Friday, January 15, 2010

State of the church address

As executive pastor it is my responsibility to compose and present a state of the church address to the members and attenders of Willoughby Hills Friends Church. We keep attendees in the loop each month on the performance of the fellowship but its always good to have an end of the year summary. Permit me to highlight the bullet points from Sunday's presentation and share with you God's leading for my life.

First of all I am pleased to say that WHFC is in a good place as we enter the new year. Three years ago the church suffered a serious split that took 300 people away and several hundreds of thousands of dollars from the annual receipts. Due to the concerted effort of all who remained we have been able to stabilize in just three years and are seeing God do incredible things in our midst!

For the second year in a row since the split we have finished financially in the black. That means we spent less money than we received. In 2009 we not only showed black ink on the bottom line but actually surpassed our approved budget! In addition we significantly exceeded our mission budget last year in giving which really speaks to the heart and vision of the congregation.

In 2009 our attendance leveled out at 1100 and began showing signs of growth. In addition, our benevolent programs exploded with growth. We moved our buses out of the four bay garage and turned it into an outreach center for the community. Also, over this past month our leadership re-affirmed the vision, mission and objectives that were established three years ago and are actively using them as a template for future strategy, staffing and ministry.

These are great days for WHFC! She is spiritually, emotionally, financially and relationally healthy enough to embrace change. At this time our leaders are revisiting and re-visioning job descriptions in preparation for staff recalls and future hires and a search committee is in place to search out a new lead pastor.

Lisa and I sense God leading us into a different type of ministry at this time. We have served in this great church for 12 years but will not be extending our call beyond June. Rather we are moving to Haviland Kansas to assume a position on the President's cabinet of Barclay College and to assist in opening a new mission field for Evangelical Friends in Brazil. We will have more information to share about our involvement in Brazil over the next several months as plans take shape. As far as the position at Barclay College is concerned I will be assuming the position of Provost/Vice President of Academic Services in July.

These are exciting days for WHFC! God is up to something big here. Please pray for the Halverstadts as we transition from Ohio to Kansas over the next several months. Let us all pray from the next team of leaders God has on the hook for WHFC and for His anointing to be over her ministry. Together let's all embrace change for the glory of our Savior-Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Men's Fight Club

Chef Bubba Harth just reported that breakfast will be served at Fight Club this week! Men, gather in the Church Cafe at 7:30 am for fellowship, food and Bible study. The cost? You must listen to bad jokes and give a free will donation for the food! :-)

Passages to ponder ...

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand are pleasures forever (Psalms 16:11)

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully (Matthew 5:6)

I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me (Psalm 16:7)

He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Men's activities ...

Men's Church at the Meetinghouse at 7 pm in room 152. Tonight's discussion topic: "The Outrageous Offerings of Christ to Humanity"

Thursday Breakfast:
7 am at Flavors on the Vine in Eastlake (one block west of SOM on Vine street)

Fight Club in the Cafe at the Meetinghouse, 7:30 am. The passage for discussion this week is I John 3.

I am ...

Here's some passages to ponder:

I am gifted with love, power and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)
I am chosen for success (John 15:16)
I am complete in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:9-10)
I am secure in Christ (Romans 8:31-39)
I am confident (Philippians 1:6)
I am free (Romans 6:16-18; 8:1-2)
I am capable of handling life today (Philippians 4:13)
I am the embodiment of Jesus Christ today (Ephesians 2:5)
I am God's workmanship (Ephesians 2:10)
I am valuable to God (I Corinthians 6:20)
I am a member of God's family (Ephesians 2:19)
I am God's treasure (I Peter 2:9-10)
I am dearly loved by God ((Colossians 3:12)
I am a new creation in Christ Jesus (@ Corinthians 5:17)
I am forgiven of all my sin (Ephesians 1:6-8)
I am an heir of God (Romans 8:12)
I am the friend of God (John 15:15)

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Badge of Discipleship

Jesus said, "A new command I give unto you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). Throughout the Gospels, Christ teaches that love is the key component for those who profess His name. Author William Fletcher refers to this as the "badge of discipleship." He continues on by summarizing the important elements of Jesus' love demonstrated in the scriptures. Christ's love:

> Showed concern about people's families, homes, and health.

> He was willing to take time for people in need even though He was engaged in a busy ministry.

> He provided others faithful support in the spiritual battle by intercessory prayer.

> He extended complete forgiveness, even when it seemed undeserved.

> He humbly served others.

> He laid down His life for others.

So it is with us. If we are to love others as Jesus commanded, we must learn to express a practical love for the whole person. It must be the kind of love Jesus has demonstrated.

