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Posts tagged with: Hope

CONTROL (Wisdom from Moses’s Mother)

Life is overwhelming. That is the way life works. It is testing us all. Life is going to throw problems at you, and often, those problems will come at you like 25 fast-ball pitches thrown at once. Life is Murphy’s Law; “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” It is astonishing how Murphy’s Law, devastatingly impacts the Israelites, in just one chapter. In Genesis 50, the Israelites were overwhelmingly successful in Egypt, and in Exodus 1, a new Egyptian Ruler insecurely takes notice and things go wrong. His insecurities cause him to enslave the Israelites, and enforce serious mistreatment upon them. This new Pharaoh commanded the childbirth nurses to kill all Hebrew boys as they were being delivered. When that didn’t work, this Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew newborn males to be thrown into the Nile River.  A waterproofed Basket floated Moses down the Nile River, as his mother relinquished control of him, into the hands of Almighty God. Imagine the fear of Moses’ mother, pregnant with Moses, as Pharaoh’s order became public news. When Moses was born, his mother hid him for as long as possible, to save his life. We all know how hard it is to hide the cries of a baby. After three months of effort, Moses’s mother couldn’t keep him a secret any longer. She made a basket, waterproofed it, placed her son in it, and released him down the river. She actually obeyed Pharaoh’s orders. She chose to put Moses in the Nile herself, instead of releasing him into the hands of the brutal Egyptian soldiers. Can you imagine her anguish, as she watched him innocently float away? I have questions for Miriam, the older sister of Moses, who ran along the riverbank, watching him float into the hands of an Egyptian Princess. Miriam’s sly and deliberate strategy, in that moment, is astonishing. Maybe the theme of this historical event is summed up in one word; Control.

There comes a time in all our lives where we realize we must tweak how we fight for control. Would it inspire you to know, that you can give up the kind of fighting that leaves you continually exhausted, and instead, fight in a way that refreshes you? God and you both know life is a fight. God must truly celebrate when He witnesses us learn to fight smarter, instead of harder. Fighting harder is all about you and your effort. Fighting smarter is all about attacking life, but by relinquishing all control into the hands of the Creator of all things. To use a flying illustration, fighting harder is having God as your co-pilot. Fighting smarter is letting God be the pilot, and you’re His co-pilot. You’ll always be in some form of a fight, but who you allow to have ultimate control, makes all the difference. Controlling anything requires tremendous energy. You ultimately have control over only one thing in life. You control(give permission)to who gets to be the one in control. If you are currently the one who is controlling things, you will recognize it by how much it exhausts you. When you are tempted to continually control anything, just remember Moses’s mother, and how she had to let go of controlling her son’s life, and entrusted his future into the hands of God. Be encouraged, God still wants you to be wise, strategic, deliberate, and sly, but all control belongs to Him. What fights are you currently controlling? Do you think the outcomes of your fights will be better if left in your hands of control, or will they be better if you let go of that basket, and entrust the outcomes into the hands of Jesus? 

Meditate and Respond:

  1. Control is a difficult thing to define and notice. I implore you to humbly and authentically pause and write down the things in your life that are exhausting you. Exhaustion isn’t all telling, but often we get seriously exhausted by trying to control things that we have no business controlling. Do you have trusted friends that you could give permission to point out areas where they think you are too controlling? If so, humbly ask them, and do not get upset at them, if they risk sharing some truth with you. 
  2. If question one revealed anything to you about how controlling you are, then write out 3 of the simplest steps you can take, starting today, to begin to train yourself to let go of control. Trust God with all results and outcomes. Also, think of a way to daily remind yourself to keep letting go of control. It will be a hard new habit to create, and the temptation to become the “pilot” again will be huge. 
  3. If you truly trust God, and fully acknowledge that God is with you, then you need not fear what is ahead of you. C.S. Lewis said, “Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.” 
  4. Bible Verse to Meditate on: Psalm 135:6-7, 2 Chronicles 20:6, Psalm 93:1, Romans 8:28, Psalm 46:1, Luke 1:37, Ephesians 3:20, Matthew 10:16, Psalm 27:1. 


Is our USA falling apart?…

Imagine you were born in America and the year is 1900.

When you’re age 14, World War I begins and ends by the time you’re age 18… there are 22 million dead.

Soon after a global pandemic, the Spanish Flu, appears, infecting 500 Million–(1/3 of the world’s population) and killing 50 million people. And you’re alive at the age of 20 years old.

