Monday, December 28, 2009

2009 historic or not?

Well, there are four days left in 2009 and then it's history. I wonder if it really will be historic or just another year that's history? In some ways every year is historic - because significant things happen in people's lives in each calendar year. On the other hand years like 1776 stick out for everyone in America because of the significant and society-altering things that happened in that July and following. What will be said about 2009 fifty years from now. Will it be historic or not?

Well, some things in history you can't predict: 9/11 bombings, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Assassination of JFK, etc.... They become immediately historic because of the number of people they affect and the resulting consequences. But someone planned for them to be historic. Someone dared to do something so radical that the whole world took notice (even if many of these were terrible atrocities and motivated by evil men). History was altered because someone or some group of people decided to do something radical.

Here's where I'm going with this rambling: What if I or a group of people decided to do something radical with our faith? Not in the name of being radical, but just because we fall completely in love with Jesus. Could I make this a historic year for the cause of Christ if I sacrificed more, prayed more, served others more, fell out of love with this world and more in love with Jesus? Could our church make this a historic year if our focus became Christ and his eternal kingdom and not the stuff we spend our money and lives on? And how will Christians respond to the unknown historic events that we may face in the upcoming year? Something to think about.

By the way, I think 2009 has been a great year and God has done a lot of great things in us, through us, around us, etc... But maybe next year could be historic.

Friday, December 25, 2009

a baby in a manger

On the first day of christmas my TRUE LOVE gave to me, a baby in a manger. You might have guessed this one was coming...I am a pastor, but of all the gifts this is not only the first - it's by far the greatest. In fact without this first gift, none of the others on the list would have been possible. True love is highlighted above because it is God who truly loves me and God who sent his son because of that love (John 3:16). As we unwrap our gifts and share a meal with loved ones and maybe sneak a nap; may this gift of Christmas guide our hearts and minds this day. Merry Christmas everyone for the gift my TRUE LOVE gave to me, He also gave to you.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

two christmas books

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two christmas books. Last night I chose not to watch another bowl game that I don't care about and just spend some time reading. So I stoked a fire and read. At our house, we have some Christmas books we put on the coffee table each year as a part of our decorations. So last night I read.

Book One: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a great (and quick even for someone who reads as slowly as I do) read this time of year. It really gets at the heart of all that is truly important this time of year and helps us guard against those scroogish attitudes that can sometimes creep in (like being mad at drivers in heavy traffic...I'm just saying...hypothetically). It is a warm Christmas tale with a happy ending. May all of our hearts be warmed and enlarged like Ebenezer at the end of this tale.

Book Two: The second book I started reading and will finish tonight and tomorrow is a collection of short stories called "A Celtic Christmas". I have Irish heritage and of course there is a ton of Christian heritage from the emerald Isle. One cool Irish Christmas tradition I re-read last night is the tradition of lighting one single candle in the window on Christmas Eve as a sign that Christ is welcome at your home and need not stay in the inn. Anyway, very cool book that allows me to escape into some imaginative Christmas scenarios.

Well, it's still rainy, but the rain can't dampen my Christmas cheer. Really looking forward to this evening of sharing with my church family. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

three christmas prayers

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three christmas prayers. I'm sitting in my office now, it's completely quiet - the offices are closed, the christmas lights on the trees outside seem to drip like the rain around them. I'm putting the finishing touches on what I'll say tomorrow night at our Christmas Eve services and waiting for a family who is coming in to be baptized. My spirit is reflective and there are three prayers that resonate in my soul now.

Prayer One: I pray that thousands throughout our church and other churches around the world will come to know Jesus as something more than a baby this year - that He will become their Savior.

Prayer Two: I pray that as my family and yours open gifts on Christmas morning, they won't forget the truest gifts of the season: the son of God sent to save us from our sins, the warmth of family that God has blessed us with, the gift of life and each breath we take, the blessing of friends who love us.

Prayer Three: I pray that it will snow. You knew this was on my list. We only need about three fewer degrees. God controls the wind. Please God, give us some snow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

four christmas travellers

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me four Christmas travellers. I know it would be much cooler if there were three christmas travellers - all wiseman like - but the fact is i have four people in my family and we are on the road for about a 27 hour period and so far so good.

mikey and caleb left normal today to drive to pick sara and I up in Indy. Now that wasn't the best part of the trip...both had about three hours of sleep so they were pretty grouchy...but in spite of that we had great conversation to cincinnati to see relatives and then in the morning we'll hit Indy on the way home to Normal again. Lots of time together for four christmas travellers. Now, if you know my boys, you know we weren't exactly singing christmas carols, but we did spend some time in good conversation and recalling christmas family memories. Very cool. Four christmas favorite people in the world to be with.

Five golden hours

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five golden hours of preacher shop talk. O.K. so they weren't really golden, but they were like gold to me 'cause of how much I love to talk Bible stuff and preaching. Also, forgive me for being late on this...tried to blog last night (after the five golden hours) but I couldn't connect in the hotel room I was staying forget it. Anyway, this one is different in that I'm not going to have a list...just some commentary on five hours yesterday that were remarkable for me.

First of all...I was in Indianapolis for a teaching planning retreat for an all-church campaign for January 2011 (yes I plan that far ahead). We stayed at the Hyatt hotel and met in the expansive atrium around a table with comfortable chairs.

Second...I was with two guys I really respect. One is our small group leader, Jim Probst and the other is my good friend (who just happens to be an incredible Bible scholar, man of God and spiritual guru) J.K. Jones. the company was outstanding.

Third...we talked about God as a giver and what that means for how we give our lives, our money, our Holy Spirit gifts, etc...

Fourth...we actually got some cool stuff done. we have a general plan for six sermons, six group studies and a companion book for this all-church campaign.

Fifth...we laughed a lot.

Well, what do you know I did list five things. And much of this happened in five hours yesterday afternoon and evening. Five golden hours.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

six pastor smiles

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six pastor smiles.
O.K. what's a pastor smile? It is the smile that spread across a pastor's face that just reflects this deep joy that really only a pastor can appreciate. I'm so blessed to be surrounded with so many people who love me and whom I love and to be doing what only God could make happen. Here are my six smiles from this awesome Sunday before Christmas.

1. A couple from our church wrote me a very touching note about how much they love the church and wrote that they wanted me to know that people are listening when I preach. The card was accompanied by a "hippotamus Christmas ornament". I smiled from ear to ear!
2. Eduard from the Dominican Republic shared on our stage this morning about the ministry that he is doing and that we are supporting in a major way. The founder of the ministry he's a part of Brook Brotzman was with him (as well as their wife and kids). This rich reunion brought a smile to my face.
3. Had lunch at Biaggi's with my oldest, his girlfriend and best friend after church. This great time together brought a smile of joy.
4. Had about 45 minutes for a quick nap this afternoon and was awakened by my wife saying, "Mike, look at this snow". Great big beautiful flakes - perfect. I just stood at the window and stared with a glimmer in my eyes and a deep smile.
5. Dinner tonight with two staff members and their spouses...simple get together. Because of one of the hats I often wear in the winter, one of the staff's sons calls me Indiana Jones. He makes me smile.
6. The special by Mark Robinson in church today called "Joseph's lullaby" was a touching rendition of how the earthly father of the Christchild must have felt - I smiled (and yes cried a little) remembering Christmasses long ago when my father's heart beheld baby sons.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

seven points

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me and seven point Dallas Cowboys win. Here are seven reasons I'm still up the night before I preach watching the Dallas Cowboys.
1. Romo is quietly having a great season and I like him...he's a nice guy.
2. All the prognosticaters and inside guys didn't give them a chance.
3. Marion Barber will run through a wall.
4. Austin Miles is the real deal.
5. We need a new kicker
6. The undefeated Dolphins team from the Shula era are Cowboys fans tonight.
7. Hagios is one the key words for my sermon is translated "consecrate" in Luke 2, but it can be translated "holy" or "saint". As in my Cowboys just beat the New Orleans Hagios.

pretty profound blog don't you think? It's all I've got...see you in church tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

8 nativities

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 8 nativity sets. O.K. you know that Sara and I have issues with Christmas overkill - it started early with shopping on our honeymoon at the Santa shop in Gatlingburg. But then after about five years of marriage we started collecting nativity sets. Here are my best 8.

1. Faceless nativity from the Dominican Republic. We got this one on a Christmas cruise (the cruise was free - long story) and a port of call in Puerta Plata where we met a walking guide named Jose (true). He took us into the real part of the city and found a cool market where they sold these colorful clay and glazed pottery pieces. Got the whole set (10 pieces) for about $40. Love it.
2. Plastic nativity from Sara's childhood - complete with melted part where you put the blue Christmas light for the star in the back. It's almost ______ yrs old (revealing Sara's age could get me in trouble:-)
3. Handcrafted wooden stable from my childhood that again has a place for a star in the back. It's 44 years old (three years younger than Sara:-) - been around my entire life. It's in mom's room now, but sometimes I wander in and reminisce.
4. Sara also had a cardboard nativity where you put all the characters in the right slots each year. Sara doesn't need the directions any more and it sits under our tree as the first gift every year - Jesus born into the world.
5. On a missions trip to Mexico a year after we got our Dominican one. It's very cool - all the men, Joseph included have the stereo-typical Mexican mustache! I think of those dear Christian friends every time I see it.
6. Two years ago our small group went on a missions trip to Haiti and we bought a hand carved, Haitian, dark wood nativity from some guy who was really nice.
7. About five Christmasses ago Sara bought me a celtic nativity - carved out of some soft stone and in the style of the ancient celtic Christians - kind of stonehenge meets baby Jesus. I have Irish heritage and I love the connection with my people from long ago.
8. Finally, on our tree are very brightly colored glass ornaments that make up the nativity and go in the same place on our tree every year. Sandi Knapp gave it to us as a gift from Russia after one or her trips there.

