Archive for November, 2012

What Do You Want To Be?

Remember that question you would be asked as a child – “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I remember being asked that question on numerous occasions.  It is just one of those things adults ask kids.  I honestly don’t remember having a set answer.  I am sure I would respond with “a fireman” or “a policeman.”  (I am fairly positive I never said, “a pastor.”)

But now as I am a bit older, I have had the blessing of hearing my sons respond to that question.   Every once in a while, when they were young, they would respond by saying that they wanted to be like their dad.  Talk about a proud moment in the life of a father!

Throughout our lives, there are people we come to respect.  In fact, it is not uncommon to have folks in our lives who impact us so dramatically that we want to be more like them.

Paul says, in Ephesians 5, that as children of God, we should seek to imitators of our Father. We should have such a respect and gratitude for God that our desire should be imitation.  So what do you want to be when you grow up?  Who do you want to resemble?

As imitators we may be the closest thing to God that people around us see today.

How closely does your imitation resemble the real thing?

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Simply Faithful

Monday and Tuesday of this week, I had the pleasure and privilege of giving a tour.  There were 8 ministers from our area that loaded up in a van and drove 6 hours to El Paso on Monday morning.  We went so that churches in our area could get to know a minister in Clint, just east of El Paso, and hear his vision for their church and the surrounding area.

That was the focus of the trip.

But yesterday morning, on our way out of town, we decided to stop by another ministry just a little further east in Fabens, Texas.  A church has a dormitory there where mission groups can stay at ridiculously affordable rates when they go to the are to do mission work.  We wanted these leaders to see where they might stay if their churches were to decide to take a group back to the area to work.

But another thing this church in Fabens sponsors is a ministry called Crossing Borders.  This is a ministry that provides food staples to pastors who live their lives ministering just across the border in Mexico.

For 11 years, this ministry has been dedicated to serving those pastors.  But over time it has expanded to not only providing food for the pastors and their families, but also giving enough food to them that they can go back and give food to people in their congregations as well.

Every Tuesday morning, a team of volunteers gather in the church fellowship area and begin bagging rice and beans as well as other groceries.  Then, throughout the morning, pastors make the trek across the border to pick up their allotment.  At 10:00 am, one of the pastors will lead a Bible study for the workers and any one else from the community who would like to attend.

This goes on every week.  As we watched this process happening and listened to the two saintly ladies who serve as domestic missionaries in this ministry, it became clear to me.

So often, we in our churches, talk about doing ministry.  We pray about it.  We organize it.  And occasionally we may actually do something – an event or an emphasis.  But as I watched the work going on right in front of me and realized the number of lives this ministry would touch, what kept running through my mind was “they are actually doing it.”  One of the gentlemen on the trip, as we climbed back in the van to come home said it best, “They are getting it done.”

It wasn’t flashy.  There weren’t any media personnel there taking pictures or doing interviews.  This is just a simple ministry that gathers every Tuesday morning – and has for 11 years – to meet the needs of people.

God has called us all to do our part – regardless of how simple or menial it may seem.

Stay faithful to that calling today!

(If you want to learn more about Crossing Borders Ministries, you can check them out here.)

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Thanks for Reading

Last night i had the opportunity to share what I am thankful for during our evening service.  I expressed to folks gathered in our chapel how blessed I feel to minister along side of them – how thankful I am to be their pastor.

Today, I thought I would take a quick second to do the same here.

Clay In The Hands has been around for over three years.  During this time, I have done a lot of rambling with words.  I have shared insights, experiences and hopefully a bit of encouragement.  But the blessing has been mine.  I won’t say that each morning I have ideas pouring out of me.  There are days when words have a hard time making onto the screen.

But the effort has been worth it!  For whatever reason, God has used these posts to reach folks.  It is in the encouragement I receive from you, the readers, that keeps me going on those days when words are illusive.  It is knowing that somewhere around the world, there might be a person who needs to hear from God on that day that gives me the incentive to work at it.

So thank you for reading!  You are a blessing!

Continue to stop by and I’ll keep sharing my journey.

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Family At Thanksgiving

Here we are the day before Thanksgiving.  Many of us are planning time with family and that time will most likely include plenty of food, a lot of fellowship and quite possibly some football.

