Sucking The Joy From Your Life! 10 things I want you to know about comparison.

Anne and I have different running styles.  The fact is this: We love to run, but there really is nothing similar about the WAY we run.

Anne runs much greater distances but at a slower pace.  I run at a much faster pace but at shorter distances.  When we run together, the distance she wants to run makes me groan.  The pace that I’m used to running frustrates her.  When we approach hills, I want to power up them.  She likes to walk up them.  She can run in the silence of nature and pray and/or reflect upon the day.  I love to pray on a run, but I must have something playing in my ears. 

running-wallpaper-13-1080p-hd

Simply said, we approach running quite differently.  And neither one is the perfect way to run.  We have learned to enjoy our past-time without ruining it with comparing our styles to the other.  We’ve even ceased comparing our running to other people.  Anne and I will try to learn more about running, but we’ve resolved that “comparison” just sucks the joy out of our experience.

Know this: comparison can be a very good thing.  From comparing Qdoba to Moe’s all the way to comparing running shoes to get the best purchase that gives the best performance.  Comparison is a great power that needs to be handled with great responsibility.  But unfortunately, it has become a tool for the enemy to use to reduce our joy to dust.  I think there might be no other issue that Anne and I counsel more with people than with the issues of comparison.  It comes up constantly with us because, as just stated, we hear about it from others and we, Anne and I, can tend to suffer from it.  It’s brutal and violent. Comparison wants to shred your joy apart to be the shattered remains of what it should be.  

As I said last Sunday at Kfirst

Happiness is a byproduct of circumstantial vision; Joy is a byproduct of Godly perspective.

What element would love to keep you focused on your circumstances? Comparison.  Like so many things, comparison has been so misused and mishandled that it can be such a detriment to your life.  Here are 10 things I want you to beware of when it comes to an unhealthy use of comparison: 

  1. Comparison is selfish in nature.  “Why don’t I get as much as someone else?”
  2. Comparison is a thief. It robs the enjoyment from you and others that God designed you to have.
  3. Comparison is used to elevate ourselves instead of God.  “We can do it in order to look better than others.”
  4. Comparison can be a cop-out.  We’ll find someone who we think is “far worse off”, compare ourselves, and give ourselves permission to not change because, “hey, at least I’m not the other person!”
  5. Comparison can be laced with fear.  You match yourself against an ideal and think “I’ll never be able to do/accomplish what he/she has done.  So why try?”
  6. Comparison is manipulating. We’ll try to use in on our spouse, children, friends, etc.  “If I can compare them to who I want, I can steer them in the direction I want them to go.”
  7. Comparison is stifling. We use it to dampen the joy of the people in our life who are celebrating something we can’t celebrate with them.   
  8. Comparison will make you spiritually impotent.  When you have a reputation of using comparison to stifle joy and manipulate, it can keep you from imparting the love of Christ into others. 
  9. Comparison blinds. It leaves a fog around your life that keeps you unable to see His truth in your life.
  10. Comparison can be judgement.  We can develop an “ideal” and think everyone has to live up to that. People won’t know what they want to tell you because they won’t know what you’re comparing them to.

Be cautious with your living.  Watch your life and prevent comparison from sucking the joy out of your walk with Christ. If you’re really itching to compare something, then reflect on Psalm 86:8-10 (MSG),

There’s no one quite like you among the gods, O Lord, and nothing to compare with your works. All the nations you made are on their way, ready to give honor to you, O Lord, Ready to put your beauty on display, parading your greatness, And the great things you do— God, you’re the one, there’s no one but you!

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Spectator Church

I do my normal Monday thing.  Well before the office opens, I sit in a undisclosed coffeehouse location and pen out messages (my fancy way of saying “I type out sermons on my computer”). I find myself reflecting on yesterday’s message points by Ron Maddux:

Out of context of the story of his life, these seem like very simple points.  But to hear his testimony…to catch his passion for the lost…yesterday’s message continues to impact me to my very soul.  You need to understand: I came out of a week of talking with missionaries about future missions trips, conversing pastor’s pursuing their calling, and seeing people reaching out to those who are hurting.  Sunday was the “icing on the cake.” I am so passionate for people to hear the Gospel (the good news of hope in Christ in the midst of our hopelessness) and yesterday just fed the flame.

