Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day Off

I remember hearing the line and the song, of course, “Everybody is working for the weekend.”  The line only becomes a greater truth as we grow older.  We work to get those days off.  We do that all year to arrive at the place where we can acquire vacation time.  But we also do that every week as we work to get to Saturday. Saturdays change as kids grow older.  There are days full of sports and other activities.  We trade work for activities.  But no doubt we appreciate the break; a pause that is well deserved and much needed.  Even in retirement, Saturdays bring more freedom, and allow more people to be able to do things.  What does God want from Saturday?

We so quickly jump to this old time word of the Sabbath meaning rest/worship to be Sunday.  Yet so long ago these were full days, which often became more Saturday-type days.  When I was at the Storyline conference in February, I began to develop this concept.  I was asking myself tough questions like What does God want from me on Saturday?  No doubt my Saturdays have changed from my single days of sleeping in.  My Saturdays include making pancakes, waking up early, and playing with my kids.  While I am fulfilling my vocation and my role as a parent, I sometimes still pine for the days when I used to sleep in.  And so often I am trying to make it to noon for a 20 minute snooze that will refresh me before I head to the night’s planned activities and then back to my biggest work day--Sunday.  As I pondered my own story, I wanted to be intentional about days off.  I know one of the things I learned at the conference was that an excess of down time and unintentional living leads to boredom and non-fulfillment.  I know God has to want something from me on Saturday.  So what does my Saturday Story look like?

Over the next several weeks we will talk about your Saturday Story.  What I don’t want is for you to think we are going to spend the next several weeks telling you to stop doing your normal activities, and substitute them with only reading the Bible.  We know Read 1 is a part of our discipleship model, and is important in our Christian walk; but hopefully you know that it is by living your story that you impact the lives of others.  You share the love of Christ by being intentional in your living, and by looking for opportunities to share God’s Word.  We begin this series with Day Off and talk about the good aspects as well as the struggles with off days.  Days off happen not only in the summer, but every week, and so while the summer is beginning to draw to a close, we have plenty of days off that happen.  After we take an honest look at Day Off, we can begin to really open up our world and ask God to guide and direct our Saturday stories.  The goal is that this is a topic and day we rarely talk about in church, so this may help us be God’s extraordinary servants every day of the week.  You never know--you may come up with some cool ideas that develop into a Saturday Story you can’t wait to tell others.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Facing and Conquering Death

When I got to my first call the pastors at my new church invited me to dinner, and to hang out and visit.  They made tacos, and, trust me, they weren’t the kind of tacos we normally experience.  Right then I got my first exposure to California food.  Both pastors traded off; one popped in for a drink and a taco, and then went off to do a service. The other stopped in for a drink and a taco; then went off to a meeting while the first pastor returned in a few minutes.  That should have been Mindy’s and my first clue of how things were going to be in a church of that size.  During the summer, weddings, funerals and church services were many.  This seemed to be the pace of my ministry for five years.  One of the things I love about Mt. Calvary is having the time to truly get to know people, spend time talking to them, and learning their stories.  This week has become one of those weeks that remind me of the beginning of my ministry with two funerals along with my regular schedule, but it is blended with the beauty of knowing the stories.

I was prompted last Tuesday to call Ethel, and, sure enough, God had a reason.  I just woke up that morning feeling like I hadn’t seen her lately.  I tried to call her all morning long, knowing that typically I am able to reach her right away.  Then I discovered that she was in a new rehab center, and her phone was not working.  I made time to head over there, only to discover that she was just about to start a rehab session.  I asked for a couple minutes with her, and I held Ethel’s hands and prayed with her.  The first thing out of her mouth was, “Your hands are so warm.”  I can barely remember the words I prayed, but truly felt that at that moment I had become the vessel of Jesus.  So often I am humbled when Jesus uses me because I know I need His grace just as much as the next guy.  I noticed Ethel’s daughter, Lois, was struggling, and so I asked to pray with her for a minute.  Even though the visit was very short it was amazing to watch God work.  I came home and told Mindy I thought Ethel would probably pass soon, not knowing, of course, what would develop quickly in the next couple of days.

