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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who Says Water and Oil Don't Mix???

Yesterday I experienced a mixing of water and oil. In the morning, we Beeson Pastors met with Kent Reynolds for a time of song, prayer and devotional reflections. Kent talked about thirsting for God, something that hits home in my heart of late. To conclude our time together he encouraged us to dip our hands into the holy baptismal waters of the little chapel we met in as a symbol of our deep thirst for more of God in our lives and ministries.

Later in the day, we experienced oil on those same hands. Dr. Steve Seamands, who is teaching our class on The Theology of Ministry, was talking about how Christ's wounds can not only heal our wounds but take our deepest wounds and turn them into a redemptive work of grace. That is, God shows us in Christ that He can take the wounds that the world inflicts upon us and actually use those wounds to bring healing and wholeness to others. In essence we, like Christ, can become wounded healers. As a symbol of this, Steve anointed the palms of our hands with oil to symbolize the giving of our nail pierced wounds for His glory.

So, you see, water and oil does fact, yesterday it mixed to perfection within God's plan for the renewal of my life and ministry.

Here are some quotes from the class on The Theology of Ministry that I think you will enjoy. Whether you are a lay or pastoral minister, these quotes are liberating reminders of what life and ministry is all about:

“God exists in personal relationship and therefore cannot be known in any other way except by relationship” --Eugene Peterson

"The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection...Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘Beloved.’” --Henri Nouwen

“I am willing to travel and preach as long as I live; and I hope I shall not live long after I am unable to travel...Live or die, I must ride.” —Francis Asbury

“God wants lovers. Oh, how tepid is the love of so many who call themselves by His name. How tepid is our own - my own - in comparison with the lava fires of his eternal love. I pray that you may be an ardent lover, the kind of lover who sets others on fire.” --Amy Carmichael

"In order to grab hold of the new trapeze bar that God throws us, we must let go of the bar that has become familiar and comfortable to us; we grow by our willingness to let go and to take hold of the next bar. Risk-taking will always entail putting our religious reputation on line; risk-taking is all about who is in control- if it’s us we won’t risk, when it’s God who is in control we will take risks." --Steve Seamands

“I am grateful I do not have to love—I have to allow love to love me into loving.” —E. Stanley Jones

“Death is God’s delightful way of giving us life.”--Oswald Chambers

“Jesus isn’t try to make you better--He’s trying to make you deader.” --Francis Frangipane

"As one of His redeemed ones, you are His delight, and all His desire is to you, with the longing of a love which is stronger than death, and which many waters cannot quench. His heart yearns after you, seeking your fellowship and your love…His life is bound up in yours; you are to Him inexpressibly more indispensable and precious than you ever can know.” —Andrew Murray

“The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is service for Him.” --Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Preaching and Preschool

We had our first round of sermons last week. All ten of us Beeson Pastors preached a sermon in a small chapel on campus and then received from each other both positive and constructively critical feedback. Professor Kent Reynolds, a former Beeson Pastor himself with over 30 years of ministry experience, did a great job as the instructor for the course. The guys effectively "divided the word of truth" and we lovingly challenged each other to do it even better for the glory of God and the advance of Christ's kingdom.
The preaching class, in a healthy way, made us feel like preschoolers again. That is, we're trying to unlearn some preaching habits and learn some new ones. In a sense, we're sort of going back to the "preschool" of our preaching ministries and re-learning, learning and un-learning some things. And this is good...except that I started sucking my thumb and drinking out of a sippy cup again!

That's probably a terrible transition to let you know that Zachary, Lia, Sam and a host of other Beeson Pastor kids have begun their preschool adventure at the Southland Christian Church. Like our Creative Learning Center preschool staff at the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, the staff seems dedicated to the Christian nurture of our children. Here are some more pictures of our kids on the first day of preschool, along with some of the other Beeson preschoolers.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Attending The Leadership Summit With 100,000 Leaders From All Over The World

This past week, we Beeson Pastors took part in the Leadership Summit in Lexington Kentucky with 100,000 leaders from all over the world. The actual conference took place at Willow Creek Community Church outside of Chicago, where Bill Hybels serves as senior pastor, and we participated live via satelite. This three day leadership training event included insights from people such as Bill Hybels, Colin Powell, Jimmy Carter, John Ortberg and others. It was a powerful three day event that focused largely on how we leaders can assertively and strategically make a difference in the name of Christ among the neediest people in our communities and world.

