Monday, December 27, 2010

no need to dream of white Christmas

Well, we got a white Christmas...and then some. Our Christmas Eve services were obviously affected by the six-seven inches of snow that fell in Normal on the afternoon of Christmas Eve into the night. Many churches cancelled, but of course we didn't. By the time I had arrived at 3:00 p.m. there was a full crew making our lots drivable along with our tech guys and some musicians. We still had a couple of thousand make their way out to the church to celebrate the Eve of what we celebrate as the birth of Christ. Still one of my favorite worship service of the year (even if I'm major distracted by the hundreds of anxious kids with more energy than all the Christmas lights in town)! Only one real mishap when a little boy snapped the glow stick we used instead of candles and got the stuff in his eyes - don't worry not toxic, washed out with water and he's o.k.

Had a great week with both my family and Sara's family in Indy and Cincy. Good to see these loved ones who are growing up so fast (I saw three nieces/nephews who I remember being born and are now in college, along with my two adult children!)

Got some cool gifts for Christmas. Of course, my mom always comes through with gift certificates and/or cash for clothes. My sister took a picture of me (in one of my favorite fedoras) and had her friend who does characitures (is that spelled totally wrong - I could spell check it...nah!) and gave me a print of the picture attached.

My wife got me some really cool first and third century coins from antiquity from our trip to the Promised Land.

My greatest gift was to hang out with my wife and boys on Christmas day eating, laughing and talking with each other. Christmas is totally different when their this age, but the warmth is still the awesome family Christmas that I remember growing up. And of course, it was a snow covered ground and a warm fire in the fireplace that made it all that more cozy.

Then the Cowboys lost in the last seconds and I thought of letting it ruin my Christmas...but even that couldn't. Hope your Christmas was as good as mine. Looking forward to a great 2011. Trying to prepare for Sunday's Q&A teaching time. It's like preparing for an oral exam over the whole Bible. There have been some great questions sent won't want to miss this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

some traditions are very good

Christmas is a time for traditions. Sometimes the word itself can hold a negative connotation. And in many instances traditions are negative. I think traditions are bad in two ways. Traditions are bad when they become the way we do things simply because we've "always done it this way". Sometimes this prevents us from doing things a better way. Traditions can also be bad when they become the way we expect everyone else to do things even when their tradition is perfectly fine. But this blog is not to really about all that.

this is a blog that celebrates tradition - especially Christmas ones. Sometimes traditions are very good. They are good when they take you back to a place or to people you really love. They are good when they help you remember things that should be remembered. They are good when they bind you together with others who share the tradition. As I sit in a hotel lobby in my favorite town (Indianapolis) on a brief Christmas vacation, I ponder some of my Christmas traditions:

this quick trip is becoming a tradition. We left church yesterday after second hour and made our way to downtown Indy. tomorrow we are heading to Cincinnati and Sara's family and then the following day back through Indy to my brother's house for my family. I love it all (supposed to snow too).

While in Indy I take in alot of tradtion stuff. Walking on the monument circle, seeing the toy soldiers and the lights - all this stuff takes me back to my chubby little childhood. It just makes me smile! This past weekend, we served over 850 families at Eastview's "IMAGINE" with coats, toys, and food. This is a four year tradition now for our church. Most of you don't know but this really touches me on so many levels - one is that my family grew up poor and benefitted from our church family providing food many times in my growing up years. There was more than one winter that I would have gone without a coat if some kind person would not have purchased one for me. I can remember at least two Christmases with one toy under the tree. This is not a "woe is me" remembering. I was a completely happy and content kid. It just warms my heart that thousands of kids will wake up Christmas morning and have a present under their tree because of Eastview's annual tradition.

Another tradition Sara and i have started is to go up to Chicago and see "A Christmas Carol" at the Goodman Theatre. Did it again last week and as we left the play, it was snowing a beautiful light snow with the lights of Michigan Ave. twinkling between snow flakes - awesome.

We also have begun taking up a special ministry offering each December for expaning ministry at Eastview...and even thought there was a blizzard last week, and nearly 2,000 people less in attandance - the offering beat last year's! We are still getting checks, so it's not over, but we're on the way. Great tradition of giving.

Finally, I'm already working on the sermon for this Friday night's Christmas Eve services at Eastview. I love this time of getting the whole family together (even though preaching with tons of kids in the room is a lot harder) and celebrating the season and the REASON together. I have a lot more traditions, but we'll talk of them in the future.

Monday, December 13, 2010

16th Christmas party

Sorry for the late post, but I just got back from one of my favorite events of the year! The annual Eastview staff Christmas party! This year we went to Alexanders and it was awesome. Seeing all those who do so much to make the ministry of Eastview happen each year with their spouses laughing and eating and sharing stories. It brings joy to my heart like a father with his children (I know that sounds old...but i guess i'm getting there). It's just a great chance to say thanks for all they do and to celebrate all that God is doing as he works so mightily at Eastview!

The other thing this annual party does is remind me of the journey. This is the 16th staff Christmas party since i've been at Eastview. 12 of those I was either the youth pastor or associate pastor, for the last four as the Sr. Pastor. A lot has changed in those years. That first year we went to Jim's Steakhouse (Biaggi's wasn't even around back then). The only remaining staff members from that first staff Christmas are me, Mark Warren, Sandi Knapp, Bill Leech, and Stephanie Shifflett. Great memories that I can't recall for you at this time...just smiling from ear to ear as I think of the journey.

The highlight of each year since I've been Sr. Pastor is the best decorated office for Christmas. We give cheap little prizes away, but everyone gets excited about hearing the winning entry - it's like winning the movie of the year at the oscars - only much smaller. Anyway, this year's winners were Dan Fulkerson with his toy train set up, Julie Heinold and Rachel Warren (they share an office) with peppermint shop, and Jason Sniff with family holiday (his whole family was there in pajamas there today for the judging).

Let me tell you, this staff at Eastview is awesome! You may not know it if you have not seen other church staffs, but I've seen dozens of churches all over the country in these last 25 years and I wouldn't trade these people for anything. Tell them how much you love them next time you see them!

And did I mention skillet that's a merry christmas celebration.

Monday, December 6, 2010

the most wonderful time of the year

it's no secret that I love Christmas - the snow, the stories, the kids eyes, the lights, the parties, the songs, the RED SPORT COATS :-), and the chance to share Jesus to a group that thinks about Jesus only this time of the year. I keep believing (and praying) that this year, this service, this sermon will be the one that God uses to draw them home.

Some stuff that made this weekend a most wonderful time of the year for me:
I got to baptize a family of five yesterday after second hour - it's so special when an entire family takes the faith plunge! Also baptized a sincere young Jr. High boy - love it when young men (with father filled with joy in the background) take this bold stand for Jesus!

I'm gonna say it - "I loved the sermon yesterday!" That's rare for me. I just loved the idea of "let's go back to Bethlehem" (return from Moab - from Ruth 1). Had a young lady who came up to me yesterday and has a DUI court case coming up tomorrow, but she's turning to God at this time and has a great young faith and sincere desire to let Jesus take over her life.

Also had a great trip down memory lane after our Christmas concert last night (both nights were sold out - though we had some no shows, the concert was great - God has blessed us with such talent - not to mention awesome staff in this area: Matt Ludwig, Scott Sarver, Karen Norris, Dan Fulkerson, Jake Stubbs and Matt Holderby...simply awesome!). First I ran into Sue Whitsett (not sure on the spelling) who was one of the people who started Eastview Christian Church in 1955! Her sisters (Donna and Linda Faull) still attend. Anyway, she just simply said, I can't believe what God has done with Eastview. She was very complimentary of the program.

Then I ran into Bob Phillips wife in the atrium. Bob was the second full time pastor at Eastview from 1962-1975. He led us from the building on Emerson Street to Towanda Ave. She said Bob loved the concert and was proud of us. Finally, I ran into Gary and Janet York. For those new to Eastview, Gary was the Sr. Pastor from 1975 to 2007. He hired me as youth pastor and led the church through the move from Towanda Ave. to our current location. He complimented the music and said good job. You can't imagine what these God encounters did for my soul. It reminds me that we are building on a firm foundation of people and sacrifices that God used in the past. May I be found as faithful as these great servants.

Then of course, it is that time of year for our annual staff Christmas party...but that's for another blog. And it's's all good!

Monday, November 29, 2010

didn't learn this in Bible College

If you were in first service yesterday, I don't need to tell you how different the sermon turned out to be. If you came to second service you had no idea and this blog will be news to you. Before, I go any further, let me assure you that the man involved in this story is at home tonight recuperating and being monitored for blood pressure and other medical indications and is doing "fine". I'm not revealing his name because he is a new member at our church and I don't want to draw undo attention to him. He is "embarrassed and sorry for being a distraction". We assured him that aside from scaring us to death, we are just glad he is o.k. Which leads to what happened.

I was midway through my sermon kind of turned to the right side of the auditorium when I caught a woman motioning frantically in my peripheral to the left and in the front row! She was trying to be discreet, but was obviously panicked. One look at her husband beside her, let me know why! I have seen people pass out and I have seen seizures...this was neither. I saw a middle-aged man slump back in his seat, eyes roll back in his head, very pale coloration and a gasping for breath that can only be described as choking. My honest first thought was I think a man has just had a major stroke or heart attack in the front row. So I reverted to what they taught me to do in my Bible college training - then I remember they never said anything about this!

