Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolutions,resolutions, resolutions

well, another year has come and gone. 365 days is a long time and the thing I think is most important about making resolutions for the New Year is reflecting on the 12 months that were just lived. I know, many don't like making resolutions (my wife is one of them) because it's just another day. "I should live every day resolved to be a better person" is the common response; and I agree. But you must admit, we measure our lives in days, and months and years...That means that 2013 is going to be labeled as something in your life. So I think it is a good Christian practice to assess years and ask God for help in the next. Below I offer some helpful questions for making your New Year's resolutions for 2013. 1. If you were to describe 2012 in one sentence or one word, what would that be? 2. What would you have changed about 2012? 3. Could you have changed what you wanted to change? 4. What would your closest friend tell you is something you should work on in your life? 5. What would you tell yourself that you need to change? 6. What spiritual step would you like to take in 2013? 7. What physical step would you like to take in 2013? 8. What people would you like to treat differently in 2013? 9. What do the people in your world need you to become in 2013? 10.What will be your biggest obstacles to becoming what you want to become? After answering these questions you should have at least four or five things that you can resolve to do or be in 2013. Now here's the suprise to this can't do it! We've all made and broken hundreds of resolutions, but it's a good exercise because it is an admission of weakness and a stated desire to do better and that's a good thing in God's economy. There's just one more step. Commit your list to God in prayer every day for the grace and strength to become what He wants to become. Happy 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas reflections

What is is about Christmas that makes it so special....year after year after year? Of course it begins with an unusual focus on Jesus that even the most secular minded can't avoid this time of year. Even pagans sing "silent night" and Jesus' name is mentioned within the greeting "Merry Christmas" billions of times. Could it be that Christmas spirit is about The Spirit stirring more hearts at the heightened awareness of Jesus during this month? What makes 20 kids melt down simultaneously at once during the sermon on Christmas Eve. I warned our Matt and Caleb to be ready for an audience that can be very distracting. Our auditorium was crawling with children as over 2,500 packed our building twice. The funny thing is that during this one service a year, even this ADD Pastor can embrace the chaos. The exception was during my sermon second service when I promise you screams were heard in every section of our auditorium..all at once. The timing was amazing...and I made a crack about it being "weeping and gnashing of teeth" that was the only way to describe what was happening. Where else can you go and sing Christmas songs like "Frosty", "Jingle Bells" and "White Christmas" with thousands of others. Of course our message is about Jesus, but we also embrace the whimsy and fun of the songs of this season. It is one of my favorite things we do each year. Of course, singing "silent night" acapella at the end is moving every time. Will Christmas Eve services still be this special and as much fun for another 20 years? If The Lord is willing, I'd love to be at Eastview giving a sermon at age 67 with kids crawling every where AND I'd love for me still to think it is a blast and not be an old scrooge. I think there's a chance..'cuz I'm pretty much a kid anyway and there's something about this season that brings the kid out in all of us. On the other hand, it could be that someone else is preaching and I'm the disruption :-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

What happened in Newtown?

Well, it has been three days now since the incredible tragedy in Newtown Connecticut and like most of you, I have thought and prayed about it a lot. Like many of us who are followers of Jesus, I have tried to make theological sense of it all. What is a Christian to do with the crazy sinful stuff that seems to be surrounding us? How should we react? What should this cause us to do? The Scripture that has come back to me over and over again is, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood..." Ephesians 6:12. Since the Bible says so, I have to ask myself what this terrible taken of our most innocent is all about...what it IS and it IS NOT! *This IS the evil of the roaring lion, Satan, the liar and father of lies, the great deciever, the Devil. Whatever happened Satan was behind it all. He is a destroyer of life. If you want to place blame squarely on HIM. That's where it started! *This IS NOT a battle to fought in courtrooms, politics, or news channels. All the thinking and dialogue and rules and regulations in the world will not prevent something like this from happening! If you don't change a person's soul, they will do evil things. *This IS a wake up call to how fragile life is. We are not promised tomorrow. This means two things for Christians. 1) Love those around you greatly every day. 2) Care about those around you who are going to an eternity of pain without Jesus enough to share your faith with them. This IS a time to intensify what we really believe. *This IS NOT a time to figure things out from a physical standpoint! We all immediately think of more security, gun laws, etc... But... *There IS a spiritual solution. The world needs Jesus! Jesus is the only world leader who promises to change the heart by the work of his salvation and the Spirit within us. Had this gun man been a Christ follower, he very likely would not have killed these innocent children. *This IS a time to pray and seek God. Isn't it amazing how many people rush to God and church and pray in the most tragic of times. This is of course, the right thing to do. Only God can heal. Only God can make sense at a time like this. Only God has ultimate power. Only God is bigger than even death. Only God has the keys to eternity. *This IS a time for Americans to stop believing every thing it hears and everything someone thinks is there right. Bottom line, if we continue to embrace the sin in this culture, incidents like what happened at Newtown will only increase! There is no way to embrace evil (sin) and expect good (morally right in God's eyes) to happen! *This IS time to fight a spiritual battle for the hearts of men and women who will all eventually die eternally if Satan wins their souls. The irony is that Jesus has won the battle by His death, burial and resurrection! Beyond all the pain of the Newtown tragedy...this truth remains. Good wins and evil loses. We should especially get this during Christmas. The baby in Bethlehem was the beginning of the victory.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How many stories?

