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. http://www.pastors.com/RWMT/default.asp?id=246&artid=4552&expand=1

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?