Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year, Fresh Purpose

In the upcoming year we are going to try to implement a new emphasis for our church. We will continue to emphasis sharing your faith with those around you but I also feel like we should be doing more outreach in our community. As I have prayed and sought the Lord for His vision for our church, I have felt impressed that we are supposed to be an asset to our community. Our church should make our county a better place to live. We should be meeting needs and helping those in distress. We need to put our religion into practice.

I am not quite sure what form this will take but I am sure that it will mean changes in the way we do things. We will need to shift our focus somewhat. And we will need to maintain our focus which is not something I have been good at as a leader. It is easy to get distracted. Andy Stanley has said, "Vision bleeds." What he means is that unless you continue to repeat vision in fresh ways people lose focus.

So if anyone has ideas about how your church is reaching out to your community speak up. This is different than crusades or door to door evangelism. What we are attempting to do is to become relevant, which is a loaded word, to our community.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Surviving Christmas

I haven’t written anything for a while now. First I had a head cold that nearly sapped all my strength. Next it was the stomach flu making its way through our family. Then there was a quick trip to Wisconsin overnight. On the way home we stopped in Schaumberg to shop. Most of our time allotted was sucked up by rubberneckers on the tollway. The next day my mother nearly died and so three days were filled with hospital visits. I am very thankful to God that it was all sorted out and after a pace maker was inserted in her heart she was able to go home. Then there was a mad dash to finish Christmas shopping, clean the house, prepare for Christmas Eve supper and Christmas dinner. All of that and I had to prepare a sermon for our service Christmas Day. I survived Christmas this year!

Now I am looking ahead to a new year. We have spent four years in Bethany and I feel like a vision is starting to develop. It is bold and it will require faith. And as I have been praying about these things the number one thing that God has been speaking to my heart is that above all else He is walking me through Romans 5:3,4 and especially developing perseverance. The one thing about developing perseverance is that it requires time, a lot of time. I am impatient and definitely not a fan of this virtue. But God has promised that if He begins a good work in us He will be faithful to complete it. Have a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Death of a Salesman

I have at different times tried to sell things for a living. I tried telemarketing. I tried fundraising over the phone. I tried to sell cars. I was a miserable failure at all of them. I failed to sell the products effectively. And I was miserable because I didn’t enjoy trying to sell the products. Even growing up I wasn’t very good at selling candy and oranges and light bulbs to raise money for different groups of which I was a member. I remember the pressure of trying to sell products knowing my pay check and my job was on the line.

I am by nature reserved. Because of this personality trait I was uncomfortable meeting new people in the process of trying to sell them something. I can’t really explain how much I hated being a salesman. I also remember the fear when they would object to my sales pitch. I was inclined to take them at their word when they said no thank you. But I was taught to overcome their objections, to steer them to the product I wanted to sell them rather than the product that they wanted to buy. I was to control the conversation. Mine is not a forceful personality and I felt unnatural in this role. I failed as a telemarketer. I never sold a single car. I am not a salesman.

I remember having the same unnatural feeling in a college class I took. The class was an evangelism class. We were taught a script. We memorized scriptures. We learned how to walk people down the “Roman’s Road.” And then we role played scenarios in class. We practiced leading our fellow Bible college students to Jesus. I felt unnatural when people had objections. I felt like a salesman. We were to go with our partners to witness to x amount of people using this approach. It never worked out to get together with my partner. I didn’t lead anyone to Christ during this class. I think I got a B.

Now as a pastor I am trying to lead my church. I want my church to grow. I believe we have great people in our church. But when I am out knocking on doors I feel like a salesman. I think that is why I hate knocking on doors. It feels unnatural to me. Plus I don’t like it much when people come to my door trying to sell me on something. But anyway, I feel like I am trying to sell my church to someone who could really take it or leave it. My church may not be what they are looking for in life. I often feel like a failure.

However I do try to share my faith with people I come across on a regular basis. When I the conversation turns toward spiritual things I tell about my faith. I talk about Jesus. It feels natural. I really like to do it. I have led some people to Christ. Not as many as I would like but still some. We need to understand that we are not called by Jesus to be sales persons. We are called to be witnesses. A witness of course can only talk about what they have seen and heard first hand. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8

When I can help someone to put their faith in Christ then I tell them that they really need to become a disciple of Jesus. Our church can really help them in this process. And when they realize that they need a church to help them to grow we have a match and I am really not selling them anything. I am helping them to find what they want and need. This feels natural. I love to do it. I hope that I can do it more often.