I get overload this time of year as our ministry kicks into warp drive. A former comment made the point that we didn't spend as much time as they would have liked to celebrate all that was our "Imagine" outreach. It seems impossible to keep up with God at work in our midst. Even if I tried, to praise God for the work He is doing, I wonder: How many stories of life change are we talking here? In fact we did minister to nearly 1,000 B/N families with toys, food, and winter coats. But more than that, there are stories rolling in all the time about people coming to faith, coming to church, and coming closer to God because of this outreach. As I hear testimony of single moms who feel God answered specific prayers for Christmas and their kids, or men who break down because someone prayed with them, or an out-of-work dad who is now coming to church because of his new-found and renewed faith in God because of the church's love! Before we could take a breath, we rushed right into our annual Christmas concert that saw around 6,500 people in three performances. Again, more stories...people coming after being invited by family for 20 years! People sitting with tears in their eyes while everyone sings "silent night". Non-church going husbands who had a great experience at the concert and came to church services on Sunday! These are the stories we know! How many lives is Jesus changing that we don't know of? Besides all of this, we continue to have visitors at the cross every service who are looking for God, looking for forgiveness, looking for healing, looking for family, looking for a church....and they are finding it in the ministry God is doing here. For the past several weeks, we have had baptisms every Sunday during services...but dozens during the week when the building is less used. One student ministry is experiencing many great decisions and baptisms these days. I can't get my mind around it all...which is great...I just have to pray and be faithful to what God has called us to do. This week, I'm able to be on vacation and just hang out with God and rest soul, mind, and body...for next: Christmas services, special offering, and vision Sunday. All this ahead of the great start to three months of vision. By the way, our new Eastview hoodies are selling like hotcakes...more stories to be written as we publicly declare our place of worship!

Monday, December 3, 2012


Well, I am finally on the mend after my teeth extractions (never want to do anything like that again!) and can begin to focus on my favorite time of the year. This morning I realized, I've actually missed some stuff due to this medical set back. I missed helping Sara decorate our tree - one of my favorite things - she did it while I held ice packs on my cheeks. I miss real, chewy, crunchy, solid food. Don't get me wrong, I like pudding, mash potatoes and soup, but man can not live on soft foods alone. Longing for cheese balls, potato chips, and steak...soon. Yesterday my plate of ham, cheees potatoes and green bean casserole looked like it had been through a drinking my ham! I missed putting lights on my preaching stool for Sunday...which I always do this time of year for Christmas...just was off my game last this week, we'll light up the stage a little more. I miss cold weather and snow. Remember when Central Illinois was known as "cold" in the winter? It hasn't snowed good here in a long time...and I miss it! I missed the last quarter of last night's football game...too tired to stay up, but my Cowboys pulled it out. I missed it,but I didn't miss it...the sleep was better. I miss having toys under the tree for little boys. Now that my sons are 24 and 21, we don't buy tons of stuff (they don't really need anything anyway) so my wife actually just gift wraps some boxes for looks. In all of this missing, the birth of Christ is still the center of our thoughts and worship. No matter what's "missed" this season. I pray that you won't miss this. Immanuel. God with us.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Psalm 111:10 says "the fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding." I'm thinking a lot of about wisdom today...because in an hour from now, I will do something that I was told needed to be done 30 years ago. I'm having my wisdom teeth pulled. I don't mind telling you that I'm nervous. I'm not a big fan of medical procedures, hospitals, and medical stuff in general. I know this is rather routine...I just don't like shots and stuff (not to mention having teeth yanked from my skull and pain in general). So, I'm taking some wisdom verses into the dentist chair this morning. Strange but connecting my wisdom teeth saying "bye-bye" with wisdom verses is a good way to implant something in my mind. Another thing, I really feel guilty for being so worked up about wisdom teeth being pulled when so many people have it so much worse health wise. So, I'm also thinking (and praying if I can concentrate) for those who are dealing with cancer, heart problems, back surgery, etc... In a sense, I'm praising God for my health. Finally, I guess it's only soft foods for a time...someone said pudding was good. If this is true there are only two options for this recovery meal: chocolate and tapioca. Maybe this won't be so bad after all!

Monday, November 19, 2012


A great thing about Thanksgiving is that the holiday describes a Christian attitude I should have all the time. It's really hard to celebrate Thanksgiving while having an ungrateful this morning, ahead of this great American tradition my mind is moved to the things I'm thankful for (hopefully this will trigger some thanksgiving in your heart as well) 1. I'm thankful for my wife - best 27 1/2 years of my life and my favorite person in the world. 2. I'm thankful for my sons - by far my favorite artist and preacher are represented in these two lives that are truly a part of me. 3. I'm thankful for God's calling on my life to preach. I am so grateful to have a place to preach every Sunday (I'm also thankful for that place - Eastview Christian Church) 4. I'm thankful for food to eat. This Thursday, I'll gather with Sara's family in Cincinnati and some of my favorite tastes in the world (turkey with gravy and pecan pie among them) will be on the table. I'm thankful for that. 5. I'm thankful for my health. I'm planning on running a Thanksgiving Day 10K in Cincy with my sister-in-law and niece...glad my legs, heart and lungs still work. 6. I'm thankful for the team of people I work with here at church. I know I'm supposed to say that as the pastor, but I truly mean it...grateful for each one. 7. I'm thankful that the grace of Jesus has saved me, the Spirit guides me and the Father will bring me home someday. Words cannot express. All praise to an awesome God from whom all blessings flow. Thank you Lord!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

rainy day in Jerusalem

Even though we spent last night in the city of Jerusalem, today was the first chance to get into the city itself. Since it was Sunday morning, I had two thoughts - one was for all of my brothers and sisters (my family) at Eastview Christian Church. I truly miss them-the second was to organize communion for the group as to celebrate the Lord's Day together. I grabbed some bread at the breakfast buffet (a baguette actually) and the head waiter brought some small bottles of wine. It sounds easy, but with buses, traffic, and weird food, and no convenience stores's hard to get all of this together. God visited us in a very cool way next the olive grove in Gethsemane as we celebrated the Lord's supper together. We sang the hymn, "Nothing but the blood" and prayed and served each other communion. Every one was moved deeply...very cool time of worship and reflection! We then headed to the Mt. of Olives where we got a great view of Jerusalem as Jesus would have seen it 2,000 years was windy, and cold, and then the rains came..and lasted throughout the day. J.K., Scott and Ryan (our videographers) were troopers taping the teaching on the southern steps of the temple while it was crazy...good. I also made the video guys schlep (new Jewish word I've adopted) down to Hezekiah's tunnel (2,700 year old tunnel from the Old Testament) - very cool day..even if we did experience the wailing wall in the rain...very tired..heading to bed even as my people in Normal hit mid afternoon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

