Thursday, December 16, 2010

Painting Theo-logy

I am so excited about our new Children’s ministry space. We’re making great progress and it is awesome! It’s fascinating to watch each room progress. I have to admit, at first, some of the artwork was confusing and messy, but each time I go back, I see the progress and I am more and more amazed.

Saturday, I was admiring the work of one of our artists airbrushing when he looked up at me and said, “you wanna give it shot?” I said, “uh, well, I’m a pastor not a painter, and I want this children’s space to look nice, so I’ll just pass, but thanks a lot.”

This particular artist’s name is Theo (which just so happens to come from the Greek word “theos,” which is the word for “God” which makes him the first Theo) and just like God, Theo knew I had abilities in me that he knew he could draw out. So, he said, “ah come on, try it, you can do it, I’ll show you how; come here.” So, emboldened by his belief in me, I thought, “I’ll give it a shot, if I mess it up, Theo can probably fix it anyway.”

Next thing I knew, he had taught me how to hold the airbrush just right and artfully depress the trigger, releasing a mixture of air and paint while deftly swinging my hand in a precise arc that combined proximity and speed for maximum results. I was amazed. He just grinned knowingly. When you enter what’s called the Giant room (for two year olds), and marvel at the huge blades of grass, just remember, I contributed to the art work (albeit an extremely small part) of that very cool room.

It’s all because of Theo.

The study of God, his nature and character, his attributes and how he works in our world, is called Theo-logy. But God doesn’t express himself and his nature just to himself; he loves to create and then to interact with his creation, especially the crown of his creation: human beings. He is always working in us, creating and shaping and personally handcrafting in us his divine art. Like a working artist, things may look messy at first, and you may not even recognize what he’s crafting, but when it’s all done, it’s a masterpiece. The New Living translation of Eph. 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” God is a master artist, utilizing his perfect wisdom and skill to bring about his purposes in our lives. He is making us like Christ.

Next time you feel like you or a fellow Christian’s life is messy or far from Christlike, remember it’s a process and to withhold judgment until it’s all done and the masterpiece is complete: Christlikeness. And when we get to heaven and finally are like Christ, we can all smile and say to each other:

It’s all because of Theo.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tree Riding

Disclaimer: I am currently on Vicadin ES, so the coherence of the following blog may or may not be clear. I broke a rib yesterday while tree riding and I’ve gotten so many questions about it, I thought it would be a good subject to jump back into my blog with. Tree riding is when you climb a (20-30 foot) tree to the top where the trunk/main stem becomes thin and then lean out away from the tree toward the ground, kicking your feet out and letting your weight bend the tree, delivering you to the ground in an exhilarating ride. I’ve also jumped off the branch of a bigger tree grabbing the top of a smaller one nearby; same ride, just different approach.

The trick is to find a strong, healthy, supple tree (Red Maples and Oaks are best) that won’t snap under your weight and getting your feet out soon enough so you land standing up. I failed on both accounts yesterday and paid the consequences. Unfortunately, it’s hard to conclusively determine whether the tree is healthy or not in the winter, because all of the leaves are gone. So that was my first problem. But secondly, I got my feet tangled up in the small branches and didn’t get them kicked out soon enough after I started the bend and about halfway into the bend (about 15 feet in the air), the tree snapped and I fell face/chest down, landing hard and breaking my 5th rib on the left side. Ouch. I knew laying there on the ground, I had either cracked or broken a rib. I think Gideon, my chocolate lab, knew too. Not as agile as I once was.

Once I got back to the house, I did a little research on cracked and broken ribs and it seems that while there’s nothing they can do to treat rib injuries, its good to have an xray to make sure there are no further internal injuries. That meant I had to call my wife. But tree riding is one of those things I never got around to telling my wife that I did, and this turned out to be a less than optimal time to share. Later I tried to argue that there’s biblical precedence for tree riding, with less than favorable results.

