Monday, December 29, 2008

reflection questions

well, it is that time of year...where I sit and reflect and take spiritual inventory at the end of yet another year. I'd say it's been good, but that answer is too easy and really doesn't mean anything. My soul yearns for deeper reflection and questioning (yours does too if you'll slow down enough to hear it).

Here are the questions I ask myself, maybe they'll help you. Did I grow in my faith this year? Did I pray more? Upon reflection; I really have gotten better at this. My prayer room attached to my office has truly become my refuge and I've found myself on my knees this year more - so that's good.

Did I give more? My Lord was a GIVER and so to be like him I must give. Well, in plain numbers, sara and gave more cash to God than ever before. But before I check that off as "well-done"; there is a deeper question that requires attention. Could I have given more? Was I just giving out of my abundance or sacrificially? I'll have to admit, as I close this year out, i have a lot of cool stuff, so I don't feel real sacrificial (not in biblical terms for sure) I'll keep growing here.

Did I overcome some sins? Well, here's the part where you'd like to know exactly what sins I'm overcoming (and frankly I don't know you well enough to do that) but I'll reserve those confessions for God and some close trusted brothers in Christ. Well, here's the deal as I reflect. I'm learning to dislike sin more and that's progress. My goal is to hate my earthly and fleshly ways as much as God do and embrace his spirit more.

Did I love and lead my wife well? Some old guy once told me the best way to judge a husband is to see how much the wife laughs. Well, Sara laughs a lot (mostly at me) so I must be doing o.k. Still I'm sure I need to give more to her as well, she continues to be my richest earthly blessing.

Did I live a life my boys could aspire to? Again, I am far short of where I want to be, but I'm having a lot more conversations where my oldest is asking for my advice (and bailouts - but even the government does that) and that's been cool. Of course, he has moved out and started his own tattoo business - I'm proud of him and pray God will show him how he should use this gift. My youngest is growing (literally taller) and it's fun watching how God is moving in him. He tells people I'm his hero (even though he hates it when I tell him to clean up his mess) so that's good.

Did I use my gifts for God's glory? Well, I've had more fun preaching this year than ever before and I will say I take this gift of preaching more serious than I've ever taken it (something about 2,300 adults coming every week to hear from God that makes me want to represent Him well).

If I died right now (I know it's morbid, but you have to ask it) would I be content with the life I've lived? Heavy stuff huh? Well, I'm sure God would have changed some actions, decisions, motivations, etc... I know this because I would too. But all in all, if today were my last day and I got to see God by grace and faith in Jesus; I'd be cool with that. And that's about the best conclusion I could come to.

Like i said earlier 2008 was a good year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

weather outside is frightful

Well, the weather has been frightful (as in high temperature of 7 on Sunday) but at least it's not windy (if you live in Normal you can feel the chill of that sarcasm). So, as people keep telling me we are experiencing global warming, we're experiencing ice on everything. Well, as the song goes, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.

Sunday, Sara and I got home from church around 12:30 to find our electricity out. It had just gone off 15 minutes before (the church also lost power about this time - glad the sermon wasn't long). So we lit the gas stove and cooked lunch, then we dressed into some warm clothes, built a fire in the living room and lay on the couch and talked. I kept the fire going and it at least took some chill off the air. We both read some and napped some - awesome relaxation. Around 4:30, I checked the temp and it was around 59 in the house and getting wintry dark, so we lit a bunch of candles. Now it's time where Sara's kind of annoyed with the whole thing and I'm really starting to dig it! I just loved, the conversation, no interruptions, and the base survival kind of thinking (can we survive the night sleeping by the fire?). Well, it got so cold that I decided to even let the dog come in the house (and they say I have no heart for animals) to keep him from freezing.

After about an hour of candle light, we called our friends steph and al and headed out for some supper (and warmth) - the fellowship and food were great and by the time we got home the electricity was on. Honestly, i was kinda bummed - but the first thing I did was get the dog in the garage (with a space heater).

Then last night, after a long day at work (trying to do a whole week's work in three days isn't easy and that's why I'm blogging on Tuesday) we headed to our great friends J.K. and Sue Jones and their daughters Lyndsey and Chelsea (which i'm sure are probably spelled wrong) and Lyndsey's husband Matt. Anyway, the fellowship and laughter around the table and meal soon moved to the living room and a fire place. What a great time of closeness and sharing and warmth (and the fire was good too).

So I like it cold...because when it's cold and you're gathered around the fireplace with those you really is delightful.

Monday, December 15, 2008

weekend giving

You know what's inspiring? Giving. It inspires me to see other people give. You know why? Because it is in giving that I most see God. Remember God so loved the world that he GAVE! Remember Jesus GAVE his life. Remember the Spirit GIVES us direction and comfort. If God is the ultimate giver (and He is) then I saw glimpses of God through the giving of my church family this weekend.

For the last month i have seen people carry coats, food and toys into church on Sunday mornings (sometimes I watch from my office window as I prepare to preach) to give away. We estimate (always dangerous for pastors, but here it is) that there were somewhere between 50 and 70 thousand dollars spent on this project (3,000 toys, 2,000 coats, tons of food - yes tons).

Then on Friday night, hundreds gathered in our auditorium for a meeting on how to serve. We were out by 9:15 and under-resourced people were lining up at the door by 10:00 p.m. for the doors to open at 7:00 a.m. Hundreds (yeah, someone counted) spent the night at our church doors. By 6:15 over 700 Eastview volunteers showed up to serve - and that's what they did for over 5 hours. They loaded groceries, prayed, served food and coffee and hot chocolate (lot's of hot chocolate), played with kids, did crafts, translated, encouraged, registered, took care of all those who had shown up with needs. When the day was over, more than 600 families were served representing over 2,000 people! I was moved to tears many times.

