Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s That Time Again Already?

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

Well it may be hard to believe but it is true. Time waits on no man and it does seem to fly when you are having fun and when you get older. I am in the middle of both. God has blessed me with a life of joy and blessing and I am getting older with the tic and the tock of each passing second, so my time is flying fast.
You maybe feeling a little surprised that it is indeed this time again so soon as well. The years move fast for all of us, unless you are a child in school waiting on summer to arrive…lol. I want to share briefly about three things that cause me to stop and say, “it’s that time again, already?” And these things may have you surprised or may have snuck upon you too.

First of all, Spring Break is happening all around us or you may have already had yours. But Spring has sprung and Summer is rapidly approaching. As I guess you have noticed, I am not here in church with you today, that is because we are gone of a short vacation. It is Shari’s spring break and so we have gone to see her and spend a little R&R with her. So I am talking about Vacation Time! It is hard to believe that it is that time again already, but here it is.

Everybody needs a vacation once in a while. You shouldn’t feel guilty for taking one and enjoying some relaxation and time with family. But can I also say that when you vacate, don’t vacate from God, and remember your church when you plan your time away. Sometimes we suffer from some diseases in the summer and at vacation time and I want to warn you again about them.

The first summer disease is Vacation-itis. This is when we are so worn out from work and other of life’s activities that we feel we just must “get away from it all.” The problem is we get away from work, but we leave God out and forget about the church. We go on a trip and forget when Sunday comes that the Lord never stops or takes a break from caring for us, so we should worship Him wherever we are. We also often forget to make sure our post are covered back at the church. We leave, go on our nice get away and forget that the class we teach will not have a prepared teacher due to our forgetfulness brought on by vacation-itis. So check for symptoms before your vacation come and remember to cover your posts of service before you leave so that no job is left undone and remember to plan where you will worship on your trip so the forgetfulness of vacation-itis does not cause you to forget to thank God for His blessing you with this wonderful get away. BTW Becky and I are getting to visit in Shari’s new place of worship where she has settled, pray for the services there. By the way, Vacation-itis if not treated immediately will often lead to the second disease of summer church goers.

The second summer disease is “morbus Sabbaticus.” An anonymous author described the condition of regularly missing church as “morbus Sabbaticus” or better, “Sunday sickness.” He said that this is a disease peculiar to some church members. The symptoms vary, but are generally observed and never last more than twenty four hours. Symptoms usually happen more in the summer months that other times of the year. The symptoms never interfere with the appetite, nor affect the eyes. The Sunday paper can be read with no pain. TV seems to help the eyes. No doctor is ever called. The patient begins to improve almost immediately after the services start. No symptoms are usually felt on Saturday. The patient sleeps well and wakes feeling well. He eats a hearty Sunday Breakfast, but then the attack comes and lasts until services are over for the morning. The patient then feels better and the problem seems to go away. The patient feels better and eats a solid dinner. After dinner, he takes a nap, and then watches one or two pro football games on TV. He may go fishing or work in his yard and feels well enough to do what he pleases. He may take a walk before supper and stop and chat with neighbors. If there are church services scheduled for Sunday evenings, he will likely have a relapse about an hour before service time. Invariably, he will wake up on Monday morning and rush off to work with no ill effects from the attack the day before. The symptoms will surely appear again the afternoon of the midweek service and probably the following Sunday as well. After a few of these “attacks” at weekly intervals, the disease seems to become chronic, it becomes worse and, for some, even terminal. Some are so affected that they quit going to church altogether.

The only cure for “morbus Sabbaticus” is to first repent of the sin of unfaithfulness and disobedience to Christ’s commands. You see it is sin and disobedience for a child of God to shun the church and fail to be at their appointed place and time. Before a Christian can become faithful and get back in fellowship with God they must confess their sin, and then God will give them strength to overcome their failure (1 John 1:9). The second part of the cure is to make the decision once and for all time, to be faithful to the Lord. Once the decision is made, you will not have to make it again.

So summer is upon us. Vacations are coming as is pretty weather, so guard your heart and watch out for these deadly diseases.

Now the second thing that makes me say, “Is it that time again already” is tax time. Yes, it is about that time again. As they say, “Behold the tax man cometh!” Well, I hope when you file your taxes, unlike me, who always has to pay, I hope you get a refund this year. If you do, I would like to share some tips that can help you use your tax refund to change your future.

More than half of Americans will receive a tax refund this year. The IRS reports the average refund this year is more than $3,000. According to the 2014 Taxes and Savings Survey conducted by Capital One Bank, those planning to spend their refunds are buying electronic devices, new clothing or other everyday needs. Many people also use their refund to cover the cost of a vacation.

