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12/31/12

LIFE PLAN FOR 2013

We stand on the cusp of a brand new year.  Most of us will make some New Year's Resolutions.  Most studies say that the majority of us won't even last through January.  So, what's the answer?  Forget the resolutions?  Make them and blow them?

Let me make another suggestion.  Rather than just make some resolutions, consider a Life Plan for 2013.  Let's walk through that a bit.

STEP ONE:  Let's set some goals for ourselves.  Here's a few suggestions for your goals:
     1.  Think minimalist.  If you set too many, you'll burn yourself out in a hurry and it's all over but the
          crying.  Or maybe just the sense of disappointment and failure.  Think about 3 to 5 goals.

     2.  Keep them simple.  Something you can convey in a few words.  Simple and precise.  Know
          what the WIN is.

     3.  Keep them varied.  Your goals shouldn't be all in one area of your life (EX:  Lose 20 lbs., lose
          20 inches, have 6-pack abs, etc.)  Think through all these areas of your life to see what's of
          greatest importance to you.  Here's some areas to consider:
          *Spiritual
          *Personal
          *Marriage or relationships
          *Physical
          *Emotional
          *Financial
          *Professional

     4.  Include a "Stretch Goal".  There shouldn't be 3 or 4 of these.  But, make sure there's at least one.
          This should be something that takes you outside your comfort zone and really challenges you.

Tomorrow, we'll look at your Life Plan for 2013 a little more closely.  Today, set those goals and determine to make a Plan for 2013.
           

12/24/12

TWAS THE DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS

OK, so it's the day before Christmas and none of these songs are working.  No Chestnuts roasting.  Definitely, no open fire...unless you want to turn the AC waaaay down.  And Jack Frost, he may be nipping, but certainly not at anyone's nose around here.  I'm reminded that I live in Texas.  For those of you who are not blessed to live in the great state of Texas, let me try to give you a little insight into what you're missing.

It might be CHRISTMAS IN TEXAS IF....

*Your Air Conditioner is working overtime
*Someone gave you chocolate-covered bacon as a Christmas gift
*There's a cowboy hat on the top of your tree
*The most popular Santa is the one at Bass Pro Shop
*"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" is playing at the mall
*Half the items at Christmas Dinner are deep-fried
*You're wearing shorts and flip-flops with your ugly Christmas sweater
*There's a sign in your yard the says Merry Christmas, Y'all 
*If the shepherds in your manger scene are wearing Cowboy boots
*If none of these things seem in any way strange to you

...Yep, you might be in Texas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS Y'ALL!

12/22/12

7 REASONS I LOVE MY CHURCH


  1. It's Messy.  It's not filled with people whose lives are all-together and are trophies on display.  It's filled with messy people with messy lives that God takes and does miraculous things with, in spite of themselves.
  2. It's Not All About Me.  Even though I'm the Lead Pastor, my church is equipped by God's Holy Spirit to run with me or without me.  It's God-powered, not Tom-powered.
  3. It Needs Me.  This is not a contradiction.  It can operate without anyone, but always operates better with everyone.  Everyone is important there.
  4. It has a Great Vision.  It truly wants to Introduce Real People to a Real God.  Really!
  5. It has a Crazy Faith.  It's willing to go anywhere and do anything to please God.
  6. It's Generous.  This Church is willing to give up things it loves for someone it loves more.
  7. It's Fun.  My Church knows how to laugh...at me, at itself, at the world.  We value having Fun.  We don't take ourselves seriously, but we take God very seriously.
                    I LOVE CROSSPOINT CHURCH!!!!!!

12/20/12

ON LOCATION

I'm reporting bedside, this morning.  Sitting in the pre-op room of Physicians Surgical Center, waiting for my wife to be wheeled into the Operating Room.  Interesting way to spend the holidays.  But, that's life.  Full of surprises.  When she's done we'll head home...but not to our home.  Our home's all torn up from the remodeling project that has taken on a life of its own.  So, we'll be heading to a "borrowed" home.

I guess you could say there was "no room in our inn", so we had to find another spot to land.   I haven't ever been to these folks house, but I'm assuming it beats a barn and we won't be sleeping in a feed through.  Ahh, the ridiculous analogies pastors draw.  I guess it has something to do with our point of reference.  A wee bit limited.

This is a hopping place.  I guess everyone wants to get that last-minute surgical procedure done before those new deductibles kick in.  That. or they want to look really good for that last-minute Christmas party.

OK, I'm having trouble keeping a clear thought, so I'll just sign off and hope to see you, and your guests, at the Christmas Eve Eve Service.  It's gonna be awesome!!!

12/19/12

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

OK, I admit it.  When I know some store has made "Christmas" off-limits, it makes me more Christmasy than ever.  I go into a Starbucks and automatically wish everyone behind the counter a "MERRY CHRISTMAS" a minimum of 12 times per visit, just because I know they're not supposed to say it.  I purposely rub their noses in Christmas.  I find it quite exhilarating.  Call it, Tom's Ultimate Christmas Challenge.

Face it, we Christians take our Christmas seriously.  No Happy Holidays for us.  In fact, daily, I receive an email from one Christian organization telling me where I should and shouldn't shop this year, based on what their ads read.  If they use the big "C" word, they're on the Nice List...go spend yourself into oblivion.  If they use the dreaded "H" word, then they are to be avoided like the plague.  Naughty, Naughty, Naughty List.

I find that at Christmas, it becomes a lot more work to be a Christ-Follower.  You can't just go buy all the stuff for your kids that they don't need.  All your possible shopping destination have to be vetted based on what they call this particular time of the year, whether they allow bell-ringers outside their doors, how politically incorrect they may be willing to be....oh, and I just heard another one.  Almost forgot.  Whether they use Christmas carols or, God forbid, scripture, in an improper way to sell their junk.  Like the beer company that's add read, "For those not-so-silent nights".  Have they no sense of decency?!?!

OK, here's the deal...I have 3 simple rules:

1.   Christmas is too stressful and tiring already.  As far as I'm concerned, the over-commercialism of Christmas lands everyone on the Naughty List.  I don't have the time, nor the energy to determine what list every vendor lands on.

2.  I don't expect LOST PEOPLE to act like FOUND PEOPLE.  That never ends well.

3.  Christians already get a bad rep for always being "against" something.  The world views us as a bunch of folks with a a list of Thou Shall Nots that would put Santa's list to shame.  It's not a rep we want to accentuate.  In fact, it's one we should be trying to lose.

NEWS FLASH:  The World doesn't get it.  I'm pretty sure.....No, I'm totally sure, we can't boycott them into loving Jesus the way we say we do.  Didn't Jesus tell us this?  Maybe this Christmas we should read less Christmas ads, and more scripture.  Just a suggestion.

Merry Christmas.  Happy Holidays.  And have a blessed Whatever Doesn't Offend You Day!

12/18/12

WHY NEWTOWN?

In the wake of yet another atrocity, we find ourselves with more questions than answers.  WHY?  More specifically, WHY, GOD?  How do we make sense of this?  How can it be explained.  WHY?

I wanted to write to you regarding this, but found some great, insightful words from John Eldredge, who stated it much better than I would have...



It all depends on what you think is causing this.
I hope you will forgive my honesty, but I do not understand the shock. The grief I understand. The speechlessness, the staggering, the profound sorrow, the overwhelming sense of violation – these I understand. We are reeling from yet another assault of darkness. But our shock reveals something else altogether, something even more dangerous than armed violence.
I am describing a naiveté about the world that Christians, at least, should not be toying with.
In his brilliant essay The Wind in the Trees, GK Chesterton explains our misunderstanding by means of a great storm he experienced:
“I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars...The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try yet another desperate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy, the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.
As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind. I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees...he said at last to his mother, ‘Well, why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.’ Nothing could be more intelligent or natural that this mistake. Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say, could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, it is a belief so human and excusable that it is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers, sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live. My small friend was, in fact, very like the principal modern thinkers; only much nicer.”
Chesterton was describing the naiveté that has since paralyzed the world, a naiveté revealed by our shock. What do you really believe about the cause of the "storm?"
You would think that after a century which included the Holocaust, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and the rise of terrorism to name but a few, we would have been cured from our childish ideas about evil. You would think that after any one of the hundreds of atrocities of the past few years, we would have been cured. Rwanda, 9/11, human trafficking – what is it going to take?