O.k. I'm going to cheat - one honorable mention - Two years ago in Greece we bought an icon-style painting of the nativity. Very cool. As you can imagine, we have at least five or six others that are very cool...but the number for today is eight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

9 favorite christmas memories

On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me nine favorite christmas memories. Really, I'm a Christmas freak and I suppose I have loved all 44 of them, but here's nine cause it goes with what I'm doing in this blog.
1. I don't remember this one, but my mom says that when she was 8 months pregnant with me, she was walking out of church from where my dad was preaching after a Christmas Eve service and slipped on the ice. Of course, an elder from the church helped her up and took her home and made her comfortable on the couch in the living room. She was worried because I had been very active in the womb, but had not moved since she fell. Suddenly the Christmas tree fell over right into her lap and the star landed on her belly. At that moment I began to move again. Not Bethlehem or anything, but it's pretty cool.
2. I remember being about five and we were pretty poor, so my sister and I got only one present for Christmas. I got a Fisher Price Barn (complete with farmers, animals and a tractor). To hear mom tell it, she and dad were bummed that they couldn't get us more, but as I remember it i loved it.
3. Another Christmas, I remember getting a Star Trek enterprise (the whole deal with action figures and everything) and laying in top bed of a bunk bed with the lights of the Christmas tree reflecting on the ceiling (mom and dad kept the door to the living room cracked) and pretending the lights were some outer space thing. Now my mind is just in outer space.
4. I loved the Dallas Cowboys growing up. Mom had the worst luck. The two biggest rivals of the Cowboys in the 70's was the Steelers and the Vikings. One year, the dallas cowboys helmet lamp ended up being a Vikings one and a Dallas Cowboys winter coat ended up being a Steelers one.
5. One year when I was in 6th grade, I got a new bike for Christmas. The problem was that it snowed about a foot in Indy that year and the temp was 15 degrees outside. Still road that bike all day long (even if mom did make me bundle up like I was on a arctic expedition)
6. First year Sara and I were married, we lived in a trailer (o.k. mobile home, but it was a trailer - down by the river at Johnson Bible College as a matter of fact) and my mom and dad, brother and sister were coming to our place for Christmas. They barely made it there in blizzard conditions. They showed up at about 11:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It was an awesome white Christmas.
7. Christmas 1988 when Mikey was one month old was pretty memorable. Amazing to have a little baby when you celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.
8. Christmas 1991 when Caleb was a few months old, it was 75 degrees in Kissimmee Florida and we were in shorts and t-shirts grilling out on Christmas Eve.
9. I surprised Sara with a "real" wedding ring at our 20th Christmas together to replace the cheap one I got her in college. She cried...I win:-)

I have so many...really could go on forever on this one. Sara will be slightly ticked that she only made the last four...oh well.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

10 Christmas words

On the 10 day of Christmas my true love gave to me 10 Christmas words. The following are my favorite ten words used only this time of year. Hey, it's Wednesday why aren't you working on your sermon? I am! These words and others will be used in my introduction Sunday. Consider this research.
1. Wassail - don't really know anything about it, but I know it's an only Christmas thing. No one ever has a July fourth cookout with hotdogs, chips and wassail!
2. Prancer - make your own joke here.
3. reindeer - There really are reindeer, but they may as well be unicorns for all we care. No one ever talks about them in any other context but flying Santa around...unless you've had too much of the next word...
4. Egg nog - Personally I've never had it. I know the joke is to spike it, but who wants spiked eggs (or nog for that matter). I think it's the "nog" part that really scares me away from this. What is nog?
5. fruit cake - Again, this lends to the idea that there are really only about 1,000 fruit cakes world wide and they get re-circulated every Christmas. Have you ever witnessed anyone actually eating a fruit cake? Nope, but you hear about them every Christmas. Great for door stops if you need one.
6. jolly - The one time of year when a belly being compared to jelly is a sign of jolliness. When Santa is in the Bahamas in a swimsuit jolly isn't the world that comes to mind!
7. holly - I like that I rhymed the last two words (simple mind - simply entertained). Seriously though, where does holly grow? You never see it until December and then it's everywhere. Note: If your name is Holly, then this is a word you probably hear year-round.
8. Gingerbread. Only during this season can you get a girly "gingerbread latte" and not get laughed at. Hey it's Christmas. Also, what other time of year can you eat a house?
9. Frankincense. Don't know why, but I think I'd like this best of all the gifts for baby Jesus. Maybe it's because it sounds like Frankenstein, but I don't think they are related.
10. Yule log. A family in our church has us over every year for a cake and ice cream yule log - very tasty and more edible than the real thing!

For seven spiritual Christmas words from Luke 2 come to Eastview this Sunday at 9:00 or 11:00 or hit the web and download the sermon.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

11 cool places

On the eleventh day of true love gave to me a trip to Greece and Turkey. O.K. Christmas season is as good a time as any to unveil the dates for a trip I'm leading to Greece and Turkey. As many of you know we cancelled this year's trip for lack of participation. So we've planned and projected 1 1/2 years in advance to give everyone a chance to plan and save! Drumroll please: May 9-20, 2011 - Eastview Greece/Turkey trip! Here are eleven reasons to go.

1. Athens - stand on Mars Hill where Paul delivered his famous sermon from acts. (there are three starbucks there:-)
2. Corinth - walk the first century roads where Paul ministered (and wrote two letters) and stand in front of the judgement place where he was questioned.
3. Berea - Stand on the steps of the first century synagogue where the apostle actually stood while teaching three weeks in this town.
4. Thessalonica - Walk the streets of this ancient city where ancient brothers and sisters in Christ read I and II thessalonians! Two more starbucks!
5. Neapolis - Have lunch portside in this ancient harbor town that was brand new when Paul sailed here.
6. Philippi - Walk in the impressive first century market place, visit the jail cell of Paul and Silas and walk by the river where Lydia was baptized.
7. Istanbul - Shop and eat in ancient Constantinople where Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. More cool sites and at least one more Starbucks.
8. Ephesus - maybe the most impressive of all the Bible sites. Sit in a 2,00o year old ampitheatre with a view to the sea and hear the ancient voices of Christianity.
9. Izmir - Walk through the ruins of ancient Smyrna - also where Polycarp was burned at the stake for his faith...and another Starbucks.
10. Pergamum - More biblical ruins where you can walk where the saints from the church of Revelation lived and faced persecution.
11. Mytilene - Take a boat to this ancient island mentioned in Paul's missionary journey.

Wanna go? Let Sandi know at so that you can get on our mailing list. This will be a trip of a lifetime!

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 days of Christmas

Including today and Christmas day there are twelve days left in this blessed season. That seems like a good excuse for me to blog for each of those days (quite a commitment on my part :-) as I ponder (see yesterday's sermon at all that makes up my Christmas. I'll try to come up with a number of something each day, but promises. Well, let's get started:

12 pieces of sushi

Nothing says Christmas like fresh (raw) tuna, salmon or eel wrapped in rice and dipped in a soy sauce/wasabi mixture, right?

Well, maybe it's not traditional Christmas fare, but tonight is our annual staff Christmas party at Kobe steakhouse. It is a really great time of being together (with spouses and friends that we sometimes don't get to see enough) in a casual setting to celebrate all that God is doing in us and through us. It's a great time to laugh and eat together - I don't know if I'll eat twelve pieces of sushi or not, but it's possible.

Traditionally, I hand out prizes for the top three decorated offices in our staff area (really a bunch of humbugs this year...too busy I suppose), and give a little speech, and give a small gift, and take a staff picture (you'll see this Christmas Eve).

I talked yesterday of shepherds in the Bible and I consider our staff to be some of the best shepherds there are. The care and concern and energy invested by these guys into the lives (and more importantly souls) of the flock God has entrusted to us in amazing. I'm blessed to have them on my staff (double entendre shepherd joke - pay attention people). It is this night more than any other that makes me feel like the dad to a big family...and I like it.

So on day twelve send up a prayer of thanksgiving and strength for the people who organize, recruit, set up and tear down, practice, write, meet (and meet some more), inspire, and pray for the ministry at Eastview Christian Church. We really do have some great people that God has given us and so we celebrate...Kobe it is!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I blew it

Well, yesterday was just one of those Sundays that prove that God has a sense of humor.
First, let me say that the weekend included two awesome performances from our band, choir and orchestra in our Christmas Pops concert. I had several people tell me that they thought it was the best they'ev ever sounded. I agree. By the way, both Saturday and Sunday nights clearly illustrated a need for a bigger atrium for fellowship. It was shoulder to shoulder as we enjoyed cookies and laughter after each performance.

Anyway, back to Sunday. First, I shared some great faith stories from this past year - just a sampling of life-change that God is bringing about here. Of course, i got emotional and was choked up. For one thing, as i was telling two of the stories i saw the people I was talking about anoymously crying and that was moving. But as I spoke of how God through Jesus has changed strippers, cocaine addicts, un-churched friends and relatives that have fallen away; the tears just came...and this means my nose was running (tis the season). So after a time of prayer, I said "God bless you all, I have to go blow my nose now". Usually (really 99% of the time) two things happen at that point: I turn my mic off at my belt and the sound techs turn the mic off at the control booth. Neither as I walked off stage and blew my came through loud and clear at about 98 decibels for all to hear. I don't care who you are and where you are (church)...that's funny!

Then second hour, we were wrapping up our services with five baptisms (we had one first service and at least 6 at Fuel last night - God is really moving here these days). As i went back to the baptistry area, to get ready, Nicki Green (involvement pastor) decided to open some hatch and shut off the switch to the pump in the baptistry (it is noisy). Well, by the time I got to baptism number five I heard a noticeable gurgling sound. After baptizing this little girl, I noticed what everyone else noticed - the baptistry was draining...we had lost about a foot of water. Apparently Nicki pushed the wrong button and actually caused the baptistry to drain...smooth...and funny.