I learned something years ago:  church is not a spectator sport. (Yes I know it’s not a “sport” per se but bear with me.) But I’m afraid we’ve made the american “church” into nothing more than what I do during football season on Sunday afternoons in front of the TV.

I watch my team.
I get excited.
I’m proud to be a fan of my team (for the first time in a long time).
I post it on social media.
Then I walk away and go about my life.

A spectator. A fan.

Aaaaaaaaand that can sum up the life of a church attender.  I will support my team/church on Sunday.  I’ll enjoy it IF the outcome of the game/service is what I think it should be.  I might even tweet/facebook post about it.

But that’s it.

Have we spent so much time going to church that we forget we ARE the church? We fight for traditions of what takes place in a building we call the “church” and don’t fight for the traditions of BEING the church.  The early church was radiant with the Gospel.  The “Good News” was so good they couldn’t keep it to themselves.  Grace was so rich to taste that they didn’t want to be the only ones consuming it.  Everything about the early church seemed to smack against being a spectator.  Everyone was involved.  It wasn’t about getting “my” church experience. It was about being a “city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14) so that others could experience the indescribable grace of God.

This is what this month is about at Kfirst.  It’s about moving us from being the spectator into engaging the world around us.  We’re asking you to engage in 3 ways:

Reach final

  1. Reach our community.  Sign up to serve the week of November 17 in our “Serve All” week.  Put hands and feet to your faith.
  2. Reach Ethiopia with clean water.  We’re partnering with Life Water to drill a well and provide clean water to a community in desperate need.   Every time we gather in November, we’re going to take time to give so that we can provide people with water and communicate the love of Jesus.
  3. Reach the world. Starting next week, we’re going to challenge you to make a commitment to reaching our world by partnering with us and our 84 missionaries/ministries to make it simple for people to find and follow Jesus.

It’s time to get out of the stands in the stadium and get on the field.  Jesus didn’t come out of the tomb so that you can be housed safely in your church buildings.  You are a missionary.  You are an ambassador of the Kingdom. It’s time to engage with world around you with the love of Jesus that has transformed your life.  If you have freely received…

…it’s time to freely reach.

We’ll see you on Sunday.

Thank for letting me ramble…

 

“Warning: Choking Hazard” New series starting @kalamazoofirst

As a kid, the idea of choking frightened me.  If you’ve never choked on anything, you’ve never felt the sheer panic of fighting to regain the breath of life that we take so for granted.  Just one act of “choking” will have you monitoring the size of food going into your mouth and the amount of times you chew your food.  That single act of “choking” will so traumatized you that as a parent, you’ll fight to make sure your children NEVER experience the terror of choking and the deadly ramification that can come from it.

On most toys containing small parts, you’ll read a warning label:

ChokingHazardLabelExample

It’s there for a simple reason: to caution parents that have little ones that there are objects within your purchase that are a choking hazard for your child.  You’re little ones have a nature to take what is given to them and place it in their mouths regardless of the nutritional value.  We give them a bit of grace because, hey, they’re so young and innocent that they cannot possibly know better. 

That nature still lies in all of us.  If we’re not careful, we will taking and consume what life gives to us with no thought or prayer behind it.  Life is full of choking hazards.  Jesus talks about them in Matthew 13 in the “Parable of the Sower.” It is in verse 22 where he says, 

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches CHOKE the word, and it proves unfruitful.

This is the “warning label” of life.  This is the label we forget about as we go into life thinking “Hey, I’m a believer.  I’m going to heaven and I don’t need to worry about anything else.” and we don’t even realize that life is FULL of choking hazards.   Jobs, marriage, family, church…there’s nothing wrong with these wonderful opportunities.  They’re a part of life.  But, like anything, they’re going to be filled with choking hazards.  