I had watched Jason Skaggs’ slow decline as the cancer in his body took over.  I had met and seen Jason so many times--lively and loving his family.  This time I was headed over to his home to baptize him.  This was a moment his family had been praying about for years.  As I entered his hospital-bed-equipped room, Jason was quiet, which was typical, but he was even more quiet than usual.  I questioned him about his desire to be baptized, and his answers confirmed that he was ready for this day.  I baptized him, and watched the water run down his head which was now bald from the treatments.  It was an overwhelming experience as I realized that I got to be the pastor who baptized him.   I prayed with him, and then before I left I got a chance to talk to Ron, his father-in- law.  We recapped this joyous moment, even though we were also surrounded by the ensuing sadness of his impending death.

This week and weekend I, along with the Mt. Calvary family, will spend time with these families, as we mourn and celebrate.  This is what extraordinary servanthood is all about--looking for opportunities to share the hope we have in Christ.  The sadness will develop into sweetness as we reflect upon what God has done in the lives of these people.  This weekend we conclude all of that by studying Paul’s instructions to the Romans about handling moments like these.   We face death and sin all day long, but nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  We face death in multiple ways this week and weekend, but we rejoice in the knowledge that Christ has conquered all of this for us.  We will talk about that more this weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Try making a list of all the people you would want to speak on your behalf.  I am going to go ahead and guess that if you are married, most of you wouldn’t want your spouse even doing that.  And you may love your parents, but having them speak for you just doesn’t always work.  Just think about the possible outcome if you have someone else speak for you at an important meeting.  I can think of TV shows and dramas that have others speak on their behalf, and it rarely goes well.

I would even go so far as confess that I worry what my kids will think one day about something I did on their behalf when they were young.  Maybe it’s just because of my history, but it seems like so often I am thinking through the long-term effect on my children for my occasional intercessions.  Recently when I was at home, I questioned my mom about the first piano teacher she chose for me.  He was a great guy, super gifted, but he just kept pushing me along.  Before I knew it I was playing Bach, but really just faking it half of the time because I never practiced.  Of course this has a lot to do with the fact that most of my lack of progress was my own fault, but I still had the audacity to question my mom’s choice of piano teachers.  In that same conversation, my mom defended herself with the fact that I almost got the role of Winthrop in a production of “Music Man.”  I know many of you are thinking, Will, singing?  I did, folks!  Let’s clear that up.  Even through high school I participated in choirs.  My voice got even lower in college, and completely changed how I used to sing.  I remember a college choir teacher saying to my pre-sem director, “He sounds like a great bass.”  I didn’t respond, but thought in my head that I actually was a tenor.  Reality has sunk in, but back to the point.  All this intercession stuff got me to think about how many people I really want to intercede for me.

Truths of the Bible can so often be like that.  All the things we wouldn’t want to happen are necessary with Jesus.  We need Him to intercede or we are sunk.  We need the Holy Spirit to step up because so often our words proceed from the flesh.  As a teenager I spent time with my dad every other weekend in Assembly of God churches.  The preachers occasionally would say, “I had a sermon all ready to preach on this, but the Holy Spirit told me to talk about something else.”  The skeptic in most of us would say, “Buddy, you just aren’t prepared.”  Yet, that stuck with me in my own preaching.  I liked something about leaving room for inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  Early on I had moments of disappointment as I would get down from the pulpit and remember all the things I meant to say.  I found myself finally coming to peace with the idea that maybe the Holy Spirit had other plans for my words that day.  This is not an excuse to be unprepared, but more to allow for the spontaneity of the Holy Spirit.  Blogs I can write, read over again, and have them proofed by an amazing administrative assistant, but because they are written ahead of time, they lack that spontaneity.  I think because of our human nature we like to be prepared as to what we are going to say, but how amazing it is when we learn from Jesus and let the Holy Spirit take over!  This weekend we talk about exactly that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