So, that's it right?! Nope, on Sunday we had our special offering for the finish of Turn the Page (our capital campaign that is almost over). Our goal was $500K and many were skeptical that we'd get a fraction of that. I was moved to watch people walk forward during our worship on Sunday and put their gifts in the offering. You want to know the total we received? Over $300K and counting. This was on top of our general giving and it was a blessing from God! I'm so inspired by that. And giving continues. We still have 16 days in this month and checks are still rolling in. I'm not sure where it will stop, but we'll celebrate it on our special worship service the 28th. It's going to be amazing. God has given so much and he has used you and I to do continue to give for His purpose.

Monday, December 8, 2008

christmas songs

one of my favorite things about Christmas is the music. I'm one of those people who likes Christmas music all year round, but obnoxiously so during Christmas. In fact, if you are a guest at my house, I want Christmas music in the background always (even if it means I may miss some of the conversation - because I'm really singing the song in my head anyway). From about a week before Thanksgiving my radio has been set to that station in town that plays only Christmas music during this month. I love it! I never listen to the station any other time of the year (for all I know the play middle-eastern folk polka), but right now, it's nothing else.

Speaking of great Christmas music, I hope you all heard the cool pops concert our music, choir and tech staff did last weekend. What a talented and servant oriented bunch of people. I especially loved the drum stuff at the beginning - very cool (good job drummer boys). Well, since we're talking about Christmas music, I suppose I should give my top ten favorite all time Christmas songs (in reverse order - David Letterman style):
10. "I want a hippotamus for Christmas" - yes that obnoxious one they play on that station - I guess I like the child-like request for a gift (my wife hates this song).
9. "Baby it's cold outside" - this of course is not a great christian song, but i like the tune and the whole romantic notion.
8. "Hallelujah" - This is an old song by the Imperials (if you dont know, dont' ask) and is best heard on a scatchy LP (if you don't know, don't ask)
7. "Joy to the world" - One of my earliest memories is in church at Christmas singing this song (while I was playing with the candle I was holding).
6. "Gloria" because it sounds like an angel song.
5. "Away in a manger"
4. "Frosty the snow man" - I like the idea of kids pretending and a snowman coming to life - plus I grew up on the cartoon.
3. "We three kings" - I've always been intrigued by these mystery scholars who came to see the king of kings.
2. "Let it Snow" - this shouldn't surprise anyone. I love snow (White Christmas could sneak on this list too."
1. "Silent Night" - any version will do -Christmas Eve acapella is nice, but I like Frank Sinatra near the end of his life, with not so great voice control version the best!

Monday, December 1, 2008

13 years

Today is my 13th anniversary at this place called Eastview and I have to say, that fact is yet another in a long line of "God's ways are higher than mine". I came to Eastview in 1995 with an ear ring and bleached hair and jeans and van tennis shoes to preach at this teen church they had going on. I told the elders in the interview that I'd probably stay here three years or so and then probably move on and become the preacher at a church.

We were on the Towanda Ave. location back then. Caleb was a preschooler in the church's pre-school (this would later become Cornerstone Christian Academy). Mikey (still call him Mikey) was in 7. Gary York had just celebrated 20 years and I was amazed that someone could stay at a church that long.

Well, a lot has changed in 13 years - mostly my kids have grown up here and I have grown up too. How? Well, I'm still inclined to bleach my hair (and I still wear an earring from time to time), but here's how I've grown (maybe this will be helpful in your spiritual journey):
1. I'm more patient now. I don't have to rush spiritual growth or results. I hope to be here many more years, so I'm cool with God changing us and me over time.

2. I know less. The strange thing is that back then I knew everything about running a church (you could just ask me - how embarrassing!), but the more responsibility I have now, the more I understand how little I know about leading in God's kingdom and how much I depend on Him.

3. I pray more (see above. When you know less you pray more. If you know everything, you won't talk to God much, 'cause frankly you don't need his advice)

4. I love preaching at home more than preaching on the road. When I came, I preached at least once a month in some other state (mostly youth events and conventions) and I loved the adventure of that. But now, I love being at Eastview on a Sunday morning and preaching to people who are walking with me in this journey. Preaching to strangers is easy, cause they don't know you; but preaching to your people is more honest - you know I'm not perfect!

5. My family has changed. Most nights my mom and wife are at home and my sons are around some (used to come home to play ball, wrestle and play video games until they went to bed). I'm happy to have one or two meals together each week with both boys present.

Well, I could go on, but I'll stop there. In some ways, these years have gone by so fast and in other ways, it seems like we've been here forever. I may not be a bears fan yet (or even Illinois or Avantis), but I like the Redbirds and the constitution trail and you who call Eastview home. Normal is my home and there is nothing normal about it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

preaching generations

Well, yesterday was one of the coolest days in my life. I got to preach (which is always cool for me, even when it isn't for anyone else) and my son Caleb got to preach in the same service. We actually preached a sermon together and as I watched him preach, I had tears in my eyes and quietly thanked God for this awesome opportunity. He did a great job (how many 17-year old students can talk in front of a huge audience?), but more importantly it was a maiden voyage of sorts for him.