It is this naiveté regarding evil that is the crisis of our age. And it is most dangerous.
For the Christian knows certain things about the world, things we must never ever lose hold of. We know from whence evil comes; we know what to do about it. We know – or we are supposed to know – that we live in a world at war; we are living in the midst of a very real and extremely brutal battle with the kingdom of darkness. While most Christians are still playing at happy little life (and angry at God for “allowing” terrible things to happen), the Scriptures continually warn us of a great evil power, who rules the world, whom we must contend with. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). In other words, with the demonic.
But, apparently T.S. Eliot was right: “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.”
We seem utterly devoted to avoiding the question of evil, to misdiagnosing it, completely committed to a childish view of the world. And our foolishness is proving very costly. For as Chesterton went on to say, “The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind.” By this he means the heresy that it is economics, race, poverty, a political party or doctrine that are the real causes of evil in the world; in this case, that it is the lack of gun control that causes evil in the world. Is the evil therefore located in the gun? Far more people are killed by automobile accidents each year in the U.S. – is the evil located in those vehicles?
How long will we continue to ignore the actual wind that tortures this world “by an invisible and violent witchcraft?”
Chesterton concluded his essay with a warning: “When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change...And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realize that the moral fact comes first.” Good and evil come first.
We prevent all possibility of serious change when we hold childish views regarding evil, regarding the Great War in which we find ourselves. I suppose for the world the naiveté is understandable. For the Christian, it is inexcusable. We cannot toy with sociological, psychological or political explanations for the evil now ravaging the planet. Because we have answers.
There are answers both to the evil in the world, and the evil in the human heart. God moved long ago to deal with both, and triumphantly. What greater hope could possibly be spoken? This is what the world longs to know - "Why doesn't God do something?" God has acted; he has intervened, at the cost of his own life. There are answers, there are solutions, there is a way out. But we will not seek them while we take a four-year-old view of the world; while we blame the the "trees" for the raging storm.
How differently would the church pray if we really believed we are at war with the kingdom of darkness? How differently would we live and act in this world?
That “difference,” my brothers and sisters, would make an enormous difference.

12/17/12

UNDERESTIMATING ORDER

For the past couple of weeks, our home has been in the process of being remodeled.  We're turning a Dining Room into a Study, a Game Room back into a Game Room, knocking out a wall, blowing up our Bathroom...you get the picture.  Great stuff.  But, along with that comes great mess.  Everything's in a different place...including us.

But, here's the big deal...TOTAL DISORDER.  The project is going well and everyone is happy, but the order to our home that we take for granted is gone.  I don't mean disrupted or effected...it's GONE.  I guess I never knew it was there.  I just took it for granted.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is not a household that operates with military precision.  Far from it.  But, there is order.  We know where things are (mostly).  We know where to put things.  We can walk though rooms without having to create a trail (now you get the picture?).

Order is a good thing.  I'm not talking about ruts...I'm talking about order.  Order around us, allows for order inside us.  Order in our homes and workplaces helps to undergird order in our private and personal lives.

I believe one of the greatest challenges to a rich and growing spiritual life can simply be a lack of order in one's private life.  Lack of quality time with God on a daily basis may not be caused by a lack of love for God so much as a lack of discipline and order in getting to bed at a regular time, getting adequate rest, getting up at a planned hour and having a plan in place for spending time with God daily.

It's true that if "We fail to plan, then we plan to fail", but even with the best of plans, order and discipline must accompany them in order for the plan to become reality.

Possibly, one of the most spiritual things you can do is go to bed or get up at the alarm or arrange your junk drawer...whatever is necessary to order your private world.

In the mean time, has anybody seen my toothbrush?

12/13/12

THINKING BABIES

I'm writing this blog with one hand (as opposed to 2 fingers), and the other hand is holding the most precious little angel.  Three days old, and just perfect.  It's great to hold a beautiful baby anytime.  But, it's especially important at this time of year.  It helps to look into that little innocent face and remember some of what Mary must have felt as she looked into the face of Jesus for the first time.

Can you imagine what Mary must have felt each time she looked into the face of Jesus?  Unbelievable joy...this is her precious son.  Unbelievable confusion...why her, why him, why God, why this?  Unbelievable pride...he would be the Messiah who would set his people free once and for all.  Unbelievable pain...he would be the sacrifice that takes away the sin of the world.

All those emotions rolled into one.  If we knew all she did about our children, we might feel much of the same.  But she knew....not everything...but she knew.  And all she could do was love him.

12/12/12

MUSINGS FROM OKC

*My Daughter-in-law is a stud.  Had a baby on Monday and went out to dinner and to look at Christmas lights on Tuesday.  STUD!

*Presley Mae Allen is a little cutie.  I'm extremely objective here.  I'm just sayin'.  This kid is cuter than your kid.  Deal with it.

*My grandson, Cash, has no "OFF" switch.  Trust me, I've looked everywhere.  It's not there.

*At night, I'm very helpful.  I was always the first to wake up when Cash or Presley cried out.  It was my job to be the "First Responder".  I rolled over and told Susan which one was crying so she knew which room to go to.  I was VERY helpful.

*It's cold in OKC.  I think Green Bay is near here.

*Being a grandfather is pretty cool.  You kind of have to be old to do it, but the payoff is worth it.

*Presley is 2 days old and has more clothes than me.  Something is wrong with this picture.

*It really doesn't matter how many clothes Cash has because he only wants to wear what he's wearing...to play in...to dinner ...to bed...to school the next day.  This could be a problem.

* Life has many stages.  They're all good if you make them good.  Don't look back...don't look forward...enjoy the moment.

12/11/12

ON ASSIGNMENT

Today, I come to you on assignment from the northern reaches of our United States...OKLAHOMA.  OK, maybe I overstated it a little, but I drove...and its COLD.  Feels like the northern reaches.  Anyway, I finally got to see my granddaughter (hard to even write that) last night about 10:30.  Once Susan stopped hogging her, I even got to hold her.  AND...she likes me!  It was pretty obvious.  At least it was to me.  Oh, and she's beautiful.  Don't want to leave that out.  She looks like a mini-version of her brother, but that could all change in a day.  But, either way, she's beautiful.  REALLY BEAUTIFUL.

OK, no witty insights and life-changing quotes today.  They just called.  They've been sprung from the hospital (FREE AT LAST!), but need one thing from home before they are cleared for take-off.  IT'S BIG PAPI TO THE RESCUE!!!  (I'm already her Super-hero, and she doesn't even know it...but she will).

12/10/12

IT WAS A GREAT PLAN

There's so much going on in the Allen house right now....I won't go into all the details.  Many of you know, the rest of you can guess...or ask someone who knows.  Think of everything you can and add one or two things.  That's us.  So, planning is crucial.

Today: Short staff meeting, make assignments to cover my absence, prepare this afternoon for Sunday's message, watch Texans stomp Patriots, arise really early and head to OKC before the sun rises, and prepare for the birth of Presley Mae Allen on Wednesday.

Then came the phone call at 4:42am.  Presley has other ideas.  Little twit.  No one told her what a tight schedule we were on?  "Presley, Yaya's car is in the shop.  It's ready to get picked up, but we're driving this little white time capsule they call a rental vehicle.  We don't even have transportation right now.  This is being very inconsiderate of others.  We have a plan.  We have a schedule.  We're stressed.  Why are you adding to our stress?  Can you tell Papi why?"

You can decline delivery with the Post office...why not with kids?  You know, write, RETURN TO SENDER on her forehead and put her back in the oven for a couple of days.  What could it hurt?

LIFE LESSON: One of the greatest qualities a man or woman who wants to follow after God can develop is FLEXIBILITY.  But, you say, the Bible never mentions flexibility one time.  Well, I would agree that Jesus never used the word, but he certainly taught the concept.

Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan?  All three characters had plans and schedules and reasons to be somewhere, but the GOOD one was the one who set aside his plans, his schedule, for the greater good.  He was the one who dared to be FLEXIBLE. 

Remember Mary and Martha with Jesus?  They both had plans and schedules, but Mary set hers aside to spend time with Jesus, while Martha, with the best of intentions, held fast to hers, only to get a few choice words from Jesus.  Mary was FLEXIBLE.  Martha was rigid.

Remember what James wrote about having plans to go to a city and do business there and make a living?  He said, you should say..."If God wills..".  That's FLEXIBILITY.

Maybe you never thought of FLEXIBILITY as spiritual in nature, but God does.  So, limber up troops.  It's great to have plans.  But, God may have better ones.

By the way, she's pushing now, so if you're reading this, I'm a grandpa again, but this time to a granddaughter.  Further proof: Girls are trouble.

12/6/12

LITTLE BIG THINGS

Recently, I missed someone.  Well, not just someone...a family.  It's difficult for me to tell you everyone  who is in attendance on any given Sunday, much less who is missing. (Sorry, if you miss a Sunday and I don't notice, please don't take it personally)  But, I had missed these folks, so I emailed them and they politely answered and told me they felt the Lord had lead them to another church.  I've learned to just accept those things.  I can't change them.  Don't have to like them...but, I'm not called to talk people into coming to my church.  In fact, I really don't want anyone there that doesn't want to be there...except lost people.

