I think I found out where Clark lives:
Almost as good as the Larsen Christmas Lights where we lived in Illinois:
I spent this week in Houston, Texas at a church leadership conference. It was encouraging, insightful, and inspiring. As with many conferences you come back refueled and fired up. There are new ideas and new dreams. There is a recommitment to the work God has entrusted you with. It is an exciting time.
Maybe the most powerful aspect of this conference was the networking and collaborating with others who are on a similar journey. It reminded me of the power of community. We are not called to be Lone Rangers. When you think about it, the Lone Ranger didn’t do it alone. He had Tonto and he had Silver. This is the role of the Church, the Body of Christ. We are not alone. We need each other.
But it is easy for us to live on our islands. It is easy for us to isolate ourselves from others. We show up on Sunday morning, sit in our pew, listen to the pastor’s message and then go home. We are alone in the crowd. Our heart is hidden. Our dreams are hidden. Our fears are hidden. I’m ok. Your ok. But the truth is that is not ok. God never intended for us to live in isolation.
Here is a challenge for you this week. Take the time to listen. It may be listening to someone you know well. It may be listening to someone you don’t know as well. Don’t just ask them how they are doing. Ask them what they are celebrating. Ask them what they are struggling with. Ask them about their dreams. And this may be the hardest thing – just listen and learn. I am sure you have something to say. But resist the urge. Ask. Explore the depth of their heart. Let’s be there for each other as Jesus is there for us ready to listen.
The last step is pray. There is nothing more powerful we can do for another person. Take whatever it may be their heart to the Lord in prayer. He can do so much more than we could ever imagine. You may not be able to solve the problem. You may not be able to take them to the next level they are pursuing. But God sure can.
One final thing: this Sunday we are beginning a new Bible study at Good Shepherd at 9:15. It is called iPray. It is all about how we can take hold of the power of prayer. We will learn how prayer is a gift to serve our own needs, but it is also a gift God has given to us to serve the needs of others. If you haven’t signed up yet, that is ok. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday!
For all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus. 2 Corinthians 1:20
If you are participating in the Good Shepherd Daily Bible Readings, you would have read this verse on Tuesday. This verse was a good reminder for me. How easily I forget this. This at the heart of the gospel. The promises of God are not dependent upon you or me. They are dependent upon Jesus.
When I forget this, I get on the “Try-cycle.” I originally heard about the “Try-cycle from Brian Zielke, the Director of Christian Education at Lord of Life. So thanks Brian for this. Here is a chart of the ”Try-cycle."
You feel guilty that you are not working hard enough or smart enough. The results you are getting are not what you hoped. So what you do next is you TRY to work harder. You TRY to work smarter. You expand your effort. This extra effort comes at the cost of your family, your health, your relationship with God, and your own enjoyment of life.
The result is fatigue. You grow weary. You grow tired. We call this burn out. You are running, running, and running. But you are like the gerbil in the wheel. For all your running you are getting nowhere. There is nothing left to do but to quit and give up.
You need to know there is a better way. You need to know there is another cycle. It is the cycle of grace. It doesn’t start with our effort. It starts with Jesus. It starts with grace. It is God’s undeserved love given to you and me, not because we deserve it, but because he died for us. The grace cycle is all about the effort of Jesus.
My response is not to try harder, but to rest in him. It is to go to the fountain and receive from him living water. He breathes new life into me and energizes my soul. My identity does not come through what I accomplish, but through who I belong to. God has already shown he loves me and there is nothing I need to do to earn his affirmation from him.
The result is for me to live a life in service to him. I am filled with joy. I leave the results to him because the results do not define me. I am grateful I get to take part with him in his work and know that he will accomplish what he will accomplish. The big difference is that I don’t work to find my fulfillment. I work because I am fulfilled. If I don’t find fulfillment in Jesus, I will never find it not matter how hard I work or try. The “Try-Cycle” will become my undoing.
This week, take a moment, and consider if your work is centered on Jesus or is it centered on your effort.
God’s blessings, Pastor Phil
We had a great celebration last weekend. It was a day filled with much joy and many smiles. We had 211 in attendance. It was the first time Good Shepherd broke the 200 mark in the last two years with exception of Easter. The new school year has LAUNCHED! You can see pictures of this wonderful day posted online on our Facebook page.
The picnic was a blast. Thanks to so many people who put in a tremendous effort to make it all happen. We offer a very special thank you to Linda C. and Marie B for all the work they put into coordinating the event. They did a tremendous job. For everyone who volunteered to set up, clean up, bring a dish, or coordinate an activity we could not have done it without you. Thank you for your contribution.
During our celebration we took a special offering for little Matthew and his family. Matthew is a former student of Good Shepherd Children’s Center who was recently diagnosed with cancer. You can read Matthew’s story on our church website. During the celebration we received more than $1500. The Children’s Center is matching the amount received on Sunday to bring that total to more than $3000. We have also created an online giving opportunity and have received more than $1000. This brings the total to more than $4000. Thank you Good Shepherd for your generosity. We hope to present a check to Matthew’s family next week. If you have not yet contributed, but would like to, Lutheran Church Charities has set up a donation site where you can further contribute to help this family.
Changing subjects, Good Shepherd is making plans to initiate a Comfort Dog Ministry. The planning team is hoping to bring a Lutheran Church Charities Comfort Dog to New Jersey in the spring of 2014. On September 22 we will be sharing some more specifics of the plan. This is another opportunity to give. You can give through our fundraising website set up by Lutheran Church Charities.
The next three weeks we will be revisiting KNOW, GROW, and GO during worship. I will be sharing what might be described as a State of the Church address. We will be looking at where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. I will be sharing some initiatives we have undertaken to help fulfill the KNOW, GROW, and GO vision. I am looking forward to sharing these things with you. It is an exciting time to be a part of Good Shepherd.
God’s blessings, Pastor Phil