Thursday, July 31, 2014

August We will Pray Hopefully

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV). 

With these words The Lord reminds us that there is a role we must play to grow God's kingdom, and there is a significant part that only God can do. Humans plant and water. God makes it grow. We are praying for God to do great things in this coming harvest season. So I am calling our church to prayer.

God has been stirring this in me for a few months.  As I have shared this prompting with other pastors and elders they have confirmed they have felt the same nudging. It’s time to focus and unite our prayers. So for the month of August let’s pray together for Bayside.  The Back-to-School season will present some incredible opportunities to strengthen our church family and to reach people with the gospel. But we need God’s Spirit to lead, guide and make us fruitful. We will work hard at the "planting and watering" but we need God to give the increase. We desire God to show up mightily in our Sunday worship gatherings, in our relationships and in our mission efforts. We want the Spirit to empower us to be effective at our mission to see more people (the lost saved) become more like Jesus (the saved grow).

I've been spending some time this summer thinking and reading about prayer…and of course praying.  I am discovering that one of the many benefits of prayer is it gives optimism and squelches cynicism. As followers of Christ we are to give the hope of Jesus to the world. The challenge is we live in a very cynical world. You've undoubtedly noticed this. There is cynicism about our government, about schools, about our employers, about co-workers, even about church. We who are called to be hope to the world, can unwittingly find that we have caught (and spreading) the cynicism bug ourselves.

Here’s what I'm learning about cynicism. The expectation of perfection breeds cynicism. In other words, believing we must have perfect health, the perfect job, perfect relationships, perfect appearance, perfect children, the perfect church, etc. is a breeding ground for cynicism. We expect perfect. Crazy right? Because we know that perfect is not normal, imperfect is. When we accept that people and things are not perfect but are ‘broken-goods-being-restored,’ then we can be real, authentic and accepting.  Then we can be forgiving and honest.
I am praying our church will continue to be a life giving seedbed of optimism and hope. The Spirit of Christ, accessed through prayer, provides the lens to see the world clearly and hopefully.

In the book, “A Praying Life” Paul Miller offers these six cures for cynicism.
1. Be warm but wary.  
Jesus was ‘eyes wide open’ when it came to the brokenness in our world. He didn’t pretend as if evil didn’t exist. Yet he was hospitable and embracing of others. His posture was optimistic.

2. Learn to Hope Again.  
Miller writes, “The cynic is fixed and immovable, the cynic believes we are swept along by forces greater than we are.”  Jesus on the other hand, is all about hope. Jesus knows that through prayer all things are possible. There is good reason to hope.

3. Cultivate a Childlike Spirit. 
Kids are not cynical. They are hopeful. Playful. They believe anything is possible. It is significant that Jesus told us to have that kind of faith. That is, childlike faith.

4. Cultivate a Thankful Heart. 
Prayer restores a thankful heart. The first sign that we are drifting from God is thanklessness. The sign that we are drawing closer to God is an increase in our gratitude. The closer we are to God the more grateful we are regardless the circumstances.

5. Cultivate Repentance. 
The repentant person recognizes that the cynicism out there, in the world, is also in my own heart. Through repentant prayer I acknowledge my own brokenness and arrogance. Through repentance I change. I can be authentic and hopeful.

6. Develop an Eye for Jesus. 
This is the most effective way to defeat cynicism and celebrate hope. Develop an eye for Jesus. Through prayer and constant communication with Christ, we are made aware of the activity of Jesus all around us. When we look closely, with spiritual sight, we see Jesus at work.

So I invite you to participate in this prayer journey. Pray for Bayside.  Pray for one another. Pray every day. Each day we will have different prayer focus. Let’s join together in prayer and as we do I believe God will do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine! Let’s pray hopefully!

To Participate
1. Pick up a Prayer Calendar for August (available at church). 
2. Visit Bayside Facebook page and/or Twitter feed for Daily Updates. Each day at 8:00am, starting August 3, a prayer focus for that day will be posted.
3. Pray with a childlike spirit.
4. See God show off.
5. Share your God - Stories. There will be a link at to share your stories of how and where you see God at work.

Monday, June 02, 2014

They Warned us not To, but We Did

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

I’m glad it’s over. I don't like the month of May. My apologies to all the May birthdays and anniversaries. But I haven’t liked it for a while now. Ok, to come clean it's not really the month. It’s me.

Those that know me best know that I'm kind of sentimental. And from four decades of existence I can testify that sentimental and May don't mix. May in the USA is the time of year for endings. Graduations, year-end parties, conclusions. And we 'feeling' types, love beginnings but not too jovial about endings. Like this year, my daughter will stop being an 11th grader (I’m in denial that this begins her last year of High School). My other daughter ends her middle-school days this month. And my son, well we’ve got him for a while! In May kids graduate and many families prepare for summer moves. There are a lot of good-byes in May.
May is the time of year we realize we did it. We were warned to be careful not to, but we did it.  We blinked.