Yesterday, I got an email saying, "I think we found what we're looking for.  We'll see you Sunday".  I have to admit, that made me smile.  That made my heart happy.  That gave me joy.  Why?  Because the church is a family, and when any part of the family is missing, it should hurt a little.  And when any of the family gets back in the family, it should be a time to rejoice.

Now, I've got a couple of thousand people to be concerned about.  What difference does a couple more make?  If I don't care, it really doesn't make much difference at all.  If I do care, it makes a big difference.

I see some flaws in the American Church:

*We talk about it like it's a family, because the scripture says it is, but as soon as they don't sing the songs we like or take communion too often or too seldom or not the right way, we're outta there and on to the next family we adopt ourselves into

*We say the church is family, but when someone leaves, often no one goes looking for them.  If one of my kids disappeared, I assure you I'd be looking.  Their face would be on a milk carton.  I'd get every friend I have to help me look.

*The church is a family, according to scripture.  However, that's not the only analogy.  It's also a body. Every functional body has a digestive system.  BOTTOM LINE: Stuff comes in...stuff goes out.  Nature calls that HEALTH.  Must be true in the church as well.  Some will come and some will go and sometimes that's a good thing...a necessary thing.

But, for today, a part of the family is back in the family...and my heart is happy.

12/5/12

MY LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRISTMAS

OK, call me the GRINCH if you like.  Label me EBENEZER SCROOGE if it makes you feel better.  I've heard it all.  You won't be the first.  You, certainly, won't be the last.  There are some things about Christmas I just don't like.  OK, I REALLY don't like.

MATERIALISM:  We all struggle with materialism.  But, it really bothers me that the celebration of the birth of our Savior has become an excuse to place our materialism on steroids.

BONDAGE:  These two go hand-in-hand.  Because of our materialism, most of us will buy way more than we can afford and sink ourselves further into the bondage of debt.

GUILT:  So many feel they need to go everywhere, do everything, please everyone out of a sense of guilt, that may have been there already, but gets a few yule logs thrown on it to stoke the fire into a full blaze.

EXCESS:  Whether you're an alcoholic, a spend-aholic, a worry-aholic, a sex-aholic, or one who struggles deeply with self-image or self-worth, etc., etc,. etc.,...Christmas seems to ramp those things up, or even provide an opportunity to feed your disease under the guise of, "But, it's Christmas!".

Here's the deal, people...I love the celebration of the birth of our Savior.  But, I'm smart enough to know that every bad thing is a good thing perverted.  Satan doesn't create.  God creates.  Satan perverts.  Why would we be surprised to think that Satan would work overtime to try to pervert a time when ALL our attention is on the birth of Jesus, and Satan gets no attention?  Think about it.  He's gotta be working overtime.

"And so, I'm offering this simple prayer, from kids from one to 92..."  
     1.  Keep it SIMPLE
     2.  Keep it about JESUS
     3.  Keep it SMART (be aware of the dangers and avoid them like the plague)
     4.  Keep it FUN

"And have yourself a merry little Christmas now!"

12/4/12

T MINUS 30 AND COUNTING

We're just 30 days away from a brand new year.  Seems like just when you get used to writing 2012, they go and change it to 2013.  Very inconvenient.  Very problematic.  Often confusing.

Why is that important enough to mention?  Because everyone (I use that term generously) will be making resolutions about how they're going to do better in the new year than in this one.  Funny part of that is, we know it.  We know it's coming.  It's as though we've got this reprieve, this temporary pardon from the governor, this get-out-of-jail-free card that allows us to do whatever we want now, because we know that day is coming when everything is going to change.  So for now, we just eat, drink and be merry, because in 30 days all the fun is going to come to a magical and mysterious end.

I guess my question is, If we know these things are important to our lives, why don't we just do them now?  Yeah, I know that's not the way it works...but why?  I know I'm not supposed to ask why, but why am I not supposed to ask why?  If I know I need to lose 30 pounds, then why am I deciding to make that a resolution in January and trying like a big dog to put on 30 more during December?  If I want to start reading my Bible daily in January, wouldn't it be a great idea to start reading it in December?  Really, it couldn't hurt...could it?

I know this isn't how it works, whatever it is.  I know I'm talking crazy, totally out of my mind, completely bucking the system...but, hey, it's what I do.

Why does doing the right thing need to be postponed?  That's my question.  I met with each of my staff members yesterday for end-of-year evaluations.  They were responsible to bring me their goals for 2013.  I just started wondering, "Wouldn't it be cool to start getting after it right now?  Cheat the system.  Get a head start.  Have 13 months to complete a 12 month project."  Sounds like cake.  I'm thinking maybe the best day to start anything is today, whatever day today happens to be.

12/3/12

LET THE INSANITY BEGIN!

OK, this doesn't rank right up there with the "best-laid plans of mice and men", but today the insanity starts at the Allen house.  Today, the contractors show up to begin the remodeling project.  The project that's run us out of our own room and upstairs to the guest room as of last night.  One of the major pieces of the project was supposed to be here by now...it's arrived at the Port of Houston...but it's being held up by Customs Agents (seems a little mysterious, doesn't it).  Anyway, without a completion date in sight, it starts today.  PRESSURE POINT #1.

Then, there's the trip scheduled to Oklahoma City for a few days sandwiched within the confines of a week...while the project goes on...for the birth of our first grandchild...who was scheduled to come on the 12th, when we planned to be there...but, is making it known, she wants to arrive early.  PRESSURE POINT #2.

Oh, did I mention Susan's surgery?  Already been postponed once, due to an ear infection.  Foot surgery.  In a boot for 2 months.  While we live upstairs.  PRESSURE POINT #3.

Wait, there's got to be something I'm forgetting.  Oh yeah, it's Christmas, that blessed time of year when everyone worships at the mall of their choice.  Peace on earth, good will toward men.  PRESSURE POINT #4.

I've been searching for a month-long mission trip that I could convince God to convict me to go on, but so far He's been zero help.  Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.  (this scripture was not given in reference to the bed upstairs).

I know you're asking, "Why are you doing all this at once?  I thought you were smarter than that?".  The answer is simple: Sometimes you can plan all you want, but things happen when they happen.  You can't really plan for a major piece of a remodel to be scheduled to go into New York harbor when a hurricane is hitting it, or for custom agents to hold it up at the Port of Houston.  You can't plan for babies that decide their due dates may just not fit their style.  You can't plan for surgeries that are needed, preferably, before the year's end.  Christmas, yeah, it's always on December 25th, but it always stressful anyway.

But, here's what you can do..."Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts".  That word "rule" means to umpire.  To keep your emotions in line.  To throw a flag for any "Unsportsmanlike conduct" or for any "false starts' or "jumping offsides".  You INVITE Him to umpire, and He keeps things from getting out of hand.

You can throw your Challenge Flag, but I wouldn't suggest it.  Ask the coach of the Lions.

11/30/12

OWNERS & CUSTOMERS

Walk into any place of business, and it's not difficult to differentiate the OWNERS from the CUSTOMERS.

     *The OWNERS are looking for the CUSTOMERS to serve them in any way possible
     *The CUSTOMERS only look for the OWNERS when they need something

     *The OWNERS are there to serve
     *The CUSTOMERS are there to be served

     *The CUSTOMERS loyalty to this place extends only as long as they get exactly what they want
     *The OWNERS loyalty to this place is set and permanent

     *The CUSTOMERS are there to see what they can get
     *The OWNERS are there to see what they can do to help the CUSTOMERS get what they need

Read over that list one more time, but this time, don't read it thinking about the store down the road.  This time read it with your church in mind.  Then ask yourself the question, "Am I a CUSTOMER or an OWNER?"  The answer to that question may tell you more about yourself and about the way you look at your church than you ever wanted to know.

Jesus said, "WE are his body".  Not the we attend, or that we're served by, or that we should stop by and pick up a few things we might need.  He said WE'RE IT!  

BOTTOM LINE:  Are you a CUSTOMER or an OWNER?

11/29/12

PLAYING FROM THE TIPS

OK, so if you're a golfer, that means something to you.  If you're not, it probably means nothing.  Recently, I've made the attempt, taken the time, made the effort...not sure which one of those fits...to "pick up" the game again.  CONCLUSION:  You don't just "pick golf back up".  It's a frustrating game.  But, an enticing game, all at the same time.  But, again, I digress.

Back to "playing from the tips".  That's just a term that refers to hitting from the longest (hardest) tee boxes.  Why would you want to do that, you ask?  Because these are golfers, and in most cases, these are men.  Testosterone.  Nuff said.  It's basically for those who want the ultimate challenge the golf course can provide them.  It's "extreme" golf, so to speak.  It's taking it to its greatest limits.