So, I stopped and said, we obviously have a medical emergency right now, any medical professionals or doctors who can help please come down here and help and someone call 911 for an ambulance. Mind you, a million things are swirling through my mind at this point in a split second: what was I just saying in my sermon, is this guy gonna be all right, do we have the equipment to shock this guy's heart, do we have an emergency plan for something like this, is everyone staring at me right now, what is the best thing I can do as a pastor. After a few seconds I suggested that we all start praying for this man...and I led the congregation in about a five minute prayer (maybe longer or shorter, I don't really know). Everyone was freaked, and the so was I and the only thing i knew to do was we did. I don't know if God did a miracle or not, but I think he did because when we were done praying, the man was talking to the gathering of 25 medical professionals, two of which were doctors (again I'm not sure about this) and there was a medical kit of somekind nearby. I asked the congregation to remain in prayer and in a matter of minutes the man was sitting up, in a wheel chair and out the back of the auditorium to the waiting ambulance. I learned later that we did have a medical emergency plan and that everyone involved acted exactly as they should have with professionalism and compassion. This all took about 12-15 minutes. And now 1300 people are looking at me and I realize that I need to lead us to what's next. There was about 25 minutes left in our service...again many thoughts swirled through my mind: have Matt come and lead some musical worship (but who felt like singing), finish the sermon, dismiss the service, lead into communion, talk about the uncertainty of life, etc... Finally, the Spirit led me to say, "I always pray for God to take out the parts of the sermon that he doesn't want me to say..apparently he didn't like the second half of my sermon." The laughter eased the tension.

I briefly summarized what I was going to say in my sermon and by that time everyone's heartbeats had gotten back to near normal. So we went on with the rest of our service as planned. It was pretty wild. The irony is that by the time people started arriving for our second service around 10:30, the ambulance was gone and the rest of the day went on "as usual". But most of us will not forget that first service for a long time.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Holy Land recap

Numb is the only word I can use to describe how I feel right now. Sitting in JFK airport waiting our flight for Chicago and then home to B/N. I have slept about 3 1/2 hours since Midnight Sunday night (CST also could be midnight Monday morning). I have killed time by reading, writing my sermon for Sunday (got a good one going), and watching that little digital map thing that tracks your progress over the ocean on long flights. Anyway, after having some time to reflect, I'm ready to give my "holy land" awards (if you have never heard of them, don't be alarmed...I just made that up)

Most disappointing: Bethelehem. Sorry to say, but it's a dirty city and not very "o little town..."

Most inspiring: the water at the edge of the Sea of Galilee where tradition holds that Jesus reinstated Peter with the words, "do you love me?" and "feed my sheep?"

Best food: Dried dates are the best I've ever had. Also liked their bread.

Thing Israel could use: A starbucks (but you saw that coming) I'm just saying.

Wasn't expecting: an animal called a hyrex near the caves of En Gedi (mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:7) as unclean (also called "coney" or "rock badger").

Would like to see again: The ruins of Megiddo (King Solomon's stables and King Ahab's tunnel) were unexpected 3,000 year old finds. Masada and Caesarea are runners up.

Preacher Geek award: The museum of the Dead Sea scrolls

Weirdest experience: Floating on the Dead Sea...seriously the salt lifts you out of the water.

Most clarifying: View of the Kidron valley - I have read about it, studied it, preached it and drawn it on the white board, but now I have a mind's picture of what it looks like

Future digs: They are doing some major work on the city of David (original small corner of Jerusalem that David established).

Best thing: coming home to the people I love (this is true of every trip)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holy Land last full day

Today we rose to the typical breakfast (in most hotels breakfast comes with room) of olives, fish, granola, fresh fruits, great fresh bread, lame coffee, figs, dates, honey, egg stuff, cheese, etc... I'm ready for some good ol American cuisine. But that's not what i came for...

Today we hit the shore of Galilee where a chapel commemorates the place where Jesus was reinstated Peter with breakfast of fish and bread on the shore. We prayed together there and it was very moving. Then to the town of Capernaum where Jesus stayed during his three year ministry in Galilee and healed Peter's mother-in-law in his home. We actually saw his first century home - where Jesus was for sure! Capernaum was a crazy cool place, great archeology finds. Then the highlight - we went out on a boat across the Sea of Galilee - more spiritual feelings than you can imagine...great stuff.

Well, tomorrow, we head home. We leave 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning to fly 12 hours to arrive in New York at 6:00 a.m. and then we'll fly all day to get home by 9:00 p.m. Long day, then back to Normal

Saturday, November 20, 2010

on the shore of Galilee

I'm sitting on a patio with four pastor friends talking about my church and missing you all...OVERLOOKING THE SEA OF GALILEE! What a surreal experience...again. Today was my favorite day...away from the clutter of the religious clutter and lots of ancient artifacts and archeology. Went to Caesarea - place King Herod built. Where Peter preached to and converted Cornelius (first Gentile convert). Saw the theatre and hippodrome there..awesome. Stood on the floor of the governor's palace (think Pontius Pilate's residence when not in Jerusalem) where Felix (during the life of Paul) was governor and held a trial for Paul. Where Paul appealed to Caesar! Very cool to stand in this biblical place.

Then, we went to Meggido and saw the palace and stables of Solomon (I mean I touched a 1,000 BC horse trough cut out of stone) and his palace with a view to the Galilee mountains and Nazareth. Also went down into an underground tunnel made by king Ahab to access the spring of the city during sieges. Amazing stuff...really humbling.

Finally, we made it to nazareth and the place where Jesus was raised and where the angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus was going to be born! It has a cathedral over the top of mary's supposed house, which is over a crusade church (1100 ad). It may not be her house, but it was a small town (think 500 or less) and we saw remains from that period i may have seen at least a stone that was on the house where mary heard _ "you are highly favored...". That is amazing connections with my christian past.

tomorrow while the people I love are worshiping in normal, I'll be having a worship service on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. God bless.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6 million and one tombs

Today we began with a very sobering trip to the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. There are many Holocaust museums throughout the world, but as you can imgine, they take it more seriously here thant anywhere else! It was unbelievably sad and a story that never gets easy to visualize (with pictures and footage). After this we went to the museum that holds the Dead Sea scrolls found in the 1940's that verified historically, the scriptures we have in our Bible. Very awesome - you know I'm a Bible/preaching geek and so this was incredible historical stuff, very cool to see actual scrolls from the 2nd century BC with my eyes. This is like seeing the Declaration of Indepence in Washington D.C. (which i have and it's cool), but times ten (2,100 plus years versus 250 years)!

The afternoon was hectic making a trip (mostly on foot) to Caiphas' house, a possible "upper room" and King David's tomb. Again, I tend to get excited about the stuff they say, "We are relatively sure" or "we know" as opposed to "this is a possible site..." Well, we ended in the Garden tomb area which is the one most of you have seen pictures of and what you think of as the real tomb of Jesus. Again, there are two of these and both of them are "maybes", but today's was amazingly touching and spiritual. We got to walk into the tomb (it is at least a first century tomb!) and then shared communion together. I reflected how 6,000,000 Jews died senselessly and brought great pain and one Jew died senselessly and brought life to the earth. How 6M Jews died because of the hatred of one man and how ONE MAN died because of the love of the ONE GOD. How 6 million Jews were viewed as worthless and therefore killed and how one Jew was worthy and therefore killed. 6 million died and lost their life. One man died and everyone lives!

This is what I'm pondering as we stay the night in a hotel on the southern end of the Dead Sea.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

14 hour day in Jerusalem

My brain is stuffed with all kinds of historical, biblical, and archelogical information. Started the morning off eating some sort of smoked fish (I'm talking the whole fish! - not something I'd usually do, but I'm in Jerusalem and it's fish Jesus style). We saw a lot of cool stuff (all on foot) starting at the mount of Olives and down through the Kidron valley (my favorite site of the day - just the perspective of a map I've drawn and seen maps of all my life). The pool of Bethesda and the western wall (herod's temple wall from time of Jesus) and the market places. Wasn't really impressed with garden of Gethsemene, church of the Holy Sepulchre (sight of Christ crucifixion) -too commercialized for me. Sang "amazing grace" in a 7th century cathedral as a group - very moving. Tomorrow to the Dead Sea.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Sitting in Jerusalem at a local cafe' with some pastor friends chillin with some coffee and great conversation. coming up on 10:00 p.m. here, but it feels like 3:00 in the afternoon to me and we're not tired. The plane flight was excruciating, very crowded and hard to sleep. Not a fan of EL AL, but I'm not complaining. We are staying in the King Solomon Hotel and Sara and I have a view to the Wall of Old Jerusalem. It's weird to stand and look into the place where King David and Jesus both roamed. And we haven't even walked the roads yet. Tomorrow will be a full day - so hopefully, I'll be right back here tomorrow posting about all I saw. Really do miss you guys and praying for you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

going biblical

Well, Sara and I are packed and ready to go to Israel. We will be flying most of the day - first to New York and then to Tel Aviv. Should arrive there tomorrow (evening their time - they are 8 hours ahead of us) morning.

Yesterday, was an incredible resurrection Sunday at church as we came to the empty tomb in our journey through Luke. Celebrated 12 baptisms in both a word "awesome"! Now I get to go to the place where it all began. I get to walk the map that I've drawn so many times on the white board..take a dip in the Dead Sea, walk on the shores of Galilee, view Jersusalem from the Mt. of Olives, and travel up the Jordan valley. It will be a very spiritually rewarding time.

Many have said they will pray for our safety and I'm grateful for that. Also pray that God gives me some real "Holy Spirit" moments together with my wife and pastor friends! He is always at work and I'm looking for him this week - in the Holy Land. I pray you will look for Him this week wherever you are. I'll try to update daily if I can...should have internet access everywhere we go.

