Saturday, December 30, 2006

Small Town Churches

So much of what is written about church growth is written or produced by pastors of churches in suburban or urban churches. A church that is in a metropolitan area has different factors to contend with than a church in a small town. I pastor in Bethany which is a village of less than 1300 souls. But every one of those souls is important to God. After five years here I don’t feel like I really understand all the factors that allow for or prevent growth in a small town church. Yet there are churches in small communities that are thriving and growing. One of my resolutions for 2007 and beyond is to learn from these churches and pastors. As much as I enjoy city life it seems to me that God has called us to small town ministry at least for the foreseeable future.

If I am to learn from thriving small town churches than I must identify them. I am ordained by the Assemblies of God. Many of the early churches in our fellowship began in small towns and villages. I and our church are part of the Illinois District. As of December 31st 2005 the Illinois District of the A/G had 296 churches. Of these according to my research approximately 76 are in towns with a population of less than 5000. That is slightly more than 25%. Of these I do not at this time have attendance for 12 which is 15%. 12 or %15 have an average of 20 or less on Sunday morning. 18 or 24% have attendance of 21-40. 12 or 15% have an attendance of 41-60. Seven or 9% have an attendance of between 61and 80. Another 9% have an attendance of between 81and 100. There are six reporting an average attendance of between 101 and 150 accounting for 8%. And two churches report more than 150 on Sunday morning with averages of 188 and 329 on Sunday morning this is 3%.

I am working on a questionerre to send out beginning with the church that report more than 80 on an average Sunday morning. As much as our cities are growing there are still people living in small towns and rural areas. Jesus came to seek them too. So I want to be more effective in reaching them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


We had a great weekend. Sunday at church we had guests which is nice because so many of our folks travel to be with family. We are one of the churches where attendance is down and not up usually on Christmas and often at Easter. Christmas Eve is when we open our gifts. It's just a family tradition. Everyone enjoyed their presents.

Christmas Day is for eating and the kids play with their new presents. I made from scratch macaroni and cheese. Well not from scratch because I didn't make the noodles. It turned out pretty good but I need to improve it a little next time. It was a good day especially because my grandma seemed to have a pretty good day with out any major symptoms. Thanksgiving was hard on her but she looked really good yesterday. Hope to share some pictures.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Web addictions

Do any of these addictions have you bound?

EGO-SURFING: When you frequently check your name and reputation on the Internet.

- BLOG STREAKING: "Revealing secrets or personal information online which for everybody's sake would be best kept private."

- CRACKBERRY: "The curse of the modern executive: not being able to stop checking your BlackBerry, even at your grandmother's funeral." (A BlackBerry is a popular handheld device that can be used for phoning, emailing and web-browsing).

- GOOGLE-STALKING: Defined as "snooping online on old friends, colleagues or first dates."

- CYBERCHONDRIA: "A headache and a particular rash at the same time? Extensive online research tells you it must be cancer."

- PHOTOLURKING: Flicking through a photo album of someone you've never met.

- WIKIPEDIHOLISM: Excess devotion to contributing to the online collaborative encyclopaedia,


Wikipedia. Wikipedia even has a page where you can test whether you're an addict.

- CHEESEPODDING: Downloading of a song "so cheesy that you could cover it in plastic wrap and sell it at the deli counter." Cheesepodders are especially vulnerable to soft-rock favourites from the 1970s.

If so you really need to seek help. Especially if you are a cheespodder.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Big Ten Hoops

After the Christmas party Rebekah and I were off to Bloomington, Indiana. On friday a friend asked if we wanted to use tickets he had for Indiana vs. Southern Illinois. I've gone to a couple of Indiana games with him before so I knew how much fun it would be. So we got my dad to watch the kids over night and off we went to Hoosier country. I had a lot of friends who went to SIU and it is only an hour and a half or so from Centralia where I went to high school. So I have followed SIU as a kind of second favorite team after the Illini. Plus one of their starters this season Matt Shaw is an alumni of CHS. Anyway the Salukis played poorly but we still had a lot of fun. We were able to watch the second half from seats that were located by the basline and in the second row. It was cool. So even though Indiana won it was still really enjoyable.

I'm not sure how my friend is an Indiana fan. He grew up near Chicago. But I am glad he shares his tickets sometimes.

Busy Busy

So I have been away from the computer. Saturday was spent finishing preparations for Sunday morning. The kids did a wonderful job in their play. I had my trepidations but I also knew that my kids had worked very hard. I was indeed proud of them. Thanks to Jane for putting together the program. She edited heavily to allow our small group and small budget to pull it off. It was I think the very best that our church could do! That's really all God is looking for I think. Kaitlyn actually had a speaking part and said her lines flawlessy which is a big deal. Noah sang and said his line. Elijah plugged away and remembered most of his lines and sang his part and even though I think he was very nervous did his absolute best. I was very proud of my kids and the other kids that participated impressed me as well. The message went well and we even had some visitors who came to see their children. They got the gospel.

Afterward was our church Christmas party. Our people are very generous to us as a family. And in the midwest tradition they all fixed awesome food. I limited myself to one helping because I am trying to get on board with the doctors instructions to shed some pounds. I wanted more! Anyway I was pleasently surprised by everything Sunday morning. It was a good time.

Friday, December 15, 2006


At the end of every year I try to listen especially intently to see what God is saying to me about the next year. What I am really feeling is that I am not living in a way that requires Him to move. I am not really doing anything God sized! What I mean is that in all we are doing it would much better if God shows up and moves in a powerful way but if He doesn't we will muddle through some way. And often we do feel the Holy Spirit or see His hand at work. But I have begun to play things safe.

I think most of us tend to do this especially as we get older. After all I have four kids to feed now. But God wants me to live life in a way that allows Him to do much more than I can imagine. This will require a change in our way of living. The key I think to living a God sized life is to do what we know He wants us to do and leave the consequences up to Him. It requires not more faith but mustard seed faith which I know that I already have and so do you.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Would Jesus shop at Wal-Mart?

A group of ministers believe that he wouldn't. I suspect they probably feel this way because a large portion of their congregation are union members and they don't want to jepordize their tithes. Actually I don't know that to be true but they don't know if Jesus would shop at Wal-mart or not either. Suggesting that they know where Jesus would shop or whether or not He would drive an SUV is ludicrous! I don't know and neither do you. For that matter I don't know if Jesus would have voted for George W Bush either.

Projecting our political views onto our Savior is not particularily wise. Jesus wasn't an American but I suspect He isn't necessarily anti-American either. I don't think Jesus would be a radical enviormentalist because most of them seem to worship the earth instead of Jesus but I don't think He would litter. As it's not my job to tell you how to vote, where to shop or what to drive. I am to build up the body of Christ until we can reach unity in the faith not in politics.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Flu Shot

I went to the Pulmonary Dr. yesterday for a check up. He says he is no longer concerned about the stuff on my lungs. There was no change. So I don't have to go back for six months. He made me get a flu shot. Of course what they do is inject a dead virus into your body. However I could develop body aches, a fever and headache. The nurse said that my body wouldn't really be sick, it would just think it was and so I would feel sick. Either way it doesn't sound fun. Fingers crossed that I don't come down with fake sickness.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

On purpose

I have begun to think that alot of people live lives defined by what they haven't done or by what they don't do. I know I am guilty of that. Living life defined by what you can't do or won't do leads to a lot of regret. Life kind of happens to us. We are always justifying it by saying that we are waiting on God or something like that. Sometimes the fear is that we might make a mistake if we were more proactive. But I have made as many mistakes by not doing something as I have by doing. So my challenge to myself is to go out and be about my Father's business. The kingdom of God is about going, serving, preacing, loving, healing, praying, being active and forcefully advancing. These are all action words an phrases.

