Jan 31, 2019

al dente

"cooked so as to be still firm when bitten".

At the risk of being corrected, I will instruct all of you eager readers as to how to cook pasta…I say risk because every cook and chef across this world of ours has an opinion as to how to correctly cook pasta. 

And each one thinks that he or she is correct.

I press on...

1.) In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil; 
2.) Add salt and bring to boil again.
3.) Add package of pasta to boiling water.
4.) Stir pasta until all of the pasta is submerged.
5.) Bring to a rolling boil again.
6.) Cook pasta for approximately 10 minutes; stirring frequently.
7.) When pasta is al dente remove from heat.
8.) Pour pasta into colander and drain water.
9.) Serve.

Al dente means that the pasta is not overcooked; for that would make it limp, gummy, and hard to chew. 

Al dente means that the pasta is cooked perfectly with a bite. The pasta has gone from a dried, hardened posture to one that is pliable, flexible, and open to receive a sauce. Ora di mangiare! (time to eat).
Pretty simple procedure: Boil water, place inflexible and dried product into the boiling water until it flexible and open to receive something to make it better. 

Most of us who cook never really over-analyze this process or ponder it for that matter because it is the necessary process pasta must go through...

So, challenge accepted! I will ponder or should I say chew on this process...

Did you ever notice how closely this describes the process we sometimes goes through to bring real change in our life? And yet, when the process happens in our life, we see it as something strange that is happening to us. 

We start off in some areas of our lives; stiff, ridged, inflexible, and seemingly impervious to receiving good things in our life.

So, we are placed in "hot water" and the heat gets turned up...until all around is turbulent; or least it seems that way as we try to contain the rolling surroundings that seem to be spilling out everywhere. 

Salt is added to preserve, season, and bring flavor, but we can't see the value because it often comes in the form of tears and other times stings as it is poured into our gaping wounds.

The long process seems like an eternity as we are tossed to and fro trying to make sense of it all...yearning to get out of our circumstance...as the relentless waves continue their (seemingly) merciless agitation.

"What is going on?!?" We cry out to a chef whom we cannot see...wondering why He has walked off and left us alone to take another ride on this furious wave.

And as quickly as the process seemed to come on, it ends as we are removed from the pot as the hot water is drained and we breathe a sigh of relief.

"What was that for?" We ask without realizing that in the process we have been changed into something different than we were before. 

We've taken on a new posture; where we were once stiff, ridged, inflexible, and seemingly impervious to receiving good things in our life…we are now flexible and pliable and able to receive life.

Yes, it was longer then we would've liked, but it really wasn't too long (not overcooked). The timing was just right for what was necessary to change us into one who could be used by the Chef as He intended; as He purposed from the time that we were made.

"Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you." (1 Peter 4:12).  

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4)

Jan 24, 2019

Vulnerable on the Ice

Most people have heard the story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-34). He made a request to Jesus (who was also walking on the water) to be able to walk on water and Jesus granted his request and told Peter to come to Him. 

Peter walked on the water towards Jesus. That is until Peter looked at the strong winds and the waves and he became terrorized and began to sink. And Jesus reached to Peter and pulled him to safety.

We read the story and are either amazed that Peter was able to do so or we write him off as faithless because he was afraid and sank.

I personally have spent a major portion of my life walking on water; which really isn't that hard considering the fact that it is in a frozen state when I do so...Usually going thirty miles per hour with a piece of 1/4" steel strapped to each foot.

So walking on water (for me) doesn't seem to be that big of a deal...that is until I try to do so when it it ISN'T frozen or else when I don't have skates on. Then, for me, it is very hard to walk on water.

I ran into this recently when I was making my rounds around the local ice rinks picking up hockey pucks. I hit a patch of ice (on the ice) and my feet almost slipped from beneath me. Almost; but I didn't...and I was able to stabilize myself and not fall down.

I voiced a "thanks" to the LORD for His intervention as I continued my journey around the rink and then made my way home. 

When I arrived home and stepped out of my vehicle, I hit a very small patch of ice in my driveway and went from standing upright to a horizontal position of the ground in a millisecond; tearing my jeans as I cut my knee on the frozen ground.

I voiced a "thanks" to the LORD for His intervention as I brushed myself off and went into the house to attend to my knee that was now bleeding. 

As I was taping a gauze pad to my knee, I pondered how I was unable to do the simple task of walking on a tiny piece of ice; after all I do it several times a week on rinks that are about 1,400 square feet. The piece of ice that I slipped on was only about one square foot!

Had I, like Peter, taken my eyes off the LORD; troubled by my surroundings? 

No, I was simply missing a key component necessary for me to walk on water; my ice skates. 

And yet, like Peter, I realized that even with skates I still need the LORD to do what I do. My ability to walk on water was predicated by my ice skates.

That slip on the ice in my driveway was a wake-up call to me how complacent I can get as I look to myself to do what I do.

Symbolically, the ice skates represents the gifts, abilities, and anointing that comes from the LORD that enables me to do what I need to do. I realized (as I was bandaging my wound) just how vulnerable I am in this life; how dependent I am upon the LORD. 