I remember Thanksgivings as a kid.  I grew up learning to value family and time together.  I had over 20 first cousins on one side of the family and it was never dull when we all got together.  The plan was the same each year.  Everyone would converge on my grandparents home – a little farm house on the edge of town.  It had been added on to in order to have a second bathroom and another place to sleep.  It’s normal occupants didn’t need much space, but at holiday time, it became a bit cramped.

At meal time, the kids were typically allowed to fix our plates first and then head off into another room to eat on “TV trays.”  We ate and joked and had a great time together.  But it was all just precursory to what would come next.

It became a tradition by the time I was 13 or so, that we would all load up in as few cars as possible and head over to the elementary school.  The school had a covered, outdoor basketball court.  It would begin with simple games of “PIG” or “HORSE.”  But what we were really hoping for was some unsuspecting locals who might wander up and be pulled into a friendly game.

It happened just about every year that enough would show up and we could have an actual game.  These locals had no idea what to expect from Team Hill.

We really didn’t call ourselves that, but it was no question that it was our family against whoever else showed up.  To be honest, I don’t ever remember losing.

As I think back to those days, I am reminded that no matter how far apart family members may be physically, there is a bond that cannot be broken.  It is at times like holidays that we should think about family.  If you can’t be with your family this holiday, give thanks for them and then let them know you are thinking about them.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

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Clear Vision

This morning, as I pulled out of the driveway, something caught my eye.  It was a star.  I thought to myself, “that star sure seems bright.”

As with most mornings, I was listening to my daily podcast devotional as I made my short little commute.  The sun was just beginning to cast an orange glow on the horizon.  It was a crisp 30 degrees outside.  

By the time the scripture from Luke was read, I was out in the country driving along as normal.  The passage was the story of Zaccheus.  If you are familiar with the story, this man was a tax collector in Jericho.  He was not a popular Jew.  In fact, he was hated by most.  But he wanted to see Jesus as he passed by along the crowded road.  There was one little problem – Zaccheus was too short to see over the mob.  So he ran ahead of Jesus, laid his pride and dignity aside and climbed a tree like a kid.

As I listened to the story, the idea that kept coming to mind was that this man wanted to see Jesus clearly.  As that idea rolled around in my mind, I began to notice, the star I had seen earlier was not the only thing that seemed bright.  I realized that I could see city lights,  over 30 miles away, more clearly than I have ever seen them before.  For whatever reason, the conditions were perfect to see for miles.

I began to pray that I could see Jesus more clearly.  Just like this experience of being able to see a great distance with clarity, I began to pray that God would create the conditions that would allow me to see.

That is my prayer for all of us today.  That God would allow us to see Jesus with new eyes today – more clearly than ever before.

Be blessed today!

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You know how we pastor types can be – always looking for the cutting edge ideas and surfing the web for cool church websites.  When we have the opportunity to visit another church we do so like spies in a foreign land, taking notes on how we are greeted and how the service is conducted.  Mind you, we don’t do this in an adversarial role – we just like to see what other churches do and glean ideas.  We watch the people to see how they interact with others – both their guests and their family members.  It can often be very enlightening.

So let me tell you about one of the most awesome churches i have ever encountered.

I had the opportunity last night to observe over 100 people from this particular church, open their doors and invite the community to a fully prepared, fully served, fully free, sit-down Thanksgiving dinner.

Places were set for 400 guests.  The food was prepared all day in anticipation of the event.

When the doors opened, I watched countless servants welcome and seat the guests.  Others were immediately at the tables getting tea or water for the guests.

Behind the scenes there were two service lines making plates that were then handed to a crowd of servers who carried the plates with a welcoming smile to the guests.  As the folks finished their meals, there were literally teams of people to bus the tables and make sure the guests had what they needed.

I was blown away by not only the number of folks who committed their time to serve but also by the attitudes with which they worked.  Rarely does a pastor get to see such service in action – it was amazing and a true gift from God.

I am always looking for sources of inspiration and illustrations I can use in my writing and speaking.  I was truly blessed to be able to observe and witness such an outpouring of God’s love by so many believers at one time in one place.