If you’re receiving a refund this year, why not skip the shopping spree and use the money to beef up your financial security instead? Here are five tips to use today’s refund to change your future.

1. Fund your retirement
Almost half of Americans are not confident they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement. Boost your confidence by investing this year’s tax refund toward your retirement by adding to your individual retirement account (IRA). If you don’t already have an IRA, use your refund to open one for you or your spouse.

2. Tackle your debt
• The average American household has $15,270 in unsecured debt.
• Individuals with student loans owe an average of $32,258.
• The average mortgage balance is $149,925.
Using your tax refund to pay down your debt can save you hundreds, or even thousands, in interest charges. That means you will get to keep more of your monthly budget.

3. Prepare for the unexpected
Life brings lots of unpleasant financial surprises. Cars break down. Roofs leak. Jobs change or are eliminated. A robust savings account can help you weather many of these storms. If you don’t have an emergency fund, use your tax refund to start one. The next time an emergency hits, you’ll be thankful for your financial cushion.

4. Make it personal
Setting a personal goal can motivate you to save more. For example, you might want to save for a down payment on a house or plan ahead for a major event, such as an overseas mission trip.

5. Prepare for college
The College Board reports the average cost of four years of tuition at a public university is $34,620. That cost jumps to $116,224 for a private college. Additionally, your future student will need money for books and housing. Start setting aside money now in a 529 College Savings Plan to lessen the financial burden during the college years.

This information should not be considered tax or legal advice. Thanks GuideStone Financial Resources for such good, insightful counsel.

And now for the third, “It’s that time again already?” Some days it seems all I do is eat. I feel like I just finish breakfast and it’s time for lunch then turn around twice and it’s time for supper. Just ask Becky and she will tell you that she often calls me to eat lunch or supper and I am amazed it is that time again.

But did you realize that sharing the evening meal together with your family has tremendous benefits for you and your family? In fact, studies have shown that Family mealtime can be key to healthier and happier families.

Can spaghetti prevent childhood obesity? How do grilled chicken and vegetables teach boys and girls better social skills? When will tacos keep a teen out of trouble?

Multiple studies suggest that regular family mealtimes can strengthen family bonds. And it’s no secret that healthy, well-adjusted children come from strong families.

However, most parents admit that our modern lifestyles make it a challenge to pull off family mealtimes. Here are some tips to help your family nurture togetherness over the kitchen table.

Be flexible
If music lessons, sports practice and other after-school activities interfere with your family mealtimes, this is a good opportunity to be flexible.
Try serving the meal earlier or later to accommodate individual schedule. If the entire family is at a child’s ball game, pack a dinner of sandwiches, carrots and apples and turn your family meal into a tailgate party at the ball field.

Embrace simplicity
Complicated preparation will make meal preparation seem like a chore and cut into the time spent at the table. Stick to simple-to-prepare meals that can get from the stove to the table in a minimal amount of time.
If you’ve got extra time on the weekends, do some advance preparation so you’ll spend less time in the kitchen on weeknights. Having a casserole or meatloaf prepared in advance can be a lifesaver on busy weeknights.

Involve everyone                                                                                                                                                                    Give each family member an age-appropriate job. Older children can help with the food preparation. Younger kids can set the table. Everyone can pitch in to clean up after the meal. Let family members take turns planning the menu and helping shop for ingredients.

Manage expectations
Work, school and recreation schedules might keep you apart at mealtime so family dinners may not happen every evening. That’s okay. Gather as often as you can.
Weekends can also be a difficult time to get everyone together, so be flexible in choosing what time to have your family meal. Maybe it needs to be breakfast on Saturday or lunch on Sunday.

Stay upbeat
Make family mealtimes a positive experience. Don’t use this as a time to dole out punishment or deliver lectures. Instead, talk about the highlights of your day. Encourage family members to share the items for which they’re thankful. Talk about your faith. It’s even a good time to share jokes and funny stories.
Remember, the most important thing about family mealtimes is the people gathered around you.

And oh, it’s past time to end this pastor’s pen, so bye for now!

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

 

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Really Nice Church People, 3 Really Bad Habits!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I read a great article on which this week’s Pastor’s Pen is based. But before I go there I want to say what a wonderful job out children did this past Wednesday night in the Church Drill. These children really showed us adults up in their ability to quote scripture, handle God’s Word, and in finding key passages of God’s Promises. This is a commendation to those who have worked so diligently with the children preparing them for drills both here in our church walls and at home. Thank You! And GREAT JOB CHILDREN!

