Sunday, December 25, 2011

the night before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the land
Everyone headed home
at Augustus' command

A carpenter peasant made the
long journey south
He soon would nurture the Christ
straight from the angel's mouth

His fiance' Mary,
now great with child
Humbly went along, a disposition
meek and mild

Finally, they came
to their taxing destination
no shelter was found
much to their consternation

After a search,
they settled in a stable
tried to get ready
as much as they were able

Nearby in a field
shepherds saw in the night sky
An angelic message
"Peace on earth" was their cry

By the time they arrived
to the manger turned bed
the baby was born
as the angels had said

A Savior is born
now mankind can live
Love, life, hope
all God wanted to give

Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
all hearts are stirred,
but not by a mouse

God loved us first
this much is true
Christmas is a gift
for me and for you

Monday, December 19, 2011

all is well

There's an old hymn from my old church background called, "It is well". The message of the song is basically that no matter what happens, "it is well with my soul". Christmas is a time of year that brings natural reflection for me. The word "well" has double meaning for me right now as I sit in "the well" (the name for our new atrium) and reflect. The well is due to be finished for this week's Christmas Eve services. We had about 2/3 occupancy on Sunday and it was good to see everyone doing family in the new space. Did you know that behind the well (water feature/baptistry) upstairs is a prayer room designed to be a quiet place for devotion. Check it out if you haven't.
It is well with my soul right now because there is a place for taking a deep breath and thinking of all that God has done this year. He alone deserves all the credit for what has happened in my life and ministry this year. It has been a privilege to serve.

It is well with my soul because of the responses to yesterday's invitation time in both services. I never cease to be amazed at the way the Spirit moves so differently in each service, but there were sincere prayers, baptisms and decisions of repentance made as people came forward in each service. So blessed to know that God still is moving hearts.

It is well with my soul because there is some good family time coming's good to connect with family (even when they aren't as normal as you are...remember they are thinking the same thing!) I'll be in Cincinnati some and Indianapolis some. It will be a good time to just hang out, eat together, etc...

It is well with my soul because the traditional things of Christmas take me back to the story of the Christ child in a fresh new way each year. The music refreshes, the Christmas Eve service inspires, and the lights on the tree glitter with childhood wonder. Now, I need some snow!

Monday, December 12, 2011

eastview staff christmas

Well, it's the day of the annual staff Christmas party. Tonight we'll go Alexander's for some great steak, fellowship and laughter. You may think this isn't very important, but I think it is one of the most critically family building things we do each year. One of the events that will take place at tonight's party is my presentation of awards to those who win the annual office decoration party (yes...I love Christmas and have encouraged the decoration of offices since I have been Sr. Pastor). You'll have to look on our facebook sight to see some of the pictures, but I will tell you this, Jim Probst as ELF made me fall on the floor with laughter. Also, much props to the outreach department for their "tis so sweet to trust in Jesus" candyland extravaganza. It really is a fun time and right after prayer time today much of the staff walked through the halls with me as I judged. I know that all of you who go to Eastview know this, but I have to say it as a praise to God: This is the most awesome staff of serving, gifted, passionate, focused people. Thanks to God for this great staff! Looking forward to hanging out with them is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The reading of the word

The pace of minstry around here simply amazes me. We have just come off of an awesome weekend where we blessed nearly 800 families with winter coats, toys for children and food in our annual "Imagine" outreach. I was blessed to see many new friends at church yesterday from this day! Then, this weekend we have our Christmas concert, Saturday night is sold out and we're getting close on Friday night! It will be a great weekend of celebrating the birth of Jesus, but in between these two things something else significant is happening.

I just came from the atrium (now "the well") and the reading through the entire Bible is well under way. We began at 6:00 a.m. and we are well into Exodus. I don't know if that is a good pace or not, but we've started. What some of you might not know is that this year is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. In 1611, it became the first authorized Bible in the English language! Several British actors are reading it in it's entirety at Shakespeare's theatre in London to commemorat the date. This is cool, but reading the entire Scripture has been practiced throughout the history of God's people. Moses read the entire book of the law, Joshua did it when they came into the land (Joshua 8:34) and Josiah did it (II Kings 23:2) and Ezra did it (Nehemiah 8:8), and Paul told Timothy to devote himself to it (I Timothy 4:13).

So we won't do any ministry in the well until the entire Bible has been read in it...a kind of consecration. I noted as I was out there a few minutes ago that the sound of construction is going on in the background as the Word is read. A reminder that the loudness and bustle of our lives go on and God is talking beneath it all if we will just listen!

Monday, November 28, 2011


One of the Christmas c.d.'s I was listening to over the weekend includes the Louis Armstong classic, "what a wonderful world". yes it's a bit idealistic, but it gently reminds us just how awesome life can be. and the "awesomeness" can most often be found in the small things. don't know why they chose to put this song on the Christmas album, but it works and remains one of my favorite songs ever. I have actually asked my wife to play it at my funeral!

This got me thinking about other "wonderful" things. Of course, there is another favorite of mine this time of year...the movie classic, "It's a wonderful life". great movie. why do I like it? It reminds us that we often forget how rich we truly are as we focus on the stuff we think the world measures us by. It warms my heart every year.

One more "wonderful" thing I'd give money (seriously) to experience again. In the little Bible college I attended we frequently sang the song, "Wonderful Grace of Jesus". If you're not old school, you probably don't know it, but when 400 students belted this tune out with four part harmony at a chapel service, it was electric! It is true, the grace of Jesus is wonderful.

Some wonderful things this Christmas season...wonderful life, wonderful world, wonderful grace of Jesus...and a wonderful God gives them all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

getting ready for the season

Well, it's not even Thanksgiving day yet, but things are beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I have to confess, the tree in my office (yes I'm that crazy about it) is already up and lights are on. Make me feel warm as all the Christmasses come flooding back. Probably got a jump on this one because there is so much going on this holiday season. Mom made her home made chex mix all weekend...smelled the house up in good way. Sara is shopping for all the stuff for thursday's meal. The boys are placing requests for this. All I need is pecan pie (which my wife is great at making). We bought some tickets yesterday for our Christmas play and delivered them to some of our favorite waitresses in town. My baristas are next. Hope you are buying tickets for people.

We had over 850 boxes of food brought in yesterday for our yearly outreach. So I know many of you have been shopping too. We have at least two parties a week through Christmas Eve. So we are planning for all of that. Then we have a short week at the office...and I have a sermon to write with less time to write it. Also trying to finalyze a present for's really low key now that we have boys who are not boys anymore. Still the time together as family is awesome. I'm ready for the fun and celebration of the season...even if I'm not really ready for how hectic it all is going to be. Get it comes.

Also, I'm getting my shovel ready for snow...which I pray comes soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

the problem at Penn State

By now, even non-football fans have tuned in to the Joe Paterno debate. Fired because he (and several others) didn't do the right thing "morally". This is the result of a society that has chosen to reject it's morality and God in general. I can't believe how many times I've heard the word "moral" on sports center the last few days. In case you don't know - the moral failure is a little boy was being molested in a shower by an older man on the campus of Penn State. And several people did nothing really to intervene! WHY? There are two reasons that our current culture refuses to intervene in this instance. Part of the problem for Penn State and for all of us:

1. There are no morals. We live in a culture where right and wrong are proclaimed to be up to each individual. This means that we have become desensitized to what really is wrong. When our culture sees something that is obviously wrong (like a child being abused) we don't know how to react...a certain form of moral paralysis takes place and people don't know how to process it all. This is not a hard case. What happened was wrong, and should have been quickly identified as such and stopped just as quickly.

2. This leads to our second problem...we don't think it's our business to get involved in other people's lives. We try to ignore or go around serious issues and needs because we don't want to stick our nose in the middle of it. This is why so many people reported what they saw to their superiors, but never confronted the perpetrator of wrong (ie. the man in the shower). Someone, should have stepped in and physically stopped the abuse.

Christians are called to call things wrong and right according to God's standards and Christians are called to act. Let us not become like the rest of the world that can't identify wrong when we see it and are afraid to act.

Monday, November 7, 2011

fall observations

Leaves - God is amazing in his display of artistry in the trees. This is one of many reasons, I love the midwest. Went for a walk on Saturday morning and the sun was shining on two particular trees. One was covered with red leaves and the sun made it even redder. The other was yellow/orange and it looked like it was on fire - so brilliant. And to think, this is the art work that God does every year and then allows the leaves to fall and blow away. Also caught a great smell from my childhood..burning leaves...nothing like it.

Cool air - you can feel it in the morning...the temperatures are changing signaling a move towards winter. I love the coolness as it fills my lungs and the sight of my breath as I exhale. The first thing man ever did was breathe and it is this breath of life (from God Himself) that is very apparent this time of year. Lord thank you for the cool air that reminds us that we are breathing and that you provide every breath we take. The fall is time for breathing deeply the breathe of God because you can see it.

Christmas - seems like everyone is ready for Christmas a little earlier this year. Don't know why, but I'm already listening to Buble's Christmas album and thinking about putting up our tree the week BEFORE Thanksgiving! Of course, I'm also looking forward to the snow. I hope we have some pretty ones.

Imagine - It is fall and that means our church is collecting coats, toys, and food for our annual loving of our community. It is great to see so many walk to church with Bible in hand and a bag of winter coats in the other. These are hearts truly prepared for worship - giving and ready to learn...very cool.

Time change - We had a 25 hour day on Saturday as we put our clocks back for "daylight savings". I always love getting an extra hour...I think most of us think we are going to sleep an extra hour, but we wake up at 5:30 because our body wasn't told about the time change. Oh well, it certainly did get everyone to church a little earlier than usual.

Monday, October 31, 2011

sweet day!