Yesterday, I played from the tips.  No, I didn't go anywhere near a golf course.  I just experienced the extremes of life.  I made two stops, back to back.  STOP ONE:  Funeral home.  Picking up an obituary for a funeral I will perform today.  STOP TWO:  Hospital....Labor & Delivery.  Having the joy of seeing a beaming mom and dad and holding a newborn baby in my arms.  That's about as extreme as it gets.  I was definitely playing from the tips.

Heres how we see these two events:  One is the ultimate joy, the celebration of life and new birth.  The other is the ultimate sadness, the termination of life, the pain and finality of letting go and saying goodbye forever.

However, from God's point of view, two things that seems so diametrically opposed to one another are more alike than any of us realize from our very finite and limited vantage point.  As much as birth is the beginning of life, so death, for the believer, is equally a new birth...a beginning of a new life, a new existence, the perfection of the eternity God has been planning for us ever since Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you".  That was quite a while back.  Must be a nice place!

11/28/12

IT'S OFFICIAL!

Yep, it's now officially the Christmas season at the Allen casa'.  We got the tree.  We got all the furniture arranged where its almost impossible to watch a football game.  We got the nativity scene.  We got your little pieces of fake greenery twisted around everything that's up all year anyway to somehow mysteriously make it "Christmasy" now.

Susan asked me if I was going to hang lights outside on the house.  I told her I had had a little talk with Jesus and he had told me, "Tom, for my birthday, I don't want you to hang lights.  I want you to be the light".  (UmmUmmUmmm...wow)  And I told him, "OK, if that's what you want...I'll do it!"  Nix on the outside lights.

My favorite Christmas decoration, hands down, are the stockings (well, they're actually boots...cowboy boot shaped stockings) hung on the mantle with everyone's name on them.  It started with two...just Susan and me.  Then along came Caleb Brady Allen and we were suddenly three.  Then four.  Later five.  Then six.  Fast-forward to today...we're 15!  I can't believe it!  Seems like yesterday I was a single guy in seminary, all alone.  Then, I met a girl, and shortly, for the rest of my life I was never alone.  I couldn't find any place to be alone.  Now, there's 15 of us.  But, most have left the nest and we're adjusting to the semi-quiet again.  Just me and Susan.  But, those stockings on the mantle remind me of my most precious inheritance.  My wife.  My kids.  My kids' kids.  That mantle represents my treasure of great price.  And, of all the things we decorate our home with, that is, by far, my favorite.

11/27/12

IBSick

I have succumbed to the dreaded CRUD.  It came upon me without warning.  The fact that "everybody's getting it" has not provided much solace for me at this time.  I find that sickness has phases, just like anything else.

Phase One:  Something's not quite right
Phase Two:  Something's definitely wrong
Phase Three:  I'm afraid I'm going to die!
Phase Four:  I'm afraid I'm not going to die!!!
Phase Five:  I feel better, but really want you to feel sorry for me, because I certainly do
Phase Six:  All better...that was no big deal!

Yeah, that was a little dramatic.  Funny, but that's from a man's perspective.  I find a woman's perspective on sickness to be a little different.  Most women just have one phase...I'm sick...leave me alone!  When it comes to being sick, men revert back to being babies and need someone to hold their hand or give them a bell to ring and make them chicken soup.  Whereas, women just want you to keep the kids, the phone and yourself as far away from them as possible.

I wonder if the phases of physical sickness have any correspondence to the spiritual sickness we call sin?  Really is the same thing, isn't it?  Just the spiritual version of what we actually see in the physical realm.  Maybe the phases of our sin sickness goes something like this...

Phase One:  I think that may have been wrong
Phase Two:  I'm sure that was wrong...I feel terrible
Phase Three:  I'm sorry.  I promise never to do it again.
Phase Four:  Oops, I did it again.  Actually, it was a little easier this time.
Phase Five:  I feel bad and just want to be left alone.  If you're God or one of His friends, I really don't
                    want to talk right now.  Maybe never.
Phase Six:  All better...that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Not sure if you can relate to this or not.  Probably so.  Without sounding corny, isolation is not the answer for a sick soul.  Nor is chicken soup.  Boldly coming before a merciful God, admitting our guilt and receiving forgiveness and healing is (even for the 1,000th time).

11/26/12

CYBER MONDAY

Welcome to CYBER MONDAY!  For anyone who may be lost, today is the online version of BLACK FRIDAY.  Today, those who overspent on Friday (and even on Thursday this year) will have the additional opportunity to compound the problem with the click of a mouse.  Ah, the wonderful times we live in!

Someone wrote on Thanksgiving Day, "And now begins the Christmas season, when each one of us can worship at the mall of our choice".  How true is that?  How sad is that?  We celebrate the arrival of the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS who came to set the captive free by spending ourselves into bondage.  How ironic is that?

Around here at the Allen house, for years we've celebrated the 12 days of Christmas.  For each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day, we've given some small gift to each of our children.  My wife, (she's the smart one in the family) suggested that this year we continue the tradition, but with a twist.  That instead of buying things to give to our children (only one at home, and only now and then), that we look for 12 other ways to give.  Possibly provide a meal for a family.  Maybe, just the gift of time with folks we never get to spend time with.  Possibly serve someone who has a need.  The opportunities are endless.

I think the idea is to make sure we're doing what Jesus would want, rather than just making sure everybody else gets what they want.  It's zeroing in on the Spirit of Christ more than the spirit of Christmas.  It's recognizing that the birth of Christ and Christmas have come to be very different things. It's about opting for worshipping Christ, rather than worshipping Christmas.

I'm not sure what your plans are for this season.  But, I do invite you to simplify....de-pressurize...think giving, not just spending...they really aren't the same.  One is so much better than the other, with long-lasting results.

11/21/12

MY REP

I have a reputation.  I'm the "DRESSING GUY".  It's just not a holiday if Tom doesn't make his dressing.  You know, dressing...the kind that goes with a turkey.  I'm not totally sure if everyone really loves it, or if they just found someone dumb enough to make the stuff year after year.  It's somewhat labor-intensive.  Just one year, I'd like to be the cranberry person.

People always ask me, "What's your recipe?, to which I respond, "I don't have one".  Not trying to be a smarty pants, I just don't.  I just put some of this and some of that and some of this other thing and it works out.  No recipe.  No measurements.  Just throw it all in and hope for the best.  It's probably a little different every year, but basically the same.

So, how do I know what to put in?  Well, my dad made the dressing in our house growing up.  I never asked him for a recipe (not sure he had one either).  I just watched what he did and then did it.  Now that I write that, it sounds very spiritual.  Not the dressing part...the watching my father part and doing what he did part.  In case you don't know, that's what Jesus said he did.  He watched his father and did what he did.  Then, he told his disciples to do the same.

It's a process that's worked really well for me with the dressing (got a reputation), it worked really well for Jesus too.  And when his disciples actually followed his lead, it worked really well for them as well.

"Watch me and do what I do".  Pretty simple.  Worked with the dressing.  Worked with the disciples.  Pretty sure it will work with us as well.  It's called DISCIPLESHIP.  "Watch me and do what I do".  PERIOD.  Then you can have a reputation for something more than dressing....like FOLLOWING JESUS!  Very cool.

11/20/12

PET PEEVES

Do you have them?  Pet peeves?  Those certain things that effect you like fingernails on a chalkboard?  I started to write this and realized I have TOO MANY!  Here is a very shortened, annotated, Cliffs Notes version of my PET PEEVES:

1.  People who drive northbound in a parking lot on a lane where all the parking spaces are obviously southbound (really?)
2.  People who can take a 30 second explanation or question and turn it into a 5 minute experience (I'll never get those 5 minutes of my life back)
3.  People who call your cell phone, don't leave a message, and get mad when you don't call them back
4.  The extensive overuse of emojicons (translation: any use of smiley faces in emails)
5.  Stupid people who aren't aware they are stupid (it's SO HARD not to tell them!)
6.  People who use the turning lane as their own personal HOV lane
7.  Christmas decorations prior to Thanksgiving and past Valentine's Day

Trust me, this is a very abbreviated list, but it has been extremely cathartic.  I feel better.  Happy Thanksgiving.  (Merry Christmas in a few weeks...oh, and stop with the carols already!!!!!!)

11/19/12

TOP REASONS PASTORS WANT TO QUIT ON MONDAYS

I read this, and thought it was a wonderfully honest and insightful look inside a pastor's head (scary, right), and thought I'd share it:


These are their top responses:

1. To Protect my Family.

Sometimes, the pastor’s family will sacrifice in ways that make the pastor want to give it up for an easier or, frankly, more lucrative job. One pastor, discouraged by his young church’s inability to pay him a decent salary, responded that he feels like he is being a “terrible provider.”

Another friend who has moved into a difficult neighborhood to be an incarnational presence there cited drug dealers in his neighborhood as a reason he’s wanted to quit.
Difficult days can make you question your call to take the Gospel to the hard places.