Also, we will be starting our Study in Colossians – Christ Is All You Need this Wednesday night. I hope you will make your plans to join us and bring somebody with you.

You may wonder why should I attend this Bible Study; Are there any benefits to me? Providing a focused study of God’s Word is always a healthy practice for any church or person. While your church may experience only some of these benefits, no doubt you will reap some of these benefits:
• The church reasserts the priority of Bible study.
• Bible Book Study offers the opportunity to involve the entire family in Bible study.
• Unchurched families may recognize through a short-term study the value of participating in an ongoing Bible study group.
• Pastors can preach and/or teach in-depth from one book of the Bible or portion of a Bible book.
• Bible Book Study can help build your desire to and help you see the need to have attendance at other times in the church life.
• Transformation can occur in learners as they are drawn into a study of God’s Word.
• Bible Book Study can encourage learners to become lifetime students of God’s Word.
• Members will find an additional source of strength as they enjoy hearing some of the best Bible teachers in the church discuss a common text.
• Children will be nurtured in their spiritual journeys as they observe the priority their parents place on studying God’s Word.
• Sunday School teachers and other Bible study leaders have an opportunity to be learners, giving them spiritual refreshment.
• Relationships (old and new) are built as people participate in Bible study.
So see, there are benefits to joining us on Wednesday nights for this wonderful study, Colossian – Christ Is All You Need. See you Wednesday!

Now into the focus of this week’s Pastor’s Pen.
but sometimes we do really inappropriate things. I personally have never been guilty of any of these faux pas, but maybe you have. By the way, I was kidding, I am very guilty too of these three and many more bad habits. I am trying to watch it and improve though.  (Incidentally, there are more than three nasty habits, but I have a luncheon to attend.)

1. People enjoy, but sometimes don’t express thanks.
Many Christians boast of their church’s phenomenal resources and programs but never financially support them in any way.
Many claim to be faithful 10-percent-tithe givers, but church records show otherwise. Church Ministry does cost dollars. Please give to support your church and her ministry.

These same people don’t say “Thank you” very often either for the things that they believe they are entitled to receive.
The thinking goes something like, “The church was here before I got here and it will be here long after I go. They are NOT depending on me personally to keep them going.”
Or …“My parents gave to this church for years and years, so, I’m good.”

It’s interesting how some Christians are responsible to HOAs, club dues or fitness facilities, but refuse to share the cost of “doing business” at their church.

2. People often make prayer requests that evolve into gossip.
This is fairly subtle and operates at a low level like static electricity on your pant leg. It can go on a long time without being noticed … then, SNAP!
s business.  You should not have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to enter a church! Laughable?

(SUPOSE) Well, though it seems so, one business man shared with his small group the issues he was having with his company during their prayer time. Someone else in the group used the information to leverage a buyout of that company as part of a silent partnership he was involved in elsewhere. It was despicable behavior, but this gentleman had it all compartmentalized in a way that benefited him … and only him.

Gossip and heartfelt disclosure can turn into disaster.

3. People often feel like their only role is to evaluate and criticize.
I have talked to hundreds of folks in churches in which I had no active part. their first words to me were to complain about the things they disliked about their church or it’ leaders. Most of these folks do so as if their only value to the church is to correct its wrongs. Frankly, my first reaction to these people is embarrassment. Why are they telling me these things? I’m a stranger, a person they have yet to know, but they are giving me details that they should only give to a trusted friend who is a stakeholder in their institution.

There is a kind of culture among the “in house” church critics. They operate primarily by stealth. They find out information through various means, and make sure it is dispersed in the worst possible ways. They are lethal. They are toxic, and any of us could be guilty of their sins at any point in time.
While evaluation and criticism have a place in any organization, we, its members, are not called to make that our exclusive gift to the community. Forward progress is made by people who do lots of work and occasionally evaluate … not the other way around. (Don’t air the dirty laundry.)

Is it possible for Christians to be nasty and behave badly? Oh, yes. That’s why Jesus died for us! Thankfully most of us as Christians are on our best behavior most of the time. But do think about this and try to avoid these three and the many other dirty little habits that can sneak into our lives.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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Say A Prayer For Your Pastor – Please!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

It is that time of the year and life again. I have gotten another year older since we last shared in this blog. Yes, hard to believe I know, especially since I look so good…LOL (That was a joke in case you didn’t get it.) I know people say that with age comes wisdom and knowledge. Please pray that I continue to grow in knowledge, understanding and wisdom. However with the passing of time, especially in ministry, comes many dangers. The longer one lives, trying to serve the Lord, the more the devil desires to attack and bring that person down. The longer one serves in a place of service the more likely one of two things will happen: 1) People become endeared to the pastor and love him more and come along side to help in ministry and prayerfully support the ministry; or 2) People become embittered, hurt, disillusioned, and thus exchanging less service, support and prayer for inactivity, gossip, or negative talk with less financial support for the church. (Which harms the church far more than it harms the pastor.) But anyway, over time Satan ramps up his attack on the pastor and the church over time, so Please, Please Pray!

