Pastor's Pen
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November 12, 2013, 9:23 AM

Words from Rick

October 30, 2013, 2:45 PM

Words from Rick





Building a High-Expectation Culture.


You won't believe one of the books I'm reading right now.  The title is: Not Your Parents' Offering Plate:  A New Vision for Financial Stewardship by Clif Christopher, founder of Horizons Stewardship Company.  It's full of information about giving patterns of a variety of age groups, along with information about what's happening to mainline churches in the 21st Century.  Toward the end of the book, the author suggests some ideas that he would implement if he were starting over as a pastor of a church.  Some of these are pretty audacious!  One of these ideas comes from visiting churches and noting what makes for growing churches.  Here is what he says.  "When I look at churches that have outstanding financial stewardship, I almost always see a culture that espouses high expectations for its membership in all areas of discipleship and stewardship.  I see churches that unabashedly say that all members are expected to attend worship every week that they are well, to serve society in at least one area outside the local church, to be in at least one small group that is studying how to grow as a Christian, and to give at least 10 percent (tithe) of their income...Statistics are telling us that these are the churches in America that are growing, and that people tend to leave low-expectation churches to go to high-expectation ones rather than the reverse" (page 82-83).

Then, Mr. Christopher suggests what he would do if he went back into the ministry and started a new church.  "If I were starting a church today, I would make it clear that we were going to be high-expectation when it came to membership.  Those with the idea that following Christ or marrying Christ to use the biblical analogy of church membership, requires nothing of us would not be a part of my church" (page 83).  As I said, 'pretty audacious'!"     10.27.2013

October 23, 2013, 10:02 AM

Words from Rick


 On Being Disillusioned

Are you familiar with the story of John the Baptist, while he was in prison for disapproving of Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife? While in prison, John sent some of his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Matthew 11:2-11)  That has to be one of the most haunting questions in all of Scripture, especially when you consider who is asking it! John has devoted his life to preparing the way of the Lord and making His paths straight. This is the John who was baptizing in the Jordan River when he looked up and saw Jesus standing there, he said, “I need to be baptized by you.” This John was there when the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, lighting on Jesus as a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”   What in all the world happened to John to cause him to ask: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Well, for one thing, John is in jail. He probably thought that the Messiah was supposed to change things … He was supposed to burn up all the human trash and dead wood of the world. Maybe the Messiah talked more about peace and love and John thought He should have talked more about sin and hell!    There is a book that some have found as quite disturbing called The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis. In it there is a scene where Jesus and John are sitting high above the Jordan on a rock where they have been arguing all night long about what to do with the world. John’s face is hard and decisive. Jesus’ face, by contrast, is tame and hesitant. His eyes are full of compassion. Jesus asks John, “Isn’t love enough?” “No,” John answers angrily. “The tree is rotten. God called me and gave me the ax, which I then placed at the roots of the tree. I did my duty. Now you do yours: Take the ax and strike.”    Now, listen to what Jesus says: “If I were fire, I would burn. If I were a woodcutter, I would strike; but I am a heart, and I love.” To certain and varied degrees, maybe all of us have gone through what John is going through! You want to wake up every morning and be relieved of the burden of not knowing what you are supposed to do next. You want to put your hand under your pillow and find the answer there like a quarter from the tooth fairy, but all you feel is the sheet.   Disillusionment! A professor said that Disillusionment is, literally, the loss of illusion – about ourselves, about the world, about God – and while it is almost always a painful thing, it is never a bad thing, to lose the lies we have mistaken for the truth. The best part of this story from Matthew 11 is what Jesus told John disciples, when He said, “Go and tell John …” Take a look at those marvelous words beginning with verse 4, and remember what Jesus says in Kazantzakis’ story: “I am a heart, and I love.” That’s the Jesus I want to continue to know more of … not the sin and hell stuff! 10.20.2013

October 9, 2013, 3:16 PM

Words from Rick





 Whatever happened to well-written epitaphs, or epitaphs in general? When I was in seminary and had preaching assignments, often I would drive out I-20 from Atlanta into Alabama to a small country church just on the Georgia/Alabama border. I liked going early so I could walk around their cemetery and read what people wrote about the dead in their community. Some disease hit that area in the early 1820’s and it took the lives of most of the children; grave after grave of little ones. In another place where we lived, we took the youth group at night to a cemetery to read old epitaphs on markers that were 150+ years old. You would hold the flashlight to the side of the grave marker and the words seemed as if they would pop off the old limestone markers. Some were extremely personal about a loving wife and mother. Others were quite harsh and probably too truthful for visitors to cemeteries to read! Here’s one that I found in a book of epitaphs:


In Memory ofBeza WoodDeparted this lifeNov. 2, 1837 - Age 45 yrs.

Here lies one Wood

Enclosed in wood

One Wood Within another.

The outer wood Is very good:

We cannot praiseThe other.


Now, who would write such a mean thing about the departed? Surely, there had to be some good in the man!    While it rained last Saturday, I stayed inside and watched the movie, The Bucket List, probably for the fifth time. About three-fourths the way into the movie, Morgan Freeman is telling Jack Nicholson about a teacher he had in a philosophy class. He remembered two things the teacher asked them: “Have you found joy in life?”  And, “Have you enabled others to find joy in their lives?”  I think these are two very important questions for living an effective life! How would you answer those questions? Here’s an epitaph from New England:


Mary S. Hoyt, 1836, Bradford, Vt

.She lived – what more can then be said:

She died – and all we know she’s dead.

I’ll say it for you, “How sad!”


 I’ve said it before to our congregation, and I still believe it … the central note of the Christian faith is joy; and the central expression of that note of joy is gratitude! Have you found joy in life? Have you helped others find it?



September 27, 2013, 9:06 AM

Words from Rick








It would be interesting to know how many are still reading this article! Humility is an indispensable virtue in the New Testament, closely connected with the teaching and example of Jesus Christ, and, the apostle Paul. But far too many “Pull up your own boot-straps” Americans don’t think much of humility!  For example, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For we do not proclaim ourselves, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:5-6). Here is a list of thoughts on humility I have gathered over the years.   Humility has no self-conscious pride.  It does not shut its eyes to its faults and limitations. And it does not compare its life with other people’s lives.    Humility is not afraid to learn new lessons and make new beginnings. It does not say, “I can’t,” because it is afraid of loss of face if it fails, or that people will laugh.   Humility looks at its sins (self-examination), but also beyond them to the Savior who forgives sins.   Humility is powerful, for it is based on the sense of being absolutely dependent on the grace of God. That is why a Christian has such a serene and confident spirit. Good Christians (and I don’t know how to define “good”) aim high and attempt great things – yet without proud looks or thoughts; they are not thinking of themselves, but of God. They have simple, childlike hearts because they depend so much on their heavenly Father.   Humility is not worried about “face.”  It is prepared to own a fault, a mistake, make an apology, or make restitution if it has wronged anyone.    For those who are concerned about leadership issues, you might be familiar with the works of Jim Collins. His books include: Good to Great,  Built to Last,  How the Mighty Fall, and his most recent book, Great by Choice. In all of these books, it is emphasized that humility in the top executive positions in most every corporation or institution is the number one key to effectiveness.  Sound familiar?  09.29.2013

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