Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Big Reveal

I have a confession to make: I really like to watch "Extreme Makeover - Home Edition." Not that I watch it all the time (after all, I am a Cubs fan), but something about watching it just always makes me feel good. Sometimes, schedules and such keep from watching it, and I kind of forget why I love it so much...until I catch the next episode.

About now, some of you are either liking me more or less, depending on your opinion of this show, but hang with me. I've asked myself more than once why this show holds such an attraction for me and I think that finally, I have come up with the answer (or at least an answer): The show hinges on what I call "The Big Reveal."

If you're a fan of EMHE, you know the storyline (it never really changes): Some people who have gone through terrible hardships ask EMHE for a new house, and if their request is accepted, they get a new house built for them that would qualify as a "dream house" for just about anyone watching.

Honestly, many of those applying have gone through things that make my life look absolutely cushy, but while the details differ, the whole idea of suffering and then being rewarded resonates deep within me - and evidently millions of others (as witnessed by the show's longevity and popularity).

So what's The Big Reveal? Come on, you know! It's when the entire family, cast, construction crew & community gather outside the new house and scream, "Move That Bus!" (which until now has obscured the family's view of their new house because of its proximity to them). And the bus drives away, leaving people yelling, cheering, crying, jumping, falling, pounding, etc. with excitement.

And then it hits me...every time...there is a "Big Reveal" coming for all those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ (except on an infinitely grander scale). A moment when, as the Scripture says:

"The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever"
(1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Talk about excitement! All of the things that we've struggled against, labored with, endured through & waited against hope for will suddenly be taken away (a la "Move That Bus!") and everything that Christ has prepared for us will be right before our eyes! A dwelling beyond imagination will be ours, and no one can ever take it away!

And that's why my eyes fill with tears, every time, when the "Big Reveal" occurs; not just because I can't wait for that day, but because I am reminded that this is why I am a pastor...this is why by God's grace, I endeavor to love people and extend His grace to them, unconditionally (I don't always succeed).

Not only do I want to be there at "The Big Reveal," but I want to make sure as many people as possible are there with me. Sure, it's probably a little "longing for home" (my eternal home) that stirs within me at every episode, but it's also a longing to share that home with everyone I can. Interested? I'd love to share it with you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Who, Me?

I have been blessed to be able to travel numerous times over the last 25 years - often abroad, and usually on a mission trip. It's always interesting to see just whom the Lord will place by me, but the conversations (if & when the occur) are nearly always predictable, going something like this:
  • ME - Hi, where you headed?
  • THEM - (destination given)
  • ME - (small talk = weather, sports, world news)
  • THEM - (relevant interaction)
  • ME - So what do you do for a living?
  • THEM - (usual description of job, scope, location, years on it, etc.)
  • THEM - And what do you do for a living?
  • ME - (moment of truth...how blunt should I be?) Me? Oh, I'm a pastor.
  • THEM - (either they immediately identify with my role and become more "religious" or the conversation concludes in 10 seconds or less)

Because of this, I always wrestle a bit with whether or not to tell them that I am a pastor. I'm not ashamed or anything (quite the opposite), but I've found that, especially in our current culture, revealing my "secret identity" either turns people way "on" or way "off" - and I don't want the relational "bridge" we've been courteously constructing for the past 10-15 minutes to suddenly be gone...along with any opportunity to point them further towards Christ.

This brings me to the topic of the day. Did you know that statistically, you are more likely to nudge an unchurched person toward personal faith in Jesus Christ than I am? What makes the real difference with the unchurched are personal relationships. The majority who find Christ look back and say that it was a friend who influenced them toward faith...a friend like you!

In all my experience, over and over again, people share about someone in relationship with them. This friendship may have been for a lifetime or just a season, but it was the right person at the right time that helped bring them to faith in Christ.

Because of this, I place great confidence in the people of my church! I understand that most of them are far better situated to lead unchurched people to Christ than I am. And I've learned that if I do lead someone to Christ, I will likely be wearing the "friend" hat and not the "pastor" hat.

You, yes, you will in all likelihood be the one who leads the next person you meet to Jesus - either directly or indirectly. Thus, never underestimate the power of genuine friendships with those around you!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I remember a bad prank of years ago called, "The Bohemian Mirror." Now, I am not prejudiced at all against people with this ethnic background (they're in my family), but growing up on a farm and attending Prairie High School of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (affectionately called "Cow Pie High"), necessitated that all pranks and jokes involved these people in some way, as they were everywhere!

The joke goes like this: You ask someone, "Do you want to see a Bohemian mirror?" When they say, "Yes!" you begin to motion to them with your hand and say "Come Here" as you encourage them to follow you. What the person on the butt end of the joke doesn't realize is that the prankster is really saying, "Come, Mirror!" It usually takes 30 seconds or so for the one being fooled to realize this, and that as they have been following the prankster around the room, they in essence, have become...they are...the Bohemian mirror, as they go wherever he or she goes.

A bad prank, I know, but it made me think of something deeper...a lot deeper. God's Word makes it clear that we are to reflect Jesus to our world. In other words, when people look at us, they should get a pretty decent picture of what Jesus is like. The key part that struck me in this is that a mirror (us, in this case) will only reflect what it is following...what it is "looking" at.

This means that the only way we can reflect Jesus is to follow Jesus. We can't expect to reflect Him if we are not following Him. Perhaps more importantly, our lives will reflect whatever we are following...good or bad. Kind of raises the stakes on being careful of what we place our focus upon, doesn't it?

Who or What are you focused on...Where are you "looking"...Who are you following? We will each ultimately reflect that on which our focus lies. "For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he" Proverbs 23:7. If I am going to reflect Him, may I always be sure that I am following Him, and not my own ideas or ways!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New Things

"To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did."
I was recently challenged by the above axiom, sent to me from a friend, and it's been sitting on my desk top while I ruminated upon it. I suppose that the corollary to it (a.k.a. "the flip side") would be the more familiar, "Insanity: doing the same things over and over yet expecting different results."

When I look back at the last 50 years (OK - 50 in December), it's amazing as I recount just how true this has been. While it would be foolhardy (and perhaps somewhat boring to you) to recount them all, here's just a snapshot of some of the more memorable ones:
  • To follow God's calling to pastoral ministry, I had to leave the security of the farm life
  • To end up with the wife of my dreams, I had to walk away from the memories of the past
  • To experience the transformational power of cross-cultural ministry, I had to take the leap of faith that God would provide
  • To "step out of the boat" and move to another country, I had to relinquish control over my family
  • To find the home for my family, I had to surrender my ideas of what "success" means in ministry

No, you can't begin to experience "all that God has prepared for those that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9) while continuing to do what you've always done. You see, as I read Scripture, I don't ever see God do things the same way twice. He's all about doing a "new thing" (Isaiah 43:19). But He seldom, if ever, prys things out of our grasp - He loves us too much to do so. Rather, He patiently waits for us to let go, and then, only then, can His work continue.

What are you longing for Him to do in your life? While there is no "magic formula," I can assure you that one of the things that must happen is a willingness to do something we've never done before...an attitude that says, "Whatever You ask, wherever You lead, whenever You say 'Go!', Lord, I'm ready to obey."

When He finds us with this heart attitude, only heaven can imagine and measure what He will do both with and for us! Are you ready to make this commitment? I'd love to hear your story!