There is no way that I can walk through the slipperiness of this world on my own efforts or strength. And just like walking on ice, it doesn't matter how often or many times that I have done something...Simply put, I NEED HIM FOR EVERYTHING THAT I DO!

So I pondered...how many times have I tried to do things in my own strength and abilities as I lean on my past experiences? 

How many times have I ignored the near slips or the actual slips as opportunities for me to hear the LORD calling out to me to look to Him instead of myself?

Bottom line: we ALL need Jesus.

One of the problems with having successes is that we have the illusion that we can do this on our own, and so we slowly drift away from Him.

But when we slip and fall day after day after day trying to do things in our own strength; that is when we become more aware of how much we need Jesus.

The Good News is that when we turn and call out to Jesus, He IMMEDIATELY welcomes us with open arms

Oh Jesus; help me to see You and to keep my eyes upon You lest I continue to slip and fall or sink...

Keep your stick on the ice; I'm pulling for you!

Jan 17, 2019

This Is My Church

One of the hard parts about being a pastor is trying to be "under-cover" and yet remain true to who you are.
What I mean is that when I am at a "church" function or some other service such as a wedding or funeral it is easy for me to be "myself" as a pastor. I know what people expect and I am free to function in that role.

When I am at some other weekly activity such as shopping, at the gym, cutting my grass, or playing hockey, I try hard to not let people know that I am a pastor…especially a "reverend". 

I know that may seem strange to those who are still in preparation (bible school or seminary) or are not yet ordained. Why would I try to be incognito after going through all of the preparation and the process of ordination and then try to conceal the fact that I am an ordained pastor?

Why? Because as soon as people find out that I am a pastor, they get awkward and start apologizing for how they talk to me...or that they swore…or that they gave me a hard time as they teased me and made me the butt of a joke. 

This is happens partially because the stereotypical pastor is holed up in his/her church office trying to stay pure and undefined by the "sinners". The result is that the average person doesn’t know a pastor outside of the church. 

And the average pastor doesn’t know how to reach people outside of the church (building).

Perhaps that is what so many churches are filled with church folk instead of "sinners".

So, people sometimes act weird simply because they don't know how to act around a pastor. They see us a moral standard and are concerned that they will say and do the wrong thing around us. 

I ran into this recently and the end of a hockey game. One of my teammates had seen a documentary on a cult and asked me if I was a part of them. I assured him that I was a Christian not a Scientologist.

He continued and explained why he doesn't go to church. His answers were honest and open as he explained that he knew that God knew how he was doing. He had enough of churches that were run Iike businesses and seemed to be just after his money.

"I don't need to go to church..." He continued as he drew another teammate standing next to us into the conversation.

The other man said; "Yeah, I don't need to go to church either; THIS IS MY CHURCH!" as he pointed at the hockey rink. The first man agreed and said; "Yes, this is my church too!"

I came to realize that these men were correct. They had discovered their need for community at a hockey rink where they could be themselves and not have to make excuses for how they spoke or acted or lived their lives.

They were right that some churches have become business that were no longer serving what these men needed. They are no longer places where people seeking answers and peace and direction can come and find the saving grace of the LORD through Jesus Christ.

They had enough and weren't willing to simply drink the Kool-Aid. They had found life in something other than the church and they weren't going back.

So what do we, who know the LORD and are called to be an ambassador say to them and their concerns and objections? How do we reach them where they are at?

It’s not complicated; in fact the answer is so very simple that we simply don't do it.

We need to go to where they are. 

After all, that IS what Jesus would do because that is what He did. All of the Gospel stories are filled with Jesus hanging with people who were rejected by the religious folks. And they, too, had enough and weren't going back even if they were invited.

Jesus didn't make the church to be a fortress in which we run to to be safe from "them". Christians are the called out and set apart followers who come to be equipped so that we can go out to our worlds. 

Jesus instructed us to not wear special clothing or take special seats or let people be hindered by our "holiness" and self-righteousness. Jesus has had enough of that which is why the church was created. 

Jesus instructed us to NOT put ourselves in a posture where we are away from "them"; and yet we do that over and over again. 

And "non-church" folks have had enough and they aren't going back to church even if they are invited.

Jesus made us to be with people to be His hands and His feet to live our lives being “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

No, this doesn’t mean being a drunk to the drunk. This doesn’t give us an excuse to be immoral and to live lives contrary to the Word of God…the goal is salvation.

He made us (the church) to go after lost sheep, coins, and sons (please read Luke chapter 15).

Jesus made us to sit in coffee shops and play hockey and talk to our neighbors and cut their grass. Eat at local restaurants, walk our dogs, sign our kids up for baseball, let them know what it means to follow Jesus.

Jesus came to show the world what the Father looks like (John 14). When we see Jesus (in scripture) we get a picture of what the Father looks like; how He acts and moves...

Jesus left us to continue this. He wanted that people would know what the Father looks like when they see how we act and care and show the love of the LORD.

He sent the Holy Spirit to do the convicting of sin and of righteousness, and of judgment; which oftentimes is independent of them going to church.... 

And He sent the Holy Spirit to remind followers of Jesus (the Church) of what He said (John 16) and what He wants us to do.

