Cashing In This Christmas

I just made a trip to Starbucks on Christmas.  The place was packed, but the grocery store parking lot across the street was empty.  It is no secret to my friends and family that I love Starbucks.  I enjoy the specially drinks of espresso, the community environment, opportunity to write, study the Bible and have meaningful conversations with friends.  I especially like the Christmas season when I receive my Starbucks Holiday Card.  I get a sticker every time I order a Peppermint Mocha.!  I talked about this little card and put the picture on the big screen at River Church's Christmas Eve services. I shared that I have a free drink coming (see the picture from this morning).

It is time to celebrate another birthday.

It is almost December 10th (again this year) so here comes a life lesson list. I spent some time praying and thinking about my life and lessons I am still learning along the journey. Being 45 allows me to see life from a backward and forward vantage point.  It feels like the middle.  I want to learn from the past and run fast into the future on mission for Jesus.  I wrote 45 lessons below I am still learning.  I encourage you to do the same.

Being a pastor is a tricky balance of time.  Every week is different whether an event is being planned, a wedding is coming, an unexpected death in the congregation, a "normal week" or it is the middle of the summer.  There will always be surprises and adjustments to the schedule because we are loving and serving people whose lives are complex and loving our own families too.

It looked so real.  I walked into the store.  As I was looking around, I spotted what looked like rows of beautiful blooming plants.  The leaves looked so real on the outside.  I approached only to find out those leaves and flowers were not real.  There was no smelly fragrance.  There were no smooth life-giving leaves.

It was plastic.

It was artificial and fake.

There were rows and rows of fake flowers and fake fruit.

Local churches can be the same way.

"We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, 

a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others." 

- Elisabeth Elliot

I love the local church.  The church is the beautiful Bride of Christ.  Unfortunately, she can be hurtful to people.  I understand. I have been hurt by the church many times.

Happy 22nd Wedding Anniversary Laurie!  

I can't believe how good God has been to us.  I am incredibly blessed and grateful to have Laurie as my best friend and life partner. She makes me a better Jesus follower, husband, father, pastor and human being.   I love her for so many reasons!  

Let me count the ways...numbering 22 and counting...

I will write them to her...

You really love Jesus! You genuinely love others in practical ways! You "scatter joy" wherever you go.

Following Jesus is a full, satisfying and a great adventure!  But, it is never easy!  In addition to just the normal limitations and difficulties of being a human marked by sin, followers of Jesus must endure trials and hardships connected to being in relationship to Christ.  They come from the outside (other people and circumstances) and from the inside (our sinful nature and evil desires).  The Word of God has something to teach us about how to handle these trials when they come.

I spend a fare amount of time at Starbucks meeting with people, reading, studying, writing, planning, praying and I drink a few cups of coffee.  It is my office away from the office.  Don't tell anyone, but it might be my office. 

At one particular Starbucks, I have noticed a poster hanging behind the Baristas to remind them of their coffee impact. It says, “The deeper the roots, the higher the tree!” There is some truth there.  It got me thinking.

Think about that for us as Christ followers.

This world is not the way things are suppose to be.  Have you noticed? Our King and Kingdom are from a different place, but He is wanting to partner with us to set up his Kingdom on!  He taught us to pray, "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 5). Our prayer should be to bring heaven to earth, Lord.

As we look at Matthew 13, Jesus would now teach with parables and only in parables (Matthew 13:3; 34).

What does faithful parenting look like today?

We must be committed - really committed - in four areas answering four questions:

First, we must be committed to a person.  This is commitment to our child(ren). Our children must sense our commitment to them.  This is important because their perception is reality.  They are not projects to work on.  They are a blessing from the Lord. We must love them and have their best interest in mind.