Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pray 1

In our nightly routine we say a prayer I said as a kid, “Good job, Mom.” Then we often open it up for prayer comments or requests and the shout-outs keep coming.

Jacob   “Let’s pray for Jesus.”

Me       “Good one Jacob. Gavin, do you have any?”

Gavin  “Jesus.”

Me       “Good one Gav. Jacob, anymore?”

Jacob   “Mom.”

Me       “Sure we can pray for Mom. Gavin, anymore?”

Gavin  “Dad.”

Me       “Good one. We can pray for Dad. Jacob, anymore?”

Jacob   “Let’s pray for cars.”

Me       “We can be thankful to God for giving us cars.”

I could type page after page about what we say. Some nights we are more distracted than others. Honestly, some nights I am tired and ready to put kids to bed. Yet, I try to stay faithful in our prayers to help them focus on them. I will tell you I avoid a lot of detailed theology. Yes, when I pray with my kids, we pray for Jesus—I’m pretty sure He doesn’t need us to pray for Him. It is really all about encouraging an open communication with little correction so we don’t discourage prayer.  I am not concerned about perfect theology with them. We often end up praying for milk, heads, socks, and whatever else we think of.

One odd thing I have noticed in being a pastor, is that so many of us are afraid to pray out loud. Honestly, these are the things that keep me up at night. Why in the world would we be fearful of praying out loud? Praying is just talking to God and sharing our hearts with Him.

Yet, through time I have found out that so many of us are afraid to say the wrong thing to Him. The amazing thing is that God knows our inner thoughts. He knows everything about us. The only real thing we could say wrong would be to rebuke Him. But if we are worried about that, then we are pretty much on track with focusing on our faith. Yet, I think we are more fearful of what others will think of us. Funny, that our world which is focused on images and how we appear, has even taken over our prayer lives.  

This week we will talk about Pray 1. This is the last piece of our discipleship model. To be honest, it was one of those topics that we really wrestled with through time and prayer. We believe one of the necessary pieces of making disciples in 2012 is to help us realize why prayer is important for our lives. I believe God wants us to become a church where we can pray out loud with little worry of getting our words perfect, or about what others think.

In Biblical history before Jesus came, there was a curtain separating people from a direct connection with God. But when Jesus died and rose again, that curtain was torn and opened, allowing a direct connection with Him. Now we find ourselves with the opportunity to talk with Jesus every day whenever we want. What an amazing gift God has given!  Because of that gift, we are given the chance to live in direct and constant communication with Him, connecting us with our Savior and Creator.  How cool is that?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Read 1

A while ago I heard a presenter talk about how to make the reading of God’s Word  a habit in your life. Two things stuck with me that day. One was the constant reminder that when we are reading God’s Word, we always have a defender. His point was that the devil is always trying to distract us from doing it. Talk to some of the greatest spiritual leaders, and they will tell you how they constantly wrestle with making sure this discipline is in their lives.

Second, he addressed building the habit in your life so that it is common. I am not sure what it was when you were a kid, but we all have things we just know will happen. Some of us had dessert every night, some of us always had time to play a game or do something else. No one had to force you to like those things--it just was natural. Your family did them as you grew up, and you continue to enjoy them into adulthood.  Mine is music.

Music was something that permeated my house. My mom and dad had records that we listened to. I remember break dancing to Michael Jackson in my living room as a kid. My dad played the guitar and I have memories of singing songs with him. My mom sang to us all the time. I remember long car drives and hearing Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel or Glad. One of my first purchases as a boy was a stereo. I can tell you my first Cd I ever bought. My brother randomly texts me song lyrics. Music is in my family through and through. No one ever told me to like it, and no one ever had to because it was modeled for me every step of life. My kids now have music in their lives. There are already times when they are dancing in my office or living room. Jacob, my four year old, taught Gavin, my two year old, the lyrics to Carly Rae’s “Call Me Maybe.” You should hear Gavin try and sing “This Is Crazy.”

We all have things that we naturally teach our kids to love because we love them. Stickers on my car, my planner, a picture on my office wall, all indicate who my
favorite artist is. It all started with my parents’ love for music, and how it became my love. But what if we did that with Scripture? What if our kids naturally saw us read God’s Word every night? What if we were reading it to them? Would it make it that much easier to fall in love with it? Would they tell you that no one made them like reading God’s Word--it is just what our family does?

I believe it is absolutely necessary to set this model, and build this habit in as a young kid. Because the older you get, the more challenging it is to build it. Some of us know the fight of convincing ourselves day in and day out to get back to God’s Word because we know He is the source of life and truth.

In my house we have an age appropriate Bible and my boys know where it is. It is the last book we read before bed. They know where to get it. Trust me, I am not perfect but I am trying the hardest to make it a practice in their lives from early on. I believe in the power of God’s Word. I know it is necessary to know what He says as a disciple. This world can tell me so many lies, but His Word tells me that I am loved, unique and His. This is my heart--not just for Mt. Calvary, but for the Church at large. I know it is hard. I know we have a defender, but the more we practice it in our lives, the better shot we have to stay connected to the strongest Words that have ever been written. We stay connected to the God who redeems us. We stay connected to the redemption we need in a world of pain. Read 1. Just start with one verse a day, and I know God will grow your life to enable you to hear His Word to you. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Love 1

Ever sit down and wonder about the definition of love? Why is love something that can alter so many emotions and so many things? Who really came up with all these ideas of love? Why are candies things that suggest love? Who chose roses to be the proclamation of love, and why are lips romantic?