En Gedi/Massada

Today we hit the southern area around the Dead Sea and were introduced via J.K.'s teaching to the Hebrew word - matsad - it means stronghold. It is the word used to describe the cliffs and caves of En Gedi when David and his men were on the run from Saul and his enemies. It also where the word Massada comes from where Herod built this incredible fortress/winter palace with incredible views to the Dead Sea. The point J.K made was a great one: David's stronghold physically was at En Gedi, but his real stronghold (same Hebrew word) he reveals in Psalm 27:1 - "the Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid!" Is is possible that David wrote this Psalm in the very caves I walked below today? What is your stronghold? Very inspirational stuff! We also saw two animals at En Gedi you can see only here: Ibex and Hyrex (also called conies and rock badgers). The Ibex is a deer like animal, but the males have long horns...and the Hyrex is kinda like a rabbit. They are mentioned in Deuteronomy 14:4&7..pretty cool. I can't seem to download pictures on this site right now, so I'll try and post some on my twitter account @bakerpastor Shalom!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Century Boat

Sitting here while most of you are sleeping back in Normal having just sailed across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Genessaret...the exact same route I taught from this morning from Matthew 14..Jesus walked on water and invited Peter to do the same...and he did. Very moving for all 60 on board! A great challenge for our fears: 1. What unknown are you afraid of (it's a ghost) and 2. What step do you need to take that seems scary? Now I've found some free internet action and I'm trying to catch the first century boat (actually found in 1986). Heading to Mt. of Beattitudes!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Isreal trip: take 2

Well, heading to Tel Aviv today with 60 from Eastview via Chicago and Paris (no you can't see the Eiffel Tower from the airport!). After an incredible day yesterday which saw 67 baptized into Christ - flooded by His grace (Noah sermon) my soul is blessed and filled with joy. Now I lead a spiritual pilgrimage for others, but I'm excited to experience it again myself. If you are so inclined, you can read daily updates via this blog and/or my twitter page @bakerpastor. I'll try to send some pics as well. Of course, when it's all said and done, we will release about 19 teachings on location which J.K. and I will record over the next week and a half. Looking forward to Sea of Galilee, Caesarea, and Capernaum most of all. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fasting on my plate

There are many things I must do this week...the usual routine along with some extras as I prepare to leave the country next Monday. The expression, "I have a lot on my plate" comes to mind. Somehow in our vernacular this phrase has come to mean too much, but in my world a lot on your plate is a good Thanksgiving Dinner...but I digress. Here are the things on my plate right now. Good thing I'm hungry! 1. The elders are in the final stages of interviewing two potential elders to join our team. This means we will likely meet this week...a culmination of several months of prayer, questions, reflection and paying attention to the Holy Spirit. 2. Final preparations for baptism Sunday are being made. Blessed to work with a team who will do most of the organizational work for the day. 3. Finalize some lessons for the Holy Land video teachings J.K. and I will be doing in Israel next week. Our theme will be "KING" as we tour this land of both earthly and heavenly kings. 4. Pack...for most not a problem, but I always overpack because I want to have the right clothes in case it's hot, it's cold, it's rainy, it's dinner, I'm get the picture. There's more but I won't bore you further...the most interesting thing on my plate is fasting. Kind of a double negative - fasting on my plate. I will be joining a thousand people from Eastview in a day of prayer and fasting this Thursday, and I'm already getting my mind and soul ready for it. I already looking over and beginning to pray over the list of 20 prayer concerns our church will pray together. This will set in my soul a desire to hear from God. I've already begun planning my eating before and after the fast. What will my last meal be? How will I break the fast. I'm also preparing to lead others in prayer & fasting...I want to be ready to lead by example. So, much conversation with God concerning Thursday at 6:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and 5:30 p.m. I will be there all three times, setting up our time of prayer together. Of all the other things on your plate, I hope fasting is on yours too this week. Phrases that didn't make the cut in this blog: *I'm hungry for fasting *Fasting...I'm eating it up *Slowing down to fast *Fasting it's what's not for dinner *Stop eating and start praying