I'm glad we can laugh at ourselves around here. [This is not to mention that our "angel" for Sunday almost didn't get there because his truck broke down at Hardees (is that a country song in the making or what?)]. It's good to laugh. It's one of my favorite human things to do and I'm so thankful that God made us so that we could. I hope Eastview is continually becoming this place where we can laugh and cry and celebrate and even blow our nose together as Christ makes us that people that he is making us in Christ and by His Spirit.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Normally, I'm not a fan of ornaments (as in ornamentation that gives an air of fanciness), but when it comes to ornaments on the Christmas tree...they become living histories of family life. As predicted, Sara and I spent much of Friday and Saturday putting up Christmas decorations. We love it. It's one of our favorite times of the year and while we put up ornaments we remember and smile (you know that smile that says, "yeah, that was fun"?). We have collected ornaments since we were married and we have boxes, but some always make the tree. Here are just a few (I mean just a few, we literally have hundreds) of the ornaments and the stories behind them:

1. Sara's mom and dad passed down some ornaments from their early years of marriage which are walnuts rolled in glitter. They were poor, but creative! And when the lights shine on them, they are beautiful!

2. A ceramic Mary holding baby Jesus that says "Baby's first Christmas". It was in 1988 and Mikey was a month old when a youth sponsor in Lexington bought it for us. Sorry, no special ornament for Caleb's first year (that's what happens when you're not firstborn).

3. We have some gold musical instruments that we bought on our honey moon in Gatlingburg TN (insert your jokes here). We have always been fans of Christmas and we always remember that day in the Christmas store in May (with matching airbrushed t-shirts).

4. A new one is a replica Corinthian wine pitcher from our trip to Greece last year. It's a cool reminder of walking in the ruins of the ancient Bible city and what life there must have been.

5. We have a glass nativity set of ornaments that Sandi Knapp brought back to us from Russia after one mission trip she went on. Very cool.

6. We have a glass ball with a picture of a former small group that we were in (Lynne Sugai made it for everyone in the group). We always think about those people and those times when we put it on the tree.

7. There is a pretty fancy angel ornament that used to sit on the top of our tree when we were first married. When we moved to our current home we bought a 12 foot tree (it's huge) and so the former angel on top was too small for this big tree. We laugh at how out of control our tree is now.

8. We collect ornaments from places we have travelled like: paper stars from a Moravian settlement in North Carolina, an ivory ornament from Maui, a white house from our D.C. trip a couple of years ago, a minuteman from colonial Williamsburg, some boots from Prescott Arizona and of course an Indianapolis, Indiana ornament.

9. We have a collection of ornaments that Sara cross-stitched the first year we were married when we were in school - they always take us back to that humble mobile home at Johnson Bible College.

10. Of course, we have a Starbucks ornament - because I have a problem!

Monday, November 23, 2009's time for Christmas

O.K. it's Thanksgiving week and I'm ready for the holidays (Thanksgiving is pre-Christmas to me - I don't skip it...I just include it in the Christmas season). Here's what my soul needs right now that this season always seems to deliver:

1. Snow. Need to see one of my favorite creations falling from the sky. Yep, I'm praying for it (except on Saturday nights - it makes an excuse for people to skip church).

2. Family around the table. This t-giving will be just Sara and I and the boys, but it will be a rich family time (except that they have requested steak instead of Turkey - who raised these kids?).

3. Setting up the tree(s). One thing I look forward to every year is decorating the house for the season. It reminds me of growing up and all the family memories.

4. Some gingerbread cookies. O.K. my soul doesn't need them, but my sweet tooth does.

5. More lives changed by the Christ-child. I'm so blessed to see so many decisions for Jesus around here lately - and it just seems so special around this time of the year. It's why He came as a baby.

6. The thrill of giving. Jesus was quoted as saying, "it's more blessed to give than to receive". As in all of the other stuff he said...he's right. Can't wait to serve those who are in need in our community in a couple of weeks at IMAGINE.

7. to write some sermons about the birth of our Lord. This story never gets old...always amazes me and makes me love my God more. It is particularly thrilling that we are in our Luke series and hitting chapter two during this season (remember last season it was Deuteronomy).

8. A win by my Cowboys on thursday wouldn't hurt the holiday mood.

9. Some parties in red sweaters with people I like to laugh with.

10. A chance to reflect in a quiet living room lit only by Christmas lights and the glow of a fire place.

11. Seeing Grinch (the old cartoon one), A Christmas Story, Elf, Frosty, Rudolph and It's a Wonderful Life.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

21 years ago

Well, yesterday was my oldest son's 21st birthday. Besides making me wonder if someone is getting old; i had some time last night to reflect on his life and who he has become as a man (I was just too tired to blog last night at 11:00, but I whispered a prayer of thanks for him).

He was born in Lexington, KY in 1988 while we were youth pastor's at Hill N Dale Christian Church. He was born in the middle of the night (and we haven't slept a good night since) with a waiting room full of youth group kids. We named him after me, Michael Robert Baker II (we went with the second because we didn't want people calling him junior) and he was (and still is) my pride and joy. I was only 23 so i had no clue what I was doing or how to raise a kid, but Sara and I loved him and read the Bible to him and took him to church (he owned every boy thing from our local von maur like store because of the generous people in our church).

well, he's grown a little since then (not 6-4 like my youngest, but 6-1 which is tall for me) and yet we still call him Mikey. He is (depending on the day and viewpoint) stubborn or independent or a great leader. He is incredibly artistic (gift of God that he has always had - I have a painting of his from the third grade that is incredible). He is detailed. He used to line up his cheerios perfectly in a row on his high chair (anal some would say). He doesn't care what people think of him (this can be good and bad). He is willing to try things that others won't. He is smart. He is very articulate and expressive (one of the things he is like me in - along with lover of Frank Sinatra music, hats, frequent changer of hair styles, and bringing flowers to the girl in his life).

I'm proud of him. After the teen-age rebellion years (long story) he has grown into the kind of guy I enjoy hanging out with. What more could a father ask for? Happy 21 Mikey!

Monday, November 16, 2009

love and respect

I was super encouraged to find that so many Eastview couples heard my call to attend the Love and Respect conference in Peoria at Northwoods church Friday and Saturday. It was great to see you all there (I estimate over 100 from Eastview, but you can never trust a preacher's count:-) and great to have so many of our staff there (we took 15 staff and spouses to encourage strong Christian marriages). the traffic getting there the first night was bad and in my opinion the sessions were a bit long, but what Dr. Eggerichs (I think that's how you spell it - no matter) proposes is an awesome truth from God's Word.

The first part of this is that God "made them male and female". This is an astouding counter-cultural truth from God's word. The claim that we are not all alike, don't see things the same way and don't always agree! In a culture that (in the name of equality) is trying to tell us that men and women are all the same; this biblical truth stands - we aren't the same. Men and women see things differently, and are motivated differently, and speak differently.

He goes on to say that men are motivated by respect and that women are motivated by love. Now this seems very simplistic and I can't go into all of it here, but I'll tell you that I believe the good Dr. nailed Ephesians 5:22ff about Christian marriage. Men really need to be respected (and it's different than for women) and women really need to be loved (and it's different than for men). I can't go into detail in this blog, but here's my challenge (dare really - double dog dare ya): Men - go get a copy of "Love and Respect" (it's in our Harvest bookstore) and suggest to your wife that you read it together. Be a leader and do this. Men, pay attention to what this book says about how women respond. My wife and other women have told me that he pretty much is right on. Women - read this book with your husband - and pay attention to what it says about how men respond. Many men told me over the weekend that Dr. Eggerichs put into words what they've always felt, but could never express in words.

Finally, men (you can keep on reading if you're a woman, but this is for the guys) I'm renewed in my desire to be a real man that God can use. We have strength and courage and fight and leadership because God made us that way to lead in our homes and our church. May we not buy into a culture that tells us should become less aggressive and more sensitive - more like a woman. May we be strong like men (as the apostle says) and live out a life of truly loving our wives by being the strong Christian leaders He desires.

Two more things: 1. Yesterday's outpouring of toys for children in need this Christmas was over whelming. Way over last year's gifts. Don't forget to bring coats next week. 2. The baptism of an entire family yesterday in first service reminds me of the jailer and his family that were all baptized together in Acts 16. Jesus still changes lives.

Monday, November 9, 2009

as advertised

Well, as time in New York City was absolutely inspirational. Yes, my trip to NYC last week was a work trip! O.K. let me confess a couple of things: 1. I love the city-the bigger the better - don't know if it's just all the people or what, but I love it! 2. We took in a show (West Side Story) and some great restaurants, the metropolitan museum and times square (we were there for the last two innings on the big screen as the Yankees won the world series with thousands of crazy fans...very cool). 3. I love the men and their wives (all pastors of mega-churches) and share a deep and partnering friendship with them. All that to was a work trip that didn't seem a whole lot like work!

We went to meet some of the pastors behind the churches being planted in the Northeast and beyond by a church planting organization called the Orchard Group. Very well run ministry organization (God is doing some cool things in the city). I'm inspired. Maybe when God is through with me at this Eastview thing (Lord willing that will be another 15-20 years) then Sara and I will go the Big Apple and plant a church (did I tell you they have starbucks there?).

Sunday I continued in our series in Luke and as advertised the angelic appearance to Zecharias in the temple foretelling the birth of John the Baptist was inspiring. What wasn't advertised is that your sr. pastor on a self prescribed cocktail of some sinus medication, some congestion medication and four shots of espresso would be a little loopy! O.K. a lot. I have got some kind of cold thingy, but I'm feeling a little better today. I hate having a cold because I hug everybody and don't feel like I should when I'm sick (did anyway).

This Sunday is the big day when we begin bringing in our toys for kids in our town who won't have a Christmas any other way. I hope that as advertised (we are getting a reputation around Bloomington/Normal) our church excels in the grace of giving. It's just that, you know...a grace. Passing on joy to a child for free, undeserved, unable to repay - sounds familiar. Once God sent his Son to his children for free, undeserved, unable to repay - gift of grace. May our giving reflect that gift!