For myself I know I need to be someone defined by what I have done and what I am doing.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Another Monday

The current media fascination is searching for lost people. I watched Fox News for 5 minutes this morning. There was a story about a kidnapped baby who police are searching for even though it appears that the parents are illegals and it may have been related to human smuggling. There was a story about two grandparents who have disappeared on the way to NY City from South Carolina. There is no trace of them. And then there are three hikers missing on Mt. Hood in Oregon. There are supposed to be experienced but they went out when bad weather was threatening. They have been gone two days.

I don't know how long the obsession with the lost will last. Maybe Greta what's-her-name will go to Mt. Hood and stay until they find the lost hikers? Probably we will see a rash of kidnapping stories and lost hikers and people caught in avalanches and then a celebrity will die. The focus will be on dead famous people. But for a while it will seem like there are more people wandering off or being kidnapped than usual.

Sometimes churches and christians get caught up with obsessions with the lost. For a time we are all about finding the lost and bringing them to Christ. But then something happens like our car won't start or someone sits in our pew or we didn't sing a hymn on Sunday and we forget about the lost and become obsessed with something else. Like the second coming or some other doctrine. But Jesus never got over His obsession with the lost. That's why He came, to seek and to save that which was lost. So I hope that I can stay focused on the lost.

Friday, December 08, 2006


I came across . It's hard to pick one of their products but this one provoles much thought.

I am so wierd!

At least that is the most common expression I hear from Kaitlyn when I spend time at home. Especially on my day off. I will probably hear that at least 25 times today. I think it may really be her way of saying that she enjoys my humor. (Wink! Wink!)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Watch out Dad

As most of y'all know, I grew up with an older brother a younger sister and my mom and dad. In the last year My mom has had surgery to put in a pace maker. My sister has been battling some wierd nerve disease that honestly I can't remember the name of. All I know is it really sucks for her. I had a fungus growing like crazy in my body. Now my brother Chris is in the hospital with internal bleeding. It seems possible that it is an ulcer but they don't know for sure. Tomorrow he gets scoped. So far my dad has been pretty healthy this year. I pray that continues. Yikes!

I am thankful that we are all still here and it makes me doubly appreciated of the great Thanksgiving we had.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Justifying my own existence

A church has been targeted by PETA for having a living nativity even though there aren't any live animals in their presentation. I guess groups like PETA have to justify their own existence. I'm not against groups like the humane society or the like but PETA allows seemed like wing nuts to me. Here's the most bizarre quote from the article: “Animals have been stolen and slaughtered, they’ve been raped, they’ve escaped from the nativity scenes and have been struck by cars and killed. Just really unfathomable things have happened to them."

Seriously? Animals at a church's live nativity have been what? Now not a lot surprises me but I am incredulous that animals have ever been raped during the church nativity scene. Anyway Merry Christmas and if your church has animals in its nativity scene if if they aren't alive expect a letter from the friendly rational people at PETA.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I spent a few hours in East St. Louis with Pastor Jay. I have been there before so it wasn't a surprise to me to see the devestation. The burnt out buildings and churches that look like a bomb fell on them seem to bear visible physical testimony to the unseen spiritual war that was waged against this city. Everywhere you look you see the results of the failure of the welfare state to cure the ills of poverty and racism. Satan has devestated this city. But even though many have written it off God hasn't.

I feel strongly in my spirit that Isaiah 61 applies to Jay and his team and what they are doing in the city of East St. Louis. 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.

4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.

Would you pray for Jay and his team at Urban Outreach East St. Louis. They are doing an important work. It is hard work and it can at times seem fruitless and frustrating. But God is at work. I was able to meet pastor Shameca today. She works at discipling women many of them are prostitutes. Pray for her and her family. Pray for pastor Ed and pastor Tommy and their families. They work hard for little. I believe God is at work reclaiming this ruined city.

Monday, December 04, 2006

East St. Louis

Going to E. St. Louis tomorrow to meet with Jay Covert. I will be bringing presents for their Christmas party. They give a lot of presents to kids who may not otherwiase get much of anything. Jay has had an interesting life and now leads East Louis Outreach. They have planted a church now in this community and are doing great things. He is a white guy with long hair ministering in an almost all black city. The devestation there is tremendous. Most of it is due to deep seated racial divisions. In short all the white folks moved out and property values fell. The city was mismanaged as well but there are deep wounds due to race.

Jay 's enthusiasm is contagious. He has received awards from the mayor and others. He believes that the city can bounce back and that thousands of folks written off by everyone else can be redeemed. I am looking forward to touring the ministry centers and spending some time hanging out with my friend.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


It is 14 degrees. That's pretty cold. It definetly affects our attendance on Sunday. Some older folks cannot get out when it is this cold. At least we have power and heat and shelter.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Abby & Kaitlyn

So we lost power on Thursday for about 10 hours. But our cable internet just came back on about an hour ago. There are a lot of places west of here not too far with no power still because the ice brought down so many power lines. We drove up to Chicago, well not Chicago itself but really Elgin. We went through part of Aurora, (I thought hi, Scott Hodge as I drove through) and past Calvary Church in Naperville. We got back about 9:00 tonight.

We went to Abby's wedding. Abby was a bridesmaid in our wedding and someone we love very much. Abby spent the last two years up until a few weeks ago in South Africa training children's workers at Jackon's Ridge and running a baby shelter. The baby's were abandoned usually by parents who have HIV and many times the babies are HIV positive. Often after care and time the babies are tested again and come back negative all though not all. They take care of them until they find them forever families. Abby is one of my favorite people.

Abby married Jeff who is a pastor at Calvary Temple in Springfield. They will be doing children's ministry while the go through the process of being appionted full missionary status to go back to Africa. Since they will be living only an hour from us hopefully we will see more of them.

I felt a lot of mixed emotions when Abby's dad Larry, another cool person with a big heart (He works with people with disabilities through Special Touch camps), gave his oldest daughter away. One day that will be me giving away Kaitlyn. (It's late or I would upload a cool pic of her.)
I was flipping through the channels and saw Ben Folds on Austin City Limits. He sang a song her wrote about his daughter Gracie. Kaitlyn's middle name is Grace and we somtimes call her Gracie. The song made me smile and fit the mood I'm in tonight. If you are a dad you get that.

I feel blessed to be a dad. And I feel blessed that Kaitlyn is my daughter if though she may be the reason my hair is thinning. And I feel blessed to know great people like Abby! Got to go to bed. I have to preach and lead worship tomorrow.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


You would think that Rebekah had grown up in the tropics and was allergic to snow the way she has been carrying on lately. But she grew up in Kenosha on Lake Michigan. She should certainly be used to snow. It is predicted that it will snow today and through the night. All I have heard the last day or so is that snow is a four letter word. You might get the impression if you read her blog that she was the one who shovels the snow. Those of you who know her know that isn't true. She doesn't even have to drive in the stuff. ;-)

Seth has been messing with me. The little guy keeps fiddling with my alarm clock radio. If I don't see him do it than I am very surprised when I wake up at 8:00 because my alarm didn't sound. I thought I checked last night after he went to bed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Power of the Blog

Blogging has become a phenomon. It connects people who have never met in deep ways. Some of the blogs I enjoy most are written by people I have never met but I feel like I know them well. I know that it may be an illusion but it still strikes me as something about our culture that has changed dramatically in the last five years. Anyway I have been moved by Ragamuffin Soul .