The beginning of Luke 19 tells the delightful story of Zacchaeus, the vertically challenged man who was so eager to see Jesus, he climbed a tree so he could see over the crowd. When Jesus came to the tree where Zacchaeus had climbed, he told Zacchaeus to “come down immediately” (the NLT says come down quickly). That’s what tree riding is; it’s coming down quickly from a tree. See, it’s biblical. (Right, my wife wasn’t convinced either.) At least I didn’t try to use 2 Samuel 18:10: “I just saw Absalom hanging from an oak tree!”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spiritual Oxygen

August 27, 2010

As you can see, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, June 19th to be exact. Now that I open this thing back up I realize I probably should have told you then where I was going, but since “was going” has turned into “went,” I’ll tell you where I’ve been. You may or may not know, I was on vacation for 3 weeks in July, then worked like a dog in the office to catch up for 2 weeks and then left the office again and entered into a focused time to work on my book the first 3 weeks off August.

I have seen other blogs where people blogged about writing their book, while they were writing their book, but all of them were writing over an extended period of time, chipping away at the book a little at a time. I need blocks of time or it’s a waste of time for me and since I don’t have any time to waste and am not able to find big blocks of time during my weekly schedule, I have to schedule them away from the church.

Furthermore, I am already writing a sermon each week and I guess I’m just not prolific enough to find time to write a sermon, answer emails, write a blog and write a book. So, my plan was to devote all my attention on the book over an intense 3 week period and write furiously for those 3 weeks. (I did the same thing last year.) I just finished those 3 weeks and they were awesome!

I am so grateful to our church for letting me take a study leave and I’m jazzed about how much I got done. I’ve told a few people that I’m done with the book, and seasoned writers have scolded me not to say those words. “You’re not done until it’s published” they said with that knowing voice. “There’s always changes to be made and the publisher may have you do a major re-write.” Of course, those of you who know me, know I will be tinkering, editing, revising until they wrench it out of my hands.

So, I’m done, but I’m not done. Either way, it still feels awesome! More than one person has commented about how free and liberated I seem. I have to say it is an exhilarating experience writing a book. I couldn’t wait to get out to my writing space each day (a card table under a patio umbrella), arriving there most days before 7 AM and writing till late at night.

The current title for the book is “Spiritual Oxygen” The subtitle is: “How the Holy Spirit Makes Us More Like Christ.” I explore the concept of spiritual breathing and learning how Jesus cooperated with the Holy Spirit and how we can too. Just recently I’ve also toyed with the possibility of “Only A Breath Away” the idea being that “all that we need from God; help, grace, power, etc. is only a breath away.” More knowing people have also told me not to fret about the title, since if a publisher buys the book, they’ll probably change the title.

So, 2/3 of the book is off to an editor friend of mine. I’ve been warned about that too! I’ve told her I am a big boy and to go ahead and have all the freedom she needs to edit, but we’ll see how big I am really am when I see all her edits!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Caninical Compassion

My wife and oldest daughter left today on a missions trip to El Salvador. They are going to love people and share the gospel in the little city of La Libertad. Its a win-win deal. The people of La Libertad win by hearing the gospel, and my wife, daughter and tripmates going win as they will grow in Christlikeness as they directly obey Jesus' words to make disciples of all nations.

But it doesn't feel like a win right now for my youngest daughter who already misses her mother like crazy. Tonight she came over and put her head on my shoulder, then my lap, tears flowing freely. I put my arm around her gave her a squeeze and said something that was intended to be soothing. It didn't work.

Next thing we both knew, our Chocolate Lab, Gideon, got up and snuggled up close to her, nuzzling her leg to somehow get closer. In distinct Labrador dialect he communicated "I sense your sadness and I just want to be close to you." Drawn by his compassion, my daughter slid down from the couch and he nestled his chin right on her leg. We couldn't resist getting a picture. This wasn't the first time Gideon sensed sadness or pain or sorrow from one of our family members and I marveled at yet another example of our dog's inate sense of compassion.