Next time you hear from me, I'll be in the land of the Bible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

festival of Trees

Well, this is the week. I usually keep these things kinda low key, because I don't wanna abuse my pastoral role (i.e. I wanna influence people for Jesus and not some event in the community). However, this Thursday night at the gala opening dinner of the annual Festival of Trees I will be the emcee for the evening AND be doing a 7-8 minute comedy routine! Yes, in spite of my sermons, some people think I'm funny! This really cool annual event raises money for an organization called The Baby Fold. They do some really cool work for some kids in tough situations. I know several people who have worked there or still work there and they are very grace-filled and lovingly special people. I'm glad to contribute to that any way that I can.

I hope to be a pastor that is half-way normal and represents Jesus well. I also am pretty comfortable with a microphone being silly in front of a bunch of people :-) I have had a great weekend: great worship on Sunday, cool and diverse people at the cross and step one on Sunday night, and a really great 30 year wedding vow renewal where the family love was absolutely spiritual! Also, next Monday Sara and I are flying to Israel (you'll recall - if you pay attention to these blogs - that I won this free trip in February). Can't wait to walk where Jesus walked and take it all in and be moved in my soul - I'm going to try to blog every day while I'm if you're bored, you can read about my journey. Meanwhile..I'm going to try and be funny on Thursday and inspirational on Sunday!

Here's my tentative set list (you'll have to guess the punch line!)
- Words are my profession: "dough mass", "Moses relieved himself", "...but dust", "cuantos anos tiene"
- questions: "Is is o.k. to have sex and listen to worship music at the same time?" "Will you come and pray for our deceased dog?"
- Texting while driving (eating while driving, spanking your kids while driving)
- Nursery rhymes
- Questions you shouldn't answer: (from parents - Do you think I'm stupid?, from wife - do you think this dress makes me look fat?, etc..)
- If there's time I'll do my "song of solomon" routine about just how beatiful this girl really was!

Monday, November 1, 2010

hour 25

You know the old expression..."there's only 24 hours in a day" is normally quite true. Unless it's the first weekend of November and the annual daylight savings time is taking place. That's's that wonderful time of year when we get to move our clocks back one hour (you're actually supposed to do it at like 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, but I usually set them all back around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, just so I can say, "Hey it's only 6:30") and actually have a 25 hour day!

So this got me thinking. We busy humans are wishing we had more time and this is our yearly big chance. We can do something that we usually wouldn't have time to do, but now we do with the extra hour and all. This may seem like a stupid line of reasoning to you, but since we are supposed to be good stewards of everything God gives us (including our time) we should take this extra hour thing seriously and worshipfully. What to do with this extra hour?
*Extra hour in prayer this week (don' t say you don't have the time)
*Read my Bible for an hour this week (for all those who say they just don't have time)
*Excercise (this is a chance to burn off more calories :-)
*Spend an extra hour with your spouse or kids (family time is always at a premium).
*Serve someone for an hour
*Do a project that you've been putting off
*Stay out later on Friday night with can make it up on Saturday night
*Take an hour walk on the constitution trail and take in the crisp fall air, leaves and scurrying squirrels
*Go to church on Sunday (in a way the service is only fifteen minutes)
*Take an hour nap (we could all use more sleep)

Well, there's a start. Think about extra hour...spend it wisely.

Monday, October 25, 2010

enemy tactics

Well, I've completed the first course of classes in pursuit of a Master of Arts degree in spiritual formation from the Hargrove School in partnership with Eastview and Lincoln...and it's been great - I've read (a lot!) and had a chance to read and reflect. It's been good...highly recommend it next time through. This leads me to my thought for today. Its from J.K. Jone's lecture notes on the final night of class. He named four tactics our enemy (Satan) uses to keep us from growing in Jesus. Here they are with brief commentary:
1. Satan causes suffering to become self-pity. We all will suffer at some point and to some degree; but Satan wants to turn our pain into bitterness and self-pity. God wants us to turn to Him for healing and peace.
2. Satan causes socializing to become sexualizing. This really describes our society. Every day we encounter tons of people and our culture says they are sexual beings (and they are of course, but they are so much more). We were created to socialize with others, but Satan likes to lead it down a wrong path.
3. Satan causes possessions to become possessors. Again, this one is American culture 101 - we spend out lives accumulating stuff and then we become enslaved to it. Wow. Think about this in your own context.
4. Satan causes privilege to become power. Many of us find ourselves in positions (because of God's grace) that we get the privilege to lead, or be in charge (could be from raising kids to leading a corporation)...and then Satan convinces us that we love the power and we becoem power hungry...and then it's a mess.

Which one of these four do you resonate with most and why?

Monday, October 18, 2010

managing tensions

Our executive pastor Mark Warren shared with me a couple of weeks ago a leadership principle he had heard from a recent seminar he went to. It really resonates for my leadership in a church setting. Here's the reality, some issues that come up in church leadership are not meant to be resolved - the best you can do with some things is just embrace the tensions that exist and try to manage them by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.

Never was this reality more apparent than when we got the results of our recent church survey. First let me say that I'm blessed and proud that so many of you took the time to respond. According to the people doing the survey; our church participated more than any mega-church they had ever worked with - over 1,000 responses! Really awesome. Now remember there were about 15-20 literally thousands of responses to all the questions.

I can tell you that overall - the people of Eastview love Eastview. Of course, there was that question "what could Eastview improve on?" Well, I read all 700+ responses (some didn't respond) and here's where managing tensions come in! Let me reiterate - the responses were super positive. But some of the responses were exact opposite - the music is the best in the whole world vs. the music should ___________ OR Mike is the best preacher vs. Mike should preach deeper like ___________. So what to do? How can we have the perfect music, decibel level, sermon, youth program, etc.... In a word, how can we make EVERYONE happy?

The answer is don't try to figure this out...just take the input from all sides..get up everyday and ask God to use you and use the gifts He has given to do it. Respond to all input with love and grace and TRUTH and just kinda manage the fact that some will like it and some won't. Don't try to fix it all, just manage these tensions that have more to do with people being different than really being a problem at all.

Now to be sure, there are some things that you need to resolve. There are some things we can fix like OUR WEB SITE (or the glare on Mike's head on the big screen - true response!) - which we are in a major way. But for some of it...we just manage it in the grace of our Lord. What in your life is a tension that just needs to be managed?

Monday, October 11, 2010


I preach all the time to my staff that they need to take control of their calendar or it will take control of them. I constantly struggle with this balance...and I don't think I'm alone. Here's the problem: we believe that if there is an open day, hour, or minute in our schedule, we can (or even should) fill it.

Some fill their schedule because they feel guilty for saying "no". Someone asks us to do something (on a day that is supposed to be a day off, or the last open evening of the week) that seems like a "serving" thing to do; and we instinctively say "yes".

Some fill their schedule because they feel like everyone needs them. We are actually flattered to be asked and that ego builder makes us say "yes" to yet another thing on the schedule.

Some fill their schedule because they don't like sitting still. We are addicted to activity, and so the more we can pile into our social and activity life is an absolute no brainer.

The problem is that we are exhausted, late, burned out, tired, grouchy, ineffective, and frankly unspiritual. Why you and I should say "no" to events and stuff on our calendar than "yes".

Saying "no" to the stuff other people think we should do allows us to say "yes" to the stuff we have discovered God made us to do.

Saying "no" to helping everyone and being a mini-savior allows us to be content to say "yes" to stuff that only God can do through us. (ie. there is only one savior and he wants to use us for his kingdom, but he doesn't need us to do everything).

Saying "no" to constant activity allows us to slow down and say "yes" to spending time with God.

Monday, October 4, 2010

intricacies of leadership

Okay...back to this topic because its one that I'm constantly analyzing...both in myself and in others.

1. Let's begin the church leadership is completely in God's hands. I've said before I get to lead at Eastview because God has allowed it. This means that all leaders are leaders by God's permission and as such answer ultimately to Him. This is hard to understand for someone who may not be in a leadership position because....well it seems manipulative that a leader would say, God put me here! But in fact, that is the burden/privilege that every true leader feels down deep inside. Believe me when I tell you that this Eastview job is not something you sign up for in Bible College. After 25 years of pastoring, I can begin to see how God directed my life circumstances to bring me to this leadership position...but I can't really tell you how it happened, I can only tell you that I believe it to be true. A leader for God has some significant choices to make concerning location and usage of his leadership gift, but ultimately he can't take credit for being where He is because God has place him there.

2. Of course, he can't be boastful about having the leadership gift, because this is not something the leader has chosen either. The Holy Spirit chooses who gets what gift according to his desires. Again, I've talked to many who wish they had the leadership gift (and many more who are convinced they do!) and I always say, you either have the leadership gift or you don't. It's not up to you or me, but a design of the Spirit.

3. This means that sometimes a Christian leader makes decisions that he can't explain or really receive input into because he is literally being led by the Holy Spirit. I'm not talking about decisions like should we spend this much money on missions, or lights, or kids supplies, or new Bibles, have a new staff structure, etc... There are FEW decisions (but there are some) that simply have to grab the heart of the leader and when the heart is grabbed - the true leader will go there. In this instance, there are many who will say, "this guy wont' listen to others and thinks he's in charge of everything, blah, blah, blah." But in reality, this is what a leader does. The leader often excitedly goes before a bunch of people who don't see clearly the spiritual direction that the leader sees. This is called spiritual leadership and it is way different than being in charge, or being the boss, or having authority. It's about getting others to go where he knows the Spirit is going. This is leadership and its hard to explain because its Holy Spirit stuff, but its biblical and its necessary to accomplish what God will for his kingdom.