This kind of love only becomes a reality when our lives are totally under the Savior's control. Only then can He love others through us, so what is impossible in human strength becomes possible through the indwelling presence and power of Christ in us. Only in this way can we love others as He has loved us.

Heavenly Father reveal Yourself through me this day.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Defining the Second Command ...

A contemporary paraphrase of the parable of the Good Samartian could go something like this:

"A man lies injured along a country road leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. Another man comes along riding on his Harley Davidson motorcycle. When he sees the injured man he immediately pulls over to the side of the road, stops, leans over and asks in a concerned tone, "would you like to use my cell phone to call someone?" Hearing nothing the biker rides off mumbling, "I hope that guy has good health coverage. He's going to need it with those injuries!"

That's hardly the attitude Jesus communicated in the parable or that John wrote of when he penned, "We know love by this, that Jesus Christ laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for our brethren. But whoever has the world's goods and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (I John 3:16-17). The love of God (steeped in mercy) pities and relieves the miseries of His creation. Why? Because God always responds out of His nature ... and God is love.

Fulfilling the Second Command of Jesus "to love thy neighbor" is not just a feeling, however deep or strong it might be: it is goodness in action prompted by a Divine compassion within the heart of man. A compassion that is the DNA of God imparted into the fiber of man at the point of full surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The litmus test for a true disciple of Jesus is the demonstration of love. Nothing more and nothing less!

Christians need to come face to face with this reality of scripture. Too often we attempt through our church ministries to go "win souls for Jesus" by inviting them into our services and special programming while ignoring the obvious physical needs of those who pass us by. Jesus never separated the two. We must always be mindful that Christ put the "Go" into the "Gospel" for a reason. For a church that stays behind brick and mortar never really has opportunity to love the world as Jesus did.

G. H. Morrison writes,
"Love never asks how little can I do ... love always asks how much. Love does not merely go to the measured mile ... love travels to the uttermost. Love never haggles, never bargains, with nicely calculated less or more. Love is generous ... abounding in grace and mercy."

Thanks for stopping by today!

Genuine relationship

"I want to ...

Love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting.

If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other."

(Taken from a poster in an alcoholic rehabilitation center)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Get real!

What is real? asked the Rabbit one day before Nana came to tidy the room. Does it mean having things that buzz or whistle inside you or a handle that sticks out?

Real isn't how you are made said the Skin Horse. It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL!

Doesn't it hurt? asked the Rabbit.

Of course, said the Skin Horse because he was always truthful. But when you are real you don't mind being hurt because that is what Real does.

Does it hurt all at once or more like being wound up bit by bit? asked Rabbit.

It doesn't happen all at once, said the Skin Horse. It's a process and it takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby looking. But when you are Real these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to the people who don't understand (Margery Williams, "The Velveteen Rabbit", pgs. 16-17).

The second command of Jesus Christ is to "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22). Easier said than done eh? Love involves pain as modeled by the life of Jesus Christ. Real people love and love really hurts. Unfortunately without Christ many turn away from the pain of love. Selfishly thinking, "I deserve better!" Believing they have a right not to hurt. Some things however can only be experienced through suffering and loss ... being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ is first and foremost.

Getting Real means to expect (even anticipate) suffering and pain in relationship with others. It will involve seeing the heart of God at work rather than Satan through adverse circumstances and in the face and actions of the difficult people you live or work with. Becoming Real means re framing life's expectations to include self-giving and self-sacrificing for others "as unto the Lord" as the norm.

What say you?

Monday, January 4, 2010

God always behaves like Himself

God always behaves like Himself and how grateful I am that this is so. No matter what the occasion God always responds out of His nature ... and God is love. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving kindness."

Such love is fully explained through the life of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ brings us face to face with the love of God. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God "demonstrating His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). I like the story of the little boy who suffered from reoccurring nightmares one evening. His Dad would rush to his side in comfort each time and say, "son there is no need for you to fear because God is right here beside you." Each time the young boy would reply, "okay dad" and soon return to sleep. However after several bouts he said to his dad with tears streaming down his face, "I know God is with me but I need someone with skin on!"

John reminds us that our benevolent God "became flesh and lived among us." That's what Love (God) does. He gives us "skin" when we need it! This is true of His followers as well. We will naturally be "skin" for others because we share the nature of God.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe describes the nature of God in man as though it were a compass. Just as a compass always responds to the magnetic field of the earth so will man respond to the love of God manifest through our "skin". When we put on the "skin" of Jesus for others and get close to them they will sense the power, presence and draw of God in respond to His nature. God will always behave like Himself ... in and through you! So put on your Jesus skin and go live your life to the fullest. His love will do the rest!

Thanks for stopping by!