Well it's Halloween and so it's appropriate that I give some insights to one of my best spiritual gifts....eating candy! For those of you who think Halloween is a bad I just always looked at it as one of the most hospitable and giving times of the year. When else do you walk around and get stuff from your neighbors for free? and did I mention candy...very sweet...and there is sweetness in the Bible as well, so here is my Halloween tribute to the best candy there is (My top five) with corresponding scriptures.
1. Almond Joy...the greatest candy known to man. Almonds were part of the produce in the Promised Land and Joy is named as fruit of the Spirit. Need I say more? Psalm 55:13-14 mentions fellowship being sweet, especially as we come to worship God.
2. English Toffee - you know the kind that they sell at fancy candy it. Plus Toffee rhymes with coffee which this candy pairs beautifully with. Psalm 119:103 says that God's word is sweet. If we would crave God's word like toffee....
3. Charleston Chew - went old school on this one. Two things make it awesome...chocolate and it's huge...super size before there was a such thing. If you're old school you'll remember these. Ecclesiastes 5:12 tells us that the sleep of a laborer is sweet. There is something good and tasty about working hard and then resting.
4. Snickers - Let's face it...this is a great candy bar. I recommend putting bite size ones in the freezer...awesome. Don't know where they got the name, but I think because it tastes so sweet it makes you snicker! Proverbs 16:24 says that pleasant words are sweet. Have you made someone snicker with your words today.
5. M&M's - Because you eat them in bunches (otherwise they would be call M) and that's what's great about them (plus the chocolate and the peanuts - yeah I prefer the yellow bag and I hope I have leftover candy tonight from trick or treaters at my house). Proverbs 24:14 says that wisdom is sweet.

Here's my suggestion, grab a candy bar from your kids haul tonight and eat it while reading these verses...a very spiritual and taste bud friendly spiritual act of worship.

Monday, October 24, 2011

occupy here

Disclaimer: Just to make sure you know my commentary below is not meant to represent either wall street or those opposed to it...really I don't care...I have bigger things in mind than our eternal life and that kind of thing.

There have been lots of headlines about the Occupy Wall Street movement where people are going to wall street to protest rich people. Like I said yesterday, I'm sure most of the people there have no idea why they are there...they just have nothing better to do with their lives. As a rule I'm not a protest kind of guy, I just don't think these things usually make a difference. I get it people are looking for a cause and this is one. I guess it's because I have a cause that I don't get excited about this stuff. My advice for all of us would-be activists? Occupy Here.

You know it seems we are always tempted to want to start a worldwide movement somewhere else. Why don't we start with where we are. Instead of occupy somewhere else (where I'll likely get some t.v. coverage), why not just occupy where you are. It seems that often I am tempted to be somewhere and not really be there. I wonder if I would just focus on making my "here" the best "here" I can make it and everyone else would do the same if we wouldn't just change the world. Here's what I mean...

At home with your family - are you really there - Do you occupy your home...change begins here
At work - are you really there - Do you occupy your occupation...change begins here
At play - are you really there - Do you occupy your friendships...change begins here
At your community - are you really there - Do you occupy your neighborhood...change begins here
At your church - are you really there - Do you occupy your faith...change really begins here

Don't occupy some other place, no matter how noble the cause...for me, today, the best thing I can possibly do is to be fully here..where God has me...try it...occupy here (or there where you are as the case may be)

Monday, October 17, 2011

candle flame

Just choked down a micro-waved bowl of soup in between staff prayer time and my next meeting (I've got about half and hour - Campbell's Chunky Chicken Gumbo if you care). In staff prayer time today I took an idea I read about somewhere and implemented it. This guy (the really important one, whose name I can't recall) said that every time he met with someone, he lit a candle in their presence to remind them that God is in their midst, part of the conversation. So today after I shared a devotion, we turned off the lights and lit one candle in the middle of the room. The challenge was to keep your eyes open the entire prayer time - recognizing both the presence of God and the community of faith in which we were conversing. It was cool.

Amazingly the little flickering light helps you focus, and is a great meditation aid. The flame draws you in. The illumination reminds you of how God permeates every part of our living and praying and being together. The constancy of the flame reminded us that God is constant. Not always flashy explosions and never extinguished...the candle is a reminder that God is consistent, behind it all, making it all happen, if we'll just slow down and notice. I thought how it might be a good idea to light a candle in a lot of my everyday life experiences as a reminder that God is present. Like when I'm reading or having supper with my family or hanging out with friends, while listening to music, or while on the computer. The flame of the candle is not of course the presence of God, nor is it necessarily holy (a fire can destroy as well as sooth and warm), but it can serve as a reminder that this intangible, unseen, God is very much present in our every moment. I encourage you today...light a candle as representation of God's presence and let the Spirit lead you from there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

road trip

Well, I'm headed back from Dallas where I celebrated (and performed) the wedding of my nephew Drew and his new wife, Karen. Had a great time with them. Crazy how fast you get reconnected and have joy with family even though you don't see them often. It was good to catch up....and here's to hoping it's not another four or five years before we see each other again.

Sara and I worshiped and prayed yesterday on the six and a half hour trip to Memphis. prayed for Tyler and our family at Eastview and prayed for Caleb as he preached in KY. I know you'll probably get tired of this...but more news from Caleb and Pansy Christian. They had a homecoming yesterday and they had 60 in attendance! Awesome Sunday and they put his name on the sign. He's doing well. Sara and I had a good time last night relaxing in Memphis. This whole trip she has done most of the driving while i write and study. She's a real trooper, but honestly she loves to drive and I've gotten a bunch done. But when we got to Beale street, I made a pact to not study or write, just relax. So we found a place with a big screen and watched some football and talked. We walked up and down this birthplace of blues (It's surprisingly small if you've never been) watching people and taking in the sounds. Bright neon signs and music fill the three or four block area. For supper we went to a restaurant called the Majestic on main that used to be a theatre where they showed silent movies back in the day.

This morning we hit the Starbucks by the hotel and hit the road home. Thanks to my I pad and wireless set up, I can do most of the work I usually do on Monday mornings in the office. I've even started looking at the sermon for Sunday. Loved Dallas, Memphis and all spots in between with my favorite loved one and wife....ready to be back to Norma.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Get small

It's one of those deep spiritual lessons that I know, but that God keeps reminding me of: In order to do great things for God, you must do small things for God! Thinking on this started this weekend with our EQUIP conference - a day of encouraging and training our small group leaders. So I'll start there. One of the reasons that Eastview is growing is that we have dedicated ourselves to being small. We take the people that come on the weekend and put them in small groups for a proper environment for growing. The result is that as people grow in this small setting, they begin to reach out, to share their faith, to talk to others about what God is doing in their lives....and the church gets bigger. But it gets bigger by getting small.

Smaller yet, spending a morning focusing on each small group leader, encourages them, equips them with tools to help others grow, and recalibrates their engines for leadership. We had over 200 leaders there and the individual attention we gave each was one of the biggest things we've done in a while. We have bigger crowds, but there was nothing bigger than our small gathering of small group leaders.

Here are some other things going on for me personally:

Been lifting weights again...used to all the time...I like's raw. You know how to get big muscles? Well, being 18 years old helps,but if you can't do that, you start small. Exercises with less weight leads to building muscles that are stronger. One exercise at a time!

Working on another book for a spring release. You know how to write a book? Get small!. You have to start with a thought and then start writing a chapter...and then the next one, etc... No one except Mark Twain writes a book in a week. It's a long process, but I'm 3/4 of the way done.

You know how to grow your faith? Get small. It's the beginning of holy habits like prayer, Bible intake, service, etc... that helps us grow. But you have to start small. You don't start by praying three hours a start with five undistracted minutes...then you mature from there.

You want to change the world? Get in focus on the small things in the world you live in. As God helps you make daily decisions of change and conviction based on your faith, God may open greater doors to change a bigger part of the world...but mostly you start with the small part that you have.

Monday, September 26, 2011

you gotta laugh

Sometimes you gotta laugh...actually if you want to survive life, you need to laugh a lot. About 13 years ago, I wrote a youth ministry book called "How Teens Do Church" and one of the chapters was entitled "church should be fun". Well, I'm now doing church with people older than teen-agers and I still believe that church should be a fun place. One of the things that many friends have expressed when they come to Eastview is that they feel like we have fun. It may be the immaturity of the Sr. Pastor (although I'm very reserved compared to what is actually happening in my brain most of the time). I think it's something different than that though...I think laughing is spiritual.

Psalm 126:2 (part of a holiday praise song in Jerusalem) says that laughter is a part of worship - "our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy"! It makes complete sense to me that those who have the joy of the Lord in their hearts should laugh. Laughing is one of my favorite things to do. Proverbs 17:22 says that a cheerful heart (laughter) is good medicine. There are actually studies that show people who laugh more are healthier, but I don't care about's just fun (and I think very holy) to laugh. I'll say it stronger...I think laughing is a form of worship.

Love laughing with friends most, love laughing with strangers in a movie theatre or comedy club, love laughing at myself when I do or say dumb things (happens a lot to me), I love laughing when people are laughing with me or at me, I love laughing at the funny stuff we find in the Bible and I love it when I think I've said something funny in a sermon and the congregation laughs with me! And so, we made this funny video (on our website soon - to be the crazy dream sequence that led into our dream passage from Acts 10. It was funny, because as funny as I think I may be....our worship pastor Matt Ludwig is comedic genius! Seriously, maybe the funniest cat I've ever met. We laugh together a lot! And we laughed while we were filming this video...a lot. And when we showed it Sunday everyone was laughing. Church was fun.