Like me growing up, he's only ever wanted to be a preacher. He has said this since he was six years old and I know what he feels like, because that was my experience too. But you can talk about it all you want. It is in the doing that scares you, overwhelms you, hooks you, ignites your heart and draws you in all at once. When it was all over yesterday, I knew he was hooked! He got to talk on God's behalf and this is a rare and incredible privilege (one I still haven't gotten over after 23 years). But it was a beginning for him. He will train at a Bible College on how to preach. He will grow and have many life experiences and then God will open a door for him to work for some church somewhere. Then he better be calling his old man to have me come speak at his church (I just know it's going to be somewhere cooler than central illinois).

Behind the scenes - my oldest son Michael (our tattoo artist of whom I am equally proud) came to second service yesterday and came back stage after Caleb preached to give him a hug and a "good job". Now that's not much maybe to you, but for two teen-age boys it doesn't get much more sentimental than that. It's enough to make a mom cry (yes) and a dad to smile that wistful smile that says, I'm really filled with joy right now. I went home thinking that if God were to take me home that yesterday would rank up there in my top five for all-time favorite days (and I've had some really fun days!)

So I'll watch as my son grows into a pastor/preacher and hopefully get to hear him preach many times in the future, and maybe just maybe, I'll get to hear his son preach sometime. After all, my father-in-law (a retired preacher of over 50 years) was there yesterday and he saw his grandson preach. How cool is that?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

wisdom ride

Yesterday I rode on a bus (which I learned was really a motor coach - man is nothing easy any more?) with about 53 people of a mature nature (most were over 70 years old, two couples I met had been married 62 and 65 years - one couple had a retired daughter who was on the trip with them). The group is called Spirit Lifters and this was their 81st trip to places like Branson, the dinner Barn, someplace on a lake in Ky, and the smoky mtns. Yes, they stereotypically like buffets and trips and dinner theatre's. But that's not what I really enjoyed. I really enjoyed the stories (what lives they have lived!) and the energy (they were like nice smelling jr. highers) and their years of faith. Honestly, the food was o.k. and the show was less o.k.; but the fellowship with these people who have been at our church for 30+ years was a blast.

I felt like i learned a lot from people who have lived a whole lot more life than I have. It's important to hang out with people older than you, you know? If you don't, you'll miss some great stories, some great lessons and some great people. Ironically, we are celebrating generations this Sunday in both services. By God's design, the church is made up of generations and all of them are important.

Monday, November 17, 2008

tis the season

Well, as I write this blog I see it snowing outside my window. Awesome. Thanksgiving and Christmas season is here and I love the excitement it always seems to bring. It is the season for giving as our church gathered over 2,500 toys for children yesterday (and their still rolling in) with coats and food to follow.

It is the season for cool decorations. After yesterday's service (which was life-changing with 11 baptisms) the volunteers that work on stage design removed THE X series stuff and made the stage Christmas ready! It really looks good - good work guys. It is also the season for Christmas programs and we've almost given all of our tickets away for this year's Christmas pops concert December 6&7.

It is also the season for eating desserts. Sweet is definitely in this time of year. This has to be good, just think of all the sayings we use that put desserts in a positive light:
"She's a smart cookie"
"Easy as pie"
"Icing on the cake"
"Having your cake and eat it too"
"Hey sugar."
"She's sugary sweet."
"This was cake"
"That was a cake walk"
"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream"
"That's how the cookie crumbles" (which is kind of negative, but if you eat those crumbs, it's still good I'll bet).

Well, I'm salivating so I'd better end it here. Three out of four dentists do not recommend this blog, but hey, it's the season for sugar. I will tell you that I will eat my share of the best of all holiday desserts in the next month or so. And what just what is that dessert? Pecan pie of course.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

day 6

Today was pretty uneventful. Another run through the waking up streets of Thessalonica. There was no way to get back to Athens for the marathon today, but it was completed as we drove into town. We spent most of the day on the bus. We read and talked and shared some Scripture together. This group has become a fun group of guys and their wives.

My thoughts are definitely towards home now. I really am thinking about everyone at church. I'm praying for Doug as we are 40 minutes from 1st service starting. I know he'll have a great message and I wish I was there to hear it. So the ladies are shopping and I'm chillin before supper. We'll probably go to this older section of Athens for dinner and then we'll hang out and pack for in the morning. We are heading to the airport and will arrive in New York by around 4:00 tomorrow afternoon (monday). Unfortunately, we are too stretched for time to get home tomorrow night (although we are going to try and change our flights). Our plan is to be home late Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

day 5

OK today was by far the coolest as far as archeological sites go. I got up early for a run through the streets of Thessalonica and then hit an early breakfast (what is breakfast you say? - pretty much typical Greek fare is yogurts, fruits, nuts, honey, bread, coffee, cheese, olives, some bacon somtimes and scrambled eggs). We then made our way north to Philippi. Acts 16 tells you the story about this town. So we saw some amazing biblical stuff.

First, the River where they best conjecture that Paul met the women at prayer and baptized Lydia and her household. So here we were taking pictures on the river where our Christian sister from 2,000 years ago came to Christ. Then we made our way into the city proper.

There we walked on the Egnatian way (a 700 mile Roman road that Paul and his companions traveled a lot on his missionary journeys) and imagined Paul being followed by a demon possessed girl whom he cast the demon out of. We stood in the market place where the apostle (with Silas) was dragged before the Roman magistrates (and stripped and beaten). The place of judgement is there, we stood on it! And we thought about Paul paying a price for his faith.