Here's my challenge: 1. Think of the amount of toys you are going to bring to church for donation this Sunday. 2. Pray about that and ask God if He wants you to give more. 3. Double the answer to number 1. 4. Do it by faith. 5. Smile because you have freely received and freely given. 6. Go have a gingerbread latte' (I allow myself this one sissy drink during the holidays each year!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

east tennessee to NYC

Well, here i am sitting in a New York City hotel room getting ready to go to dinner in a few hours with a bunch of Sr. Pastors and their wives. Sara and I have spent much of the day travelling and wandering around Times Square. We are here to look at the church planting efforts of the Orchard Group and just talk ministry and be refreshed (and write a sermon and keep up with e-mails:-) I started Sunday's sermon today at 35,000 feet - closer to God, better studying :-)

But I wanted to reflect yesterday on my visit to East Tennessee and our campus visit for Caleb to register at Johnson Bible College. God willing he will be a student there next Fall (and God willing I can afford it:-) Anyway, very cool roaming around this scenic campus in the hills of the smokey mtns - the fall day was perfect - 65 degrees and sunshine and fall colors. Anyway, we spent time walking through the old part of the campus - the old main building that has stood since 1905! This is always such a blast from the past for me and Sara - such formative years in our lives. I learned to preach here, met my wife here and grew up in so many ways here!

Mom went with and every once in a while, I'd see a tear come to her see her and my father were newly weds here in the early 60's and she has nearly fifty years of memories that come flooding back. Beyond that, my great uncle Frank Baker (my grandpa's brother) was a student in the late forties and early fifties here. Lot's of tradition and preaching in my family of which I'm honored to be a part. It was a very relaxing and renewing time.

If Caleb is a student at Johnson, I hope to have several such trips over the next few years. My greatest tempation of the weekend was to stay and go the the Tennessee game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday (that would have put me back into Normal around 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning - not a good idea for any preacher), but wiser heads (Sara) prevailed!

Monday, October 26, 2009


Here's something to chew on this October Monday: vision is so much clearer when you see it! That may seem like a big "duh?!" to you, but when you can go to some cool place and say, "Look over there" and someone can actually experience it with their eyes, then that's pretty clear.

What's tougher is to see something that does not yet exist or has not happened. And yet, this is a part of the expectation most people have of me as the Sr. Pastor of a church (whether stated or unstated - most people think that I should know where the heck we are going). Below are random and not necessarily useful thoughts about vision.

1. Because church work is God planned, Spirit powered and has eternal implications humans are incredibly limited in seeing it.

2. I wish God would appear to me in dreams more when I ask him where he wants Eastview to go. It's not that I don't believe God can, has and maybe will appear in's just that he's not done that with me yet.

3. My real vision for Eastview is that more and more people do more and more of the Bible stuff we are already doing (prayer, preaching, serving, sharing the gospel at home and internationally, and giving).

4. When I lay out a ten year vision (like i did yesterday) you should hope it's inspired, but realize that even though I'm leading, I'm straining to see the clear picture just like everyone else.

5. I get energized by vision. Because it has such possibilities...such cool stuff that God might do with us and through us. I am one of those weirdos who love change and so a day of talking about changes for the next ten years is exciting!

6. Even though I've not gotten any visions, I do have confidence that God has his hands on what I shared yesterday. I've prayed about it, thought about it, talked about, prayed some more, sought wise counsel, prayed and planned with the elder team, etc... for about 7 months now. So I believe that we're going in the general direction. And that is exciting.

7. Looking back on other visions I and others have had throughout the years...they usually turn out much better than I at first envisioned (strange how God always does immeasurably more than I ask or imagine.

Well, that's all if you need to see the vision you can go to our website at and check out the sermon podcast.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It never gets old

Sara and I completed the half marathon together in Indy on Saturday. In spite of an injury to her left calf around 11 1/2 miles, she toughed it out. Crossing the finish line at the end of a long race never gets old.

First service yesterday three friends baptized another into Christ. One told her story, the other took her confession, the third baptized her (they fumbled through how they should hold their hands to do it, but it still counts :-). Watching friends baptize friends through tears never gets old.

Been studying the surprising book of Zechariah for about three weeks now....reading and re-reading passages and studying the prophetic parts. Lots of Jesus prophecies in this book written about 500 years before Jesus was born - like being sold for 30 pieces of silver, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and people looking on the one they had pierced. Obscure book - great stuff in the Word of God. The Bible never gets old.

Along those same lines, we're getting ready to dive into a year long study of the book of Luke November 1. We did Deuteronomy for a year and now we are going to see Jesus through the eyes of Luke for another. Again, the Bible never gets old.

Second service several respond to the invitation including a young man named Jake. He said to me, "I'm ready to take up my cross - I want to be baptized". After taking his confession and praying for him, I asked him if he wanted to talk about his baptism for a later date or do it right now. without hesitation he said, "Let's do it now". So we sang another verse while he got ready and as his girlfriend cried tears of joy, I was privileged to baptize him. That never gets old.

This coming Sunday is vision Sunday and it will be my privilege to recount how has sustained us throughout the years and what he will do through us if we are faithful with all he has entrusted to us. Talking about God and recounting the miracles that are happening among us never gets old.

Today some seriously planning for Christmas Eve and reading a Christmas book for some quotes. The story of God coming into the world never gets old.

Monday, October 12, 2009

truck loads of Jesus' love

We had some great old-school moments yesterday in worship. since we were talking about unity, Matt sang "bless be the tie" (an great favorite hymn of mine) before the sermon. And then we sang the hippie chorus from the sixties "we are one in the spirit" as the entire congregation held hands across the aisles. I know it must have been weird for someone who was visiting to hold hands and read unity scriptures and then sing an old song - but we don't do it all the time - and besides, if you could see what I see (stage view) you would have seen an awesome picture of a bunch of not-alike people physically unified by holding hands. Very cool. No you won't get that H1N1 virus (not calling it the swine flu anymore, probably offended some pigs or something) doing something so spiritual.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (or atrium) volunteers were collecting truckloads of food for our food pantry. Our previous record was 15 pick-up truck loads, but yesterday God moved through us to give 22 pick-up loads of food for under-resourced people (back in the day we called ourselves poor). This is huge. This means that through the people of Eastview over 1,000 people in our community will have beans, spaghetti, soup, corn, and yes even hominy (someone brought an entire bag of this stuff I always make fun of, but actually like) for their meals. The hope is that instead of seeing the food, they'll see the loving hearts behind the food that comes from us knowing Jesus. 22 truck loads of Jesus' love - that's how I see it.

Well, we're heading to Indy this weekend for a half-marathon. I've been helping Sara train for the past three months and this week we're ready. We're running with Lynne Sugai (who is taking some pics for our high school senior - Caleb - the day before) and Jessica Hari, Lora Jorgensen and I think Melinda Johnson. All are excited/nervous about it. Me, I'm just along for the run (and encouragement).

Sunday wraps up our series on "the call". It has been an awesome journey and I am receiving daily e-mails from people whose lives are being changed by this study of Jesus. We've only just begun. On November 1, we'll start a year long series through the book of Luke! That's after vision sunday on October 25.

One more thing (o.k. two) - I've been thinking about snow lately and though I'm not praying for it (yet); I am o.k. with the idea that it will soon be here AND how bout them cowboys!

Monday, October 5, 2009

way up and way down

This weekend was the epitome of the emotional ups and downs that come with ministry. The up was that we celebrated the retirement of Bob Knapp with our congregation after 18 years on staff as our pastor of international minstries. He has been an awesome example to all of us concerning prayer and passion for the lost. We had a special banquet for him on Thursday evening to say thanks and have many from his past (missionaries, etc.) tell he and his wife (Sandi) how much their ministry has met. That was up!

Unfortunately, we received news Thursday afternoon that a great lady and servant in our church (particularly children's ministry) had been tragically killed in a car accident. Only moments before her death she was at church washing toys in the little kidsview nursery. She was only 41. So we gathered in the conference room for prayer. Her small group surrounded her husband and kids. It has been incredibly sad to say good-bye to Beckie Lade.

Yesterday we again honored Bob in front of the congregation (Sandi was mad at me for making her come on stage with him and said I owed her a latte' from Starbucks - which I got her this morning) to say thanks. They received a standing ovation in each service...awesome. We gave them some cool gifts.

This morning i was on the same stage in front of the family and friends of Beckie weeping and saddened by her loss. I focused on the hope that we have, that Beckie had, and how that separates us from all others who face death (we all do, the mortality rate is 100% !).

there were tears and emotions with both the ups and downs of this is emotionally draining for a pastor. Oh yeah, I also preached yesterday. So I'm tired, but content in Jesus. Now I'll heal like all good pastors do...fried chicken and potato salad prepared by our funeral meals ministry. It's a start!

Monday, September 28, 2009

random monday thoughts

Still need to say this: Praise God for what He is doing around here. Way beyond what any of us (especially me) could possibly do. God is great..I need you to hear your leader say that! I believe it 'cause he is.

people are asking about where we filmed the teaching segments for "the call" small groups teaching. Scott Sarver (our video guru around here - yes that's his official title as far as I know) had a contact with the man who owns the upper floors of the building where the old castle theater is in downtown Bloomington. We were on the 4th floor (I think) where we shot the entire video for all six weeks in one morning. Scott and his intern (Sam Moses) brought variety to the sets, etc... I just did the teaching (and brought a change of clothes for each session - cause I'm a girl that way:-). I also put all of my lessons (in manuscript which is the first time ever) on a it's different. They also managed the speed of my talk by making the teleprompter slower. So my teaching is like a playing a 45 single at 331/3 speed on the turntable (if you have no idea what i'm talking about don't ask). Anyway, Scott took all this raw footage, cleaned up the lighting and sound (he does this in his studio - magical), and put in quotes, Scriptures, etc... Then we sent them off with Karen Norris' graphic design (another genius on my staff) and we have the DVD you are studying from.