When I was a teenager my dad and step mom took in a mother and son.  The boy’s name was Corey.  I remember growing close to this little boy the more I got to know him.   Eventually our family parted ways, and it looked like Corey’s mom was headed back into hard times and a life that would not be fitting for them to stay with my family.  My dad had rules he expected people who were staying with us to follow.  To some of us adoption is an unfamiliar and unusual thing.  Adoption is bringing someone into your home on a regular basis and treating them like family.  I think that experience with Corey might have been the closest I will ever get to adoption--at least in my immediate family.  The Hanke’s have continued to do what I preach about at weddings:  one of the purposes of marriage is to be fruitful and multiply.
I have run into people who find that situation is not in the plans for them.  Sometimes this is a long and painful road, which ends with discussions of what they want their family to look like.  As this reality is perceived, many decisions result from it; but I have been there to rejoice with families that have chosen adoption.  The amazing thing is that they connect with all kinds of stories of people who have been adopted.  So often our first thoughts rarely consider the possibility of adoption.  I guess there is that truth that God’s original plan of having children was set up in a certain way.   But of course we know that sin has altered so many of God’s original plans for our lives. 
In the last two weeks I have been blessed to do two baptisms.  In every baptism, my favorite part is when I take the baby and baptize him or her, and then pray with the parents and sponsors at the altar.  Then I get to take the baby, present him or her to the congregation, which allows everyone to rejoice that the baby is now adopted into the family of God.  If we truly had God’s eyes we would see the sin that little cute baby struggles with, and then we would see the amazing gift as the child is adopted into God’s family.  The miraculous thing about adoption is that the child who is adopted now receives the joys of being part of that new family.  The image of our adoption into the family of Christ is often lost in our lack of knowledge of adoption.  Most of the time it is just because we don’t think about it.  This image of being adopted and calling our father in heaven “Abba,” or “Daddy,” is lost.  We lose the idea of being able to run to our new daddy who has blessed us with the greatest gift we ever could want--the gift of salvation.  This weekend we take a moment to reflect on this image of our adoption in Christ.


I dream a lot.  Sometimes I think there are great things that come from my dreams, but at other times they just involve something I am working out in my mind. There are odd times when people from my past enter my dreams.  Those are the moments I wake up asking God what that had to do with anything.  In my normal guilt-plagued fashion I ask myself, What did I watch, read, or hear that triggered this dream?  But sometimes these dreams are truly out of left field. Sometimes the dreams have such powerful story lines that I can’t go back to sleep.  I don’t mean the way little kids are when they wake up; I mean the fact that I can’t stop thinking about what happened in my dream.  Often I am worried about my life or someone else’s life.  I end up exhausted just as my little curly alarm clock wakes me up from the other room by calling, “Daddy!”  Oh there are days when I wish I had to set an alarm clock.  In a typical vicarage/internship-like mistake, I over slept one Sunday.  I used to worry about what would happen when I was the main pastor.  This is why a few weeks ago we talked about how God knows those details, not us.  God knew he would give me three alarm clocks by then, and I would never be late for church again.  Guess He took care of that worry.

There is no doubt that rest is important.  We all have opinions on how much rest is needed.  The only solid conclusion we can find on rest is that we need more than we think, and we don’t have enough time to get it.  Rest is necessary so we can recharge and prepare for what’s next.  Rest allows even our minds to slow down. When we are properly rested, we respond better; we are more patient; and have more energy.  So if we know all these things about rest why don’t we get more of it?  The answer is simple; there is always something else to do.  There is always someone or something that demands our attention.

My mom’s side of the family has gifted me with the ability to power nap.  The power nap is useful in all kinds of situations.  But it is especially necessary when you are a parent.  The power nap is simple.  You can lie down for as little as 10 minutes, and get up and feel refreshed.  Now some people say that would never work for them, and I guess they might be right.  But for me a 10-minute nap during the day can change so many things.  I can be completely dragging, and lay down for 10 minutes and be ready to hit the task at hand.

My point is simple.  Jesus offers rest.  We are heavily burdened, and our to-do lists are long.  We have so many responsibilities and things we have to accomplish. Fourth of July is the prime time we are reminded to rest.  It is the middle of summer and the days are hot.  We take a few moments to rest by pools, in lawn chairs, in hotel rooms; and we take a second to reflect on our busy lives. There is just something about taking a holiday like this and getting some rest and relaxation.  As we reflect into falling into a Jesus lawn chair, pool chair, or bed, we take a moment to give Him all our lives and worries.  We get rid of our burdens, eat a hot dog, and say, Jesus, You take over for a minute.  Sometimes the hardest part is giving into resting.  But once we are there, we feel the grace of God and taste His rest.  His rest is also worship.  And this is why He set aside a day every week for us to rest in Him.