We went to the jail cell where Paul and Silas spent the night. Again, remember the oral history would have been kept in detail by the Christians in that place, so the sites are believed to be accurate. So we did the jail thing - very wild.

Then we walked through the ruins of three different churches built in the 4th and 5th centuries. It was obviously a very strong church (as you can tell by reading Philippians). Very cool to spend time inside what remains of churches over 1600 years old. I stood in one of the pulpit areas in one of them.

finally we headed to the arena that was originally an ampitheatre in Greek times, but by the first and second century became an arena where Christians were thrown to the lions for sport. We actually saw the place where fences were put in place to keep the lions out of the stands. It is sobering to think of our Christian brothers and sisters dying because they believed in Jesus.

After we left Philippi we went to the city Kavala (a port city) where we had octopus and squid for lunch! Interesting about this city is that in the New Testament times it was Neopolis (literally new city) and was a place Paul came into port on one missionary journey to see the Philippians.

the trip is winding down and we are heading back to Athens tomorrow for some more educating stuff, but my heart will be 6,000 miles away with my family at Eastview.

Friday, November 7, 2008

day 4

Today, we hit the road by 7:30 a.m. and it was absolutely packed with cool stuff. We began with a 15 minute drive into the town of Meteora where there are these incredible large rock formations jutting up out of the Greek plains. These formations are from 500 to 800 feet high and here's the the 4th-6th centuries A.D. a bunch of monks came here to establish monasteries (there were 24 at one time and now only 6 remain). Now, you really have to see this to believe it, but these chapels with surrounding living quarters and gardens, vineyards, etc... are built on the very edge of some incredible precipes. We visited one that reopened again in the 1920's and was turned into a convent. The convent of St. Barbara was formerly a monastery established by Roussenou (spelling is definitely wrong), but I'll bet you could google it and find out the real way to spell it and maybe see some pix). We were able to visit this ancient (and incredibly small chapel with Byzantine frescoes and icon painted on the walls in the 12th-13th centuries) chapel with an incredible view. We packed into this place with ancient church relics (remember Greek Orthodox is an off shoot of Roman Catholic) that depicted pretty much the entire Old and New Testaments through judgement. We learned that the nuns begin every day with a three hour worship service beginning at 4:00 a.m. - standing!

After this cool visit we headed to the town of Vergina and the royal tomb of Philip II (of Macedon). He was the father of Alexander the Great and although there is no biblical history here, we were able to see the stuff buried with his body over 2400 years ago. It was an undisturbed tomb until the 1970's! It was very cool.

We then had lunch and headed to the city of Berea. Now what's incredible about this is that we know that Paul reasoned with them in the synagogue (Acts 17:10-15) and the steps that he preached on are still there in a monument to this day. yes the very steps the apostle preached on I stood on for a picture today. This is incredible stuff for a 21st century preacher to stand where the guy who wrote much of what I preach wrote and spoke 2,000 years ago.

After a short visit we headed to thessoloniki (Bible Thessalonica - where Paul also preached and started a riot in Acts 17:1-9) and went to a chapel from the 6th century. Again very small but there were frescoes of all the twelve apostles still visible, with old candelabras, pulpits, kneeling benches, etc...

We are now in the hotel in downtown Thessalonica and are heading to supper after which we are heading to Starbucks (another religious experience!) and then a walk down the plaza to the Aegean Sea. Tomorrow - Phillipi

Thursday, November 6, 2008

day 3

today, we actually have adjusted our time clocks to the proper sleep patterns. We slept until our 6:00 a.m. wake up call (which means I didn't get up and run before breakfast). Today was a travel day so we spent about 7 hours on the bus and are now in a small town called Kalambaka at the Meteora hotel. It is at the base of some serious rock formations where century old monasteries are built on the top. Tomorrow we will tour one.

We headed north this morning for about three hours until we came to the town of Delphi. This was the ancient spiritual center of Greece. Here people from all over the world would come for spiritual advice and guidance from an oracle (a word from a priest). But here's the gig...the place was built over some place where some natural gas of some kind was emitted next to a spring where laurel grows. They built a room (temple) over this spot and a priestess (usually teen - aged) would sit there all morning smelling the gas, drinking the water and chewing the laurel. At some point she would come into some kind of trance and then begin some estatic utterances! Crazy stuff, basically chicks that were high would babble and guys from all over the world would listen to their advice.

What's cool is that a major complex complete with temple to Apollos, statues, ampitheatre, hippodrome (hippo is Greek for horse), and stadium all became a part of this complex in the side of the mountain. The stadium was at least a mile hike up where 7,000 stone slab seats are still in existence after 4,000 years. It was incredible! We had a great lunch at a roadside cafe that overlooked about a 800 foot gorge. We were impressed with the mountainous terrain and the villages built into them.

There were some cool remains from a church that was built in Delphi around 400 AD when the Roman empire opened up to Christianity and it spread basically putting the oracle out of business. So this building is there that became the church at Delphi. Very cool to think about the Christians (former brothers and sisters) who attended this church with an incredible view and to think that we worship and follow the same Jesus.

I had the opportunity to have a great conversation with Kent Odor on the bus ride this afternoon. He's the Sr. Associate at the Cincinnati Vineyard church. Great to experience this trip with a fellow brother.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

day 2

Well, we awoke this morning around the time John McCain was giving his concession speech (this was 6:15 a.m. here) and I said a prayer for our new president Barack Obama that God would use him to accomplish his will (see Hebrews 13:1-4). I was up for a morning run before joining the group for the day. The world certainly was watching our election, very strange from this side of the pond. Anyway, I hit the streets of Athens for a three mile run (sara was afraid I'd get lost, but as I knew, i didn't ... I just came back a different way than I came!)

