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.