On Resolutions

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This morning I woke up pretty early.  I read two devotional entries and the first day of a “read the Bible in one year” reading plan.  I also read a chapter in a book on leadership.  I did this because I need to read more and start my day listening to God’s word before I began to share it with others.  I then went and made an omelette of egg whites, turkey bacon and low-fat cheese.  I took my multivitamin and my fish oil.  All of this is because my doctor says I need to eat better.  Then I went running.  I am supposed to exercise.  After that, I went to my local Starbucks where I answered some emails and texts, and wrote about 1500 words on my novel.

All that before lunch.

January 1 must be the most productive day on the calendar.  It is the day when we take on our New Year’s resolutions with gusto.  It is the day that we sit back and bask in the radiant thoughts of what life would be like if we just lived everyday like this.

Sometime in February, our days tend to resemble those of last year and our resolutions are forgotten.

For this reason, it has become trendy to forego the resolution setting altogether.  Why make a goal that you won’t achieve?  Why make a promise that you won’t keep?

Personally, I realize that my reading is going to fall behind some week when things get really crazy.  I also realize that a few reese’s peanut butter cups are going to sneak their way into my diet.  As for that novel?  Well, eventually the main character is going to hover in limbo as I try to get him to come to some life-altering realizations right before his black moment.

Still, I’m making my resolutions.

Why?  Because today has been a good day.  It has been a productive day.  I would like to string along as many good, productive days as I can.  So what if a day, or a week, or a month (you are a pessimist aren’t you?) fails to reach my newly set standard?  It would be better to try and succeed some of the time then not to try at all.

Welcome to 2014.  Make the most of it.  Aim for the best.  Embrace the adventure.  Spoiler alert:  You will fail in your resolutions.  Then you get to try for them again.  Keep trying.

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My Farewell to FBC Birch Tree

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Six years does not seem like a long time until you begin to think of all the things that can happen in that time.  I’ve spent some time thinking about that and several things come to mind that make it hard to say good-bye.

I think about my first Sunday here.  Wyatt Layman was just 15 years old.  My first Sunday he hit me up to see if I was going to pay him to mow the parsonage.  Now he sits here, a new husband.  He and Audrey have spent some time teaching our young people and I know they are off to a great start.

There have been several weddings in six years.  One that really stands out was Caleb and Lyndsey.  I had just had surgery and had not done anything until it was time for that wedding.  Still on pain killers and straining my voice, I was determined to preach it.  You see, there were 6 other preachers at that wedding and each one made a point to tell me that if I could not do it, they could.  I figured if there are 7 preachers at a wedding and I’m the one that gets to preach, I better do it!  Weddings like that are fun because we see the beginnings of a new family.  Now we see little Luke, and it is a joy because I know he’ll be raised in a Godly home.

We have also experienced some funerals.  There were a lot of them in six years.  They were each a mix of celebration and sadness.  We celebrated a life; often seeing the funeral as a great testimony to a life lived for Christ.  Still, we mourned over a loss and each one I preached, I watched you and your loved ones in your sadness, and my heart broke for you too.  Each one left and impact.

Still, over these six years, the one that will stand out the most is my dad’s.  I remember one night when I got word at midnight that he had been taken to the hospital.  It was a Saturday night and I had to let Tracy know at midnight that I would not be here on Sunday morning.  A few days later, Caleb had to go to the hospital.  I was in Springfield and couldn’t come back to go with Samantha and Caleb to the ER, so I called James at 3am and he went.  I’ll never forget that the deacons at this church are the kind you can call in the middle of the night.

Then at the funeral, I remember 3 pews full of you, all there to support my family and I.  The day before, I had determined to buy a new suit.  I did not own a good black suit and I decided I needed it for my father’s funeral.  Samantha agreed and we decided that we would buy it and figure out how to move things around later.  At the funeral, Van Kitchens, pulled me aside, explained that he knew that times like that bring about unexpected expenses.  He handed me some money, and wouldn’t you know it was the exact amount of the suit?  I will never forget how God uses the generosity of this church.