4. God doesnt' need leaders. Anything he wants he can accomplish all on his own. Why do we place such high priority on leadership. Well, leadership is not more important than any other spiritual gift, but God does use leaders to influence all of the spiritually gifted. Yes, it's true, God doesn't need leaders, but biblically and historically He always chooses to use them. This is a great mystery, but God has chosen to place and gift fallible people to lead.

5. I don't know where this serious blog came from...I'm way too tired at the end of this long day to write something like this. So take it with a grain of salt. On the other hand, I am a maybe by the Spirit's power there are some nuggets of wisdom in there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

what they're really saying

As a pastor, I get all kinds of comments, suggestions, gentle criticisms, and hidden meaning conversations from people in my church, those from other churches and from some in the community (I might add that the encouragements waaaaaaaaay outweigh the criticisms and keep me going in ministry) and over 25 years of ministry I learned to interpret these conversations. So below i offer a few phrases and what i know they actually mean:
1. "In the my church in .... they used to..." - They are getting ready to tell you something that they think you need to do for your church, because where they were from was so much better.
2. "I've prayed about this a lot" - I'm saying this as a way of saying that what I'm getting ready to tell you is of the Lord and there is no way that you can refute it.
3. "You're preaching is so much deeper these days." - Translation: you were a really lousy preacher a few months ago. (Note: this is related to "That was the the best sermon you've ever preached" to say it's so rare that I noticed).
4. "I'd like to take you to lunch and pick your brain about some stuff" - In reality, I'm going to take you to a public location and give you some ministry tips that you should start applying immediately.
5. "That was a really interesting point you made" - Which means they completely disagree with what you said and are afraid to tell you.
6. "Have you ever read... you should really read it" - This author can set your theology straight in a way that is much more eloquent than I can.
7. "Aren't you putting on weight?" - This is honest and oh, so true and it really hurts my feelings.

PLEASE DON'T TAKE THIS BLOG TOO SERIOUSLY, I'M ONLY HAVING FUN. Translation: I want to state my opinion in a sarcastic way and not get anyone too stirred up about it and I think that a smily face at the end will make all the difference :-)

Monday, September 20, 2010


I know, it's a big church word for a Monday, but my morning devotions led me to Psalm 51 and the great repentance song of King David after his incredibly large and public sins of adultery and then murder to cover it up. And then he repented (this means literally to change your mind/turn around) in grand style.

You know, I don't repent as much as I about you? I mean I talk to God a lot, but honestly don't spend as much time as I need to dealing with the sins in my life and getting right before God. So...I practiced today...repenting...and then challenged my staff to practice....together in our weekly prayer time. It was cool (as in uncomfortable - there's nothing more difficult for a bunch of pastors to admit that they are sinners in front of other pastors they often try and impress...but some dared to be vulnerable and then everyone was - I think we actually bore one another's burdens today - but that's not my point). I want to challenge you to truly learn how to repent - just follow David's lead (read the following with your Bible open to Psalm 51).
1. Seek God's mercy! Realize that God hates sin (I mean really hates it) and you are approaching Him seeking him to act in a way you don't deserve. If you take this lightly you aren't repenting - God have mercy.
2. Own your sin. "I know my transgressions are always before me". A repent prayer is not, "Lord forgive all my sins, help me change." That's too anemic. Own what you do that is wrong in God's eyes: lust, selfishness, laziness, gluttony, drunkeness, prayerlessness, gossip, etc.... Own the sin you are repenting of by being specific. If you don't articulate what it is, you are not being honest with yourself.
3. Realize who you have offended. "against you and you only have I sinned" - the offended party in all of our sins is only God. It hurts him deeply. Understand that the sin you own has hurt the heart of with that - and confess it.
4. Ask Him to change you..."search me, cleanse me, create in me a pure heart". There is no confession of sin that God accepts unless you really want to be changed/made different. And He is the only one who can do that (see I John 1:9).
5. Ask Him to use the grace and forgiveness you receive from Him to proclaim his goodness to others. The goal of grace is for you to tell others who need to repent that God forgives and so we "lead the multitudes in the assembly".
6. Change inside, not outside (the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and contrite heart). There is no faking out God. He sees the real you, so when you repent, don't put on some big show, just bring your broken heart before God. it's like a bull on the altar to Him.

So there you have it for a tame Monday blog...go ahead Repent...I dare ya.

Monday, September 13, 2010

prayer triggers

Sara and I were visiting a small group this last Wednesday and during the "questions for the pastor" time that I usually encourage someone asked me to describe my prayer life. This is a great and difficult question to answer. Not difficult becasue I don't have plenty to share, but difficult in describing this on-going God conversation that I work at maintaining. It's like asking me how I love my wife. I hardly know where to begin - I could talk for hours (about Sara and prayer).

So I talked about my private prayer room attached to my church office that I've fixed up like a little chapel and the years of prayer journaling that I've done and how I try to begin a conversation with God and hold that awareness with him all day, and how I have many prayer books of prayers that I like to read, etc... Bottom line, I pray a lot and I am learning to pray all the time. But there was part of this prayer journey that I think is very helpful (especially for ADD personalities like myself). I constantly use visual or experiential triggers to pray. Here are some and what I pray when I see them...most are adaptations of Scriptures:

When I see the sun set or rise I say, "from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord shall be praised"

When I brush my teeth (and tongue) I pray, "may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight oh Lord."

When I notice how hard I'm breathing during a long run I pray, "Jesus take me home now" Just kidding, I pray, "As a deer pants for water so my soul pants for the living God"

When I see a bottle of wine, I pray "Thank you Lord for you shed blood for me on the cross and the communion of sitting at your table"

When I put on shoes, I pray "may my feet be fitted with the gospel of peace" or "how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news" and I ask for God to take me to places of good news.

I also have business cards with staff, elders and small group names on them and I use them to pray throughout the day.

When I get an e-mail the first thing I do is say a simple prayer for the person sending the message

When I watch cars file into church on Sunday mornings I pray for each family to be filled and blessed.

When my two boys were young we all carried crosses in our pockets and prayed for each other as we felt them during the day.

Well, I could go on, but part of my prayer life is simply finding every day things in my world that trigger my heart and mind toward Jesus. Are there any you'd like to share?

Monday, September 6, 2010

laboring through the day

My first sensory experience of the day was the smell of coffee as my awesome wife brought a steaming mug to my bedside. Good to have a day for doing everything and nothing.

I made a strong commitment to stay in pajamas until ten (hey you gotta make a statement on your day off and yes I wear pajama bottoms with a t-shirt). So I staggered (still half asleep) to the door and read the morning paper with coffee in hand. After that I went to the Word and spent some time in Galatians 1&2 just reading and reflecting. We had some friends coming over so I made my way to the kitchen to help Sara make breakfast. She makes the most awesome home-made biscuits and I made the sausage gravy. Fun to hang out with my wife just talking and sharing in the task. Breakfast was filled with laughter and good food.

Of course after cleaning up...I felt guilty for eating so much so I went for a run on the trail. Really love the cooler and less humid weather for runnning these days! After the run, I read some, napped some, did some minor chores and alternately worked on my annual report to the elders and watched baseball, golf and football.

It's really weird being an empty nester now that Caleb is gone to school. Good things include: not having to straighten up the basement, lower grocery bill, not waking up when they come in late (past 9:30 p.m. is late for me these days:-), time to focus on whatever i need to do in the evening, and not coordinating the car usage. Bummers include: missing Caleb's personality and presence in our house, watching sports without him, one less vehicle to coordinate usage of, worrying about his safety when he's not around. So all in all, a good and bummer day of rest and adjusting to this whole new stage of life.

I am really excited about the Fall kick-off this weekend at church. The kidsview team is doing a blowout event that will be off the chain (street cred points for me:-) and the other ministries will also be in store for lots of visitors and people back from the holiday weekend. Hope we have tons of people to pray for God to move in a big way this Wednesday night at church 6:00 p.m.

Our small group is going and then coming over to our house for dessert afterwards - my favorites - friends and sugar. Well, better wrap this up...more writing/football watching to do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

on my plate

We use this expression, "i've got a lot on my plate" as kind of a negative for how busy we are - but this is counterintuitive for someone who sees a full plate as a positive! So, in a just made a first pass by the chinese buffet way - here's my full plate:
- I've written and preached three sermons in the past week (First Christian in Champaign men's group, Eastview Sunday, and Lincoln Christian University this morning)...and I'm working on one for Sunday
- the first class for our Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation begins in two weeks. There is considerable writing and reading with this that will come due in the next month or so.
- I'm also preparing and writing my annual report to the elder team which includes all the stuff that God is doing on so many levels around here.
- and then I've got the writing of our new preaching plan through the book of Acts which begins in February, 2011 - this includes paragraph descriptions of about 60 sermon texts which helps our staff prepare for the programming they do.
- also working on some leadership training classes we hope to offer this winter
- and helping organize for our Greek and Turkey trip in May
- and a wedding in Chicago this weekend
- and child dedication on Sunday
- and keeping in touch with my Tennessee son and cross town son
- and preparing to lead our small group through "Doctrine: what Christians should believe"
- and following the Reds as they head towards the playoffs

Well, I've got a lot on my plate, but I like what God is serving and I'm eating it up.

Monday, August 23, 2010

sermon planning retreat

JK and I have snuck (is it snuck the past tense of sneak?) out of town for three days to work on our preaching schedule at Eastview. This is fun and hard work that I have done for the 15 years I've been at the church. First Gary York led me and some other preachers on staff and now I have taken our other preacher away for this important work. It really is crucial work for the life of the church. We spent most of last evening working on our December series (we finish Luke in November). We have this cool four week series that will be called something like, RUTH: Bethlehem love story. In the four weeks of the Christmas season we will study from the O.T. book on the themes of faith, grace, love, and hope - all Christmas stuff but from Ruth. Cool how the Bible story all ties together and how a bunch of research work, prayer and inspiration come together to make a sermon series happen. What's really cool is that we don't even know what the Spirit knows about those particular Sunday messages, but when we get there, we'll be amazed at how much better it worked out than we thought.