I don’t need to sell Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of sin. I just need to tell them what I know. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. " 1 John 1:1

Friday, December 09, 2005


I haven't posted anything in a long time. I have a cold virus. It has beaten the snot out of me. All week long I have been exhausted. I take a shower and then have to rest for twenty minutes. I wash the dishes and then have to rest. Since my wife also has a cold and she is a bigger baby than me I still have to try to take care of kids and stuff. ;-)

So I have had things to talk about but lacked the sustained concentration to write. Monday I fixed the washing machine. It was a big deal to me because I am not very handy. I struggle to do it myself but I also didn't have the money to pay someone else to fix it. So I disassembled the machine. I took apart the pump that pumps water out of the basket. And I found some debris that had prevented the pump from draining the machine. Since we have four kids laundry has been piling up. We had to drive to my parents and stay for hours do laundry. When I reassembled the machine and it worked I felt like a knight in shining armor! I was the hero to my wife. Which is cool. And something every man wants to be at some point.

I have more to write but it has snowed at least four to six inches. So despite the head cold I have to shovel snow, sled with the boys and finish my sermon for Sunday.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I received a forward today from a good friend. It was a forward that he had received. In order to shorten my post I will tell you that this was the forward basically word for word. The bemusing thing is that the e-mail I received had something like 776 names on it. I don't like forwards and this is one of the reasons.

But this e-mail triggered a though process in my brain. Why is it that people are so gullible? Evangelicals and charismatics in particular are in general pretty quick to believe every story they hear about some assault on our religious liberties. (Note: Yes, I do believe that are freedom of religion is in danger in many ways. I just think we should do some checking before we believe everything we are told.) We always assume the worst about our "opponents" and thus are quick to believe anything that would paint them in a negative light. There's no real need to check the facts is there?

On the other side of the political spectrum our fellow citizens who are liberal in their politics tend to hate this President with a white hot fury. So they are quick to believe anything that would confirm their beliefs about Bush, Cheney, Rove, Haliburton, Condy Rice, etc. Why bother to check the facts? Case in point? The Rather memo fiasco from 2004. No follow my thought process if you can.

Going back to evangelicals and charismatics in particular. Many of our fellow Christians are quick to believe every teaching, every wind that is blowing. We aren't very critical of the doctrines that are taught by folks on TV or in the book store as long as they tend toward what we want to hear. Paul mentions itching ears to Timothy. I think you know what I am referring to. As long as it is written or said by a teacher or preacher we have heard of then it must be true. Especially if it makes me want to say Amen! Or if we haven't heard of them but they have endorsements on the book jacket from someone we like then we are more likely to turn of our critical thinking.

On the other hand if it is written or said by someone who we would tend to disagree with, say a United Methodist or someone who identifies with the emerging church conversation or someone who went to the wrong school etc., the tendency is to be hypercritical of them. Why, their syntax is incorrect here they must be a false teacher. In that case we won't even listen to what they have to say. All I want is some common sense and some critical thinking.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Christmas Shoes

Maybe I should start this post out with a bah humbug! I'm sure some people will think that of me. Last year I heard this song called Christmas shoes. My wife wanted me to buy her a Christmas cd today so I did without looking at what songs were on it. Eventually this song Christmas Shoes came on. Let me say it is my least favorite Christmas song ever, at least as far as modern day "Christian" Christmas songs go. If you like the song let me know. But here is why I dislike the song so much.

A man is standing in line to buy some last minute Christmas presents even though he doesn't feel much in the Christmas "spirit." A dirty little boy is in line ahead of him. (First why does he have to be filthy dirty just because his parents are apparently poor?) The little boy wants to buy his dying mother shoes for Christmas so she will look nice if she meets Jesus tonight. Daddy says there isn't much time but apparently because daddy is poor he can't keep track of his kids. When he comes up a little short at the register he turns around and pleads with the man to help him buy momma her Christmas shoes. The writer is really tugging at your heart strings here. I can feel the tears welling up. (Now I don't like songs that manipulate you with the lyrics but that isn't why I don't like this song. I am getting to that.)

So of course the middle class guy can't help himself and he forks over the difference. The little boy thanks him and runs out of this self-centered man's life. This is the part of the song that really gets me:
I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love As he thanked me and ran out .I knew that God had sent that little boyTo remind me just what Christmas is all about.

