Wednesday, November 26, 2014


For family, these are some of the greatest times and we look forward to them. It is funny to see how traditions develop within families. I have been cooking the turkey for my family for 6 years now (I think). It has been almost every year that I have been married to Mindy. This tradition “just happened” and has continued to develop with every year and holiday that we are around. In the midst of a season of the many things that can busy our lives, to find a safe haven where we are able to see the richness of God’s blessing is wonderful. Each of you have your traditions, and as you think of them, fond memories arise.  At the pancake breakfast recently, I was discussing green bean casserole with people. You may think I hate green bean casserole because I like to cook, but the truth is, I truly love it! Honestly! I have a constant supply of green bean cans in my pantry. Most of this is due to the fact that as a kid I grew up on them. Even while we were living with my mother-in-law we ate canned green beans.  She told me we didn’t have to; we could eat the veggies in the fridge.  My response was, “This goes well with the mac n’ cheese.” I truly love green bean casserole. (Yes, I have made Alton Brown’s homemade green bean casserole and it is good also.) There is something about the traditions and history of our lives that bring us comfort. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on those amazing blessings. We see the hands of God through the loving ways of others.

Over this week we will hear that theme of thanksgiving both at our Thanksgiving Eve service and also at our first Advent service. Specifically, on Sunday we will hear how Paul responds to the Corinthians. There are many challenges with the Corinthians – they certainly are in need of repentance. They have done things to put themselves in a less-than-thankful mindset. They challenge the very theology that Paul preaches. Paul knows it’s his job to rebuke the Corinthians, then guide and direct them. Yet he doesn’t start any of this until he expresses his love to and for them. Paul still wants them to know that he thanks God for them every time he prays. This is a true example of the love and thanksgiving Paul has for what God does in his own life. He is thankful even for the challenging relationships.

This is key for us as we walk into this season. Corinthians is a book about loving one – even the challenging ones. This is where the words of Jesus to love our enemies are tough. Paul wants these people who know Jesus to grow in their errors and love in new ways. Thanksgiving can be a great reminder of our past, but our past can also be painful. We think through the years of relationships that are not perfect, because no relationship ever is. Are we thankful for even the challenging relationships? God promises peace in heaven, but peace on earth, well…it’s a work in progress.  This week is a real reminder that peace is a work in progress. We see how big decisions are challenging, and as our community reacts, we are reminded to seek Jesus for peace. This week has been painful for St. Louis. As the nation watched us to see how we would react, we see that, like the Corinthians, there is so much of our sinful flesh in this world. The first Sunday in Advent reminds us we are waiting upon the Savior who would bring and teach that peace to this earth. As we embrace and prepare for the birth of our Savior we reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for. We look for the opportunities to celebrate even the relationships that bring challenges, and we wait upon the Lord’s answer for them.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Managment: Treasures

The youth and I watched a cool video a few weeks ago. It was a homeless guy standing on the street. Many people came up to him and said they had nothing to give to him. Some told him he couldn’t pan handle there. One guy even told him to get a job. Then you watched the people who gave to him. One person gave him some money, which he returned, and added a $20 bill! One by one, the homeless man gave back to the people who gave to him. One of my favorite moments was the guy who prayed with the homeless man.  He was given a $20 bill also. You should have seen the guy’s face. He was so thrilled. One of the key moments of the video was when two people, one who had been homeless previously and the other who was currently homeless, each received a $20 bill from the homeless guy.  It was as if they couldn’t believe their eyes. They had experienced the pains of life, and to have someone else bless them was amazing!
I saw a post recently on Facebook apologizing for not realizing the blessing of expendable income. It is commonly said that in America so many of us are very blessed. I am not naïve to think we have so much expendable income that we are like pop stars, movie stars, or athletes, but often times there is enough money for a little something for us daily. As we live in a world bombarded with messages of all the things we don’t have, how are we supposed to live and manage the treasures God gives us? At times, the church can feel just like the world, asking for money for something. It can be overwhelming. Trust me, this is not an easy topic – even for pastors. While we are preaching on managing the things God gives us, we are questioning ourselves on how we are managing our own treasures. Once while Mindy and I were visiting with another pastor couple, this topic came up. He commented that sometimes people think that when pastors give to the church, they are just giving to themselves. I listened to this friend of mine explain the same principle of managing treasures – that we are giving to God’s kingdom through the churches we lead, but yet to so many other expenses beyond just the pastor’s salary. This is often a conversation I have with our fieldworkers – How do I give to the church I am leading? It is funny, as lay people we knew to give to our church, but now being in ministry, we get confused.