But the most humbling thing about this experience was that it occurred at our church.  This act was carried out by the people God has allowed me to serve and I got the opportunity to literally watch God at work.

It was a picture of an awesome church serving an amazing God!

I am so blessed!

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A Deadly Disease

This past Sunday, we started a month long emphasis on living generously.  As part of the introduction, I spent some time talking about a disease that is killing us.  This disease is particularly debilitating because it works behind the scenes mostly undetected.  

The disease is entitlement.  

In our culture, we have been tricked into believing that we are due a good life.  Regardless of how hard we work or how little we work, our attitude is that we deserve status or wealth or happiness.

The reason this disease is so debilitating is that it is birthed out of our selfishness and grows to feed that very selfishness.  Unchecked, it will kill any sense of gratitude we might otherwise feel.

Here is the truth from scripture:

1.  All of us are unworthy – all have fallen short of God’s ideal for us

2.  All good things come from God, by God’s grace and not because of anything we do

3.  We can’t earn God’s favor – God gives it freely

We need to stop this holiday season and think about these truths.  We are truly blessed but not because we deserve any of it.  We are blessed because God blesses us.

That should move us to gratitude.

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God At Work

Is God at work in your life today?  The correct answer to the question is “Yes.”

But the reality is that we don’t always see God at work.  We get wrapped up in our To Do lists and appointments and fail to stop and look for God.  I am the worst at this.  I know God is at work all around me but I am not sure I see that activity nearly as readily as I should on a daily basis.

For me, this is part of the Thanksgiving season.  We need to slow down and think about the blessings we have been given.  We need to pause and look.  God is moving all the time – we just need to pay attention.

The results of perceiving God’s movement are hope and gratitude.  When we know that God is at work in our lives, we realize a hope that can only come from knowing God is in control and there is something more to this life than what is on the surface.  When we know God is at work in our lives – the very creator of the universe involved in my life – we are moved to be thankful that God would take an interest in us.  And more than an interest – God genuinely knows each of us and has a plan for each one.

That is something that should give us pause.  Knowing God is at work in me makes me thankful.

What about you?

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Thank a Veteran

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the local Veteran’s Day service.  Our community has an impressive memorial right on one of the main streets through town, and on Veteran’s Day, folks gather at the memorial for a time of remembrance and thanks.

To be honest, I approached this opportunity as just another thing I had to do on an already over-committed Sunday.  It is not that I dreaded it, but I was not passionately looking for another engagement.

As I got out of the car to walk to the memorial and join the folks who were already gathering there, it didn’t take more than 2 seconds to realize the wind was blowing 30 – 40 miles per hour and the 50 degree temperature felt more like 20.  So my attitude did not improve.

But as I stood before the crowd gathered there, I looked on a multitude of faces.  I looked on the faces of men who stood on ships and served in wartime.  I looked on faces of men who flew planes to defend their country.  I looked on faces of men who marched to protect my way of life.  And I looked on the proud faces of widows whose husbands served faithfully.

And in that moment I realized something.  I really have no clue what this meant to those folks.  I have no context from which to develop a real understanding.  So as I stood at the back of the crowd, after my talk, I watched as one by one, the anthems of each branch of the military was played.  What I saw was men and women, many using canes, stand in honor of their branch.

I was humbled and speechless.  The only words I could muster were “Thank you for your service.”

Tell a vet thanks today!

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What Are You Worth?

What are you worth?

There are any number of ways to answer that question.  The first thing you might think of as you ponder the question is your net worth.  How much money?

Or maybe your accomplishments come to mind.  What have you been able to attain in this life to this point?

One very valid way to look at the question is your worth in the eyes of God.  Regardless of how worthy or unworthy you may feel, you are worth the world to God.  You were worth dying for to God.

Think about that for a second.

You are important to God – you are worth everything.

As we enter into this time of thanksgiving – I have a challenge for you.  Consider your worth to God.  Think about what that should mean in the way we live.  If God loved you and me enough to die for us, shouldn’t we strive to live as Jesus taught us to live?  Shouldn’t we try to live up to the worth God places on us?

Perhaps, we should answer the question, “What are you worth?” by saying, “I am worth the difference I can make in God’s kingdom.”

Go be that difference today!

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