So hope you laugh today...and when you do, I hope you think of me laughing and more importantly that you thank God for this incredible gift and that you can laugh because of the hope and joy you have in Him!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Well, we don't handle it too well. I heard a guy once say, "the only person who loves change is a baby with a dirty diaper." I can relate to the "baby" part. There are some things that change that I don't like and I usually just pout, but change is a part of life and here are some changes I look forward to:
1. The change of seasons is always perfect for me. Just about the time I'm done with sweating as I sit under a shade tree, we get these cool mornings and evenings that fill the chest with freshness. I love when seasons change..yes even when it's winter!
2. A change of scenery is another change I appreciate. I love when I get a chance to visit somewhere else and take in people or places that I usually can't. Of all people, I can say, Normal is boring sometimes, but when I get away for a bit, coming back to Normal is always welcomed.
3. A change of heart is a beautiful thing. This happens in my dad heart sometimes when I give a snap judgment to something my wife or boys have requested (usually with, "it costs too much money" or "I don't have the time" or "No, because I said so"). Then after a while, as I ponder it turns out that it's not such a bad idea after I have a change of heart. Of course, I love it when someone changes their heart for God most of all.
4. A change of age is something most people don't like, but something I look forward to. I've always wanted to be an old man. Just wise and not caught up with all the stuff we waste our time on in our youth. Plus a grey beard...awesome.

Change is inevitable so it's how we deal with it that matters. Just understand that most of it is in our best interest.

Monday, September 12, 2011


It occurred to me last Thursday as I sat in the waiting room at St. Joes that much of our lives are spent waiting. We wait in line for our favorite ride at the theme park or at the grocery store. We wait in traffic. We wait for someone to pick us up so that we can get a ride. We wait for a certain day to come (like a wedding, or vacation, or important meeting). we wait (impatiently)for someone to respond to our text. We wait for dinner. We wait for our brain to shut down long enough for us to go to sleep. And of course we wait in a hospital for the surgery to be done and for the Dr. to tell us how it went.

We spend a lot of time waiting and I'm guessing most of us think that waiting is a waste of time, but is it? Could it be that waiting is part of God's design for our lives to slow us down enough to see what's important around us. Last week, God himself knows that I really didn't have time to spend six hours in a waiting room while my "to do" list grew and grew...and yet, here I am and the world's still spinning! In that waiting time, I spent time talking with my brother, sister and sister-in-law - we dont get to do that much anymore. I spent time talking to a stranger whose son was in the hospital and was also waiting...turns out he's a Christian brother from Quincy. I spent time looking out a window and thinking about how blessed I am...worshipping God by staring. I spent time praying..thankful for my mom and asking for God to protect her. I waited and life slowed down and not much mattered except the waiting of it all and somehow that was what God wanted me to do.

Sometimes in waiting God speaks to us next time you are impatiently waiting, don't be so impatient, it may be the best time you have all day. Hopefully we can grow to a place in our faith where we don't have to be in a waiting room to actually wait.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

the beat is on

They have closed mom up and the surgery is complete and a success! Her heart is connected again after being on a heart machine during the surgery. She will be closely monitored and we're waiting to hear from the dr. In about an hour and a half, we should be able to go see her. I'm very grateful for my mom's new lease on life and for all of you who care so deeply for her.

one bypass per hour

Well, mom has been in surgery for about two hours. The nurse said they can normally do one bypass every hours so I figure they are about half way done with the bypasses. After two more of those (sounds so easy...huh?) they will begin the work on the valve replacement. This should take another two hours and sounded like it is more complicated. Thanks for all the responses and prayers. I know thousands are praying and that can't be bad! I'll update at least once more today. So far, so good

Monday, September 5, 2011


The heart is an organ and a place where we think of our emotional stuff. The heart pumps blood to the body's extremities and the heart is the place where our goodness, or evil, or sadness, or brokenness, etc... reside. Physically, you can't live without it and figuratively who you are comes from it. One can get it's arteries clogged with cholesterol and the other can get clogged with bad thoughts, images and experiences. Of course, the heart that pumps blood can have surgery done to repair it, and the spiritual heart can be repaired through time, counseling and the power of God.

Of course, I'm thinking about the heart this week especially because my mom is going in for heart surgery this Thursday morning (she has a good heart and a bad heart). Her good heart everyone knows. She is the face, the voice, the smile and the encouragement thousands have experienced at the receptionist area at Eastview. She is the unofficial grandma of the church and I can tell you from being around her for 46 years...she has a good heart. She loves people and naturally serves others and generally has a smile. Her outlook is normally positive. She has nurtured goodness in my heart.

But she has a bad heart. Not surprisingly, she didn't recognize some signs that others might have, but her "that's just me getting older" mentality kept her from taking it too seriously. She will have some bypasses and a valve replaced this Thursday and hopefully her physical heart will be good as new...then she'll have two good hearts...if you know what I mean.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Eastview's vision

I have spent at least ten minutes in the last three worship services sharing talking through our vision for the church. I think this is a very important part of my pastor's job. it is my job, but more my privilege as I'm as inspired as ever to become the kind of church we elders feel that God has called us to be. If thousands of e-viewers become fearless as they follow Christ, and love others in a ridiculous way and are willing to risk shaking their faith, then the world will not be able to resist coming to Jesus! Remember these simple challenges: write out your "change" story, risk an uncomfortable conversation with someone about Jesus, and pray that God open a door for that conversation...seriously..let's do it! God is doing some amazing stuff in this area as The Spirit really moved yesterday in our high school ministry (One) with 11 baptisms AND in Fuel last night with another 30 decisions for Christ AND hundreds at connections last night to get into a small group to grow in their faith. Simply...praise God.

While we're at it...the vision t-shirts have sold beyond anything we've ever had We ordered 750 originally and have made our fourth order this week. Over 1200 sold so far and child sizes on the way. So which are you? Fearless, Ridiculous, or Dangerous. I'm loving living out this vision together.

Monday, August 22, 2011

All wet

There's a saying you hear from time to time to let someone know you think they're wrong: "you're all wet!" Well, I don't think that anything was wrong at church yesterday, but it was all wet! At the end of service yesterday...after 60 baptisms (unofficial numbers as of yesterday right after church) the floor on the stage near the portable baptistery was soaked. Towels lay in a pile...dozens of them - all wet. my shirt was soaked...some from actual baptisms but more from hugs I gave and received from newborn babies in Christ.

What I loved was how many nice dresses were soaked and suit pants and dress shirts. Like Lydia in their nice clothes, many simply took the plunge without changing. I believe part of baptism is humbling ourself enough to get all wet in front of others...sounds weird I know but I think it's true. Yesterday there was an outpouring of God's grace on us in both services (ironically about 30 in each service) and it came in the form of people who were all wet. Fathers baptized sons and daughters, friends baptized friends, couples were baptized together, grown men were crying, co workers baptizing one another, teachers baptizing students, and the people of God were singing. It was a glimpse of heaven I think.

Some may look at this whole scene and think that it's fake and that God isn't real. Do I think that these people are all wet? Nope but I hope they are real soon!

Monday, August 15, 2011

in threes

sorry, for the delay on today's blog, but I preached my third funeral sermon in seven days this morning at 10:00. My mom used to say that people died in threes, but of course they don't...they die in ones and someone dies just about every day. I'll have to say that funeral sermons take a lot out of me emotionally...but in a way I value being able to say a word of encouragement for the family as they go through this hard time. It is part of the job that you never are really ready for, but when you love the people, God gives you strength to do it.

Yesterday, the vision t-shirts went pretty quickly and so we are ordering more. Of course there are three choices: Fearless, Ridiculous and Dangerous. These come from our vision to be a "fearless church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresistible". It has been interesting for me to watch the staff and elders choose theirs. The overwhelming choice for staff and elders is "ridiculous"..but that may just be that they like the blue color. I went with "fearless" because I want to be a man who is marked by such faith in God that i face life in a fearless way. What are you?

Three more Sundays until "original sex". What is that? It is a return to the reason and design behind sexuality according to it's origins founding Genesis 2. We will use the Scriptures to guide us in addressing every sexual issue of our day. This much needed sermon is a great chance to bring friends to help understand God's view on sex and why our culture is totally messing it up. For obvious reasons, I won't be using the white board on that Sunday :-)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Pansy

Well, it's that time of year where most of us are beginning the transition from summer's hectic pace to fall's hectic pace. Soon, kids will be back in school and vacations will end and we'll get a routing going until the holidays. Personally, I like these transitions and Sara and I are getting ready to transition Caleb (our 20 year old- in about a month) back to Knoxville TN for his second year of college, but it's another transition in his life that makes me smile and takes me back to my preaching roots.

Two weeks from Sunday, Caleb will begin a weekend preaching ministry in Mary Alice Kentucky. The best way to fan into flame your holy spirit gift is to use it (over and over and over). So Caleb like many preaching students (and like his dad almost exactly 26 years ago) is going to preach for a church in Kentucky that doesn't have a preacher. They pay him some money for his time, but the real benefit is the experience that just can't be taught. If they are anything like my first church (Mt. Victory Christian Church, Mt. Victory KY) they will feed him well, encourage him lots, endure so-so sermons, and teach him how to preach to real people (unlike the sermons they preach in labs at Bible College). It is a's scary and it's holy and I'm very proud of this kid and how he has responded to God's calling on his life. Oh...the name of the church? Pansy Christian Church. Can't make this one up. In two weeks, they'll have a 6'5", 215 pound rookie preacher - big pansy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

normal home

It's good to be back to "Normal" - pun intended, but I'm serious about the sentiment. We do live and do ministry in Normal (or as I like to say, "Our church is located on the edge of Normal"), but a good sign to me when I return is always that I love the place that represents normal for my life.

I love the Normal things like mowing the yard (as I was dripping from heat and having my first heart attack Saturday mowing the lawn, I thought "this is why I love snow". In a strange way, the mundane routine of mowing the lawn was a welcome thing.

I love knowing where everything's at. When you are gone, you have to look for restaurants, entertainment, dry cleaners, etc... When you are home, you know where everything is at.

I love the Normal (and normal) people I get to preach to and serve with at Eastview. I love the way God has built this church. I like the way we do it. I like seeing familiar faces in the same seats in the auditorium. I love getting hugs from people who missed me and whom I missed.

