For the 22 years I have been in ministry I have seen the ebb and flow of church attendance and membership. Often times the Church as a whole doesn’t grow with new people who have found freedom in Jesus. It is just churches swapping people. We never really talk about it or worry about it, but I think at it’s root we have a problem in our culture.

In the 70’s Burger King created the slogan “Have it your way” in order to compete with other brands that would only serve what was on the menu. It was a great concept and one my waist size knows I exploit often. Ironically I never get it my way. It never fails. I will pull up to the plaque showing me a ton of options… A voice comes out of the speaker “how can I help you… are you ready to order?”. I speak back to the speaker; “Yes! thanks… I will take a Whopper with cheese, but with no onions and I will add extra extra pickles…”. Then I will proceed with all the customized requests from the 5 other people in my family. By the time I get home with the order and start handing it out it’s too late. My order for extra pickles and a kids meal without cheese must have been confusing and emotionally taxing because I did not get it my way.

It NEVER works the way I would like in fast food, but for some reason it’s expected to be the norm in the church that we should approach the counter of God, and give our order, with demands to have everything our way.

If you have been in a church longer than a day you have seen this to be true:

The music is too loud.
Why can’t they play more Chris Tomlin Songs?!
The Lights are too bright!
I just cant worship unless they have a laser show and fog machines.
There is no way Jesus likes the way these chairs are set up or this awful carpet color.
It’s time to leave honey… We just are not being fed.

I could go on and on because I have heard it all. It absolutely drives me nuts hearing these kinds of things, but maybe it is more disturbing to me because I’m guilty of wanting it my way as well.

Amos 5:21-24
“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living.

If this was placed into our time period it would likely read something like this:
If you are not willing to be people who overflow with Justice, Love, Joy, Peace, patience, kindness, goodness and mercy then you might as well stop everything else you are doing in all your christian duties. They are worthless. JUST STOP IT! Just stop with all the “stuff” that you are convinced you need to do in order to worship me because you have made it all about you and you do it for you.

That verse just wrecks me and convicts me every time I read it.

I remind myself and my congregation as often as I can that our “Service” is for God and the Bible wasn’t written about us, because we need to be transformed into people who chase after the heart of God and not people that shout with our actions that Jesus isn’t enough.

I was joking the other day with a friend that I thought it would be funny if there was a drive-thru for Ash Wednesday. You could pull your car up, get your ashes and drive off to go about your day. We had a great laugh at the absurdity of it… Well that was until I got a text to a few articles telling me this existed at not only many locations, but even at a church close by.

I read the articles that said the churches wanted to give people the opportunity to get the ashes, but they knew their schedules were just too busy so they set up street stations. Like a 1 min car wash. I understand time constraints. I work two jobs and have 4 kids. I truly do sympathize, but something about this just seems to feed the beast of consumerism and everything that verse in AMOS was talking about. I won’t presume to judge one heart in this, but the fact that the church offers CONVENIENCE in the Lenten period dedicated to FASTING and self-denial, which is not convenient, is teaching the church the wrong things.

We do have to ask ourselves though… Are we looking at our faith walk in the same way? Are we hoping that we can have the fullness of what God offers our life and we can consider ourselves fully devoted to his kingdom by looking for every opportunity to “drive-up” to a window and just grab the overspray of his goodness without having to die to self and trade my will for God’s?

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” ……No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

That is the crux behind the heart of Lent. Being no longer satisfied with the unfulfilling overspray of his presence, settling for the sugar high we get from cool events, and finding ourselves needing to add things to Jesus to make Him more “rich”.

Oh the joy I’ve found
Surrendering my crowns
At the feet of the King
Who surrendered everything

Oh the peace that comes
When I’m broken and undone
By Your unfailing grace
I can lift my voice and say

You can have it all, Lord
Every part of my world
Take this life and breathe on
This heart that is now Yours

Bethel Church “Have it all”

This should be our prayer as we dive heart first into Lent.
No longer saying I will “HAVE IT MY WAY”.
Instead my daily prayer to God who I know is Lord, but who I now will allow TO BE my Lord, will be
“HAVE IT ALL LORD… HAVE IT YOUR WAY”


DAY 1: ASH WEDNESDAY – I had an interesting church up bringing. I can safely say it was not a typical journey, but it gave me an exposure to pretty much every variety of church there is. In one sense the variety of sources I had in my life that gave me my taste of christian culture made it so I wasn’t stuck in one stream. However it also forced me to think about things, dissect my faith, and seek Jesus outside the confines of wrote devotion.