In these 6 years, there have been some great times too.  I like to think of all the baptisms in 6 years.  The first to stand out in my mind is that in this time I was able to baptize my own son.  His walk with Christ began here at First Baptist Birch Tree.  Recently I was going through some records and realized that one of my first baptisms here was Cody.  Who knew what God had in store there?

Many other baptisms stand out as well.  Particularly 3 men.  Eddie, Ethan, and David.  Each of those men are so much larger than I am that I had to get some help in the baptistry.  Our churches, communities, and our nation are in desperate need for men to stand for Christ.  It is good to know this is a church moving in the right direction.

In all honesty, when I think over the past 6 years I think about my many mistakes.  If I have ever hurt or neglected you, please understand that I am sorry.  I have often lost sleep going over how I would do things differently if I could and wishing I could go back and do some things again.  Yet, in the end, just like we all do, I have to realize that the cross was enough and I rest in that grace. Of course, it was in those times that I was often greatly encouraged.  Without fail, when I began to get discouraged I would get a phone call from Norma, a card from Willie and Jolie, or a dinner invite from Brian and Marta.

Throughout these 6 years there is one thing I hope to get across.  We tend to turn being a Christian into so many things, but it is not about those things.  It is not about being good.  It is not about setting the country right.  It is about one thing:  That Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us life.  That’s it.  We follow Jesus.  No more, no less.  No less because anything less than Jesus would not be enough.  No more, because what more could we want or need?  It is about Jesus.  If you have never given your life to Jesus, I hope you will consider to do so today.

And now our paths must separate.  We will certainly meet again someday, but before I go, I have one more thing to say to you as your pastor.

I want you to consider as a church what really gets you going; what gets your blood moving; what gets you excited about this church.  It isn’t necessarily classes, fellowship lunches, or special music, though those things are all good.  Over these past years, what really got you going was missions.

I remember when I first went to El Salvador.  I told you I was going so that the next time, we could go.  Many told me flat out that this church would not do mission trips.  But you did, and it was a joy to watch you go.  Remember how exciting it was.  That’s what I mean when I say it gets your blood moving.

I remember when Kacey signed up.  We didn’t know about that.  We wondered if she knew what she was getting into.  In fact, I had dramamine in my pocket, just in case we needed to knock her out on the plane.  But I will never forget how she stood up in front of those kids and taught.  The next year, I just put her in charge of the children’s ministry.  We had the chance to go to a school, and when we walked in, the kids were so excited because Kacey was there!  Kacey is going to see some amazing things when she follows God in the mission He sets before her.  And so will the rest of you.

Remember when the Texas group came?  You were pumped and excited and it was amazing to see how God moved.  That was a tough week.  There was a lot of hard work, but nobody cared about that.

The reason missions gets you going is because it is God’s heart.  When you set your mind to get involved in what God is doing, things are different.  Things get exciting then.

Matthew 28:18-20 says:  18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

It says Go.  The apostle Paul compared the Christian walk to running a race.  A race starts with the word “go.”  So, now is the time.  Go.  I’ll see you at the finish line.

 

Our Big Announcement

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God often calls us where we least expect to go. To be sure, I never expected to say what I am about to say. Two years ago, Samantha and I begin to sense that God was calling us to the field of church planting; beginning new churches. We prayed about it and sought out some advice from various folks. At the time, the doors just didn’t open and we knew it was best to simply wait. We continued in our ministry in Birch Tree until very recently when we begin to hear that call once again. This time as we began to seek advice, various doors began to open in this direction. It became apparent that God was indeed calling us to church planting and that it was time to move in that direction.

At that, we begin to pray and ask God where He was calling us to plant. The answer came to Samantha and I independently. It was not what we expected. Granted, it was a place that God had placed on our hearts years ago, but the idea was just too far, too “out there,” too crazy. So we shared this idea with a few people, waiting for someone to say, “that’s just nuts!” Instead, one person after another confirmed it. There was one week where I prayed daily, “God if this is really your will, show me something today that confirms it.” And He did.

We did our research. This place is truly a frontier mission field. It is one of the most international locations in our country. It is truly a global mission field in one small part of the U.S. It is also one of the least evangelized. Evangelical churches reach approximately 3% of this growing metro area. The idea is exciting, if not completely overwhelming at the same time.