When you’re age 29 you survive the global economic crisis that started with the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange, causing inflation, unemployment and famine. This era also gets nicknamed the Dirty Thirties.

When you’re age 33 years old the nazis come into power.

When you’re age 39, World War II begins and ends when you’re age 45 years old with a 60 million dead. 6 Million dead Jewish People from the Holocaust.

When you’re age 52, the Korean War begins.
When you’re age 64, the Vietnam War begins and ends when you’re age 75.

If you were fortunate enough to live to 2001, at the age of 101, you witnessed 3000 people die when the twin towers were destroyed by a terrorist attack.

Most Children born in the late 1900’s naturally think their grandparents have no idea how difficult life is. They naturally think their current era, and their world is falling apart more than ever.

Well…is our world falling apart more than ever? I answer no. I think there is more good happening than bad. The problem might be, we all have our iPhone’s out and use social media to overly populate the bad news views. Life is hard. Choose to focus on the millions of good that happens everyday.

In America Today we have all the comforts of a new world, even amid a new pandemic. What are your current complaints? Pause and imagine all the things we have that allow us to be described as fortunate. WiFi, Running Water, Electricity, Netflix, Insta, Coffee Shops on every corner, Sports, Great Schools, Equal Opportunity for Every American, Laptops, Cool Cars, iPhones, Air Conditioning, and Freedom. … keep the list going.

A small change in our perspective can generate entirely different outlooks. This change in perspective could change your outlook in nearly miraculous ways. We could be thankful that we are alive and thriving today. We could do everything we need to do to protect and help each other. Life is hard. It will remain difficult for the rest of our lives…for everybody. I pray we don’t actually think we have it worse than ever before. We don’t. It’s all about our perspective.

I end with a Holy Bible Scripture Verse found in Philippians 4:4-8.

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”


Cut it out!

Have you ever been to someone’s yard and right there in the middle is a sickly tree?  Or been in a beautiful town and discover business’s dying?  Or in a beautiful town full of Churches that are on death’s edge because they are not seeking and saving the lost? Something needs cut, pruned, compeltely worked over! 

My experience is in Church-world. Pruning during stagnation is the most needed Christ-like practice for a church that is stuck in a rut.  (A rut and a grave are the same thing…just 6 feet apart.)

Think about it…when is the last time you saw a Church going through 40 days of pruning?  We have 40 days of prayer, fasting, evangelism, worship, Bible reading…but I’m not sure I’ve seen a Church have 40 days of pruning, when needed.  Jesus is a pruner!

All through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…(the 4 most critical chapters of the bible)…when Jesus saw the crowd, around Him, begin to lose His focus…He pruned the crowd.  He went so far, one time, to say to the huge crowd that had misunderstood His Mission,…“If you don’t eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can’t be my disciple.” (John 6:53) The whole crowd, of what had to be more than a thousand people, left Him.  There were only the 12 disciples left.  That’s pruning!

Jesus pruned the pharisees and religious leaders that only wanted to control the people and keep things the way they had always done it…Jesus called them, “White-Washed Tombs (Matthew 23:17), Blind Guides (Matthew 23:16) Hypocrites (Matthew 23:15), Children of Hell (Matthew 23:15), fools (Matthew 23:17), generation of serpents (Matthew 23:34), and murderers (Matthew 23:34).

So Jesus pruned regularly.  To be clear…when pruning, we can never react in anger out of control, or be evil in anyway. We cannot ever justify unholy behavior by saying Jesus did it.  He was perfect in His pruning.  However we can prune with holiness just like Jesus did.  It won’t make you popular, but it will make you like Jesus.

Why don’t more leaders prune when it is desperately obvious it is needed? I can only resort to a Bible verse to explain…

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

Pruning results in a vigorous burst of new growth in the future, and pruning is to be used to achieve the full growth that is necessary…especially in the Church.   More money thrown at the problem, or stored in the savings account won’t cause the Church to be healthy again. Just letting it continue as is, will not cause the Church to be fruitful again.  I can’t think of anything more tragic than a Church that is stuck and dying.  Pruning is what is needed.  Its not fun.  Its not easy, but it’s essential.  Pruning, in Church world, will remove the unfruitful and the spiritually dead.  The death that is about to overtake the whole “tree,” could be something as simple as the comfortable…but it’s especially the fakers, the slackers, hypocrites, the control mongers, or the powers that exist that actually have been lulled into the sleepy deception of thinking their tree is beautiful.  They are the blockers and death dealers.