Los has brought us along as he and his wife have flown to South Korea to pick up their son Losiah whom they have adopted. I have been moved to tears several times by the videos. This medium has so much power when done right. He sure is blogging the right way. I have enjoyed the journey and have rejoice with this family even though I may never meet them in person on this side of life.


Bethany is a village of 1300 or so souls. We have five churches that are a part of our ministerial alliance. The catholic church is five miles out of town and no longer has a full time priest so they don't participate. It is my second time around as president of the alliance. The title is largely symbolic as we all work together and decisions are by consensus (Such as waiting until I had to step outside to take a phone call to elect me as president this year). We do things that have been done for as long as any of us knows. It is Christmas time and our big project is at hand. It is voucher time.

We have five community services plus a community VBS. We also give food voucher for the local grocery stores to those who may be in need in our village. The list includes families with single parents and both parents, as well as widows. We are editing a list that is a couple years old. Some of the people have died and some have moved away. Others have gotten better jobs. A couple of single moms have gottern married or are engaged and things while not great are much better and they aren't struggling like they were. After talking to the other pastors we all really want to help people who are in a tough place because of circumstances they couldn't control. But I wonder how much we are really helping some of the folks. Here a few observations.

1. All of the pastors have been here at least two years and yet none of us knew more than half (out of thirty nine names) of the people. The village treasurer didn't know all of them either but she knew more than we did. Ouch!
2. A couple of churches had no connection with anyone on the list. What are the implications of that?
3. Some of the widows have grown children who go to church and profess to be Christians. My opinion is that we shouldn't have to help these widows.
4. Some people have been on this list and have received help for years even though they don't need the help. I will probably receive angry phone calls from some of them when they don't receive their voucher. Some of these people make a comfortable living.
5. Is it my place to judge the economic needs of people I barely know? I'm still sorting through the decision making process.

I plan on bringing to begin a conversation on how our churches can be more effective in ministry to people with economic needs in our community. I have learned a lot about who knows who is in need in our town. I wish more of them were believers.

Monday, November 27, 2006


I went to the eye doctor today. This is an annual thing of course and I have been going to the same OD fir a number of years. So I've seen Dr. Temmen six times by my count. She is a really nice lady and does a great job. But she walks in the exam room and says, "I thought I heard your voice." Apparently I have a very distinct voice. I see once a year but she remembers my voice. This isn't the first time I've been surprised by this observation. Many people I have talked to once have instantly recognized my voice on the phone. So I guess a lot of you know it's me on the phone before I identify myself. Anyway... my eyes are gradually getting better. She said that as I age my near sightedness will get somewhat better but in ten to fifteen years I will probably start getting far-sighted. Got to take care of the eyes.

I could probably make some sort of spiritual analogy about the near sighted far sighted thing but it's monday and sometimes I don't feel real spiritual on mondays. I heard Rob Bell describe monday's as the day pastors have hangovers. Your tired. Your head hurts. And you keep thinking, "I said what?"

Saturday, November 25, 2006


I am tired but have enjoyed the family time. I've been up past midnight the last three nights. I am not used to that lately. Now it's time to get focused on Sunday. We are concluding a four part series on joy. I have enjoyed studying and putting the messages together. Hopefully they have come across with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and helped to change peoples perception and perspective.

Tomorrow's message is Joy Remix or (Rejoice). The definition of a remix from Wikipedia is:A remix is an alternative version of a song, different from the original version. A record producer or audio engineer uses audio mixing to alter the original tracks of a song, adding or subtracting elements, changing the relative frequency, volume, length, or almost any other aspect of the various musical components. A song may be remixed to give a song that wasn't popular a second chance, to create a song that will be played in dance clubs, or to alter a song to suit a different music genre or radio format.

John Von Seggern of the ethnomusicology department at the University of California, Riverside says that the remix is "drawing together and making sense of a much larger body of information by threading a continuous narrative through it." A remix may also refer to a non-linear re-interpretation of a given work or media other than audio. Such as a hybridizing process combining fragments of various works.

So to remix the joy that God gives us is to rejoice. We may add or subtract elements around a theme but the theme remains the glory of our King. When we rejoice it helps us to make sense of the experiences or information of life by threading the conitinuity of the presence and goodness of God through it. A Christian can rejoice in suffering because the joy of the Lord allows us to reinterpret what happens in life from a different perspective than a non-believer.
In this way the joy of the Lord drives the life of the believer much as the bass line can drive a song. It gives it depth and power and a certain "catchiness." People who can rejoice in any circumstance have a certain "catchiness" about them.

So looking forward to it. Have a great Saturday!

Friday, November 24, 2006


We had a great day. It was one of the best family times in a memory. So much to be thankful for it is hard to put into words. We rejoiced together and laughed a lot. Hope you had a great day also.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Who Knew?

I had no idea how hard this year would be. But we are closing in on the end and I am excited to see what God is going to do next. I am ready work with Him to make the future. I am not willing to see what happens next, I am actively working to shape my future and by extension the lives of all who are connected to me. I know God has great things in store. And God has lots of surprises too!

After all this year I was sicker than I have ever been. I spent time in the hospital. I spent days contemplating the possibility of having cancer. I received the news that I don't have cancer but rather that a fungus was growing in my body. I have had several CT scans which now show the fungus shrinking. I will have another in 12 days. I have had a multitude of Xrays and an MRI. I have undergone physical therapy. I am still dealing with annoying pain. I have walked through the darkest depression of my life and come through the other side.

And here is what I know that God was with me all the time. His Holy Spirit was abiding and giving comfort and strength. I know that I am blessed. My wife loves me and my children are healthy. I know what God has called me to do and I am doing it!

Lots of other great things have happened in the lives of friends. Some of them surprising, some just plain awesome.
Greg and Sam brought baby Blinn into the world. Which means Larry and Patty are finally grandparents!
Friends who are missionaries in Southeast Asia are coming home in December so that she can deliver their first baby in February!
Our friend Abby is getting married in a little over a week!
I was able to reconnect with my friend Scott Hodge.
My sister-in-law and her new husband are expecting a baby!
Joshua and Christy are expecting their third child and it looks like Joshua is finally getting his boy!
Even though I haven't met him I enjoy his blog. Los is right now in Korea preparing to bring home his son!
Seth tooks his first steps and is running now!
Noah can write his name and is getting to be an awesome video gamer.
Elijah got his first hit in baseball.
Kaitlyn is growing into such a beautiful girl that sometimes it takes my breath away.
And Rebekah continues to be an awesome mom and wife!

I'll post more surprises in the next days. (You'll notice that so many of these are about baby's. What can I say I am a sucker for babies.)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Night of the Living Dead

We just got home from our weekly, (at least), trip to Super Walmart for groceries. They are in the process of remodeling the store. They are repainting and replacing flooring and bathroom fixtures, etc. But they are also moving stuff around. The sporting goods are where the crafts used to be and the crafts are where the garden stuff was, and kids clothes are where the linens and things were, and electronics are where the shoes were. You get the picture. But the most confounding thing is that they moved the food around. As we walked up and down the aisles I saw people wandering around like zombies searching for the soup and the chips and everything that once was in this aisle but isn't now. A lot of people like my wife tend to write their lists based on where an item is in the store. Now that things are moved an imprint of the store which is sadly hard wired on our brains will have to change. We grumble about it but change is inevitable.