Isn't awesome? The God of the universe afflicted some poor little boy's momma with an incurable disease and brought the filthy little bugger into the department store with a broken heart so he could buy some cheap shoes for his momma on Christmas Eve just so that some self-centered man could remember what Christmas is all about. Now I don't like Newsong because their lyrics tend to be theologically shallow and just plan goofy, but this song takes the cake. Let me list the things that tick me off:
1. God afflicts some poor unfortunate with illness so that her broken hearted boy can teach a self-centered man a lesson about "the meaning of Christmas."
2. The boy runs out of his life and the man's first thoughts are not about that poor family and their heartache but about himself and how great it is that God has taught him this priceless lesson about the "the meaning of Christmas."
3. What is the meaning of Christmas from this song? That we should be generous and kind? That God loves the not poor more than the poor? That we should think of others from time to time?

All of these "meanings" would be wrong. Yet I am sure that this song will be sung many times in churchs this season. And I am sure many people will dab tears from their eyes as the refrain is repeated. But this song is not about what Christmas is. Christmas should be a celebration of the incarnation. It is about God becoming man. It is about God seeking out broken people and providing a sacrifice so that we can receive forgiveness and healing. It is about God doing something we could never do no matter how generous and kind we are, no matter how many poor people we help, no matter how may soup lines we work in, no matter how many social programs we start. We aren't good enough but God is. And He made a way for us by sending His Son to become a baby born of a virgin, to live a perfect life, to die as a sinless sacrifice in our place. Christmas is mysterious and wonderful and joyful.

The real meaning of Christmas is Incarnation. Emmanuel God with us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Part two:

Yesterday the broken urinal was fixed. Noah's eyes lit up when we into the bathroom. It was almost too good to be true for him. He just stood there for a minute like he couldn't believe his eyes. He said, "it's fixed." I said, "Well use it!"

Life is pretty simple when you are three.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Discourse on a broken urinal.

My family and I go to the Wal-Mart SuperCenter at least once a week to do the bulk of our shopping. This isn't a post about Wal-Mart pro or con. I have noticed that for the last three or four weeks one of the urinals in the men's restroom has been broken. It is taped up and has a sign on it. This urinal is the one that is lower to the ground so that boys can use it more easily. The reason I notice is because Noah is three years old. Having been potty trained for a relatively short amount of time he needs to visit the restroom frequently. If he gets bored while we are shopping he has to go as well. So I am in this restroom a minimum of once or twice a week. Noah is quite unhappy about this urinal being broken as it is the one he uses.

The point of my discourse on a broken urinal is that it makes a point about priorities. As a father I notice when I go to business establishments what kind of considerations they have made for families with small children. I realize that the world doesn't revolve around my family, but I can tell when a business has made an effort to appeal to families. Little things make a big difference. Does the restroom have a toilet on a level that a three year old can reach? Does the restroom have a sink that can be reached by a small child? Does it have a clean diaper changing station? Are there water fountains that can be reached by a small child?

Businesses that make the effort are more likely to get my business. I have realized that when we have families visit our church they will notice whether or not we care about kids by looking at our facility. Small things can make a big difference. Is the nursery clean and well lit? Is it staffed adequately? Are the bathrooms family friendly? By not fixing this urinal in a timely fashion Wal-mart is making a statement. Whether they intend to or not. Often our church makes a statement whether we intend to or not. Just a thought.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


In my wandering through the blogosphere today I came across a pastor's blog in which he discusses the gift of cessation. He says that the gift of cessation is the canon of Scripture. With this gift we no longer need tongues, prophecy, miracles, etc. I don't doubt that this man is a very solid Christian. I just disagree with his premise. He looks at scripture through a lens that says that miracles no longer happen. He rejects the supernatural.

But we serve a supernatural God. I believe God still does miracles and the purpose of these miracles is to confirm the truth of the gospel. All over the world the church is growing and miracles accompany the preaching of the gospel. No where in scripture does it say that miracles will cease. To interpret scripture otherwise is in error. I believe that much of cessationism is a reaction to the charismatic movement and its excesses. As a young person I wanted to reject Pentecostal doctrine because of the excesses I saw. But after further study I believe in the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I believe in miracles. I believe in the infallibility of Scripture.

Why would Jesus tell His disciples to wait for power from on high if it wasn't needed. If the disciples needed the power of the Holy Spirit in their day we certainly need it today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


My daughter turned six yesterday. She is who she is and I love her. She is driven to get her way in life which often causes her to clash with other people especially mom and dad. But she is a beautiful little girl who is very smart. She is a catlyst in helping her daddy learn to bear more of the fruit of the Spirit!

Friday, November 11, 2005


12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Phil. 4:12

I realized today that I am content. I don't know if I have ever been at the place of being content in my life. Maybe for brief periods of time. I am content in my marriage. My wife is my best friend. I have awesome kids. I have great people in my church. I have good friends. I know that I am exactly in the place of ministry that God wants me in and I have a great deal of anticipation for what lies ahead in my life.