Speaking of Karen, we went down to Mowequa yesterday to support her at the loss of her father this past week. It was kinda sudden so we're sad for her and her family. Anyway, after I preached yesterday on how I drive in a day dream and often get lost without my wife or a GPS, many church members were concerned with how I made it down there all by myself (and if I needed directions or help getting home - smart allecks). I laughed and said "no, I've got it..ha, ha, ha, preacher talk, preacher talk, ha, ha, ha". I walked outside thinking to myself, "those guys think they are so funny. They make me laugh. Hey this is a beautiful day. Look at that squirrel. Thanks God. Oh, there's the downtown. I love old, small town shops." After I had walked two blocks (no kidding), I realized that i was just walking down a side walk in Mowequa instead of heading to my car. So I played it off like I planned it that way and snuck back to my car (luckily no one from my church saw me).

Monday, September 21, 2009

little dog grows up

My youngest son, Caleb turned 18 today. Wow, where did the time go? I call him "little dog" because his name Caleb is from an Old Testament Hebrew word that can be translated in this way. Though he is anything but little (6'4"+ and 215 lbs.) it suits him really well. His spirit is that of a dog that keeps coming back for more. You just gotta love him.

When we came to Eastview, he was four. Went to preschool in the old school at the church that grew into Cornerstone Christian Academy. He and I have always connected. Once when he was five-ish we were sitting around a campfire with a bunch of students and the question was "what do you want people to say about you when you die?" I answered, "the greatest preacher ever" (I know that's stupid, but it would be my highest honor), but after some teens answered, they came to Caleb and he said, "the second greatest preacher ever". He and I were both warmed to preaching early and to this day that's what he is desiring to do with his life.

He has played a lot of sports...and we love the same teams (Cowboys - cried last night, Reds - cry all the time, Pacers - stopped crying long ago, don't care about hockey). He's fun to be with and he greets everyone with a hug. At a young age, someone told him he had a big head and he still to this day thinks he does. Honestly, he has a huge body, so his head is just perfect...but he won't listen to that. When he was young, we wrestled... a lot. Now we can't cause the old man's back won't hold up (but if I had too, I could still take him). We used to play basketball, but now we can't because he skunked me last time we played and I just can't submit to the humiliation again. Used to spend more time we text and catch lunch together each week.

Used to pray for him many times a day...still do.
Used to watch him from a distance and swell with pride...still do.
Used to dream about what kind of preacher God will make him into...still do.
Used to take him out to his favorite restaurant for his birthday dinner...still do (tonight its' some sushi place in Champaign).
Used to sit and talk about things in his life...still do.
Used to wish that time could just stand still...still do.
Used to read the Bible and pray together...still do.
Used to give him advice on everything...still do (he just listens less).
He used to playfully punch me when I walked into the room...he still does.
Used to think that little dog was the perfect name...still do.

Happy Birthday Caleb
(note to those of you who know me...of course I'm crying right now)

Monday, September 14, 2009

random kick off weekend stuff

First of all, our fall kick-off usually doesn't really "kick" anything off. It's just the weekend after Labor Day that is usually a strong attendance weekend cause everyone is back in the routine after summer (although it is the official kick-off of the NFL and I was happy to see the Bears were playing at night and since I'm a nice guy that's all I'll say about that - but my Cowboys won so It's all good). This year however, we kicked off our "the call" campaign for growing closer to Christ by heeding his call to follow him. Well...the weekend was cool. I can't tell you all the ways, but here are some thoughts. Prayer saturated this place and the presence of God was palpable. Listen people, the more we pray, the more God does miracle stuff through our faith. Nearly 100 men joined me Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. for a "sweet hour of prayer". Moving stuff man! the light and tech stuff was cool as well. I know most of you come in on Sunday morning and say, "Wow, the stage looks cool" but like me you just can't imagine the work that goes into something like that. HOURS of time from our staff and volunteers to help set the mood in our worship. the sermon on "grow up" was hard hitting for all of us. We all need to grow up in our faith. Maturity (perfection was the Greek word) is our goal and while we are all at different maturity stages, we are all called to grow up. (Here are some grow up ideas....on a piece of paper write: prayer, bible reading, bible memorization, service, giving, fasting, and personal musical worship time. Next to each, write how many hours, minutes, or days a week you do each. Then set a goal next to it and try to make it happen for a month - for example Prayer - 10 minutes a day - goal: 15 minutes a day). Woudn't it be cool if our whole church goes through a spiritual growth spurt at once? the video produced for your small group studies for "the call" is so high quality it's unbelievable! Again so much work went into this project, from writing, to filming to editing and production. Hope you enjoy. our first small group is Wednesday night and I'm sure my group is going to make fun of my hair, my clothes and certain facial expressions (isn't it great to be loved?) so feel free to do the same, but make sure you hear the teaching. the building was absolutely packed on Sunday morning, but what struck me was how many people were here on last night! It was ubelievable. the spirit lifters had their monthly program, the Yancy concert for pre and grade schoolers and their families was in one auditorium, I was leading step one another. Way down the hall, Fuel was getting ready for their worship, while out on the grounds hundreds of Jr. Highers were having a party/cookout/wiener roast thing. I estimate (and yes I'm a pastor and it's probably inflated) 1,000 people were in the building on a Sunday night. Very cool and blessed to be involved in the work that God is doing here. noble sugai was absolutely perfect on stage for the interview yesterday. In second hour he started giggling and it got me laughing. How much fun was that? Come to find out, his dad and other people were trying to bribe him to ask me "where babies came from?" Luckily he's more mature than many of you:-) ! It was a great day in the Lord...and today's not too bad either.

Monday, September 7, 2009

calm before

Well, it's the end of Labor day weekend and I'm just throwing down a few words before I hit the sack. I had an unusually laid back weekend. Sara was out of town with some college friends Thursday night and Friday morning, so I did some work around the house. Actually (finally if you asked Sara) fixed some broken boards on our fence - very manly :-) I ran each day, had Starbucks each morning and didn't have to rush through some devotion and contemplation. It has given me a nice break heading into the kick-off of our fall campaign "the call". I'm excited to see what God is going to do here. We have had over new people sign up to be in small groups (some formed and some adopted). We have sold over 1,000 of the devotion books we wrote. And our dvd will hit the small groups this week for six weeks of teaching. I really feel like God will use all of this to bring us into a deeply relationship/followership with Jesus!

Got a great opportunity to preach in EDGE on Sunday with the jr. high ministry. Wow, what energy. I had a blast and it took me back to my old youth ministry days (and gave me a lot of respect for what Joel and his team do in there each week). Great kids and I just can't wait to see how God grows them up for his glory. Today was cookout and hangout with some good friends and their families. Nothing like hot dogs, burgers, chips, swimming, bocce and sittin' around getting sunburned to relax the soul. That was the calm....bring on the storm.

Monday, August 31, 2009

joy-filled weekend

Well, as predicted it took me about a week and a half back from vacation to be exhausted...but don't cry for me..the schedule has been filled with such awesome God activity that the only thing I can tell besides being tired is that there is a really deep feeling of joy inside me right now.

the weekend began in Carlinville where I got to preach three times to a group of 130 guys Friday and Saturday. Something cool about hanging out with guys who are seeking to grow in their faith. Love preaching to this audience kind of man-to-man. It cuts through a lot of filters. Besides eating and laughing and worshipping (the band rocked in worship) I got to do probably my favorite leisure activity Saturday afternoon - play football (it was flag, not tackle...I'm really too old for that). I just love that takes me back to being an 8 year old and getting out in the street with my friends and it.

After a late drive back to Normal on Saturday night, i repacked for the our big Sunday. It was a baptism Sunday and we had about 34 planned, but we also had 8 respond to the invitation and baptized them as well. I was privileged to baptize many into Christ, but I loved watching husbands baptize wives, kids baptize parents and friends baptize friends. It was truly electric by the Spirit's presence. Way cool.

After church, I headed to Indianapolis for our annual sermon planning retreat. After our Fall campaign we are going to study the book of Luke for a year. So when we checked into the hotel, we dug into this awesome book and began to dissect it. Man...I could preach this book for at least three years and not run out of astounding stuff to say. So we are in the process of narrowing it down to one year's worth and it is not easy. I know it sounds weird, but this is headache-inducing stuff, but an incredible blast. We have a good portion of it laid out, but have more work to do tomorrow morning. After which we'll head home...and I think I'll stay there for a while.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

4:00 a.m.

For some reason, the time slot I always sign up for when we do these 24/7 prayer emphases at church is 4:00 a.m. Usually I try to do it on Wednesdays so that I can just grab some coffee afterwards and jump right into my sermon (which is what I'm doing now...except I'm blogging). Plus I can just stagger out of sleep at 3:50 and throw a baseball hat on with shorts and t-shirt. that's the practical side.

But 4:00 a.m. around here is atypically quiet. A simple light on the cross highlights literally hundreds of prayer requests. Little notes of faith and seeking God. It both overwhelms me and comforts me. I often sit by the cross in solitude, simply reading the multi-colored post-it-note prayers and just ask God to move in His mercy. I'm often drawn to the place where I preach. Just sitting on the stage and staring out into the empty seats and thinking/praying about who might be sitting in them - asking God to work mightily in the preaching and worship that is upcoming. I often just thank Him for allowing me to be the pastor here.

Sometimes I just wander through the building (being scared by and sometimes scaring Dan our night time custodian) praying for all the ministries that happen around here. Sometimes i sit in the seats and sing (old hymns mostly - funny how the songs of my heart always seem to go back to my childhood faith. I listen to lots of Christian music and love it all. I love the songs we sing on Sunday's at Eastview, but the hymns of my youth are always the ones that come to mind most quickly when I desire to praise God in song). Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of the person before me or after me in the prayer effort and I'm encouraged that there is an unbroken chain of prayer before God.