Today we have immersed ourselves in the book of Acts. It is rich. Even after reading through it over 15 times in the last three weeks, I keep finding cool stuff about the beginning of the church. Our working title so far is "Following the Spirit in the church's message, mission and spiritual formation". That may change, but it follows nicely on the heals of our study of Luke's gospel (Following Jesus in the kingdom of Salvation). It is amazing to see the preaching that the early church was built on...also preaching related words like witness, testify, declare, warn, plead, etc... This really gets a preacher pscyhed about preaching. We are doing what the church has been doing for 2,000 years - proclaiming this good news of resurrection.

Well, enough of that - I'm just too excited about all of this. For a preacher, spending three days with another preacher, talking about preaching and sermons to preach is like heaven. Heaven with a starbucks in the one hand and a Bible in the other.

Monday, August 16, 2010

new life stage

Well, it's finally here. there are a million amazing things happening in my pastor life and this is the time of the year for vision for the Fall, and everyone getting back to routine, etc... But for me and Sara - our routine is getting ready to be altered in a major way.

This Thursday, after elder's meeting I'll pile in with Sara and all the stuff Caleb owns (practically all) and drive him eight hours south to Knoxville TN and Johnson Bible College for him to begin his freshman year of college. We will get in in the evening on Thursday, spend the day with him in the mountains and just hanging out on Friday and then we'll move him in his dorm room on Saturday morning. Our plan is to be on the road by 9:00 or 10:00 (eastern time) because I'm preaching Sunday. There are a lot of things that run through my mind right now, a lot of different emotions. Our house is going to be different. We've arrived at "empty nest" and among other things here's where my heart and soul are right now:
1. I'm proud of Caleb (as I am my other son Michael) for he has grown into a great man of God.
2. I am going to miss his laughter and sharing sports scores and sermon notes and daily chatter at supper.
3. I am so happy for him to be going to college. I have only fond memories of my experience there and it changed my life in so many ways. What a blast.
4. I take pride in him being the fourth generation of Baker to attend Johnson. My great uncle Frank (my grandpa's brother) attended in the early 1950's. Both my parents attended in the mid 60's (so did Sara's parents). Sara and I attended in the early 80's. My great uncle, father and I all preached and praise God - Caleb is a preacher too. I love the heritage.
5. I can't believe it went so fast. I know this has been written before, but 18 years flies by. He was just going to Sunday school, going to his first Pacers game, playing little league basketball at Gametime Gym, a freshman in high school, getting his license, preaching his first sermon, etc... It was fast man... can't express this in words.
6. I love that my wife is still my best friend and that we'll still be together as always to do life.
7. I look forward to the first time he comes "home" to visit. That will be sweet.
8. I will be emotional Sunday when I preach.
9. Joy is my deepest feeling right now. And when I cry Saturday, they will be tears of joy and that trip home will seem really long!
10. I can't wait to see what journey God takes him on. Mine has been unpredictable, not what I thought and better than I could have imagined. Can't wait...just can't wait to sit in a pew is "his" church and listen to him preach. That will be amazing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

and on the eighth day

You ever wonder what God did on the eighth day? He created for six days as recorded in Genesis account of creation (yes I'm a literalist here, I believe they were six actual days - why? because either God can or he can't create it all in six days - if he can't - not much of a God, I have big faith - but I digress) and then it says on the seventh day that he rested. We get the sabbath from this. God rested and so he set for us a rhythm of work and rest. So today was my eighth day. I got back from a long vacation yesterday evening and it was a great Sabbath for me in many ways - not the least of which is physically (I slept for 10 nights straight about 9 hours a night - I haven't done that since before kids - sleep is a cool concept!). But now, my rest is over and I'm back to the place I love with the people I love and doing what I love to do - pastor the people of Eastview! So I was thinking this feeling coming out of my rest the same thing God felt on the eighth day? Don't know, but maybe our re-entry from rest was similar.

Maybe He immersed himself in the middle of all his creation revisiting all of it and relishing in all the unique stuff - I actually wondered around the building this morning just getting the Monday-morning-empty church smell (don't ask)

Maybe He surrounded himself with people (of course there were two - but I bet he laughed with Adam and Eve and talked with them and listened to them). Because of summer vacations, mission's trips, etc... there are some staff members I saw today for the first time in almost a month. It was a sweet reunion...holy really as we hugged and laughed and caught up with each other's lives.

Maybe He got back to being God - you know, creating new mercies, causing sun to shine and rain to fall and stuff to grow and hearts to beat and lions to run and oceans to stop at the shoreline, painting a new never-seen-before sunset, tinkering with canyons and volcanoes, splashing whales, feeding birds, naming stars, creating colors, caring for the humans he created. Today, I got back to being what God made me to do. I don't come close to accomplishing all the stuff God probably did on day 8, but by his grace I got to lead some, inspire some, pray some, study some, speak some (preach really), plan some, etc... In short, it was a great day after a great rest and I'm find myself more thankful and filled with joy than ever

The irony is that I'll need another rest before Sunday - so I'll take a day off before I get to preach. I wonder if God kept the same pattern and rested on earth day number 14? I think He did because he made it holy and I think it's still holy...I think day eight is better because of day seven and I'm thankful for the rest...and I'm ready for the work!

Monday, July 19, 2010


Well, it's that time of year for Sara and I to head out for a little vacation. I travel a lot so some of you may think I vacation a lot, but most of my travels involve me in ministry roles one way or another (even if it's in a cool location). But starting this Thursday, I'm on vacation and I'm going to try like everything not to check e-mails, blog (don't bother looking the next two mondays), worry about my job, etc... This is really a spiritual discipline for me that I try to practice. Over the next couple of weeks I want to simply be Mike, child of God. This is the heart of the Sabbath rest that God originally created. I want to forget schedules, long-term plans, and alarm clocks long enough to be completely aware of God's presence in the smallest bits of every day. Often you have to completely disengage from all your stuff to make this happen. So, I'm taking my wife (the most important relationship in my life next to God) and some books and I'm going to be out. I hope you miss me. I know I'll miss you, but I hope I don't think about you too much. I want to spend the next two weeks staring at the endless Sea, watching birds in flight, napping in the afternoon shade, eating some great food, laughing with my best friend, having some great impromptu conversations with my God and hearing his voice in the Word. So I'll be out. I'll let you know how it went when I get back.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

the last part of what I sent

A third message imprinted on my soul right now is the desire to make disciples. I have witnessed thousands of conversions and baptisms. I have personally baptized hundreds and, of course, I am deeply moved every time, but I see the need both in me and the people that have been enstrusted to me for true discipleship. The meaning of this word dictates constant learning and the practice of this word demands continued following. Being a Christian has been redefined for me (this is not to say a new definition of Christianity, but reiterating again what it really means). One speaker this week said, "the 21st century heresy is that you can call yourself a Christian without being a disciple." No more heresy for me and my people.

Finally, I am going to continue to surround myself with people of like-minded singular focus. I want to be with people who are deeply spiritual while at the same time openly and vulnerably imperfect. I am going to associate mostly with whom I can laugh until I cry and cry until I laugh. I'm going to insist on a true incarnational, life-together, family-oriented approach to leadership in my ministry. This is my heart's desire and I believe the desire of an electronic, superficial, relationally-challenged culture that is filled with social networking yet void of any meaningful relationships.

Friday, July 16, 2010

something I sent, part deux

The second Holy Spirit impression I have is that my vision is too small. One sermon I heard this week was from Isaiah 49:6. READ IT. God told me (and I realize how uncomfortable that phrase makes most people - it makes me uncomfortable too) that the vision I've had for my life and ministry is too small! Of course, it's up to God, but have I limited God with my limited faith in what he can do? My heart is pounding within me - "Expand your vision!" So I'm dreaming. God is able to do more than what I imagine you know? Is all the God has graciously done in my life, my preaching, my ministry, and my church all that God can do, or can he do more? MORE!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Something I sent my staff and elders part 1

The following is the first part of a paper called "my heart right now in one page" that I sent to the staff and elders this week. I will divide it into three installments over the next several's part one:

Over the last nine days, I have had the opportunity to hear nine sermons, three devotions, two intensive leadership presentations, and two days of vision casting conversation with the elder team. These have been accompanied with some great meal conversations, daily quiet times and at least four occasions of corporate musical worship. My heart is full. There is no way to describe the spiritual place I'm in right now in complete detail; but I can tell you that there are some major themes that the Spirit has laid on my heart with one or all of the experiences listed above.

First, I'll begin by saying that I want to be a dangerous pastor leading a dangerous church. Not dangerous in a stay-away kind of way (as you would a lion in the wild), but dangerous in a power-greater-than-me awareness (like someone handling explosives). I'm sure this scares some who think I'm already wild-eyed in my approach to ministry, but I want to have the kind of ridiculous faith that only a true disciple of Jesus could have. I want to preach dangerous sermons that deeply offend while they simultaneously attract. Honestly, I want to be a martyr and I don't even know what that truly means or how that is played out. I just want to have one eternal conversation with an apostle that ends with "me too". I want to give a crazy amount of stuff away and learn not to love it any more. I want to be a catalyst for a revolution of extraordinary giving, serving, and evangelizing. And I want to boldly challenge thousands of people to do the same. I'm short of this by far I fear...but this is what my heart feels. The passage from Acts 5:11-16 describes in a biblical way the kind of church I want to lead.