Young parents are warned by empty nesters and grandparents, “don’t blink because before you know it your kids will be grown.” So few of us really take it serious, and even if we do there frankly isn’t much we can do to stop it. We all blink. Each May we reopen our eyes to discover time has flown. They are grown.  That’s why I don’t like May.

To further torture my sentimental personality (or perhaps a clear confirmation of it), I downloaded an app for my iPhone recently called Legacy. To set it up you enter you children’s ages and it counts down (in weeks, days, hours, minutes, seconds) how much time you have left with each child until they turn 18. (The weeks remaining as of today is 47 for Kasey, 151 for Kelly, 412 for JT).  It’s a constant reminder that the time for investing in my children is limited and relatively small. With my app, I can know just how long the blink is.

The truth is our time for investing in anything that matters is limited-whether it spiritual, relational or even financial. When it comes to making a difference, investing over time makes the greatest impact. So maybe I shouldn’t hate the month of May. Maybe I should be thankful for it. Because it’s a yearly reminder that time matters. Love matters. And love… over time changes both of us.

“Lord, thank you for the gift and the opportunities of time. Help us to invest it well…in people and in purposes that matter. For the glory of your Son’s great name. Amen.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More People more Like Jesus? Of course!

More People more Like Jesus? Of course!

Here's just some of why...

No life ever lived on this planet has been so influential in the affairs of men as that of Christ.

Through (Jesus) millions of people have had their inner conflicts resolved.

Through (Jesus), hundreds of millions have been lifted from illiteracy and ignorance and have been placed upon the road of growing intellectual freedom and control over the physical environment.

Jesus…. has done more to allay the physical ills of disease and famine than any other impulse, and (Jesus) has emancipated millions from chattel slavery and millions of others from thralldom to vice.

(Jesus) has protected tens of millions from exploitation.

(Jesus) has been the most fruitful source of movements to lessen the horrors of war and to put the relations of men and nations on the basis of justice and peace.

This is the influence of Jesus through his followers .... 

- taken from Kenneth Latourette's seven-volume history of the expansion of Christianity. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Without It We Sink

The boat was sinking.  I vividly recall an occasion from my childhood when our family had been invited by close friends to join them for a day out on Vermilion Bay. We all boarded the ski boat anticipating a fun day of sunning, skiing and going fast.

After all the gear, coolers and people were on board the Mercury outboard quickly seasoned the air with an oil/gas exhaust. As we ‘no waked’ our way to open water the back of the boat began to droop. Rapidly it got worse. We were sinking. Someone forgot to put the drain plug in.  Good news is we didn't die.

Truthfully, sometimes as a pastor I feel like the person who has to ask the obvious question before the recreational outing.  Most of my ministry could be summed up with this phrase “Hey my friend, not to be a bother, but did you put the plug in this boat?”

I get it. This question is in one sense annoying and inconvenient. Sometimes it comes across to some even as insulting. Because frankly it’s so basic. When our thoughts are on the bigger adventures and challenges of life, no one wants to be bothered with the ‘plug.’ A self-assured, experienced captain might be insulted by such a novice (nagging) question.  But if the drain plug isn't in, and no one asks the question, then the boat ALWAYS sinks.
The Spiritual equivalent to “is the plug in the boat” is “Is God first in your life.” And I know the question gets annoying to people. It’s so basic. It’s so redundant. But if someone isn’t tending to this question then the boat - your life, your family, your attempts at happiness - sink. Like the open hole left in the boat with no plug, so is the life that avoids addressing this deepest, ok… simplest, of life’s questions. “Is God first?” If God isn’t first, at all times, life starts to take us under.

So here are three really cools things about putting God first.

1. God has a way for you to go. He has a plan for our lives; a story that is being written by him. When he is first we are led to experience the deepest joys and adventures of life. We are led to know Him, ourselves, others, and our world better!
2. God promises to keep you afloat.  When God is first He promises to go with us. He not only points the way, he walks the path with us. God walks with us, wiling do the heaviest of lifting for us. Our God helps us through each and every chapter of life keeping us upright and moving ahead.
3. God’s way is the best way.  God not only has a way, he has the best way. His way is the path the leads to fullness of life. There is no other path that delivers on that promise. God’s way is the best.

So let’s keep asking each other, “Is God first?” I find that when mine, or a friend’s life, is in a mess it can always be traced back to a point when someone forgot the plug. God stopped being first. The boat started sinking. No one asked the question so pretty soon we’re bobbing around waiting for the life saver to be thrown to us. If only someone had the courage to ask the obvious question, “Is God still First.” 

