Monday, November 7, 2016

Over and Over

Last week I wrote a little about routines. Finding our way to make God a priority.  
I received some really open responses from friends and readers. 

Some practice a schedule. Some don’t. A few were honest enough to admit they don’t make God a priority and others tried to justify their lack of reading the Bible, tithing and praying with the ever familiar “There are just sometimes I can’t.”

For me, in my daily life I would find myself shoe horning God in and scheduling things I wanted to do.

After talking to a few people who I genuinely trust I decided to schedule my time with God.  

My old schedule was this….

I wake up on weekdays at 7:15. I’ll then lay in bed till 7:30 and then rise and get ready for work. I usually get to work in a 5 minute window of 8am.

After work, when there isn’t church or class I go home and work on freelance for a while. Eat with the family and then work a little more.  About 8pm I stop work and go hang out with the family for roughly 30 minutes while we get everyone to bed.  Then Lin and i provided she doesn’t have school work will sit and talk or watch tv until about 11 and head to bed.

That was until now. I started last Monday on my new normal.

I didn’t adjust anything in my schedule except for what time I get up.  I wanted schedule time with God just like I would schedule an important meeting because thats what it is. 

I decided after reading a few articles here and here that its best to get up at the exact same time everyday. This way your body can find a rhythm and be less tired feeling.  I have to admit I am almost always tired. I used to take a weird pride in the fact that I could nap anywhere at anytime. Never even occurred to me that it could be a sign of something amiss.

I chose to start this new schedule on my vacation and its not been easy. I did cheat a couple days and took a nap a couple hours after I got up.  

Here is my new normal.

I wake up at 6am every morning. I’m writing this at 10am on Sat and I have been up since 6. As soon as my alarm rings I get up. I don’t lie there. I don’t hit snooze I force my body out of bed.
I make a quick breakfast and head to my office

It’s there with God that I have my first "meeting" of the day. I either watch/listen to a sermon or physically study the Bible.  This averages 40 minutes. I take notes while I watch/listen/read.  After that I read my devotion. I use the you version bible app like so many others I know. Then I journal.  I’m not very good at that yet but I still do it.
I pray and I get ready for work.

I’m anticipating and looking forward to times when my meeting goes long. Days where I get so deep in worship or praise, journaling or prayer that I am late for work. 

Right now however I wish I could tell you that I love it. I wish I could tell you that I’ve never felt better. Never felt closer to God, but I can’t. Not yet at least.  

What I can tell you is I have changed my pattern. A routine that repeated over time will yield a return.  Reaping the benefits of any change takes time. You don’t get ripped after working out for a week.  The point it the push.  I have to push through the grogginess, the irritability, the flesh and make it to the reward. 
Steven Furtick puts it like this, “If you resist the monotonous you’ll miss the miraculous.”

 I’ve heard growing up that after 30 days something becomes a habit. 30 days is how long it takes to change. However that is based on research from the 60’s and a study in 2009 discovered it is closer to 60 days before a behavior becomes automatic.

So here I am on day 6 and it’s not been a game changer yet.  I have no intentions of stopping.  For me this is what it takes to make sure God is part of my life and that is more important than my comfort.  

Thanks for reading.
Alan

UPDATE: I wrote this blog on Sat and didn't really think about this but I woke up 2 minutes before my alarm.  Sunday the same thing, I woke up before my alarm. Today is Monday the 7th and again my internal alarm woke me up within 5 minutes prior to my actual alarm going off.  My body is starting to adjust. So is my mind. This morning I didn't even fix breakfast I was so excited to get to my Bible that I went straight to it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Something BIG!

At the end of this blog, I’m going to ask you to participate.  I want you to email me at alan@lifepointlebanon.com with your responses.  It may genuinely help someone else.

We all want God do something big in our lives.  We want that miracle that huge something to show everyone His power in our lives.  
Sometimes it’s something we really want like the healing of a seemingly hopeless disease. Sometimes its that new building, or position. 
A lot of the time its selfish stuff, it’s more money and better car. A status symbol we can’t afford only to hang it on ourselves and tell people “humbly” that it’s Gods blessing and favor.

We want BIG things.  We pray (when we do pray) for BIG things.

We want BIG things from Him but we won’t do little things for Him.

