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April 2009 entries

Do You Have "Antimonotonitis?"

It's Wednesday and I'm a day later than I typically try to share my thoughts with you. It's not that I'm tied to blogging on Tuesday contractually or anything, I just started adding it to my "daytimer" on Tuesday months ago and have never changed. So I moved to today for the sake of change. People who have heard me speak more than once or twice know I like change. I rarely drive to work the same way two days in a row. The same scenery gets boring morning after morning. I don't like to vacation in the same place twice. I choose restaurants because of their diverse menus so that when I return there is always something new to try. This drives Marilyn nuts since she finds a favorite item on the menu and sticks with it time after time. I think I may be stricken with the rare disease called "antimonotonitis" or I may have the mental disorder "monotophobea." These are rare conditions indeed. I find out how rare they are around Dallas Bay every time we make a change.

The most recent change is in our service times. We moved Saturday's contemporary service to Sunday at 5. We deleted Sunday morning's 8:15 service altogether. The two remaining services are are at 9 and 10:30. There is no longer a Sunday evening service at 6. Sunday evenings are now full of Bible studies that individuals or families can choose from a variety of teachers on a variety of subjects. The multiple services, especially the three on Sunday morning beginning at 8:15, were just too much for the staff to handle over a long period of time. 

Most people understood the need for change, but the first rumblings of discord came at the last meeting of my leadership class last Sunday night. I started having people tell me that they were behind the change 100% even though many others were not. I had another tell me that they were not one of the complainers and that they were praying for me and the rest of the staff. These reports of support and prayer were the first I had heard about any such complaints about the change. One fellow said that he had prayed for us because some people would allow the staff to work themselves into the ground if some people had their way. One person spoke up and said ,"You know pastor, some folks just don't like change of any kind." Once again I was reminded that while I viewed the change as a "shot in the arm " and a "breath of fresh air" my opinion was not shared by all. 

This all happened as I was planning for my series "Couch vs. the Cross." It began to occur to me that change always involves movement. Change in a positive sense means you are moving forward and negatively means you are taking steps backward. But change always involves activity. The couch, in my series, symbolizes inactivity. To sit on the couch is to watch the world go by before your eyes. Someone once told me that life is a parade. Some choose to march in the parade. Some choose to stand by the road and observe the parade. And some ask, "Is there a parade?" To move forward away from the couch and toward the cross is a struggle for most of us. It takes effort. It stretches us mentally, physically and spiritually. Christ bids us, "Come follow Me", but He does not stand behind us and push.  Change is often painful and slow. It is a day by day process. Jesus invites us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. When you are accustomed to inactivity in your own life and the group of people with which you associate are moving it can cause some friction. Remember the Israelites in the wilderness? Part of them wanted to go back to Egypt while others wanted to move on. When the ones who chose to move forward finally entered the Promised Land many of them wanted to stop before the journey was truly complete. Their task was not just to enter Canaan but to conquer its inhabitants as well. The majority wanted to leave the "giants" and the fortified cities alone. They would settle for just a little blessing. While a few wanted all that God had for them. Those moved on and God fought their battles for them. 

I like to sustain such an environment so that when change occurs it doesn't hurt too badly. You know if you try to get off the couch and run a marathon the results would be painful if not deadly. The prudent approach would be to walk around the house first and then maybe around the block. Eventually, people who get off the couch and experience the adrenaline associated with movement and change will never be satisfied with only complaining about it. They even may come to embrace it and the challenges change affords all of us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Or maybe not.

Pastor Ken     


Reflections on the Bridge

It's Tuesday and I've had time to reflect on what happened Sunday. Sunday was, among other things, the first week with the new schedule. Two morning services and one @ 5 is easier than three in the morning and one on Saturday night. I'm thankful we were able to add enough chairs to accommodate the people in these services. But the new schedule is not what I want to think about for a minute. Last Sunday was the final message called "The Bridge to Know Where." 

When we first came up with the idea it was based upon a service Rick, our worship leader, had seen at Willow Creek in Chicago. Our end product ended up looking very little like theirs but that is where the series was conceived. During a Creative Worship Team meeting we tossed the idea around. Since the Lord had laid nothing specific on my heart we proceeded with the bridge idea. I have to give Rick credit again. He came up with the name. I wanted to just call it the bridge, but he came up with the idea to add "to Know Where." I had only one misgiving. Although we use alot of visuals at DBBC, I never want the visual to drive the message. The message must precede the visual. I began to work on the idea of reconciling with God and how Jesus came for that purpose. God began to reveal to me that He had planned a bridge from earth to heaven from the very beginning. It was the plans that originated in the heart of men that He could not approve. It dawned on me that any bridge that could sustain any traffic at all must have a firm foundation on both ends. That is what all bridges that man had attempted to build to God in the past had lacked. They only had foundations on one end, earth. God would send His Son from heaven to establish the foundation of the bridge on earth and in heaven as only He could. I agreed with the idea. It was as if God had first planted the idea of the message in the hearts of others on our staff and He was going to speak to me through them.  Funding was provided and the bridge began to be built off-site weeks ago. 

