Sunday, December 27, 2009

God makes a way

I suppose that some areas of the country are different than Oklahoma. Go way north and a few inches of snow with wind is not that big of a deal. Go way south and it rarely happens.

We tend to get caught in the middle. So, each winter I hope and even pray that bad weather will not blow in on a Saturday or Sunday AM. I despise cancelling services. So I watch the weather a little closer, trying to pay attention. Oklahoma forecasters are notoriously bad at forecasting snow in advance...but I listen anyway.

Sooooooo.... this week began with the mention of some snow...Wednesday or maybe Christmas Eve. Yeah...right!

It ended up coming in Thursday afternoon. It was drizzle,sleet, then ice, 40 mph winds, and then 8 inches of snow.

Christmas Eve services cancelled. I hated it, but it was the right decision..

What followed was brutal cold, no melting on Christmas day. Okay, we still have Saturday, sunshine, and above freezing temps. Our snow crews worked hard all day to get the snow off the parking lot... but it was too much.

The neighborhoods are in terrible shape ( Oklahoma does not plow neighborhoods). The main road were good..but the parking lots were as bad as the neighborhood streets.

So decision time yesterday afternoon..... Unsafe roads mean unsafe parking which leads to unsafe walking on ice... add to that the fact that some of our most dedicated people are older and it was a change that we could not take.

CANCELLED Sunday Services.

Some churches did not cancel...but it was the right decision for us. (This is a nightmare for a preacher... no one wants to cancel).

So I went up to the church this morning. The parking lot was an ice rink. Good decision.

Only one problem... a man had been planning to come forward this morning to publicly rededicate his life to Christ. I called his Son and told Him about the cancellation. He asked if his dad could come anyway and make his rededication in front of their small group who had agreed to meet at the church one way or another.

How could I say anything but "I will be there?" And so they came. About 30 total people (big small group.) I shared a brief scripture from Acts 16 - the Phillipian Jailer... "What must I do to be saved?" I shared that if people want to come to Christ, or get right with Christ, God will make a way.

One thing I have not shared... the man lives in Grove, about 60 miles away. He drove here this morning . He knew church was cancelled, but he came anyway to be with his son and family. Then when he got there, his son told him, "Charlie and the group are waiting at the church...we are going to do this."

It was a sweet moment as he shared about how much this group meant to him, and how much FCC had meant to him, especially in helping him come back to God.

After a time of confession, we prayed, took communion as a group, and celebrated. He wants to be baptized at his new church in Grove... that will happen next week. His son will baptize Him.

When we were done, I told them, "This is why we (FCC) do what we do." We help others to know, love, serve and share Him.

"Weather" or not, we had church this morning... I know lots of others that did too, some in thier buildings, some in thier homes... and some as families, some as small groups.

I loved it. And after they were all gone, I took a minute and remembered what it was like to minister to 30, 40, 60, or100 people. So many good times... I am blessed to serve a very large church, with awesome people every where. We have a tremendous staff, great elders, and dedicated Christ-followers everywhere. But it these special moments that remind me that Jesus was interested in the one sheep that wandered off. Luke 15:3-7 tells the story. I suspect He would never let a little ice and snow get in the way of finding "the one."

So, cancellation or not, it all worked out great. "One" came home, a small group saw how they could influence someone to come home... and I somehow, by God's grace, got to be there.

Good stuff....

By the way, "they say" it's supposed to snow again on Wednesday. I wonder what God is up to?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I have a friend who is taking a risk... a big risk. He is putting himself out there. On the surface it looks like a great opportunity to invest in someone that probably needs it. But it is risky.

I have been reading some stuff he is writing about this... and every time I think to myself, "Could I take that kind of risk?"

I dont know...but risk taking is part of our faith. Risk taking oozes from the Bible.

If we never took a risk, would we ever exercise "faith?" ( You know the answer)

If we live life taking no risks, who do we depend on? (obvious answer)

If we choose to do only what we know we can do, is that really all that challenging? ( not so much)

My friend is taking a big risk, and each step of the way, I applaud him for it. I respect him for it. If it turns out well, I think it will be worth the risk.

But if for some reason it does not turn out well, I think He still will think it was worth the risk.

That is a good place to be.

I am thinking about some risk taking myself for the coming year. Some of those risks I am already committed to. I alternate from apprehension to excitement. As it all unfolds, I believe that I will see God's hand at work. I already have, so I have confidence that even in the risk, God will see me through it.

But there are a couple things out there that I need to commit too... It's kind of like stepping off the edge of a cliff. You may be "roped in", have spotters and all that, but you still have to take the first step. When you step over the edge, you are "all in." I want to be "all in." But they are big steps. ( The first one over the edge always is.)

My friend's risk taking is helping me get closer to the edge on a couple of those things.

There is another who took a big risk.... on me. His birthday is this week. When I think about what He did for me... it makes me think about how "all in" am I for Him. I fall short.

I will let you know how it turns out for my friend and me. Pray for him... pray for me... and think about some ways you might take a step toward a risk.