God spoke to my heart in numerous and challenging ways. While the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, the church I serve as senior pastor, in the past few years has done more than we ever have to serve the hungry, homeless and hurting in our community, there is so much more we can and must do. The needs are great but the remedy of Jesus Christ and His Church is equal to the challenge. There are so many people all over the world, people who are not yet professing Christians or church goers, who are using much of their fame, fortune, energy and influence to tirelessly serve the needs of the poor. This is happening while many Christians in many churches are becoming insular, far removed from engagement with the world's most horrific problems. I don't know about you, but I feel embarassed by how little I have done for the needy, especially in light of how much many agnostics have done. And yet, we Christians are the ones who claim to worship and follow Jesus Christ, who came to preach "good news to the poor and set the captives free" (Luke 4). I came away from the conference asking, how can my leadership be used by God to set captives free in my community and world? I also came away saying, "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me a sinner."

Tim Gilbertsen, SWC's assistant pastor, is continuing to provide teaching on this important issue as it relates to the church we lead. There are many things going through my mind about how I and we can use our God-given resources like finances, time, gifts, abilities and voice to serve the people who seem to have a very special place, not in the eyes of the world, but in the heart of God.

A body that is disproportionate to the head looks really funny. If we, the church body, fail to be congruent with Christ the head, the world will laugh at the misfit. Therefore, let's follow our leader Jesus Christ who was full of the kind of compassion for needy people that led Him to action.

If we are the body...


Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Day In The Life Of A Monk

Last week I, along with the rest of the Beeson crew, were taken to the Abbey of Gethsemani Monastery in Trappist, Kentucky (pictured above) where we enjoyed two days of almost complete silence and solitude. (Believe it or not, I can keep quiet). We worshiped 7 times each day (that's right- we went to church 7 times in one day) with the nearly 40 monks who lived there. The first time of worship was 3:15 am, called Vigils, and the last service was at 7:30 pm, called Compline. The worship times consisted mainly of the monks leading us in the singing of Psalms to God. They feel their primary purpose is to sing praise to God throughout the day. Not a bad reason for existence, if you ask me. One of the best things about the monastery, for most men at least, is that we got to eat meals in total silence with no pressure to talk. Food without small talk...a man's dream!

All joking aside, this 2 day experience impacted me greatly. It's amazing how much God has to say to us when we take the time to get away and listen for His voice. When no words are spoken and distractions are minimal it's amazing how the voice of God speaks profoundly into the silent stillness of our lives. And speak He did! I have pages and pages of reflections that I recorded in my journal. God met with me to confirm His calling upon my life and to sharpen that calling so that I am more about His business than my own. As I worshiped frequently, read Scripture, prayed and observed His beauty through nature the main message that God kept speaking into the silence was basically, "Len, your life and ministry will become what it can be if you focus more of your energy on the Lord of the work and not merely the on work of the Lord." I came away from this experience hungrier for Christ and more appreciative of His astounding grace. I believe the rest of my Beeson Pastor brothers felt the same.

Since a number of people from the Stroudsburg Wesleyan Church, where I serve as senior pastor, check out this blog I wanted to include a prayer that I believe I was inspired by God to write on their behalf. Here it is: "Lord, pour out Your Spirit upon them in a way that is undeniably Your doing. May their corporate times of worship, fellowship, study, and service become habits that draw them deeper into Your love. Protect them from fear, discouragement, apathy and pride while You work within their hearts to heal their wounds and hold their hands to help them live life to the absolute full." I love you, SWC!

Here are some more pictures from the monastery that I think you'll enjoy, interspersed with some pics from Sam's first birthday on August 3.