Anyway, we ate breakfast (some really good dates and breads with jam), and then hit the museum of culture here in Athens. Very cool, mostly statues (some that dated back 10,000 bc.) from the Greek culture before Rome (around 4th century bc.). Then we headed to Corinth. It was historically a great city because it lay in a 2.5 mile stretch of land between the Aegean and Adriatic Sea. This caused it to be a world city with cultures and races from literally all over the world. They actually dragged ships across this land mass to get from one port to the other (now there is a canal). So Alexander the Great was here and then the Romans destroyed it and left it desolate in 2nd century BC. It was totally destroyed until Caesar Augustus (same one in the Christmas story in Luke 2) rebuilt it in 44 BC and restored it to it's greatness. It was this cosmopolitan city that Paul entered in the middle of the first century ad (Acts 18).

I stood at the place where he stood before Gallio and where he preached for 1 1/2 years in the collonaded stoa. We walked through the market area where he made and sold tents! This is an awesome experience. Corinth was known for Bronze (bronze mirrors that you could polish and kind of see - read I corinthians 13:12 - were actually excavated and on display), and gold and for exporting wine, olive oil and inventing raisins! When it's all said and done we felt a deeper connection with our brothers and sisters from the past (yes we have pictures).

After, we got back to our hotel, Bob, Sandi, Sara and I took a twenty minute walk through the city in search for an alleged Starbucks..and we found it! Awesome to enjoy my favorite drink in the Athens air (it has been unseasonably warm - 80's - the last two days). We have eaten supper and the ladies have gone to the old market to shop and I'm just chillin' in the room writing this. Tomorrow we will get up early and head north eventually getting to Phillipi and Thessolonica.

day 2

Well, we woke up this morning to hear our next President Barack Obama give his acceptance speech. The world certainly was interested in what was happening. it was the only thing on every channel from France to Greece.

I woke around 6:00 to take about a three mile run through the city (of course Sara was afraid that I'd get lost, and of course i didn't - I just came back a different way than I went:-) We had breakfast around 7:30 and then went to this cool museum here in Athens. Basically lots of statues and stuff, but it was cool. there were artifacts from 10,000 bc. We then headed to Corinth. A very cool ancient city with tons of history (both pre and bible). Pre Bible times of course it was a major city because of it's location. Stretched just in between the Aegean and Adriatic Seas (miraculously they actually had slaves drag ships on land across the 2.5 mile stretch to get from one port to the other. They exported gold, and bronze and they invented raisins.

Alexander the Great was here! and the place was completely destroyed and looted and burned in the 2nd century BC. It was left desolate. Then in 44 BC Caesar Augustus decided to rebuild and repopulate the city and raised it to prominence again. Yes this is the guy who was in charge when jesus was born in luke 2....awesome! So by the time Paul hit the place in the middle first century and started this church here - it was a brand new and glorious metropolitan city known throughout the world. It was awesome to experience the road the apostle walked.

I stood where he defended himself in front of the

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

day 1

Well, it's just about 24 hours later and after a VERY long plane ride we arrived in Athens around 9:30 Athens time. I hope you all were sleeping (I couldn't, but sara took the right pill). First let me say how sad i was to hear about Joyce Smiley's passing just after i blogged yesterday. Jim and Joyce have served here in remarkable ways, and thanks to a generous couple with a helicopter, Sara and I were able to talk and pray with her and Jim in Rochester last thursday.

Anyway, i was hoping to go straight to the hotel and get a quick nap when we arrived, but when the guide said we were going to the Acropolis (yeah the one from the 5th century BC) and a visit to Mars Hill (yeah the one the apostle Paul stood on in Acts) i caught my second wind. I have been up for 24 straight hours, but I'm already blessed to have stood in the spot where paul delivered his famous "unknown god" sermon. What an awesome connection to my Christian heritage!

Another cool thing...we found out that the Athens marathon (the one originating because a soldier ran from Marathon (an actual place) to Athens to tell the people that they had been victorious over the Persians and then died) is being run this coming Sunday. I'm kind of in marathon shape and if i can talk the guide into it, I'll run it, but i think it's not going to fit with our tour schedule.

Well, now i am running down and need a nap. we are going to meet as a group tonight and go to supper...not much else. Sara and I have a great view to the Acropolis from our hotel balcony which should look pretty sweet at night all lit up. I'll update you all tomorrow

Monday, November 3, 2008


Well, it's the beginning of a long day of travel. Sara and i are getting ready to catch a flight to JFK where we will meet with a group of pastors from all over the country with a tour group called Jerusalem Tours International (which is weird since we aren't going to Jerusalem, oh well) and then fly to Athens (not Georgia, Greece). It is a ten hour flight, so we will leave around 3:00 p.m. (central) today and get there around 1:00 a.m. (9:00 a.m. Tuesday in Greece). My biggest issue is figuring out how not to wear the cheesy tour group name tag without being a jerk about it:-)

We will spend the next eight days with Bob and Sandi Knapp (they are going with) checking out the possibility of guiding some from out congregation on a "footsteps" of Paul tour in the future. I'm really looking forward to standing in Athens, Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica and some of the places where the church started in the first century. There is something that makes you feel like a very small part of something incredibly large when you visit these places. What were these Christians thinking? What lives did they live? What sins they struggle with? What songs of praise did they sing? Well, over the next week I'm going to try and keep a daily blog for you guys (both of you) to follow along in the journey - both geographic and personal as I tour these places you can read about in Acts 16 and following!