Please don't misunderstand me. My marriage can improve and I know it will continue to do so. I love my wife more now than ever before. My kids are not yet raised and I am not a perfect dad. I need to improve my parenting skills. There is much that needs to change in our church and there are a lot of people who need Jesus in our community. I always have pictured myself as being more suited for a larger community. Leading the change and seeing growth is going to challenge me more than anything I have attempted in my life. I need to be more intentional in developing and maintaining friendships that are more than surface level. And I desperately need to improve my skills and learn more. I need to grow even more in my faith. But I am content.

I am content because I know that God wants my marriage to grow. It has improved over the years, not that it was ever bad. But as God leads us closer together I know that a greater intimacy will develop. That's exciting. I see my kids are learning to love God. God has promised to give us wisdom so I know that while I will make mistakes my kids will turn out to be great people who love God. God has given me vision for our church and community and what joy there will be in heaven as people are touched and lives are salvaged. I know that God has led me safe thus far and by His grace I will continue to mature in my faith and leadership.

I am content because I know that as good as things are in my life, God has greater things in store! I hope that you can learn the secret of being content.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I haven't had time to write anything. Saturday night after I got home from convention a storm blew through town. It did enough damage that I spent a great deal of time Sunday and Monday cleaning up. Here's my wife's post on her blog with pictures.

I'll write about convention when I have time and when I can do it without complaining!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Youth Convention

So I am tired this morning. Which is unfortunate. I have been dealing with a fiery sore throat for a couple days and it prevented restful sleep last night. Plus our poor baby Seth has a cough and runny nose. Today we are taking kids to Springfield for IYCM's Momentum convention. Last year I took four boys by myself. This year thankfully I have a sponsor going with me. It was challenging last year by myself. But you do what you have to do.

I am not much good with teens I think. But we have four boys who come every week. Three of them are unchurched and have no dad at home. All three have been saved since I have started working with them. This work has required a lot of sweat and tears. Like I said I am not very good as a youth pastor. But I keep plowing away and wearing this hat because I know God is watching whether I am faithful in the small things. And to these boys I don't think this is really a small thing. I do not know how much time I will have with them. One is sixteen and planning on dropping out as soon as he is seventeen. My hope is to disciple them so that they still serve the Lord when I no longer have contact with them. It's hard work and so far our Tuesday night studies haven't grown much.

Todd Agnew is leading worship this weekend so I am looking forward to it even though I don't feel well and I am tired (listen to me whine). Jonah 33 who I have never heard of is in concert tonight and tomorrow Sanctus Real who I have heard of but don't own any of their stuff will be playing. Should be good. If anyone reads this maybe you could pray for us.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Revenge of the Sith

So episode three came out on DVD yesterday. Elijah my oldest has now watched it three times. He loves Star Wars. It is a dark movie though isn't it? It is interesting to watch how quickly Anakin goes over to the dark side and how easily he decieves himself.

George Lucas did a good job tying things together and all in all it was a good movie. I am looking forward to the upcoming release of the Narnia movie. I love those books and the imagery that Lewis uses is awesome. The way he uses Aslan to parallel Christ is tremendous. It speaks to children on a level they can understand and to adults. C.S. Lewis was a gifted man.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Do I envy someone else's success

I was struck by the way the NLT puts this passage from John 3:27-30

27John replied, "God in heaven appoints each person's work. 28You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah. I am here to prepare the way for him--that is all. 29The bride will go where the bridegroom is. A bridegroom's friend rejoices with him. I am the bridegroom's friend, and I am filled with joy at his success. 30He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

What struck me was the bride will go where the bridegroom is. The bride of course is the church, those who love Christ. The Bridegroom is Christ. I know that despite whatever methods I use it isn't about me anyway. The Bride will find the Bridegroom. And I should be filled with joy when that happens no matter what. Because I must become less and less and Christ in me must become greater and greater.

Can we learn from NASCAR?

I came across this article and it was excellent.

In the last year or two I have started watching NASCAR. I find it interesting. Plus on a Sunday afternoon I can doze off and wake up and not miss much because they will replay most of the wrecks and great passes. What Chad Hall points out is that many NASCAR fans secretly think, "I can do that." as they watch the races.

Does your congregation come away from your messages with such a good understanding of the main point saying, "I can do that."

Two other great points:
1. A driver doesn't have to win in order to win.
2. NASCAR promotes a team approach to individual success.