The “tree” may “bleed” when the removal begins. It may look like…after the pruning…that the tree won’t survive…that is has been ruined.  But it’s exactly what it needed…it’ll survive because Jesus will know the motives of the pruning and bless it.  It only seems harmful at the cutting, and until it grows again..it’ll be a bit scary.  Those being pruned will not be cut quietly. They will gossip and spread false rumors and only verify the reality of the necessity of the pruning in the first place.  Prune anyway! And it will leaf out when its God’s time! It will grow into a full grown, strong, thriving life once again. Beautiful!  Jesus and any leadership that has the guts and perseverance to do the pruning will reap the rewards and once again see the Church be healthy and productive in the most important fruit production area…seeking and saving the lost.

The Kingdom of Jesus cannot and will not stop at anything that tries to prevent it’s growth. It cannot and should not ever be stunted.  Jesus did say about the Church…“I will build my Church and the gates of hades will not prevail!” (MT16:18) So…if the Church is dying…something is seriously wrong. Right!?  So, Jesus said it best…with crystal clarity…

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vineyard keeper. Every branch in Me that does not produce fruit He removes, and He prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.”
John‬ ‭15:1-8‬ ‭

So, courageous people of God…prune away.  In Church world, the only thing that is preventing the pruning from happening is leadership.  Courageous leadership.  I love the local Church so much that I will prune anytime, anywhere, any way.  It is what Jesus demands of holy leadership.  If I don’t prune…I will stand in front of Jesus someday and be pruned for eternity.  I don’t want to go to hell. You don’t either.  Prune or Be Pruned!

We are mandated to produce fruit. It is a salvation issue and eternity is in the balance.

Don’t screw with Jesus’s mission.  There is no mercy in pruning…Just judgement.  The only way to avoid eternal judgement and pruning is to make sure you are producing fruit.  The most important fruit in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ is seeking and saving the lost.  Every single member in the Church must be producing fruit.  It is Jesus’s mandate.

When is the last time you personally led somebody into Jesus’s forgiveness?

It is why you were born, and it is your life’s purpose… to be productive in the Kingdom of Jesus.

Last thing…what is the best strategy to begin pruning in a Church that has been in status quo mode…aka…death mode?  Cast a vision that leads the Church to get back into the mandates of Jesus.  Cast a vision to risk for Jesus in evangelism.  The pruning will happen naturally.

Strong Spiritual Leadership rarely has to strategically prune, because a fruitful-risk-taking-vision, cast with holy leadership strength, will naturally and steadily get rid of the wrong people.  Yes…I said it…get rid of the wrong people.  Hold on…You didn’t think pruning in the Church was about gardening did you?  Its about people.


Church and the learning Tower of Pisa

SethGodin.com just wrote a blog asking…”What’s inside the Leaning Tower of Pisa?”

The answer is Nothing. It’s a hollow tube.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world is empty.  But people do not care. It is an iconic building and wows people from all over the world.

I love that this is opposite of the reality of the Church.  The Church’s building sits empty most of the week…but it’s old news that the Church is not a building.

You are the Church. The bride of Jesus. The body of Christ.  Get a couple of people like you together, and God is there with you!  Grasp that!

The big question is, why aren’t people wowed by the Church all over the world?

There are negative and positive answers.

We know the negative reasons.  Do you know the positive ones?  Here’s one to remember…

“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?” 2 Corinthians 2:15-26

That Scripture asks a very pertinent question in its last verse.  Who is adequate for such a task?

The answer: YOU!  You are adequate just as you are.  Oh, you might have to pick up your cross of sacrifice and live differently than you currently are…but that doesn’t make you inadequate.  It just makes you leaning…limping…wounded.  But that is what makes you remarkable.

I’m not sure I can trust anyone who doesn’t walk with some sort of limp…or lean. The Bible is loaded with  historical records of people that limp and lean.  I’m grateful for my wounds that cause me to now limp.  Your limp tells a story of victory and conquering.  Or it should.  If you’ll allow it, that thing, that wound, which caused the scarring that makes you limp, will make you even more remarkable…yes, your leaning can make you incredible.  There are millions of beautiful buildings around the world…but the ones that lean…they have looooong lines of curious gazers and photographers.

You are adequate.  You are never empty, if you are the Church.  You are worthy.  You can live your life in such a way that some people will go crazy wanting what you have.

Its not easy.  You’ll have to lean into Jesus more than you think is even possible.

 

 

 


Major Transition reality for the Renner Family…

 

It has been around 365 days since I moved into Fountain Hills AZ, and began my new ministry venture at the Church called Christ’s Church of Fountain Hills.