I've been resisting for a long time blogging about my wonder dog Gideon but today I just can't stand it any longer. Now that I've set a precedent, I'm sure more is to come in future blogs. In the meantime, I got thinking how much I talk about wanting to be more like Christ, maybe I should start by just trying to be more like my dog.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marrriage Rhythm

A very cool thing happened Sunday that I just had to blog about. As I was wrapping up the sermon from Mark 10:15, I asked if anyone would like to surrender their life to Christ. Numerous hands went up, two of which were a couple.

I thought to myself, “how cool is this, a man and his wife both surrendering their life to Christ in the same service, what a transformation that home is going to experience.” I couldn’t tell who went first, but it was definitely a decision they made together, husband and wife, to follow Jesus; isn’t that awesome! Later I thought about the only account I know of in the Bible where a couple both came to Christ, Priscilla and Aquila in Acts 18, and the incredible things that God did through that couple as they both surrendered their lives to Christ and served him as a couple.

Then as I was greeting people at the end, another couple came up to me and told me they had both raised their hands way in the back, but here’s the kicker: both of them had their heads bowed and neither one knew at the time that the other was raising their hand! The Holy Spirit was working in each of their hearts independently of each other; they responded in obedience to God, and to their surprise both of them came to Christ in the same moment!

I got thinking about that later. I believe the Holy Spirit is working in each of our lives as individuals but also (for those who are married,) as couples and I wonder how many times couples expect that, recognize that and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity and He is seeking to unify us with the Father, the Son and with each other. If you are married, I invite you to ask God what is He doing in your marriage as a couple? What's your next step as a couple?

May we be open to everything the Holy Spirit wants to do in our own lives, in our marriages, in our families, in our church and in our world. When the Holy Spirit prompts us, may we respond in obedience. And may those who are married move in the rhythm of the Spirit in such a way that we experience increasing levels of unity as a couple.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Adventure Stories

Everybody loves an adventure, don’t they? But some of us don’t share those experiences with others. We take pictures, but leave them in our digital cameras. We may write a postcard and send it back home, but put it in the trash after it has been read. We may put a few words on Facebook to let everyone know we are now back after an adventure. So, why tell anyone about what we did while rafting in Colorado? Or skiing in Vermont? Or surfing in Hawaii? (that last one sounds rather appealing, doesn’t it?)

Well, one reason we tell stories is to help people capture in their minds where we’ve been and what we are doing in our lives. Another reason is to make them wish they were there too. A third reason is to get them excited and maybe inspire them to want to go to a destination or accomplish something they think is impossible. Any of these is a good reason to tell about your latest adventure. It doesn’t have to be long; it doesn’t have to be international in nature. It just has to be your story. Out of your story will flow passion, energy, a draw for others.

If you are looking for some real inspiration, go to our website and click on Adventure stories. Why go there when there are other places like Facebook, Ebay and iTickets calling your name? For the simple reason, you will be inspired! Inspired by an adventure story you say? Absolutely!! I am so jazzed after I read the latest adventure story, I want to go out on another adventure myself.

I challenge you to go there sometime this week. Poke around and see what God is up to through your brothers and sisters here at Open Door. And then, here’s the challenge…leave a story from your own life adventure. It doesn’t have to be about Serve Elyria…just make it personal and from your own life. God is up to so many things here in this body of believers. I’ll be checking that link myself this week…so…let’s read about your adventure story, shall we?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Serve Elyria

Wow, what a day today was! It was one of those days where I was so proud to be the Pastor of Church of the Open Door. Over 500 volunteers demonstrated the love of God to the people of Elyria at Serve Elyria completing over 360 projects throughout the city. 260 of those were gardens using the organic and super creative gardensoxx from Filtrexx (check them out here). Our Pastor of Life Groups, Dan Samms, led the project this year and he and his team did a great job organizing and leading. He reported that in addition to the gardensoxx projects, we completed over 100 other projects throughout the city! Is that incredible or what?

My goal was to serve at the most projects and encourage the most people throughout the city. So as Pastor Jamie, my wife Andrea, and I traveled from site to site and encouraged, we helped out and loaded and unloaded gardensoxx, worked on landscaping projects, raked leaves, helped insulate and rebrick the foundation of a mobile home, cleaned up trash, and heard one person after another talk about what a great day it was.