This is what our message series is about at Kfirst.  

Life is tough to consume.  Like a child, we blindly devour our heavy schedules along with the tough (normal) seasons of life that naturally comes.  We read scriptures like John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” and we don’t realize that one of the ways “The Thief/Devil” wants to kill is by you CHOKING on life itself.  He wants to stifle your life with every care of this world so that your life is completely unfruitful

It’s time to reclaim the breathe that the cares of this world have been choking off.  It’s time to learn that as much as life is filled with “choking hazards”, we can be a people who, according to Matthew 13, who hears the word, understands it, and has a life that bears fruit.  After all, Jesus says in the other half of John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Join us this Sunday at 10am as we bring some exposure to some of these “choking hazards” and help people breathe deeply and freely in their walk with Christ.   

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Thoughts for @kalamazoofirst to keep in mind for Easter Sunday!

The Last Word Slide

One thing I love about Passion Week is the blogs and post from other pastors.  I’ve been so inspired by so many of them pumped about what’s taking place this weekend!  I wanted to challenge our Kfirst peeps to be bold during this Easter season.

  1. Remember, 82% of people will say “yes” to being invited to church during Easter week.  If you’re into stats…that’s a great return.  If you’re not into stats…then just invite someone out!
  2. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you. Stop saying “NO” when that someone who keeps popping into your head. That’s the Holy Spirit working in your life.  You never know what is going on in their life and right now be the BEST time to invite them for Sunday’s service.
  3. People like food. Invite them to breakfast at Kfirst before the service.  Besides, who doesn’t like a free meal that is AMAZING!?! (props to Traci and her team)
  4. Spend time in seeking God in prayer asking who you need to specifically reach out to and invite to Sunday at Kfirst.
  5. Spend time in prayer over the services this weekend.  (Good Friday at 12pm and Easter at 10am) Pray that Kfirst would make it simple for people to find and follow Jesus.
  6. Don’t feel the pressure to have to be a theological expert.  In your mind, you probably have imagined people asking you a whole bunch of hypothetical questions that you may/may not know the answers to. You just have to know that Jesus saves and that’s what we’re going to talk about at Kfirst this weekend.
  7. Don’t just be a prayer warrior without pursuing people.  Jesus said, “come and see.” YES…we should pray for people far from God, but we should also be willing to pursue them like Jesus pursued us.
  8. Take some time this week to read John 1:43-51 and see that “Found People Find People” really is true.
  9. Get excited about church! If people can get excited about the Instagram picture of their cat, then WE can get excited about people finding and following Jesus.
  10. Realize that fear you feel about inviting someone doesn’t come from the Lord (2 Timothy 1:7)! If HE has placed someone on your heart to invite then He has gone before you and prepared them for the invite as well.

Can’t wait to see you at Kfirst!

Props to Perry for inspiring this blog!

Information for a free gift…and 5 things for @kalamazoofirst

Top of the morning to ya!  It’s Monday so get some coffee and buckle up for a great week.

I laugh at Facebook links, Twitter links, and the spam emails that simply say, “Click here for a free gift.” The ad isn’t funny. It’s knowing that we are so desperate to get “free” stuff that we lay down all inhibitions in the euphoria of knowing we could be getting something free.  I’m not standing in judgement. Anne knows that when we go to a conference, I look forward to SWAG (Stuff We All Get).  I’ll walk from table to table to pick up free pens and key chains as if the Mayan calendar was right and my survival the coming apocalypse would come from the pens and key chains.  We see free…and we leap.  But, for some reason, we have a gift available, and instead of receiving it, we go about attaining it with alternative ways.

I’m slowly going through Ephesians this month and got a great reminder.  My pen couldn’t underline my new bible fast enough. It was screaming at me from page 976. I pulled out my phone and instagramed the passage.

“And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God.”

The subtle reminder to me in the midst of my monday rush: you didn’t create this life yourself…you didn’t earn it…you couldn’t accomplish it.