The message lasted from Palm Sunday through last week, the week after Easter. This was the first such plan we had ever proposed for Easter that included more than just Easter Sunday. The first week established that their was a bridge needed to span the chasm between God and man; heaven and earth. The chasm is sin. The second week our youth pastor and I shared the message to show how Jesus completed the bridge on the cross. One dramatic moment was when I shoved a crossbeam into the bridge that made the image of the cross. The week after Easter I completed the message with the help of our drama team and walked all the way across the bridge for the first time in the series. I encouraged others to recommit themselves to Christ and walk behind me across the bridge. This was the moment all the effort had been leading to.

For just a moment no one came. I thought well Lord at least we did our best. Then the first person stood from their chair and made their way to the platform. Then another and then another. People were praying. Some were smiling and others looked scared. I wanted to watch it all, but I had to go the baptistery. I was beginning the next service with baptism. People were still crossing the bridge after I had dressed and was preparing for the baptism.

The second service the Lord led me to encourage couples to come across together. Particularly those who needed help or healing in their marriages. I asked parents to bring their children as a visible sign of reconciling with them and with God. This time I got to watch. I sat behind the bridge and watched as hundreds of people crossed over the bridge. Again, some were crying, some were weeping out loud and still others had big smiles on their faces. Some stopped with their families to pray at the pinnacle of the bridge. One grandmother stopped and prayed aloud for a child. I wept as I watched. I even had one person come to me and ask would I pray with them about some issues right there. People of every age were re-connecting with God as they made a visible public profession of their desire to know Him better. There are few times when things happen bigger and better than I anticipate. This was one of those times. I cannot tell you about the many important and life altering events that occurred on that bridge Sunday. God knows, because He was there to greet each one as the stepped onto that bridge. 

If you haven't experienced the messages from the bridge series I encourage you to go to www.dbbc.org and click on media and watch. I don't think they filmed people walking across the bridge, but after you hear the messages maybe you can find your own bridge somewhere and walk across. I promise you God will be there to meet you too.

Pastor Ken       


MY Testimony, Part 3

This is a continuation of the two earlier posts to "Out of the Box." If you haven't been following this thread of posts you may want to go back two entries and catch up.

I joined the "Soul Journers Witness Team." We had a van and everything. We were often invited to speak at church youth group meetings, but more often we were invited to speak during Sunday morning worship services. I think the adults loved to see teenagers share their testimony at a time when we were mostly known for getting stoned and listening to the "devil's music", rock and roll. I loved traveling with the team. I have never had a problem getting in front of a crowd and speaking. As I said before, I was being dishonest when I testified. I was not a Christian. I had never really prayed to receive Christ. I was like many others have been, I was not willing to give up my activities when I wasn't traveling with the team. I mostly stayed with it because the girl I was dating was with the group and my propensity for the spotlight. 

I will never forget the day all that changed. We had traveled the to the Smokies for the weekend. We were staying in a cool chalet. Guys downstairs and girls upstairs with adults sleeping near the stairs. On Sunday we attended a beautiful little Baptist church in the foothills. We were scheduled to sing and give our testimonies. After a congregational song or two and an introduction by my girlfriend's father, we were asked to step to the platform and share. As the others were getting up I began to feel uneasy and scared. I had never been afraid to speak before a crowd before. Especially one that was no bigger than the one that was assembled there. After some coaxing from my friends I managed to convince them that I was going to sit this one out. As they began their routine of telling everyone how much they loved Jesus and sing "So Pass It On, God's Love is Free to Everyone" I began to get even more uncomfortable. It wasn't really sickness at all. It was more like fear. I was shaking and breaking out in a cold sweat. My palms began to be "clammy" and damp. I was suddenly aware that I was a hypocrite and even worse than someone who didn't pretend to be anything but a lost teenager. I was living a lie and I knew it. I knew that some of the lifestyles that were represented by the kids on the platform were not much better than mine, but they did have something that I did not. They at least had a real relationship with Jesus Christ. They may not have all been as good as they led you to believe, but at least they were forgiven. Forgiveness was the one thing I did not possess. I wish I could tell you that I rushed to the altar that morning and got saved as revival broke out in that little church. I did not and it did not. I have never been accused of being overly intelligent and I certainly didn't disappoint anyone in this instance either. 