My introduction to the practices of the Christian church started when I was little because my parents were both ministers. I remember one of the earlier churches my dad was an assistant pastor at sometime in the early 80’s. It was a messianic church which gave me a great backbone and context for the jewish culture in the Bible. I remember the times of dancing and singing the traditional oom-pah oom-pah tempo songs to celebrate purim and passover. There always seemed to be a festival for something, but it was later in the episcopal church that I would start to get my feet wet in the value of contemplation and lament.

Over the next 20 years, from my liturgical church in NY to the baptist church in PA; messianic temple in VA; The vineyard church in VA; The assembly of God church in PA; the evangelical church in MO; the independent church in OR… etc etc; I found myself steeped in what only could be called a baskin robins theology. 51 flavors and so hard to pick my favorites.

I’m not going to memory lane here in order to bore my readers. I’m doing it because as I look back on where I have come from I can see the hand of God in how he has refined my understanding of Him, rewritten the things I was dogmatic about, and restored my faith when often times religious duty tried to destroy it.

This brings me to lent. I’m writing DAY 1 here because today starts lent with Ash wednesday. I’d like to think I have the mental stamina to write every day a reflection for the next 39, but in case I don’t I’d like to demystify the journey to holy week… Because that is exactly what lent is. It’s a personal and community journey towards towards the Lord and away from… me.

Sure you could go google it, but you will get a sterile wikipedia definition and I would like to share my definition born out of the rubble of my triumphs and failures, my victories and my defeats.

Every year we would go to ash wednesday service, listen to a sermon on the fact we came from dust and to dust we will return and then proceed to the front to have the sign of the cross smeared on our foreheads. As a kid I felt so cool. I was part of the crew and just like my parents. We would go out for dinner afterwards at some cheap diner on long island and be proud to stand out in the crowd of ash-less people. 20 min. later I forgot the mark was even there because my bagel tasted so good. We would go home, I’d wash it off and then head to bed. The next morning I would wake up and it’s like ash wednesday never happened.

This was our pattern. I went through the motions and when I got old enough to understand why we did it, I still went through the motions. It’s not that I didn’t believe in Jesus. I DID, but I became desensitized to His truth.

Fast forward to this last year. It’s a year that has come out of a long season of trials, pain, joy, and miracles. I guess it can be best described as a roller coaster ride that I’m not sure I even remember getting on. Getting wounded by life teaches you how much the presence of God matters. As I get closer to Him looking for healing, I have learned so much about how addicted I have become… to me.

I have always loved the liturgy of the church. I love being connected to the ancient church in practice, but maybe it’s because I see myself in the disciples. They were such misfits. Dirtbags who seemed to be worthless and yet Jesus would look them in the eye and say how much He loved them.

He would tell the lepers, the doubters, the prostitutes, the prideful, the low and the high, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

…And I found myself this last week being met with the coming of Lent and ash wednesday once again, but with almost a new lens on it because I’m hearing jesus say “If you want to be with me then deny yourself… make your life about me and not you.”

Yes I know He also said “I will never leave you or forsake you”, but I think when He says “if you want to be with me…” He is asking us if we are willing to push through all of the debris of our life in order to just get a hand on his robe… Or do we value His presence less than we value our pride?

Today begins with ashes on the head. Ashes that were created from the palms of last years palm sunday. Because Yesterday’s triumphs pave the way for today’s humility. I find myself unashamed to be marked by Christ…although this year I’m less concerned about the mark on my forehead as I am the marks on my heart.

Luke 6:45 says “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

Have you noticed the garbage that we spew each day out of our mouths? We have to ask ourselves what is in our hearts then.