I am trying not to complain because as I pastor I introduce change into the church. And then I complain about people grumbling about the change. For some it is a minor inconvenience for others it rocks their world. This doesn't mean things don't need to change. In fact despite the best efforts of some change is inevitable. What I need to remember as a pastor is that even if I carefully explain the change and warn people in advance change will still confound some folks and it will take time for everyone to adapt. For some people change rocks their world and they really have a hard time recovering. They feel they have little or no control over a lot of things so when things like Walmart or their church change it creates tension and uneasiness.

I have more thoughts but they can wait. This much typing is hard on the old shoulder. I guess I have a new prospective on change now that is worth thinking about.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


I probably need to have surgery on my shoulder but I won't see the surgeon until the end of October. Hopefully I can change the appointment. It was a little discouraging to hear that. There are a lot of things I need to do that I have put on hold until this pain issue is resolved. I know God is trying to teach me something through this and that He is refining me but I'm not sure what exactly He is up to as of yet.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I am at a place where I know that God is going to do something new in my life (and by proxy my families life) but I don't what yet. I have a general sense although it isn't time to really share. It's the waiting that's the hardest part for me. The not knowing.

I haven't blogged much because I can't yet talk about some of the things God is doing in my life. There are things that Rebekah can't blog about either but see doesn't seem to be as anxious as I am. Most of you thought I was the laid back one!

Plus much of what I would blog would be whining about my shoulder. We are in about week six of constant pain. The intensity comes and goes but the pain is there all the time. I just switched perscription pain relievers today so we'll see. Next week is week three of physical therapy. If there isn't any improvment it's off to see the Ortho Dr.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Because we don't have enough football fans in our church I play my fanatasy football online. This year I am playing at yahoo and Tomorrow is my draft day. Fingers crossed as I haven't done much prep expect watch Sportscenter and some NFL network. I will rely a lot on my Sportingnews which has had lists the last few weeks ranking various positions. One tip for you novices, running back is very important. It would not be prudent to draft Peyton Manning before Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander or LT.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


So it looks like time is running out. For the first time since I was in high school my beloved Atlanta Braves will probably not make the playoffs. Unless they can rattle off 10 wins in a row starting now it will not happen. Really only the month of June was terrible but it was so bad that they may not be able to recover.

As for the Vikings I don't know what to expect from them. I do know that I don't care for their new uniforms. They should have left well enough alone. I didn't like the old white jerseys much but now when they wear the new white jerseys they wear purple pants.
They look okay in this picture but on TV the other night they didn't look good. I'm sure it will grow on me over time but my first impression wasn't good. The jerseys are actually okay but not purple pants. Please.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I turned thirty one yesterday. Today I found out that not only are the tendons that attach my muscles to my shoulder swollen but I also have degeneration on both sides of my joint, where the color bone and the shoulder meet and where the top of the humour bone meets the shoulder. This means arthritis and for now physical therapy. I am hoping to be able to golf the day after labor day in our sectional golf tournament. We will see.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Moving up

I finally got an ipod! I am still learning how to use it but now I can listen to all those Mark Driscoll sermons I've been meaning to. So first high speed internet now an ipod. I feel like I might be catching up to my man Scott! But really as evidenced by that attempt to link I am not.

I had an interesting conversation with the former mayor of our little village last night. He was relating to me and my friend Kevin who pastors the Cumberland Presbytes here in Bethany, some of his attempts to change zoning on some property that he owns on the highway that runs through town. He was told by the former president of the bank who lives across the street from this property that if he went forward his political career in Bethany would be finished. He went ahead and the next election during the caucus he was maneuvered out of being on the ballot. They tried to destroy him. Ouch!

I looked at him and said, wow I don't have any idea what that's like being the pastor of a small church ;-) As we shared stories it became clear to me that small towns are a lot like churches. Everyone wants them to go forward as long as they never change.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I'm still looking for a good title for my blog. I'm not very good at titles. I struggle to come up with good titles for my sermons also.

Came across a cool group called Obadiah Parker via a link on someone elses blog. Thanks to high speed connection I could actually listen. I plan on buying their EP. Here's a link...

Turning 31 on Wednesday. Thanks to the people in my church for the nice card and gift!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Purple Time

I watched the first pre season game for the Vikings on Monday night. Tony Kornheiser is new to MNF. He was okay but seemed uncomfortable. Joe Theisman was very annoying. I think he may become the new Dan Deirdorf. (I dislike Deirdorf as a color man.) Anyway the Vkes looked okay. The first team defense played decently although it may have simply been that Aaron Brooks was that bad. The were able to pressure the QB but again this is the Raiders so take it with a grain of salt. Tavarious Jackson looked very good. He was fun to watch. He'll remind you of a young Steve McNair or a less flashy Vick.

Bad news Tank Williams was already out for the season, now Chad Greenway the first round pick is out for the year after tearing something in his knee. Oh well! I'm hoping for 9-10 wins. We'll see. I'm not sold on the west coast offense. I really didn't see anything to change that.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Rapture Me

Ever have those days where you wish Jesus would come back right now???

Earl Creps wrote a great post about the Emerging Church and Pentecostal/Charismatics. I think he was right on target. I have remained in the A/G but I see the point that some of those more missional folks are making. However I am not a Calvinist and I am an ordained A/G pastor because I believe the doctrine and support it whole heartedly. Good thoughts by the good Dr. You can find them here...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I have come to believe that it is somewhat easier for an older pastor, let's say in his 50's to relate to someone half his age than it is for a young guy like me to relate to someone who is 60ish. Not that I don't try but at least the older pastor if he tries can remember a little what is was like to be 30. I can't remember what it is like to be nearing retirement or 59 no matter how hard I try because I haven't been there. But the majority of my audience each Sunday is over 50.

I am trying to understand though.

Monday, June 05, 2006


It was a frustrating day yesterday for me. First we had 25% less people than we did Memorial Day weekend. Second one of our families may be getting transferred and may have to move. We had a missionary guest. I knew him slightly at North Central. He is very passionate about his calling and he will do great. His calling is not as a preacher, he will be doing a lot of one on one evangelism in a muslim country. I don't know if he connected with the people, there weren't many of them to begin with. Sunday evening wasn't much better. I preached that the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is about more than how it makes you feel. God makes us competent as ministers of the new covenant. Which is good because on Sundays like these I feel pretty incompetent.

But I refuse to be discouraged. There is more work to be done!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You must write something!

I am trying to discipline myself to write in this blog several times a week if not every day. It is not easy as self-discipline has never come easy to me. For instance I know I need to exercise to lose weight and so that I will have more energy. But I can't seem to get going. The best time to exercise they say is int he morning. I am not a morning person but I am too tired usually in the evening. I have gained about ten pounds since I got out of the hospital. Yikes!

My mother-in-law is visiting for a few days. I love her, mainly because she gave birth to my wife, but I have no idea what to say to her somtimes as the only thing we have in common really is Rebekah and the kids. I am not good at small talk usually so she probably thinks I am ignoring her because I don't talk much around her but really I don't usually say much anyway. Rebekah sometimes complains about that. I have been even more quiet than usual lately I think. This has been and continues to be a season of intense prayer. I am evaluating everything about how I do ministry and how our church does ministry. Satan has been busy also and so the battle remains not to be discouraged. But I have determined not to let that happened. Encourage yourself in the Lord today!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


It has been a long time since I wrote anything. We have had a busy month but then every month is fairly busy. Memorial day weekend has past and we are moving into summer.