Prayer, reading our Bibles and tithing are all little things. Things so often we try to shoe-horn into our life rather than scheduling them.  
If you have time and you aren't too tired maybe you will read your Bible before you go to sleep.  It was a long night though so I’ll catch up in the morning.
Maybe you pledged more time on the pray10k than you really intended to pray.  
Maybe "if" you have extra money you might give a little to God so people don’t see the plate pass you by.

We ask for the BIG and we don’t find time to do the little.  

If you have met Jesus and have accepted His gift of salvation, if you have made Him Lord of your life you have salvation.  I’m not writing about salvation. I’m writing about blessings.  The things you ask for or want from Him apart from the salvation he has already graciously provided to our undeserving selves.  Rather we tack on these wants and these desires.

It reminds me of when a parent gives their teen a car but the teen complains about having to pay for their own gas. Or doesn’t want to get a job or work enough hours at a job to pay for the fuel.

We get this gift but we want more.  Like any parent though God wants us to come to Him and ask for help. He wants us to rely on Him and expect things from Him but he also wants us to do some work.
To take partnership in our relationship with Him. 

This has been gestating in my mind for a while now.  One of my best friends recently moved back to town and he was talking about working from home and his schedule.  He is a very detail oriented person and thrives with a schedule.
I want to be that person. I want to schedule and make time for the things that will bring me closer to God.  You can do these things anytime you want. If you are more disciplined than me you can read your Bible in the evening. You can pray in the middle of the day. 
My problem is I don’t.  I want to, I just get lost in the days tasks and I don’t.

Then last week with this rolling around in my head I got a chance to sit down with some leaders and friends and ask how they do it. How do they find time everyday to spend with God.

That was when pastor Kelly said that he used to have a problem getting up early to spend time with God.  Until he realized that he had no problem getting up early to go fishing or hunting.  He could get up with a glad heart at 4:30 in the morning to go hunting but getting up early to spend time with God was harder.  This revelation changed the way he thought about getting up and greeting the day.

Just hearing him say that changed my way of thinking.  I felt selfish and stubborn.  I want BIG things but I don’t make time in my life for the little things. 
You can’t reap the harvest if you don’t plant the seed.

Kelly’s words and my friend Johns actions encouraged me to step up and change my life to find a new normal.  

I want to know where and when you find time for God. What is your routine? How do you manage to be a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister or a teen and find time for God?

Maybe your way will encourage someone else to change theirs. Together we can ask as a  body for the BIG things knowing we were faithful in the little.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. Luke 6:10 esv 

Maybe you don’t have a way yet. Now is the time. Talk to others and find a way that works for you.  

Thanks for Reading.
Alan



Monday, October 17, 2016

Running on Empty

I have been thinking a lot recently about leadership. This is due in part to the fact that I am taking a leadership class. It is also due partly to that fact that Kelly keeps us reading as a group.  We subscribe heavily to the idea that leaders are readers at Lifepoint and Kelly backs that up with recommending then reading books on leadership with us.

With that said leadership is often on my mind.

It’s been a busy weekend followed by a busy Monday. Lots of ministry opourtunities and responsibilities.  I was reading a book this evening and it pointed out that a huge problem for leaders in ministry is when they give more than they get.

This isn’t talking about finances, or doing your job. It’s talking about emotional and spiritual health.  I have a tendency to spread myself thin. To pray often about what God would have me say to those that want to talk to me. Those that see me as a pastor.  I want to be for them a spiritual boost.  For the teens I want to be a a consistent presence and someone that knows when to listen and also when to advise. Most the time its just the listening that does the job.

When the weekend comes around and its time for us to fill our hearts with Gods word and fellowship I can get into work mode. I might miss the sermon because something needs my attention. I may not get to it that week either as there are more pressing matters. I’ve went several weeks without hearing a sermon.

That’s not good. That is far from good. How can we expect to be there for each other and to help each other out if we are empty.  We can’t pour our what we don’t take in.  Without that weekly break of being fueled I have less to give others. 
When someone you know and care about is going through a difficult time they need you. You have a responsibility to be there and support each other in times of need, in times of triumph and times of grief. 

When days like today come and they are ministry heavy you need to have enough gas to fuel those that need it and get yourself back to the pump.
I'm thankful for leadership that reminds me of that. The fuel light might come on from time to time but I won't let it run dry. I will focus on taking in more than I burn up so I don't burn out.

