Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “Grief”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, we continued our series at Kfirst. Last year, we took 6 weeks to bring a focus on something that far too many people do not understand: our emotions. It’s our emotional state that people can go into one of two extremes. On one hand, people can live completely in the wake of their emotions. They’ll operate not at a state of truth but in the pace of their passion for that day. On the other hand, there are those that completely disregard their emotions as if they were a curse or a weakness. It is as if emotions are something to endure in this life on earth instead of seeing them for which God sees them.

What I see in scripture is that our emotions are, first, a gift from God. They are part of our humanity. Second, if they are a gift, then we have a responsibility to steward (manage) them. This takes emotional discipleship; growing what we have deeper in the knowledge and passion for Christ.

Sunday, Pastor Matt Ray brought a great message to our church community on the subject of grief. Not only is this something that every one of us face, but recently, this is something that Pastor Matt has been journeying through personally. Last night, I got a chance to listen to the message on our Kfirst Facebook page and I think you need to check it out.

 

Check out his message here:

Other thoughts from Sunday:

  • Grief is internal, mourning is external.
  • Increase our tolerance for the unknown.
  • Understand closure is a myth.
  • Practice new rituals.
  • Grief is best done in community.
  • Next steps:
    • Find someone to share your grief with.
    • Continued reading: John 11, Ruth, Psalms of Lament
    • Authors: David Kessler, Pauline Boss, Nancy Guthrie
    • Find a Christ-centered Counselor
    • Prayer

Love you all. Have an amazing week.

Monday Kfirst Kickstart: “I Don’t Have to Look”

Today I want to give you a place to start your week. It’s Monday and in the wake of a great weekend and a workweek ahead, sometimes you just need a “kickstart” to get focused.  So grab some coffee let’s start a great week together.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday we continued our series on Elijah entitled, “Whirlwind.” Week 3, we look at Elijah’s preparation for the rest of his ministry when God sends him to the Kerith ravine. It was here where he was to wait and learn to depend upon God.

1 Kings 17:7-24 Elijah steps out of the ravine, sent by God to a widow living in Zarephaph. It was here that God began to take everything he prepared in Elijah and use it to show this widow God’s ability to provide in a land ruled by the worship of the idol Baal.

Here we learn:

  1. Gods preeminence in the ordinary, positions you for the extraordinary.
    • When we put God first, we set ourselves up for the blessings of God.
  2. Don’t be distracted by “Dead ends.”
    • Just when you think you’re finished, God is just getting started.
    • We looked at the 40% wall. Don’t allow the Enemy convince you that you’re done. Where he says to stop, we say, in Christ, keep moving forward.
  3. Pursue trust, not clarity.
    • Most of the time we look to clarity in order to trust. But God asks us to trust him and allow that to guide our lives.

This week, ask the Holy Spirit to deepen a trust in you. Spend some time in the presence of God. The more you are familiar with the Lord and His word, the more you’ll step out in trust with your life.

Love you all. Excited to see what God does in and through you.

See you this Sunday!!

BTW: This is one of the songs we did yesterday

Pastor to Pastor: Getting and Gathering Sermon Ideas

Prepping for sermons…well, I love prepping (said in the voice of Stanley from “The Office” from the pretzel day episode).

I love preaching. Declaring the love of Christ to people is such an amazing privilege that I do not take lightly. It’s why I go full-tilt on my preaching preparation. My wife will tell you, my mind NEVER turns off of preaching prep. It’s good in the sense of having my radar up constantly to get and gather material. The negative, I struggle with turning it off as to enjoy myself. Thus, the reason why I needed to develop tactics and tools to help me in my message and sermon series prep.

Over the past couple years, I’ve been contacted about my practical approach to this, specifically, how I accumulate (get and gather) ideas and information.  Usually, the end of those conversations end with a request for a blog with the list of them.

I’ve found out that many ministers regulate research and ideas to office time.  Or, some will get ideas and don’t know how to organize them.  I want to make this as simple and practical as possible. I don’t consider myself a “specialist” on the subject, as it’s taken me years to work out what fits me and my personality type. Most of these tactics and tools require very little to no investment and they fit the type of person I am.  

But the key: These tactics and tools work for me. And that’s what you’ve got to discover for you. This is not an exhaustive list as you may uncover other ways/tactics. If you have something to add to the list…PLEASE SHARE!