Great article! A lot to think about.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Saturday we went to a hotdog roast over an open fire. Friday a lady in our church decided to have this cook out. She called everyone in the church and invited them. You can do that when you have a small church but still it was more than 20 phone calls I'm sure. So a bunch of people got together and we had a good time. It was a great example of community. Believers should get together outside of church sponsored activities and do life together.

So I've been more intentional lately at connecting with people. I know I need friends inside and outside of full time ministry. So through e-mail, phone calls, golf and going out to eat I am being intentional about relationships. I need to model what I teach. And I am trying to do just that.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Lucky Me!

We had an interesting time last week. We were on "vacation" for 10 days. It wasn't the most relaxing time but still nice to be away for a while. I was able to get some perspective. One thing that I was reminded of again and again was how beautiful my wife is! I love her so much and I got to see her all dressed up. Of course I had to buy her new shoes and a new dress for it to happen but it was worth it. I like to give her nice things and I am not able to do it very often because of financial constraints. But I like to spoil her if I can and the wedding we went to was a great opportunity. God provided for us. It was a formal wedding and I haven't seen Rebekah that dressed up since our wedding day. That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

Here is a picture although the lighting isn't great you can get at least an idea.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rethinking church

We just returned from being out of town for 10 days. We are in the middle of some difficult times financially both personally and in the church I pastor. We aren't growing as fast as I would like either. So my natural tendency when something is too hard for me is usually to look for a way out of it. I know that this isn't good so I fight this inclination with prayer. But I really want to be in God's will so I have been praying about whether I should go or stay. There is a lot more to the conversation but maybe another time... At any rate I know in my heart that this is where God wants me to be. So it is time to roll up the sleeves and work harder.

At the same time I am weary of doing church the same way. There have been quite a few Sunday mornings when I have felt like the worship service was just me going through the motions of worship without really engaging God or leading the people. With the exception of the preaching I often don't enjoy church all that much. So I have begun to rethink the way we do church. How can we have an authentic gathering in the presence of God? What is it that we hope happens on a Sunday morning? There are a lot of questions. So I am going to examine the scriptures, examine what God is saying to my heart and listen to what other people have to say. Most important I want to discover what people in my community and my generation are thinking.

Yesterday I came across this article by this house church guy am interested to hear what anyone else has to say about his "imagined interview" with some dim bulb stereotype church goer. I find a lot to disagree with him. I do think that there is a place for house church type of groups. In our church they are small groups. And we will be developing these more. But the article ticked me off and then I started thinking.

I know that I am called by God to be a vocational pastor. Meaning I believe God wants me to make my living preaching and teaching the pastor. I believe this to be biblical. So this is a starting place. I know at least this much, I am to be a pastor and preaching and teaching are an important part of who I am and how I serve God. So what's next?

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What now?

I have had some conversations lately with fellow ministers. They are concerned that within our fellowship there ministry is judged, by those who are in positions of authority and influence, solely on the basis of numbers. Specifically attendance seems to be the driving concern. The conversation usually comes from a pastor who has been pastoring a church for a while and the attendance has declined or stagnated. They are discouraged and are thinking of looking for a new position. However they feel like they cannot get another ministry position because they are considered failures based on the numbers they send to the fellowship each year.This is a tough spot to be in and I can sympathize as my church is growing but very slowly. I came across an article the other day that caused me to pause and ponder along these lines of thought. The article refered to crop estimators who have been in the fields in parts of Illinois. We have had a bit of a drought this year. Most of the counties have been declared disaster areas by the governor due to this lack of rain. The crop estimators are finding many fields where seed was planted, plants grew but there is no grain to harvest. In other fields the yields are very low. The biggest problem is that all around Illinois other states have a bumper crop. So there is no shortage of grain to cause prices to be higher and make up for low yields. Obviously many farmers are going to struggle this year.The correaltion is this: what do you do as a pastor if you are faithfully doing what you think God wants you to do but are experiencing little tangible evidence that you are succeding? I know of pastors who spent years faithfully planting the seed of the word but they have seen few souls saved. The frustration is compounded as they see other churches around them experiencing dramatic growth. The pastors in churches that have stagnated or declined are often looked down on by the officials of their denominations. Many times they consider themselves to be failures.The situation of self-doubt is intensified when we look at the celebration of mega church pastors. Those whose churches are growing are in demand as conference speakers and authors. They have the crowds aroung them at ministers meetings. These are the heroes of the American church. But what if the lack of harvest is through no fault of the pastor? Isn't it God who brings the increase. We are to bear fruit but what if their is no rain and the crops never mature?I welcome comments and will continue down this line of thought later.