should be foundational to those who follow in the Way.  But we have failed to remain real.  We have given the impression that a mature believer should be “perfect.”  And no one wants to admit that they are not “perfect.”  So, on Sunday morning, we put on our “Sunday clothes,” and our Sunday faces and we head off to church.  All the while knowing that it is largely a show – often less than genuine.

Jesus followers are to be God’s light in a dark world and collectively the church is to be a place where those lights are recharged.  But why would a person truly seeking answers to life’s difficult questions want to look for those answers in a place where nothing is real?

For the church to truly be what God intended, it has to be filled with people who are real – with all their problems and baggage.  The church should be a group of believers who are doing there best to follow Jesus on a daily basis; leaning on each other through their struggles every step of the way.

That is why you will find this phrase on my business card:  “. . . no perfect people allowed . . .”   That is the church environment we need to create.

Keep it real!

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Rise Up

He is risen indeed.  Yesterday was Easter Sunday – a day we celebrate as Jesus followers as the day Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death.  Through the years, many traditions have been added to Easter.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole Easter egg hunt and bunny thing.  In fact, there are remnants of it still alive in our home; even with my kids being older – they still get candy and small gifts on Easter Sunday.  But now, instead of having to go look for it, we just put it in a sack and have it ready for them first thing Sunday morning.

Sometimes, the true message of Easter can get lost.  I heard a story this past week about a church here in our area that had a time during their morning service in which the children came to the front of the auditorium for a “children’s sermon.”  During that time, the pastor asked the question, “What is the meaning of Easter.”  Now, I have done my share of children’s sermons and one thing I know is that if you ask a question, you have to be prepared for anything.  One little boy’s hand shot up and so the pastor asked, “What do you think?”  The little boy said, “This is the day we remember when Jesus killed the Easter bunny and spread his blood on the doorpost.”

I have no idea how the pastor handled that situation, but I am going to guess that it took some time to regain composure and move forward in the service.  Obviously, this little boy had combined several stories into one.  As humorous as that story is for us, the message is clear.  Often, the true meaning of Easter is lost in the season.

Regardless of how we choose to celebrate the season, we can never forget the real meaning – resurrection!  Jesus defeated sin and death.  He died the day before the Sabbath and was buried.  But on the day after the Sabbath, he came back to life.  He was dead – but now he lives!  That is the significance of Easter.

Today, I want to challenge you to rise up as well.  If you are a follower in the Way, then you know that your life is being transformed by the renewing of your mind.  God is at work in you.  You are equipped to serve in ways that only you can serve.  It is time to rise up and make a difference.  Rise up and show those around you the difference that Jesus has made in your life.

Be a blessing today!

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Good Friday Thought

Today – we consider the cross!

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This is Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter.  Holy Week is full of meaning as we think about the last few hours of Jesus life.  Today is Maundy Thursday.  Today we remember the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples as they celebrated the Jewish Passover meal together.  Shortly after that meal, Jesus would be turned over to the religious leaders and run through a mock trial and then on to the Roman leaders for sentencing.

But even more painful for him must have been the betrayal of friends – the followers who had been with him daily for three years.  What a long night that must have been.

As you go about your day today, think about what Jesus must have felt as he shared this symbolic meal with his closest followers, knowing that each would turn from him a little while later.  Then think about how you have turned away from him to follow your own desires.

We are not innocent – but Jesus loves us anyway!  So much so that he died for us.

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I am in the midst of taking advantage of a gift.  Kristi has given me the gift of two days away for a personal retreat – just me, my computer, a couple of legal pads, my Bible and a stack of blank file folders.  I have come to a Christian camp out in the middle of nowhere.  It sits down in a canyon where there is no cell service.  Believe it or not, there is wireless internet but it makes dial up look crazy fast – which isn’t a bad thing – it has kept me focused on the reason for my being here.

I have come to pray and plan.  In two weeks, I will begin my journey as senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Littlefield.  I am looking forward to getting started and have come to pray and think through God’s direction for the church and my leadership there.  Monday was very productive and I pray today will be as well.

Last night, I took an hour to sit on the porch of the cabin and look at the stars. It was a beautiful west Texas evening with a clear sky and a very pleasant temperature.  The canyon walls were silhouetted by the stars and the random security lights scattered through out the camp.  It was very peaceful and reflective.  The only thing I would change would have been the constant roar of a motor that ran continuously just out of sight in a field above the canyon wall.  The more I sat and meditated on God’s beautiful creation, the more frustrated I became with the incessant rumble of the motor.

But it finally dawned on me that we live in a world that is full of noise.  We are surrounded by it.  We can’t escape – not even in a remote area such as the camp in the bottom of the canyon.  I became even more aware of the need that each of us have to shut out the rat race – even if just for a brief time every day – and spend time alone with God.  Being able to silence the world around us may not be likely, but we can silence ourselves in the midst of it and listen for God.  Silence is a very important spiritual practice – one that leads to inner peace and communion with God.

How do you practice silence in your spiritual walk?

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Life Marker Decision

Tomorrow night, I have the opportunity to speak at a banquet honoring graduating seniors from an area high school.  I am planning on sharing that this is a life marker in their lives similar to a mile marker along the highway – a marker showing progress and accomplishment.  All of us pass life markers through the course of our lives – first words, first steps, first day at school, getting a driver’s license, first date – many, many life markers.  It is a huge step for them.

For some, this could mean a new chapter in their lives.  Unfortunately, for some, it may mean nothing more than more of the same – a continuation of life as usual.  The choice is really up to them.  That is the significance of this particular life marker – no longer will they have anyone standing over them, making decisions for them – this one is on them.  They can choose to do life as usual, or they can take hold of this opportunity to become the person God intended.

As I prepared this talk, I began to ask myself some of the same questions.  Questions like, what am I doing today to become more like Jesus – to be more of the person God intended?  Do I have the drive to relentlessly pursue God’s plan for my life?

How about you?

There is good news!  It is never too late!  Grab hold of the opportunity afforded by a new day!  Go make a difference!

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Yesterday, I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my seminary professors and long-time friend.  I told her about our upcoming transition into a new pastoral position.  She was very excited and encouraging.  She left me with this advice – not new information, but something we all need to be reminded of occasionally.  She said, “Never neglect your time alone with God.”

Now, you may be thinking – “You’re a pastor, how could you ever neglect your time with God?”  But the reality is that pastors are no different than anyone else.  Time is short, life is moving at the speed of light and it is easy to allow devotion time to become squeezed into a corner of our day and forgotten.  Or, more typically, preparation for teaching from the Bible becomes a replacement for a true spiritual encounter with the Father.

As I said, this is not new information for me, but it sure helps to hear it and be reminded from time to time of the importance of developing a meaningful relationship with God.

How about you?  Need a little reminder today of just how important it is to spend time alone with God?

Well, there you go!

Be blessed today!

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God Made THIS Day!

Psalm 118:4 says, “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Think about that for just a minute.  This day – today – right now, God made this day.  It is typical for us to think of God creating the world and all that is in it, and that time began when God spoke it into existence – all one linear progression.  The danger is when we start viewing our lives as a bunch of days running together in a meaningless blur – living for the weekend, or holding out until that next vacation.  We are reminded in this verse that God is present now and made this day to be special.

The possibilities are endless!  What are you going to do today to rejoice?  What about your life today will be considered praise to God?  How will you live today so that God is pleased?

It is all up to you.  You can choose to do nothing special with this day – OR – you can decide right now to make your life matter, make it count.

What will you do?

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