As we begin these summer months of adventure on land, air and sea allow me to bother you once more with the insulting, fundamental question…. Is God still first in your life? I trust and pray the answer is ‘yes.’

“Lord thank you for leading us down the best path of life. Forgive us when we have put other things before you and your ways. We acknowledge that without you we sink, always.  Thank you, that in your mercy and grace you have saved us time and again. Today we put you first. Please help us to always keep you first -  in our lives, in our family, in our church. Amen.”

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dear Bayside Family

Baysiders, I invite you to join me in doing these three things this week.

1. I'm praying.
I'm praying for you and I'm praying for those friends you and I will invite to worship with us this weekend. It is going to be an UNFORGETTABLE Easter at Bayside!

I'm also praying for all the other churches and pastors who will be sharing the gospel of Jesus to filled churches Sunday. I'm praying for Harborside, Calvary, Countryside Christian, Heritage, Generations, Grace Family, and every church I drive by. Would you pray for them too? These are not our competitors but our teammates. They win, we win!

2. I'm Inviting.
I'm inviting my friends to church and I'm expecting great things. We are going the extra mile this year to ensure your invited guests have a great experience. So you can be confident your friends will be glad they came and you'll be glad you took the risk to invite them. So bring your peeps to Bayside.

3. I'm Preparing.
In preparation for the joy of Easter we will be having a special Good Friday worship experience. The service will last one hour and begins at 7:00. It will be a solemn, interactive and reflective time of worship.

For the past several days I've been praying and thinking over Matthew 28:8 as the basis for the Easter message- "Departing quickly from the (empty) tomb with FEAR and GREAT JOY, they ran to tell His disciples the news."  I'm really looking forward to talking about this. I won't give the whole message here but....spoiler alert... it has to do with the Resurrection of Jesus!

Ready? Together we go to the Cross and Empty Tomb.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Everyone’s a Bit of a Fixer Upper

We went to see Frozen in 3D as a family. I liked it. Please don’t judge me. The tunes from the movie have taken the kid world by storm. I can understand why. They’re catchy. Turns out one song in particular has pretty solid theology too, “Everyone’s a Bit of a Fixer Upper.” It is true, no one is perfect, and everyone needs some fixin’ up.

1991 Fixer Upper
So my daughter is driving now and we purchased an old car from a friend. The car had not just a couple of quirks with it. Which, in my opinion, all first-cars must have some "personality". It builds character.

The vehicle is a 1991 Nissan Sentra. It has a few “distinctives.” For example, there is a wooden shim in one of the rear door panels keeping the window from collapsing into the door. And like a stuck zipper, the passenger front window only partially closes. The paint is dulled like powder, the radio transmits only static, and all the speakers in the car are falling apart. I know what you’re thinking…sucker! So why did we buy it? We bought it partially to help out a friend who was moving, partly because we needed a car, but mostly because it had low mileage and was cheap!

Over the past week this little sedan has become my project. First thing I did was resuscitate the red by scrubbing, compounding and polishing it. Next the stereo had to go. Along with the cassettetapes this deck was ready for the museum. Though I hadn't installed a car radio since President Reagan’s second term, after a little help from youtube and a few blown fuses, cha ching…success!

Next came time to tackle the issues I was most afraid of. The windows! This was totally uncharted territory for me. So I turned again to Prof. Google for a diagnosis and instructions. I discovered that it was the switch, the regulator and/or the motor.  I ordered the four necessary replacement parts to fix both windows. I was told the parts would be in the next day, Saturday. “Perfect,” I thought! The car would be out of commission for only a day.

Well, when I went to pick up the parts the next day I discovered we ordered the wrong motors. (Here's the good-news-camouflaged-as-bad-news-part-of-the-story. Garth Brooks sung about this). So we had to reorder them. The bad news was the motors would now not be in until Tuesday! When I got back home I decided to go ahead install what new parts I had. And, just for kicks, I put the old motors back on. Unbeknown to me, all the parts needed I had. Long story short- (good news) the old motors were fine and all four windows now work perfectly.

So here are some fixer upper lessons I've learned from the 1991 Sentra, and from 20 years in pastoral ministry and from being married.

1. Fixer Uppers have little, and not so little, Quirks
We all have issues. Some of them are easily repaired, but some of them will take some work. That is why we all must lean heavily on the grace, mercy and cleansing work of Christ. He is working to perfect us.