More to come...

Monday, July 5, 2010

stars and stripes forever

STARS - The American flag started with 13 in a circle representing all the colonies and now holds fifty white stars on a blue field. The stars look pretty cool on all the flags from the fourth, but there are better ones.

On the third day Jesus was there with the Spirit and the Father created the world and flung these amazing night time features into space. He created the glimmer and galaxies shooting ones and falling ones. The words say that he can call every star by name. He told Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as them and in revelation He talks about the stars of the churches. On a clear night you can gaze into the dark sky for ever and see just how big the universe is and wonder how big a God is who could make it all.

STRIPES - The American flag has red and white stripes on it (the red symbolizing the blood of those who paid the ultimate price for our country).

the prophet says that by his stripes we are healed. He's talking about the bleeding gashes that were left from the Roman whips when Jesus was on trial in Pilate's court. How many stripes were there? Don't know for sure - more than the thirteen on our flag. Probably too many to count, but they too symbolized blood - not blood that paid the price for our country's freedom, but blood that paid for the freedom of all mankind spiritually.

FOREVER - As great as America is, it won't last forever - nothing in this world can promise that. Still I hope it's around for a good long time, I love this place and I'm proud that I'm an American (not better than other countries, it's just my heritage) - and I'm grateful that for some reason God had me born here. But I'm much more grateful for the eternity that I'll have with him. I'm much more thankful for my citizenship in heaven. I'm eternally blessed that the one who holds the stars and healed me with His stripes will be my forever!

Monday, June 28, 2010

wedding season

Well, June is winding down and man are a lot of people getting married. Maybe it's just that i'm in a stretch of 7 weddings in 8 weekends, but it is the season for weddings. Now, just a disclaimer here, I've done so many weddings (two to three hundred) by my estimation; that the mystique has slightly worn off. I could do the wedding vows backwards, in my sleep. But there are some things about current wedding ceremony scene that really ruin the whole sacred experience for me. So today I offer my top five favorite and most disliked things about weddings.

1. Moist, white wedding cake (were you expecting something more spiritual?)
2. The Bride walking down the aisle. Seriously, there is nothing more beautiful than this moment in a girl's life as she presents her most beautiful self to her husband in public. It is an incredible picture of the Bride of Christ the church - we are beautiful like that because of Jesus love for us.
3. People dress up. I like dressing up. I like casual too, but I'm afraid that our culture may have become too casual, not only in dress, but in attitudes, morals and thinking. Guys may look cool casual, but they look good in suits and ties - end of story.
4. Pictures of the bride and groom growing up set to a music video thingy. It's great to see the journey of people from birth to marriage - also it makes everyone cry and that's good for us once in a while.
5. The idea of making a covenant before and with God! This is unusual - when's the last time you said, to God - "I promise". IT happened in the Bible all the time and as Christ followers, we are in covenant (we promise) with God. I like the solemnity of it all and how serious God must take all these vows. And how serious he wishes we would take them.

Dislikes (and now for a list that honestly, I had to whittle down - but will give some insight to a pastor's perspective)

1. The money spent on really wasteful things and not spent on really important things. Brides will spend thousands on a dress and will balk when we require them to spend $500 for pre-wedding counseling! C'mon one will get your marriage off on the right foot and the other will probably not fit in ten years.
2. The idea of the perfect ceremony and that causes one or two participants (usually mom's - sorry) to drive everyone else completely crazy - stressing out on important things like where exactly on the lapel the flowers should be pinned!
3. Animals as a part of the ceremony. Any further comment at this point will only get me into I'll stop here.
4. The fact that we can't throw rice anymore. Now it's bubble's or butterflies or sparklers - whatever. I know, I know - it's harmful to birds supposedly - they expode if they eat rice? Is that true or myth? If it's true - that would be pretty wild to witness. If it's not true, let's bring back the rice!
5. The two hour wait at the reception while the bridal party to finishes their pictures. C'mon cut the cake -that's what everyone is waiting for!
Runners up: The bridal party introduction to the old Chicago Bull's introduction music, 50 year old moms wearing a dress made for a 20 year old, people expecting me to dance at the reception, men who have no rythm and dance anyway (I think alcohol is involved a lot of the time), the entire love chapter (I corinthians 13) read when really only about 4 verses poetically describe love. Photographers who hang upside down from the rafters trying to get that creative shot... There's more, but again, I'll stop.

Monday, June 21, 2010

growing deeper

the ever elusive desire for people who are followers of Christ - "i want to grow deeper". Of course, this is a very good idea, but what I fear me and many people are really asking for when we make this statement is that we want God to give us some jolt of instant wisdom or for our preacher to stretch our faith more in his allotted 30 minute segment. I've said it before, and I'll say it here, if you are depending on one 30 minute sermon a week alone to grow you deeper - it's gonna be a slow process. Make no mistake about it, I approach the privilege of preaching every week with the idea that the Holy Spirit just might use the Word through my lips to change eternities - pretty amazing. it's just that It's been my experience that to grow deeper (in my faith and walk with Jesus) I'm going to have to make some kind of effort and commitment to growing deeper.

Some growing deeper happens because of life. God causes or allows stuff in our every day that puts our faith to the test. I think we fail and pass hundreds of these tests every week. Some are big, some are small (the big ones catch our attention more and try our faith more), but these life experiences God brings our way so that we can grow deeper. This is only a very small part of "why God let's bad things happen to good people" (please don't over react to this) - He is answering our prayer to grow deeper. Your faith will only be as big as the challenge you trust God in. Small obstacles in our life will require small amounts of faith. Large, life altering challenges demand large faith and therefore help us grow. Next time you are going through some tough times, thank God he's helping you grow deeper!

But some growing is about our effort. You can't grow if you don't read your Bible. You can't grow if you aren't plugged into the Body of Christ (the church). You can't grow if you don't have an intimate interaction with other Christians you trust. You can't grow if you don't take at least some small faith steps. As you may guess, much of my job (and all the pastors on our staff and other staffs) is to give tools you can use to help you grow spiritually. So at the end of a long and tiring Monday - here are three tools I think might help you:
1. Spiritual Formation Classes through the Hargrove school at Lincoln Christian University ON THE CAMPUS OF EASTVIEW CHRISTIAN CHURCH! A dream come true for us - this fall we offer college level courses to help you develop spiritually (grow)! Get on Lincoln's website for more info. This is a master's level course for those with undergrad degrees, but (HERE's the BIG Kicker) you can audit these classes for $150 a class. That means you can get Seminary level education at Eastview and you can grow deeper.
2. Next May, JK and I are planning on taking a teaching trip to Turkey and Greece to follow in the some of the apostle Paul's footsteps. We will share teaching each day as we stand in the ruins of the first century cities where the church first took root. This will change the way you read the Bible. Great fellowship and great learning - growing deeper in your faith. More info to come. Questions, email
3. Finally, reading a very good book right now called "Doctrine: What Christians should believe" by Mark Driscoll. Very easy theological read. I don't land exactly where Mark does in all the book, but it covers dozens of things that every Christian should be convinced of. This may be a tool to help you grow deeper.

Monday, June 14, 2010

details for an all-church study

I'm excited to be close to finishing my part of the project that will become our next "all-church" campaign for small groups. Last time we did this we studied "The call" and around 2,300 people from our church participated in a six week small group/video study that accompanied each week's sermons. We're going to do it again in January 2011 and hope for over 3,000 people in 300 small groups! Curious as to what goes in to this? Read on. Not curious? You're gonna be bored with this blog.

We talked about this particular study in May of 2009. It was an idea and we liked it - high fives all 'round - thank you Holy Spirit for putting this in our minds..and then our team did some individual reading, research, Bible study on the topic (this really means that it became a back-burner item because it was over a year away).

In December of 2009 the writers took a one-day retreat to plan out the course of study along with the preaching themes that will go with it. About 12 hours of figuring out, debating, etc...which scriptures were the best ones (I love this process).

Shortly after we came up with a project timeline and my job was clear - write the script for the teaching video by mid-June 2010. So I've been writing on and off (and now JK is joining in the writing) for about five months and the rough draft is done - six lessons. We'll finalize this next week and then Scott (our staff video guy) will set up his gear in a local coffee house and we'll shoot this thing (two days of intense talking into a camera - my biggest worry - what six shirts to change into for each of the six lessons :-). It's really not as easy talking into a camera as you'd think. Camera's are expressionless, don't give feed back, don't make eye contact, and don't miss mistakes. Even though the teaching is similar it's a totally different gig than preaching. So by the end of June we'll have this thing on video.

Then mega-hours of editing. Then graphic designs that will go with it. A book written by JK (editing, publishing, etc...). Then a small group study guide. Then the dvd goes to publication. Then we'll start getting people to sign up for this important study. Then it will be Christmas and then two weeks into January we'll start. All this for six weeks out of 52 to help our church become more intensely dedicated to Jesus. That's our goal and my prayer - and it wouldn't hurt if you offered some prayers for this too. We really think God is going to do something great in our hearts through this teaching.