Love contains a lot more depth than just the romantic stuff, because love is something that is needed by all people. My son, Jacob, recently watched me say goodbye to my mom and give her a hug. He asked me, “Why did grandma hug you? “ Mindy and I tried to tell him that she is my mom. He said, “Dad, you have a mom?” Funny how kids can put things in the perspective of what is happening in life around them.

Love is something that we all need--and not romantic love. But we need people to love us. It helps us to feel confident, to know who we are. But even deeper than that it is how we are designed.

If all people need love, then there is something in our very core that cries out for it. And what would that be that would need love so desperately that nothing else could be filled by it?

Occasionally I pull myself out of my own world and I get to a place where I realize that every person I see on a daily basis is a person who needs love. Have you ever thought about it--the grocery checker, the flight attendant, the car salesman, the homeless dude, the waitress, and even your own parents.   They all need love.

In my small group Bible study, we had a waitress who had always waited on us. She was pregnant, and it seemed like her boyfriend was about to bail on her. We pooled together and got her a gift card. I brought some baby clothes in from the masses we had been blessed with from people giving to us, and she was overjoyed. The baby arrived, and she was happy.  It seemed like things were good. Then all of a sudden one night she was gone. At the restaurant, we heard comments that she no longer worked there, and something was mentioned involving the police. The details seemed foggy and left us wondering what was going on. You got that feeling in the pit of your stomach like how could she do something like this? It left us wondering why we helped her. Did we really think our small gifts could impact her life?

But I remember the nights we circled around her and prayed for her baby. We prayed that God would provide and care for her. She knew that these dudes who met on Tuesday nights cared for her. The imprint of Love 1.

Imprints on people are not always noticed right away, but they are necessary to trace the truth. And the truth about Love is this:  There is only one God who defines love and He is our God. The God who sent His Son to die and rise for us, shows us what sacrificial love is. He shows us what it means to love people that the world casts off, and He teaches us today how His love that has changed us, can change others.

This week we talk about just that: What does it mean to Love 1, and how Jesus‘ definition and teaching about Love affects us. It will be challenging, but it will be rewarding. God created us for this purpose, and that is why we all want love; and whether the world admits it or not, that is the reason they are all in search of love. And so we wait for our chance to teach them one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible.

1 John 4:8  “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Worship 1

It was simple to get up on Sunday mornings, worship at 8am, sit behind the Neimeyers, try to stay focused on worship enough not to annoy them, and then go to Sunday school.  Sometimes we sang hymns, sometimes praise songs, but everything was printed in the bulletin. It was comfortable. I knew how to worship Jesus. It was at 8 am at Timothy. Hymnals were only for songs—occasionally. Everything I needed to know was in the bulletin, and some stories the pastor told helped me hear the Word better than others.

Whether we know it or not we all have a pattern in worship. As adults, most of us have lived through a couple different versions of services, but regardless, we get in a pattern. We get used to the church in which we live and breathe. If you don’t believe me, ask any college student who regularly attended worship. You will hear most of them comment, “None of the churches by my college are like my church back home.” Often we create worship as a habit or pattern in our lives, but it is also connected to a certain type of service.  Then the question arises, “What is worship and why did God ask us to do it?”

My memories of my grandpas’ churches are interesting in comparison to my memories of my home church. In my Grandpa Hanke’s church we had to use the hymnal sometimes. The congregation was a lot more serious in worship. Grandpa Hanke had a real looking Jesus standing on his altar. We always sang, Go Tell It on the Mountain at Christmas. My Grandpa Schubkegel could walk to his church.  He was very calm as a pastor and spoke quietly. My Grandpa Hanke was strong in the way he preached.

 Grandpa Schubkegel started a mission church after he was retired. We used folding chairs in a random building and church didn’t feel like church.

My grandpas offered my first exposure to different kinds of worship. Sure, they were  Lutheran churches, but not my Lutheran church. It is funny how we have a tendency to be comfortable only in the worship style we know.

After my dad came back to faith, he decided he no longer fit in the Lutheran church, so he began exploring other denominations. Honestly, I have to admit, I wanted to say, “This is not what I meant when I wanted you to come back to faith.” I wanted him in the church that was comfortable for me. At his new church, I was exposed to people speaking in tongues, and some other strange practices.   They had no regular communion.  I also remember when my Dad said to me, “You don’t have to be a Lutheran pastor.” That comment made me want to really delve into the concept of worship. How did God want me to worship? Did God care what denomination I was?

Out of all of that investigating, came a true, deep definition of worship. Worship is hearing from God and responding to Him. But often I was framing my worship around what was familiar. There is nothing wrong with the familiar. But often it can pull us away from the true focus of what worship is, and why God would ask us to worship and rest in Him. This weekend we will talk about what it means to worship Him. No matter what church you are in, you can have a different experience in worship, even within the same denomination. The importance of the worship is found in the discipline that God taught his disciples, and still teaches you and me. This weekend we dig into why worship and rest are important to us as humans, but even more as believers in Jesus.