So, after much prayer, we have decided to plant a church in Hawaii. (I told you it sounded crazy!)

I know that leaves people with a lot of questions. There are a lot of things unknown right now as we are nailing down all the specifics and remaining flexible to do as the Lord commands. We are currently discussing the possibility of partnering with Second Baptist Church in Springfield, MO. Second Baptist is on the forefront of missions and we are really excited to work with them.

As for First Baptist Birch Tree, I will continue to pastor this church until the time comes to relocate (most likely next summer). We love the people of Birch Tree and First Baptist. We hope to take this journey together with First Baptist being one of our partners.

We pray this for you as well. We need people to partner with us in many ways. We will need people to provide financial support and we will have plenty of opportunities for people to come for short-term mission trips on Oahu. In the meantime, what we need most of all is prayer. If you would be willing to pray for us during this time, please contact us and let us know.

Health Update

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Facebook and twitter are great, but news is only conveyed in bits and pieces. Over the past few weeks, people have noticed a few of my posts mentioning things like “ER,” “Stress Test,” “Hospital,” etc and have wondered what in the world is going on. So here’s the run down:

For the past three weeks, I have been having chest pains almost daily. I tried to ignore them (you aren’t supposed to do that), but after three days of chest pains, I decided to see the doctor. I called for an appointment but was told the ER is the place to be. At the ER, they confirmed that I was not having a heart attack and told me to make an appointment with my doctor. My doctor scheduled a stress test and told me to take it easy and take some aspirin everyday. That was a week or so ago.

On Thursday, I went to the Elephant Room conference. I enjoyed it, but really didn’t feel well. I attributed that to the fact that I had to get up at 4am and drive three hours to get there. However, on Friday, I wasn’t feeling much better. I was tired and I felt like I was breathing with a ton of bricks on my chest. I opted to work at home, finishing some sermon writing. Unfortunately, that didn’t get any better. I was breathing shallow and feeling dizzy. In the afternoon, a family needed some financial assistance and I agreed to meet them at the church. As I returned from that meeting, I was completely out of breath. After walking the steps to my house, I was on the verge of passing out. I fell on the couch and told my wife “I just need to rest.” My wife knows that I am the most stubborn person when it comes to getting medical help for myself. She told me I had two choices: doctor or ER. Then, she called the doctor. They agreed to see me right away and we headed there.

The doctor examined me for about an hour. My EKG, blood pressure, etc. were all good, but I kept feeling pressure on my chest. It took a lot of effort to breath. He admitted me to the hospital for observation.

I spent Friday night in the hospital, being poked and prodded. Basically, they were making sure that I was not on the verge of anything life threatening. All the tests came out fine, and the rest seemed to do some good. On Saturday, I was released with orders to rest for a few days; including taking Sunday off.

Today, I had a nuclear stress test. I was able to complete the test without any problem, though it didn’t exactly feel good to get my heart rate and blood pressure up so high. I’m now waiting to hear from the doctor. So far, every test has come back good, so all signs point to this being a reaction to stress and acid reflux. If that’s the end result, I’ve got a challenge ahead of me of learning to relax and handle the everyday stress of pastoral ministry.

So now I am quite thankful. I am thankful that I was not experiencing a life threatening illness. I’m thankful for some friends from church who brought me pajamas at the hospital. They knew that nobody likes hospital gowns. What they didn’t know is that I am most comfortable in a nice pair of pajamas. Their gift was more blessing than they know. I’m thankful for two great pastor friends of mine. One of whom came and visited with me in the hospital and another who sat with me this morning before my stress test. I’m thankful for my friends from all over that read this on facebook and offered their prayers. I’m thankful for all the concerned calls my wife and I have received. I’m thankful for two good friends who visited me in the hospital and later had my wife and I over for dinner. They offered fellowship, free medical advice, and prayer, and I am very grateful. I’m thankful for family who have been concerned and helpful. I’m thankful for my wife who pushes me into the right decisions when I’m less than willing. I’m thankful for Christ, who still seems to have some use for me.

So, most likely the road ahead is going to be learning to do things a little differently. It is amazing what stress can do. I’ve got some things to learn.