2. Someone has to be willing to invest in a fixer upper to bring out its potential.
We are all fixer uppers, but it takes someone who will see our potential to invest in us and bring out the best in us. Jesus did that for you and me. That is why he came to world. He came to redeem us, and to release us from the power of sin, to experience abundant life.  In your life there may be a fixer upper that needs your attention. It may be someone under your roof, on your little league team, in your classroom, or in your company.  You could be the ‘someone’ God will use to bring out the full potential in a fellow fixer upper.

3.  A Fixer Upper’s Good Parts are often overlooked because of the Broken Parts.
It’s true, we all have quirks and we all have weaknesses. But all of us, fixer uppers, also have some pretty amazing gifts and talents. Don’t allow the broken parts in you to negate your strengths. Nor in others.

4. A Fixer Upper is Never Finished
A fixer upper is always a fixer upper. There are always improvements and modifications to be made. That 1991 will never look like it did 23 years ago. Time in the sun and storms has taken its toll. But it can be improved.

You and I will never be perfect until our sanctification gives way to glorification in heaven. But we are thankful for the Spirit of Christ that works with us, making us better than we were yesterday. Aren't  you thankful that Jesus came to redeem the potential in you?! Aren't you glad he specializes in fixer uppers?! I am too.

You are Loved,
Pastor Terry

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a Pastor whose house was struck by lightning…

Luke 1:78 A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.

Today is a new day. The trucks are beginning to move our belongings back into our home. Since our house fire 6-months ago it has felt at times like I was living out some kind of a parable. If Jesus were telling the story he would begin it this way. The Kingdom of Heaven is like a pastor whose house was struck by lightning…

Here’s what I’ve learned through living this parable.
Things are often worse than they first appear. Looking back it seems hilarious the way we were thinking the night of the fire. I mean we literally thought we would be back in the house in a day or two. No one told us that, call it coping, denial, or whatever but we actually thought we would clean the place up, patch a few holes and be back to life as normal in just a day or two.

What we discovered is that the more the walls got peeled back the more damage there was and the more work required to restore our home. Seriously, for the first month it seemed like we were receiving daily updates that things were ‘worse than we initially thought.’ By the time the peeking was done, it would be discovered that several roof trusses were compromised and must be replaced.

You know we are all damaged goods. Life has dinged us all. And it’s when we dig below the surface that we discover the real structure problem that exists. And it is deep within, for own safety, that the real work must take place. Things are often worse than they appear on the surface.

The Hope of ‘Better’ helps when things get ‘Worse.’ Early on in the demolition of our house, even though we couldn’t visualize it (at least I couldn’t) we were promised that when the project was over our home would actually be better than before. Now, I can tell you when I first heard that I was like, I don’t want better I just want what we had. Just give me back what we had. In fact, if someone would have made this offer - Terry you can have ‘better’ in 6 months or ‘just like it was’ right now. I would have picked the ‘like it was (worse), but right now’ option. That is human nature. Most of us will choose familiar over better every time. That is why we need leaders, that is why we need God, (acts of God) to push us toward better.

I remember vividly one day last fall when the dire reality of the situation hit me. It was in October and it had been a few days since I had been to check on the progress of the house. I remember opening the front door and everything was gone. No furniture, no dishes, no cabinets, no interior doors, no flooring, no walls! It then hit me… this is bad. I know. I’m sharp, right? But in a cascade of emotions the severity of what had happened and the enormous scope of the rebuilding project pounded me. Things were at their worst. It was the flickering promise of ‘better’ that brought light in my moment of darkness. When things look bad it is the hope of better that carries us through.

Immanuel Kant, philosopher of a few centuries ago said that three keys to happiness are having something to do, someone to love, and something to hope for. I think Kant is on to something there and we can’t underestimate the third, something to hope for.

Over the past several months, mirroring our house rebuild has been some significant rebuilding at Bayside too. Things have been good but God is calling us to great. And there were days over the past few months that things looked worse rather than better. The more we dug the worse it looked. Deep change and deep hurt. But it was the Holy Spirit whispering to us the promise of better that carried us forward.

Today there are moving trucks bringing our belongings back!  Today, things are better. The house is incredible! God has blessed us beyond what we could have imagined. Our house at Norris Way is better today in practically every way than it was before the fire. I’ve learned that the journey from good to great is actually one from good…to worse…to great. Most people quit when it gets worse.

And there will soon be moving trucks heading to Bayside bringing the dear Stamper family to us - Kevin, Marie, Jane and Oliver. We are so excited about adding the Stamper family to our ministry team. Pastor Kevin is great friend, a tremendously talented young leader that will be our Creative Arts Pastor. They will make us better! We are excited to welcome them.

The smoke has cleared, the worst days are behind us, and we are moving toward awesome days ahead! A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful. Amen!

You are Loved,
Pastor Terry