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Monday, March 23, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part Three

There’s a fourth option to explain where you may find yourself in the ride of life: PAUSE
Before, during, and after a long ride there needs to be space [margin] for PAUSE. A pause is a time to fuel and re-fuel.
Lesson #3: Proper FUEL for the ride is extremely important.
Recently I decided to do a birthday ride of 55 miles on my 55th. I had prepared well by riding over 200 miles during the four weeks for this birthday ride. I enjoyed carbo loading the night before, with a great meal of spaghetti and homemade meatballs. While riding, I consumed an energy bar, banana, and alternated between water and an energy drink to stay hydrated. Despite all these efforts at about mile 48 I experienced severe cramping in my right leg, to the point I couldn’t bend it at the knee. My cell phone had died so calling my wife to pick me up wasn’t an option. I walked my bike for about 100 yards and slowly the leg started to relax. I decided to slow down my pace and see if I could finish the last seven miles. Thankfully I was able to get home and achieve my 55-mile goal.
This experience reminded me of the importance of proper fuel before, during, and after a ride. In this spiritual ride called life, we need copious amount of water [Spirit] and carbohydrates [Word]. It is the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which will give us the strength for life.
When you don’t know what else to do FUEL UP! If we don’t fuel up, we run the risk of cramping up. In this context, cramping up represents reaching the point in the ride where we give up short of achieving our goal, or struggling to the degree we’re overcome by discouragement and disappointment.
Regardless of the stage you find yourself in today, PATIENCE will be required. Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a century ride (100-mile).
The Bible writers remind us of the importance of patience and endurance.
Lesson #4: Prepare to be patient

2 Peter 2:6-8 NLT “Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. 7 Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
2 Corinthians 6:4 NLT “In everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”
2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT “Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

My lessons from Cycling:
  • Accidents Happen
  • Understand Momentum
  • Have a Plan
  • Fuel Up Frequently (fuel up or cramp up)
  • Prepare to be Patient

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part Two

In my previous post I began sharing lessons I've learned while riding my bicycle. Lesson #1 was: Understand Momentum.
Lesson #2: You need to have a PLAN
Having a plan will enable you to set a proper pace, adjust your attitude, anticipate challenges (hills, wind, rough roads), and have an overall awareness of where you are in the ride (i.e. how close to the finish line)
How did you get where you are today? (Remember, God asking Adam in the Garden: “Adam, where are you?” Genesis 3:9)
Are you where you are because of disobedience? If so, then it’s possible that the challenges you’re experiencing are God’s discipline or PUNISHMENT. On the other hand, if you’re relatively confident that there isn’t blatant disobedience in your life, and you’ve been generally obedient to God’s call and claim upon your life, then you can rule out PUNISHMENT as the reason for your current place in life. Therefore, if PUNISHMENT is not the reason you are where you are, then what’s the reason? I know of two other possible reasons…PREPARATION and POSITION.
I’ve heard people ask the question: If God loves me so much, then why does He allow hard things in my life? Answer: God loves someone else so much, someone whom you will be in a position to influence in the future, that He intentionally directs your path through pain so you will be prepared “to give them the same comfort God has given” you! Before you protest too quickly, remember, God loves you so much He has sent someone to you (probably on many occasions), and that person encouraged you and reminded you of the hope that’s available through the God of all hope.
2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” The Greek word for troubles, is Thlipsis (thlip’-sis) and it means “a pressing, pressing together, pressure; metaph. Oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straights.” (Strong’s Concordance)
I’m convinced, from personal experience and from watching God work in the lives of others, that one of the reasons why we go through some of the things that we go through in life, is to POSITION us in God’s plan. 
C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, said: “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” PAIN is a great attention-getter, motivator, and humbling tactic. 

(To be continued)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

LESSONS FROM CYCLING, Part One

It’s been my experience that some of the best lessons come through everyday life. Sometimes the lessons come through our successes and other times they come through our struggles. In this post I want to share with you my Lessons From Cycling. One of my hobbies is road cycling. Not the Harley Davidson type of bike (I’m not that kinda’ cool), but more the Specialized Allez type of bicycle. Think spandex clothing. Second thought, don’t traumatize yourself thinking about a middle age man in tight clothes.
I had my first big bike crash last summer. It was a Sunday morning and I was on a 30-mile ride before church. While riding through the West Salem hills it started lightly raining. Not much, just enough to get the ground wet but not form puddles. I had just crossed over the Willamette River using the Union Street Bridge and I was turning on to Front Street, where there are railroad tracks that run down the middle of the road. You can probably see where this is going. The rails were slightly wet from the summer rain and as my front wheel crossed the second rail it slide into the gap between the rail and the blacktop. The wheel jammed into the gap and the force flipped me over my handlebars and down to the pavement. All of this happened with gravity defying speed. Stunned and somewhat disoriented from my less than graceful three-point landing, I quickly bounced to my feet, in the event someone saw my fall. Thankfully, the church I was riding by already started their gathering so no one was outside. Phew! Other than serious road rash in three places, there were no broken bones, and no damage to my front wheel. I did sprain my ego, but eventually recovered. The lesson I learned on this summer day was this: Even when you’re being careful, accidents still happen. Isn’t that a lot like life? Even when you’re trying to do the right things and make good choices, there are times when life rises up and bites you in the backside. Oh, yeah, I didn’t mention where the road rash was located on my body. J
In my nearly three years and probably 5,000 miles of riding the roads of the Willamette Valley, I’ve learned several lessons I’d like to share with you.
Lesson #1: Understand MOMENTUM
Going uphill and into the wind there’s the temptation to stop peddling.
Going downhill there’s a temptation to want to go even faster, to dominate the downhill!!!
Often times, when we need to be peddling, we want to quit, and when it’s okay to coast and enjoy the ride, we get in a hurry. Make sure you’re allowing the Holy Spirit to set your pace. What I mean is, listen to the Inner Voice that corrects you, directs you, and instructs you. Life is not a sprint, unless you’re planning to die young, so ride [live] accordingly.
Another point, when riding into the wind, cyclists get as low as they can go. This reminds me of the importance of PRAYER. “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10 NIV) NLT = “When you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor.” We know how much we’re depending on God by how frequently pray and the content of those prayers.
I my next post I will share Lesson #2: You need to have a plan.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

