Got Any Heart Left?

I know, I know, I've been a bit quiet on my blog lately. What was unintentional became more intentional as I needed to be silent for a time. Sometimes, we need to turn off the noise in our heads in order to hear the cry of our hearts.

As I talked with my friend Jeff Coleman, who is the pastor up at The Highlands UMC, I heard the cry of my heart. Having that sobering accountability of a true friend can help shut up that noise. The question that cut through the crap was this,

"How much of your heart does God have?"

You see, for most church going people, the pastor is the one who has it all figured out. To the folks outside the church, they are not really even sure what a pastor does. For me, the truth is this, I am merely a disciple of Jesus who has experienced the grace of forgiveness and a life encounter with God's Son.

The question that came from my heart is a telling one. Just because I am ordained, just because I went to Seminary, it does not mean for one instant, God has my whole heart. It does not mean God has even 70% of it. 50%. 30%. 10%. Do those things "mean" something? Sure they do, but not in the eyes of God...and not in my heart.

How much of my heart does God have? Not nearly enough but more than he did 20 years ago. By His grace, I pray God will have more of my heart tomorrow.

May I Ask? How much of your heart does God have?

May I Suggest? Find a friend willing to push you with some tough questions and comments and you commit to keeping your mouth shut.

If Only Commuting Were This Fun...

Can We Speak on the 90%?

As I sat in our coaching group yesterday at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, pastor Casey Graham shared with us an interesting discovery he had made. In a search of blogs of leading pastors around the U.S., he had a difficulty time finding any one talking about personal finances.

All of us sat kind of stunned for a minute. Casey then said, "We talk about the 10% (referring to tithing) but what about the other 90%?" I can tell you that I walked away with a lot of good material and challenging thoughts. I am also excited about Casey's new endeavor with ReThink Money and you can read more about it at Casey's Blog.

As the son of an Accounting Professor, it was stressed to me early on the importance of being wise financially. I've not always been the best at it, but I've always paid the bills and we've avoided debt. It isn't always easy but Heather and I have always had a vision for living within our means. That isn't always popular with the other two individuals who live in our home but alas, it is their lot in life.

Still, Casey's challenge to me yesterday was the question,

Whose kingdom am I building?

The goal ought to be for the Jesus follower to invest more money into God's Kingdom otherwise I am investing in my own kingdom and serving me. I'll be the first to admit that though we tithe and go beyond at times (certainly starting a new church), we do fall short of John Wesley's challenge to Methodists in his sermon "On the Use of Money," to "Gain all you can, save all you can and give all you can."

After yesterday, I am praying and examining how I spend money and where I can be better. Not so much where I can "tighten-up" but where I can be a better steward. After all, if my heart is where my treasure is (Luke 6:21), I ought to be sure they are where I want them to be.

May I Ask: How often in church do you hear about the other 90%? Does bother you when pastors talk on money? Why or why not? Does it bother you to preach on it?

May I Suggest: Consider reading Wesley's sermon on The Use of Money or check out Casey Graham's work with ReThink Money.

Good Humor

Dude, if that dog showed up, I'd probably give him the whole stash!! ;)

see more dog pictures

He shoots...He scores.

Today I went turkey hunting for the first time. For that matter, it was the first time I had ever gone hunting! I cannot say thank you enough to my good friend Jim, for taking me out and showing me the ropes and helping make it a day to remember.

I grew up with a great respect for the outdoors. Through Scouting and backpacking I learned skills in caring for the environment even as I enjoyed it. For a time, I was a Sierra Club member too. I think these all provide an important service. But...

I wanted to experience hunting and shooting ever since I inherited my grandfather's shotgun. I know there are differing opinions on hunting and environmental impact. Maybe it is not for everyone and I am not sure I can explain it well. Yet, today brought a lot of it together.

Maybe it was because of hanging out with a good friend.

Maybe it came from my respect for the environment and creation.

Maybe it was knowing I actually provided food for my family.

Maybe it was a connection with my grandfather.

Whatever it maybe, I do know that today I am thankful for a God who provides for us in so many ways.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! (Psalms 145:7-10 ESV)

May I Ask: How have you experienced God's blessings and provision in unexpected ways? Recently?
May I Suggest: Make a list of three things where you have experienced God's provision. Write them here!

BTW: The turkey was 17lbs./8" beard /1" spurs
For the full story: Check out Braden Arp's Blog

Evolution of Dance

When the Pulpit Becomes Bully

In the first church I served as a pastor, we were a polling site. On a Monday, a man pulled up and asked when the polls opened. I politely responded that polls open on Tuesday. He then proceeded to stand on a soap box (that he provided for himself) questioning the faith of anyone who voted for a particular party.

I gathered that what he really wanted was me to share who I was going to vote for in the election. My response to him was simply this,
"It isn't my place to stand in judgment on who someone might choose to vote for in any election. We are still a free country. As to who I will vote for, my congregation does not even know."

I've been troubled in the recent publicity surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama. I do understand that in the black church, there is a fuzzy area between religion and politics that is part of the culture. If Barack was never running for office, would this ever have been an issue? Thirty years ago, there wouldn't have been clips of video to even debate about. It still does not change, I think, the need for reflection on the comments of a pastor from the pulpit.

In his blog, Pure Church: Irreverent Wrongs, Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile makes five points that I think any and all pastors ought to consider:

1. Feed the sheep, feed the sheep, feed the sheep.
"...the appropriate response from the pastor isn't a series of interviews but Galatians 6:1-2, gently pulling the erring brother aside."

2. Be willing to suffer reproach for doing good.
"...[the pastor] should willingly and joyfully suffer for doing good (1 Pet. 2:20-24; 3:13-17)."

3. Think carefully about a separation of church and state principle in my own ministry and public comments on public issues.
"Whenever or if ever I am called to speak on some public issue, I need to do the hard work of knowing where the Bible stops speaking, where my opinion begins, and where either state concerns are over-running more fundamental biblical concerns or vice-versa."

4. Seek counsel before speaking.
"That hardly needs any elaboration, except to say that on stages as large as this, and on a thousand smaller ones, we either help the cause of Christ by speaking well or hinder it by speaking poorly."

5. Pray and war against pride.

As pastors but even as Christians, these are words and cautions we all should note. Clergy are not infallible. None of us are, be it at church, at work or at home. Would that we would all be more quick to repent than to reject correction.

May I Ask: What politics are appropriate to be preached from the pulpit?
May I Suggest: Read further Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile's blog on Pure Church: Irreverent Wrongs,

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