There is a song by the band mewithoutyou called “A Glass Can Only Spill What it Contains”

During a week what do you fill yourself with that you can pour into others?  

I can’t encourage you enough to make church a priority. We are called to live in fellowship.
You have to fuel up to go farther.  Sunday is more than a day off. Take it use it for what God intended not just what you want. 

Don’t pass the pump, the next station might not come along for a week at least.

Thanks for reading


Alan

Monday, October 10, 2016

Say Less

This is just one of my clear my head blogs. No huge truth no nugget of wisdom. Just me typing because it’s Monday and I post a blog on Mondays. 
 So I guess I’ll just tell you all what i’m thinking and call it a night.  I’ve been trying to write this since about 7:30 it’s now 12:08.  I know I’m not going to be able to sleep when I finally do go to bed unless I’m just so tired my brain shuts off.  

So here goes this is my big take away from today.....

You can talk too much, but you can never talk to little.

I need to work on that.  I talk a lot.  I try to defend my point and it doesn't really matter.  The majority of things that come up in life are stupid battles that won’t matter in a weeks time. 

Whether its the upcoming election.
Most of us already know who it is we are going to vote for so running one candidate down doesn’t do anything but get you into pointless arguments that won’t matter in less than a month. Just pick one and vote. 
Voting booths are private for a reason.

Or if its just doing what you have to do because your told to do it.  Just accept it and move on.

I’m in Col Steve’s leadership class right now and a quote from the book we are reading  seems to fit.  The author John Maxwell writes  “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”

I don’t think he's saying that nothing really matters but rather we place a lot of emphasis most the time on things that won’t even be a thought in our head this time next month

So next time you find yourself in a situation, whether you believe you are right or not ask yourself if it will matter in a week and if the answer is no, then say less.
If it doesn't pass over then you haven't said anything that you regret and if it does pass then you don't look ridiculous for making a mountain out of a molehill. Just say less.

It’s just a better way of putting the old saying don’t sweat the small stuff.

I’ve sweat enough for one day.

Good night and thanks for reading.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Brand New World

I was watching the Hillsong documentary Let Hope Rise tonight and I heard a lyric. I don’t know what song it was, I heard the lyric and then I felt God give me the nugget of truth that would grow to this blog.

The lyric was “to see a brand new world”.  

Instantly it took my mind to images of a a newborn baby and thoughts of a new Christian.
So often when someone goes to the altar. Those of us that are established in our faith, I think expects them to immediately be transported in their walk to where we are. Or at very least to where we think they should be.

When they don’t instantly stop talking the way they used to. Or watching the movies they used to we question their conversion.

I had the blessing of getting to visit baby Gabby twice recently in the hospital. Gabby, if you are unaware was born to Matt and Laura Latall 3 months early. She is a beautiful baby girl with a ridiculous amount of hair.   
Seeing her there so vulnerable, tiny and reliant is how we are when we finally lay our lives down for Christ. You might be 33 years old like me but you are a brand new creature. A newborn. Everything you see you are seeing with new eyes. Everything you hear you are hearing with new ears. You are newborn. It is a brand new world.

That is why Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth describes his teaching to new believers like this  “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren't ready for anything stronger. And you still aren't ready,”  1 Corinthians 3:2 

We all grow at a different rate.  Paul knew that.

At LifePoint we have been blessed to baptize a lot of people recently. It’s up to the rest of us to guide these new believers. To love them and encourage them. To not expect too much from them too fast.  Let them grow. 
After all paraphrasing Philippians 1:6 the Jesus that began a good work in you and promises to see it thru has done the same for them.

God will eventually raise them to a new level like He did you. Hopefully this idea will help you filter your encounters with new Christians and even non-believers.  Whether in person or online. 
When you see someone on Facebook post something inappropriate or use language from the old life look at it again thru the filter of how long (or if at all) they have been a follower of Christ.

Be a good example, be patient and Love First.

Thanks for reading
Alan

Monday, September 5, 2016

It's not a Sprint.

Pray 10k is upon us. You are going to hear a lot about this in the coming weeks as well as read plenty about it on our various blogs. 

First I want to tell you why it is important to me.  I could go into scripture about how the Bible says you are supposed to pray. I could point out the times Jesus prayed but I'm not going to do that.  What I am going to do is tell you a fact about me.