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lincoln Preachers

At one time "preachers" was the nickname for all of Lincoln Christian University men's sports teams. Yeah, not very fearsome as far as mascots go (by it's very name, you can't make it fierce - ie. the fighting preachers, the killer preachers, and the preaching swarm really don't express what preaching is all about), but a true description of the guys who made up the basketball team. Well, for the next two days, the Lincoln Preachers will be preachers from all over Illinois who have come to the Illinois Minister's Retreat..and I'm honored to be able to preach to them three times. I must admit, it's a little more nerve-wracking because of the audience, but I know that they know how hard preaching is, so I'll get grace. Also, I'm more excited than nervous because this is a pep rally for preachers! Nothing better than to be in the company of guys who week-in and week-out carry the high calling of preaching the Word of God. We are all imperfect, but useful instruments for God (cracked pots Paul called us). I'm going to be expounding on the last chapter of II Timothy and look at Paul's charge to the young pastor Timothy, who was the preacher at First Christian Church in Ephesus. Amazingly, not much has changed in 2,000 years. Here's a basic run down our the teachings 1. II timothy 4:1-5 Paul's list of important ministry stuff (his charge). 2. II Timothy 4:9-22 Dealing with discouragement, deserters, and developers 3. II Timothy 4:6-8 Finishing Strong Registration at 3:30 and first session shortly after. Pray for me..holed up in a Lincoln motel room praying, writing, rehearsing, praying some more.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Recently I was in a meeting where several pastors revealed just how overwhelmed their schedules and demands had become for them. Honestly, for the most part, I don't feel stressed. I love being the preacher at Eastview Christian Church. It is more than I deserve and I daily thank God for the wonderful people He has placed me with. However, I have seen that as I get older and the church grows, there are more opportunities to do a lot of great things. The question is not whether something is a good thing to do or not..the question is whether God has called me to do it! There is a difference. I have spent much of the last three weeks talking with God, listening to Him and my spirit, talking with my wife and co-workers, and meditating on some of God's leaders in the Bible and have constructed my "yes" list. Once you establish "yes" then "no" becomes easier. I challenge you to try this. Below are seven things I am to say "yes" to all of the time...everything else is a "yes" for someone else...but NO for me. 1. rhythm - "yes" to balancing schedule between physical, mental, emotional and spiritual activities. 2. family - "yes" to Sara, Mikey, Caleb. Their schedules and their needs supersede all others. 3. preaching - "yes" to preaching the word of God, first at Eastview and then where other doors are opened. 4. leadership - "yes" to inspiring and leading other leaders - staff first and then others 5. vision - "yes" to every opportunity to promoting the vision that God has given Eastview Christian Church. 6. writing - "yes" to writing biblical material for spiritual growth - first for Eastview then others as doors open. 7. prayer - "yes" to praying many hours each week for personal growth, Eastview staff and elders and congregation. What's your "yes" list include. After you're done, write down some "no"s too!

Monday, October 8, 2012

txt invitation

I have to say it was an incredible blessing and honor to share the stage in ministry with my son Caleb yesterday. He did the welcome, communion, and announcements in the big house and then preached to the Jr. Highers twice in Edge. He learned the value of the preacher's Sunday afternoon nap! It was hilarious that we both wore black shirts and gray pants we didn't plan that! As a dad, I thanked God for that special moment. But I was moved even deeper by our invitation time. At the end of the sermon we asked everyone to take out their phones and text an "I will" decision in response to the James sermon to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer! Each service responded with hundreds of "I will" statements with a commitment to do something to grow in their faith. As these texts of commitment scrolled on the screens we sang "Ancient Paths" the song that Matt wrote for this WALK series. God really is teaching us to walk with Him and seeing all the tangible steps that people are willing to make was inspiring! I know, texting doesn't seem very warm and spiritual...but when you read "I will love my wife better" and "I will not be angry in traffic" and "I will quit smoking and live better for God" you realize that thousands yesterday made a decision to take at least one step of faith... Didn't know if the text invitation would work or not...but God used it to inspire a congregation. Thanks to my tech guys who made it happen and thanks to God for the grace we respond to when living for HIM.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The scary part of leading

By God's grace and design on my life, I have found myself in leadership positions most of my life. Seriously, from the time I was playing pick up games with my buddies to my current role as pastor, I have always tended towards leadership. This is nothing of my own doing, just something God decided to do in my life. All credit to him. My journey does certainly go with our theme for "WALK" this week that the Holy Spirit uses many different means in our everyday lives to help us grow. God has graciously given me a chance to lead in a lot of settings, but today I was reminded why leadership is so scary...DETAILS! Surprise...I'm not a details guy. So I get excited about this big vision that comes easily for's all so clear in my mind...THEN people started asking questions like "how?" and "why?" and "have you thought about..." and "well, I think we should". I just sat through three hours of meetings for the North American Christian Convention in 2014 (shadowing the president because in 2015, I'm going to be in that role)and I have a "details headache". I just want to dream about the theme and we have to assign workshop classes, leaders, topics, locations, etc... Well, what to do. Relax...just as the Lord created visionary leaders, he also created organizational leaders and detail leaders and stretegic planning leaders...praise God for them. Here's the big lesson they didn't tell me when I was first in ministry. I DON'T HAVE TO BE A DETAIL PERSON to be successful in ministry. Now, don't get me wrong...I've learned and matured in my ability to cover some details (like sermon preparation, and leadership meetings) but here's the "aha": someone else is dying to to the detail stuff of ministry in partnership with my vision. They get just as excited about details as I get about preaching...I had to breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes today and realize...I don't have to be scared....I'm not going to organize all of these details...someone gifted to do that will make that happen...Ahhh... I feel better now!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Walk this way!

Our all-church study called WALK began yesterday with an invitation to take a first step in the journey with Jesus and several responded! One deeply touched me. A lady that I knew because our sons played basketball in high school came forward in third hour with tears in her eyes. I hadn't seen her in at least four years, but her name came to me immediately and we prayed as she was broken before the Lord. She spent time after service talking with my wife and it was a glorious conversation. Again, God never ceases to amaze me at His ability to get everyone's attention. My soul was deeply touched by this encounter. Then I met a great man in the airport as I was flying to Dallas. He introduced himself and told me he has been going to Eastview for a year or so and is involved in a men's Bible study group. He even went to the Dominican Republic in April on a construction trip. As we were boarding, the woman at the ticket counter brightened when she saw Sara and I, she goes to our church and actually said "Great sermon today Pastor". That means she had been at the 8:00 a.m. service and then gone to the airport for work (love it!). Well, when this man heard she had gone to Eastview, he said, "You go to my church" and to which she replied "you go to Eastview?" She went straight to, "You in a study group?" To which he replies "yep". It was a regular revival right there as we were boarding. Later as we picked up our luggage in Dallas. This man revealed that four years ago he was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, but he's still going, feels good and the cancer has actually spread. I wish I could paint for you the expression of joy on his face as he literally lives one day at a time for Jesus! Inspiring.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time to WALK