Then we'll probably be in the middle of the next big writing project.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Situation last Monday was that I didn't have access to a computer so I couldn't blog plus I was busy (see relaxation below) - sorry to you who have commented that you missed my usual Monday morning blahs!
Graduation weekend was a really cool experience...tiring but cool. As usual, the sara and mike experience was to pack hecticness into our already hectic weekend (her parents in town and staying at our house, my sister and brother and their families in for graduation and memorial day), plus Caleb's ceremony on Saturday, plus setting up tents and chairs and stuff in our backyard, plus packing for a trip, plus hosting a couple of hundred in our backyard after church for the actual party, plus tearing it all down before it began raining, plus getting the food, plus it was sweltering....oh yeah and I have this preaching thing that I do every Sunday. No lie, it was so crazy at my house on Saturday night I spent the night with our next block friends, the shifflett's!
Relaxation was five days of vacation in a southern state at a place owned by one of our church members. Really am grateful for the place and generosity of our good friends for letting us hang out there. It was sunny and hot and I laid by the pool and thought and read. I ran every day in the heat because I'm neurotic that way - you've got to do something when you eat that vacation menu.
Celebration came in the second day of our vacation because it was June 1st. Do you know what that is? It's my Sr. Pastor anniversary. Believe it or not I celebrated three years in this role last Tuesday. Amazing how it seems like forever and how it seems like just yesterday. I really do celebrate this...still the most blessed man alive to be here, now, with the people of Eastview.
Invitation time after yesterday's sermon was thrilling. I know if you don't go to Eastview you think I'm making this stuff up, but God is just really moving in cool ways right now. We are seeing more really messed up situations, really redeemed by a God who is good at spiritual cleaning! Seriously, it's not perfect, but the tears and the prayers and the desperation for God and confession I'm experiencing at these special times are really life changing for me these days.
Congregation is really remaining faithful to keep up with this year long (we're a month past half way now) study in the book of Luke. Several of you have told me that you are using your "follow me" journals on a regular basis to keep up with your Bible study and other spiritual disciplines.
Innovation that our tech and creative team continues to display at church with the lights, sound, and stage for our weekly worship time together. This week we start our summer of parables series with a 60's (summer of love) theme and look and the stage is absolutely amazing.
Revelation is the last book in the Bible
Exclamation is the last symbol of an excited sentence
Consternation is the feeling you get when the blog is really stretching it
Amalgamation is a word I know, but can't really use in a I'll stop - but this blog did take some imagination

NOTE: No "ation" words were harmed in the writing of this blog. The following "ation" words were invited to appear on the blog, but refused comment: Consideration, Obligation, Litigation, Fascination, and Pixelation (which may or may not be a real word). Go ahead and respond with your own "ation" words

Non "ation" NOTE: Did you catch my humorous attempt to say "familial" in my sermon on Sunday?

Monday, May 24, 2010

recent pastor experiences

Well, just a bunch of things running through my mind at the end of a long monday, but there are some recent experiences that seem like things pastors get to experience (after preaching from Luke 12 yesterday, I'm reminded that God has entrusted me with much and I will therefore answer for much) that make this whole thing worthwhile. They just kinda happen out of the blue - like God says, "I'm gonna shock Mike with some extra blessing today..."

Last Tuesday, I along with some of our pastoral staff visited Miss Pearl, who for the last 17 years has run an inner city (recently named Chicago's most dangerous community - Roseland - 1-3 murders a day!) child care facility. She was a drug addict converted and changed and wanted to give other single moms a chance to go to school, so she said she would watch their kids while they went to school. Her instructions to us as we began the several chores we had come to do.."when you hear gun shots or see people running and hear sirens, just come on back up to the house..we should be o.k. until 11:00 when they start to wake up." I was inspired by her dedication, courage, and devotion to God! I got to experience our staff working and serving Jesus in ways outside of their comfort zone and not in their usual area of was good. I was blessed to see their love for Jesus exhibited in serving.

Last Friday was my youngest son's last day of high school. My wife commented, "I've spent the last 17 years (since my oldest went to kindergarten) getting the boys ready for school, making sure their homework was done, etc... I'll never do that again." Bittersweet. Thank God for this part of the journey completed.

Saturday I married (by that I mean I was the preacher)a young couple that have been coming to our church about a year. Talking with the groom before the ceremony - he went on about how much Eastview has played a role in helping them get closer to Jesus. There is nothing more joyous than for me to hear that! Congratulations Josh and Erin!

Sunday, had the member of our church who is a pilot in Africa (yes that Africa - he's home for 20 days and then flies for a regional jet for about 30 and led his pilot friends through our most recent video all-church study) and had befriended some craftsmen in the local market and told them about Eastview and our ministry. They are wood workers and made a handcrafted box for me and a 4X2 foot wood carving of the Lords' supper. Flown from Africa to is way cool.

Sunday, a member had travelled with her husband to some cool historic place. I love history and so they bought me a cool pen commemorating that place. I'm so blessed. They were on vacation and thought of getting me a pen.

Sunday after church, a great couple (that I married a year ago and that met at our church and have been members for a long time and who are moving to Chicago) took me and Sara to lunch afterwards, just to say thanks and a tearful goodbye! They were so gracious by their kind words and I also got that great Biaggi's chicken parmesan (which Dave the co-manager hates me to order because it's not very "gourmet" - how can you mess up chicken with cheese and red sauce - awesome!).

Finally, summer is here and my current experience is trying to talk my wife into letting me turn my hair bleach blonde (the old fashioned way, out of a bottle)! She's not buying. C'mon...give me some love my blog friends...convince my wife that Billy Idol's hair is a good idea for me! It would be one more cool pastor experience before I take a short vacation with some friends to Florida.

Monday, May 17, 2010


wash your hands (these signs are everywhere you look - mostly in the restrooms for employees to remind them...always wonder why we need those signs and if they work).

wash your face (it's just a good idea at the end of the day - especially if you are a teen-ager or wear make-up

wash behind your ears (mom used to always say that...are behind the ears a place that really get dirty...or just a place your mom thinks you'll forget.

wash cloth...most guys don't use one...just use their hands to suds up from head to toe...don't even think about those scrubby thingys...just not manly

wash room...another word for bathroom

wash (pronounced "warshed" if you are from some parts of Indiana...which means there is a state named "warshington" and our first president was "George warshington")

wash out..what a road does when it rains a lot

wash - what Jesus didn't do before eating in Luke 11

wash - what the Pharisees did really well (on the outside)

wash - what we did yesterday during a commitment time in both services with first century pitchers and bowls throughout the church

wash - what Jesus did to the feet of his followers on the night of his first meal

wash - what we need for our sins and what water won't do, but Jesus blood does.

It's good to be washed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

a quarter of a century

25 years is a long time. You can go from birth to college graduate in less time. A car is considered "antique" after being on the road for this time period. People can retire after working at a company for this long. You can pay off your mortgage to your house. If you are a teen-ager you can't understand this length of time because it's longer than your entire life span. 25 years is so long, it's not uncommon to measure it with regard to a century (a quarter of a century). Twenty five years is definitely a long time....

...unless it measures the length of time you have been in a faithful relationship of trust with one person.

...unless it is the length of time you have spent making one person laugh and having them laugh at you.

...unless in that time you have been on some amazing adventures together to some incredible places (mexico, hawaai, nova scotia, turkey, greece, england, and countless cool places in the states from the mountains of Tennessee to the shores of South Padre Island to downtown INDY).

...unless it includes a partnership at some churches in Kentucky, Florida, Missouri and Normal (of all places).

...unless it is the time it takes to learn every incredible, intimate detail about another person (so much so that you know what they are thinking, when they are hurting, or when something is bothering them without them ever saying a word).

...unless it marks the length of time you have felt loved unconditionally.

...unless it is the number of years it takes to talk completely straightforward and honest with your truest friend and be completely secure in the love that is behind it. (after this amount of time, you can even yell and be yelled at, and know the love hasn't changed)

...unless that original beauty you saw in the face of the person you love still remains, even though the face has physically changed.

...unless you have spent that entire time with your best friend (no really, this can's happened to me).

...unless you can see the love you share in the actions of the children you have raised (in this amount of time you can also see facial expressions, hear vocabulary, and note attitudes that are really familiar - the good ones you claim, the bad ones must be your loved one's).

...unless you have no regrets but wish that you would have soaked in all the ordinary moments a little bit more (it really isn't the big events that I would do over, it's the "no reason at all" evening walks and talks and the backyard fire pit conversations that I would pay closer attention to if I had a do-over).

Twenty five years of marriage may seem like a long time, unless the above statements are true. Then 25 years isn't that long at all. As a matter of fact, you find yourselves saying things like, "It seems like it was yesterday", and you wish for another 25 years. Now fifty...that's a long time! And I hope me and my bride get there. Happy anniversary Sara (Johnson Bible College Chapel, 7:00 p.m., May 10, 1985). I really do love you and it's really been an incredibly short-long time!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

why LA?

Hey guys, just finished another 9 hour stretch of planning, dreaming, thinking, talking, etc... The question may occur to you, why is the leadership team in LA (Orange County)? Well, we have found great value throughout the years for all of our staff from getting out of the usual environment of Normal and visiting other churches to see what God is doing and to talk with other church leaders. We have found throughout the years that every one on our staff benefits greatly from this experience so we build into most budgets a chance to visit other places.

We have seen three churches in 3 days. Mariners church which runs about 10,000; Saddleback church (around 20,000) and Crossroads Christian Church (around 7,000). We have toured facilities, asked questions, compared and dreamed (Crossroads had 2,200 baptisms last year!) of these great churches and have been inspired by what God is doing in these places. I must say, that we have also been much blessed to find that Eastview is still our favorite church in the world, but we are inspired to be even better stewards of what God has entrusted to us. This will give you an insight of our schedule the last couple of days:

*Breakfast at 7:30 - Comes free with our room
*Prayer and devotions at 8:15ish - we have had some great time of prayer together lifted up our church and asking God for wisdom and his spirit for direction.
*Looking at our values and strategies - How can we pray more/better? Preaching? Small groups? helping people grow in faith, outreach, world missions, etc.... We have talked until I don't feel like talking any more (and that's saying something).
*Lunch on the way to visit these churches.
*Visit with church leaders and asking them questions
*Back to hotel - debriefing and talking some more
*After supper - supposed to be low key and casual, but last night we talked about Eastview and her ministry until around 11:30 a.m.