Satan has many pitfalls for the pastor or any servant of God who tries to serve the Lord faithfully over time. So since I am getting older, more feeble of mind, and in more danger of attack by the enemy please pray the Lord help protect me and our church in the following areas as we try to move forward and succeed in His Service.

The definition of failure (and success) is subjective. For our purposes, failure is not pastoring a small church or never writing a book or never being featured as a conference speaker. Failure as a pastor is not fulfilling the call that God has placed on you. With this definition, failure is not an option. So Pray, Pray, Pray!

So how do we prevent failure in pastors and how can you pray for me to help me not fail? This is a list of a few things to pray that I and any servant of God avoid.

Isolating yourself
It’s been said that leaders are loners. That simply is not true. Leaders are connected with people—the people they are leading and the people who are leading them. Pastors who pull back from relationships and especially those who disconnect from other pastors will likely fall. Remember Ecclesiastes 4:12: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Don’t pastor in a bubble—you need other people.

Practicing secret sins
 Only a few pastors are caught in the high profile sins—those sins aren’t the problem for most leaders. It’s the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). If we allow little sins to invade our private lives, our integrity will be compromised and our faith will be weak. While nobody is perfect, pastors need to aim for purity. God’s grace is the only way this is realized. Practice grace in your personal life. Pray for purity in your pastor’s life. I need it to have His power!

Becoming bitter
It’s only a matter of time until every pastor is hurt or disappointed. My advice for you and me: get over it quickly. Don’t allow the pain of local church leadership to turn into a bitter root in your life. Once bitterness sets in, it becomes toxic to your soul. “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) Flush offenses from your system as soon as possible and keep your heart tender. Please pray that I let no root of bitterness take hold in my life and that I cause no bitterness in the lives of others.

Selling out
A terrible trap for pastors is to become a people pleaser. We want to be liked or we need the finances of a particular family—so we do what they want, in spite of our convictions to do otherwise. If you become a slave to a special interest group, you will lose your self-respect and the respect of the church. Pray I can be strong, serve the people, but sell out only to Christ.

Neglecting my family
My family is my first ministry. I really struggle with this one. If I habitually put the church ahead of them, everyone will know it, and no one will be impressed—especially my family. There will be times when duty calls, but let it be known that regardless of what happens at church, I will or at least need to fight for my family. If the church kicks me to the curb, my family will still be with me. And, if I lose my family, I lose my ministry.

Being driven by emotions
James Dobson wrote a book entitled Emotions: Can You Trust Them? The simple answer is “no.” As a pastor I have up days and down days. People will like me, then they will loathe me. We’ve got to remain steady, levelheaded, and even-keeled. I must lead from a position of balance and stability. If I am guided by my emotions, my ministry will be short-lived. Please pray I am Spirit lead not emotionally driven.

Relying on my own strength
No doubt I try to use leadership abilities or you I be where I am. But the day I trust my gifts more than I trust the Lord, I am doomed. Pray hard that I depend on the Spirit. He is better at my job than I am.

Having all the answers
It is a real pressure we pastors feel to be ready to answer your question and to always know what to say, but it is not realistic. If we ever get to the point where we have it all figured out; if we don’t need to learn anything more; if we can lead the church “with our eyes closed”… failure has already happened. Arrogance tells us we know enough, but reality tells us we have a lot to learn. Pray I Keep learning! There is always someone smarter than me. Pray I never stop reading. Pray I seek advice and solicit input. Pray I am a lifelong learner and keep growing. Remember, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5b).

You may think it is foolish to publish such a list because most of us don’t need help in trying to figure out how to fail. The point of this Pastor’s Pen is this: I have made these mistakes as a pastor and I hope to prevent myself and or someone else from repeating them. Each of them has the potential to cause failure as a pastor. Or worse yet, failure in ministry. If failure is not fulfilling the call that God has placed on you, then failure is not an option. Please pray that this ole pastor, 53 years old and over 38 years in ministry, can last another many years without failure so that I can serve God faithfully and effectively. What better gift could I ask for at this point in my life than your prayers.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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