Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thinking Inside the Box

Like me, many of you have been challenged to think outside the box and there are good reasons to consider things that are not the norm. Someone once said that a rut is a grave with the ends removed. Being in a box can make us feel trapped or imprisoned. But we all have been exposed to new thinking and new ways of doing things that have proved disconcerting at the time and yet have become a part of our daily lives.

Rotary phones gave way to push button phones to cordless and finally wireless phones. Wireless phones are becoming smart phones and smart phones that connect to the web and can do as much as a personal computers. But with each change has come a learning curve. (Think programming VCRs to record or the complexity of home entertainment centers where you have multiple sources of input for your TV etc.) So there are good things that come with being outside of the box. Technology can be one of the things where by we gain positive things and unfortunately negative things as well. Think of how the Internet can be an awesome tool for learning or a scourge for people fighting the addiction of pornography.

In my teaching I encourage people to be willing to step out of their box (think comfort zone) and be willing to accept the fact that God’s box is much bigger then the box conservative worshipers usually confine themselves to. This is still true but is it also possible that there are times when he wants us to stay in our box or more specifically in the box of God’s choosing (think will)? Is it possible that there is a possibility where sticking with the status quo is not only appropriate but also right? For both conservative and progressive followers of Christ I believe the answer is YES!

When we decide that God’s boundaries are too confining and we feel smothered by his rules we often long for freedom. We forget or perhaps have never learned that with love comes restraints and true freedom is confining (in a good way!). Think of a train. A train is designed to run on a track as long as it stays within its purpose it is free to travel as far and as fast as it can. It can travel to many different destinations. But take the same train and allow it to have a mind of its own and further let it decide to take a different path then the tracks laid down for it and we call the results a train wreck. The train can’t travel too far without tracks underneath it. A train that has jumped the tracks is considered to have been derailed and unable to reach its planned destination.

32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Psalms 119:32 (NIV)

We are never more free than when we are doing exactly what we were designed to do!

If we were to take a look at the history of the nation of Israel we would see that again and again they rebelled against the track, the path that God had laid out for them and the result was never a happy experience. Read through the Old Testament book of Judges and you will read of a cycle of rebellion and derailment of a people followed by redemption and a time of peace and prosperity.

They would forget their God. As a result of their living outside of God’s box (think will) God allowed their enemies to rise up and subjugate the nation until they returned to the paths of God and than he would bring a champion to lead them to victory and peace for a generation or so until they one again chose to again think outside of the box. Check out Psalm 78 or Psalm 106 for recount of a nation of people who thought outside of the box only to eventually scamper back into the safety and comfort of the box.

Are we commanded to consider new approaches to proclaim an unchanging message by expanding our box to God’s box? YES!

Are we commanded to obey God’s commands and live within God’s box? YES!

So here’s to the tension of living both in and out of the box!

Pastor Val

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happily Ever After

Most of us here in America grew up with fairy tales that started with “Once upon a time” and end with “and they lived happily ever after!” As kids we were sold on idolizing this concept of finding the perfect person, falling in love with them, they would complete our lives and we would be happy forever.

Hollywood has made a fortune developing this model. This time of year there are always lots of new movies that portray life as a fairy tail. You know girl meets guy who is discovered to be the perfect match and after a tortuous journey end up with each other and they live … (You know the rest) BTW You can substitute the girl with a guy who meets a girl, etc. And while it makes for great entertainment (especially for many gals) in the end it’s still just a fairy tale. The problem is that we have begun to believe the dream is reality.

Most couples who have been together for any length of time know that reality rarely lives up to the fantasy. In fact many people go through life constantly being disappointed with the relationships that they develop. None of these relationships live up to the Hollywood myth. In fact the last step in the “ever after” scenario is that if first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

If reality doesn’t live up to the hype, what should relationship reality really look like? Well God’s plan for relationships is exactly the same as fantasy only different! God’s plan begins with becoming the person God wants you to be. Too often we want the other person to complete us when in reality it’s God who changes us into the person that we should be. We begin this process by walking in His love. This love is unselfish and seeks to put others first, starting with God.

The next step is to fix all of our hope on God. Too often we expect someone to fix all of our problems when in reality no one other then God and ever fix us. God wants us to allow Him to change us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. The final step in this relationship prescription is that if and when failure occurs, repeat the process again!

So for those of you who are single and looking for a relationship – please realize that God loves you and wants to be the one that loves you and the one who can be everything you will ever need. And for those of you who are in a relationship, only God will never fail you. No one else is perfect. He is the only one who will truly complete you. Only He can fill the vacuum in your soul.

So this Valentine’s Day remember that the only way you can live happily ever after is to live it God’s way!


Pastor Val

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stop the Blindsiding!

This weekend America celebrates its greatest secular/religious holiday – Super Bowl Sunday. As Americans we love our football. This got me thinking about what we can learn from this game. There are number of things that I discovered.

Worshipers, err fans at this event are really into the event. They seem to have no problem entering into the festivities. One rarely sees someone just quietly sitting and not participating.

Participation is necessary if you are going to win the game.

Fans watch the action from the stands but the real activity in on the field.

Practice is mandatory to execute the game plan properly

Dedication will be rewarded

Every member of the team is important. Every member of the team has a contribution to make to the final results.

The most important player on the field is the one calling the plays. He is the quarterback. While everyone one else is important for the team to win without a ball handler any team is going to be in trouble. Just remember the Bears playoff game when they were down to their 3rd string QB for the last half of the game that they lost to the Packers.

The next most important player on the field is the offensive left tackle.

Why you ask? Because his job is to protect the quarterback’s blindside! You see most quarterbacks are right-handed and they typically can’t see someone coming from their left side. They need someone to protect them so that they don’t get blindsided.

Tick off your left tackle and you might not like the results. Your protection detail might be less aggressive in protecting your backside.

Sometimes the left tackle simply gets beat by the opponent. In the church we call the opposition the Devil.

Pastors can often be considered the play-callers in their church and they need someone to protect them on their left side to keep them from being blindsided! That’s what boards are for.

They are supposed to be your offensive line helping to protect their playmaker. When they fail to do their job the quarterback can be taken out, not only for the play but sometimes for the rest of the game or even the rest of the season. Kind of like what happened to the Lions this season.

Pastors make sure that you work and pray with your offensive board and train together to enact God’s game plan for your team.

And Board members make sure that you have your pastor’s back. Pray for him; work with him. If necessary bench him or even trade him if he isn’t accomplishing the game plan. But no matter what he has done no one ever deserves to be blindsided.

Rooting for my team this Sunday!

Pastor Val