I left that morning more uncertain of my life than I had ever been. I no longer was satisfied with my dual identity. I didn't enjoy being dishonest about my faith and I tolerated my sinful life even less. I was caught between two worlds. I really didn't belong in the world of the church or in the world of my drinking buddies either. I found joy in nothing. In the meantime, my girlfriend broke up with me. I tried to get over her by confining myself to my bedroom and playing songs like "Looking Out Of My Lonely Room" on my 8 track player as I cried in my pillow. It was about as low as a person can go. Finally, one night I lay upon my bed taking an inventory of all the things in my life that brought me happiness. It was a short list. I could not forget the words of the witness team that I had heard over and over as they shared with churches how Christ had died for their sins. I kept playing back in my mind the simple words of my pastor of how God loved me so much that He sent His only son to die for me. He never talked about "living right" or being good enough to get to heaven. He would just say Jesus paid the price that I could never pay. He kept referring to a word that I had rarely heard in church growing up, grace! He said it was "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." In a moment that seemed almost like an out of body experience I found myself crying out to God. Really, I remember that moment even now from a perspective of someone next to my bed as I called out to Him. I said that I did not know if all of this stuff I heard about grace was true or not. I told Him that I knew I could never live up to the standards that had been placed on me by others. I said that I believed that Jesus was real and that He died on the cross. I repeated what I knew of Jesus coming out of the tomb after three days and that I truly believed the story. I asked God to forgive me and to come into my life. I know now, at that moment my life would never be the same again. But at the time, I didn't feel much different. 

What happened over the next few days confirmed that something remarkable had truly taken place in my life. Christ seemed to be present with me wherever I went. I had been unwilling to say the name Jesus before even when I would testify in front of crowds. Now His name slid off my tongue. The most remarkable thing was that the once ancient and unknowable book called the Bible began to make sense to me. Not only did it make sense to me, but I began to see insights into the words that seemed to come from somewhere besides my vivid imagination. Now when I was given an opportunity to speak I would go deeper than ever before. People began to affirm what I was feeling. People would say things like, "Wow, I had never seen that before." Or they would tell me, "That passage always confused me before. Thanks for clearing that up for me." Only a week or so after I told my pastor about my decision to follow Christ and be baptized I shared with him that I felt called to preach. In a very brief period my whole life had been turned upside down. I suddenly had meaning and purpose. I experienced happiness and joy so much that others saw it in my face. Since those events unfolded I have never doubted the life changing power of the grace of God. I have never lived worthy of God's love or forgiveness, but I have never known either to be absent from my life. I have spent most of my adult life telling others about the grace of God. 

After having read my testimony some of you may realize that you are in need of His grace too. If you have been tormented of thoughts that you are not good enough or that you have no chance to accept God's forgiveness then I have good news. His Word says that your good deeds will never be enough to earn forgiveness. His grace is what you need.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

The Bible also says, Romans 10:9-10 (NKJV)
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

It does not say that you need to live worthy of His love and forgiveness to be saved. The criteria are that you confess Him verbally and believe in Him in your inner being. If you have never done these things why don't you stop right now and ask Jesus into your life? He has never turned anyone away regardless of what they have done. If you do, would you please comment on this site and let me know. I have prayed that anyone who does not know Him will at least consider what I have said and call on Him for forgiveness. We'll talk later. Ken



              


My Testimony, Part 2

I was in my late teens and I was still aimless and empty. I know that is not that uncommon for a guy in his teens, but many teens had not grown up with the religious background that I had.  I could never get away from the thought that God may strike me dead at any moment for the way I was living. I didn't have any notion of God's grace or His patience. All I really remembered about God was that He punished sin. I was a sinner, no doubt about that. 

I remember the day things began to change. I was working in a store at the local mall when aI noticed a girl walking by just outside the doorway. She passed by more than once and glanced inside. I stationed myself at the entrance to the store and spoke to her the next time she walked by. Before the conversation was through I had asked her out on a date. She agreed, but with one stipulation. I had to go to church with her first. Dad's requirement she said. I found out that her dad was a Baptist preacher. He didn't pastor a church, but that didn't keep him from preaching. When I found out they were Baptists I agreed to the terms of the deal. After all, all Baptists were going to hell along with me the way I understood things. I had heard that they went to movies, wore bathing suits and some of them even danced. The way I understood God and His rules those were sure fire reasons to split hell wide open. So we planned our first date. I remember getting the first degree from her father when I came to meet them at their house before going to church. We weren't very far past what's your name and what grade are you before the question I was expecting came up. "Are you saved?" I was ready. After all, I had grown up in chicories and had heard many people stand up to testify with these words, "I'm glad I'm saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost." I didn't figure that last part would go over well with my non-pentecostal inquisitor so I stuck with, "I'm glad I'm saved." He seemed pleased and we headed off to church. 