See you on the other side.

Monday, October 27, 2008

singles and homeruns

Well, it is World Series time and if the Rays don't find their bats, it'll be over tonight, but i see parallel in preaching and baseball (actually i see spiritual allegory in all sport, but that's another blog). Can I let you in on a preacher's heart a little? As a preacher I consider it a high privilege to actually open God's Word and talk on his behalf every Sunday. And I pray for, prepare for, and hope for life altering stuff every week. You know my commitment to the Word of God, so I already know something good will happen because it's the Word. But honestly, using a baseball analogy, I hope to hit a homerun every Sunday. I desire for revival-starting preaching every Sunday that i preach and .... here's the reality. I hit a lot of singles.

This is never more evident than after hitting a homerun. Last Sunday (not yesterday, the week before) was a homerun Sunday. The message was hard hitting (you shall not commit adultery), the decision time was awesome, I received tons of positive feedback and the bookstore sold a bunch of c.d.s As a preacher, these are the Sundays you really feel good about.

Then comes, "you shall not steal". I prayed, prepared and preached the same as last week...and well, I think I hit a single. Now, I've come to know in my head that singles are just as important and when it comes to preaching a year of singles (non spectacular, but Bible driven messages of truth) it is just as effective as hitting homeruns. But emotionally, I left the stage yesterday feeling like I had swung for the fences and missed. I know, I know. Many of my trusted friends have given me feedback that it was a good sermon. But as a preacher, i wanted it to be so much more. I know that God will use it, because his Word always changes us and forms us and challenges us and moves us closer to him. So, I'll take the single, but I want you to know that this week in "you shall not bear false witness" I'm swinging for the fences - you may want to sit in the balcony!

Next Monday at this time, I'll be flying out of NYC to Athens (not Kentucky, Greece) for a trip through many of the biblical sites of the book of Acts (Athens, Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, etc...) Sara and I are joining Bob and Sandi (missions pastor at our church) and several other pastors from around the country for this life changing experience. prayerfully, we will lead a trip for our congregation some time soon, but in the meantime, I'm looking forward to connecting with my spiritual heritage.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Ok, this weekend was another great one at Eastview. Ever once in a while we get a true glimpse of church and our invitation was that for this weekend. It was risky at the end of thou shalt not commit adultery to do what I did, but I wanted to encourage those in our congregation affected by adultery to know there was hope. So I asked those who had strong Christian marriages now, but had experienced adultery in there relationship in their past to stand. I knew there were dozens and I hoped a couple in each service would stand...well dozens stood in each service. How vulnerable? How honest? How humbling? How inspiring? I know this act of admission encouraged hundreds of couples. Also loved taking vows of purity in our marriages together!

But that was only the end of the weekend. There was an awesome event here on Friday night that most of you weren't invited to - it was a pastor's and spouses event (dinner and encouragement from Dr. Tony Evans - yes that one!) on our campus. As many of you know, I have a passion for working on the unity of our pastors in town, so I willingly offered our facility when another pastor in town said he was bringing in a guy like Evans! How awesome! I got to sit next to him during dinnner. He's a great, humble and godly man...and his sermon was inspiring. Again I was moved as our people (15 or so volunteers from Eastview) gave up their Friday evening to serve dinner to a bunch of pastors in town. How awesome.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Well, last week was dominated with the talk of Wall Street and the stock market tanking (and the sky falling, etc...). Of course the 24 hours news people were all over this and long about Wednesday (as I listened to the blah, blah, blah) it hit me - it doesn't matter what number ends up on the DOW at the end of the day. Here's why - my life is not about money or the accumulation of goods or storing away for the future. Many good Christians brothers and sisters that I talked with agreed kinda and "said, yeah but..."

And there's a lot to that "yeah but". "Yeah but," they say, "people are trying to save for their kids college." or "Yeah but, they are retiring in a year." Or "Yeah but, their business is affected." And you know what my "yeah but" is? "Yeah but, God is bigger than all of that."

Yeah but, God will supply a way for your kid to go to college
Yeah but, God will supply your needs as you near retirement age
Yeah but, God will take care of your business that you can't guarantee because you can't guarantee tomorrow.
Yeah but, God knows we are living a highly extravagant life that is excessive and not Christian and we need to own that.

I get a little hot when I hear people worried about their financial situation knowing and having experienced the world condition as I have. "I just don't know how we're going to make it" I've heard from well-meaning.

Yeah but, you're not eating mud pies
Yeah but, you're not shoeless and shirtless
Yeah but, you're not living on one meal a day
Yeah but, you're not competing with the dogs in the trash heap for lunch.
Yeah but, you're... I could go on.

Just take a moment and take stock and hopefully you'll find it's in God and not the market.

Monday, October 6, 2008

monday in indy

Well, I'm only blogging today because it's fun and not work. Sara and I are on a short two day vacation in Indianapolis (my home town and favorite place in the world). It's really about sitting on the monument circle and watching people, grabbing a starbucks and some candy from my favorite store just off the circle, walking on the canal with the love of my life (which you knew if you were at the couple's retreat in Galena last weekend with 75 other couples) - o.k. skip to the retreat. It was great to hang out with couples that have been at Eastview forever (37 plus years) and some who have just joined, some newlyweds (2 months) and some oldyweds (over 50 years) and some who were just looking to get away and make some friends. Whether it was strolling around Galena or balloon rides (mark and rachel warren took a dip in the lake - ask them about it), or eating or just hanging out at the main house (think huge mansion place with tons of activities and fireplaces - and an outdoor firepit in which i stoked a fire of amazing proportions), every couple had a great time. We had two worship times and an early morning Bible study through Philemon which I taught at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. After preaching three times in Galena and then twice on Sunday, I was ready for a break, but praising God for all the blessings of our family at Eastview. Hope your monday is as laid back as mine, but I'll bet it's not.