I have learned that my heart has been wounded, cut, and infected and so when I speak often times it is out of the abscess of my heart. This is what Lent is all about though. It’s a self-cleaning cycle. It’s a re-alignment to Jesus. It’s 40 days of deliberately laying down my will and letting go of my heart so that the only mark left on it is the imprint of God’s spirit.

There is a song by Daniel Bashta that encapsulates this well. He says

“Strip everything away till all I have is You
Undo the veils till all I see is You.
I will pursue You, I will pursue Your presence”

For me it’s not a matter of what thing I am going to give up this year in order to self-deny.
It’s more of a prayer to Jesus asking Him to reveal the things in life that I am not willing to give up. 

I want to head into holy week as I walk with Jesus over palm branches in the streets of Jerusalem, hike up Golgotha to where he was crucified, stand in the garden with mary with my mouth wide open as I see the “gardener”, watch as Thomas puts his hands into the resurrected Jesus’ hands, and sit on the beach with Peter and Jesus having breakfast as He restores the misfit who He said He would build His church on… with a fresh spirit and more thankful heart.

This is an opportunity to encounter God in fresh and new ways, ways that will challenge us, encourage us, and humble us. It’s a season of listening and inhaling the new mercy of God daily. A time of moving past sobriety and into recovery. A time to encourage each other, be Christ to each other and see the Christ-likeness in each other. To be the real us, where we can seek help and forgiveness, through repentance be made whole by God our healer, and let go of our orphan mentality by accepting we have been made to be heirs of the kingdom of heaven and Children of the Most High God.

I recognize all of that was painted with a broad brush, but I hope to share what God speaks to me periodically in the next few weeks in order to bring in more detail and color to the blank canvas that is Lent.

If His mercy is new every morning then receive it because today is a clean slate then let this first day of Lent be a step forward towards Jesus.

Last year I wrote an adaptation of the classic “twas the night before christmas” for a christmas eve service at my church. After much prayer, study and journeying with God over the last year I have revised and finalized this poem. I wanted to give families something they could read to their kids or even to other adults that would remind them during the season of the truth around Christmas. That we can see how amazing the father is by looking at His son. That God didn’t mess up but the gospel was ALWAYS plan A and oh how He loves us.

I hope to publish an illustrated book of this next year.

Below is the PDF of the poem if you would like to print it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas the night before CHRISTmas

By: Joel Klampert

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the world,
Man’s minds were cloudy, their hearts were all swirled;
From beginning to end it’s not often told,
This story is new and also quite old;

Our tale begins, of course from the start,
In the garden with Adam, followed by God’s broken heart;
Eve was tempted by knowledge and pride,
While her husband stood passive, right by her side;

The greatest of love is to lay down one’s own life,
So why didn’t he act to save his sweet wife;
Ashamed they stood, pride divided their heart,
Riddled by fears, their whole world fell apart;

Countless years go by, many hours are spent,
Mans repair strategy never made a real dent;
Prophets spoke up, straight from the Lord,
Truth rang out, a loud hope had roared;

The Father above, a craftsman by trade,
Stared at the gifts that his hands had made;
He made them whole and He made them right
Now they lay broken, shattered by night

The misfits were nestled all snug in their sin,
Awaiting redemption that soon would begin;
The father and son since the beginning of time,
Had a glorious plan to clean off man’s grime;

An angel appeared to a young girl on that day,
Fear not, you have favor is what he would say;
And the peace from the creator poured out like an oil,
On the squeaky heart of Mary, faithful and loyal;

She knew she was pregnant, her heart now made whole,
Joseph stepped up, earthly father with soul;
The dark one, now frantic, did all that he could,
To stop the one who would crush death for good;

In the middle of a field stood the lowest of low,
Tending their sheep when the sky started to glow;
They shook in their sandals, Their eyes open wide,
As an army of angels appeared in the sky;

“I bring you good news” the angel had said,
“you’ll find him wrapped snug, while resting his head”;
Their voices soared, what a song they would sing,
Then the shepherds packed up to go find their new king;

They hurried to the village to see with their eyes,
Astonished, they saw Him, and heard his sweet cries;
The stories they’d tell, sharing with any who’d hear,
That Jesus had come, The Messiah was here!