Monday, August 24, 2009

crazy blessed

Well, that's how I feel on this Monday afternoon...crazy blessed. I was blessed by so much encouragement yesterday returning to preach at Eastview after being on vacation (missed you guys, but not central illinois:-). I am blessed to see what God is doing in all of our staff as we head into the Fall season where everything picks up. I'm blessed to be carrying some pretty big burdens which I'm unable to divulge here (this is the world wide web you know?). They are challenging, but envigorating...I've always liked challenges. I like settling back into the routine of Fall. I need that trip back to structure after the chaos of summer. I'm crazy blessed to have been spending the last two days working on our budget for 2010 and projecting through 2019! Again, this is visionary stuff that depends totally on God, but energizes my faith and daring for Him and His Church. On the budget note, I watched my beloved Cowboys play Friday night in their new stadium that cost 1.2 BILLION dollars to build. It recalibrated my thinking for the Kingdom of God. I thought/prayed: If they can spend a billion dollars to play football, then I should pray, give and encourage others to give millions over the next many years to advance the kingdom. So I'm praying and dreaming about what God may do through the church in the next ten years. I know He'll make it happen! Always has...always will. And that's why I'm crazy blessed. The God who blesses never changes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

vacation reflections

Well, it's the last night of our Arizona vacation and I've had a lot a time to reflect since Sara and I left Normal (still funny no matter how many times you say it) almost 11 days ago. Here are a few:
1. God is an amazing creator. Just in the animal kingdom I have witnessed his incredible creativity. We have seen elk (several herds grazing near a watering hole), deer, coyotes, road runners (look just like the cartoon), havalenas (I think that's spelled correctly - basically a wild boar...and it scares you to death if you encounter it on a trail while your jogging early in the morning), and wild turkeys, Condors, and big horn sheep (the last two seen at the Grand Canyon - it's big!). Pretty cool (for a city boy from Indy).

2. Blue skies are awesome. Laying by the pool today (I know now i'm rubbing it in) I simply was lost in how blue the sky is. Unfortunately, I sometimes miss this in my day to day routine (plus I live in central Illinois where there are fewer blue-sky days).

3. The local church is incredible. Of course I enjoyed preaching last weekend at CCCEV, but then Sara and I attended a church on Sunday called Desert View Community Church. The preaching was biblical (grace was the message from Ephesians 2), the people worshipped Jesus, and we felt right at home among complete strangers (because in fact we are related through Jesus).

4. Rest (sabbath) is really a good idea. I am not tired. I am not stressed. I am not in a hurry. I am not on a schedule. I have not set an alarm for an entire week. I have spent a lot of time reading the Bible and thinking about God. I think the slowing down of the body accelerates the spirit. I will return home tomorrow night completely refreshed (even if I know I'm going to jump right back into ministry and i'll probably be exhausted by Sunday night!).

5. A great wife is an incredible blessing to have. Sara is by far (by far) my favorite person in the whole world! I'd rather talk to her, hang out with her, spend time with her just being, laugh with her, cry with her and pray with her than any body else on this green earth. I consider Sara after Jesus, my greatest gift.

6. I miss my family. Miss Mikey and Caleb and mom. Miss just coming home and hanging in that environment and being in a place where we are share a common bond. And along with that, I miss my church family. I miss worshipping together, praying together and preaching at Eastview. To all my family. I'll be home soon. Can't wait to see you...hug you...tell you how much I love you.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

hot Sunday blog

Well, it's around 6:00 a.m. here in Phoenix, AZ where Sara and I have been for the past couple of days and it'll be around 100 degrees (which the natives claim is some sort of cool down from July!). Anyway, I'm blogging today because tomorrow I'm not sure of internet accesibility. We are here for about 10 days to speak/vacation.

Last night I preached at two of Central Christian Church of the East Valley's 9 weekend services. I'm going to preach three more times this morning and they'll show the video of my sermon in the other four. This is where my good friend Cal Jernigan pastors and after I'm done preaching today we're heading up to their place in the mountains north of the valley.

I love sharing from the Word with Christians in other places, but I'll have to tell you I'm missing my "normal" audience! If you want to hear the Word I'm preaching out here; you can go to and find the video and audio there. If not, just come to Eastview in about a month I'm preaching on the same passage, but it will be a fresh sermon.

While I'm gone two great young men will be sharing the Word. Brandon Grant (fuel pastor)leads off today with a sermon on musical worship and then next Sunday Jason Smith (children's pastor)will preach on prayer. I'm excited for them and I know they'll do great. I had so many great opportunities to preach when I was young in ministry and so I'm honored to pay it forward a little in their lives. My passion is for preaching (big duh for those who know me) and any way I can encourage young preachers I will. So... enjoy.

Meanwhile, I'm going to get some good rest heading into an awesome fall at church. My schedule is slammed, but it is fun stuff that will hopefully extend the kingdom. See you soon.

Monday, August 3, 2009

where is church?

Interesting stuff talking about fellowship yesterday from Hebrews 10 (check out "let us" statements in NIV) and this phrase, "let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing". He's writing to the church (house of God reference in same passage) so we can assume that he wants the church to keep meeting together.

I might translate this as don't miss church (as I said yesterday, not to get stars by your name, but because you and I both need you to be there for true fellowship to happen). But what exactly are we saying when we say, "don't miss church" or "go to church"? Where is that?

Many in our Christian culture are proposing that any group of people who get together to pursue Jesus constitutes a church. And while I agree that because of the Holy Spirit's presence in us where two or three of us come together, it is a representation of church. But many are ready to throw away the local church (I think mainly because they think that having a building, expenses, etc... are wastes of money that could be used somewhere else - say to save aids victims in Africa). I think we may be swinging the pendulum a little too far. I want to go on record that I believe that the local church was established in the first century as more than just a bunch of un-organized house churches who just ran themselves organically by the Spirit's leading. I know I'm not going to resolve this issue (even if I wrote a book it wouldn't) but here's my two cents on where church is (I welcome all comments, even if they don't agree):

1. A church is where there is a gathering of several people to worship God in a designated public place. The word used in Hebrews that is translated "meeting together" is a word with "synagogue" right in it. This denotes a public place of worship and as we know for a city to have an official synagogue, there had to be at least 10 Jewish men involved. Simple math, four to family, times 10 equals forty - meeting in a public place for worship - that is the pattern.

2. A church is where there are biblical leaders that Christ-followers can submit to. Since Paul told Titus to establish elders in every church, and since this was the practice of the early church I don't see how we can call any group of believers who do not submit to God-ordained leaders a church. There simply is no pattern for it.

3. A church is where the Bible is preached. If there is no preaching of the Word of God, then what in the world are we meeting for? Don't know and I have no further comment.

4. A church is where the number present is never enough. The church is always looking to multiply. Because we have the "good news" the gathering of those in a local church are never satisfied with their numbers until everyone in the world has heard this good news. That means a church of 40 needs to grow and a church of 10,000 needs to grow.

5. A church is where members see themselves as vital parts of the body, gifted by the Spirit to serve the needs of others in the body and are actually exercising these gifts.

6. A church is where people's lives are being changed for eternity.

7. A church is where people give generously of their resources.

Well, this is obviously not an extensive list. Honestly, I got way too deep for my brain on a Monday afternoon. But here's what I guess I'm saying. I love the church (the one church that God sees from his perspective and the congregations of all sizes that make up this church) and I believe it a place we should gather every Sunday because I need you to be there and you need me to be there and this is how God designed the church.

Monday, July 27, 2009

saving or destroying

There comes a place in the life of Jesus, where it says he resolutely set out for Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-55 NIV). This is actually the NIV translation for a Hebrew idiom that means to "set your face towards" something. Why was Jesus setting his face towards Jerusalem at this point in his ministry? Because Jerusalem is the place where He would do what he would come to do - save the world from their sins.

Funny thing happened along the way. Jesus sent some interns ahead to a Samaritan village (apparently heading south from Galilee) to see if Jesus could do a preaching rally there. Well, the people who were less than excited about any one heading to Jerusalem said, "no thanks" and didn't welcome Jesus into town. So James and John do what any dedicated, hard working, Jesus following servants would do; they ask Jesus for permission to call down lightning from heaven and smoke these ingrates! I mean who do they think they are? Denying a visit from Jesus. Don't they know who they're messin' with? So logical. So impulsive. Get on the Jesus train or die!

Jesus got mad. The bible says he rebuked them (which means he yelled at them probably) and then he went to another village.

Here's my simple question for you to ponder today (which i have pondered from my prayer room this morning): As Jesus has his face set towards saving people, are you as his follower just wishing you could destroy them? I know, you would never think followers of Jesus would do this but here we have the apostles doing it and I could name some others (myself included). As we are on mission for Jesus are we focused on the salvation work in their lives or are they just obstacles to what we want to do for God?

Just a deep thought for Monday...not very deep, but deep enough!

Monday, July 20, 2009

facebook jesus

many of you know I don't face book...i have many reasons. one is that I barely have time to keep up with e-mails and stuff let alone all the things I hear posted on my wife's face page. two is i really find this whole phenomena a pursuit in triviality (don't even get me started about tweeting, i do not care that you had coffee for breakfast, or are wearing your favorite red shoes, or had to stop and go to the bathroom, seriously who really would care?). three i'm a fan of real f2f and lol. I value and enjoy being in the presence of flesh and blood human beings and responding in real time, live! finally, i think face book gives people the boldness to say things they shouldn't say, post pictures they shouldn't post, and talk about things they shouldn't talk about (has everyone forgotten that this is the world wide web and people can read what your are writing?). Anyway, this blog is not designed to rail againt face book (after all how hypocritical to blog? Who wants to read what I say anyway? Oh well...).