I have a terrible prayer life, its true and its sad.  Most mornings I start the day with a quick prayer for my family and our day. Maybe something that is worrying me. This is usually about 2-3 minutes of actual prayer punctuated by mind wandering and the occasional fall back to sleep.

During the day I pray for anyone I say I will pray for immediately. I do it right away because I don’t want to forget.  This is another couple minutes. 

Sometimes when I drive I’ll pray, however I live less than 3 minutes from work so that is a 6 minute tops.

When I go to bed I start a prayer that usually ends with me falling asleep.  The Lord seldom hears an “amen” from me after 9pm. The average person takes 8 minutes to fall asleep when they are tired and I am nearly always tired so lets add 8 minutes.

That is how my life goes.  I want to do better but I don’t.  I think I am too busy, I think its not as important as some of the pastoral work I do. I am wrong.

So when Kelly sprung pray 10k on us I was excited and nervous.  He asked for the staff to pledge 100 hours.  That’s 2.5 hours a day, up roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes from my usual.
As leaders we should do as much or more than we expect of others so a few of us have uped our commitment to 3 hours. 
So to me this challenge is important because God willing it will be habit forming and reshape my prayer life.

How am I going to do this? Especially since it seems like I barely have time for 20 minutes?

Prioritize: I am going to put prayer as top priority for the next 40 days.  I will put prayer before entertainment, prayer before work, prayer before family time, prayer before “me time”.
For 40 days prayer will be the most important thing I do.


Rise: I am committed to getting up a little over an hour earlier each day in order to go on a prayer walk around our church and its neighborhood.  I will bathe this block in prayer.  I will focus 1 hour everyday to both praise for what God has done for us as a church and guidance for what is next.  I will pray for families in and around this church. For businesses on the block and the people that work in them.

Fast: In order to carve out time, I will skip a few meals in order to use that time to simply pray.

Write: I’m not the best writer but I enjoy it and I will be writing out some of my prayers. I will be basically writing a letter to god everyday.

Abide: I will use the smartphone app Abide everyday to help focus and guide my prayers.
If you don’t have abide I recommend you download it and give it a shot.  It really helps me focus and keep my mind on God as I pray.  It gently reminds us that a wandering mind is normal and helps rein me back in. You can check out more about abide including download links on their website here.

I’d love to hear some ways that you are going to adjust to this new 40 day prayer challenge.
Feel free to email me at alan@lifepointlebanon.com or leave comments below. 

Pray 10k is not a sprint, its a marathon. There will be days you don't hit your goal. There will be days that you are down and feel far from God finding it hard to pray.  On those days reach out to someone. Share your wins and your loses.  Most importantly remember it's ok to miss your mark. You pledged an amount of minutes or hours and if it takes you more than 40 days that is ok. God is not in a hurry. We are celebrating the commitment not the deadline.

It’s not to late to pledge either. You can fill out a card at anytime here at LifePoint and start your journey.  Lives are going to change because of this and you can be part of it.  Even if its 10 minutes a day more than you usually pray that is 7 hours of sincere prayer over the next 40 days.


Lets do this as a family.


Alan

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Bride: Why I go to Church

I have read 2 blogs this week and it’s only Monday.  I read 71 books last year and I’m on pace to read that many or more this year. For as many books as I read I spend a lot of time reading blogs and sermons, religious though both pro and con.
I’ve heard said and I believe that leaders are readers.
I love the reading list on my phone. If I'm out and about and I see an article that catches my eye on a website I can hit the glasses symbol and add it to a reading list for later. It’s awesome and if you aren’t using it you should be.
Do it for a month, just add stuff to it then at the end of the month its like you have your own private curated magazine.

the other day I was on Facebook and an article called “Why Attending Church is So Important” popped up.  The author is Matt Brown, an evangelist, author of Awakening and founder of Think Eternity. It’s not the best article I have read on the subject but I saved it for my reading list and finally got to it today.
I remembered it because there was blog going around with reasons why a christian doesn’t need church. So I read both.

Probably the best thing I have read on reasons to go to church was written by pastor Rick Warren. Rick Warren if you are somehow unaware wrote the book Purpose Driven Life. He is the founder and lead pastor of Saddleback church. Saddleback church has touched literally millions of lives. Through written word, sermons, or out reaches. They are the gold standard.