2. Criticism.

Often, pastors feel attacked on all sides.
One friend of mine replied to my question with simply the words “sinful criticism,” which he later described as “criticism that is nit-picky and comes from a consumeristic church culture.”

3. The Hard Work of Shepherding.

For one church planter, it was the difficult realization that after you “launch” the church, you have to actually pastor people.
His response: "Coming to the reality we can’t just make cool websites, network in the community and launch a church. We actually have to do the hard work of shepherding."

4. Restlessness.

Some of the time, the issue is simply that entrepreneurial church-planting pastors have a hard time staying in one place for very long.
"Restlessness and feeling a desire for another city," was one pastor’s response to my question.

5. Coveting Others’ Gifts.

Even though only a small percentage of the churches in the world see rapid numeric growth, it is these stories of fast-growing churches that get promoted the most in the church world.
Add to this, because of the connectivity of the Internet, that everyone has access to the most gifted preachers and teachers around.
One pastor named his struggle for what it is: "coveting others’ gifts, leadership, fruitfulness."
If you are a "normal" pastor of a "normal" church, this can lead to great discouragement. It can cause you to question if you alone are struggling with difficult people or a difficult context.
One pastor responded (ironically, via Twitter) to my question on what’s made him want to quit recently: "Twitter. Following people who always seem to have the momentum and success and few struggles. Seriously—it has gotten to me."

6. Lack of Change.

"Stagnation in the church that won’t change gets me down a lot," was one pastor’s response to my question.
The single most discouraging issue for pastors is a sense that things in the church are not changing or progressing.
One pastor cited a "lack of change … doing the same things the same ways without vision for the why behind it all."
Pastors are pouring out their lives in order to see transformation—change in people, a neighborhood or an entire city. When things seem stuck, it can feel like it’s time to throw in the towel.
One pastor described it as a "lack of mission: feeling as if we’re just spinning our wheels. Spiritual apathy among leaders who were 'with' us."

11/16/12

ANTICIPATION VS. REALITY

These two things are rarely the same.  Remember your wedding?  The anticipation of it (especially if you're a chick...guys really anticipate the honeymoon more) captivated you for months.  For some of you, it was more like years....some decades, long before you ever met your husband-to-be.  You were in love with the idea of being in love and being a bride and having your knight in shining armor sweep you off your feet and meet you at the altar and.....blah, blah, blah...  Then you get married and don't even remember half the wedding.  THAT'S why they take pictures...so you can see everything you missed.

We've anticipated growing as a church and reaching people for Christ and, yes, building to make that growth a possibility.  We didn't think it would work at our Old Alvin location, so we moved to a school.  Who goes from a permanent location to a school?  NOBODY!  But, we did.  Then God, (yes, I truly believe it was an act of God directly in response to our faith to move.  I don't throw around the "God thing" line a lot.  Almost never.  SO overused.  But, this was God.) provided for us in a miraculous way.  We had the place, we designed the building, all we needed was $4mil.  No biggie.  SOMEDAY this might happen.  SOMEDAY.

I walk outside every day and watch the goings on of construction.  Massive construction.  Constant motion.  Things being torn up.  Things being built up.  Trucks and trucks and trucks...a constant stream of trucks bringing things in and carting things out.  It's REALLY, REALLY HAPPENING!!!

We're building a building.  That's important.  But, not in and of itself.  What's important is that it's just the vehicle that allows us to build a CHURCH.  That's HUGE!  HUGE!!!

Just don't get lost in that.  A building will make it EASIER, not POSSIBLE.  It's already POSSIBLE.  We'll have a building in a few months.  Let's build a CHURCH RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

11/15/12

NUMB

As most of you know, I was in a pretty bad motorcycle accident a few years back.  After a lot of time and healing, I'm pretty much back to as normal as I can get (with me, normal is a relative term).  There are a few things that are lasting from the accident.  I have a few scars here and there to remind me of my exploits.  Also, I have a couple of places on my body where there is no feeling.  No pain...just, nothing.

Pretty weird to rub your fingers over an area of your body and feel them...then suddenly, nothing.  Takes some getting used to.  But, it's been several years and, to be honest, it's still weird.

Numbness isn't normal.  It's a state many people actually seek out.  When the pain of life is too overwhelming, some people actually opt for numbness over reality.  They seek it through drugs or alcohol or some other addiction.  Call it what you like, it's just seeking emotional numbness above the reality of the emotional pain that it replaces.  It's addictive because it wears off, the pain's still there and we have to repeat the cycle all over again.  Therefore, addiction.

Another way that emotional, or even spiritual numbness happens is when we are overly stimulated in a particular area again and again.  Kind of like if you scraped a knife across an area of your body over and over, or burned a portion of your body again and again.  If so, the nerves would die and the pain would finally subside.  NUMB.

I think that happens to us on the emotional and spiritual level as well.  Maybe its an area of sin in our lives.  We sin...we get convicted...we feel pain...we confess...the pain goes away.  But, sometimes, we sin...we feel pain...we sin...we feel less pain..finally, we sin...we feel no pain.  In fact, we feel nothing.

Here's another example.  We see the world we live in and how far it's moved away from God and how it calls right, wrong and calls good, bad and it breaks our heart.  And we wake up the next day and it happens again.  And again...and again...and again...and, suddenly, without our even knowing it, we start to feel less pain over the condition of our world...and less pain...and finally, without even knowing it...without being able to pinpoint when it happened...things that bothered us don't bother us as much anymore.  Things that broke our heart don't break our heart any more.  Without even knowing it, we've become NUMB.

No one likes pain.  But beware...pain is better than NUMBNESS.  God designed us to feel, and when we get NUMB, we not only dismiss the pain, we also miss out on the joy.

May God's needle prick your heart today and restore whatever feeling has been lost.

11/14/12

CHECKLISTS AND ADD

Checklists are wonderful things.  They let us know exactly what we need to do.  They help us remember what's important.  They put things in the order in which they need to be accomplished.  They give us, not only the items that need to be accomplished, but also the dates by which they need to be completed.

Recently, our staff did what staffs often do...we retreated.  We thought and prayed and strategized and planned and made lists and looked at calendars and drew flow charts and re-drew flow charts...all the stuff you do on retreats.  That's often where it all ends.  Right there.  GREAT RETREAT!  Now, it's back to business as normal.  Six months later, someone...some over-achiever...asks "Didn't we decide to do such-and -such on the retreat last year?"  Don't you just hate those guys?!

Not this year, Mr. Smarty-Pants.  We wrote it down AND we wrote out Action Items AND we assigned people to each Action Item AND we gave a "Due By" (not Dubai...easy mistake) date for each item.  Very organized.  Very productive.  Very professional.

I saw my list.  I had an Anxiety Attack.  It was overwhelming.  In the immortal words of the great Peyton Manning, "I think I peed just a little in my pants".  I started four things at once...simultaneously. Anxiety Attack #2 (& #3).

LESSON LEARNED:  I'm ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)...(among other initials).  I don't need a Post-It Note with 14 things on it.  I need 14 Post-It Notes, each with one thing on them.  Can I get an AMEN?  Are there any brothers and sisters out there who feel my pain?  OK, let's face it, if you are, you probably haven't read this far.  You took one look and said, "Why does he write so much?  It's too long.  I can't do it."  

Maybe that's why Jesus told Martha, "There's only one thing required".  Maybe he meant just one thing at a time.  Martha needed Post-It Notes.

11/13/12

I'VE GOT NETFLIX!

I never see bills.  In our house, my wife is the bill payer.  At least, I assume she does.  OK, she does.  Anyway, that's not what this is about.  The other day I picked up one of the credit card bills and looked it over.  (Just wanted to see what I was buying)  I saw a charge on there from Netflix.com.  I asked Susan, "What's this for?".  Of course, she didn't know, so I decided to play junior detective and find out.  First to the website, then finding the number to call and, finally, getting to the bottom of case.  (OK, case is a strong word, I know, but I felt like one of those guys on CSI anyway)

The BIG BREAK IN THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS NETFLIX CHARGE:  The man said, "Yes, Mr. Allen, you have an account with us...you've had it since May".  Are you kidding me?!  I could have been watching bad movies for 6 months now and didn't even know it?!  Wonder what else I'm missing out on?  Do you think there's a long-lost relative out there that left me millions that I'm totally in the dark about?

What's your point, Tom?  Well, only by accident did I happen upon something that was mine all along. Something I didn't know existed.  Something I wasn't putting to use out of my simple ignorance.

Do you ever wonder what God has provided for you...just sitting there with your name on it...waiting for you to pick it up or activate it.  It's not written on your bill, but in His Word.  I don't want to get to Heaven and have God ask me, "By the way, why didn't you ever put________ to use.  It was there for you.  I made it available to you.  I told you about it.  You read my instructions, right?  Were you just not interested?  It cost me a lot, but I was happy to provide it for you.  I just wondered why you never took advantage of it?