Someone asked me the other day if Jesus would have face booked or not. Very interesting question. First glance says "yes". I mean he loved people and called his followers friends. Can you imagine how many he would have had? And he had a lot to say and his tweets would be a lot more interesting ("just healed a blind guy", "guess what? Lazarus is alive again", "told the wind and waves to shut up - now back to my nap"). He could make a mass appeal to follow him. But as I thought about it...I don't think Jesus would dig facebook. Here are a few reasons why:
1. The whole deal behind Jesus is incarnation. There is no substitute for flesh and blood when dealing with humans and so God became man. God didn't facebook earth, he came to earth. And that incarnation I believe meets the deepest human need.
2. Jesus dealt with people one on one a lot and facebook really isn't that way. Jesus spoke to and taught the masses, but he tried to get away from the crowd too. He preferred one woman at the well, one blind man, one teacher of the law. These are the meetings he held face to face.
3. Jesus spoke with his actions as deeply as with his words. Can you imagine the seven quotes from the cross without his actually hanging there? They would be good words and all, but they just wouldn't carry the weight. If he had simply posted "father forgive them..." that wouldn't have done.

Well, I've got more, but my 2:30 apointment just showed up so I'm done.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Galena with the elders

Well, I'm gonna post a quick blog this morning before church since I'll be in Galena tomorrow and I'm not sure about computer access. As soon as church is over today, I and the elder team from Eastview is heading north for a couple of days of retreat (yes, we are riding in an old school 15 passenger van that is a really ugly light blue - flashback to youth ministry days). We will be led in Scripture and devotion by my great friend J.K. Jones. Sandi and Bob Knapp (along with my wife) are preparing some awesome meals and i and the elders are going to get away and vision for Eastview. How do you do that? Well, you get together in a room with men of faith and you pray for God to lay direction on your hearts. Then you discuss and talk and circle back and pray some more and think and sleep on it and talk and pray some more and then it seems that the Spirit always leads to some concrete things. I'm stoked about this. I love these guys and I love that we are going to talk about our role in being stewards of all that God is doing at Eastview and what He will do here if we have enough faith! So pray, eternal stuff is at stake. Oh yeah, we'll have some intensely honest conversations and we'll laugh a lot. I'll try and update when we get back.

Last night (due the generous gift of one of our members - or was she just being ornery?), I finished third in the donations for the make a wish foundations annual "celebrity" sing. I performed "R.O.C.K. in the USA" with Gerry and the G men. I was nervous, but we got through it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

crying and stuff

First of all, I want to respond to many who have not been able to get my sermon on-line today. Sorry, but it will not be able to be posted until next Sunday, when the one person who controls that download will be back from vacation! Sorry, we just don't have any other options this week, but we will.

Second, many of you have asked about my upcoming celebrity sing for wishes? Here's the scoop: I offered to be a local celebrity for Make a Wish foundation and an event they do each year to raise money for this really cool cause. Here's how it works. If you go to you can make a donation in my name for this charity. The three "celebrities" who get the most money donated in their name have to sing with a cover band (Jerry and g-men I think) this Saturday night (11th) at Gill Street Bar from 7:00-11:00. So now you know. I haven't pushed this because as a rule I push one thing - Jesus. So I offered to play along, but won't work extra hard to drum up support. Am I nervous? Nope - don't think I'll be singing, but if I do, "r.o.c.k. in the usa" will be a good tune don't you think?

Finally, as you know I was in Louisville last week for the North American Christian Convention and then Sara and I headed to Cincinnati for a reds game before riding home (on our bike) in a complete monsoon all day Saturday. Anyway, we had a great day in Cincy and I cried three times at the ball game. No, it wasn't because my team choked and lost to the cards in the 8th inning! Here's where I cried. At the star spangled banner in the beginning of the game I cried. I always get a lump in my throat because the song is a reminder of my freedom, but at the game they released an eagle at "the land of the free and the home of the brave" who swooped down so majestic across the field and to his trainer...I couldn't contain a tear. Then, there was a family sitting in front of us (mom, dad, son and daughter). The mom had a tattoo on her shoulder (which I always notice since my son is in the business) that had five names on it...obviously her family,but one name had a halo (Scotty) so I deduced that they had lost a son. Later, the dad stood up to cheer and he was wearing a memorial baseball game shirt in honor of his son Scotty. Wow! During the game, she bought her other son some cotton candy and he smiled and she patted his head with a look only a mother can give and I cried because I thought how much pain she must have to not be able to buy cotton candy for her other son. Then after the game, they had this really cool fireworks display set to music. Again the finale was the star spangled banner...same line (land of the free home of the brave) and fireworks and explosions filled the sky with the music loud and then 42,000 people cheered and I cried. What a baseball game.

Then Sunday a man came forward at the invitation and simply said, "I need Jesus" and i put my arm around him and cried (and I'm teary eyed typing this).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

convention update

Back at the hotel studying and writing for Sunday's sermon. Really powerful sermon which will call people to life! If you are an Eastviewer invite a non-believing friend and pray they will choose life (Read Deuteronomy 30:11-20).

I heard two great sermons this morning. One was by Rick Rusaw and he hit a chord that is always a part of my heart beat. the theme for the week is "Still Amazed" and his topic was "Grace that feels". His text was the story of the good Samaritan and the idea behind the sermon was that the grace we have been given prompts us to focus on the needs of others and motivates us to help meet those needs.

the most poignant part of the teaching for me was the response of the "religious types" (Priest and Levite) and the Samaritan who was a "neighbor" Jesus was talking about: the religious types saw the need and asked, "what will happen to me if I stop and help?" And the neighbor asked, "What will happen to this man if I don't stop and help?"

Are you going through life concerned for yourself and what might happen if you get involved in the messed up lives of those in need around you? If so, you'll always pass by on the other side and you'll miss the point of your life (ephesians 2:10). Are you going through life concerned with the needs of others, willingly getting involved with the mess so that you can bring grace? If so, you'll always be stopping to help those in need. And you'll be the kind of person Jesus commends as loving their neighbor as themselves.

Monday, June 29, 2009

river miscellany

Sara and I took off from Normal this morning around 8:00 ish for the North American Christian Convention. Many of you may not know what this is, but it's a 60+ year old gathering of independent Christian churches (which is the tradition Eastview comes from - the convention is sort of a non-decision making, non-denomination, denominational gathering). I'll hear some good sermons (and hopefully write one for Sunday), connect with some old ministry friends (encouragement is important), and I have two breakfasts scheduled where I will get to mentor some younger guys in ministry (which means I'm becoming an old guy in ministry). The trip was made more enjoyable because we brought the bike over. It was a perfect sunny day for a ride!

A couple of comments on my previous blog: One having to do with networks and how a Christian should listen to them (the CNN/Fox News dillemma). Here's the deal. I watch both, but I'll have to be honest and tell you I am convicted more often than not that I'm wasting my time. Of course, both have political agendas (no matter how much they say they don't) but that's not what bothers me. What I find really destructive is the whole genre' of 24 hour news. The truth is that both cover a lot of stuff that is a waste of time, fabricated, or embellished to fill air time with meaningless words. I think this is harmful to the use of language in our culture. When we manipulate language and news to try and make things that normally aren't of interest a headline; then we have the effect of making words unimportant. We are becoming a society of "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah". You know why this is so crucial to me, right? Because I use words to communicate the WORD and if people get accustomed to tuning out what is being said....well then preaching suffers. So, I would say Christians should watch news discriminately. When there is something happening (like Michael Jackson's death) watch to get the information. But if you're still watching "breaking news" or "alerts" after four hours and they are still saying the same thing...turn it off and go read your Bible.

In a similar note, a late comment asked about my impression on popular books like "the shack" etc... is that you must remember they are fictional writings. This means they may be helpful in expressing God emotions, or giving God perspectives, etc... But they can't be taken as conclusive when it comes to theology. the scary thing for a pastor is that a newer believer or unbeliever reads these books and take them as the way God is. This leads to a lot of heretical thinking. So I'd say make sure you read the Bible at least as much (really more) than any other books and you'll be o.k.

Finally, the baptism I got to do in 2nd hour yesterday...this lady was so broken and thankful for Jesus grace and proud to confess him as Lord and filled with tears of joy as she broke free from the watery grave and overwhelmed with the love of Christ. I love it...never gets old...and the angels rejoiced.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What if a NT God-follower is OT blessed?

Yesterday we talked about the blessings God reviewed for the Old Testament people of God as revealed in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. We noted that OT blessings followed the Abrahamic covenant that God would bless him in one of or all of four ways: land, descendants (some people think kids are a blessing:-), prosperity, and defeat of enemies. However, we noted that the real blessing was spiritual and that Jesus confirmed that for NT covenant people in his "blessings" in Matthew 5. Conclusion? Our blessings are spiritual and we as followers of Christ should not expect prosperity, land, progenity or defeat of enemies in the earthly sense.

But what if we are prosperous? We do have big and healthy families? We seem to overcome all of our foes and detractors? We have lots of possessions? Well here (in expanded form) are the five answers I gave from God's perspective on what to do if God Old Testament (physical) blesses you on top of New Testament (spiritual) blesses you.

1. Be thankful. These things are true blessings because every good and perfect gift comes down form the Father of heavenly lights (James says). So if you have much you should thank God for his grace on top of grace.

2. Be aware. Don't assume for one minute that this is the case for all of God followers. I don't have stats for this, but I'd say that the majority of the world's Christians live in poverty. Any time you hear a televangelist talking about how God loves to give cars and houses and worldly prosperity to believers who trust in him; you need to take a missions trip. I've been in worship services in Haiti, Dominican Republic, and Mexico City that are filled with Spirit-filled Christians who have nothing in the earthly sense but would call themselves "blessed" (and biblically speaking they are spot on).

3. Be generous. Selfishness and unwillingness to share are not Christian attitudes. If you have been given a lot, I believe you be increasingly generous. This means you should give now and you should give more later. One monk said, "Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can."