First: Where I get ideas: 

  • Time in the Word
    • It’s incredibly difficult to hear a word for your congregation if you’re not in the Word yourself. It’s also important to note that if the Word isn’t challenging you, it’s probably not going to challenge your church community. Personal time in your bible can produce ideas, messages, and series but it shouldn’t be the goal. The goal is always a greater revelation of Christ and His Kingdom.
  •  Prayer
    • I know the scripture in James 1:19 is in the context of anger, but there is some beautiful wisdom for us as preachers. We should be “slow to speak and quick to listen.” We ought to be very quick to position our minds and heart to quiet ourselves and listen for the Spirit of the Lord to speak to our hearts. Which leads to my next thought…
  • Books
    • You’re heard it said, “leaders are readers.” I think it’s true.  But I have to admit, it’s not natural for me at all. I’m slow at it. I don’t comprehend at rates others do so it takes me time to take in what the author is saying. But it’s out of positioning myself with a variety of authors and subjects that the Lord has stirred ideas and thoughts. 
  • Running/walking
    • If you have time to pray, you’ve got time to walk. I start working well before the office hours begin. Sometime in the afternoon, I like to take a break from studies and counseling to go for a run. The exercise helps both clearing out the mind as well as providing necessary exercise for the body. I listen to podcasts of preachers for part of my run. I spend another part just praying over people. It may sound like multitasking, but it’s what works for me. 
    • NOTE: Pastors, your congregation needs you to get exercise, eat right, and be healthy. “Burning out for Jesus” doesn’t burn with Holy Spirit fire to give God glory, it burns with pride and makes people look at you. I’m not promoting a size or shape but promoting healthy habits that lead to a healthy life (see my post “Slave to the Scale“). 
  • Podcasts
    • I LOVE getting my creativity stretched by other preachers. Each preacher stretches me with both content and delivery. And the more I can get outside of my little Kfirst sphere and my denominational comfort zone, the more I can glean from the Kingdom of God and be a better man and preacher for it. 
  • Social media/websites/blogs
    • From a church/pastoral blog to Instagram accounts, I follow a variety of people, groups, and churches. We serve a creative God who, through His church, has amazing creativity. Don’t be afraid to see not just what others are doing but how they’re shaping the Message. Check out their approaches. See their promotional strategy.  Remember: We are not in competition with others. WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM AND PART A HIS KINGDOM. We are in a Kingdom of collaboration. Look at others. What you want, get permission to use. Let people in the Kingdom be iron sharpening iron
    • For example, a graphic artist wrote a blog about God leading us from Point A to Point B. I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to write down the idea.  A few years later, the Lord started stirring me toward a series on how God led Israel from captivity (Point A to the Promised Land (Point B).
      A2B Slide
      Series A2B

      The series was called “A2B.” One blog title turned into a series of messages and people encountered Christ because of it.  I thought he should know about it as well as to encourage him.

  • Living life (fun, vacation, struggles, etc.)
    • I don’t enjoy time with my family to get something to share, but my engagement in life naturally gives opportunity to connect the spiritual to the practical. So many times, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is like…” He connected the Kingdom to things in the culture that people were familiar with. These metaphors or illustrations helped bridge the gap between mystery and understanding. Enjoy life. Engage with your families in life. Serve in your community. And the more you live, the more stories you’ll develop. You’ll no longer be depending upon some book of “101 Great Sermon Illustrations.” Why? You’re developing them right now. People want to connect to the human being on the stage. And the best way, I believe is for them to hear about how you are still working, growing, and yes, sometimes struggling.  
    • NOTE: Never share a family story without permission. I don’t share about my wife or the children unless they give me permission. 

Second: How do I gather and develop ideas?

My whiteboard – $20 (for the hardware)

 

 

 

I literally found a piece of plexiglass in a closet in a church. Paint the side facing the wall and add a couple decorative bolts and you’ve got a whiteboard. As I’m thinking, I sketch out thoughts. I’ll write out scriptures in one color and work out ideas with other colors. It helps me look at the main thought/point and work out of it while being able to go back and reference it.

My schedule – $0

My calendar has a weekly flow to it (even if I’m not preaching on Sunday).  From planned time to study to taking a break from books to go for a run to pray over the message, I do my best to keep a schedule.  Monday mornings at the coffeehouse is about getting my mind off of the previous Sunday and fixed upon the next message. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are about crafting the message. Saturday morning is about prayer and focus.

Something I’ve built into my schedule is “future” message time.

 

 

 

 

On Monday afternoons, I spend time in prayer over the preaching calendar. It’s at this time I spend time seeking and listening to God regarding the upcoming 4-6 months of the preaching calendar. That leads me to…

My “future series” calendar – $30 chalkboard from Hobby Lobby; $6 for the chalk markers

 

 

 

This might be the most expensive piece in my office. I use the colored tape to mark out how the series flow (start and stop). It helps give me an overview as to how the year looks. Some of the pieces have the names of the series. Some are blank. Usually, I have locked in the direction of the next 3-4 series as it helps me in my prep.

