BUCKET CHURCH

BUCKET PHOTOI married into a pastor’s family twenty years ago so I get to see the human behind the pastor – at family dinners, holidays, and weekend events. I see the exhaustion, the glazed over expression – the mental fatigue. I honestly think there is no harder job than pastoring a church. They work 7 days a week caring for and giving to a large body of people. I’ve worried about our pastors and staff at the church we attend….. but truthfully, not that often. I see them when they’re working – on Sundays and during the week in meetings. They’re smiling, engaged, and seem full of energy – they have their “A” game on.

My thought process abruptly shifted during a meeting at our church yesterday. I found out that Mondays are jokingly referred to as “bring a shovel to work” day. Why? To shovel through the complaints and concerns that arrive via email and voice mail after the weekend. I was surprised. I asked, “Don’t you get any thanks and praise?” The response was, “I think we may have one, but I have to return the call to see for sure.” I was speechless. You see, we are so lucky……our church is full of thankful and faithful people……people who are strong in their walk with Christ. I feel amazingly blessed to be a part of it. So why do we only share our concerns – not our thanks and praise?  At that moment, God planted a seed deep in my heart.

I know most of you are like me. Every Sunday I feel inspired by the sermon and thankful for our church. But I don’t regularly tell anyone or say anything. I know our pastors are spread thin, so I don’t want to add to their already full inbox. But what if our church became a bucket church instead of a shovel church? What if every one of us who felt thanks and praise on Sunday or during the week sent an email, left a voice mail, or sent a note?…… What if the staff needed to “bring a bucket to work” on Mondays to carry home all the thanks and praise from our 2000 members?…… How would this change our staff?…… How would it fill them up?……..How would this change us as members of the body of Christ?…… How would this change our church? ……. If we practice thanks and praise on a weekly basis in our church, how would this affect the rest of our lives?

I know there will always be a certain level of complaints and people should be able to freely express themselves. But what if we gave our concerns to God first?  I’ve been part of a highly successful high school sports program for 5 years. They have been state champions 9 times. That level of achievement does not come without tough issues for coaches, team members, and parents. But we have a rule. If you are upset and feel that something is unfair or unjust or simply not right – we’re asked to wait 48 hours before sending an email or picking up the phone. If we still have the same feelings after 48 hours, then we are encouraged to make that call. You see most of the time, 48 hours leads to some sort of resolution. What if we used the same 48 hour rule in our church? What if we used that time to pray about the issue and gave God the time to work on it? Do you think many of the issues would be resolved?

I’m not sure why God planted this seed in my heart, but I know without a doubt, I want to be part of a bucket church. I want to give thanks and praise to the point of overflowing. I want our church staff and pastors to be excited and energized by coming to work on Monday…… I want Mondays to be “take a bucket to work” day to carry home all the thanks and praise not just because it will make a difference in our staff’s lives, our own lives, and our church as a whole………..but because it’s how God calls us to live.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

 

 

Perfect Timing

Life is hectic. We operate in a “right now” instantaneous world. Email, texts, FaceTime, Skype, IMing – we all want instant communication and instant answers………even from God. How often are we truly patient in waiting for God’s timing, especially when things get difficult?

Sometimes God uses delays purposely – to test us, to teach us, and to help us grow in our faith. We simply have to learn to………………………………………………….wait.

1 Samuel:13 is a great lesson in this. It tells the story of King Saul taking matters into his own hands after giving up on God’s timing. Saul had gathered 6000 men to fight the Philistines. But he was told to wait 7 days for Samuel to arrive in order to sacrifice the peace offerings to the Lord, before taking action. On the 7th day, there was no sign of Samuel. The Philistines had gathered an army more than twice the size of King Saul’s and his troops began to lose faith and flee. Feeling pressured and out of time, King Saul decided to make the offerings himself instead of waiting for Samuel even though he knew it was strictly forbidden by God’s law – only priests were allowed to offer sacrifices. And who do you think arrived just as he finished? Samuel…….as promised.

It’s really hard to continue to wait for God when you feel like opportunities are passing you by. But this is when our true spiritual character is revealed. Will we take matters into our own hands or will we wait for God’s perfect timing?

“God, thank you for always providing answers. Please help me remember to be patient and wait for your timing, so your plan for my life is fulfilled. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

The Destination

the pathPicture riding a horse along a path with a clear destination in mind. You’re trotting at a good pace and see the turn you need to take ahead.  As you’re thinking about tugging on the reins, a snake appears and aggressively tries to strike. Your horse spooks and in a split second, control is lost as the horse rears. You begin to fall. When do you pray?

When you see the snake? When you lose control? When you begin to fall? Or maybe, you’re like me and think you’re doing really well in remembering to pray as you set out….asking for God to watch over you as you make the trip…….sorry, but don’t pat yourself on the back yet.

It’s easy to ask God for help with what we’ve already decided…..help with our goals, our objectives, our destinations. We want Him to help us get to where we want to go……what about where He wants us to go? How do we begin to let God determine the destination?

Let GoThe first step is simply to pray for recognition. Recognizing your will vs. God’s will is BIG. The second step is to live the way God wants us to live. Reread the Ten Commandments……they’re not as easy as you may think. The third step is to read and study the Bible…..just bite size chunks at a time. This becomes a guide or map in directing your life. The more you use the map, the more you will live according to God’s destination. Remember to let the Spirit guide you.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in  all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye.” Psalm 32:8

“For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.” Psalm 48:14

“The Lord will guide you continually …” Isaiah 58:11

What Else Do I Have?

stuffThe New Year always brings re-examination of our lives and often resolutions of change. While I’m not big on resolutions, I am big on evaluating. So how do we break it down? Jobs, money, fitness/health, relationships/marriage, family, possessions, relationship with God…..what is the right order and do your resolutions reflect that?