Monday, September 29, 2008

it happened again

Sara and i went to another small group last night and were renewed in our vision for what our church is becoming all over again. As we often do the evening began with sitting around a living room and letting each person share "their story". (Something I'm still not used to is the nervousness you can feel at the first because the "Sr. Pastor" is in our group. It's like every body be on your best behavior - like I'm going to report you to God if you're bad). Anyway, people began to share and there was laughter and friendly ribbing (you know how that is when people are really familiar with each other) and tears (as people mentioned how their small group had been instrumental in helping them grow - I've always believed that when you start crying together it's real). This group we shared with last night has been around since 1992 which means they were one of the original groups at our church and they are still around 16 years later!

Then of course we shared prayer requests and prayed together (is there anything more unifying?) and of course, we ate together. And it was awesome. I'll admit it, on the way there I told Sara how tired I was, but I left that place filled because of the encouragement they gave me and because what God is doing in them.

When we left, I told Sara. "it happened again. I'm just so blessed by what is happening in groups like this all over the church." My experience over the past year as I've visited probably 20-25 groups is exactly the same: real people doing real life together in Christ. It really is awesome and I thought, what if this is the way it is in 170 small groups throughout our church. And then I thought, who is missing out on this because they are afraid of getting into a small group. And then I thought, I wonder if the Dallas Cowboys won tonight? Funny thing is after hanging with this small group, the score really didn't matter.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Monday, September 22, 2008

small world

Well, after two weeks being down, I'm back in business. This means that much of what I've been thinking over the last couple of weeks has been lost in the space between my ears (and I'll bet it was awesome, life changing stuff)! Anyway, it's cool to be back - hope you enjoy my mental meanderings.

In the "it's a small world" department, let me share two cool encounters I've had the last three weeks.

Our sporst outreach pastor (Jason Probst) has a new intern named Randy. So was talking with him - getting to know him and I find out he's from Canada. As we talk I share how much Sara and I loved traveling to Nova Scotia (think North Maine) when I spoke at a youth conference over 14 years ago. Guess who was a student in the audience when I preached..yep, Randy. But there's more.

Last week I'm eating with a small group and I start talking with Jorge. I knew he was raised in Mexico, but what I didn't realize is that he was raised at a ministry in Mexico City called, Ninos de Mexico. I told him that I stayed there once in 1992 when I was working for Christ In Youth and that I spoke at this conference in Cuerna Vaca. You see where this is going right? He was a student at the conference. What are the odds? Only a huge God could take some schmuck from Indiana and let him preach all over the place to students and then bring two of those students (one from Canada and one from Mexico) together to serve in Normal, Illinois.

God's providence proven once again. And I didn't even mention that I have a guy on staff who used to hear me preach and he's from the foreign land of Mowequa!

Monday, September 8, 2008

let the children come

Jesus said it was good for children to come to him, so I can only assume it’s good when they come to church.  Yesterday we had 975 kids in this place…so if you’re wondering why we’re expanding our children’s facilities, wonder no more.  I can’t say enough thanks to all the workers in the children’s area who play with, teach, sing with, take to the bathroom (or worse, clean up after they’ve already gone), color, memorize, love, protect (just try getting through our a-1 children’s security without proper identification), and nurture the children who come each week.  I’m inspired by your service.

Yesterday (after a great second service) it was my privilege to invite more children (along with parents and grandparents) to the auditorium for a baby dedication service.  We prayed over and dedicated 47 children yesterday to God for his glory and for his purpose.  The parents also stood on the stage and committed to raise their kids in the Word and in the church.  As the Pastor, I prayed for strong marriages, strong families and a strong church to help them through.  I pledged that Eastview would do anything we could to help them raise their kids (I know I spoke for thousands of people, but I know that is the heart of this church). 

I was especially moved that many parents requested to have a picture with me and their child.  It really is an honor to be the preacher and pastor to so many families.  I’m blessed and I’ll do my best to teach the parents as they teach their kids.  We’re all in this together.  Speaking of cool kid events, we have pureNRG coming in this Saturday night for a concert at the church.  They have appeared on Disney channel and have a very cool show (you know Hannah Montanna like) and kids are sure to love it. 

I love lots of stuff about this place, but this week I’m especially blessed that we welcome kids just like our Lord.

Monday, September 1, 2008

no labor here

What a great Labor Day to do absolutely nothing.  As you know I’m committed to a weekly Sabbath of rest and when another pops up for free…I take it (especially when it’s Monday)!  Actually, my day started way early (as in 2:45 a.m. in the morning) for some prayer at the church.  I know our building doesn’t really have that stained glass, wooden pews, sacred look, but there is something spiritual about coming in the middle of the night and seeing some dim lighting and our flame burning before God.  It is a very intimate setting for prayer and I began last night by asking God to move in the lives of those in our community who are lost without Jesus.  Keep praying…God is moving.