My Google File – Free (for 15GB)

 

 

 

 

Having a filing system at my fingertips is huge. From laptop, iPad, or iPhone, any idea or thought can go right into the appropriate file. I always add a hashtag onto the name of the current series as it keeps the file at the top (as seen in the pic as #Playlist).  The next series is always in this located on this screen as it’s there for easy access (for some reason, the next series “Pivot Point” was cut off of the graphic). Obviously, with the filename “Future Series and Messages,” it shows the catchall location for any ideas that come from prayer and research.

My Journal – $3-5

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you’ve got to close the computer and physically write things down. I can’t carry my Whiteboard in my backpack, so this is my way to sketch thoughts and connecting thoughts. Sometimes I’ll draw out an idea of graphics. Other times, I’ll write the heart of the message/series and, than underneath it, try out some titles.

My Wall – $5.99 per large sheet of foam-board (creates roughly 12 sermon plates)

 

 

 

The “wall” reminds me of the series we have covered with our congregation. Part of it helps me steward what we’ve studied as a congregation. The very practical side: We want to steward the graphics of the past series as to make sure we don’t have the same look and feel of other series. I remember something I heard on Food Network: People eat with their eyes first. I’ve taken that to proclaiming the Word. Graphics are not primary as  Jesus is primary. But a name and graphic can trigger interest as well as remind someone of the Word that was proclaimed.  

My “Preaching” Bible – $2.99 for the package of red pens 

 

 

 

 

This may seem small, but it’s a big deal to me. Since pastoring at Kfirst, I started with a fresh bible and started underlining my main preaching texts and dating them in red. It helps me be a steward of the Word in regards to what I’m bringing to our congregation. As ideas and creativity come to me, I like to get into the Word and see if and when I as a pastor have visited that passage and when that happened.

This may see like much, but over the past 7 years of being the Lead Pastor, it’s the practical way that I approach the getting, gathering, and the developing of messages and series information/creativity. The success of this blog is that you will discover, perhaps, a new way to help steward this amazing privilege that we preachers have in delivering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

I love you all.  I’m praying that our creative God will give you creativity beyond what you could ask for or imagine. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Done with Guilt: Recap of 10 items from Sunday at KFirst #ChangeTheStation

We’re coming out of week 2 of our series “Change the Station” and Anne and I had quite a few requests for some of the notes  from the message, “Get Tuned In” as we dealt with the issue of guilt.  

Scripture: Romans 7:18-25; 8:1-6; 26-39

  1. The state of your life is usually a reflection of the state of your mind. As a man THINKS so is he!
  2. Guilt, by nature, is meant to BREAK YOU DOWN by doing 2 things:
    • Overwhelm you.
    • Overwork you.
  3. Guilt stays where it has been invited to rest.
  4. John 16:8 God has called us to live according to CONVICTION and NOT GUILT. 
  5. There’s huge differences between GUILT and CONVICTION:
    • GUILT: Causes me to think about myself through the lens of ME.
      • CONVICTION: causes me to think about myself through the lens of JESUS.
    • GUILT: Wants to wallow in sinful patterns.
      • CONVICTION: Uses Godly sorrow to identify sinful actions
    • GUILT: Wants to make you discontented and lethargic.
      • CONVICTION: Wants to push you into action. 
    • GUILT: Steals my hope by focusing on all that is wrong. 
      • CONVICTION: Give me hope because I see my wrongs through of the work of Jesus Christ.
    • GUILT’s role is to push you down on the ground. 
      • CONVICTION’s role is to get you up off the mat.
    • CONVICTION is that nudge of the Holy Spirit in our lives to point us in the right direction. 
    • CONVICTION makes uncomfortable in moments in order to move forward in a Christ-centered manner. 
    • CONVICTION puts Holy Spirit passion to our direction.
  6. Guilt is an anchor; Conviction is a baton. 
  7. The Holy Spirit helps us by…
    • 1 – Releasing you from Guilt
    • 2 – Guiding you with conviction.
    • 3 – Equipping you to live.
  8. Are we actively creating a culture of guilt instead of a culture that cultivates Holy Spirit conviction?
  9. 1 John 3:20 “…for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” 
  10. Holy Spirit conviction brings change that guilt can never produce.

It was  awesome to hear how God was speaking into hearts and lives.  We’re praying the response to the second half of our series is as good as the first half.  

Pastor Dave and Anne

A2B: 2 Ways to Engage in Our New Series at Kfirst

Life isn’t about destinations.  It’s about the journey. The journey helps us move from where we are today (A) to where God wants us to be (B).  We like to start endeavors. We like to complete them.  It’s the journey in between that we don’t look forward to.  Many times, the process from A to B is the struggle but it’s where the metal of our lives is made.

In order to move from A to B we have to trust our journey to God’s path. We need to trust His direction.  We have to trust He is there even when we don’t see it. We have to trust that what He is doing after Point A  may be more valuable than arriving at Point B. Because A to B is about the process:

It starts today

It starts in Him

And it starts with you.