I love sleeping in my own bed. I do love hotel rooms and jumping on hotel beds, but there is a certain comfort that can be found in your bed.

I love hanging out with good friends who I missed while I was gone. Good to catch up on life, family, etc...

I know some would argue that I'm not very normal, but I feel most Normal when I'm here doing what God has called me to do.

Monday, July 25, 2011

preaching in AZ

Long weekend ended yesterday with a drive two hours north with my good friends Cal and Lisa Jernigan to spend some time in the North Az mountains. We sat last night on a deck looking at desert mountains as a storm blew in. The lightning and thunder were incredible and the conversation with good friends was enriching. Every once in a while you get to sit with people who do what you do and understand your challenges and life and struggles and joys without even having to say a word. What a great blessing. I spent the weekend preaching for Cal at four of their nine services in four campuses. the rest of them saw video of me preaching which was recorded on Saturday night. I love this congregation...they are doing such good stuff for Jesus (CCCEVonline). Well, today I started working on my sermon for Sunday and longing for home. But a few more days in the mountain before I get back to Normal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


well at times my life and my house could be described by this word that I don't even think is real...but yesterday Sara and I went to a real zoo. Yeah...I know I have a reputation for not liking animals...untrue. I like animals just not a big fan (personally) of pets. You are at liberty to have all the critters you want in your house to shed, do their business on the carpet, need walking in 10 degree weather, etc... Just not for me. But a zoo..I'm o.k. with (all right, by o.k. I mean that there's probably not a chance I'd go without sara really wanting to and probably someday with grandkids). Anyway, I am amazed at God's incredible creations. Here are some impressions:

*The lion is the king of the jungle for a reason. He looks like he's in charge and while we were there, he roared and that was impressive (yes I've heard a lion roar before, but I'm just saying...). I see God's strength here....Jesus lion of Judah... I get it!
*Dolphins are amazing (especially when they put on a half hour show in a dome with air conditioning when It's 100 plus heat index). But dolphins are unbelievably athletic I see God's playfulness in them.
*baboons are weird...eating bugs off of their babies...but I see a mother's care and serving one another and God's caring for us in small ways too.
*jelly fish in a tank with ultraviolet lights (or some kind of blue light) are amazing. They are really beautiful as they change shapes and float around. What kind of creativity does our God have?
*Rhinos are tough. The tough skin and the big horn...they just look like they will run you over. Again God's incredible creativity.
*Snakes - can you say Satan? They are slimy and scary and I don't care if they are poisonous or not, I don't want to be around them. I don't like them in cages (or in a room full of cages with lots of snakes). No I don't want to feel one! Hate them like Indiana Jones. I have biblical reason not to like them...hello?! Genesis three. No thanks on the snake exhibits.
*Giraffes....were not out because it was too hot or something...I mean think about it, if they got a sunburn on their neck that would be bad! I really like giraffes and I think they should have made more of an effort. Anyway, I see God's variety in them...though i didn't see it yesterday.
*polar bears are really beautiful creatures (again they were out on a 100 degree day and they are from the North Pole! what's up giraffes?). They are just really pure in their appearance...they look huggable, but don't try that.
*wild dogs. Yeah they had a cage with wild dogs. Kinda weird, but I guess they are a real wild animal....looked more like a hyena to me. Anyway, I have friends with wild dogs...they're called pets!

well, those are the thoughts from my simple brain. No animals were injured in the writing of this blog...just in case you were wondering!

Monday, July 18, 2011

three cool things

I'm still vacating and really starting to miss home and Eastview and all the people I love there...but i know this rest is essential for what lies ahead this fall. So, here are three things worth mentioning from the past couple of days:
1. Went for a long run on Friday morning (got up at 5:30 - yeah some vacation schedule...but wanted to beat the heat) when I ran down this canal walk, at one end there were hundreds of people sitting in lawn chairs (it was still dark...and I wondered why they were there so early). Well, a couple of hours later when I returned (around mile 14) I could hear music. This week was the Indiana Black Expo and there was an African American choir just getting' on it! I was energized as they praised God with great gospel singing. As I entered the area I had previously, there were thousands of people in lawn chairs..some were singing, some were dancing...and chills ran up and down my spine as i ran through the gospel service with hundreds of other walker/runners. It was so cool. Literally carried me along by the spirit. I just smiled and praised God for this pick-me-up at the end of a long run!
2. Sat with my oldest son at dinner Saturday night and had real adult conversation. He is doing so well these days as he continues to find his way with God and life. For a moment, I caught myself thinking this is like having a conversation with a good friend...that was a true blessing. Then he said something stupid and i became dad again (just kidding....kinda).
3. Went to the Reds/Cardinals game in Cincinnati Sunday afternoon and they won (hey God loves red...hello! - blood of sacrifice). Anyway, it wasn't the winning it was the memories of my dad taking me from Indy to Cincy for ball games when I was a kid. Oh yeah, they have skyline chili dogs. If you've never had one...I just can't explain it. Plus what's not to like about anyplace you can eat peanuts and then throw the shells on the floor.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ten things

well, I don't know if any one is reading this (or if it's even interesting) but this a list of things I've done over the past few days that equal vacation:
1. Went to a minor league baseball game.
2. Sat by a pool and pondered life while connecting with my inner Charles Spurgeon
3. Began Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" (no, it's not about me)
4. went to a local gym to watch a pro-am basketball league...saw two NBA players - for FREE
5. Run daily along a river front (yes I actually enjoy this though I broke my vacation rule...set the alarm to get today's run over with)
6. Read the morning paper with starbucks in hand at a local park (saw the brightest red cardinal I've ever seen and some black bird with bright red and yellow wing markings - who knew, I'm a bird watcher).
7. Read through half of Genesis (noting altars, covenants, journeys, and relationships - I smell a sermon series)
8. Talked with both of my boys on the phone
9. written a chapter and a half of a book I hope you'll soon see.
10. A couple of quiet walks with Sara.

What up next? Who knows...maybe golf a show at a local for a nap...yes a nap at 10:09 a.m.!

Monday, July 11, 2011

preacher vacation

Well, I'm officially on vacation...starting yesterday. What does a pastor do on vacation...well I'll try to give you some insight into this without ruining my vacation :-) For starters, on vacation a preacher enjoys to going to a church that he is not the leader of (this is sort of true, since I always wish I was preaching!). Yesterday, Sara and I went to a stereotypically cool downtown church and were warmly greeted. They had coffee and bistro tables in their worship room in an old theatre. It was good to see how this church of 150 do things....I'm reminded how big and diverse the kingdom is..and I missed Eastview.

On vacation, this preacher also tries not to have a schedule. I spend my life scheduled to the hilt, literally getting on my calendar may take weeks and I'm usually up by 5:00 and go from meeting to meeting, from appointment to appointment, from study to study. Well, on vacation my rule is, no alarm and no advanced planning (within reason). So, I don't know what I'm going to do today. I'm blogging right now, because I felt like it. This leads to another for my time away. No decisions. My job requirers literally hundreds of decision every week. Some are easy because I've been in ministry so long that it's instinctive. Some are excruciatingly difficult...I lose sleep over them and pray about them. So on vacation only decisions like: Pool today? Steak for supper? Nap or read...or both? I am tempted to check my e-mails and stuff, but I'll try not to.

My goal is to hear God's voice in a broader be filled with his word...I'm reading through Genesis for an upcoming sermon series (I heard nine sermons last week at the NACC!). My goal is to rest. I'm tired physically and I hope I'll come back refreshed for what God is doing at our church this Fall. My goal is to be quiet. Pastors talk a I'm committed to staring at squirrels in the park to go days without t.v. To invite God to invade my soul and say what he wants. My goal is to several books with me. My goal is to write. I have two books I'm working on and this will give me a real chance to give them a shot. well, I would write more but I'm on vacation and I don't feel like it...

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th reflections

Heading to Cincinnatti today for the town for a convention this week...more on this in a minute. Anyway, thinking back on those fourth of July's past. I remember it was cool to blow things up. Back in the 1900's we had these things called M80's. Little sticks of dynamite that could overturn a Tonka Truck and take a Barbie's arm clean off (yes...I did that). We also had real fire crackers...don't find them much any we're stuck with smoke bombs and sparklers and those come covered with warnings. Also remember flags flying everywhere. I like the American flag...reminds me of how blessed I am to have been born and to live in the USA. While we're at it, i remember countless 4th hotdogs (is there anything more American) which just seem to taste better on this day...there was an occasional parade, and swimming (or hoses in the back yard for us more ghetto inclined - I actually prefer running through the sprinkler). Of course, the day ended in some park in Indy watching fireworks with about 4,000 strangers and patriotic music. I don't think we have another day when Americans seem more unified...even had some homeless guys wish me "happy fourth of July" on my run this morning.

Well, Sara, Caleb and I are heading to the North American Christian Convention in downtown Cincinnatti. What is this? well, our church is not a denomination, but a loosely affiliated "movement" sometimes called the "stone/campbell movement" - mostly "Christian churches and Churches of Christ". Anyway, for about 60-70 years there is this annual gathering of all these churches where these Christ-followers from all over the country and from this background come (I'd expect about 5,000 to attend). We'll spend the week listening to great preaching (usually four main sessions a day and this year's theme is the book of Acts - go figure). There are also workshops on various ministry topics (literally hundreds of them) and then a variety of meetings and appointments that I'll take in. But it's really reconnecting with old ministry friends - sometimes people you haven't seen in years that makes this thing special for me. It's a very spiritually uplifting time for me. I would guess that in my 46 years, I've been to about 20 of these things (my first one was in Dallas when I was six - which is where this Indy boy became a Cowboys fan! My favorite one was Indianapolis in 1994 where I got to preach to the teen session of the convention and over 3,500 students. All my family and homeboys and girls were there (and yes, I realize Homeboys as an expression is outdated)

So I'm up for some fireworks over the river tonight in Cincy and some fireworks of the Spirit during the week.