One lady who I’ll call Judy, because that’s what her name is, cried when we helped her with some yard work and fixed her roof and said, “I can’t do any of these things anymore and I didn’t have anyone who could help me. I can’t believe what you all are doing today. Thank you so much.” (more tears.) I told her we just wanted to show her the love of God in tangible ways. She said, “well you did. Thank you.” (more tears.) Then I found out that one of the couples in our church who was up on her roof also left her a check to help out with expenses!

Another guy, I’ll call Ryan, because that’s what his name is, has only been coming to our church for about a month. He was out serving today and said to me: “this is what we’ve been looking for, a church that serves.” What a statement.

You know what? I think God is looking for a church like that and so are people in the community. Let’s continue to be that church!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Marriage Grace

This past Sunday, I finished preaching a sermon series called “Resurrecting Marriage: Learning Marriage CPR.” My dual goals when preaching are: to be faithful to what the Scripture text actually says, and, communicate relevantly with love and clarity. Some Scripture texts are very difficult to either accept or preach. Mark 10:2-12 is both hard to accept and hard to preach, especially vv. 10-12. My desire was to bring a word of grace to the strong words of vv. 10-12 without watering down what Jesus said. You can watch or listen to the messages here.

Some feel I wasn’t clear enough as to what do you do if you’re divorced (regardless of the reason) and remarried, in other words, “now what?” The way forward for those who are remarried is the same for those who are still in their current marriage: practice Marriage CPR.
Commit (in this new marriage) to God’s Vision for that marriage,
Pay Attention to Your Heart and
Relate with Christlike Love

Keep doing those three steps (as explained in each of the 3 sermons). Especially the last letter/point, “R,” Relate with Christlike love, is how you relate in order to move forward: Love with Christ’s love, which is Compassionate, Forgiving, Initiating, and Sacrificial. But keep doing “C” and “P” too (paying attention to your heart and stay committed to God’s vision for your [new] marriage.)

Some may ask, “If you’re remarried, and are faithful to your spouse, are you therefore “living” in adultery? No. There’s a difference between “living in adultery” and “committing adultery.” If you’re legally divorced, or your spouse is deceased, and then you remarry and are faithful to that spouse, you are not “living in adultery.” Living in adultery is either:
a. living in an ongoing pattern of marriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce-remarriage-divorce-remarriage, etc. or
b. living with/having sex with another person who is not your spouse.

So, if you’re remarried, the past is past, receive God’s grace and move on; you have made a new covenant before God (your new marriage vows), now go back to the “CPR” and
Commit (in this new marriage) to God’s Vision for that marriage,
Pay Attention to Your Heart and
Relate with Christlike Love.

You don’t undo one wrong with another one. It is not God’s will for you to divorce your current spouse to remarry your first (or former) one. Remember, we’ve got to stop treating this area of our lives different from other areas: every single one of us needs God’s grace whether we’ve been divorced or not and God’s grace is available for each of us regardless of our past. Thank God! Grace is the only way to move forward.
Some may ask: if our souls are “glued” together, and we get divorced, can we ever”be free” of that person in our new marriage; will we always be carrying around part of that person in our soul, even into our next relationship?

The answer is to look at divorce for what it is: a death. Divorce isn’t like a death, it is a death. The same question asked in the previous paragraph is asked of people grieving the loss of their spouse through that spouse dying. Can you totally forget the person? Probably not. Can you get past that death and get remarried and have a healthy relationship? Absolutely. Is it easy? No. The longer you were married, truthfully, the harder it will be to “get past” the former marriage. But by God’s grace, it is most definitely possible; and not only possible, again, because God is God of grace, it is what God desires for you.

This is why it is so absolutely critical that we grieve well the death (and/or divorce) of the first marriage; the grieving/healing process is critical for the viability of the new marriage. You need to take at the very least a full year to process/heal the death of that marriage and, depending on the situation, you may need 5 or more years. To the degree that you process well, grieve well and get healed up, your new marriage can be better than the first one, even if the first one was great.