THE FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY CHURCH


While on a bike ride recently I went on a new route that took me by the Christian Apostolic Church. I immediately noticed the building and landscaping were very nicely maintained. Personally, I think how a church looks from the street says something about how much they care. As I continued on my ride I started thinking about the name of the church – Christian Apostolic Church. I have an undergrad degree in biblical literature and a Master of Arts degree in Christian ministries. In addition to my education I have 30 years experience as a pastor. I only mention my background because it didn’t really help me to come up with any answers about this church. What do they believe? Are they conservative or liberal? Are they contemporary or traditional? If I’m having difficulty how much more will the person who has little or no church experience?
I think churches should strive to be FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY. While the “Christian Apostolic Church” looked good from the outside, it’s possible the name of the church was obscure enough to actually keep people away. I’ve not sought out any research on church names, but my hunch is that there are many churches with names that are unclear or confusing to the very community they are seeking to engage. The name may have a long history and make sense to all who attend (the insiders), but if it fails to connect and communicate with the surrounding community, that’s a problem in my option. Some people may want to argue that people shouldn’t be so shallow, sensitive or simple, to dismiss a church based on its name. I say don’t be so quick! The foodnetworkhumor.com lists the worst names for restaurants. To think someone intentionally gave their restaurant one of the names on the list is almost beyond belief. I did a quick Google search for several of the restaurants and, yes, they actually exist. Here’s one of the names that’s safe to share: Crappito’s Cucina Italiana in Houston, TX. There’s nothing about that name that makes me want to eat there the next time I’m in Houston, though I may have to buy a t-shirt. Ha! If people avoid a restaurant because of it’s name it’s only logical to conclude that there people who avoid churches because of their name.
Here’s my perspective on choosing a church name. It’s better to select a name that is neutral, while avoiding a name that communicates a negative message because it’s either unclear, or it has a tendency to cause people to draw incorrect conclusions about the church. If you’re a pastor or church leader here’s several questions that you may find helpful in evaluating names: Is the name you’ve chosen the best possible name? If you were starting your church tomorrow is your current name the one you would use?
A FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY church chooses a name that is appealing to the community God has called them to influence. For the sake of the mission a church will change their name.
Being a FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY church involves more than its name. Every aspect of the church that contributes to creating the first impression should be frequently evaluated. As I mentioned earlier the appearance of the church (interior and exterior) is very important. Do a walk around of your campus and look for poor or deferred maintenance items, evaluate for cleanliness, identify areas of messiness and disorganization, and pay close attention to the rest rooms. Evaluate your signage from the perspective of someone who has never been inside the building before: Where’s the information center? Children’s check-in area? Rest Rooms? Church Office? Auditorium? CafĂ©? Most people don’t enjoy wandering aimlessly in a new place or even having to ask questions about where to go. Make sure the main entrance is clearly marked. I recently visited one of the newest high schools in Oregon. It was a beautiful campus by all measurements except it took me several attempts and the kindness of a teacher giving me directions to find the main entrance and office.
Another important aspect of a FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY church involves the people who serve in welcoming guests. There is no excuse for people who are unkind, unkempt, and unhelpful. If you have an EGR (extra grace required) type of person who volunteers to serve on your welcome team find a way to direct them to a less critical area of ministry. As the saying goes, you only have one opportunity to make a first impression. Provide regular training for those who serve on your welcome team and communicate to them how important they are to creating a positive environment whenever the church gathers.
The final aspect of a FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY church that I want to address in this post is the reputation your church holds in the community. When the Apostle Paul shares with Timothy about the qualifications for church leaders [“overseer”], he addresses the importance of reputation: “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders.” (1 Timothy 3:7) I say it is equally important for the church to have a positive reputation in the community. A reputation is something that is earned over time. As a church is involved in its community a reputation will be created. Church leaders must constantly look for opportunities to be engaged with their community in activities that will contribute to the type of reputation they desire to cultivate. In a time when the church often has no choice but to take strong positions on moral issues it is vitally important for churches to avoid being labeled by outsiders as the church that is “against” everything. As vocal as the church is “against” sin a church needs to be visible in their community regarding the things they are “for.” In many neighborhoods there are homes that have been identified (often by the kids) as the place where the mean woman or the dirty old man or the big bully lives. Or there’s the scary house or the place with the mean dog. Don’t be that church that is identified with negative messages.
In conclusion, consider the signs that are located near the front door of some homes: “Beware of Dog”; “Do Not Enter”; “No Trespassing”; “No Solicitors”; “Security Camera”; and more. Unfortunately there are many churches that are anything but FRONT DOOR FRIENDLY. They might as well have these signs hanging at the front door of their church. While they may sincerely desire to see people come to know Jesus Christ, they don’t even get the opportunity because people never make it to and through the front door.
Is the front door of your church FRIENDLY or UNFRIENDLY?