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August 2010 entries

A Bazillion Times the Speed of Sound

How many times does the experience exceed the goal? I've been asking that question a lot recently. Mostly because I just last week returned from my third managed deer hunt without filling my tag. (That's without coming home with a deer for all of you non-hunters.) That amounts to enough cash to have taken my family on several trips to the mountains or to the gulf. It would be easy say that it has all been a waste of money. However, that would not be true. Far from it.   

Life is more than just achieving. It's about trying. It's about the lessons you learn along the way. It's about meeting interesting people you would have never met if you had not gone on the adventure. It's about learning how you react when frustrated as well as when things go as planned. Life is not like a "whisper show." That's what a person at church called hunting shows on TV since the hunters always whisper into the microphone as they watch monster sized buck walk only a few feet away. In a thirty minute program they can see dozens of "shooter" bucks, tell a few jokes, sell broadheads and camo blankets, and finally harvest a once in a lifetime trophy deer. What they don't show you are the hours upon hours of sitting in an un-natural position twenty feet in the air seeing only the occasional gray squirrel.

Life is much more like those tedious hours of unseen footage than the few moments of heart pounding excitement. There are a lot more nights seeing nothing than there are spying the 12 pointer walk into the crosshairs of our scope. Our lives consist of those long hours when nothing out of the ordinary occurs. When frustration exceeds excitement. It's coming home from work to the family and a simple meal and a reality show. 

That's ok with me. Well, it might as well be, because that's the way it is. What a shame if you and I only appreciated the moments of sheer excitement, pleasure or pain. How much we would miss along the way. J Michael Straczynski recently penned the story to a Superman comic. Superman is leaning against a tree as this red tinted blur is seen streaking from the distant horizon into the frame with the Man of Steel. The wind caused by the supersonic figure caused Superman's cape to twist in the wind. In the next frame we learn that was The Flash speeding by and he has come back to stand next to Clark Kent leaning against the tree. Superman asks The Flash, "When you run across the country like that, what do you see?" The Flash responds, "When I'm running flat out, I see what I figure you see when you're flying up there at a bazillion times the speed of sound. I see a blur. Unless I make an effort to see the details. Anything else?" The Flash asks Superman. "No, that's all. Thanks." The Flash speeds away in a cloud of dust as Superman walks slowly out of the frame.  

Superman had come to the place where he realized that "flying up there at a bazillion times the speed of sound" was not the best way to experience life. In that I finally have something in common with the man of steel. We both need to slow down and enjoy the experience no matter how mundane it may seem.   


Becoming Like Christ

I have been thinking about the passage of time and its purpose lately. For those of you who read my posts on a regular basis you will remember the last blog was about this very subject. Since then I have been thinking even more about the stages I have been through. Not so much as a minister, but just as a follower of Christ. In this many of you may be able to better relate to what I am about to say.

It seems if the Lord is willing to let us hang around long enough then a normal Christian path looks something like this:

We begin with enthusiasm.Initial excitement can take a new believer to great heights in a short time. There is a spiritual rush about getting your sins forgiven and believing completely by faith in some plan far greater than you could imagine. Enthusiasm comes from the two root words of "en" meaning "to be in" and "theos" for God. It actually occurs when we are in God or more correctly "God is in us."  For me it was a high that nothing I had tried before then could come close to matching.

Then enthusiasm wanes and it is replaced with a thirst for knowledge. In our state of euphoria we were asked hard questions that we were unable to answer by those who did not share our same excitement. We look into His Word "for the reason of the hope that is within us." Knowledge comes from "knosis" and means to have information through experience. As we get to know Him and His Word more intimately we grow in knowledge.  

   Then knowledge becomes just facts rolling around in our brains. We can impress people with what we know, but people want to see a difference in our lives. You can be knowledgeable but foolish. The next stage is wisdom. Even Christ "increased in wisdom and stature." Wisdom allows us to put to use what we have come to know. But even wisdom is not the final product of "becoming the image of His Son."

