Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

The wind is blowing so hard it's making the house sway... the temperature is falling... so is the snow... Last week's nice weather spoiled me. I guess winter is not quite over yet.

Nothing profound to say this morning (or most mornings). I will let yesterday's blog post stand for my New Year's Eve post.

But if you are looking for a good "New Year's Resolution Verse" take a look at this one from my devotion time this morning...

...The believers were walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. --Acts 9:31b NLT

If we all walked in the fear of the Lord and consequently in the comfort of the Holy Spirit next year, it would truly be a God honoring year!

Pastor Noel

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

One More Year

Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.' -- Luke 13:7-9

Last May I did something I've always planned to do but never got around to. I sat down and put my whole life on paper. I wrote down where I honestly thought I was in every important area of life. Some of that was encouraging, some was not.

Then with a lot of prayer and a few tears, I wrote down the plan to get from there to where I believed God would have me be. I wrote down my lifetime goals for family, ministry, finances, career and health. I then wrote down where I needed to be in each of these areas at the end of 2008. Then I broke it down even further with monthly goals and daily habits.

I have kept this in a folder in a standing file on my desk ever since then. I have looked at it about once a week. I have prayed and asked the Lord to help me accomplish every goal listed.

So how have I done?

Well, there are two ways to answer that question. Have I reached every 2008 goal? No. Am I a great deal further along in the pursuit of every goal than I would have been had I not written this all down? Definitely yes!

Looking back, I now see errors I made in some goals: some were not specific enough, some were too specific (although interestingly enough, I wrote down a specific target weight for 12/31/2008 and unless I fall off the wagon and eat a cow in the next couple of days I will beat it by seven pounds).

Overall it has been a great motivator. It has helped me live more of a God-honoring life the last half of 2008. Hopefully I have been a better Christ-follower, husband, dad, and pastor because of this.

So what now?

I am going to do it all again today. It will be a little easier this time and hopefully it will have an even bigger impact. I will do this with prayer (see my blog post from 12/27 to see why this is so important). I will take as much time as is needed. If you can do this in an hour, then either your life is very organized and focused or you didn't dissect things enough.

I spent some time this morning figuring out the format I will use. I am going to answer the lifetime goals question first (and really this will not have changed since last May). Then I am going to spend a lot of time answering eleven questions I've come up with. I expect I will have a page of possible actions for each question. Then I will be able to write down goals for 2009 and the steps and habits needed to accomplish them.

I challenge you to do this in the next few days. It really doesn't matter how young or old you are. If God gives any of us another year to live, then we should live it wisely.

Pastor Noel


Here is my format for this exercise this week...

My Lifetime Goals

If God Allows Me to Live through 2009…
· How can I be more of a blessing to my wife?
· How can I be a better father?
· How can I be more effective in my preaching ministry?
· How can I manage my money wiser?
· How can I improve my fitness routine?
· How can I have a closer walk with the Lord?
· How can I be closer to the people I pastor?
· How can I excel in my writing ministry?
· How can I be more strategic in my pastoral leadership?
· How can I foster more real friendships?
· How can I stay organized, focused, efficient, and productive through the year?

My 2009 Goals

My First Quarter of 2009 Goals

Daily Habits needed to reach Goals

Weekly Habits needed to reach Goals

Monday, December 29, 2008

Question of the Day

I bought a new book a few days ago to help teach my kids critical thinking skills. We read a few questions from the book when we got back to the car from the store. See how well you do on one of them. (Hannah, my nine year old, beat me to the answer on this one. It only took her about two minutes to figure out a very simple solution.)

Imagine you are in a room with three light switches. Each of these light switches is connected to a lamp in another room. You cannot see, in any way from one room to the other. So three switches in one room, and three lamps in the other room. Your job is to figure out which switch controls which lamp. You start off in the room with the switches. You may stay there as long as you would like trying to figure out your plan. Then you go to the room with the lamps and you have to identify which lamp is controlled by which switch in thirty seconds without leaving the room.

OK. Put on your thinking caps. Don't let a nine-year-old beat you...

On to more important things...

We had two very good services yesterday. I appreciate the way pastor Wally led the morning service and pastor Shawn led the evening praise service. It is good to have people like them I can depend upon.

This week is a 'get organized' week for the new year. Carla, Linda, and Sharron (all three office workers) are on vacation this week. How did that happen? It will be an interesting week :).

We have two people from our church in critical condition in area hospitals. Pray that I will have the right words to minister to and encourage these families.

Let me show you something from my devotion time this morning...

I was reading in Acts 6 about steps the Apostles were taking to stay focused on their core ministries of prayer and the Word. Acts 6:7 describes how the ministry of the church expanded when the Apostles were able to focus on the right things. But what is very interesting is how 'the expansion of the ministry' is described here...

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Notice that instead of saying the ministry expanded, the writer of Acts says, "the word of God spread."

With the aid of a chart in the study Bible I was using this morning I found three other verses in Acts that use similar phrases...

Acts 12:24 But the word of God grew and multiplied.

Acts 13:49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region.

Acts 19:20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

So what does it mean that the word of God grew? Did it get bigger? Longer? No. The impact of the word increased in lives and churches and communities!