Last week we, the Abundant Life, finally purchased a video projector. Rebekah worked on putting together everything for Sunday's service, lyrics for the songs, sermon notes and announcements until 11:00 on Saturday night. Sunday morning five minutes into Sunday the power went out. It turns out it only went out at the church. Some how the coupling for the power line which runs across the street and into the building became disconnected. One of the power lines had fallen lower than it was supposed and it pulled the coupling apart. The village utility folks got to it pretty quickly especially since it was a Sunday and Memorial day weekend. I called one of the village board and then left a message with another person and two hours later they were there. It only took 20 minutes to fix the problem and at about noon the power was back on. Of course we ended up having service without power and in 90 degree weather no air conditioning. But no one complained and we had a good time of worship. We sang a couple of hymns I preached a shortened message and we celebrated communion. We were done by 11:30.

Sunday afternoon after Elijah's baseball practice we went to Decatur. In the evening I replaced the brake pads on the minivan. It only took me an hour and a half! I was proud of myself wasn't tempted to curse at any point in the process and since I already knew how to do it I actually kind of enjoyed it. I saved myself a lot of money in the process.

Monday morning I spoke at the Memorial observance that American Legion has every year. It is always across the street from the church in the cemetery. Last year it was inside the church because of rain. It was hot and I was standing in the sun! Sweat poured off of me. I didn't feel like I really connected with the crowd. There were at least 200 people there. But many people came and talked about how they appreciated it. I included the gospel and hopefully planted seeds.

Looking forward to our friends the Overturfs coming on Sunday morning. They will be returning to Africa as missionaries soon.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Create the Future

I read a quote by Dr. Mark Chironna, "we wither repeat the past or create the future." Mark Batterson calls that the difference between ministry out of memory and ministry out of imagination. We are at a place where I feel a definite tension between the status quo and what can be. I am not willing to continue with the status quo. Not because I want change for change sake. If I wanted that I would just find a new ministry position. (Not that it hasn't crossed my mind.) But we need to change because not enough people are becoming disciples. There are too many unchurched and dechurched folks in Moultrie County and we are not reaching them effectively. My real in particular is to reach families in my generation.

We want to see whole families serving the Lord. I want to teach and disciple parents so that they can pass a living faith down to their children who will own that faith as their own. I believe that our church can transform the culture of our county. I believe that is why Abundant Life is here. But we will not be able to do it unless we are willing to take risks and find effective ways of reaching outside of our walls to engage people.

I really believe that we as disciples are called to bring the gospel to people. As we interact with people in the marketplace, in the workplace, in the schools, in the highways and byways of life we allow the Holy Spirit to interact with them through our words and maybe even more importantly through our actions. To do this we must change the way we are doing things or we will continue to repeat the past.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stumbling Stones

Romans 9:32b, 33
They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." 33As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

I was reading through Romans 9 during my devotion time today. This verse jumped out at me. The Jews of Paul's day couldn't past the fact that they could not earn salvation through observing the law. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

All of us have met people who for one reason or another won't surrender to Christ Jesus as their savior. Some won't admit that they've sinned. Others want to earn salvation. Some people wonder why God allows bad things to happen. Other folks can't believe that Jesus is the only name that can save us. They think that all religions should lead to God and can't get past the exclusivity of Christ. Some folks get hung up on all the hypocrites in church. The list is long and varied but at some point every person who hears the gospel has to make a decision. Accept Christ or not. Those who trust in Him are saved. Those that don't stumble. And scripture says that the cornerstone will then crush them.

So the stumbling stone is always Christ. What are some of the "stumbling stones" you have encountered?

Monday, April 17, 2006


Easter has come and gone again. Man we have too much sugar in our house. Especially at a time when I am needing to lose weight. I guess I will have to step up the exercise regimen. We had a good Sunday. I preached at the community sunrise service. There was a pretty good turnout. I didn't hear what the final count was but I always enjoy preaching at community events. There is a different dynamic.

I led worship and preached in our service. It went pretty well. I was concerned because I knew that several people would be traveling and so I wasn't sure what our attendance would be like. However we ended up having 25% more people than our average so I was pleasantly surprised. I still am missing the upper range of my singing voice but I really was surprised that I felt so well after the service and still had a good amount of energy.

This afternoon our state Representative stopped by my office. He is running for a second term. During the last campaign I sent him an e-mail. I had been planning on voting for him because even though he is a democrat he is pretty conservative and has a lot of experience. But he ran some negative advertisements that I thought were misleading and made fun of the republican candidate. So I sent an e-mail letting him know why I wasn't voting for him. I didn't get a reply right away. But he said that when he was driving past today he saw my name on the sign and remembered the e-mail which he had saved. He told me about some of the things that he regretted from the campaign which was his first for a state level office. He also said that he had talked to other candidate since then and explained things to him. I thought it was a pretty honest answer to get from a politician and was impressed with his integrity.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A good wife!

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.

It is amazing how God has blessed me with Rebekah. These last couple of months would have been really dark without her. I wouldn't want to be sick for this long ever again but we have certainly grown so much closer during this time. We have spent more time together because I have been limited in how much I get out and we haven't gotten sick of each other. In fact we have had a lot of fun together. I am certainly looking forward to our golden years when it's just the two of us. We will definitely enjoy these years of raising our kids together but we won't be like some couples who don't know what to do when the kids are gone. We definitely know what to do!

Rebekah has grown these last months. She is becoming such a wonderful Godly woman. I am excited to see who she is and who she is becoming. I love her because she is my best friend, I love her because we have sparks and I love her because of who she is in Christ. We like to say that we are addicted to each other. It's true!

Thursday, April 13, 2006


First the good news! Yesterday I went back to the doctor to get the results of the biopsy. No cancer! It's really wierd to have to write that. The past three weeks have been crazy but God has been good! But to wonder if you might have cancer is disconcerting at best. So I will have another CT scan in six weeks to make sure whatever was in my chest is completely gone by then.

After seeing the pulmonary specialist I went to my regular doctor. He was convinced that I had cancer. He hadn't received a report from the biopsy yet. He was happy but was almost in disbelief.

I have this wart on my index finger. I have been using over the counter stuff on it for quite sometime. But every time I put the acid on it, it would break open and bleed. Then I would have to put triple antibiotic on it and let the skin heal. The thing would grow bigger. So I told the doctor and he sprayed liquid nitrogen on it. And then he did it again and again and again. OUCH! I don't remember the last time I experienced such pain. And it is still throbbing today. The pain is bad enough that Dr. prescribed a narcotic pain reliever. So here's hoping it falls off.
(Wasn't that way more than you wanted to know about me?)

Sometimes we have to experience pain to get the results we want.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A good day!

The doctor came in after the biopsy and said that there are no tumors. I am a little fuzzy on details but basically it seems that the mass in my chest is a swollen lymph node or gland and was a pocket of infection from all the sickness I have had in my lungs. It has been a long time since I have felt that much relief. Tears welled in my eyes. God is so good! So many people have said that they felt peace this weekend when they were praying. One person even told my sister, " I am telling you right now there is no tumor."