A bunch of things fill my mind as I get ready for the kickoff of our all-church study called WALK. I'll get to that in just a minute... Got my weekly dose of humility from the anonymous who really doesn't like me and usually gives me a mean-spirited response to my's o.k. Me and Jesus have talked and we're cool. Please pray join me in prayer for a bitter, yet anonymous person. I love them even if I don't know them. Now for some good news. Hundreds of small group leaders showed up for training for WALK campaign...excitement in the air! That was followed by hundreds getting plugged in to their small group for this study...nearing 500 new small group participants. Many kudos to the small group staff and volunteers who are doing all of this crucial assimilation! Another bit of Eastview celebration. WE made the Outreach Magazine top 100 for fastest growing churches in America. There are over 350,000 protestant churches in our country and this is a huge honor. We're number 91 on the list. TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY FOR THIS. SERIOUSLY, THIS IS ALL HIS DOING AND MY DESIRE IS TO CELEBRATE HIM BY SHARING WHAT HE HAS CHOSEN TO DO AT EASTVIEW. Eastview family, chant it with me, "We're 91", "We're 91". Finally, let's walk. Beginning Sunday we will start a six week journey breaking down the following spiritual growth definition by our own J.K. : "God, the Holy Spirit takes te initiative through various means in cooperation with our response changes us to look like Jesus in order to serve others for the glory of God". Each week a sermon, will follow with six daily devotions (hope you've got your book), and a video teaching in your small group setting! Ready to grow in the faith with you all. If we are obedient to study and follow God's will...He will bless our desire to grow in Him. Let's go for a walk together.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What to do with a near tragedy

Well, by now many of you have probably heard what happened in Normal this past weekend, but for my international readers, a brief recap. A young man brought a gun to NCHS last Friday and took over his classroom firing a few shots into the ceiling. He was apprehended by the teacher and when the school was locked down, the students made their way through rain and mud to our church building where our staf and some Eastview members showed incredible love to the staff, faculty and students during this emotionally draining and scary time. By God's grace no students were hurt and everyone got home safe...but it was a wake up call! What to do as a Christian when this stuff happens? Well, this is where I've landed and some thoughts on what God seems to be saying to me: 1. Life is fragile, short, unpredictable and not how does that affect my love, my witness, and my walk with Jesus today? If I knew today was it...what's different? 2. God is generous. The only thing I know to do when something good happens on a grand scale is to think how God must have covered that school and that classroom with his grace because of the prayers of the hundreds of parents who pray for their kids all the time. 3. The church is beautiful. When stuff that absolutely shakes the world goes down, the church is seen as this place of safety and reassurance (I love that the church was referred to in the news as the "reunification" place). And you know how the church does it? By being itself. God designed the church for times such as this...absolutely beautiful. 4. God works in mysterious ways. God will use this event to bring some people to His Son and will also light a fire under some of us who are just too complacent in our walk. God has already turned this very crazy scary event to change hundreds of lives! 5. The preached word always makes a difference. There was talk of doing some different things in our service yesterday but my spiritual instinct was to simply do what we do. Assure people of God's word for our lives and praise him in song. What have you done with this experience?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Well, it's dangerous week around here. Seems inconsistent that "dangerous" week is a shortened work week, since the workplace is where most of our "dangerous witness" takes place, but God can do in four days what he can do in five. The memory verse from Colossians 4:5 has really inspired/convicted/messed with me...especially that phrase: "make the most of every opportunity" - the Greek word "agoradzo" has to do with shopping in the market (agora). You could translate this, "buy the opportunity" - KJV says "redeem the time" My father-in-law is famous for going to flea markets and finding great deals on a variety of collectibles (or junk as I call it). Often, he walks away from a great deal without buying only to find that when he changes his mind later and goes to purchase the item he now wants; it is too late...someone else already bought it. I wonder if we are the same spiritually. Does God give us unbelievable opportunities to share our faith, start conversations, get into people's lives only for us to say, "that was weird"? What if we looked for a chance to buy (redeem) every opportunity in our day for Jesus? Here are the questions I'm obsessing on? 1. Is there any truly chance encounter with another human being in my life today? If not, why did it happen? 2. How many opportunities have I asked God for? 3. How many will I get today? 4. How many opportunities to talk about Jesus will it take for someone to respond by following him as Lord? 5. What if a non-Christian friend is looking for an opportunity to talk with me about the faith they see in me? 6. Does everyone I meet today see Jesus in me? Why or why not? 7. If God "you tubed" a video of all the people opportunities I've missed in my lifetime, how many would there be and how sad would I be to see those I've missed? We'll stop with seven...very holy number.

Monday, August 27, 2012


In my experience, it's not that hard to be ridiculous...just act outside the norm and people will ridicule your words, actions, or appearance! But our vision is not to be ridiculous, but to love ridiculously! What does that mean? Could we love like the early church and the way Jesus taught? If we could, we would be ridiculed for our love...I pray this week, the Lord shows you who and how to love in a ridiculous way. 1. Jesus said to love one another. Maybe your ridiculous is to shower someone in your circle that you often take for granted. Sometimes loving those close to us (especially in the church) is the hardest to do, but Jesus says this is how people will know we follow Him. 2. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Maybe your ridiculous love is to literally do something for someone who lives close to you. Of course, when asked "who is my neighbor?" Jesus responded with the story of the good Samaritan. Who is around you, in your school, in your workplace, in your social setting, that is maybe not like you but is truly your neighbor. 3. Jesus said to love your enemy. As a Christian, you should not normally have an enemy by your choice, but there are certainly some people in our world or lives who do not like (or even hate) Christians. Is there someone in your world that you know probably doesn't like who you are or what you represent? Why not do something loving for them this week. Our goal, 1,000 acts of kindness! Let's do this. I'm praying for God to show me who I am to love this week. Follow my progress on twitter @bakerpastor for updates and also some useless stuff I tweet from time to time. Memory verse for the week: John 15:12&13: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." KNOW IT AND LIVE IT!