We as pastors need to cry out for more of the Holy Spirit in our churches so that those who come in will be changed. And then we need to send them and go with them back into the world and be Jesus to this world.

Jesus is calling out to pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists to do the work of the ministry INSIDE the church to equip the saints for what they will do for the remaining 95% of their week.
Jesus is calling out to pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets, and evangelists to do the work of the ministry OUTSIDE the church and meet people where they are.

So strap on your skates, grab your sticks, and go to "their" church. Join their community and be a part of their lives and watch how He will use you to make a difference in this world.

Jan 10, 2019

It's Not About You

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
"I kept for nearly a year the flask-shaped cocoon of an emperor moth. It is very peculiar in its construction. A narrow opening is left in the neck of the flask, through which the perfect insect forces its way, so that a forsaken cocoon is as entire as one still tenanted, no rupture of the interlacing fibers having taken place.
The great disproportion between the means of egress and the size of the imprisoned insect makes one wonder how the exit is ever accomplished at all -- and it never is without great labor and difficulty. It is supposed that the pressure to which the moth's body is subjected in passing through such a narrow opening is a provision of nature for forcing the juices into the vessels of the wings, these being less developed at the period of emerging from the chrysalis than they are in other insects.
I happened to witness the first efforts of my prisoned moth to escape from its long confinement. During a whole forenoon, from time to time, I watched it patiently striving and struggling to get out. It never seemed able to get beyond a certain point, and at last my patience was exhausted. Very probably the confining fibers were drier and less elastic than if the cocoon had been left all winter on its native heather, as nature meant it to be. At all events I thought I was wiser and more compassionate than its Maker, and I resolved to give it a helping hand. 
With the point of my scissors I snipped the confining threads to make the exit just a very little easier, and lo! immediately, and with perfect case, out crawled my moth dragging a huge swollen body and little shriveled wings. In vain I watched to see that marvelous process of expansion in which these silently and swiftly develop before one's eyes; and as I traced the exquisite spots and markings of divers colors which were all there in miniature, I longed to see these assume their due proportions and the creature to appear in all its perfect beauty, as it is, in truth, one of the loveliest of its kind. But I looked in vain. 
My false tenderness had proved its ruin. It never was anything but a stunted abortion, crawling painfully through that brief life which it should have spent flying through the air on rainbow wings.
I have thought of it often, often, when watching with pitiful eyes those who were struggling with sorrow, suffering, and distress; and I would fain cut short the discipline and give deliverance. Short-sighted man! How know I that one of these pangs or groans could be spared? The far-sighted, perfect love that seeks the perfection of its object does not weakly shrink from present, transient suffering. 
Our Father's love is too true to be weak. Because He loves His children, He chastises them that they may be partakers of His holiness. With this glorious end in view, He spares not for their crying. Made perfect through sufferings, as the Elder Brother was, the sons of God are trained up to obedience and brought to glory through much Tribulation."
-Author Unknown

Jan 3, 2019

Happy New Year 2019

What will you do with new opportunity? How will you use it?

The world we are in (at least here in the USA) is so divided, isolated, and partial to whom we will show allegiance.

This past year was marked with people reacting rather than responding to events as we left our mark in the history books without really making anything good from all of our efforts.

This past year was marked with people choosing sides and people being asked; “Whose side are you on?” as we further drove wedges between each other.

Enough division! Enough choosing sides! Enough is enough people! Let’s step out, forgetting the past, and make a difference in our world.

The world is looking for some heroes who will cross party lines and show love to those who are not like “us”. 

Jesus told a story of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) to explain whom we are called to reach out to. In the story it was the religious folks who were too busy to cross over to the other side of the street and show mercy on a person who needed their help.

In fact, in the story, the man who helped out was an “enemy” of the one who needed his help.

This is a New Year; A Fresh Start; A Chance to Do It Differently. How 2019 turns out to be partially in your control based upon how you choose to view it.

As Oswald Chambers wrote:
“As we go forth into the coming year, let it not be in the haste of impetuous, forgetful delight, nor with the quickness of impulsive thoughtlessness.
But let us go out with the patient power of knowing that the God of Israel will go before us.
Our yesterdays hold broken and irreversible things for us. It is true that we have lost opportunities that will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future.
Let the past rest, but let it rest in the sweet embrace of Christ.
Leave the broken, irreversible past in His hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.”

The question one year from now will still be; “how did you make a difference in this world this year?”

The Apostle Paul wrote:
 “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Colossians 3:17

Jesus said (in the story of the Good Samaritan);
So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

You may be asking; "So, how do I do this?"

To be straight forward, you can't do it on your own...

Billy Graham wrote:
"Are you trying to face an uncertain future without the Lord Jesus Christ? Only in Christ will you find real hope and, ultimately, eternal life. He calls you to turn away from sin and to receive Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior. 

You can do that right now, wherever you are. You'll begin a relationship with God, and He promises that you will be forgiven and become a completely new person."

Then, and only then will you make a difference in this world that will be for good and for the glory of God.

Happy New Year! I’m pulling for you to make a difference this new year!