I am grateful for the large numbers of people that have been watching, praying, and cheering for the Renner family from a distance.

I want to compare my experience to previous ones.  I have been in some kind of professional ministry for the past 27 years.  The different titles I have been given through those 27 years within the local church have been; Preaching Pastor, Youth Pastor, Associate Pastor, Singles Pastor, First Impressions Pastor, Evangelism Pastor, Church Planter, Merging pastor, Senior Minister, Lead Minister, President of Mission Org, Bible Teacher, and a few titles that I have heard whispered behind closed doors about me.  LOL!

All is good.  I write this blog to the professional pastor out there and I have one purpose and point in this post.  For those who are not a professional pastor, I hope you will read and be challenged to encourage your pastor, who may not always show it in ways you think you need, but he/she loves you and wants to protect you, and prepare you to meet Jesus someday, like nobody else in your life.

Out of all the titles I’ve held over the past 27 years, the current title I hold has been the most challenging and difficult thing I’ve done.  The title is best described in its simplest form as Lead Pastor.  But that title is not the best description of my title.  The real title, in the eyes of those my position has affected the most, is …”Our Next Pastor.”

It is a legitimate title, because I have been called it too many times to count in just the last year. Its not a bad title and in all honesty it really is the most fitting title for the situation.  I’m good with the title.

After 26 years of very successful ministry endeavors, this year 27 has had me feeling like I didn’t have a clue in what I was doing.  In the past 27 years, I have been more of a church planter type lead pastor than anything else.  So when I transitioned into the role of “our next pastor” to replace a retiring founding pastor who had tenure for 33 years, I really had no idea what I was getting into.  And I got into it thick!  From what I’ve been told or have read about other pastors who have transitioned into the role of “our next pastor”… I’ve had it pretty good.  In fact this isn’t my first rodeo with trying to be the “our next pastor.”  I tried it once in a church in FL and literally quit 7 weeks into it.  It just wouldn’t be right to share the gory details of that hardship my family encountered…but…  all  that to say, becoming “our next pastor” is not for the faint of heart.  It is not fun, but it is good. It literally is the hardest thing I’ve done in professional ministry.  So…what’s my main point here? Keep reading…

Many USA resources are stating that around 10,000 baby boomers, people born between 1946-1964, are retiring everyday right here in the good ol USA… and will continue to do so until 2036. Google it, its crazily true.  Calculate that and it equals more than 80 million people retiring in the next 19 years.

I believe it is fair for me to guess, then, that there will be a multitude of founding pastors in that mix of retirees.  Which means there will be multitudes of “our next pastors” stepping into their shoes, picking up their torches, or taking their batons.  For those who are about to step into the shoes of those retiring founding pastors, please heed my words of warning.

There is nothing more leadership intensively difficult, nothing more hazardous to orchestrate, nothing more uncertain in its success, that will leave you feeling isolated and abandoned, than to fill the shoes of a retiring-founding pastor, and be the one who introduces a new era of influence. You, serving as ‘Our Next Pastor’ will have enemies in all those who love the old form, and at best, lukewarm support in all those who will benefit by the new. So, for God’s sake, for the Church’s sake, for the lost’s sake, for a troubled world’s sake, look forward, move forward, dig deep, for the very reason this situation is happening, is because the current status quo isn’t working anymore. Lead on, O’ leader, lead on!  You only need the solid rock on which you stand, to be your inspiration…Jesus…to remind you that He can do immeasurably more than you dare to ask or hope for! So persist, press on, endure! Let Jesus be your only audience you desire to please, and He alone must be your faith, your hope, and your love.  You are the, ‘our next Pastor’!  You got this! 

If I can personally visit with you over the phone, email, or at a table, with a hot cup of coffee or Dr. Pepper with a wedge of lime squeezed in it, please just ask.  I’ve been taking extremely thorough notes through this adventure. I am seeing success. More time will tell the truth in how I’m doing.  It has become vividly clear to me why churches struggle to produce fruit beyond the 100, 200, & 400 growth barriers. I can help you! I know I will pump you up!! 🙂  And even more, I know I would also learn from you.  I’d be grateful to swap stories with you, compare scars, celebrate our victories, cry through the heart wrenching experiences our families face as we lead people to experience God, and most of all, I simply want to encourage you, and have you walk away with shining eyes!

This is really, really good work we do.  Of course it is hard. It reminds us how alive we really are.

 

 

 

 


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