Near the edge....


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It's been a hard year for alot of people. I know that some parts of the country have really struggled with economic issues... 18 months ago, Tulsa was declared to be "recession-proof." To quote one of my favorite football analysts, "Not so fast my friend....."

Last night a local trucking company told its 1000 drivers on the road to shut it down. They had run out of money. Tulsa city leaders are trying to figure out how to cut millions out of the budget. They seem to be starting with public saftey. Not sure I get that one... after all, we still have lots of crime, record murder rate, and many fires , along with emergencies right and left.... but I digress....Schools are feeling the pinch. The state of Oklahoma looked good a few months ago. But not so much right now. The recession has caught up with us.

In spite of that, our church continues to be incredibly generous. Giving has been amazing. We will finish well ahead of budget and expenditures for the year. How do I explain that? Well, we have very generous people.

But it is more than just giving money on Sundays. It is an attitude. It is the attitude of generosity that motivates young families to go to John 3:16 and serve food. It is that attitude that challenges small groups to reach out to the hungry , cold, and sick to meet needs. People with jobs are helping people without jobs. Food is being supplied on many fronts. Kindness is expressed to people who are going through hard times. I only hear about a fraction of it, but I know it is happening.

One example....I know of a teenage small group that took thier own money and went and bought some kids gifts for Christmas. What is interesting is that the kids used their own money. As I understand it, they did not ask thier parents for the money. Their leader took them to a local store and they pooled their money and bought the gifts. Those kids learned alot. They learned about how generosity does cost something. They learned how expensive some of the stuff they take for granted really is. From what I have heard , some of them went home and told thier parents, "Thanks for all the things you do for me."

These are 7th graders.... enough said.

Generosity oozes out of our church, and it is not just into an offering plate. It's not just money. It is an attitude.

I do not know what 2010 will hold for us. I am confident that we will have all we need to do what God wants us to do. I do not know how much will be given. But here is one thing I know... we will not lose our generosity. It is part of who we are.

No matter what the economy does, I am so glad to be part of of a church that will always be generous. Way to go...FCC!

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Best gift ever?

Is it really "the most wonderful time of the year?"

Sunday I talked about the Christmas Carol, "Away in the Manger." I talked about the simplicity of the Christmas story. I also talked alot about the "tender care of Jesus."

What suprised me were the tears. During and after services, so many people wiped away tears. What was it all about? I did not think the sermon was a "tear-jerker." But it touched a nerve in young and old.

It was because Christmas is hard for many people.

It is hard for the person who will have an empty space at their table this year.

It is hard for the woman whose husband decided to chase after someone else this year.

It is hard for the mom and dad who have lost thier son to cancer.

It is hard for the family who was told that the job they had counted on for years would not be there after the first of the year.

It is hard for the children who lost a parent to cancer.

It's hard for the couple who have prayed , sometimes for years, for a miracle baby to come into their lives.

It is hard for the wife that never feels like she measures up to her husbands standards.

It is hard for the children who hear their parents fighting in the other room.

There is alot to be happy about at Christmas. But here is something to think about. Look around at the people around you. Get beyond the surface and look into thier lives. You might find some lives that are messy, hurting, and full of discouragement. You might find someone who is worried and fearful. You might find someone who is hungry and cold. You might find someone who is just tired of putting on a happy face and telling everyone on that they are great.

Those people might just fall into your arms...and burst into tears. And if that happens, be there. Be fully there. Just listen. When appropriate, extend your arms to them. Show them a special kind of love that accepts them where they are, points them to Jesus and makes them feel loved. Listen, pray, and listen some more. Do what you can, and then give them a hug.

It may be the best gift you give this year at Christmas

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Compliments and Criticisms... Learning from both.

"It takes 10 compliments to offset 1 criticism." I found that out this week.

I like compliments....alot. I get alot of them. People are really good to me.

I am good with constructive criticsm... really. I get more than you might think... and if the spirit is right, I deal with it pretty well.

I am not good with nit-picky and veiled shots that people sometimes take.

This week I got all three.

After thinking about it, and sulking just a little bit, I realized that one specific compliment was given to me ( by someone whose opinion I value greatly), in advance of the negative statement. God brought it back to me and reminded me that I need to accept the kernal of truth, but not let it get to me. Most criticism, even the nit picky shots have a kernal of truth. God uses it , even when it hurts.

Then today I read a piece from a highly respected leader who wrote that "Leadership is hard." Why should it be any different for me? Some days are hard...honestly, for me, most are not. I am blessed to be in a great church, with great people, a great staff, and fantastic leaders.

Tonight Pam and I went to a young adults Christmas event... and I was reminded, "This is why I do what I do." Young adults, many of whom have come up through our ministry to youth in the past 15 years, serving God, raising families, and reaching out. I see thier leaders and I think, " We are in good shape for the future...Leadership is coming up." I came away boosted and enouraged by them. It was exactly what I needed.

Now I am ready to go preach tomorrow...