4. Be willing to give it all up. You know the story of the rich ruler right? Jesus challenged him to give away all his stuff and follow him. Would you? Could you? You'd better or else you can't be a follower of Jesus. NOTE: this is easier to do "hypothetically speaking" so you should regularly follow number three above to actually put your money where you mouth is!

5. Ask how you can bless others with what you've been blessed with. This is the kicker about yesterday's teaching. Did you know that God didn't give land, kids, prosperity and peace to Abram for Abram? Nope. It was for God's glory...that all nations on earth would be blessed through Him. Think of it. All the stuff you have isn't about you or for you? It's for God and His name.

Be blessed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

important stuff

A couple of books have converged in my world to impact what I do as a pastor recently. First is the book I've almost completed called "Why Johnny Can't Preach". It's basically a book by a man on his death bed lamenting the fact that preaching in our American churches has sunk to an all-time low in terms of quality. The other book is a biography of the famous Great Awakening preacher from the early 1700's New England by the name of Jonathan Edwards (google "sinners in the hands of an angry God"). Anyway, here's how these two come together...

one premise about why Johnny can't preach is that Johnny (in fact all of our society) is driven by a media that constantly distracts us with "sights and sounds of inconsequential trivialities". In other words we have greater access to more useless information than ever before (don't get me started about I need to know that you are going out to walk your dog? NO!). Simply
the preaching in our churches often focuses on the trivial and unimportant and talked about instead of the eternal constants and deep things of God.

the book about Jonathan Edwards comes into this conversation because his life was filled with notebooks and journals and logs that addressed the deepest questions of his day from a theological and scientific (the age we know as enlightenment was happening in Europe where scientific discoveries and theories were proposed daily). His effort was to address from a biblical point of view all of the world's mysteries. He wrote about deep stuff like what the discovery of an ever expanding universe means about God and how gravity and God go hand in hand. His mind simply covered every important question of his day.

So I'm inspired to be a Jonathan not a Johnny. I'm committed to addressing the things that are important to our culture...the ones that will last for eternity, not the trivial junk that will be over when the next fad comes along. I have committed to write every day and I'm trying to make these writings about the significant stuff of all of our lives. I challenge all pastors and teachers to do the same. We have enough junk writing and media...maybe we should offer something different.

Also, this is where you as the leader may be helpful. What is important right now in our culture? Anything
that I could study, research, and address from a biblical perspective? Let me know.

Monday, June 8, 2009

st. louis

well, sara and I are taking some vacation time this week in st. louis (hotwire makes it affordable and this time of year is in right rhythm for a break). we love hanging out in the city. I get energized by people so being surrounded by them and yet anonymous is somehow relaxing to me (don't try to figure me out, just love me).

I found another public gathering besides church where it's apparently acceptable to be late (don't construe that statement as an endorsement of late church attendance)...the ball park. People were actually showing up today at the cards/rockies game in the third inning! c'mon man, I've gone back for more cracker jacks by then. By the third inning you've missed some great plays, the national anthem, the kids trying to start the wave, and passing beers down to the guy in the middle of the row. In other words you don't get the whole experience - you've missed a third of the total picture. I could develop this as a parable for going to church and get on some soap box about that, but you get the picture (if you come to our services at church 15 minutes left you may have already missed a home run). Besides, I left after the 8th inning so i'm like the guy who leaves after communion to beat the crowd to the restaurants. But I knew the cards weren't coming back. Unlike church, there were no miracles. O.K enough of that.

What do I do on vacation? Nothing. Or more specifically nothing in the awareness of God. What I try to do is not plan, intentionally work, or worry, or set an alarm but try to think about God and be aware of His presence as much as I can. This is rest for me and so far, I'm rested. One thing I did bring along was a biography on Jonathan Edwards, famous pre-revolution American preacher (among other things). As the theologians Bill and Ted say, he a "famous dead dude" of faith and i'm always inspired when I read of such guys. It's a long book, so I hope I get it done (i read slow and distracted...It took me a half hour to get through the famous "Dick and Jane books" from my childhood. I mean I read "See dick run." And I think "Who's he running from?" "Is he in a fight?" "Is Jane mad at him?" "I wonder if Dick is very fast?" "I see him running, there is a drawing on the page." "He doesn't look that fast to me." "I bet I could beat him up." "Maybe he's running from me." "No, wait, I'm reading this book not chasing Dick." "See Dick run." I think this parenthetical tangent proves my point!)

I must be on vacation!

Oh yeah, one more thing...I sat one table over from Colorado Rockies star first baseman Todd Helton last night at a downtown steak place (Mike Shannon's). Sara wouldn't let me talk to him though he was with his family. I saw him run today too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

profound theology

Let me hit you with some really profound theology (even more profound than the sermon I preached yesterday from Deuteronomy 25:11&12 about a wife seizing her husband's assailant by his private parts :-) Yes all of God's Word does preach!) about sharing your faith. Ready? Here goes some real truth you can take to the bank.

If I'm contagious and I sneeze, but no one is around; they won't get what I've got.
If I'm not contagious and I sneeze all over a bunch of people; they won't get what I don't have.

This is not about swine flu (although it got my brain thinking in this way). This is about sharing the good news of Jesus!

It occurs to me that no matter how contagious I am; if I'm not around people they are not in danger of getting what I have. No matter how spiritual I am. No matter how much I love Jesus and am dedicated to all the "dos'" and "dont's" of the Bible; I will never win anyone to my Lord unless I hang out with people who need to be "infected" with the love of Jesus. Many times, we Christians slip into comfortable Christian lives that do not include neighbors, relatives, co-workers, fellow students, etc... who do not have the truth of the good news of Jesus.

On the other hand, I can be as social as I want to be - literally surrounded by dozens of people in close proximity, but if I'm not contagious then they are not in danger of getting anything. No matter how much i hang out with non-Christians. No matter how many times i invite someone to church, or how many Christian fashion statements I make; I will never win someone to relationship with Christ unless i have a true relationship with Jesus. The reason many of us struggle with witnessing is that we really aren't followers. This means that the unbelievers around us don't see anything different that would cause them to want what we have or worse that they see us as hypocrites for saying we are Christians, but acting like the world.

I guess what I'm saying is get something and then sneeze on as a many people as possible!

Monday, May 25, 2009

trend or movement?

I want to be a part of a movement. A movement (in my book) is a God-sized something that just pops up in the kingdom of God and radically changes things. The church is a movement. The reformation was a movement. The great awakening was a movement. There have been many missionary movements.

In the American church, I'm afraid many of us are more concerned with trends. Trends are what other churches are doing, or programs that are working in other places. Trends are, well, trendy. They last for a while and then a new trend comes along and everyone jumps to that. Bus ministry was trend. VBS was a trend (not all trends go away...and if your church is still doing VBS don't read more into this statement than you should...I like watered down Kool aid as much as anyone :-). Professionally programmed worship was a trend. Cool worship guys with bleached jeans and candles on the stage was a trend. Preachers in HD are a trend. Satellite churches are a trend. Churches focusing all their energy on helping kids with aids in Africa is a trend. You get the point. Not all trends (the ones i just mentioned included) are's just that they are trends. Below are my observations about trends and movements in the church.

Want to know if your church is trending or moving? Think about these...

Trends are predictable...movements are not (because the Spirit is at work and He is unpredictable).

Trends can be copied...movements can't be duplicated no matter how much you try.

Trends get headlines and lots of press...movements impact more people with neither.

Trends have answers for how things are done...movements have more questions than answers.

Trends draw crowds while the trend continues...movements change lives forever.

Trends get accolades while they are going on...movements get accolades 500 years after their done.

Trends happen where resources meet marketing...movements happen where God meets his people.

Trends are for the impatient who need immediate results...movements take time (often the leader of a movement toils for decades before anything moves).

Trends take brains...movements take faith.

Men take credit for trends...God gets credit for movements (though some men try to take it for themselves).

No matter what is trending now; the next trend is just around the corner and will make this one seem lame.

The next movement? Who knows. But if it's of God it will probably happen where a bunch of people are praying, sincerely dying to themselves so they can follow Jesus and holding up the Word of God. I want to be a part of a movement, don't you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

golf and stuff

I took a vacation day Thursday for an annual event I host here in B/N for some preaching buddies of mine. Tim Harlow (Parkview Christian Church - chicago...ish), Eddie Lowen (Springfield) and JP Jones (Champaign) all brought their wives to town around 9:45 (had to pick up JP at the Miller Park zoo, but that's another story). Anyway, BJ Armstrong was good enought to get us a tee time at BCC and we had a blast. Even though it had rained like crazy the course was really nice.

Now, here's the deal. I'm not a good golfer (and that's being kind), but this event is not about golf. It's about hanging out with guys who do what I do...who understand the pressures and to whom you can just spout off and not worry about how they may take it. We didn't even keep score, but we had a great day of golf. These guys encouraged me, challenged me, told me how I should do things at my church :-) and we laughed a lot. Sara spent the day with their wives and by 3:30 we were at Biaggi's for an early dinner. Very rewarding day.

Sunday I got to teach from Deuteronomy 22:13-30 and God used this very interesting text to teach us about his standards for sexuality. I really liked how the sermon turned out. I'm often surprised (even though I believe this from the bottom of my heart and have proven it to be true over and over again) at how completely relevant the Bible is to all that is in our world today. Sex drives this culture in many ways, and of course God created sex and knows about it more than anyone. If only we'd listen.

Finally, at the end of the service I made the announcement that while Doug Rutter (teaching pastor) has blessed us here with his preaching gift, i have come to the realization that there are not enough teaching opportunities here for him. So we have prayerfully and with blessing encouraged Doug to pursue another church where he can use his gift regularly and fully develope what God has made him to be...a preacher. If you remember it, join us in praying for Doug and Toni as they seek the place God is preparing for them.