That would be sad.  That would be embarrassing.  That would be.....well, you get the picture.  Check your bill, or in this case, His Word, to see what all accounts you have.  Activate them all.  Trust me, God's got better for you than just old movies.

11/12/12

FIVE THINGS

Yesterday, I talked about 5 things that God uses to build your faith.  In case you missed, or dozed off, let me recap:
1.  Practical Teaching
2.  Private Disciplines
3.  Personal Ministry
4.  Providential Relationships
5.  Pivotal Circumstances

I'm interested.  Which one of these 5 has God used to grow your faith?  For me, as I look back over the last 40 years or so, I can see examples of all 5 that jump out at me at a particular juncture of my life where God drilled down deep in me through one of these.

As a Junior High student, I built relationships that have challenged and changed me to this very day.  As a young pastor, I traveled to the Yucatan jungles on a church-planting adventure where I was challenged to do ministry way outside my comfort zone.  I remember my first pastorate.  I thought I knew pretty much everything a pastor should know.  But, I sat glued to the radio for 30 minutes every morning listening to every word that Chuck Swindoll had to say.  I began my introduction to practical teaching, as the Word of God became alive for me like never before.  Later, I attended a conference where this young guy from California spoke.  Never heard of him.  But, this guy named Warren introduced me to ways of taking the idea of practical teaching to a whole new level.

Then there was Dr. Gray, my Missiology professor.  I assumed Missiology was all about missions.  Well, he wanted it to be more and it was.  He challenged us to pray for an hour each morning.  I thought I'd been praying for an hour...only to find it was actually, 15 minutes.  But, I learned the importance of private disciplines from him.

As far as pivotal circumstances go, there are too many to recount, but the one that stands out the most was a motorcycle accident I had.  Life Flight and the whole 9 yards.  I see more and more how God used that incident to change me and light a fire under me and in me.

I wonder one more thing:  Which of these 5 is God using RIGHT NOW to grow your faith?  Can you name it?  If not, today's a good day to figure it out.

11/9/12

MARGIN

Remember that series?  It was a few series back, but not so long ago.  Done anything about it?  Me...well, I have good intentions.  But this weekend....whoa.  I've got some MARGIN.  How'd I do it?  I ADDED one thing to my life.  Sounds really backwards doesn't it?  MARGIN isn't about adding, it's about deleting,...prioritizing.

OK, here's what I added.  NO.  That's it.  I added it to my vocabulary.  Yes, it was tough, but I persevered, even if it only lasts one weekend.  I said NO to a trip out of town.  I said NO to two great days of golf. (ouch!)  I said NO to a lot a smaller things.  WHY?  Because I promised my wife I would.  Made it a lot easier.

We've had nothing but one thing after another thing after another thing.  No down time.  No together time.  Lot's of DOING time.  No BEING time.

Wanna do something?  Here's my number...call me maybe...Just not this weekend.  I'm getting some MARGIN in my life.

11/8/12

ACORNS

Anyone notice it?  ACORNS.  Millions...Billions...Trillions of ACORNS.  Everywhere.  I don't even have any Oak trees (sometimes referred to by me as Acorn trees, but again, I digress), but it's hard not to notice the massive amounts of acorns being created this year.  They're everywhere.

Anyone know why?  (Oh, oh, my hands up...pick me!!!)  In the life-cycle of trees there is something called a "Mast Year".  That's when the tree produces about 5 times it's usual amount of "fruit".  In this case, acorns.  It's the way God designed trees.  It's to assure that the trees not only produce a substantial amount of fruit, but assure that other trees will be produced in the process as well. This year is a Mast Year.

However, the previous year followed a drought, which saw little production, and this season follows a good wet season.  That's resulted in about a 3x greater crop than usual, to make up for the previous year.  3x5=15.  Yep, we're experiencing the perfect acorn storm.  Mast Year (5x) coupled with a wet season following a drought (3x), and there you have it, 15 times the usual output!

The CHURCH needs a MAST YEAR.  We've seen the drought.  Taken the spiritual temperature of our nation lately?  More people than ever consider themselves "Nothings" than ever before.  In the census, Americans are asked their religious preference.  Most people at least mark something, even if they aren't really associated with a Church or with God or with anything spiritual.  But, recently there is an unprecedented escalation of those catagorizing themselves as "nothings".  However you want to spin that, God and His Church are having less and less impact on our nation and our culture.  We're in a drought, spiritually.

We need RAIN.  We need a MAST YEAR.  But one more thing...what do you think about all the ACORNS?  Do you grumble and complain that they are there?  Do you get mad that they're messing up your yard or your driveway?  Do you just ignore them and hope they'll just go away or get picked up by the lawnmower?  (by the way, if left in your yard, they will deteriorate, produce excess tannins and do long-term damage to your soil and anything you're trying to grow in it)  What the acorns need is someone to harvest them.  Takes time and attention.  Takes work.  But, it's necessary.

My fear is that if God gave the Church a SPIRITUAL MAST YEAR, we would do exactly the same thing with the spiritual harvest that we do with the Acorn harvest...complain and ignore and watch it rot.  "These people are messy.  These people are ruining our church.  Are we really going to allow these people to serve here?  Are they really welcome here?  Aren't you going to preach about their particular brand of sin that we find repulsive" (while we've become quite comfortable with our own brand)?

We need a MAST YEAR.  I'm just not sure we'd know what to do with it.

11/7/12

NOW WHAT?

The election is in the books.  Some of you are happy.  Some of you are sad.  OK, let's be honest, most of you who are reading this are sad.  It is what it is.  Might as well admit it.

I had a conversation with a young Christian man the other day.  He was very high on the current direction of our country (thought the government should be the supplier of healthcare, pay for college, pay his electric bill, and provide a litany of other things).  I asked him how he rectified his faith with the stance on social issues (federally funded abortion, redefining marriage, etc.).  His response was "I don't think social issues have a place in government".  That's kind of like saying, "I don't think noses have a place on faces", or "I don't think the sun has a place in the sky".  I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the picture.  The head is inserted totally in the sand.

So, now what?  What is the Church's response to this?  Do we wring our hands?  Do we pray for Jesus to come quickly?  Do we look for someone to blame?  If so, the mirror would be a good place to start.

The LIGHT got put under a basket and the SALT lost it's saltiness.  Didn't Jesus warn us about this?  Weren't we listening?  Did we think he was kidding?  Is it because he said it so long ago we thought it was obsolete?

Here's a start: All those people you want to blame...the _______ (you fill in the blank) are the ones we need to be reaching with the gospel.  The Church needs to stop filling itself with saints from down the road and start filling itself up with sinners from next door.  How many homosexuals are making their way into our churches each Sunday?  How many Planned Parenthood advocates are gracing our pews?  How many of the folks that are looking to the government for their hope and provision are we reaching out to and loving into our fellowship?  And, if they did come, how well would they be accepted?

Jesus: "I have come to seek and save that which is lost".  Can we say the same?  John writes, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him".  How we doing with that?  Are we doing more saving or more condemning?

Think about it.

11/6/12

YOU TOLD US TO VOTE, BUT WHAT IF WE CAN'T?

Sunday, I basically shamed all the Christians who don't vote, especially those who don't even register to vote.  My reasoning wasn't just to make you feel bad (although, I must admit, initially, you should....OK, now you can come out of Time-Out), but to move you to proper godly action.  Get registered if you're not.  Go vote, even if you didn't plan to.

OK, that's great.  But, what if you're not registered and can't vote.  What do you do about this election? Is your punishment just to feel really bad for the next 4 years?  Of course not.  Just because it's too late for you to vote doesn't mean you have to sit on the sidelines this time.  There are other ways to get in the game.

1.  Encourage others to vote (You can even tell them, if you feel like it, "I made the mistake of not registering to vote, so my voice can't be heard.  I just don't want to see you make the same mistake as me".
2.  Make some phone calls and encourage your friend to vote.
3.  Offer to take someone to the polls that might otherwise not have the opportunity to make their voice count.
4.  If you're really serious, show up at the campaign headquarters of the candidate of your choice.  I GUARANTEE YOU, they'll have something for you to do.

The right to select our government and the path our nation choses is a sacred trust.  Whether you are a democrat, republican or independent (or otherwise), exercise your right to vote.  Otherwise, when it's taken away, you, unlike the rest of us, won't even miss it.

11/5/12

THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN!

I don't know about you, but I'm in countdown mode.  I've got my calendar circled and I'm marking off the days till SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2013.  That's the day when DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME returns.  Yes, I'm aware that we're only one day into the countdown, but that's one day closer to the sun reappearing past 5:00PM and possibly me not feeling I should put on my PJs at 8:00.