In the book of Acts, real ministry expansion is seen in terms of the word of God going forth and making changes in people's lives. One of my prayers for our church in 2009 is that the effectiveness of our ministries would be measured by the same standard. As we count things to determine our progress, let us focus on the real question of the day from the book of Acts, "Has the WORD increased?"

Pastor Noel

Sunday, December 28, 2008

His Sovereignty / Our Responsibility

I was reading today in Acts 2 & 3 and came across two reminders of one of those truths that is difficult to understand and even more difficult to admit...

First see if you can see it in a part of Peter's sermon at Pentecost...

Acts 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;

Do you see it there? It is easier to see in Peter's next sermon on Solomon's Portico...

Acts 3:14-15, 18-19 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses... But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

The Scripture teaches us that the death of Christ was 100% the plan of God from the beginning. It was His idea and took place perfectly according to events that He orchestrated. The Scripture also tells us that the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus' day were responsible for the crucifixion of Christ, that they were wrong in their actions, and they needed to repent!

At first glance those two things don't seem to go together. Was the crucifixion the plan of God or the result of the sin of the religious leaders? Well... both!

What do we learn from this? God is sovereign! I am responsible for my actions!

Any attitude, action, or belief we have that denies either of those truths is wrong.

I pray, Lord, that I will always be reminded of your sovereignty and always mindful of my responsibility. That I will pray to You because you are in control, and I will serve and sacrifice because I am responsible.

Pastor Noel

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hurry up and Wait

Good morning. I hope you had a Merry Christmas.

I've got to share what the Lord showed me in my quiet time this morning. As you know in our Soma Kristou worship services, we just wrapped up a several week series on the Holy Spirit. (I think we spent five weeks.) Of course I knew we didn't cover every Bible teaching on the subject or study the Spirit from every angle, but I thought we were pretty thorough. Then this morning, reading through Acts I stumbled across a very important Holy Spirit truth that we could have spent a whole other week on.

And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." ... But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:4-5, 8)

Does anything odd strike you about those verses? I have read those verses countless times, but it just occurred to me this morning that there is something very puzzling about the events described there. Do you see it?

The Wait! Why the Wait?

The disciples were anxious to receive the Holy Spirit... The Father was able to send the Spirit immediately... The Spirit was certainly prepared to come... The Spirit was desperately needed... So why wait?

Obviously, the Father was trying to teach the disciples and us something with this waiting period. Praying through what those lessons were to them and what they are to me took up the rest of my devotion time this morning.

So what were the lessons? I will leave the question mostly open in case you decide to spend some time thinking and praying through this for yourself, but here are a couple things that came to my mind...

I need to be reminded of the importance of not proceeding with a new project or a new decision without first praying for and secondly waiting for the power, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit. I don't need to just plunge in (which I am prone to do) with the attitude that God will catch up with me later. I need to be more dependent on and more aware of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in everything I do.

I also need to be reminded that God has a right time for things to happen. I don't need to always understand why (just like I don't completely understand why the delay in sending the Holy Spirit in the Acts 1-2 story), I just need to be sensetive to it. Perhaps God is preparing the hearts of other people, perhaps God is preparing my own heart, perhaps there are circumstances that are about to change... God's timing is perfect. I should be more sensitive to when He wants me to push forward and when He wants me to hold up.

What other lessons can we learn from the wait?
  • We are reminded that God is in control, not us.
  • We can look at what the followers of Christ did as they waited and learn the importance of corporate prayer, and church unity.
  • To dig a little deeper we can learn the importance of the anticipation of the things of God...
  • Many more...

Pastor Noel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas is Here!

We had a great Christmas Celebration last night with our choir and drama team sharing their annual program.

It was so good to see so many new faces from our community join us for the time of worship. The gym was packed and we had to pull out a number of extra chairs to accommodate the crowd. I had the opportunity to meet a ton of new people and everyone had great things to say about the night.

Thanks for everyone who worked so hard to make last night what it was... from Pastor Shawn, to the singers, the drama team, the youth who set up the facility, to the fellowship team that prepared for the after-service fellowship... Great job!

Pastor Noel

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Truth in Advertising

I don't mean this to necessarily be an advertisement, but I think it is good to brag on people and companies when they do what they say they are going to do.

About a month or so ago, I went to S&K Menswear to purchase a couple of suits. When I was checking out the clerk asked me if I attended church... I said, "Occasionally." He suggested I fill out a "S&K Gives Back Card" and said the company would send my church 5% of the total price of my purchase. I didn't really want to bother filling out the card because I didn't believe for a minute they were telling the truth. I've seen promotions like this dozens of times through the years. I remember several years ago a telephone company was going to send 10% of everyone's phone bill to the church of their choice. In all of my years in the ministry, no church I have ever served in has ever received a check from one of these companies. And that is fine with me. We don't need corporate America supporting our church, but it has irked me to see these companies using deceit and lies to get church people to shop at their establishments.

Well guess what...

Yesterday, my assistant brought some mail in my office and asked, "What is this?" I looked at it... it was a check to the church for $14.20 from S&K Menswear.

We can learn two things from this...

First, the pastor buys really cheap suits.

Secondly, some companies out there really are telling the truth in their advertisements!

Pastor Noel