Monday, June 27, 2011

travel tips

well it is that time of year, when many of us are going on vacation. You can tell with church attendance and just the casualness of the season. It is laid back and of course, God designed rest for us to renew our energies and spend quality time with our families. I'm looking forward to some vacation soon myself. But how do I keep God in the forefront as I relax mentally and physically (it should be obvious that we shouldn't ever take a vacation from God). So here are a few traveling trips for you to stay connected to your faith while you are away.
1. Attend another church. Sara and I have been so blessed in our travels as we fellowship with complete strangers in complete unity. This may be a chance to try a church that is way different from yours - it's good to see how others worship ... and it makes you appreciate your church.
2. Don't forget to give to your church. Just because you are in Disney World, doesn't mean that real ministries with real needs are continuing back home. Your church still needs your financial support. Don't vacation from giving.
3. Use the outdoors as a great cathedral. Some of us will bein some beautiful places. Use the ocean, mountains, lakes, etc... to just take in God's greatness.
4. Read a Bible verse early in the morning. Make it a goal to get in the the Scripture early and let it be on your heart throughout the day. Read it to the entire family and then have them think about it all day.
5. Pray together at the end of the day. This can be a great way to recount all that has happened together and worshipping God as a family.
6. Play worship music in the car as you drive. This can help the attitude in the car as well.

Monday, June 20, 2011

a father's day

yesterday was just another sunday in so many ways...I did my sunday routine with coffee and prayer and bible in hand. a lot of people are on vacation this time of year...visiting dad etc... our worship band did a great "loud, proud dad medley" as an opener with several old rock tunes and we shot breakfast for our dads (twinkles) out of our worship canon. It was a fun service. and of course it was father's day so I got to choose lunch - chinese take out (low key and easy). Then i settled into the couch for a short nap, but only for a half hour or so...then I went into the backyard just to take in the day. It wasn't too hot so I spent time staring at the bunnies that have taken our yard over. and I reflected...first on my dad.

He's been gone for almost 15 years...that's a long time. I thought of him yesterday. Thought of all he had missed in my life. He visited Eastview in the old building, but never saw this campus and his son as the sr. pastor in this place that God is powerfully moving in. I imagined him telling me he was proud yesterday. He would have been - he was over-the-top optimistic. He loved preaching and church stuff and I know if I could still talk with him, we'd spend hours talking about Eastview and her ministry. and we'd talk about the reds. I really missed him yesterday...then before you know it my wife and two boys had joined me in lawn chairs on the back patio in the cool of the evening.

It was cool. I didn't beg them to spend time with me because it was father's day and we didn't plan anything at all. Just the woman i love and the boys I hope I'm a good father to. We laughed and talked trash (this is a guy thing, especially when your sons are 19 and 22) and talked about the summer and the future. we talked about relationships too. It was perfectly impromptu...a father's day blessing from God. i got to see my two boys...really close to manhood...still my little boys in so many ways. I hope when i'm gone they remember times like this...I know that I did and I will. well, let's stop there, my eyes are watering

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spring News

Well, it's sunny, blue skies and a cool 70 degrees. It's Spring in Central Illinois. Enjoy these two days it probably won't last.

Yes, many of you have responded to my sermon intro yesterday about comments following sermon with "that was your best sermon ever". Very funny's why I love you so much. Hey it's better than critical emails right?

It was very touching to have thousands of people praying for the elders yesterday at the end of the Acts 20 study - we really do spend many hours praying over, for and about the sheep of this flock and it was very humbling to have the flock pray for the shepherds.

The atrium is coming! In about a week, the ground breaking and work on our expanded atrium will be begin. Lord willing, we'll be done by December 1 in time to invite our lost friends, family and neighbors into our home for Christmas. The builders are really working hard to disrupt our ministry activities as little as possible, but there will be some weeks in September and October that will definitely challenge our traffic flow and crowd us even more. Pray for our patience as a congregation and staff as we move through this time.

I'm running ludicrous amounts of mileage again as I train for my fourth "last" marathon in October. I'm really enjoying running with a goal again. I'm spending lots of time on the trail these days, so if you see me, say "hi" - but forgive my winded response. I don't listen to music when I run...never liked things in my I invite God on the runs with me. We have good conversation that ranges from "thanks for that beautiful cardinal" to "be with the staff at Eastview" to "please come back right now!"

It is summer time and many of our staff, volunteers and members are all over the country on vacation - summer is such a hectic time. Just a word of reminder...don't make it so hectic that you miss God in all of it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

How to read the Bible

Yesterday, I met a young lady at the cross who called me on my challenge to read the Bible. Her concern? I don't know how to. I read it and don't understand it. So what should I do? It was a great question and her hunger for learning was inspiring. So, here's what I told her with some other tips thrown in. You know it really is important to read these 66 books that make up one book - the written word of God. Try some of these easy ideas for getting the most out of your Bible time.

Read Mark (the shortest and most straightforward of the gospels) and simply keep a notebook and pen handy to write down all the stuff you learn about Jesus as you read. Before you read, ask God to show you His Son clearly and then read. When you come to something about Jesus, or that Jesus says, or that Jesus does - make a note about what you learn about him. For instance when he heals lepers, you may write, "Jesus cares about sick people." After you finish the book you will have dozens of things you have learned about Jesus and after all He is the focus of our faith. You might go back and review some of your favorite verses about HIM.

Next, I suggested the reading of James. Probably the most practical Christian living book in the New Testament. With James, I suggest reading through in the same way, but this time writing down everytime you learn something about how a Christian should live. For example, when you read "pure religion is to keep oneself pure and to care for orphans and widows"; you may write "A Christian should live a pure life and care for those who can't care for themselves". Again, when you are finished you should have a dozen or so things that you can pray about. Those two should get you started. Here are some other simple ones:

Get a Bible concordance and look up a word like "faith". Read all the Scriptures that have faith in it (this word will be a long list, so you may pick 5 or 6). Write what you learn about faith. You can do this with literally hundreds of words (money, anger, divorce, love, sharing, hope, crying, satan, etc... are just a few).

Get a Bible that is easy to read and one that has helpful notes at the bottom or in the margin. As you read, read the notes that go with each verse for explanation (I personally like and use the NIV study Bible)

When you read a verse that you don't understand write down what you don't understand about it and ask a Pastor (I know one who'd be glad to help, along with most pastors I know:-).

Go to our website for a daily Scripture with devotion.

However you start, let me encourage you to start. God's word is a really powerful tool that we have to help us grow in our faith.

Monday, May 30, 2011

things I remember

Memorial day is a day for remembering those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, but it is a good spiritual discipline to remember. I took some time today to just remember...just to sit and watch the bunnies in my back yard and some two kids playing baseball and just kinda praying, thinking, day-dreaming. Here are some things I remember...

I remember on a hot summer day like this that we would hear the ice cream truck and go running into the house to scrounge some change. the rich kids got the "bomb pop" - red,white and blue frozen ice. We paupers went for the 25 cent drumstick..and we were happy with that.

I remember throwing baseballs with a friend for hours on end. This is the way guys communicate. We would pitch back and forth and talk about everything - school, professional sports, God, rarely girls.

I remember wanting to be a preacher more than anything else in the world. Thought it would be the coolest if I could talk about the Bible for a living...still do.

I remember our church growing up going to McCormick Creek state park nearly Indianapolis for an all church picnic. It was a lot of fun and some adult usually broke some bone from playing too hard.

I remember that it is always hot on Memorial day and that there are a lot more American flags than usual. I'm a Christian first and then an American, but I love to see the red, white and blue. I'm the guy who gets choked up now when I'm at a baseball game and sing the star spangled banner with 35,000 people I dont' really know...oh yeah and go REDS.

I remember growing up poor and not caring about it and thinking our back yard was big (now that I've revisited it, it really wasn't - just like the church building, my high school and our street.

I remember coming to Eastview as a youth pastor and thinking that I'd be around for about three years and then I'd go preach somewhere...fifteen and a half years later, I'm coming up on my fourth anniversary as the senior pastor (June 1). I also remember more time to have casual conversations, going around town and not being recognized and not waking up at night thinking about stuff at church. All good, just remember before all of this.

Well, that's what I remember about you?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Omar (and other muslims)

As I mentioned yesterday in my sermon, our Turkish tour guide was a guy by the name of Omar. He lives in a city of 17 million people, in a country that is 99% muslim. He of course, is a muslim guy leading a group of Christians through some of the biblical sites. I found him to be very respectful of our religion as we were of his freedom to follow Muhammed as well. Here's the question we lived out over the last five days of our trip: How do Christians influence Muslims without offending them?

I guess I should begin with "Should we try to convert Muslims to Christianity?" Well, yeah! If you believe anything that Jesus and Muhammed said you will find their religions and their teachings to be diametrically opposed. In other words, the notion that somehow you can synchronize both into being the same thing is silly! Muhammed completely rejects Jesus as Lord and God (which Jesus continually claimed to be) and Jesus completely rejects Muhammed as a false teacher (many will come and say, "i am he"). Let get past this societal teaching that somehow all teachings are the same. They simply oppose each other too much. So how do we influence those whose world views are obviously not Christian? Well, we do it as we did on our trip (I was so proud of our people) on hours of bus trip conversations! So with apologies for a silly alliteration. Here are three "L"s for interacting with Muslims:

1. Lead with questions, not statements. We asked lots of questions like: How do you get eternal life? What happens when you die? What do women get in heaven? Is Muhammed in heaven? What is Allah like? These questions usually lead to questions about Jesus and Chrsitianity which gives opportunity to talk about Jesus in a non-threatening way. simply telling Omar about what we believe and why we believe it.
2. Listen. You have to listen to a lot of stuff you don't believe and frankly don't want to hear. As Omar shared the founding of Islam over the microphone for about 30 minutes, I was really on edge. Basically he was preaching the message of his faith, but that courteous listening gave us a chance for him to listen. You simply won't win anyone (muslim or not) without listening.
3. Live Jesus. Finally, as we've said before; your first and best witness is the life you live. We showed genuine love for Omar. Laughed with Omar. Talked with him. Showed the fruit of the Holy Spirit and I think it genuinely affected him.