In case you don't have your own 2013 calendar yet, I'll try to keep you updated.  I actually started a hunger strike yesterday to bring back the sun, but when it started getting dark at 5:00, I got depressed and needed comfort food.  I may be 300 lb. before the light returns.  Just consider it a "hibernation period".  I'm storing up for the winter.  (wink, wink)

So, apparently, this is going to continue, despite my rantings and protests.  (Who knew?)  So, how do we make the most of it?
     *Read more
     *Spend more time with the family (actually learn your kids names)
     *Invite people over
     *Pray more (that this will end soon)

Got any other ideas how to cope with the "Alaska Effect"?  Share them.  We all need the help!

11/2/12

CASH IS IN THE HOUSE!

OK, that's my grandson from OKC.  Blog or Cash?  No contest.  See ya!

11/1/12

PEOPLE

The great theologian, Barbara Streisand once sang, "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world".  She has a point...but then, she missed the point entirely.  People who need people...are just people.  In essence, all people need people.  Obviously, some people have never figured that out.  Some people live in complete denial.  Some people are just clueless.  But, the truth is ALL PEOPLE need people.

Some live their lives and never realize it.  Some people never realize it until something traumatic happens, and for some that's a wake-up call and for others, it's just the realization that they've missed out on the most important part of life.

The fact is, we were designed for relationships.  That's how God made us.  Simon and Garfunkel sang, "I am a rock...I am an island", but in reality, none of us were designed to be rocks or islands.  We were designed for community.  We were designed to love and be loved.  To care and be cared for.  To give and be given to.  To give the gift of ourselves to others, and to have others give the gift of themselves to us.

Interesting, Jesus didn't just come to gather followers.  He came to create the Church.  His hands, His feet, His Body, made up of his followers living in community, bearing one another's burdens, caring for one another.  In fact, if you read the New Testament, one of the terms you hear repeated again and again and again is "one another".  These are commands.  "Love one another.  Encourage on another.  Forgive one another.".  But, none of those commands can be obeyed without living in meaningful relationships with one another.

BOTTOM LINE:  People who need people aren't the luckiest people in the world...they're just people. People who have figured out what it is to be human...the way God created us to be.

10/31/12

TAKING THINGS FOR GRANTED

The staff has spent the last two days hunkered down in my Living Room.  Staff Retreat, minus the Retreat. (saving money while sleeping in our own beds...rather genius).  When you're with seven other people in the same room sitting face-to-face for 9 hours straight, you get to know them a little better. (good or bad)

We have a good staff.  We like each other.  We respect each other.  We work as a team.  We tell each other the truth.  Sometimes we agree.  Sometimes we disagree.  Sometimes we encourage one another. Sometimes we tell each other that their idea sucks or that an area of their ministry needs an overhaul or that they are just wrong.  That includes me.  By that I mean, I tell them and they also tell me.  Sometimes it feels like they mostly tell me....but, probably not.

We're just a church staff, like any other church staff.  No big deal.  We just are.

We have some new members to our staff.  They've served at other places before serving here.  In the course of conversations, they basically told us that we're not just "a staff like every other staff".  What we have is unique.  What we have is different.  What we have is very special.  Wow, we didn't know.  We just thought we were a bunch of lunkheads that had somehow found each other and were trying our best to keep our heads above water.  Who knew what we had was special?

We were taking it for granted.  No celebration.  No wonder.  No pride (the good kind).

I wonder how many things in our lives that are extraordinary we take for granted, assuming what we have is simply everyone else's experience as well?  Maybe it's our marriage?  Possibly our kids?  Our parents?  Our living conditions?  Our job?  Our church?  Our relationship with God?  The list is endless.

Today, I am more grateful for my staff than I was yesterday.  I'm not taking them for granted.  But, sadly, it required someone to say, "You know, this isn't the way it is everywhere".  I'm grateful I heard that, but it makes me wonder how many other areas of my life are extraordinary that I take for granted.
Maybe an attitude of gratitude is called for.  Maybe it's time to take stock of what I've really got and recognize them as the blessings...wonderful blessings, they are.

10/30/12

ELECTION FATIGUE

I know it's the biggest story in America right now (except for, possibly Hurricane Sandy...and that's because those Northeasterners don't have a clue how to handle a hurricane.  Seriously, they don't even know when to have one.  When's the last time you saw a hurricane bring snow?  That's just wrong...but I digress).  Back to the ELECTION.

Are any of you suffering from what I like to call, ELECTION FATIGUE?  That point where you have been so inundated, so over-stimulated, heard so many opinions, watched so many commercials (seriously,....are there still any people sitting on the proverbial fence who need just one more commercial to help them to decide who to vote for?)

I have my opinion.  I have chosen my candidate.  I've already voted for heaven's sake.  I hope my guy wins.  However, I know a few things:

1.  If my guy loses, I will be disappointed
2.  If my guy wins, I will, at some point, be disappointed
3.  Neither candidate is the answer for America
4.  Much of America's problems are political, but politics, by it's very nature, is incapable of solving
     them.  The political process has become the problem
5.  America's greatest problem is a spiritual one.  Someone asked if I thought God had given up on
     America.  That's not the question.  The real question is:  Has America given up on God?
6.  Christians are part of the problem.  We are more politically evangelistic than spiritually evangelistic.
     I would wager that most Christians have talked more, prayed more, argued more, Facebooked more,
     forwarded more emails, put more signs on their cars and in their yards for their political choice than
     they ever thought of doing for Jesus...the REAL HOPE FOR AMERICA.

Pick your candidate.  Pick your party.  Vote.  But, please remember, whoever wins, AMERICA WILL STILL WAKE UP IN A MESS THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION...ONE THAT NEITHER CANDIDATE IS QUALIFIED TO FIX.

Oh, that after this election we would campaign for Jesus, the only one able to bring hope and change.

10/29/12

WORSHIP

Yesterday at Church, I really was moved in my heart and spirit during the time of congregational singing.  I know, most of us call it the worship time, but I'm one of those people who believe worship, even though it can very much happen during the time when we sing to the Lord, is in no way limited to music.  Here's my take:

1.  Worship can happen when we sing to the Lord.

2.  Worship doesn't automatically happen when we sing.

3.  Worship extends beyond music to include anything we do that makes God smile and says to Him, "I love you".

4.  Worship can just as easily happen during the message, following the message, at lunch or during the Texans game.

5.  Worship is much more about the attitude of our heart than about the actions we are engaged in.

Let's get back to that singing part again, because that was the part that really moved me yesterday.  It was all I could do not to stand up on my chair with my hands lifted as high as possible and shout at the top of my lungs...HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!!!!  I think, in that moment I was worshipping God.  But, I couldn't help but wonder, right or wrong, were others joining me?  Were other hearts being massively moved?  Were people singing along, like you do at a Justin Bieber concert, or were others loving God as best they could with their lips?

Do you understand worship?  Do you worship God?  Is it a need that cannot be quenched by anything else?  Do you tell Him, "I love you?".

10/26/12

REST

Read any good Bible lately?  Notice what a big deal God's Word makes out of the concept of REST?  It's a BIG DEAL.  The whole book starts off with God creating the cosmos in 6 days and then resting. REALLY?  Was He worn out?  Did He...the God of the universe, who never sleeps, need a nap?  I'm thinking ...NO.  

So, what's the big deal with with all this rest business?  Yes, our bodies need rest...sleep, a nap here or there, a little R&R.  But, I think God's talking about that, but so much more than that.  I sleep every day, but I'm not sure I rest.  When God talks about the absolute necessity of rest, I believe He's talking about taking off MENTALLY & SPIRITUALLY.  

Today, I'm playing golf.  That could be rest.  However, if I'm preoccupied all the time with what I need to get done and how that message is going to go on Sunday and my credit score and how my retirement account is doing and why I have this little pain in my whatever that isn't all that bad, but just won't go away and if my wife had other plans for my day than this golf outing and why that person wrote me the nasty note last week and............  You get the picture.  Not REST.

REST happens when I put things in God's hands and turn off the worry and wonder and what-if machine and just exist in the moment.  It's when I totally get away from the cares of life and just live.

REST for you may be curling up with a good book, or taking that needed nap (without remorse) or feeding the homeless or whatever...but, it's not so much a matter of where you are or what you're doing as it is a state of mind.  REST is the opposite of STRESS.  And God knew we needed it.

So, REST.  That's an order!

10/25/12

WHAT THIS ELECTION IS REALLY ABOUT

As you prepare to vote in this election, please be aware you are doing more than voting for one man over another man.  You are endorsing the entire agenda and platform on which that candidate stands.