Two things we’re asking you to do: 

1. Invite someone out to our series.  Everyone is on a journey.  What better way to impact someone’s journey than to invite them to come out and encounter the love of God in our church community.

2. Get involved in a A2B Group.  Find 2-3 people and commit to connecting once a week during the series.  Get together with friends and possibly find someone new. It doesn’t matter if it’s more than 2-3, what matters is the connection.  Do coffee.  Do lunch.  Don’t even worry about what to talk about because we’ll give you the questions to ask.  Just be dedicated to connection and watch God work in your life as you engage in community with one another.  We’ll provide you with a “A2B Card” to help be a reminder for ya of where and when your group decided to meet.

I love pastoring Kfirst and I can’t wait for the start of our A2B journey together.  I believe God is going to do amazing things.

Series Preaching: 5 Reasons I choose to preach in series.

I recognize that this blog won’t apply to a lot of people.  But I have a tremendous heart for pastors.  Also, I know that everyone has their preference in preaching styles whether you are the one delivering the message or you are the listener. I’m not writing to proclaim that my style and/or approach is the best.  But over the past few months, this topic has been asked of me over coffee, text, and social media.  So I thought I’d put out a simple blog together that would share my heart to the approach that I’ve taken with proclaiming the Good News.

Why do I preach in series…because it…  

1. …prevents the “Buffet Effect.” People walk away from the table saying, “I don’t know what I ate but it was good.”  Just my opinion, but I feel this is a travesty to preaching.  We gorge our congregations on so much information with hour+ long sermons.  We give people SO MUCH info that they don’t know what to do with it.  At thanksgiving, the massive meal makes me want to go take a nap.  I’m afraid our long-winded sermons have the same effect.  Old-school peeps walk away feeling great because we just “had church.”  In reality, we are giving so much information that it becomes difficult to digest.  Nobody wants to move after Thanksgiving.  Preaching should move us to response. My preaching philosophy: give smaller portions as to make sure the word is received, understood, digested, and able to facilitate growth.

2. …helps identify the “veins” that run through scripture.  I love the word.  It is a part of my daily life.  I’m always astounded to see the variety of topics and thoughts carried throughout the entire narrative of scripture.  It’s the method of “series” that can open the eyes of an individual to not just hear about it on Sunday but disciple him/her to read their scripture in the same way.

For example, I’m very passionate about the table practice of Jesus.  To read about those welcomed at His table will transform you and your approach to people. It’s my hope that after preaching about “The Table” (which I’ve done twice), that every time people would see the word “table” in scripture, they’d reflect upon what is being done/accomplished at the table they’re reading about.  2 Samuel 9, David’s heart was to honor his friend Jonathan by reaching out to Mephibosheth.  Where did David place him at?  The king’s table like on of the king’s sons. The table is a place of restoration, kindness, and hope.  Just like the table of Jesus.

3. …brings singularity of focus. This is very similar to #1 but with a bit of a difference.  It helps us long-winded pastors to break the message down to a palatable size.  The additional thing I’d add to it is it helps you take the time to really dive into the nitty-gritty of what the Lord has laid on your heart.  Before “series preaching,” I’d walk away from message bummed I didn’t spend more time on Point #2 or Point #5.  Instead of preaching 4 point messages, I can preach a 4 message series and really bring to focus the things that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart.

4. …is a chance to make the Word practical. It’s not that I couldn’t do that before.  It’s just that I had so much info that the practics got lost in all the information.  If our people don’t know how to live it, then we are missing the mark.  Series open up the congregation to “come and see” as well as “go and do.”  Series give me the chance to really talk about how what is being talked about “in here” looks “out there.”

5. …it opens up the door for discipleship. So many churches struggle with discipleship.  Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is because pastors think that discipleship is accomplished by an hour+ long sermon.  Think of the variety of generations of people who come out to a service from a multiplicity of backgrounds, with varied spiritual depths.  It’s a challenge enough to speak to everybody, let alone think that we can completely disciples everyone in the room.  I won’t say that levels of discipleship don’t happen.  But your Sunday AM (or Saturday PM), can’t be your sole discipleship time.  Series can really be a plus to your discipleship communities (small groups, one-on-one discipleship, etc) by giving them a focal point to go deeper.  If the series is on evangelism, your discipleship communities can take the message/series to a deeper place through conversation, community study, and coffee (which I think is always a necessary part of discipleship).

Again, it’s not about twisting your arm to do what fits me.  This is my answer to the question that’s ben asked and it’s the method that has worked for me as a pastor.  It’s what I enjoy.  BUT…I remember what Rick Warren tweeted out about 5 years ago:

Anyone that us unwilling to break their series to deal with a church issue is a slave to their method.

We are servants of Christ and not a method.  We proclaim Him and His Kingdom and not our empire.

In whatever method you use, proclaim Jesus with passion and conviction and watch Him change lives.

Thanks 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…