We know God has walked with us through this. I am not completely well yet but feel that I am on the road. I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a head cold so keep praying for that. I will be preaching on Sunday morning as long as the Lord wills. Next week we will go back to the doctor to find out about the biopsy of the lymph node which the doctor is confident will show nothing but infection. Then I will see my other doctor about my heart rate which I am still taking medicine for. But all in all yesterday was a great day! God is good!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Here we go!

I haven't eaten since 11:30 last night. So I'm ready to go have something stuck down my throat. I have been waiting a week so I guess it's about time. But somehow it just seems not quite real. Thanks to all for praying for me. I have peace in my heart and I am really just wanting to preach on Sunday and get back to "normal." But I will wait on God's timing. We really have wonderful people in our church who have been so patient with me and who really just want me to be well again. They are even bringing meals starting tonight although I'm not sure I will be in the mood to swallow much. Thanks to everyone for calls and e-mails.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Before I got sick I posted about what God was saying to me through Romans 5:1-5. I skipped through the passage and picked out the word character. I even mentioned it in a sermon. The last several years when we have been about to go through a tough time God has given me a scripture verse to hold onto. This has been no exception. I went back and read this passage in Romans again. Here it is in case you are like me and will forget to look it up.

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

The portion in bold is the portion I skipped over to a degree. My thought at the time was, "well I haven't really suffered much but suffering is relative." I thought the key was learning perseverance so that God could work on developing a more Christlike character in me. I still believe that is what He is doing only I don't get to skip any of the hard parts.

As I was praying about that yesterday I wondered why God would be so concerned with my character if (and this is worst case, I was just thinking not borrowing trouble) I wasn't going to live long. It is a morbid thought but don't get caught up on it. I really felt that if God is working in this situation, and we know He is, and if God is producing a more Christlike character in me, and I believe that is what He is doing, (there's a whole Romans 8:28 thing) then I have unfinished work to do for the kingdom. As I was thinking that thought I heard that voice, the Holy Spirit, ( I haven't heard much of it lately so it was wonderful) say two words. I was thinking about the fact that God must not be finished with me if He would be working in this situation to produce character in me, the two words I heard in my Spirit were, that's hope! I have this hope in my heart. Hope is a powerful thing. And let me remind you of Romans 5:5 again " And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

Thursday, March 30, 2006


It's so nice to be home. I don't have pneumonia. However I have a mass in my chest that is wrapped around a bronchial tube. That is why it has been hard to breathe at time and it is why I have tightness and pain in my chest. I will have a biopsy on Wednesday. All I can do is pray until then. It is hard not to imagine the worst. It is hard not to give way to fear.

As I was praying and spending time with God today I continued to seek Him for what He is trying to teach me through this experience. I have no real definitive answer. But (and I am not trying to sound super spiritual here) I have come to a determination. A long time ago I decided to follow Jesus. And I am going to continue to do so no matter what. There is an old song that says the same thing. As one of the verses says, "Take this whole world but give me Jesus." That's my prayer for right now.

Thank you for all who are praying!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Divided Heart?

Psalm 86:11

Teach me your way, O LORD,
and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.

This was a part of my devotions today. In my long battle with this sickness I have in some ways developed a divided heart. A lot of things can divide our heart but once again, (I think we need to continually relearn this lesson sometimes), I am learning to be whole hearted. What I mean is that my priority must be seeking the Lord with my whole heart. Nothing else can take the top priority. Some of the things in my life that divide my heart are family, financial concern, wanting our church to grow, and wanting to be healthy again. Obviously these are all legitimate but when I pursue God with my whole heart they will fall into place. Two promises Jeremiah 29:13 "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." And Matthew 6:33,34 "
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Health wise I am not feeling better but I have determined to work at least two hours a day no matter what. I hope that by doing I will regain my endurance and strength and I may begin to feel better. Thursday is my next chest x-ray. I have visitor letters to get sent out and follow up to coordinate. We had several visitors Sunday which doesn't happen often for us. One of my goals is to have visitors every week or at least several times a month.

We are also expecting snow tonight. At least I have an excuse not to shovel. My grandma already told me not to "be out shoveling snow with that pneumonia." Besides it should be in the fifties by Friday and it will all melt anyway.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


We had a nice time visiting with some new friends this morning. They are a newly married couple who are preparing to go to northern Africa to teach English in a Muslim nation. This country has been much in the news as a civil war has claimed thousands of lives. The government has covertly supported genocide. They will need God's grace and protection as they begin their married lives together. What an adventure! Of course we need to remember that any time we will follow God it should be an adventure. I think we too often make life boring.

I am tired. I am tired of a lot of things especially of being sick. I had a chest x-ray on Wednesday. My right lung is basically clear. I have pneumonia in my left lung now. I finished round four of anti-biotic today. I am also taking a powerful steroid for my lungs. I wish I could say I knew it was working but the last two days I have felt weaker and coughed more. It is not over yet but I know I will get better eventually. I hope to be able to preach without coughing by Easter. Thanks for praying for me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


So I am recovering from pneumonia which followed bronchitis which was preceded by a sinus infection. I have been on antibiotics for 25 of the last 40 days. I am feeling better though I still don't have a lot of stamina. I can go for a few hours but then I hit a wall. I am preaching Sunday and since my alternate worship leader will be out of town I am going to lead worship. I think I can do it without coughing too much. I miss being able to sing. I also miss preaching without worrying about my breathing. I am excited about going to see Jeremy Camp next Tuesday in concert. That should be fun. It will test my endurance. I was talking to my friend Rich today. Rich has been sick but not as sick as I have been. He's a children's pastor and an energy guy but he's been losing his voice when gets too excited. He has tickets for the big ten tournament tomorrow in Indianapolis. He mentioned the same worry whether or not he had enough stamina to make the drive and watch all four games. I covet your prayers.

The hardest thing about the last six weeks (and these have been basically six of the hardest weeks of my life) is that I have struggled to study the Bible and pray consistently. The energy and drive to pursue has been missing. When I am sick I find it hard to really come into the presence of God although that is what I crave and need. I was talking to my friend BG yesterday and he said the same thing. When he is sick is when he really needs to press in to God the most but it seems we do it the least. I don't know maybe you are one of those who pray without ceasing when you are sick. This has really been a discouraging wilderness time. But I know that at the end I will find God and find that I have been made stronger in some way through Him.

Have you ever really craved being in the presence of God? I know I have and do right now. I have some thoughts on His presence that I hope to post in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


I just finished my second round of anti-biotics. After not going to the doctor in about nine years I have now made two trips in the last month. I have been coughing now for six weeks. I beginning to feel like the passage in Hebrews 12:7-11 is referring to me.

7As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined? 8If God doesn't discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. 9Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever[a]?

10For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God's discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. 11No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening--it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

Have you ever felt this way? Anyway I'm back on the horse and trying to knock out some work I am behind on. My brother is moving from Seattle to Cahokia, Illinois so Friday I will go and help unload. I am hoping that I can breath. Last night they stopped in Rapid City, SD on their trek across the country with a four year old and a little dog. I am trying to get back in the swing of things. Have a great day!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Creativity on a Budget

One of the things God is challenging me to do is to be more creative in ministry. Creativity is never easy even when you have a large budget. When you don't have a lot of financial resources it gets even tougher. But it is not impossible. Nor is being a small church an excuse for mediocrity. I think a lot of churches stay small on purpose. One of the reasons is that it allows them to avoid increasing expectations. The way it's always been is good enough. Just like the hymn "it was good enough for (fill in the blank) and it's good enough for me." I hate that song but that's another topic entirely. I have had a lot of ideas that had to be set aside for the time being or adapted because of lack of resources. That's frustrating. But it is also a challenge to be embraced.