As you know, I'm a little technically challenged, but I'm attempting to share a link to a video that I think really sums up what I see this election being about.  Hopefully, I can get it in and hopefully you will watch it...and ask yourself what vision of America is yours.

http://youtu.be/v-Zm10BCyxc

10/24/12

10 COMPLAINTS PASTORS WON'T HEAR IN HEAVEN

1.  I wish I had seen more Rapture Charts.
2.  I wish you had worn a tie (or cooler jeans).
3.  Why didn't you teach me how to make more money?
4.  Why didn't we have more Business Meetings?
5.  The services were way too relevant.  Not enough nostalgia.  We didn't remember the Good Old Days.
6. You should have made it harder for lost people to come in.
7.  You shared way too much about your flaws.  We really needed you to be the perfect example.
8.  I needed more theology and less practicality.
9.  You bugged me too much about inviting lost people.  They really messed up our church.
10. I wish I had given less and kept more for me.

10/23/12

PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES

I watched the Presidential Debates last night. (completely forgot about Monday Night Football!)  Before you either click the delete button or wait with great anticipation to see who I thought won, let me say, "Whoa Padna".  That's not my intention at all.

It was amazing to me, that God had chosen a little nothing people called the Jews, mainly based on the fact that they were a little nothing of a country, to be His people.  Not because they WERE anything, but because they WEREN'T.  That from this nothing country He brought a savior into the world and began to write his story of His glory through history.

Now, 2000 years later, this little nothing of a country is stealing the show on the US Presidential Debate on Foreign Policy.  Why do they even matter?  What's their greatest import...export?  Are they rich?  Are they powerful?  Are they big?  Do they buy our stuff?  Do they owe us money?  Nope.  Negative to all of the above.  They are important for one reason and one reason only...God chose them.  A long time ago, God chose them.  For the most part they have turned their back on God and are totally unfaithful to Him.  They are one of the most secular countries in the world.  Their spiritual relevance is that of a tourist destination, not an active place of worship.

However, that doesn't change the fact that God chose them, and no matter how unfaithful they have become to God, when God makes an unconditional promise, He keeps it.  So, faithful or unfaithful, if you take on Israel, you're taking on God...not because of Israel's goodness, but because of God's goodness.  And, if you stand with them, you stand with God.   Since they are tiny and problematic and everyone around them wants them to go away, it would be easier to just forget them and let nature take it's course.

But, we can't forget them.  Thousands and thousands of years after they emerged, they are still the major foreign policy topic in the US Presidential Debate.  WOW!  When God speaks, people listen...even when they don't think He exists!

10/22/12

PARENTING WISDOM

You can't choose your kids and you REALLY can't choose your kid's spouses.  Mine have done well in that department.  Here's some great parenting wisdom for raising boys from my lovely Erin...

1. You will set the tone for the sexual relationship, so don't take something away from her that you can't give back.


2. Play a sport.  It will teach you how to win honorably, lose gracefully, respect authority, work with others, manage your time and stay out of trouble.   And maybe even throw or catch. 


3. Use careful aim when you pee.  Somebody's got to clean that up, you know.


4. Save money when you're young because you're going to need it some day. 

  
5. Allow me to introduce you to the dishwasher, oven, washing machine, iron, vacuum, mop and broom.  Now please go use them. 


6. Pray and be a spiritual leader.


7. Don't ever be a bully and don't ever start a fight, but if some idiot clocks you, please defend yourself.


8. Your knowledge and education is something that nobody can take away from you.


9. Treat women kindly.  Forever is a long time to live alone and it's even longer to live with somebody who hates your guts.


10. Take pride in your appearance.

 
11. Be strong and tender at the same time. 


12. A woman can do everything that you can do.  This includes her having a successful career and you changing diapers at 3 A.M.  Mutual respect is the key to a good relationship.


13. "Yes ma'am" and "yes sir" still go a long way.


14. The reason that they're called "private parts" is because they're "private".  Please do not scratch them in public.


15. Peer pressure is a scary thing.  Be a good leader and others will follow. 


16. Bringing her flowers for no reason is always a good idea.


17. Be patriotic.


18. Potty humor isn't the only thing that's humorous.  


19. Please choose your spouse wisely.  My daughter-in-law will be the gatekeeper for me spending time with you and my grandchildren.


20. Remember to call your mother because I might be missing you.



10/19/12

THE PART OF MINISTRY I HATE THE MOST

I LOVE what I do.  I love being a pastor.  I love pastoring Crosspoint Church.  I walked into my Bank the other day and the guy behind the counter said, "Mr. Allen, I've never seen you in a bad mood".  (He obviously hasn't seen me that much)  But, my answer to him was, "Dude, I'm living the dream.  I've got a great wife, great kids and awesome grandkids, and I pastor the most awesome church imaginable...and they pay me to do it!  Why shouldn't I be smiling!".  

I love what I do.  Well, most of it.  Some comes natural.  Some skills I've had to work hard at.  But, even after 32 years of pastoring, I'm still learning.  Learning my strengths and weaknesses.  Learning what comes natural and what I have to work the hardest on.  Learning what I love and what I hate.

So, I know what you're asking...What do you hate the most?  Well, it might surprise you.  It's not the hours, (I know, you think I only work one day a week.  How can I say this in a politically correct way...that's STUPID!).  It's not the people, even the ones that get mad and leave or the ones that do the same lame things over and over and over and...  It's not the study, the preaching, the planning, the meetings, the meetings or the meetings.

Reality is, the part I hate the most is funding the ministry.  Jesus talked about money more than any other topic.  However, we have a tendency to do exactly the opposite.  Why?  Part of that comes from the extremes that television evangelists went to in previous decades.  Another component is the "prosperity gospel" taught by so many churches that basically says that if you give to God He'll give you a Mercedes.  Then there's the aspect that most people want you to talk about how to have a great family, marriage, kids, job, happiness, relationships, etc....but don't mess with my money.  And, to round it all out, I have two degrees, one form Baylor university and one from Southwestern Seminary.  Neither of them equipped me to balance a checkbook, much less lead a $million company.  So, there's the "I'm totally incompetent" component as well.

BOTTOM LINE:  Ministry takes money.  Ministry takes generous, committed individuals.  What I've found is the following:
1.  Income has little to do with giving.  It's not those who make the most who give the most, or those who make the least who give the least.
2.  Giving has more to do with vision and discipleship than income.
3.  Giving is a matter of discipleship and spiritual maturity rather than one of disposable income.
4.  There is a link between giving and satisfaction with church, family and life.  Those who give most generously tend to have the least complaints about life in general.  When you see God's plan for your finances, you seem to see God's plan for the rest of your life.  And...the opposite is true as well.

Not a GIVER?  Not GENEROUS?  Check your satisfaction level.  There's a connection...I assure you.

10/18/12

HOW TO GO TO A FOOTBALL GAME

I'm writing this because some people may not have grown up in the south or may have lived under a rock or have somehow mistaken a football game for the ballet and strangely don't know these things.  I'm only here to help.  Follow these rules and you'll have a wonderful experience.

1.  Arrive Early.  Nothing is worse than a late arriving crowd to a football game.  If you miss the National Anthem, you've blown it.  You can't cheer for your team from the parking lot.  I like to be in my seat for warm-ups, but definitely by kick-off, or you're NOT a real fan.

2.  Tailgating is suggested.  That's when you get there early enough to eat with friends outside the stadium.  This is the relational part of the experience and allows you to get that much more excited for what you're about to experience.

3.  Get into the game.  This is not the time to swap recipes and talk about your root canal.  It's game time!  Pay attention.  Get into it.  If you don't understand why their punting on 4th and 1, ask.  But, be engaged.  This isn't a tea party.

4.  Be Loud.  When the team makes a good play, cheer.  LOUD.  When the coach makes a great call, cheer, clap, slap your noise makers.  We want to see veins sticking out in your neck.  This is your opportunity to let out all your inhibitions.  All that pent up energy and frustration from the week.  LET IT RIP!

5.  Be Encouraging.  Don't be one of those boo-ers.  (Unless of course the zebra really screws it up.  Then booing is allowed...possibly even suggested)  It's your team.  They're trying their hardest. If it's not good enough, get louder...and more encouraging.  And for Pete's sake, if they score a touchdown, don't just sit on your hands and quietly think to yourself, "Good job".  REALLY?

6.  Stay till the end.  Nothing is worse than those folks who find it necessary to leave midway through the 4th quarter.  SERIOUSLY?  You need to be there for the school song.  Leave early, you just might miss the best part, big touchdown, unbelievable comeback.  They play four quarters for a reason.

7.  Be a fan all week.  Don't just throw on your gear 30 minutes before kick-off and call yourself a fan.  Wear your gear all during the week.  Put your sticker on your car.  Talk about your team incessantly.  Fan is short for fanatic.  Get as close to obnoxious as possible without stepping over the line.  But, get close.  If you're a secret fan, you're not a fan at all.

I hope this helps you have a wonderful football experience.

PS: These same rules apply to how to go to church.  Please apply them liberally for the maximum church experience.  WOOOOOOOO...HOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!  (We should have cheers!)