A few years had passed when some magi had heard,
The prophecies were true and Herod got word;
He sent them all out to seek and to find,
With a ruse that he’d worship with all of mankind;

To Bethlehem they rode, navigating by star,
Which stopped over a home, a sight so bizarre;
They bowed down and worshiped leaving gifts at His feet,
And left to trick Herod so death they’d not meet;

Mary sat with Gold, Frankincense and myrrh,
Silently thinking, it’s all been a blur;
She knew what would happen, but did she know the whole truth, 
Did she trust that God’s plan was completely foolproof?

Jesus grew up in wisdom and stature,
Fully God, fully man, the Grace dispatcher;
He took on flesh to save mankind’s skin,
God became misfit to free misfits from sin;

From heaven to earth, From manger to cross,
He came to seek and save all who were lost;
As he Hung on a tree mary saw her small child,
Was now a man who’s love was vivid and wild;

Too many are convinced that God turned his back,
Because He was angry and we were off track;
But The truth of this story comes in like the tide,
As we see the real Father with arms open wide;

Recklessly loving, His eyes peppered with grace,
All lives must change that look at His face;
He loves us with passion, our value He views,
Our God is alive!! Celebrate the good news!

When you sit with your family, as you unwrap and you eat,
Remember that death has suffered defeat;
We have been given a gift, receive His pure light,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

 

————–

Of course the original is public domain and this version is copyright 2016 Joel Klampert


Jack of all trades

November 20, 2016 — Leave a comment

I’m an artist– I wanted to be a comic book artist… I just couldn’t get in the door.

I’m a designer – I dreamed of working in a large design firm but my life could not withstand the time it would take.

I’m a writer – I have close to 1000 blog posts and articles I have written for various sources, but just never broke through the ceiling to make it substantial.

I’m a learner – but instead of going the typical college path I went into learning around mission work. I did missionary work but it never led to a career.

I’m a photographer – I love doing it and could see myself doing high profile shoots but I may be stuck in a place where I can only go so far with it.

I’m a musician – I have written songs and played for years, but I was born in the wrong era to make it in the business and I’m not thin enough to become a rock star.

I’m a fashion designer – I used to design dresses and clothing lines, but I gave it up for marketing

I’m a salesman – I was a top sales person in the entire USA for two companies I was with, but I gave up sales to pursue things I gave up previously.

I am chock full of useless information and can fix anything; I am…

God has given me the ability to be a jack of all trades. I don’t write this out of pride. Instead it might be out of frustration.

They say that it takes 10,000 hours to master something, but I’m not sure I’ve had the ability to master anything.

For me that has been frustrating and being a freelancer now to pay the bills has given me a world with little reward, no metrics, and I can’t find my identity in what I am.

I’m a father; I’m a husband; and I would not give up either for anything in this world but that is not my identity.

I am because He IS.
I can find my reward and identity in Jesus.

I was praying one day in a wonderful “woe is me” state and God said:
“Be a master at showing people Jesus loves every bit of who they are… Even the things that they would consider being worthless.”

I’m a jack of too many trades, but I’m willing to put the 10,000 hours into becoming a master at sharing the story of a God who is willing to do anything just to wake us up to the realization that he loves every bit of His perfect creation… Us.

The announcement of election happened and our kids were worried about our result. They had many questions and we talked through politics on different levels for our 4 kids different ages, but We had only one thing that we needed to say that they all needed to get.
“God is not surprised, God is not worried, We should not be either and we should pray and love and walk out our faith.”

Then Trump’s day 1 happened and bigotry on so many fronts publicly reared it’s ugly head across the US in a way that is heart-wrenching and breaks God’s heart. So I sat with my kids this morning before I dropped them off at school and told them:

“People can’t blame trump for their choices. Their wrongful actions are THEIR actions. At the same time you guys need to know that no action is an action. Today when you go to school if you see anybody speaking or bullying people because they aren’t like them, are from another country, have a different religion, or a different color remember that they were made in the image of God and you need to stand up for those who are being told they are anything less than beautiful and God’s creation.. say something, step in the middle, and make sure your teachers know. As people who love Jesus we NEED to be different, speak differently, and ACT differently.”