Jane is our children's church and Sunday school coordinator. She is wonderfully creative. She often writes her own programs, improvises her own craft ideas and object lessons and stretches every dollar. She does a great job! It may not be as slick as a large church but in my experience our kids are learning and growing and they seem to have fun. So small church pastors don't let the size of your budget discourage you from being creative. Accept the challenge. I may have to be even more creative than other pastors who have more resources but I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. I am always looking for creative ideas if you have any to share.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Random Friday thoughts

Here is a pretty good article on preaching by Rick Warren.

I'm still learning how to do this blog thing. At some point I'm sure I will be able to make my links look prettier. Today is my official day off. We will go to Decatur and do our shopping. It should be a very relaxing day but it often depends on the mood of the kids. I'm trying to be more relaxed when do the shopping but most of the time I don't enjoy the actual shopping part. Usually like I said it depends on who is misbehaving and who is behaving well.

One of the challenges I have had is my schedule. I really set my own to such an extent that I have almost too much flexibility. I am not a rigid guy but I am trying to get into a routine. After four years here you would think I would have one but we have had two more kids since we've been here and the different stages of their lives have meant different things to my schedule. One of the things I have asked other pastors is how they spend their time. They all have different answers. Feel free to share your thoughts if you have any. My time demands are in the evenings generally. As long as I show up and preach on Sundays and make an appearance on Wednesday evenings most of our people don't really care what I do during the week. The office isn't a bustling place in our small church. Most of our ministry things happen outside of it. So I am still experimenting with the best way to do things. That's one of the blessings of this church. They allow me room to experiment.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Theology of the open door

I am sure that you have heard people who determine what God's will for their life is by which doors open for them. If it's and open door they feel like they must go through it because obviously it is God's will for their life. They may even quote scripture like Revelation 3:7
"These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." To quote this about God's will for your life is a prime example of proof texting without context. And context is very important in determining the will of God. The reason some folks live such erratic life is that they go through every open door. To use another cliche though I think instead of looking for open doors we should determine that in the words of the old hymn, "where He leads I'll follow."

I can't be real specific in my example although I am experiencing it at the moment because if you don't want everyone to know everything you can't really say it on a blog. But there is situation where I have told my wife several times, "if that door ever opens I will go through and see what happens." Well the door opened recently and even though it has been on my mind a lot lately I am pretty sure that God doesn't want me to go through that particular door. I am not sure that I am doing anything more than rambling here but I will try to sum this up to make my point. Instead of trying every door and going through the one that is open I need to remember what God has said to me in the past and unless He has said something different I should just go with the last thing I heard from Him on the subject.

That open door is tempting but if I allow it to distract me then I could lose sight of where I am going. Don't just look for vague omens and signs, really seek to know God's will for your life. And then don't settle for anything less.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who is the greatest?

Today I was reading Mark chapter nine. In this chapter the disciples are having a debate about who is the greatest amongst them. They are ashamed to tell Jesus what they were arguing about and rightly so, it was an argument born of the fleshly nature of young men who are naturally competitive. Human nature assumes that some are better than others. I was reminded though of the debates raging through the blogosphere and the evangelical church in America. These debates include cessationism versus continuism and emerging church versus the modern church versus seeker sensitive. It seems to me that each thinks the other is wrong and our way is better. (Now I don’t stand for false doctrine and I will speak out against it.) But so much of the debate really isn’t about someone being a false teacher even though that is the stated reason for some of the disagreements.

The next part of Mark 9 really reminds me of much of what I have heard and read from both sides of each position. “38“Teacher,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
39“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40for whoever is not against us is for us. 41I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.”
It is important to know and be able to explain what you believe. It is important to stand up for that and not to compromise for the sake of compromise. But what really matters is that the gospel is preached and that people understand how to be saved. Until they accept the message we cannot make them disciples anyway. Paul wrote in Philippians 1:18 “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”
As I read recently from Mark Batterson, (and this is a paraphrase), heaven is a big party and God wants as many people to come to the party as will accept the invitation on His terms. Although I will very much disagree with some of my brothers in the faith, ultimately whether we are Calvinists or Armenians (sp?) doesn’t matter what counts is that we are of like precious faith. That is how I can sit down tomorrow with my fellow pastors in town from the Cumberland Presbyterians (although he came out of an AG church), Free Methodist, Untied Methodist and Disciples of Christ and know that we are all brothers in Christ.

Valentine's Day

I didn't do much work today although the day is not yet done. This morning I took my six year old daughter Kaitlyn out for breakfast. I realized that this is the first time we have really gone some place by ourselves, just the two of us. It is an oversight I am aiming to set right. As a father of a daughter I think it is part of my job to build the self-image of my little girl so that when she becomes a woman she will have a healthy view of herself. I know I will not be perfect but it is important that when she looks to begin dating and eventually to marry, she doesn't need to make up for what I have failed to give her. If I do my job she will expect to be treated a certain way. If I am successful she will not fall prey to some poser of a man who doesn't treat the way a woman created in the image of God should be treated. Kaitlyn is full of life and fire and spirit. I expect that as intentionally build her up she will kick any joker to the curb who treats her as an object or as a lesser person. She will know that she is special and beautiful and important to me and to God. She will know because I will tell her and I will demonstrate it with my actions.

I also took my lovely wife out for valentine's day. We went to lunch because I have youth in a couple of hours. I told my other youth leader to take the night off and take his wife out for dinner because tonight is her night off of work. I hope he does it. Anyway Rebekah and I had a great time. We went on our first date eleven years ago. In July we will celebrate ten years of marriage. It just keeps getting better...

Thursday, February 09, 2006


James 1:16-18 says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
One of Satan’s favorite tactics with us as believers is to get us to question the goodness of God. When we go through hard times in our lives we are tempted to think that God is doing this to us. When a loved on dies often I hear a person say that God took my husband, wife or child. When an accident happens often we ask why God would allow it to happen. When we fail we are tempted to question whether or not God cares or if He is good. In the midst of a natural disaster such as hurricane Katrina many people blame God for what happens. When life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to Satan will try to get you to cast blame upon God or to question God’s compassion.
The real target is your belief in the goodness of God. If Satan can get you to question even for a brief time the absolute goodness of God, then the enemy has a golden opportunity to deceive you. James tells us that one of the ways that we are deceived is when we question the goodness of God. If you want to maintain hope in the midst of disaster in your life you must come to place where your belief that God is always good is fixed and determined in your life. In the Psalms David makes it clear that we have no good thing apart from God (Psalm 16:2). Understand that the good things in your life are from God. The bad things are a result of sin, whether yours or someone else’s or whether or not it is deliberate always remember that God is good all the time.
Our faith rests upon the goodness of God. If Satan can get you to question that then Satan can get you to question your faith in a God who is less than good. Don’t be deceived by disappointment. Settle in your heart now that God is good and then praise Him for His goodness and His grace and mercy. If you can persevere through the pain and disappointment then God will develop character in your life. One of the by-products of character is hope. We have this promise in Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I talked about perseverance yesterday in order to get to what God is speaking to me about currently which is character. Character takes time to develop. I think that is a part of the discipleship process. It is the work of the Holy Spirit but it is only done in cooperation with self. The choices I make will help or hinder the development of character in my life. And God has been speaking consistently about those choices.

