Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's Driving You

Pastors and church leaders are often driven by passions from a variety of things.  Some are driven by the desire to see the community in which they live come to know the personal relationship with Jesus.  Others are driven by a passion to encourage people to grow in their personal walk with Christ, and to reach out to the world around them.  There are some that really are driven by a passion to hold the Word of God high, and study of the Word drives them.

So what is driving you and your ministry right now?  Where is the depth of your passion being drawn?  Where our focus and drive is will affect our ministry in so many ways. 

We may be driven by a passion for our community, which means our eyes will be open to creative ways to meet new people and invite them into relationship with Christ.  However, our drive to meet those outside the faith can for some people cause them to become offensive to brothers and sisters that have been close to them for many years.  Christ calls us to love one another, and that includes our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Others may be driven to help those who are believers to grow in deep devotion. However, in this case, but often the focus on devotion may cause us to close our eyes to the needs of those around us. As with many things in life we need to return to balance a balance of working on the inside while seeking the outside. Both parts are important.

May God help us to keep the balance of our being in Him, and our service for Him.

- Keep on the journey,
Daniel Shipton

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What You Do Matters

This past Sunday I was touched by a frail elderly woman in a wheel chair.  Our church has a worship service for a local nursing home.  We sing some hymns, tells a few stories, give a short sermon, and pray for the people.  We had extra work of a dinner on Saturday night, and I was very exhausted as we went into the nursing home service. 

I was helping with the music, as our song leader led the music.  I have to be honest that in my exhaustion I was thinking of about a hundred other things that I would rather have been doing.  Then, as we began to sing "Because He Lives", one lady who hadn't moved since we arrived, began to clap her hands.  Her clapping was not in beat, but it was with joy, as her somber face turned to joy.  I was so touched that it gave me energy into the evening.

I am reminded that we may feel like we are weary in our ministry.  We may put out the extra effort, and wonder if it makes any difference to anyone.  We can know that no matter what we are doing for the kingdom is important, no matter how small.  We may only touch one life with blessing or God's grace, but every  soul is important to God.

If you are struggling today or feel that what you do for God doesn't matter, keep doing the good you can.  You are making a difference.  You may not see it right at this moment, but somewhere there may be someone clapping along unnoticed by everyone else, because you were faithful to do what you knew you should.

- Keep on the journey,
  Daniel Shipton

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Keep Your Sacred Place with God Alive

We all need places to rest.  Places to refresh our life and soul.  We all need some sacred place where we can meet with God alone, and He can speak to us in our heart and mind.  However, in our busy lives and ministries sometimes it is hard to keep a personal sacred space.  In fact many of us have a hard time sincerely setting aside either time or place in a sacred way for our lives. 

Some people have a daily place of sacredness where they pray and have their daily devotions.  I know of some pastors who have a particular chair set aside in their study just for prayer and devotion times.  In weather above the forties I tend to sit on my porch, because the outdoors has always been where I commune with God more easily.   We all have different things that bring us closer to God, and help us open up our hearts to Him.  I would encourage you to find your sacred space, or your best time, your sacred time to meet with God.  Be refreshed regularly in His presence.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Being a Real Character

What do you do when no one is looking?  Do you live in the private moments of your life exactly as you do in the public moments?  Are your values lived out in and out of the sight of others?  If we desire people to sincerely respect us and to trust us enough to follow us then we must consider questions like this.  These are the questions that lead us to examine our character and integrity.

Character is influenced by the family we were raised in, the religious influences we grew up under, and the communities in which we developed.  We cannot help but be influenced by the values that we grew up around; however, we are not a finished product.  Character can grow in our lives making us better and better over time.  Even our failures can help us on the road to maturity, because they help us know what not to do or how to work through difficulty.

Many leaders have fallen in our world, causing weakness and distrust by most people in our society.  Due to the growing distrust there has been a desire for authenticity in our society.  People hunger to see real people leading them in life, and to learn from their real experiences.  Unfortunately the downside is that there has been a growth in a  cynical mindset, which causes some to believe that no one can ever really grow to real maturity in character.  This mindset can lead to people who question the depth of our own ability to ever mature in life.

Character is the major building block of our relationships.  True success is not found in the size of our ministry, the fame of our name, or in the fortune of our bank accounts.  True success is living well in the plan that God has for us, and living well with those whom God has put into our lives.  Our relationships are highly dependent upon the maturing of our character, and living well in our world.

Many of us read the Bible, self-help books, leadership development books, and attend seminars to help us know better how we should live and work in this world.  However, character is far more than knowing how to live in this world, or knowing how relationships with God and others should be.  We can read and study all we want, but as one old saying goes "the longest eighteen inches in the world is the distance from the head to the heart."

I can desire to be a baker, but that doesn't make me a baker.  I can read books about the great bakers of the world, but I will not be a baker.  I can even study recipe books, and even purchase all the ingredients, but I will not be a baker.  I can only be a baker if I actually bake something.  I will likely not be a good baker until I have made many attempts at baking. This reminds me of when my grandmother taught me to make bread.  I went to her home and spent an afternoon learning from her how to make her wonderful home-made bread.  I added the first two ingredients and then watched her make the rest.  I never learned to make bread, because she took over and made it for me.

Character is developed through the challenges which often cause us to dig deep into our lives, and choose the right thing over the easy thing.  Character shows in the choices we make in daily decisions based in the Christ-like development of every part of our lives.  Our character will show in how we choose in situations like the following, which arise every day of our lives.
  • How will we react if the clerk at the grocery store misses several items when ringing us up?
  • How will we tip the stressed out waitress who brings us our food?
  • What will we do if we are offered a shortcut in our work, which may shortchange the customer but increases our pay?
  • Will I choose to follow the regulations and structures of change within the church or business I am a part of, or will I choose to  bend the rules to my own desires or whims?
May God help us to grow and mature in such a way that we will show His love, mercy, and grace in all that we do and say.

Grace for your journey,
Daniel G. Shipton