This is a key time to reflect on Psalm 24. Finally, after three weeks, we get to the author of so many of the Psalms – David. In Psalm 24 we find David’s reflection on the treasures of God. Honestly, his understanding has nothing to do with technicalities or practicalities. It has to do with reality – knowing that everything in this world was created and given by God. Through David’s deep love for God and all of His treasures, he is revealing to us this solid truth, which then moves us into position to trust the creator and giver. It moves us to embrace God’s great gifts, and to look for opportunities to trust Him with the treasures we hold close, treasures that ultimately belong to Him.

Some may wonder why I share a story about the struggles pastors face with this topic. My answer is, I think it is good to know that all people wrestle with what to give God. When we are struggling financially, we feel pressured by all of the organizations and causes that we feel inclined to help. Keeping the mindset that everything we have belongs to God, and that He continues to give to us, it allows us to ask God, “How do you want me to manage the treasures you’ve given me?” This will be the focus of the weekend as we take a look at the many treasures we receive from God and how do we respond in managing them.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Management: Talents

A few Saturdays ago, my brother-in-law called me to hang out with him. He wanted me to bring the boys over so we could shoot off rockets. We went, and later him and I taught the boys how to catch ground balls. Abby came along too. It was a trick making sure she didn’t get hit by the balls. (Don’t tell Mindy – that will freak her out!) Everyone was safe and the boys sure had fun. While we were there I asked Josh why he had a whole bucket of baseballs and a bat. I though maybe he played in a league. He said, “Mostly I have balls for things like this, but I did play in high school!” Josh is an actuary by day, so he spends a lot of time working with numbers. He is pretty successful, has his own condo, and has been working hard at the same company for a long time. The other day when we were over there, I discovered something about him I didn’t know – his deep love of baseball. He even wore a baseball costume to a Halloween party.

I can totally relate to Josh; I have things I wanted to do growing up as well. I absolutely love basketball. Still to this day I purchase basketball shorts for my workout clothes, and take my kids up to the park to play on the small hoop. When there are 5th and 6th graders at the park who want to play with us, and they steal the ball from my little boys, I throw down a mean dunk on them. They are usually impressed with my skills on the 8 foot rim, and for a moment I am stuck in a dream of what it would have been like to play for a big college team. Looking back, I wish I would have stayed on the JV team during my junior year of high school rather than playing varsity. I could have had more time playing the game I loved, rather than sitting on the bench. My final year of Seminary the Sem team was short on players, so a few people talked me into playing. There were others in my life who encouraged me not to play, knowing I had a busy year in front of me. That was before I met Mindy and my world got even busier. Regardless, I am glad I lived out that final year playing basketball. It was the last time I would be able to play it every day. I remember when the Preachers (the Seminary basketball team) headed up Columbia to play.  That team basically paid us to come up and play so they could cream us, and they did just that. This group of talented players had our number.  My teammates and I knew we were not headed for the NBA.  We were not dreaming of being basketball stars, like most of these guys we were playing against. We knew we were going to be real preachers in life, and that our fundamentals and understanding of the game were the only areas where we were on an even playing field with these young guys. At one point in the game I blocked someone out all the way to three-point line. One of the guys on our team (who actually played for Gonzaga) came up to me and said, “Will, did you see how far you blocked that guy out? That was awesome!” While that comment meant a lot to me, it did not change me. I left Seminary with some of the old jerseys, which you can still see me wearing occasionally, if you are lucky. Now I play basketball just one time a year with some buddies who come in town for a conference. Nevertheless, I know I still have talent.