It’s a gift.  It’s free for you to receive.  I guess today the Holy Spirit felt I needed that reminder.  Maybe I’ve taken it for granted.  I guess I needed to come to a greater appreciation of His love for us. Without Jesus…where would I be?

I recognize the cost comes as we follow Christ…but that’s for another blog on another day.

Here are 5 things I want Kfirst to know about…

#1 – Sunday was amazing. When I showed up to youth group last night, the teen were buzzing about Sunday morning.  That, to me, is a litmus test for a speaker.  How did the next generation receive them?

Andy Raatz did something extraordinary.  He imparted his heart into ours. It was like the sanctuary was an operating room and his heart was transplanted into our lives.  What a great response to the altar!!! I had a few talks with some people who were messed up from yesterday…in a good way.  What a joy to see individuals seeing their world with new hearts and having a passion for the lost.

If you missed the message, download it from iTunes later  or hit our website.

#2 – Missions Emphasis is concluding Sunday!!  Every November, we concentrate our focus on outreach (local, national, world). Our two-week emphasis centers our hearts upon the lost, increase our passion, and challenged us to get involved.  We’ll be taking up our “faith promises” on Sunday.  A faith promise is a monetary goal or a pledge that is set between the you and God for the support of world missions. This goal is set for one year.  Anne and I have supported world missions since we were teens and would encourage you to join us in giving to world missions.

#3 – Missions Emphasis includes giving to the Kalamazoo Gospel mission!!  During our emphasis we’re teaming up with the Kalamazoo Gospel mission.  We’re challenging everyone at Kfirst to bring coats in to bless the mission.  If you have a coat and/or want to buy one to donate, please bring into the office during the week.

#4 – Chapel Service and Hymn Sing is coming up this Thursday! If you’re one of our senior adults, you don’t want to miss out on an amazing time. Our pastoral team has been rotating through and bringing the Word.  I absolutely love our time of prayer at the end!

#5 – Sacred: Kfirst Christmas Series.  I can’t wait to launch our Christmas series this coming December.  My desire is to bring back the sacredness to the Christmas story that, for some, has become generic and ordinary.  Join us as we present “sacred” in December…better yet…invite a family or two and let them hear about the Lord who was sent to bring them life.

That’s all I have today. Enjoy the Lord’s free gift to you.  Enjoy giving that gift to someone else.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Are you looking for the key to God’s hand?

Happy Monday! We just came off an amazing weekend at KFirst!

We are in the thick of the fall season and I’m excited about what’s happening in our church community. If you were not able to join us, we had a busy day of ministry that makes it exciting be a part of an amazing church community.

I’ll kick off Monday with a simple TRUTH for ya. It comes from a friend of mine.  Brad Leach is a church planter in the Philadelphia area. He says, “The key to God’s hand is God’s heart. Do you want to experience God’s hand on your life? Love what He loves!” Coming off what we preached yesterday about loving the Lord our God, this flows perfect. Live out this week loving God…and loving what he loves.  It’s a perfect example of Mark 12. This is a great segway into recapping our Sunday and looking forward to this week.

Here are 5 things I want you to know about…

#1 – KFirst continued our series “Dust” yesterday. We focused on “The Code” to live by. The Shema (Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21Numbers 15:37-41) was read twice a day and lived out as their “code” for life.   We talked about when the word “hear” is used in scripture. When used, it means more than the faculty of hearing. It includes listening, taking heed, and responding with action to what one has heard. This word gives us a greater understanding of when the word “hear” is used in prayers.  I love the song we sang at the altar. 

A simple TRUTH to remember: Belief is not just something you do with your brain, it is something that captures your heart and radically alters the way you live. We want the shema to capture our heart as we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and very (oomph). If you missed the message, download it from iTunes  later on Monday or hit the website.

#2 – Wednesday nights at KFirst are back! We had a great night last Wednesday with our Rangers and M-pact ministry going and our Adult classes in full swing.  I’m having a blast teaching John, my absolute favorite of the four Gospels.  Please join us.  We’ll have fresh coffee and great connections.

