Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Constant Student of Jesus

I am slowly reading through The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I say slowly because as my coworker Jan Lynn describes this book "it will kick your butt," simply meaning it has some deep and life challenging statements. The premise is that we are to become Disciples not "just" Christians. This mornings reading ended on page 17 (I did say slowly :-)).

"But only constant students of Jesus will be given adequate power to fulfill their calling to be God's person for their time and their place in this world. They are the only ones who develop the character which makes it safe to have such power."

WOW - I really want to fulfill my calling, I want to accomplish all that God has put in my heart to accomplish. As I so often struggle with accomplishing enough, I interpret this as I have to: work harder, study more, have a greater influence, simply put I feel I have to "DO MORE". I don't believe that is what Mr. Willard is stating nor do I believe it's what Christ wants. When we become students of Christ our character should change, our thought processes change, the fruit of the spirit (the spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit) flows through us. With that comes His power to accomplish more than we ever could of our own strength. It is a contradiction, almost an oxymoron that by "Doing less" and building a stronger relationship with Christ we have the potential to accomplish more.

The statement regarding our developing of character is one of the "butt kicking" statements. Yes I want His power, yes I want His character but it's no wonder I feel I have less of both as a result of my poor priorities. It really is about pursuing Christ, my relationship with Him, my trust in Him, my confidence that He will use me to the fullest extent of my willingness to submit to Him. Another painful word, SUBMIT, yet that is a resounding theme in our relationship with Christ. "The last shall be first", "surrender it all", "walk away from what you have known to follow me". We must submit ourselves to His will, to His desires. This will require an extra effort of humility and determination of our wills.

I conclude these ramblings with the thought for the new year. I must be a greater student of Christ, for several reasons. To be a better husband and father, to be a better friend and pastor, and to accomplish to the fullest extent the calling Christ has given to me. I want His power more than my own position...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Saying Grace and Torture

Today is Christmas eve. Just a few details to accomplish and most of the day is dedicated to family. One of the "details" is to make sure my nine and twelve year old boys get hair cuts. When this is announced to them you'd think the world was coming to an end. One even made the statement that it was torture having their hair cut. Needless to say we ended up having a fun afternoon, golf range, playing around and even got the hair cuts in. Then we all sat down for a family Christmas eve dinner.

As I said Grace, thanked the Lord for all our blessings, the thought occurred to me how thankful I am that the only "torture" my family experienced was on the scale of HAIRCUTS. What a Christmas gift from our Lord. We could be experiencing real physical torture, or emotional torture at the loss of a loved one, or the loss of financial security or any other countless means of "torture". We are truely blessed and that is one of the most wonderful gifts God could give.

God gives good gifts. This Christmas count those gifts and give Him honor.

Merry Christmas

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fundamentalist, Creative Arts & Worship

I'm beginning to think that I might be a closet creative arts connoisseur. These last two weeks I've enjoyed great worship at our church. Much of the enjoyment has come from the worship leaders, the song selections and even my own choice to join in and worship. Additionally to these reasons we've added a couple different elements. Elements that are common in some worship experiences yet so many leaders are afraid or have other reasons for not taking the risk and utilizing them.

The two elements were the painting of a picture during one of the songs (the picture was of Christ) and the other was including a ballet style dance during a Christmas worship song. These expressions of God given gifts helped point me to the wonder of our savior, to the vast blessings of His gifts to his people. As a worship experience they contributed to my striving to know Christ better, even to preparing me for the teaching that followed.

As the local church strives to be relevant to our society let's reclaim expressions of worship that perhaps have become diluted by misuse. Let's bring honor to Christ through a variety of worship expressions. For some of us this will probably mean breaking away from some of our "fundamentals". It probably won't feel comfortable and you may even receive some "persecution". Move through it, honor God, reach the lost and disciple those around you! Know that His "fundamentals" are given to His children and I have to believe that He is proud when the gifts He's given are put to good use, to expressions of worship, to point people towards Him. Join me as I come out of the closet.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Terror

I was woken up this morning by the vibrations of my cell phone. The first words out of the callers mouth was that they had found a money bag apparently belonging to our church. My heart dropped, fear welled up that we have now experienced a major burglery. Coincidently there had been a planned power outage in our churches vacinity. I relunctantly dressed and headed to the church. Upon arriving, I entered the office where the supposed money bag had been secured. Much to my pleasure I immediatly noticed that computers and other valuables were still where they should be. Doors were secure, no glass broken, everything appeared to be ok. I then found our staff person that had secured the returned bag and we began looking through it.

Much to our pleasure we discovered that it wasn't our churches bag but one of the venders we do business with. Apparently they had collected one of our checks in addition to several other companies funds and somehow the bag had ended up in the street. It appeared to have been run over, yet there was still cash inside with the checks.

A gentleman named Lonnie, I have no other identification, saw the bag on the side of the road, looked through it discovering our check and assumed the bag must be ours and returned it. I don't think Lonnie was an angel but with a real life illustration of "man's" generosity at least some of my faith in "man kind" is restored. There are still honest people, people who understand the essence of Christmas - a spirit of giving. I am very grateful to now be at home, having enjoyed a great breakfast with my family and not figuring out how to have church services without electronics or a damaged facility. Thank you Lonnie, Thank you Lord! May your Christmas "terrors" be turned to Christmas joys.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Scrooges Musings

I’m the last one to get into the Christmas spirit; I dread clearing a path to the buried boxes of Christmas decorations, would rather sit and watch football, than climb on the house hanging lights. I get tired just thinking about fighting the crowds to go shopping. I could easily be characterized as a Scrooge.
Yet, while decorating the Christmas tree with my family, reluctantly drug away from some uneventful sports event on TV, I reach for an ornament given to me by my mom when I was spending Christmas alone in cold, dark Alaska. Warm memories of comfort and family enter my mind. I grab another ornament from the box, this one was given to my wife and I for our first Christmas together, another one pulled from the box, this one a gift representing our first home together, then another representing my oldest son’s first Christmas another one from Jimmy and Jonathan’s arts and craft phase. I begin looking at all the ornaments on the tree, the floor the table yet to be placed and realize that they represent more than ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. These ornaments represent love and friendship, family and great times together. They represent personal growth and family growth, hard times and great times, they represent the “Jim Hill” family.
These ornaments are more than just plastic or glass, crystal or wood. They are symbols, they are representations of my investment in people and others investment into me and my family. Christmas joy began to well up in my heart – the trappings of scrooge began falling aside and I’m trying to not only leave them on the floor but sweep them out of my life. To my family and friends I say thank you! Thank you for filling my Christmas season with great memories and giving me hope for many more fantastic seasons to come.