Monday, August 20, 2012


Well, fearless week is in full swing here at Eastview. Working at memorizing Matthew 16:24...a very fearless and following passage. Our vision at Eastview is to be a fearless church of Christ-followers and yesterday we gave a fearless vision for our future...some highlights: 1. We will not be afraid of growth...since we don't bring it, God does...we will be faithful with all he entrusts to us! He has grown Eastview by 8%/yr. the last five years and that means we will be a church averaging 7,200 in weekend attendance in 2017 if this continues. There is much to be afraid of: where will we put our kids? Parking? Who will we need to hire? More teachers/leaders of small groups? More volunteers? More toilet paper?! Whatever the challenge, God will provide the growth and the strength for us to be faithful. 2. We will not be afraid of finances. Obviously, everyone is a little tense about economy these days, but God has all the resources in the world! He's not worried, he can get the money to do the ministry here any way he wants. It's just more interesting (and for us a privilege) for him to involve us in doing it! So, we are adding $1M to our budget for next year...over $200K of which is going for outreach (overseas and domestic). This is a big step, but God has provided and we are convinced he will continue. If you can give more why wouldn't you? 3. Finally, we will not be afraid to speak. As God brings the growth, our voice in this community will increase and we will be opposed. But we are committed to preach Jesus as the living Word of God and the Bible as the written Word of matter what. We are working at increasing our voice by using more and more social media to get the word out about our if you are on facebook - friend the Eastview page. If you have an i phone go to the Apple app store and download the Eastview App and (this is the craziest one yet) if you are on Twitter you can follow me @bakerpastor - yes, the man who never learned to program a VCR is now "tweeting" that really is fearless! Praying for you to have a fearless week!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sleepless back from Seattle

Sara and I got back from Seattle late this evening and have completed all the unpacking, sorting through the mail, and celebrating mom's 70th with a great time of laughing with both boys at home. We jetted from Eastview about half way through the last session of the leadership summit we hosted for the first time at Eastview. I was inspired on many levels...still processing...but quickly we shifted to getting to Seattle for the wedding of my oldest son's best friend's (Jesse Lanphear) wedding. Mikey was the best man and I was honored to do the wedding. Highlights from the weekend: 1. Standing in line at the original Starbucks on Pike Street for 45 minutes to get my coffee Saturday morning. It was an seeing Mt. Rushmore or the Grand Canyon (o.k. maybe that's an exageration). 2. The rehearsal dinner was held at a place called Pier 70 and a restaurant called Aqua. Really cool dining room that opened onto the pier and a great view of Puget Sound! Really cool sunset and great times talking with friends of Mikey. I love talking with a younger generation people. Fun to see their optimism and energy for life. 3. Watching a former youth group member marry another former youth group member. Leslie was beautiful coming down the aisle. I'm always reminded about the church being the bride of Christ and how beautiful we look to GOD because of His Son. 4. The view of the city and Puget Sound at night out of my 27th story window. Love the city at night 5. People dressed up fancy. I like casual, but we have become too casual sometimes...I think people look so nice dressed up for a wedding. 6. Church at a satellite church of Mar's Hill (Mark Driscoll) downtown on Sunday morning. It was really pretty cool...the sermon was a video feed and Mark preached for over one hour! 7. Thanks to some anti-biotics, I recovered from a really bad cold, sore throat, etc... Love the zpac and a three hour Saturday afternoon nap. Other than that, I didn't sleep too much I return tired and have a six a.m. breakfast appointment. Good night.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Another degree?

I really can't believe it and it hasn't sunk in yet...but I received a Master's Degree this weekend! The funny thing is that I always said that after my undergraduate degree in preaching, I would not pursue another degree. This is not to say that I am opposed to learning. I am committed to reading and studying for the rest of my life because I know that a preacher needs to be filled with other learned voices! So I have read a lot, but I have enjoyed learning on my own and not completing assignments for a professor. So what changed my mind? Well, a couple of years ago, as Dr. J.K. Jones joined our staff we dreamed about the possibility of partnering with Lincoln Christian University to offer some classes in spiritual formation here on the Eastview campus. Well, Dr. Keith Ray, J.K., Dr. Neal Windham, and Dr. Tom Tanner work tirelessly to make it a reality. J.K. would not only be our pastor of spiritual formation, he would also lead a master's program completely in our church building. Well, I didn't have many excuses left: I work in the building the classes were offered...the degree is about what I need and what I do (spiritual growth)...and my mentor and friend J.K. was leading. So I signed up. I'm not gonna lie. This was not easy. I already have a pretty time consuming job, but somehow by God's grace over the past two years I have read 19,000+ and written 300+ on the topics of prayer, scripture, holy spirit, spiritual formation, preaching...etc...especially as it relates to historic writing up to the present day! I have been blessed. I'm glad it's behind me. And, I'm back to saying that's the last degree for if I can just get Sara to call me "master" - yeah, right! :-)

Monday, July 30, 2012


From time to time I receive "input" from "anonymous". In fact many of the responses on this blog come from are "anonymous". At a glance we get this,it's easier to be bold when no one knows who is writing, but after receiving two pretty hateful responses from "anonymous" in the last two weeks (which I deleted and did not publish) it got me thinking about whether or not being "anonymous" is a good Christian thing to do. Here are some thoughts about a variety of "anonymous" communications. ANONYMOUS THANKS/PRAISE - Often we get really nice anonymous words from people who appreciate what we do and I must admit, these kinds of anonymous are easier to read, but I do wonder if when the Bible says to encourage one another it's not talking about speaking to someone with full disclosure of who it is - if nothing else to build a bond of love and unity. ANONYMOUS CONFESSION - I receive lots of e-mails and nameless prayer requests that are confessions of sin. But here's the deal, this belies a fear of being "outed" as a sinner and in our world...all are sinners. Real confession is open and vulnerable and I'm not sure if confession has really taken place until we personally own the sin. ANONYMOUS CRITICISM - The Bible teaches that if you have something against your brother you should not give an offering until you have reconciled. It also teaches to speak the truth in love and talks about restoring an erring brother gently. I'm sure I'm not the only one who gets anonymous criticism, but when I do it bothers me. I had a former associate that refused to read an unsigned letter, note, or email. I'm too curious, but I often wish I didn't. As Christians, if we have a criticism for a brother or sister, we should love them enough to speak to them. ANONYMOUS MEANESS - This is the biggest problem with being anonymous. We shoot from the hip, and say things we shouldn't (and wouldn't if our names were attached) say. Often the words are judgmental, hateful and one-sided. There is no place for this kind of dialogue between Christians. I'm sure I'll continue to get "anonymous" responses to my blog. But maybe these thoughts are helpful. In the meatime, to my "anonymous" hater...I'm praying for you because though I don't know you, God does.

