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.