That's about how each day will go. And then we get up and do it again. Please pray along with us that the Spirit will guide us and our discussions and cause us to see what he wants us to see.

Monday, May 3, 2010

the race is long

Well, Saturday I finished my fourth marathon in Champaign. I saw some of you there and heard of many others. My friend JP Jones had the opening invocation and included a special prayer: "and God please help Mike Baker not to collapse". He may have saved my life. It didn't go as expected. I was hoping for around four and a half hours and instead finished just under five. Once again, my nutrition plan wasn't right and I got sick around 18 and puked (sorry for too much information) around 20 miles. Those last six miles were just grueling. Thought of quitting many times, but just kept going - through intervals of dry heaves (and real ones) and trying to get enough liquid in me. I thought of Jesus a lot and how thirsty and tired he was carrying a cross up the hill for my sins...but mostly I thought of how the race of the Christian life is so much like this. Sometimes the run is hard. Sometimes the pain is real. Sometimes doubts take over your mind about whether or not you can make it. Sometimes the race seems too long. Sometimes you just want to sit down. Sometimes a companions words help (and other time you want to punch them in the face). Well, you get the idea. Running a marathon is perhaps my favorite metaphor of the Christian life. So will I run another? Well, I vowed to never run again like I did in the previous marathons, but within a couple of hours, I really wanted to run again.

Why? I think it's crossing the finish line that draws me in. It is the most incredible thing in the world to cross the finish line after thinking you will never make it! And so it will be in heaven some day, we'll cross that line into glory and we can stop running by the blood and grace of Jesus. Hope I don't puke right across the finish line there like I did Saturday:-)

By the way, I recuperating in Laguna Beach this week. The leadership team on staff and i are in southern california to see some churches and talk with their leaders and to pray about and plan for what God is doing at Eastview. I'm technically working (my brain will be hurting about Wednesday by noon), but I'm not gonna lie, I'm looking out my window at some palm trees around a pool with the ocean in the background. But really I'm heading to an all day planning session right now - don't you feel sorry for me?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fair? Just?

Some of you know I've had this ongoing conversation with an atheist who sometimes attends Eastview (go figure) about the reality of God, Jesus, etc... It honestly is frustrating most of the time because I know Who I believe in is real and he doesn't. So there you go.

Recently, he viewed our "cardboard testimonies" from our Easter service. He callously questioned what kind of fair and just God would do miracles in some people's lives and not others. Why would he let millions of kids die, etc...? Actually, aside from insulting my God and my people (Eastview) he has a great question. Many have asked it. Why isn't God fair when He claims to be? Below is my response to him...hope it is helpful to you:

"Think about this...if God is the God that I believe in (and you don't, but just go with this) then there are two things he has besides ultimate power that neither you nor I have:
1. Eternal perspective - he sees all of eternity (past and future), all human kind (the six billion living now and all the billions from the past), all human history (every act as it really happened and not as historians recorded it). You and I have 80-90 years tops, which is a very limited perspective!

2. Internal perspective - he sees and knows every heart. Where as you and I can say, "she's a good woman" or "he's a good man" we are easily deceived because we have only outward realities to judge people by - we don't see the heart. But God knows the motives of every heart and can't be faked out. He sees every motive and evil thought and wicked plan. He's not guessing like you and I do when it comes to people (how many times have you heard the interviewed neighbors of a mass murderer say, "He seemed like a really good guy"?). God knows every thought of every heart.

These two realities give him unique ability and privilege to determine what is "fair" or "just". You and I simply are disqualified because we don't know the complete story. God's perspective and power allow him to do what is "right" and "just" based on his knowledge of EVERYTHING! In comparison, you and I know nothing. How then can we possibly say that something is fair or unfair with such limited knowledge? It's like a juror making a fair decision on a trial after hearing only one of 120 witnesses of a two month trial. Our limited knowledge disqualifies us for sound judgment. I'm not arguing for God's ability to judge fairly (which I believe and you don't). I'm simply saying that you and I are far worse judges than God!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Have you evern wondered what people mean when they say I felt "prompted" to do something? Especially in Christian circles we tend to throw this word around a lot. Sometimes it is code for "I'm going to do what I want to do and if I say the 'spirit is prompting me' then you can't argue with my action or conclusion." I've actually had encounters with Christian people who are getting a divorce with no biblical grounds for it and justify their lack of commitment by saying, "the Spirit is leading me to end this marriage." Well, you can take this to the bank - the Spirit and the Word are NEVER in if the Spirit is saying something the Word isn't saying, then it's not the Spirit you are hearing. But this blog isn't about that.

I'm talking about when as a Christian you actually feel the Holy Spirit moving you, inspiring you, prompting you. It's like saying in Acts 20:22 - "and now compelled by the Spirit, I'm going to Jerusalem..." or in Acts 16:6&7 when the Spirit prevented them from going into some areas for missions ("the Spirit of Jesus wouldn't allow them"). Here's how I've experienced this lately...a lot!

The Spirit prompts names for me. As you can imagine, in a church this large, I don't know every name (truth be told, I'm lousy with names and in a church of 200 I wouldn't know every name either - I sometimes forget my kids names...and I'm not joking!). But here's been my experience lately as i'm pastoring here. I'll be running, or sitting in my chair at home, or just riding my motorcycle, or watching baseball, or writing a sermon, really an 'ol time at all; and suddenly a name is in my head.

Usually it's totally unrelated. Sometimes it's my immediate family, sometimes it's people from church, sometimes people I haven't seen for years. But here's the crazy thing, the name keeps coming back. I mean if I just say internally, "that's weird" and go on; then a day later that name will be back. So I've made it a habit that if a name pops into my head - I pray for the person.

It is uncanny - miraculously spiritual - how many times I bump into these people a day or two or week later only to hear exactly what I was praying for unawares. Sometimes I "coincidentally" (and by that I mean providentially) run into people i haven't seen for months and then I put it all together. The Spirit is at work and I'd better pay attention. Because these names are promptings and I'm to keep in step with the how is the Spirit prompting you?

Monday, April 12, 2010

staff kitchen area

A little insight into the area in our office wing where almost everyone on staff gathers from time to time to share a "meal" and conversation. Here's a sample of what you might get there. It may be helpful to know that our staff is pretty young and looking for a handout in the middle of a hectic schedule for lunch. It comes in many forms:

The first Monday of every month usually a celebration of the birthdays in that month. Someone (usually a couple of staff members) brings in a number of food items ranging from "puppy chow" to shrimp cakes or whatever. Believe it or not, you can build a lunch out of cake, some shrimp and carrots from a veggie tray (makes you feel healthier).

Then our building supervisor (Gary Dickson) often surprises us in the morning with an e-mail that his wife (Sandy) has made some more of here awesome cookies (yes cookies are a breakfast meal - with coffee - perfect). From time to time others will make some food just for fun.

As you know we also have a number of events in the building for an assortment of trainings and team meetings that include food. Well, what happens when there is leftover food? Staff kitchen. Just this morning, the fare was spaghetti and bread (the salad didn't make it -very wilty) leftover from step one, and shrimp, cheese, meat, bannanas, and cake from Spirit-lifters. Quite a Monday surprise.

During the Christmas season, we get gift trays from different vendors that we do business with during the year. One company sends us shrimp, smoked salmon and cheese trays...very nice. But the best by far is the "kringle" that Dr. Nord sends us each December. It's an awesome danish...have to experience it.

Sometimes there are donuts left over from morning meetings. Sometimes chips left over from retreats and sometimes there is ice cream left over from camp. Occasionally cold pizza from a variety of events. Of course, we also have some candy jars in the staff mailbox area for that late afternoon pick me up. My personal favorite: Almond Joy (very biblical candy bar - almonds in Palestine and joy - as in fruit of the Spirit).

What's the point of this blog? There is none, just to say the staff seems to always be able to find something to eat in our staff kitchen. One of the perks of working at Eastview. I wonder if the apostles had something like this? If they did, I bet Judas would have eaten 30 pieces of shrimp.

Monday, April 5, 2010

why I cry

Well, yesterday was a very moving time as we celebrated Easter together. I cried (or teared up a lot - actually all weekend).

*It began with my preaching time at Mt. Moriah Christian in downtown Bloomington on Good Friday. Great time of preaching and fellowship. But at the end, Pastor Rayford caught me completely off guard by giving me an award for being a preacher who "loves preaching, preahers and prayer". It is an annual award given in honor of Pastor Walter Banks. I was moved and undeserving (tears) - but it is true, I love preaching, preachers and prayer.
*Friday I received word that we were given occupancy of our new balcony expansion - I teared up as I thought about all that many people had to do to make that a reality. I praised God.
*Saturday I had to run 18 miles - didn't really cry - but I should have.
*Sunday I had a lump in my throat as I saw all the humble servants of our choir and orchestra get on the shuttle at 6:45 a.m. I'm blown away by the people who love God enough to sacrifice.
*I was moved deeply as I watched people pack the place both services on Sunday.
*By the time all the people came on stage with their cardboard testimonies...I just stood backstage watching on the screen (there was no place to sit) and wept with Karen.
*then I tried to invite others to let Jesus change their lives.

Why do I cry? Well, you'd have to be dead not to cry yesterday. The spirit moved hundreds to tears! Literally. I cry when I sense God doing something in the lives of people that only he can do and then I'm moved that maybe some small little part of that was God using me and the church that I serve. Overwhelming.