Finally, it's the Holy Spirit's job to do this spiritual work. Omar has asked for a copy of our video teachings we did in each Bible location which we will when we get it edited. We will also make this available for small groups to study soon at church. In the meantime, keep playing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

last day reflections

Seriously? I was awakened at 11:45 by an earthquake. Woke up and the bed was shaking sideways and I woke sara up and walked to the window and no one was freaking I went back to bed. Pretty wild though.
Went to Pergamum today. Ancient city built in 300's BC and with Zeus' altar built in 180's bc (probably the Satan's throne referred to in Revelation 2). We only know one Christian name from this ancient city - Antipas. I always feel some strange connection to this early church martyr who according to legend was roasted inside a brazen bull. Gave his life for Jesus and in many ways I want to do the same thing. Here are some final reflections on our trip:
*have a sermon ready for Sunday...sore back from typing sideways in the bus
*loved seeing the Erastus stone in Corinth - another Bible brother in the Lord
*Istanbul is a great city...enjoyed several nice meals with some old and new friends here amidst the nightlife after long days of discovery and reflection
*Two weeks seems like a month...really miss home and the people I love
*The Bible really comes to life when you are able to walk the paths and streets of those mentioned in Scripture
*a starbucks and mcdonalds in the middle of nowhere Turkey can be a very soul-refreshing thing. You should have seen the excitement on our faces. It was the perfect rest area. If you think this is shallow...that's o.k. - it's just a fun touch of home when you're far away.
*If you are at Eastview, see you Sunday

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ephesus and Smyrna

Today we woke up early and headed for Ephesus and after it rained all day yesterday, it was another beautiful sunny day. We had an hour and a half to do two video shoots in first century Ephesus and so we moved quickly to the Arcadian Way (or Harbor way) that led from the theater to the ancient harbor. We set up and J.k. began his teaching and as he got through his introduction and was ready to read his Scripture some loud production music began for some period acting thing they do from the Roman period so we stopped. After the production was over, J.K. picked right back up and finished his deal. Then we moved north towards the theater and got in position for another filming. I went through the teaching and then the same production kicked in again - God worked in perfect timing to let us get the teaching done. Then after we left the first century site; it began to rain and then hail - crazy hard, but we made our way back to the agora of ancient Smyrna (Izmir) and the rain stopped. We saw some security guys, but we began to shoot anyway. The minute we finished a security guy came up and said we could use a tripod. So we said "o.k." and then left - our work was done. the point is that Jesus was with us and helping us accomplish this good work which we hope to share back home some day.

It has been a really great time of seeing the biblical sites and hanging with some great people from church, but I'm ready to be home. Sermon is baking and coming together as I'm in this inspirational place. Tomorrow we hit ancient Pergamum on the way up to Istanbul and then home on Saturday. In case you're wondering, there is a plan in case I don't get home. And when I'm preaching at 11:30 a.m. central time on Sunday, my body will think it's evening - jet lag sermon oughta be fun...don't miss it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nicea and Omar

Maybe I've already told you this, but our guide in Turkey is Omar. He is Muslim (at least like Americans are Christian - meaning he says he is) and we have been praying for the Spirit to use our group to show Christ in real ways. This is gentle work. We aren't the only Christians he has guided and I'm sure some well-meaning and over zealous people have let him have it. Anyway, our trip south today from Istanbul was to take a swing (120 miles out of the way) through modern day Iznik (nicea from olden days). So we get close and he is simply going to let us off at some beach location for ten minutes of photos and then on to our destination of Izmir. I asked him if he could get us to the church and he wasn't sure where it was - had never been. Well, after some questions and narrow streets on a big bus we found the aya sofia (same name of church as in Istanbul). The remains of a 5th century church are to be seen built on the site of Nicene Council that met here in 325 AD. Who cares? If you are a Christian, you should. Here are three major things that original group of church leaders accomplished.

1. They agreed on a creed (latin - credo - believe). You can google the Nicen creed - same things we believe after all of these years!
2. They agreed that Jesus was in fact in substance God. This is important because a guy named Arius said he wasn't. Praise God Athanasius and others followed our Lord's description of who he was - God in the flesh, the word was with God and was God!
3. The method for determining Easter each year (equinox, blah, blah, blah)
4. They confirmed the 66 books of the Bible that were in circulation and accepted by the early church as authentic. The Bibles we read contain these books. IMPORTANT: they didn't choose the books or put them together for the first time. This was not arbitrary work. They simply confirmed the authenticity of authorship, writing, and church usage of these 66 writings.

We had a chance to share all of this on the bus microphone and guess who was listening? Omar continued to ask many of our group questions and even showed interest in the Bible. Dave Doran gave Omar his Bible and it made his day! The Holy Spirit continues to pray for our diligence, patience and alertness to Holy Spirit moments! Other than that it was a rainy day, so a good one to be in the bus...9 hours to Izmir (Smyrna in the Bible). We arrived at the hotel around 9:15 and went for a quick supper at a local cafe'. Ready to hit the sack..but first gotta send my sermon outline back to the church office. I spent much of the day working on what I will preach this coming Sunday from Acts 11. Looking forward to it and looking forward to Ephesus tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I'm in the lobby of the taxim erisin hotel enjoying a starbucks coffee (three blocks from our hotel) and wondering where I am and what time zone I'm in. We had a long day of travel yesterday driving by bus from Thessalonica to Istanbul, with stopping by Philippi along the way. We literally had the entire ancient site of Philippi to ourselves...truly awesome. Scott and I hurriedly went to the prison cell of Paul and Silas to set up for our first teaching time there and the rest of the group caught up and we recorded the lesson. It was moving sitting in the place of Paul and Silas' suffering. I noted that they didn't respond to hard times like we Christians often time do: complain, wonder where God is, blame others, doubt, throw a pity party...they prayed and sang!

Then we went by bus, just a short trip, to the river outside the ancient city to where Lydia was baptized. Here, J.k. spoke and many got in the water and took pictures. Again very inspiring. Then we were on a bus for 9 hours (with stops and crossing the border which took about an hour or so) arriving in Istanbul around 9:00 p.m. Monday (1:00 p.m. central Illinois time). Even though we were tired, we wanted to get out and see some stuff, so we walked around this incredibly large city (17 million - 110 mile drive from east side to west side! - they grow by 300,000 every year!) and took in the sights and sounds and smells of this place. Though we don't have any record of Paul being here, we know that when he travelled through this area, the town that was Byzantium (started by Bisas - some king dude) was here and though not as large, it was still a huge city! His heart must have been stirred at the lostness of the place as was ours. The country is 99% muslim and our guide is as well. Because of some (I think ill-placed) questions from our group, he explained the resurrection and life after death according to the Koran. His take was will be a day of judgment and people will be running around scared and have to answer for everything they have done. this is quite the contrast between Christians who have hope that Jesus has washed every sin away and our names are written in the book of life. We look forward to that DAY.

Anyway, we are here today, just checking out some of the sights of Istanbul: aya sofia, the spice market and ancient bazaar. Update you later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

church by the waterfront

This morning we went all over Thessaloniki, mostly on foot checking out a cool 5th century church where St. Demetrius ministered and then we went to several locations throughout the city built in the 2nd Century Roman period which outlines the city walls as Paul and Silas would have experienced them. I decided last night that we would wait until after lunch to have our worship service and so we made our way to the Starbucks down by this plaza filled with thousands of people just hanging out for the day (beautiful by the way, blue skies and 80 - sorry it's not been so good in Normal). I chose this location because I love to drink Starbucks half a world away, but also because it represents the variety and hecticness of a city that Paul would have encountered 2,000 years ago. The majority of the group headed straight to the plaza to get seats in the umbrella-shaded cafe' area and Scott, Phil and I headed back to the hotel to pick up the video equipment and the bread and wine for communion.

When we got to the place we began setting up the equipment, lots of people stared, some stopped and listened. I preached not only to our group, but also to many strangers -felt very Paul-like (though I don't hold a candle to him) - I got to preach in Thessalonica! Wow! Thrill of a lifetime. By the time I had finished my teaching from Thessalonica, i closed with a benediction Paul wrote to the first Christians here in chapter three of I thessalonians. J.K. led us in prayer and there watching the sea we celebrated the Lord's supper just like those Christians of old. It was special and I got emotional (surprise, surprise) as I prayed for Joel, Matt, and everyone at Eastview (church in Normal was one hour from the first service - it was 4:00 p.m. here). The night was very laid back as we all went our separate ways for dinner. A group of us grabbed a little cafe' in old Thessalonica and enjoyed a great dinner as the sun went down and the little lights of the restaurants and street musicians came to life. Tomorrow is an early day for after some study for the Phillipi lesson tomorrow, I will hit the bed early. We have a long day tomorrow, heading to Philippi in the morning and then to the border crossing hotel in Istanbul!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

thessloniki - day 5

Today we left the middle of the country and made our way further north to the modern day city of Veria (biblical Berea - Acts 17) and stopped at a simple park area. This is not much of a archeological dig, but what is there is astounding. The focus on the park is three marble stairs. Why so important? Because they are the three stairs from the first century synagogue where the apostle Paul with Silas entered three sabbaths in a row to preach to the first Christians here! We each took turns staning on the steps and getting our pictures taken and J.K. did another video. Very cool to actually stand again in the footsteps of the apostle! Very moving and spiritually inspiring.