Maybe you will think less of me for being so honest but I must confess that I tend to take short cuts whenever possible. I am impatient, thus the need for me to learn perseverance, and this is reflected in much of my life. I want instant gratification. And I tend toward doing as little as possible while still getting the job done. I have always been this way. While I usually do a good job deep down I often have felt dissatisfied because I know I could maybe have done better if I had put a little more work into whatever the project was. Doing the bare minimum was my way of getting through a lot of things that I don’t like doing.

So I have been working at managing my time better, managing our finances better, being diligent about other things. These are incremental changes that I am making. They won’t happen over night. They are many things that I have been working on for a while. Don’t get me wrong please. I am not talking about great moral failings, or about deliberate sinful actions. I am referring to those things that the Holy Spirit reveals a little a time that might keep us from being the person that God wants us to become. They are the little things that keep the image of Christ from being fully revealed in us.

James 4:17 underscores the importance of this, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” These are things that include being proactive in sharing your faith, in leading your home spiritually, in giving your tithe and your offering, in making intercession for others. There are a host of things that God is doing in me, some of the deeper than others. I know that it takes time. But don’t let that discourage you. Philippians 1:6 speaks of the confidence we can have in Christ as He works in our hearts through His Holy Spirit. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Romans 5
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

As I have mentioned earlier God has been working in my life with this passage. As I journey with Him He has been developing these things within me. Perseverance is something that I have had to learn. I have the track record of walking away from things that are difficult. But God has been patiently at work in my heart developing this trait. Obviously perseverance is not fully developed until my life is over. I will not be able to say I have persevered until the end until the end comes.
Rebekah and I began dating eleven years ago this month. That is more than one third of my life. Staying together this has long required perseverance for both of us. Not that we have had a lot of problems but we have had to adjust to each other and the changes that have happened in our lives. In July we will celebrate ten years of marriage. Let me let you in on a little secret, it takes ten years to be married for ten years. There aren’t any short cuts to be taken. And no matter how good your marriage is it will have a different flavor after ten years and I suspect it will have more depth after twenty five years and Lord willing after forty years and fifty years. There aren’t any short cuts.
I am learning that there aren’t any short cuts to learning perseverance either. But it is necessary to persevere through all kinds of experiences in order to develop character. Character doesn’t form over night either. Tomorrow I think I will post a little more on character. But before God began working on character I had to learn to persevere. Things aren’t the way I want them to be in my life or my church. I have had some disappointment, mainly with myself. But instead of walking away God is teaching me to push ahead, to keep trying and to leave time for Him to do His work while I do mine. So I have been learning not to be a quitter.
That’s an important lesson. Most pastors stay in a church for two to three years and then move on to another church or they leave the ministry all together. While it’s not always the pastor’s fault that they move on this transitory nature of pastoral tenure has led to many of the problems the church is facing today. So if I was going to share something about what I have learned as a pastor with young ministers who are just starting out it would this: You must first learn to persevere.
James 1 2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I had an intriguing conversation yesterday about a movie called the Exorcism of Emily Rose. I have not seen the movie but the conversation focused on the perception that if someone needs deliverance from a demon people in America often think first of the Catholic church. I think that it has something to do with the mysticism that is prevalent to some extent in that faith. The question about the movie, which I am told is based upon a true story, is that the priest commanded the demon to come out in Jesus’ name and the demon resisted and did not come out. The girl eventually dies and the priest ends up on trial.

Is deliverance, or exorcism, strictly a Roman Catholic doctrine? Certainly our brothers and sisters in Africa, parts of Asia and South America would disagree. I have spoken with many missionaries and evangelists who have had to deal with evil spirits or demons. So there is anecdotal evidence that the problem exists today. Is this superstition or Biblical?

Certainly the Bible makes it clear that demons and evil spirits exist. Jesus “traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.” Mark 1:39 Over and over in the gospels Jesus drove out demons. Jesus also gave authority to His disciples to drive out evil spirits. In Mark 6 he sent out the twelve disciples. They drove out demons and healed the sick. In Luke 10 Jesus sent out the seventy two. They also rejoiced that the demons submitted to them.

In the book of Acts Peter, Paul, and Phillip amongst others drove out evil spirits. It was a common practice among the Jews, (see the sons of Sceva). Jesus in His final instructions had said that this was a sign of those who are His followers, see Mark 16. But here we come to a conundrum. In the epistles we really don’t have a lot of talk about evil spirits and demons. Other than Paul’s acknowledgement that our struggle is against them, not much is written. Paul does include distinguishing between spirits as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. But there is no how to drive out spirits section.

I suppose that those in the cessationist camp would say that once the last apostle died there was no need for miracles and healing and driving out demons. But as far as I can see if people were possessed by demons in Jesus’ day and in the days of the early church than it seems reasonable that they are present today. If demons are active today then why would God not empower His people to drive them out? Does God just leave people to suffer through demonic possession because He is done working miracles? I don’t think so. So we must be open to this need in our day. Of course in charismatic and Pentecostal circles there are many excesses when it comes to “deliverance” ministries. That’s a topic for another day. I will end with this point. We need to be aware of and prepared to deal with encountering the enemy today. It is possible that as a Christian you may encounter a person possessed by an evil spirit. That person may want to be free. Will you be prepared to help them in Jesus’ name?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I am pondering a sermon series on the life of Moses. The thought was prompted by Stephen's sermon in Acts 7. In particular this portion grabbed my attention recently:
20"At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father’s house. 21When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action." Now compare the last phrase with Moses' own description of himself some forty years later.

In Exodus 4:10 Moses says, "Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." Now we know that Stephen was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What caused Moses to lose all his confidence? The Moses we meet at the burning bush shows very little similarity with the Moses Stephen preaches about. What a contrast! But God knew that He had created Moses and had orchestrated Moses' life. Moses was no ordinary child. He would become a prophet, a leader, an intercessor, a miracle worker and a man who would talk with God.

I will maybe share more as I develop these thoughts. I had read Acts many many times but this time this verse really stuck out at me. God still speaks through His Word!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Here we go again!

This will be my first post of the new year. I have many reasons I haven't posted. The last week and a half I have been sick. I finally broke down and went to the doctor yesterday. It was the first time in over eight years I have made a trip. Actually I didn't see s doctor but some kind of hybrid health care professional or Dr's assistant? I have a sinus infection as well as some kind of bronchial infection. Antibiotics have been proscribed. It cost me $50 for the pills but I think I am on the mend. I am finally thinking productive thoughts again!

I read this on another blog: For what it's worth, Ed has someone screen his mail and email. And he doesn't read unsigned letters :) We need constructive criticism, but that ought to come from the people who are closest to us! If you listen to the "wrong they" you become like them.

I think that is a great insight. I have determined not to accept unsigned criticism any more. I have gotten a lot of it. It is always filtered through my church council members. If there is a complaint usually it comes from someone going to a council member. "They" say a lot of things. I am going to tell the council in our next meeting that unless they are willing to lend a name to the complaint I don't care to hear about it. Usually the biggest complainers are the people who do the least anyway.

Here's an example. We have been trying to decide what to do about Sunday evenings. We will be having Life groups twice a month. What to do with the other two weeks? When we started talking about canceling the biggest complainers were those who came the least often or not at all on Sunday nights. So consider the source. Not all criticism should be taken as having equal value.