Monday, July 23, 2012


I'm excited to announce that my fourth book "Recalculating" will arrive this week, Lord willing. It is a book based on Paul's travels through the Bible lands of Greece and Turkey and is designed to be a 40 day study for groups or individuals. The cool thing is that the book comes with 8 video teachings from J.K. and I at the the Bible locations studied. I hope it is a helpful book. God has been gracious in allowing me to write and by His grace I'll write until He decides I won't. You may wonder how a book comes into being and why I decide to write. Here's what guides me. 1. I write first and foremost to help the congregation at Eastview to grow in their faith. Others may find it useful, but my heart beats for Eastview. 2. I write with simplicity...because, well, I think in simple terms and want the complexity of God to be as understandable as it is in His Word, the Bible. 3. I preach first and write second. I love words, obviously, but I prefer preaching to writing and they are very different things. 4. I write when something catches my heart and God won't take it away. This means that by the time you see a book, it has been on my heart for years usually...lot's of prayer, rewrites, edits, etc... Recalculating is the culmination of a two year journey. 5. I have a great group of fellow pastors and writers that often speak into my life about what they think I should write about. Their perspective is priceless for me and a blessing from God. 6. I don't write for money...this book belongs to Eastview Christian Church and all the proceeds will go back into future writings. This also allows us to keept he prices low. This is not to say I have not made money on books...I have made about $1,300 since I first publised "How Teens Do Church" in 2000. It averages out to about .25 cents/hour! No big contracts for me at this point! If you are interested in the book, I'm sure it will be at the Harvest Bookstore this Sunday morning and if you don't go to Eastview, you can get on line and contact our bookstore from there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I was at three churches

yesterday, I was physically on vacation in Tampa Florida, just soaking up some sun and reading a lot. As we do on Sundays when we are away we searched for a church within walking distance of the hotel and found this new church plant called "Reality" church in downtown. The pastor's name is Pilgrim Benham and his sermon from Titus 3 was good. This church was small (27 adults) so there was no "inconspicuousness" about being there. We enjoyed the friendly brothers and sisters in Christ and I was reminded again at how wide and diverse the kingdom of God is. While we were worshiping in Tampa, my heart, mind and prayers were also in St. Louis at Harvester Christian Church where my son Caleb was preaching the three morning services. I tried to take note of the times ever so often and added to the hundred prayers I had prayed for him before. In one service, Ben Merold, a preaching legend and hero of mine sat in the third row. After the service he gave Caleb a note of encouragement that he had jotted down. What a cool experience. Caleb told me what I have feel all the time, "when I preach, I feel the most alive!" Proud of him. At the same time, I kept checking my watch and praying for my spiritual family at Eastview Christian Church. A week ago, I recorded a vision sermon which was shown in all three services and again I asked God to use it to ignite a passion in our hearts for fearless Christ following, ridiculous loving and dangerous witnessing. The overwhelming feeling in my soul yesterday is how much I really longed to be with the people of Eastview. This is a true love that God has created between us, so even though I wasn't there, I was there in spirit and heart.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Back in Florida

Sorry, It's so late for me to get to this, but it has been a long day of travel that finds me in Orlando for the North American Christian Convention. Orlando brings back some special memories for Sara and I because from 1989-1992 we served as youth pastor's at First Christian Church in Kissimmee Florida. I was a 24 year old youth minister in my second church and it was a great place for us. Great memories of Disney, Florida Christian College, Fat Boys Barbeque, Spring training baseball, etc... But mostly we love the people we ministered with. Tonight, two young ladies from our youth ministry here who are now in their mid thirties came to see us. Missy and Heather have not changed a bit and we laughed as we caught up, shared stories, etc... They haven't changed a bit and this is the rich stuff of doing ministry for a long time. Tomorrow we are scheduled to do supper with Rich and Alisa - he was an intern with us while we ministered here and is now preaching in Clearwater. Alisa played volleyball at Florida Christian College when Sara coached...more good memories. We'll see lots of friends here over this week and hear lots of great preaching. My sould is in refreshment mode. God is good.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pastor in public