With God’s grace, incredible vistas of fulfillment and joy are waiting to be experienced and explored. God’s grace is not a hack patch job. He is the God who heals the brokenhearted (Psalm 147:3). His grace is healing, restorative, re-creating, and unbelievably satisfying. But we must learn to receive and assimilate that grace into our lives - again, the exact same thing, everyone else must learn to do - regardless of our pasts.
For all of us, an incredible future of joy and fulfillment is available because of God’s grace. Let me give you 2 great verses to meditate on:
2 Corinthians 9:8: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Peter 3:18: Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

An area of confusion that some have mentioned to me is reconciling the Bible’s strong stance against divorce with the “exception passages” that seem to “allow” divorce. There is a tension there, but it’s the same tension present in the verses that call us to holiness while recognizing that sin happens and providing grace when it does.

God’s original plan never included divorce, but he recognizes that it happens. The key word is “recognize.” That doesn’t mean he “approves” it or “endorses” it. When we talk about the Bible “allowing” divorce or when we talk about “valid” biblical divorces, (e.g. Matt. 5:32, 1 Cor. 7, etc.) we are using language that recognizes that divorce does happen, but its not as if God is saying “I approve of/endorse divorce.” That puts words in God’s mouth he never intends to say. We must live with the tension that “recognize” and “allow” do not mean “approve” and “endorse.”

We must also recognize that the Bible never intends to answer the question “what are all the circumstances in which a divorce is allowed?” The Bible declares God’s original desire and then in different places recognizes circumstances where divorce might happen. Taking these exception occurrences and recognizing that the Bible doesn’t intend to speak comprehensively or exhaustively on the issue of each of the individual circumstances that lead to divorce, wise counsel calls us to examine each situation in the light of the Scriptures and seek the best path forward for that relationship. Combing the Bible to look for exceptions and loopholes is a distortion of the purpose of the Bible. Seeking wise counsel in light of Biblical truth honors God’s Word and the purpose for which it was given.

Because this is an area that is fraught with so many questions and issues, our Church Life Board (of which I am a part) has written a brief
position paper on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage that I believe will be helpful. I urge you to read it carefully.

May God’s great grace be upon you and your family as you seek to live your life in a way that honors Him.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I got a ton of comments about my message this past week. I think one of the things that struck a chord with so many of us is how self-oriented we all are. I know I am. (I’ve already used the I/my word 5 times in 2 sentences!)

One of my favorite meetings each week is our SAT (Strategic Advisory Team). We start off the meeting with a Life Group type section where we share life with each other, laugh, pray, laugh, share how God is speaking to us through His Word, share struggles, laugh and generally practice healthy team relationships. This past week we got talking about how rampant self-orientation is in our society. Everywhere you turn, you are trained, tempted and taught to believe that “it’s all about you.” Each of us admitted that our default mode is to look at life through self-oriented glasses. American society is known for its individualism and it has infected all our life including our marriages in very ugly ways. We actually are offended when God doesn’t make everything work out the way we think it should be. This may be our biggest struggle in becoming like Christ. Jesus lived a thorougly God-oriented life; everything revolved around the Father. Our self-orientation is so deeply ingrained that living a thoroughly God-oriented life seems strange if not impossible.

Try this experiment. Monitor how you react to people and situations the next couple of days. Listen to your thoughts; notice how often you receive and interpret life around you from a self-oriented perspective. Don’t do it any longer than a couple of days as it only reinforces self-orientation. Then begin an experiment where you seek to intentionally see life, what happens to you, how you interact with people, everything, from a God-oriented perspective. Throughout the day, ask God to recalibrate your thinking to a God-oriented way of thinking. Ask him, point blank, “how do you see this, Lord; what’s your perspective on this; what do you think about this?” When you get hurt, or something happens you don’t like, immediately ask him for the grace to see this from his perspective; how can he use this for his purposes. Tell him you belong to him and you want to live surrendered to him. Tell him “it’s not about me, its all about you, Lord.”