Tonight we are spending the night in Thessaloniki and have enjoyed a nice evening at a local restaurant and then starbucks on the sea port of this ancient town. Very cool when 21 century meets Bible. I'm in heaven. Anyway tomorrow is Sunday and I'll be missing my people at home and praying for all those who will be serving and attending there tomorrow. We plan on having a worship service down by the water and taking communion together in this spiritual setting. I'm also teaching about the Thessalonian church tomorrow on video.

A couple of things come to mind as this trip continues: 1. Paul was driven to proclaim the gospel everywhere he went. He just didn't back down...may I be like him. 2. It's a long way from Berea to Thessalonica. Sometimes what we read in one sentence "As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas to Berea" what seems so easy and is really at least four or five days rough journey.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Corinth and Meteora (day three and four)

Well, sorry i didn't do this earlier, but at 4:00 a.m. (Greek time) I was attempting to blog an update and something was messed up with now you get a double dose. Just got back with a Q & A time with the whole group sitting next to the pool in kalambaka (too cold to swim) debriefing and connecting biblical dots with all that we have seen. Great time together.

Yesterday we were in Corinth and it was amazing. the video taping went really well and then I was on a mission. When I was here three years ago, we saw the bema (judgement area) where Paul was judged by Galio (Acts 18:12ff) and many of the ruins, but I didn't find a very important stone that marked the name of Erastus. I've read about this discovery that validates Romans 16:23 where Paul mentions Erastus the director of public works in Corinth. I asked our guide and another worker at the site, but they had no idea. Finally a woman said, yeah it's down by the theater. The first century theater is mostly unexcavated and undeveloped as far as the first century, but I made my way down a rough path and there it was. A pavement stone with Erastus' name on it indicating he was in charge of building the road that passed in front of the theater. I'm not Indiana Jones, but I am from Indiana (so, J.K. and I together are Indiana Jones). Anyway, I drug everyone down there and we marvelled at standing on biblical history.

today we got up early and mostly travelled through the country north to these cool monastaries established around 1100 AD on the tops of these high cliffs. Pretty astounding stuff, we went to the great monastery (google it) and were moved in many ways. The group is having a great time with this discovery trip and really joining together as a team. Tomorrow we head to ancient Berea and then to Thessalonica for the night.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Corinth, Day 2

Well, It's three in the morning on Wednesday here and i should be fast asleep, but for the second day in a row, I'm wide awake! Should be around 7:00 p.m. in Normal,which is where I still am apparently. Anyway our first day was incredible. We started with a morning tour of Athens looking at some of the historic stuff the city has to offer. We stopped at the temple of Zeus (or the remains of it - very impressive structure still and it's over 2,000 years old). We got a great group photo of the whole group in front of it with the Acropolis in the background. But the coolest stop for me was the olympic stadium built in 1896 for the restart of the modern Olympics. It is very simple, but seats 70,000 and you could buy tickets to get on the actual track which several of us were going to do, but the workers were on strike. Well, I didn't come this close to not get on the track. One quick jump of the fence (with Sara yelling, Michael Robert!) and I was briefly on this ancient ground. It was the original site of the games from the 5th century B.C.
After this we made our way to the ancient acropolis and headed directly to the Mars Hill, the place where Paul debated/preached to the philosophers in Athens in the Bible (I know I told you yesterday the wrong place in Acts TWICE! - again sleep deprived) in Acts 17. J.K. was up to do our video teaching and as he approached the place he began to weep. It is very moving to see with your own eyes what you have studied for most of your life. I have experienced the same thing. Well, the group was awesome dragging all of Scott's stuff up this hill so we could get some quality video. J.K. did an awesome job as people from not only our group, but others also gathered around to hear. Pretty cool. After we finished our taping we headed up the hill to the Parthenon (google that and check it out), then by the ancient agora (market place) and to a lunch on the plaka (plaza area with outdoor restaurants, etc...) We were served octopus that was chilled and marinated with something...very weird taste, not everyone tried it. Anyway, we spent the afternoon looking at some old churches (11th century ad) and then back to the hotel for a nap before supper. the hotel here has a view of all of Athens with the Parthenon lit up and in view. Very cool. Again, I'll try and post some pics later, but Sara's camera is in the room with her where she's sleeping.
Today - five hours from now, we'll get in the bus and head for Corinth. I'm doing the preaching/teaching for video today, so pray for me when you can and I'll catch up with you all tomorrow if I have service (hopefully not at 3:00 a.m.)

Corinth, Day 2

Well, It's three in the morning on Wednesday here and i should be fast asleep, but for the second day in a row, I'm wide awake! Should be around 7:00 p.m. in Normal,which is where I still am apparently. Anyway our first day was incredible. We started with a morning tour of Athens looking at some of the historic stuff the city has to offer. We stopped at the temple of Zeus (or the remains of it - very impressive structure still and it's over 2,000 years old). We got a great group photo of the whole group in front of it with the Acropolis in the background. But the coolest stop for me was the olympic stadium built in 1896 for the restart of the modern Olympics. It is very simple, but seats 70,000 and you could buy tickets to get on the actual track which several of us were going to do, but the workers were on strike. Well, I didn't come this close to not get on the track. One quick jump of the fence (with Sara yelling, Michael Robert!) and I was briefly on this ancient ground. It was the original site of the games from the 5th century B.C.
After this we made our way to the ancient acropolis and headed directly to the Mars Hill, the place where Paul debated/preached to the philosophers in Athens in the Bible (I know I told you yesterday the wrong place in Acts TWICE! - again sleep deprived) in Acts 17. J.K. was up to do our video teaching and as he approached the place he began to weep. It is very moving to see with your own eyes what you have studied for most of your life. I have experienced the same thing. Well, the group was awesome dragging all of Scott's stuff up this hill so we could get some quality video. J.K. did an awesome job as people from not only our group, but others also gathered around to hear. Pretty cool. After we finished our taping we headed up the hill to the Parthenon (google that and check it out), then by the ancient agora (market place) and to a lunch on the plaka (plaza area with outdoor restaurants, etc...) We were served octopus that was chilled and marinated with something...very weird taste, not everyone tried it. Anyway, we spent the afternoon looking at some old churches (11th century ad) and then back to the hotel for a nap before supper. the hotel here has a view of all of Athens with the Parthenon lit up and in view. Very cool. Again, I'll try and post some pics later, but Sara's camera is in the room with her where she's sleeping.
Today - five hours from now, we'll get in the bus and head for Corinth. I'm doing the preaching/teaching for video today, so pray for me when you can and I'll catch up with you all tomorrow if I have service (hopefully not at 3:00 a.m.)

Corinth, Day 2

Well, It's three in the morning on Wednesday here and i should be fast asleep, but for the second day in a row, I'm wide awake! Should be around 7:00 p.m. in Normal,which is where I still am apparently. Anyway our first day was incredible. We started with a morning tour of Athens looking at some of the historic stuff the city has to offer. We stopped at the temple of Zeus (or the remains of it - very impressive structure still and it's over 2,000 years old). We got a great group photo of the whole group in front of it with the Acropolis in the background. But the coolest stop for me was the olympic stadium built in 1896 for the restart of the modern Olympics. It is very simple, but seats 70,000 and you could buy tickets to get on the actual track which several of us were going to do, but the workers were on strike. Well, I didn't come this close to not get on the track. One quick jump of the fence (with Sara yelling, Michael Robert!) and I was briefly on this ancient ground. It was the original site of the games from the 5th century B.C.
After this we made our way to the ancient acropolis and headed directly to the Mars Hill, the place where Paul debated/preached to the philosophers in Athens in the Bible (I know I told you yesterday the wrong place in Acts TWICE! - again sleep deprived) in Acts 17. J.K. was up to do our video teaching and as he approached the place he began to weep. It is very moving to see with your own eyes what you have studied for most of your life. I have experienced the same thing. Well, the group was awesome dragging all of Scott's stuff up this hill so we could get some quality video. J.K. did an awesome job as people from not only our group, but others also gathered around to hear. Pretty cool. After we finished our taping we headed up the hill to the Parthenon (google that and check it out), then by the ancient agora (market place) and to a lunch on the plaka (plaza area with outdoor restaurants, etc...) We were served octopus that was chilled and marinated with something...very weird taste, not everyone tried it. Anyway, we spent the afternoon looking at some old churches (11th century ad) and then back to the hotel for a nap before supper. the hotel here has a view of all of Athens with the Parthenon lit up and in view. Very cool. Again, I'll try and post some pics later, but Sara's camera is in the room with her where she's sleeping.
Today - five hours from now, we'll get in the bus and head for Corinth. I'm doing the preaching/teaching for video today, so pray for me when you can and I'll catch up with you all tomorrow if I have service (hopefully not at 3:00 a.m.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Athens, day 1

Well, my body clock is entirely shot as I sit in the lobby of the Stanley Hotel (munchkin beds and accesories and a shower you can't turn around in - but still better accomodations than Paul and Silas had - not complaining). We got through the 13 and half hours of flying from Chicago-London (Starbucks there:-)-Athens and to our bus by 6:00 p.m. local time. We had a supper of mousaka, chicken, bread, and salad. Little pricey on the drinks (small can of coke - three euros - almost 6 bucks) but it's all good. It is Wednesday here (we're 8 hours ahead of Normal) and we are going to hit the acropolis, parthenon, ancient agora and Mars Hill to name a few today. Having seen this all before, I can't wait to see it through other's eyes - especially J.K. He is going to freak. He's been studying this stuff for over 35 years and today he's gonna see it! Awesome. Now I've got to go and find some coffee - don't tell anyone, but the Greek coffee is almost as good as Starbucks..but I'm still on the prowl. If you want to think about where we are today read Acts 20!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Following Paul

Well, today we fly for Greece and Turkey with a group of 29 from Eastview for a spiritual pilgrimage. This is going to be fun for sure, but it is more than seeing some of the world's most historic places. This journey will cover the apostle Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 16-20) in reverse order. J.K. and I will teach at ten of the main cities we will journey through and our videographer Scott will record it all for us. what this means is no "up the nose" shots like my self-shot Bethlehem video last Christmas! And some quality video that we can use for a small group teaching series as well as some other footage for Sunday morning sermons in Acts. Two things: First, I will try and blog as often as possible to update you all on the place we are in the world and on the journey. Second, I'm going to miss you all while I'm gone. I have just come to love my church so much that I'm seriously bummed when I'm away from you all (plus my son is coming home from his first year in college while I'm gone)!