These stories remind me of two things we learn about talents in life. You can gain all the knowledge of a particular skill set, but basically, we are born with the talents we have. Sure, sometimes we can develop them, but our strongest talents are the ones we are given. Those young guys in Columbia had basketball talent, but some of them were forgetting to nurture the talent God had given them by coupling it with knowledge. These are the greatest issues we face when using our talents. Sometimes we are so focused on nurturing talents we are not given, that we are not nurturing the talents we are given. When we find away to take our talent and use it for God’s glory, we find peace in managing our talents.

As a youth pastor I spent many hours planning large events, and looking for ways to bring more kids to our church. I spent days planning lessons for confirmation and organizing trips. As I reflect on my days as a youth pastor, there were a few parts of the job I really loved and felt like it just clicked. They all were focused on relationships. I passed along the many connections I made with people in the area, people that had a heart for youth. Some were in churches, and some were in the school district or other areas. I loved the trips when I got to learn about the different young men and women. Sometimes we even came back from our trips with nicknames. I had an older adult Bible study that I occasionally lead and poured my heart and soul into. I also led a group of youth leadership, who helped pull together many of our events. All that time I was fine-tuning my understanding of the talent that God had given me.  It wasn’t so much that my talents lie in youth, but in relationships.  Once I embraced this, I began to understand the challenges I faced in the ministry I was called to do.

Managing our talents is not easy. Sometimes we lead ourselves to the wrong ones. It can be a life long process (sometimes frustrating) trying to understand our talents and how we can use them to the glory of God. This week we spend time talking about those talents and use the Psalms to lead us in that discussion.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Management: Time

Daylight savings is always a great opportunity to think about “time”. So often we get focused on our daily routine and we forget about it, that is until it is “time” for the kids go to bed, or for us to go to bed, or until we’ve forgotten to do something. As we think about time as something we are managing, it puts a different spin on it. It may be easy to look at someone else, such as an employee, and make sure they are managing their time effectively, yet calling ourselves to accountability with how we spend our time is much harder. Of course, we have an advantage (or perhaps a disadvantage); we know everything we do in a day. We know about the days when we wasted time. We also know about the days when we set things up to help make our time more efficient, but found out it didn’t work. This can leave us feeling frustrated and questioning ourselves. Then what do we do?  A friend of mine used to say, “I guess I will start over and try to do better tomorrow.”

Time is always there; it’s a constant.  No matter whether we realize it or not, or even if we want to do it or not, time is something we are managing. It is staring us in the face every time we wake up. It keeps on going and going. There is never a break in the action, not even when we “gain an hour.”  I am pretty sure none of us would ever sign up to manage something 24/7 for the rest of our lives, but that is our situation with time. Yet we know that as humans, our time will come to a crashing halt at some point, we just don’t know when. So with the hours and minutes we do have, we keep on going and try and not beat ourselves up for the mismanagement of time.

That type of attitude toward time can make us not want to think about managing it at all. This is why it is very important to turn our time over to God. If we view time as a gift that God gave us to manage, we begin to move out of the pressure we put on ourselves to manage it perfectly. Also, when we trust that God forgives us for the mismanagement of time, it keeps us in the mind set to use it to the best of our ability.

Recently, I have been visiting someone who has had a lot of questions for the church. Generally speaking, this person has been reluctant to engage me, but my latest visit shocked me. All of the sudden, this person was ready to hear the Gospel message. The tears rolled down this person’s face when reflecting on all the lost time trying to avoid the church and God. I helped to move us quickly away from this mismanagement of time, to the blessing of time, and a new found joy was in this person’s heart as he/she came to church again. The attitude of this person was honestly amazing, and something others have been praying for.  Their prayers were answered, and they were so thankful for my visits.  All of this made me stop and think.  Am I finding the joy in the gift of time?

This weekend we focus on managing time, and we celebrate CCLS Sunday and connect with the school year theme of Ready, Set, Go. Over the years we have watched our association school grow and bless many. They have made disciples of Christ which are now in St. Louis, across the United States, and even in places like Uganda. God has certainly blessed this ministry, and He has allowed us to be a part of it! Now we get to celebrate how we see God’s hand through time, and how God blesses us by teaching us how to manage our time and share the love of Jesus with others. Today we move away from the fear of the lost time, and move into the gift of time that has been given to us.