#3 – Tailgate Party is here.

September 23rd is going to be a great day as we celebrate outside at our Tailgate Party.  Park your car on the west side of the building when you come Sunday morning and stuff your cooler full of food for your family.  Most people choose to wear their favorite team’s T-shirt/sweatshirts during the tailgate.  Bring food for your family and feel free to share. It’s always a great time.

#4 – Annual Business Meeting is a week and a half away.  Our trustee nominees are presented in a handout at the information center and in the church office. I’d ask that you take some time intercede over this as we approach 3 trustee positions with prayerful hearts.  We have such an awesome list of nominees and I am excited for the future of our board.

#5 – Pastor Todd brought a need before our congregation that we challenge EVERYONE to be a part of.  A member of our congregation, David Riegel, has been actively involved in ministry to Native Americans.  Already this morning, I’ve been told we have had a great response. The need we have is for sleeping bags to be purchased for the cold winter coming.  If you want to join so many others and purchase one, or two or three…they are just $10 per sleeping bag. You can give online or contact the office.

That’s all we have today.  Love the Lord…and love what he loves.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Hey @kalamazoofirst…”how did you get that car on the stage?”

Happy Monday! The Lions won so it’s a happier Monday for me.

That was the question that was buzzing yesterday at KFirst. Some have figured it out…some are still scratching their heads.

What an outstanding day yesterday at KFirst!  If you were not there, we had a packed day of ministry that makes it exciting be a part of an amazing church community.

Here are 5 things I want you to know about…

#1 – KFirst kicked off our series “Dust” yesterday.

We have taken to heart the focus of John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”  Jesus sees something in me: He thinks I can be like him. He is our rabbi/teacher and we are to choose to follow him.  We wrapped up with a TRUTH: Following Christ is a moment and a process, entrance and walkway, new life and new lifestyle.  If you missed the message, download it from iTunes or hit the website.

#2 – Lifegroups Expo is coming up THIS SUNDAY, September 16th.

It’s happening after church, outside under the “big top” tent. We’ll have food, games and Target giftcard giveaways. Come out to discover our new groups, meet our leaders and get more information on our all Lifegroups. For more info, contact the church office at (269)329-1977 or the KFirst Facebook.

#3 – Our Next Gen ministries had their fall kick off. 

  • Kidzone joined us for worship.  I love seeing the kids in service with us and having the families to sing together.  Don’t forget, they are dismissed while the offering is taken.  I can’t thank our kid’s ministry volunteers enough for the phenomenal job they are doing. Thank you for pouring into our kids on a weekly basis.  Ethan loves his BLAST classes and can’t wait to go every week.
  • Real had a great turnout last night.  Give their promo video a look. My daughter came home so pumped about what Jesus is doing in her youth group.   If you have students ages 6th grade to 12th grade, bring them on out.
  • theHub had their fall launch. Check out their promo video…better yet, show a young adult and invite them out to a life-changing venue. I’m so excited about Pastor Todd’s and Tara’s passion for our young adults.  If you have or are a young adults, get plugged in to theHub.

#4 – Annual Business Meeting is coming up September 26th.  Our trustee nominees will be presented in a handout at the information center and in the church office on Sunday. I’d ask that you intercede over this as we approach 3 trustee positions with prayerful hearts.  I think the nomination committee did a great job in giving us choice candidates to serve.

#5 – Tailgate Party is almost here.

September 23rd is going to be a great day as we celebrate our Annual State of the Church message and celebrate outside at our Tailgate Party.  Park your car on the west side of the building when you come Sunday morning and stuff your cooler full of food for your family.  Most people choose to wear their favorite team’s T-shirt/sweatshirts during the tailgate. I just ask for the MSU stuff to be toned down.  OSU paraphernalia will not be tolerated :)…not that I’m picky or anything.

Have great week.

Thanks for letting me ramble…