We will leave tonight around 8:00 p.m. from Chicago to London and then because of time change get into Athens, Greece by 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (May 10th). Oh, and it will also be my 26th anniversary to the best wife a guy could have. What did I get here for our anniversary? Greece!

Monday, May 2, 2011

numbers matter

I've heard it many times in both prayers and conversations in my 25 five years of preaching that numbers don't matter to God when I comes to church. Someone might say after a great turnout for a worship service, "I know that numbers are not important, but..." Or you might hear in a prayer, "Lord, I know you're not concerned with numbers, but..." Well, here's my question: Where did we get this idea in church that numbers don't matter? It simply isn't a biblical statement.

The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 - your descendants will be like the stars in the heavens and sands on the seashore - large numbers

The people who went into the Promised Land were all numbered (book of numbers)

The church in Acts continually mentioned the number of people who joined the church.

The heavenly scenes in Revelation refer to the mulitudes of both angels and humans around the throne worshipping in large number terms.

It appears that numbers matter to God and I think they matter because God knows each one of those numbers by name and deeply understands their purpose and design for life. I think churches who are growing should stop apologizing for numeric growth. They should be praising God for his work in amazing ways. It's HIS growth after all. A healthy church should grow in numbers because a healthy church is always evangelistic, reaching out to more and more people.

Can numbers be bad? Yes, they are bad when we take pride or trust in our own strength through numbers (like David counting his army) or when we only focus on numbers and not the growth that is taking place with those numbers (rock concerts and sporting events have large numbers of people and if we aren't careful, we can become entertainers instead of a church). So there are ways in which numbers can be bad, but again, God is concerned about numbers which I will illustrate below.
-Higher numbers of baptisms indicate more people beginnning their faith journey in Christ
-Higher numbers of church attendance indicates more people exposed to the community of faith and those who get to hear the word of God proclaimed.
-Higher numbers of people serving indicates more people becoming like Christ in serving.
-Higher numbers of people giving (higher numbers of dollars) indicates more sacrificial and faith giving and more money to use for ministry throughout the world

You get the point...numbers matter...they are important. Numbers aren't the only thing, but let's not act like they don't matter, because biblically speaking they do to God.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter thoughts

Three services for the first time ever at this Eastview campus. Everything went great. Could we do this every Sunday? Yesterday seems to indicate "yes".

New tradition at my house for Easter: Me, Sara, the boys and Abby (mikey's girlfriend) enjoyed take out Chinese for lunch (Great Wall of course!). Actually read an article on how the Chinese church is restricted on Easter there was kind of a tie-in...and I love almond chicken.

Love to see the kids with all of their good clothes...brings back good memories of the specialness of the day.

When I was a kid, we used to go to sunrise services (literally - sunrise, usually outdoors) then we'd come into the church fellowship hall for biscuits and gravy before Sunday School. Yesterday the tech team was in before sunrise to make it all happen...and they served them biscuits and gravy in the video room. Sunrise service = biscuits and gravy.

One of the first people I saw yesterday when I came into our first service was Gary and Janet York. They were sitting in the back so Janet could help with baptisms. I love them and thanked God for the foundation of leadership and ministry they built in 32 years here.

Nicki Green, our petite pastor of involvement came off of her feet yesterday in one of the baptisms she performed. Her feet actually came off the ground. I would have paid money to see her flip into the baptistery. That would have gone viral on You Tube!
When you baptized dozens of people at a time, the baptistery area is soaked...and no one seems to mind. There is a joy back stage that is palpable as the Spirit moves in each and every heart towards new birth. I could be a pastor for 1,000 and I'll never get tired of seeing a face break through the water in spiritual resurrection!

Whenever I go to a Spanish speaking country, I always think that Spanish speaking people talk so fast..but yesterday one of our members who translates my sermon for some spanish speaking people in our church said she couldn't keep up with me :-)

People asked if I was especially tired after yesterday with three services. Not really, I just preached another sermon. The real heroes are the staff at Eastview and all of the volunteers they recruit and lead. Literally thousands of people gave sacrificially to serve yesterday.

Hundreds of people parked at the high school yesterday making room for our visitors. So blessed by everyone making that extra effort.

Is is any wonder that Easter is so "Spirit-filled" each year? We spent an entire week praying around the clock for it to be so. What is happening at Eastview? Why is God moving so powerfully? One word: Prayer!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Palm Sunday by name

Well, the excitement is building around here for Easter Sunday! After getting back from a planning retreat Saturday evening; i hit the ministry ground runnning. Here are some of the people I encountered yesterday by name: Gary - our worship intern led worship and did a great job Carlos - a 22 year old I met after second service, he is new to town and speaks broken English, but he was happy to be here and will return. Ethan - A little boy surrounded by parents, family and friends as we dedicated him to the Lord after second hour. Ashwin and Rekha - A couple I baptized yesterday evening at 5:30 as people packed in for our missions banquet and FUEL Pastor Manno - Our good brother and partner in ministry in Haiti. His presence blessed me. His prayers are more inspirational than my sermons. Barton - A good brother who has gone through the elder nomination process. Blessed by his heart for Eastview. Steve and Jenny - Small group leaders who hosted Sara and I last evening for a great time with their group. It is so cool to be with small groups who are functioning as family and growing in the faith. Mikey - In between meetings yesterday, I hit the couch for a nap, interupted by my oldest son Mikey. We had a good conversation - love him - he's one of my three favorite people in the world! Others - countless others I prayed with, talked to, hugged and saw yesterday whose names escape me now. I thank God for all these names because they are the people I have come to love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

XLB version

One of the things I did with our executive leadership team was to spend 15 minutes in our devotion yesterday giving each leader a couple of pieces of paper and a pen and had then write down as many Bible Scriptures from memory as possible (again in 15 minutes). After the fifteen minutes, I put the sheets together and made copies for everyone. My instruction was that this would be our Bible for the week. We came up with 104 different Scriptures from a wide variety of books. the idea was are we living out Psalm 119:11 - "your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God"? Really cool exercise. If all we had was the Scripture we have committed to memory - how big would our Bible be? For us, this week, it's about 8 pages front and back. Really cool exercise. Give it a try. How many Scriptures can you come up with from memory? What does that mean? What verses have you committed to memory? Why?

Monday, April 11, 2011

mountains of east tennessee

Well, yesterday after second hour, the executive leadership team headed for knoxville TN for our annual planning meeting. This is a really crucial part of our year where we evaluate how God is working in our congregation and where we try and listen to the Holy Spirit leading for our future. Typically we head to a city where we can visit other churches and other church leaders, but this year we opted for the Smoky Mountains and have found ourselves in a mountain cabin with a spectacular view of God's handiwork. It has been marvelous planning out on the deck as the wind of the mountain blew along with the Spirit's breeze in our souls. I can only say that our prayer time alone was simply inspirational to me. I was moved deeply as my fellow laborers poured out their hearts for our church and for our people. This is preacher nirvana...thank you God for all you're doing. So, pray for our time up here. There are many cool mountain happenings in the Bible...Moses and the burning bush, Elijah listening for the voice of God, Peter/James/and John seeing Jesus in his glory, Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal, Noah's ark rested on a mountain, Jesus' sermon on the mountain, etc... Hopefully, this week the Smoky Mountains will be that holy place for us.

Monday, April 4, 2011

add to your exercises

It hit me the other day when I was in the gym. In between one set of lifting, I stopped and looked at the charts on the walls that illustrated all the things you could do with the machines and weights that were there. Honestly, I usually stick to about six exercises that I repeat three times a week, but if I wanted to really get stronger, I would add exercises to work different muscles in different ways. The spiritual life is very similar. Most of us understand that prayer and Bible study/reading are important - they are like the push ups and sit ups for training your soul. They are very effective, but there are more exercises. Sometimes these are called "spiritual disciplines" but the idea is the same - exercise your soul in a different way this week by trying these new workouts: 1. Fasting - go without food for a meal or a day in order to pray and to show God that you do not live on bread alone. 2. Lasting - make sure you take the last place in every setting for one week. Let others go ahead of you at the door, in the store checkout, in traffic. Jesus said the last will be humility in this simple way. 3. Silence - Turn off all of your gadgets, computers, cell phones, etc... and find a quiet place. Simply invite God into your presence and sit there. The Psalmist says, "be still and know that I am God" 4. Memorization - Put one verse of Scripture to memory this week. Pick a verse or two and write it on a it every chance you get. Commit this to memory. The Psalmist also says, "Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against God." 5. Solitude - This goes well with silence. Find a place to get away from it all. Maybe even just a park on your lunch break. Avoid people and try to notice God....just be aware of his presence. 6. Sing - If you're old school, find a hymn book and sing some of your favorites. You can also pop in your favorite worship c.d. or download from the web and sing praises and prayers to God. Your only musical worship doesn't have to be on Sundays at church. 7. Secretly give - bless someone you know with an anonymous gift. The anonymity makes it rewarding because you know you are doing it not for the praise for thanks, but simply as a gift to God. God will see you act and reward you in His way (see Matthew 7). Well, there you have it. Try one or several of these spiritual exercises this week. Go ahead, feel the burn. And grow some spiritual muscle.