Pastor Warren delivered a sermon in 2003 that is a very comprehensive sermon on What God says about church, and other reasons you need a church if the “Because I said so” by God isn’t enough for you. You can read it here but be warned it’s long.

Instead of going over his reasons though I am going to tell you why I need church.

I was hurt by several churches and crushed by one denomination. I decided I didn’t need church. I was convinced I could do this on my own.  
What I ended up doing in those subsequent years was build a god that was made in my image rather than me in His.
See it turned out that when I stopped going to church a lot of the things I wanted to do that I knew God frowned on was fine with god now.
I could simply google things like “reason’s why ________ is ok for a christian” and find dozens if not hundreds of articles why all this stuff God was against from sexual immorality to what I put in my body turned out to be fine with god.  I mean I had articles to prove it.  Anything I wanted in my little human heart to do or get away with could be easily justified by articles online. Someone had already done the work for me.

So I drifted farther from church, though god and I stayed tight. Turns out I didn’t need to pray much either anymore.  
I might have read my bible more in that time than I have at any other time before my complete surrender in 2013.
I could tell people I was reading the bible and some were impressed. Some didn’t care cuz they were worshipping my god too.
All that did was make them feel better about their choice. Thats something too. It's amazing how people that make the same poor or selfish decision will back each others play.

I could have went on like that forever if God had not rescued me from the slippery slope. I could have lead my family down the path marked “decide for yourself”.

God rescued me on February 13th 2013 as I slept he formed in me a new heart. A heart soft with His fingerprints.
It was way easier to not go to church, I assure you.  It’s almost always easier to not do something than to do something. 
The fact that you are reading this right now and it would be way easier not to is astounding, so thank you for continuing.

I believe deeply that it’s not about me.  It was about me, until it was about Him. Now it’s about them.

So thats the best reason I can give you to attend a church.
The church is full of hypocrites thats true. So is Walmart but I'm sure I’ll see you there.

I attend church because God can do more with my 10% than I can do with 100%.  That’s true with my tithe and it’s true with my time.

In the last 5 years locally I have helped dozens of families with food assistance or shelter personally. 
I have tithed and watched God honor that tithe in my personal life and watched the church use that tithe and others like it to provide shoes for over 50 kids that couldn’t afford them. To send christmas gifts to active military. Feed countless numbers in our town. Help break the chains of addiction. Turn lives completely around and bring friends and family to Jesus.  The list could go on for pages.
Internationally, personally I have helped build a kitchen in Haiti. I have served orphans in Ethiopia.  Through the church I've helped plant churches and change lives in Ethiopia and other countries as well as feed orphans and further the gospel to a degree that without the church I could not have feasibly done.
I've been part of, either in the crowd or actively participating in 65 baptisms just this year. Lives are changing. Lives that may never have changed.  People that may have never met Jesus and thus spend an eternity separated from Him.
When two of my best friends had a tragedy recently, I saw a church rush to comfort and mourn with them. To take care of them in a way that family alone couldn't have.  The whole church hypocrites and all.

In my wildest dreams, working as hard as I can without a church and that connection with that encouragement I could not have accomplished an eighth of that.  Maybe, just maybe I lead some one to God  while I'm on my own but would it be the God or my god? I don’t know.  
I need that anchor to hold me steady. I need the teaching and correcting so my vision doesn’t get blurred by what I want to do.

We can do more as a whole body than I can as just a finger.

Take away my job, any perceived status or influence I have and I'll still be there week in week out because I need it.  I've been without it and I know that road.

Paul, who I’m gonna go ahead and say was better than any of us was flabbergasted by the fact that he found it hard to do what was right because his flesh was so hard at work wanting to do whats wrong (roughly paraphrased from Romans 7:15-20)
This was a man that was all about the church. Building the church attending a church living and growing together.
If it was hard for him in a church how hard is it for me without one?

For those of you unhappy at your church and looking for a reason to leave, stop read these articles please. 

For those of you that were hurt like me, I urge you to find a church.  Grow in that church serve in that church be part of that church reach others in that church. Live out the great commission in that church. 
When you get hurt, like you will in any family happy or not you get over it and you carry on. It’s not about you, thanks to Him it’s about them. Help them, Love them. 

Love and lead as many of them as you can in the time you have.

Thanks for Reading.
Alan