After that I came back home and couldn’t sleep thinking about how cool it is to be at Eastview at this time and how there is a great excitement in the air on Sundays.  When I start thinking like this I can’t really stop, so I thought of my family and upcoming events and staff stuff and ideas I have for ministry and then somewhere in there I dozed off.  I woke up around 8:00 and headed straight to the coffee maker!

After some breakfast, i watched the storm coverage on hurricane Gustav and spent some time looking at Sunday’s sermon scripture.  Already stuff stirring in my heart about that.  Then i finished up the introduction to a book I’m writing.  Yes, I’ve decided to write another one and it’s about marathon running and how Christianity is so much like it.  I’m stoked about writing it.  Then what else does a guy writing about running do but run…man was it hot, but the trail had some shade so I survived.

finally, I spent some time grilling ribs and hanging with my boys.  We had a good time and it wasn’t too bad in the shade, but I’ll have to tell ya.  I thank God for creating the guy who invented air conditioning on a day like today!  Oh well, probably finish the day watching the Tennessee/UCLA game before dozing off and praying again in the middle of the night.  Thanks to all of those who signed up to pray this entire week leading into Fall kick-off.  We are becoming a place where prayer dominates and that’s got to be good.

Monday, August 25, 2008

subtle heresy

well on a monday morning where I should be talking about a beloved lady who passed away last week (norma hendren - wife of Everett, one of Eastview’s charter members); or about the dozens of greeters and volunteers that met for breakfast on Saturday in preparation for a great fall (I devoted that before the Feeding of the 5,000, there was the seating of the 5,000 - and how important the disciple’s task of seating, serving and cleaning up was to the process); or about the Fuel ministry on the campus of ISU last night with a great service; I’m compelled to talk about a heresy that is creeping into church language in many pop books.

I’ll just blurt it out - Brian McClaren is a heretic.  He is a great author and he has some great things to say, however, he is missing the mark when it comes to understanding the Christian position.  In his book “finding our way again” (please do me and you a favor and don’t read it!), he makes the following statement: “And during his lifetime, Abraham, like Moses and Jesus and Muhammad - had an encounter with God that distinguished him from his contemporaries…”  Say what?!  Muhammad had an encounter with God?  How can he say that when the “encounter with God” birthed a religion that wholeheartedly rejects Jesus as Savior (something which he thought was pretty important). 

Here’s the deal that happening in our culture.  We have been convinced that we as Christians have been the oppressors and that we should apologize and be nice to other world religions.  First of all, there have been some bad things happen in the name of Christianity, but we certainly don’t have a corner on the market of evil things.  And I would contend that those names done in the name of Christ were not truly motivated by the Christian faith.  Second, although it’s true that both Judaism and Islam were birthed from our spiritual ancestor Abraham - they certainly are not part of the Abrahamic covenant now.  How can I so assuredly say this?  Because Abraham was about Jesus and both Judaism and Islam reject Jesus as Lord and fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise.

Listen, we had better wake up Christians and stop swallowing all the stuff even Christian writers like McClaren are passing off as Christian responses.  No matter how good it feels to kind of make everyone feel welcome and tolerated, it can never be Christian to accept any other worldview of Jesus except that he is the savior of the world.  He said as much.  So deny Christ if you want, but don’t think he you can sneak him neatly in to the world’s belief systems.  He simply isn’t o.k. with that.

Be careful as you read that the author proclaim Christ as the way, the only way…nothing more, nothing less.  A good book to stick with is the Bible.  As for this book, I only made it through five chapters and I had to stop.  Oh well, there are other books on my shelf to be read.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Yesterday was a flash back in time for me.  Drew and Joel gave me the opportunity to preach in Oasis, our teen worship service.  It was really cool.  Some of you don’t know that I came from a youth organization in Missouri in 1995 to become the youth pastor at Eastview Christian Church.  Oasis was a two year old program at that time.  I’d always said at that point that I was a preacher trapped in a youth minister’s body; so the idea of preaching every Sunday to a bunch of students was compelling.  I loved it there.  I love the energy, the loud music, the casual dress, the potential that sits in every chair. 

In the old days I preached in Oasis with bleached hair, earrings, jeans, and vans.  Yesterday, I wore dress shorts with a Tommy Bahama shirt (yes I looked old - or I looked my age anyway).

In the old days hundreds of high schoolers and junior highers packed into a dingy old gym on towanda ave.  Yesterday, we met in a brand new facility (still a gym) with great lights, sound, and stage.

In the old days, Caleb my youngest was a four year old kid running around being spoiled by the teens.  Yesterday, he was a 6′5″ junior giving the communion meditation after my sermon.

In the old days, God allowed me to preach the Word in a way that teens could related to.  Yesterday, the Word of God did it’s job again - they were actually listening to what I said about Jesus and obedience!

In the old days, I hoped that these kids would find a spiritual hero in me their youth pastor.  Yesterday, I prayed that they would find a spiritual hero in their sr. pastor.

In the old days, Lynne Sugai was there worshipping and loving teens like crazy.  Yesterday, Lynne was still there doing the same thing.

In the old days, I believed that a church were teens could serve, lead and learn in a community of their peers would be a pretty cool place to do church.  Yesterday I believed it all over again.

In the old days, I believed that God had great purpose for students if they would give their lives to Him.  I still believe that and pray that Oasis will be the place they can find God and live for him.

In the old days, I felt young and cool when I walked into that gym.  Yesterday, I felt old and cool (even though I know they didn’t think that…that I was cool i mean)

In the old days, I loved preaching to students.  Some things never change.