Then write me and tell me how it went!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Missional Living

About 30 years ago, some people began using the word “missional” to describe living every moment of every day as a disciple sent by Christ into the world and incorporating the mission Jesus gave us into our lives 24/7 vs. the prevailing mentality of compartmentalizing our lives into segments like family, job, activities, friendships, and church. The church had become a place you went and watched for a couple of hours a week and then got back to the rest of your life. The language of “missional” was crafted to call the church back to its original mission of being the presence of Christ in the world 24/7.

Today this language of living “missional” lives is getting more and more press and in some circles has almost become faddish (which is scary since we all know what happens to fads.) To read a brief (vs. a whole book) and excellent history of the missional movement see here. To see a definition of a missional church, see here. Below I have copied an excellent description of a missional church. These are the indicators of a missional church. I long for Church of the Open Door to become more missional and it is the direction I have been leading the church ever since I arrived. It is a long, arduous process but recently I am seeing more and more signs that are very encouraging. There have always been people at this church living missional lives, even before the language was coined, but they have been a minority. It seems that every day I am hearing news of the people of Open Door really living out their faith, becoming more like Christ, living missional lives. I encourage you to look at these indicators of a missional church below and ask yourself, is this true of our church? What can I do to live out this kind of missional life? In other words, what can I do to become more like Christ in the way I live my day to day life?

1. The missional church proclaims the gospel.

What it looks like: The story of God’s salvation is faithfully repeated in a multitude of different ways.

2. The missional church is a community where all members are involved in learning to become disciples of Jesus.

What it looks like: The disciple identity is held by all; growth in discipleship is expected of all.

3. The Bible is normative in the church’s life.

What it looks like: The church is reading the Bible together to learn what it can learn nowhere else – God’s good and gracious intent for all creation, the salvation mystery, and the identity and purpose of life together.

4. The church understands itself as different from the world because of its participation in the life, death, and resurrection of its Lord.

What it looks like: In its corporate life and public witness, the church is consciously seeking to conform to its Lord instead of the multitude of cultures in which it finds itself.

5. The church seeks to discern God’s specific missional vocation for the entire community and for all of its members.

What it looks like: The church has made its “mission” it priority, and in overt and communal ways is seeking to be and do “what God is calling us to know, be, and do.”

6. A missional community is indicated by how Christians behave toward one another.

What it looks like: Acts of self-sacrifice on behalf of one another both in the church and in the locale characterize the generosity of the community.

7. It is a community that practices reconciliation.

What it looks like: The church community is moving beyond homogeneity toward a more heterogeneous community in its racial, ethnic, age, gender, and socioeconomic makeup.

8. Peoples within the community hold themselves accountable to one another in love.

What it looks like: Substantial time is spent with one another for the purpose of watching over one another in love.

9. The church practices hospitality.

What it looks like: Welcoming the stranger into the midst of the community plays a central role.

10. Worship is the central act by which the community celebrates with joy and thanksgiving both God’s presence and God’s promised future.

What it looks like: There is a significant and meaningful engagement in communal worship of God, reflecting appropriately and addressing the culture of those who worship together.

11. The community has a vital public witness.

What it looks like: The church makes an observable impact that contributes to the transformation of life, society, and human relationships.
12. There is a recognition that the church itself is an incomplete expression of the reign of God.

What it looks like: There is a widely help perception that this church is going somewhere – and that “somewhere” is a more faithfully lived life in the reign of God.[3]

One final note from the writings of the Gospel and Culture Network: Darrell Guder emphasizes the importance of having congregations formed by hearing the Bible “missionally.” He points out that when missional renewal is happening, different kinds of questions are brought to the Bible. He writes:

Congregations are open to being challenged, to looking hard at their deeply ingrained attitudes and expectations. The missional approach asks, How does God’s Word call, shape, transform, and send me . . . and us? Coupled with this openness is the awareness, that biblical formation must mean change, and often conversion. Christian communities may discover that their discipling will require repentance and that their way of being church will have to change.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fearing Jesus

I don’t usually get afraid when reading the Bible, though it has happened on more than one occasion. This morning I read in Luke 8:26-39 a story that made me afraid. The story includes things that have been known to scare other people as well: talk of torture, tombs, demons, high cliffs, deep water, and a pig stampede; but they aren’t related like you might think. You have to read the story to find out where the fear shows up, and when you do maybe you’ll be stunned by the same phrases that got me.