After several dates and several visits to the Baptist church her affection for me was diminishing my attraction to the church was increasing. The pastor talked about the love and grace of God. Two things I had not heard before in the church where I grew up.  I continued my masquerade. I told everybody I was a Christian when they asked. And they asked and they asked often. I didn't fit into their stereo-typical Christian young man. My hair was long and I wore a mustache and less than conservative clothing. I eventually had people so convinced that I was a believer that they began to ask me to give my testimony in front of the church. So I did. Telling lies came natural to me. I was so convincing I was asked to join a team of teenage missionaries who went from church to church sharing their testimonies. That where God finally caught up to me. I'll finish the story next time.  


My Testimony, Part 1

Christmas is the busiest time of year for toy stores and gift shops. The summer is the busiest time for beaches and resorts. But, the busiest time of year for a pastor is Easter and Easter is less than two weeks away. So I'm a day behind writing my weekly entry to "Out of the Box." Not only am I a day behind, but my mind is also fried. I am writing a men's retreat study for Good Friday and the Easter message is really three messages over three weeks. To top it all, my favorite spring past time is turkey hunting and it falls right in the middle of all this chaos. So I am not exactly thinking creatively right now. So, I am going to drop back and punt. When all else fails it's never a bad time to share your testimony. I'm going to take this week and next and share how God amazingly turned my life around. This week I want to describe my life B.C.

I grew up with a brother and mom and dad in the country. We went to church every Sunday and most Wednesdays. I had friends on the block who went to the same church and we would have free range over all the neighbors back yards. We would play after school and all summer long until well after dark. Kick the can and freeze tag games seemed to break out spontaneously when we got together. There were woods and fields nearby to explore. Every guy had a bike and a BB gun. There was even a graveyard next to my house that promised a terror filled adventure each night after dark. I remember watching the clock after school for it to become 4 o'clock. That was when I would look for my father to top the hill near our house after he was let out of the car at the main road. I would run to meet him and carry his metal lunch box that smelled like oil and coffee all the way to the house. Mom would soon have dinner on the table and the family would sit down and eat together each day. Eating out was reserved for once a week and that was usually Sunday night after church as we met friends at the Shoney's where I would devour a plate full of spaghetti.  Wow, those were good days.

When I was about nine my life was turned upside down. I remember one day my father was suddenly gone. My parents just couldn't make it together any more. So in the days when divorce was much more uncommon than today my brother and I found ourselves living with a single mom. Mom went to work and it was very uncomfortable at church being the children of divorced parents. So I didn't go. With mom working I learned to come home to an empty house. I became angry at God for allowing all this to happen to my family.  I began to rebel. Not everyone knew this. Even now my parents are surprised to hear about some of my antics when I was a kid. I would take car keys from my mom or my brother and take off driving as an 13 year old when they weren't around. I began to curse just because there was no one there to stop me. I have always been pretty creative and the only thing I hated about cursing was the limited number of "cuss" words to choose from. So I made some up. Although I don't run in those circles today, I understand some of my creations are still in circulation. The one thing I could never bring myself to do, however, was to use the Lord's name in vain. I think it came from the fear of God's wrath I had learned in church growing up. I knew that hell was hot and it was even hotter for people who blasphemed God's name. So I reserved most of my idle words for the usual body parts and functions.

At a very early age I decided I would never live up to God's standards for getting to heaven. So I made a conscience decision to have a good time on my way to hell. I started drinking alcohol at 13. It wasn't hard in those days to buy a bottle of Boone's Farm wine at the package store as a minor. All you had to do was borrow one of your older friend's ID. I became such a frequent drinker that by the time I got to high school I was keeping a bottle of my drink of choice in my locker and drinking between classes. All of this went on, and more that I am ashamed to write, while no one outside of my drinking buddies knew what was happening. I abandoned church altogether. Most of my friends were Baptists and Methodists. With few exceptions, their lives were not much better than mine. The problem with my lifestyle was that it never fully satisfied a desire I had to be really happy. It only medicated my feelings of loneliness and anger toward God until the buzz wore off. I really was having a hard time finding purpose and meaning. I never really contemplated suicide, but I didn't really see any hope for my life or the life hereafter. Those feelings of darkness and despair wouldn't leave until I hit rock bottom. I'll talk about that next time.