I’ve been studying the Old Testament and was impacted by a small story about a man named Micah. (Judges 17-18) He lived in the hill country with his mother and they seemed to be decent people. They just got a little twisted in their own desires and pursuit in worshipping God. Micah set up a shrine with an ephod and created a silver idol and household gods. He even hired a Levite as his personal priest saying, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since this Levite has become my priest.” Judges 17:13

Meanwhile, the Danites (tribe of Dan) were looking for new land and sent five men out to explore. They found themselves in the hill country near Micah’s house and recognized the Levite, his priest. After staying the night, the men reported back to their troops about the prosperous land, “unsuspecting people” and specifically spoke of Micah’s riches. They immediately left to conquer the land, but also made a stop to take all of Micah’s riches as well as his priest. When Micah returned and found that everything was gone, he gathered men and overtook the Danites. When he came face to face with them he said, “You took the gods I made, and my priest, and went away. What else do I have?” Judges 18:24

“What else do I have?”…….Micah felt he had nothing left because his idols were taken.  All of his value and energy were tied up in his possessions. The Bible says “an idol is anything that takes God’s place in a person’s life“. Micah forgot to invest his energy into simply worshipping God, not things.

So as you think about this new year of 2013…..are you asking “what else do I have, need, or want to achieve?”………. Do the answers reflect things or God?

If Only……

complaints“Again, the Israelites starting wailing, If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna.'” Numbers 11:4-6

“If only”…..dangerous words because they keep us firmly in the complaint line…..never in the gratitude line. The Israelites were such a powerful example of this. God freed them from slavery in Egypt through awe inspiring miracles, proclaimed them His chosen people, and promised them a land of milk and honey. They just had to be faithful on the short journey to get there.

But they complained at every turn……constant whining about every situation they faced. They continually focused on what was wrong, what they didn’t have…..never on the miracles God was performing in their lives on a daily basis. They forgot the meat in Egypt came with the heavy price of slavery. They took for granted that God was already providing food in the form of manna. There was not an ounce of gratitude, only dissatisfaction.

Reading through Exodus and Numbers, it’s pretty shocking to understand the behavior of the Israelites. How could people who were given so much……complain so often? It took me exactly one day of noticing my behavior to see I’m right there with the Israelites.

The if only’s sneak in so easily, they can be hard to notice. The complaints enter my thoughts so quickly I am caught by surprise. What am I communicating to God? I want to be firmly in the gratitude line. Grateful every single day for God’s gifts of life, health, family, food, shelter, salvation…..and continually focused on seeing silver linings instead of clouds.

Take one day and keep tabs on your complaints vs gratitude. You may be surprised with the result.

 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”   1 Thessalonians 5:18

Prove It

Have you ever asked God for a sign? A sign that makes things more clear….proof that when he calls, you really, really understand what he’s asking? Because you certainly wouldn’t want to act on blind faith putting yourself at risk, right?proof

Can I tell you how much I identify with a guy named Gideon in Judges 6-7? When God called him to save Israel and promised him strength, like Moses, he immediately doubted because of his own weaknesses. God again promised strength, but Gideon not only asked for a sign, he asked God to wait while he prepared an offering. God graciously granted him a sign by blazing fire from a rock but Gideon’s fear drove him to ask for even more proof.

“Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.”And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.”  That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. Judges 6:36-40

Last night, my daughter sprained her ankle at practice and couldn’t walk on it. I was in my room praying before going to bed and I heard or really felt a voice, “Go and put your hand on her foot and pray.”  My first thought was, “Yeah, right….like that would make a difference.” I heard it again, “Go and put your hand on her foot and pray.” I thought, “But I will feel embarrassed…stupid….awkward.” I heard it a third time, “Go and put your hand on her foot and pray.” This time I got out of bed, walked into her room and bent down to look at her foot. “What are you doing?” she asked. “Praying for your foot.” I whispered. So very timidly I reached out and quickly prayed. I think I said two sentences, but I did it.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened….no outright miracles…..except that I answered the call and with only two arguments. Large for me. I left feeling a bit silly, but as I walked down the hall, a huge sense of inner peace washed over me.

Maybe the miracle was not about her foot, but God teaching me about Moses and Gideon so I can act with less doubt and less proof. Then I can teach my children to do the same. And in case you’re wondering, while my daughter’s foot still hurt this morning, she walked out of the house on both feet.

When God Calls

telephoneHow do you feel when God calls you to act? Afraid, inadequate, unable? Are you like me and immediately focus on all the reasons you can’t or shouldn’t do what he’s asking? Do you question and make excuses?

We can take comfort that even Moses questioned God and pleaded to be let off the hook. Exodus 3-4 shows us that over and over he tried to hide behind his own inadequacies….

The Lord appeared to Moses and said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses continues to question, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God continues to reassure him and even gives a detailed description of how He will deliver the people from Egypt.

But three more times Moses argues, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

“Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

“Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

Wow…..can you imagine if Moses did not act and finally follow God’s commands? We never know where God is leading us or how we play a part in his miracles. He already knows our weaknesses and limitations and is patiently waiting to provide an abundance of help the second we accept and act. We just need to trust and have faith in what he is asking.