Read Luke 8:26-39

Did you read it? Two reactions to the story are juxtaposed with each other and I wonder which one best describes you and me. Both reactions are associated with fear. The first one is in v. 37: “the people asked Jesus to leave them.” The second one is in v. 39 where Jesus says, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Three things about these verses make me afraid:

1. It is possible to get so comfortable with the way I have arranged my life that when Jesus upsets it, I might find myself wishing he would leave. In this story when it’s clear that Jesus isn’t welcome, he leaves. That scares me.
2. It is possible to care more about my comfort level than about someone getting their life miraculously changed. A man is liberated from bondage and death, his life is forever changed, he is saved, rescued, miraculously delivered, and all people can think about is themselves. That scares me.
3. Jesus has instructed all of us who have had our lives changed to “Tell how much God has done for you.” But we don’t. Or at least few of us do. What did this man do? Verse 39 continues: “So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” Why don’t we? One word: fear. Fear of what people may think; fear of what to say, fear of how people will respond, etc.

I fear the fear that keeps us silent and preoccupied with lesser things while people all around us live in bondage and death. Do we keep Jesus at arms length out of fear? Are we more concerned with our comfort level than changed lives? Do we share the good news of Jesus or are we silenced by fear?

“Lord, I praise you for all that you have done for me. Help me recognize opportunities where I can tell others of all you’ve done. You’ve healed me, forgiven me, saved me, adopted me. You’ve cleansed me from my sin and filled me with your Holy Spirit. You’ve given me a purpose and hope and a reason for living. You’ve given me a calling and spiritual gifts to serve you and others. You have surrounded me with blessings, with family, with friends, and placed me in a church that is inspired by a clear mission from you. I am blessed beyond measure and its all because of you! Forgive me of my fear, I surrender it to you. You have not given me a spirit of fear and timidity, but of love and power and self-discipline. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and give me boldness me to tell others of what you’ve done for me. Amen.”

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fire of God

I've had enough people ask me to post the words to my song that we did this past week to cause me to assent. The song is called Fire of God.

I actually started the song years ago, but it just sat dormant and felt unfinished. I picked it up again 3 or 4 weeks ago when I began studying Mark 9:49 and meditating on what it might mean. I was really wrestling with the whole idea of the purifying fires of God and how the Holy Spirit uses this part of the sanctification process to to purify our love.

I thought I had finished the song again but as I was singing it for Chad, our worship pastor, it just didn't feel right. He said he liked it, and we were going to do it a couple of Sundays ago and then again the 28th, but something just didn't feel right about it, so I yanked it. The next week, I wrote a completely new melody and changed some of the words to how we did it this past Sunday.

I thought Chad and the band did a great job with it in the Auditorium services and I heard Terry Adkins and the band who were leading worship in our video venue in the RNC, did a great job with it too. (Thanks guys!)

I wanted simple words and a simple melody so the song could be learned quickly and sung as an expression of a heart crying out to God.

Fill me Lord, with Your holy love;
Come Wind of God, blow through my life.
Fire of God, ignite my heart to love.
Spirit come.
I want to love like You.
I want to be more like You.

So, fill me Lord, with Your holy love;
Come Wind of God, blow through my life.
Fire of God, ignite my heart to love.
Spirit come.

Let the Fire fall!
I give You my life, I give You my all.
I dare to draw near to Your Holy Flame
Fire of God, purify my love
Fire of God, purify my love
I surrender all.