The last stage in a believer's life is the most fruitful and fulfilling. It is when God begins to mold the three into one in our life. It is when the enthusiasm of a new believer assimilates with knowledge and wisdom of more mature ones. This is how the Bible was written. Men who were holy were also inspired to write what they had learned from God.

 2 Peter 1:21 (NKJV)
21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately the process of getting to the final phase is often aborted because we don't understand the spiritual path we are on. We jump ship when the enthusiasm fades. It is not because God is no longer in us, but because we don't want to leave the stage of euphoria. Peter wanted to build a tabernacle where he saw Christ meet with the two prophets on the Mt. of Transfiguration. He wanted to stay "in the moment." The Father spoke from heaven to awake from his trance and said "This is my beloved Son...listen to Him" Matthew 17:5 In other words, He has more things for you to learn. But some believers get stuck in th rut of filling notebooks with endless pages of copious notes. They feel satisfied with impressing others with their knowledge but fail to realize, as the old adage goes, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."As with the case with Peter, Jesus enlisted him into the final phase where we are to bring others along the same path we have taken when He said "feed my sheep." 

I would like to hear from you. What stage do you believe you are in at this time in your spiritual journey? Do you feel like you have gotten stuck along the way? Or are you at that place where you can be the most fruitful you can possibly be: a spirit filled follower of Christ who spends time with Him and teaches others the reason for the hope that is within you? 

Pastoral Musings on a Quiet Saturday Night

As I sit here on Saturday night in my office the church is eerily quiet. If it were not for the sound of my fan (the air is turned off in the office from Thursday evening until Sunday morning) there would be no sound at all. Of course in the morning this place will be full of crying babies, toddling toddlers, and rambunctious children. (My office is directly above the preschool hallway.)

So sitting here in the quiet before the storm I have had a chance to reflect. It all started with a question from a friend this morning at breakfast. He asked, "How are you doing?" That may not seem a thought provoking question to many of you, but to me it is. You see, most people ask me, "How is the church doing?" But is more infrequent for someone to ask me how I'm doing. I think I understand. The perception is that the pastor always has it together. To ask how he's doing may seem to some to suggest he has somehow falling off his pedestal. That he may be lacking something in his spirit and thus to suggest he is not able to lead.

While I have pondered his question I have looked back at the cycle of my life as a minister and wonder if it is typical of others of the same high calling. It seems to have gone something like this.

1. In the beginning I sought a spiritual confirmation of my calling. I wanted to see God write in the sky, "I have called Ken into the ministry! GOD" It was such a high and important call I continually sought out signs and confirmations from His word and through promptings of the Spirit. He provided these amply enough through His word and even through visions and dreams. That was a real boost to a young man who lacked a lot of self confidence.

2. Then the second phase of my ministry was a deep desire to know His word better and to grow in wisdom. Too often I was asked questions about life and faith that I could not grapple with and felt inadequate to help. God granted that over time and I am often surprised by the words out of my mouth when I am asked a deep theological question or I'm asked to give counsel during a time of crisis. While I still feel very inadequate within myself, I have learned that God will speak through me and give me insight far beyond my ability to discern.

3. Now I come to the latest phase of my spiritual walk. It is more akin to the first phase than the second. Once again I deeply desire to see God do the miraculous. I have a longing for God to show signs or to reveal His will in His word. I am not satisfied with just knowing. I want to feel His presence as well. For someone in the ministry it can too easily become a job. After years of praying, counseling and preaching my heart longs for a move of God in my life like when I first began.

I don't know if this cycle will continue and evolve into another phase or if I am destined to be here looking and praying for a move of God. I don't know if this experience is unique with me or it is common among others who have been in ministry as long as I. There is one scripture I keep thinking of as I write. It may hold the answer to these questions I have posed in the quietness of my office on Saturday night before the Sunday morning storm. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your Sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams!" Acts 2:17