“Fire of God”/Words and music by Jim Mindling/© 2010 CrossWinds Music

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Birthday

This past week, both my parents, Jim and Pat, celebrated birthdays. Both of them are in their 70’s and are 3 years and 3 days apart in age. As I visited with them on the phone this past week, I was struck once again both by the privilege of being raised by godly parents and how they continue to model what it means to live surrendered to Christ and his mission. My parents have never been on the official paid staff of a church but have poured themselves into every church they’ve been at, serving as volunteers in the ministries of the church and living “missional” lives in the community.

They have served under many pastors in several churches over the years. All of these pastors come and go, but my parents keep serving, keep loving, keep building relationships and in my humble opinion are the backbone of their church. They have not slowed down but it seems to me have picked up momentum, displaying lives of servanthood and stewardship in every aspect of their lives. I have often thought, wow, what if one could develop a church loaded full of “Jim and Pat Mindlings” what a difference a church could make in a community! It would be nothing short of revolutionary! And yet, that is exactly what Jesus had in mind! Living out the gospel in everyday lives, engaged with their neighborhood, their community, “being” the church, not “going” to church.

May I challenge us all to stop “going to church” and grow in “being the church”? What could happen in our communities if we did?!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Favorite Moment This Weekend

I experienced a lot of moments this weekend where I saw the people of Open Door loving, serving, and being the church. I love the serving heart our church has! It was also exciting seeing the CrossRoads full of energy at the Burger Bash. It was wall to wall people, and the burgers were awesome! Our new Student Ministries Pastor, Joel Zaborowski is doing a great job with our students and they raised over $3800 for missions trips to extend the love of Jesus Christ beyond North Central Ohio. (51 volunteers served over 1000 burgers.)

But my favorite moment this weekend was Saturday morning in our 5B Evangelism Seminar where the energy and excitement in the room was palpable as people told stories of loving their friends to Christ and learned tools and skills to better reach those around them with the life-changing love of Jesus Christ! Is there anyone you love so much that you want them to experience the life-changing love of Christ? God, fill us with your love!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Favorite Moments From Sunday

My favorite moment from this past Sunday: Lucille Porter giggling like a little girl after I gave her the 2010 Servant Award for Christlike serving and asked her in the service if she found fulfillment and satisfaction in serving. When’s the last time you heard a 96 year old giggle?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Second Post

One of my core values is authenticity. I believe with all my heart that God loves each of us just the way we are. He delights in us as we are, not as we think we ought to be. He winces when we try to be someone else. (But it's a wince ensconced in a smile.) Be you.

1 Samuel 17 records one of the most popular stories in the Bible, the story of David and Goliath. The story is full of powerful life lessons like trusting in God and taking a stand for God no matter what the odds. Yesterday, I heard someone draw an application from that story I'm not sure I had ever noticed before. Before the battle, King Saul tries to dress David, who, remember is just a little boy, in Saul's armor. But it doesn't fit. David stumbles around in the oversized, ill-fitting helmet and armor in a scene that has Abbott and Costello all over it and finally concludes he can't do battle in somebody else's armor. David's discovery is true for all of life: don't try to do life in somebody else's armor. It's exhausting and futile (and sometimes comical) trying to be someone you're not. Be you. Be authentic.

So it's ironic and somewhat troubling that the first post in my blog is inauthentic. I didn't write it. But my blog says I did. Let me explain. There it is, in my first post, right underneath the words "Test Post" in deceptive gray letters: POSTED BY PASTOR JIM. Let me come clean right off the bat with a confession: I had writer's block for my first post and a ghostwriter actually ended up writing that two word first post. There I said it. I don't want to start my much belated foray into the world of blogging going against one of my core values. So I'm using this, my second post, to come clean. Confession is good for the soul. I feel authentic. For now.

I believe authenticity is essential for Christ-followers. But it raises a question: if the mission of our church is "leading people in the adventure of becoming like Christ" how does that fit with authenticity? If the core of our mission is trying to help people be like someone else, i.e. Jesus, is "authentic Christ-follower" an oxymoron? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, February 25, 2010