It happens every time I go somewhere in Bloomington/Normal - someone recognizes me as the pastor at Eastview. This is revealed in several ways, "Hi pastor" is a dead give-a-way. Sometimes, someone will say, "Hi Mike" and still other times someone will simply nod,smile and say "hi" like they are familiar. Last week I spoke to people that go to Eastview at Starbucks, Wal-mart, and Subway. A young guy named Ross that I met at Subway made me think (I had made eye contact with him on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands and he said 'hi mike" and I said "hi bro" - so eloquent - then as I left, he said, "I go to your church" and then introduced himself by name and told me how he and his sister have been coming to church for two years), I wonder if people really know what to say to the pastor when they see him outside of his natural habit (church), below some tips for dealing with pastor in public: 1. Please say "hi"...I'm honored to be your pastor and am never disturbed or put out. Even if I'm eating at a restaurant, you are more than welcome to come and talk (just don't sit down and talk for 20 minutes and this is not a time for a complaint or theological question :-) 2. Please introduce yourself...I'm at a distinct disadvantage on several levels. First, I'm not great with names (I recognize faces, but names are tough for me). Second, if you sit in the balcony and never come down to say hi after church, I don't know your face! Third, if you introduced yourself to me six months ago, and we haven't spoken since, and you've changed your clothes or your hair since then, please reintroduce yourself. 3. Don't be shocked that I'm smaller in real life. My silly mug is projected on a 20X20 foot screen each week...this is not my actual size...I'm 5'10" and 195 lbs. 4. Don't just nod and me and hope that I guess you go to my church. Say, "hey pastor" or "are you the pastor at Eastview" or something that gives it away. 5. Feel free to give me a hug...I am a hugging guy so this is our chance to share the love of Jesus. 6. Tell me a little of your story...your family, where you work, how you got to Eastview. 7. Come see me at the cross after service. I really want to get to know you and hear what God is doing in your life...really it's not that scary and I've not bitten any one in years. 8. Don't be shocked that I'm dressed like a bum on my day off or am sweaty from running or something. I'm normal...kinda. Well, those are just a few things you can do when you see me in and around B/N. Again, I'm so blessed when we meet and hope to see you soon picking up my chinese order, or at the restaurant, or at the coffee shop, or pumping gas, or at the doctors, or at...

Monday, June 25, 2012

resources for spiritual growth

One of the great advantages of our culture is having access to an abundance of tools to assist us in our walk of faith...there are literally millions of choices. Let me recommend one that our staff recently completed. It is called "Table Talk" and was written, edited and designed by a team of staff here at Eastview. We have kept the cost low ($6.99) because we want people to have access to it. This book looks like a restaurant menu and is designed to be used at family meals as it examines 9 meals that Jesus ate in the Scriptures and the lessons taught in each. Dads, If you want to have consistency with your family devotions and are looking for a cool new resource...this one is it...go to Harvest Bookstore website (through and you can get info about it. This is one of many resources we are working on (another one is out in a month and I'll talk about it then). While I'm talking resources, let me give you some guiding principles we have at Eastview for providing spiritual growth resources: 1. Our bookstore is a resource's a part of our ministry and it's main goal is not to make money. All the resources in the store are recommendations from the staff "Jesus junk" (novelty items that seem to market Jesus' good name) sold! 2. Our staff is writing more resources all the time. We want to write stuff that is useful to the people of Eastview and our ministry here. This is our first goal. If other members of God's kingdom would like to use it, we will gladly share, but we have been entrusted with Eastview, so we are ministering to this flock. 3. The authors don't make money on the books we produce and sell. Though countless hours go into writing, editing and producing these books, our staff sees this as part of their ministry all money goes back into ministry...likely more resource development. 4. We do have some sources that were written by the staff previously and are also available..really good resources, especially by J.K. 5. We stock the books necessary for our Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation degree that we do in partnership with Lincoln Christian University. 6. We hope to have a wall of complete spiritual formation material 10 years from now for small groups and individuals to use for encouragement in their walk. Pray for us as we development a collection of resources that will truly help us all mature in our faith

Monday, June 18, 2012

Here's to Dad

I heard over the weekend that Bill Hybels said that Willow Creek's church attendance is always lowest atttendance of the year on Father's Day. I wondered about ours and though that is not a pattern for us, it is typically a low attendance weekend for Eastview. I began to wonder why that is... 1. Maybe dads are more likely to request kids/families to spend time with them doing something like fishing, camping, or going away for the weekend. 2. Maybe churches have not honored father's day like we often have mother's day in the past. 3. Maybe it's just because it's the third week of June and vacations and summer activities have just kicked into full swing. I'm not sure, but I know we spent some time honoring our dads in church at each service yesterday. We borrowed the Jr. High department's "wheel of ridiculousness" and turned it into "this is my father's wheel". It is a six foot high wheel with pegs and prizes (think stand up "wheel of fortune" and we had cool dad stuff as prizes: a garden hose, fireworks, tools, grilling utensils, ties, water balloon kit, and a screwdriver set. We had fun and we celebrated our heavenly father. I celebrated father's day with some fried chicken from Popeyes (wanted it to be low key). In a way, this was kind of a remembrance of my own father (who has been gone for almost 16 years now) who loved fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and slaw...felt right to me. My oldest son joined mom, sara and I. My younger son is doing an internship in St. Louis and he texted me at 11:45 p.m. (yeah, I was already asleep) and wished me happy father's day and said he'd call tonight. It's all good, being a father is one of the hardest things I've ever done (and continue to do) and yet it is one of the great blessings of my life. That's what I was thinking proud of my boys I am (Here's to being a dad),how grateful that my father marked my life in so many ways (here's to my dad), how much I owe my heavenly father (here's to THE DAD)...and how I wish more dads would have been at church yesterday (here's to the Christian Dads that were). Another thing...I closer to mowing my lawn in black socks and shorts than I care to admit...soon

Monday, June 11, 2012

Decidedly not taking a side

I have received a lot of e-mails and had a few conversations about why I'm not more political as the preacher of an influential church. Well, there are legal considerations that require me to not endorse one candidate over another...some church leaders have been sued and lost tax exempt status recently...but this is not my primary motivation. Here are some reasons you will never hear me taking a political stance for any candidate (presidential or otherwise): 1. God is completely in charge. Why talk about small time players like presidents, governors, or representatives when you can talk about the KING of the universe. No matter what the election brings...God will be on the throne. 2. Government leaders do not change people. Politics is not the way too change people. If it were, I'd run for president. People are changed by the living Word of God from the inside out...period. Rules and laws govern people but they don't change them. I'm in the heart change I preach Jesus. 3. Time spent on political objectives could be spent in better ways. Have you ever thought about what might happen if every Christian political activist or just Christians who spend hours discussing, listening, and watching on t.v. the latest political stuff INSTEAD spent all of that energy being Jesus to their neighbors and each converted one person to following Christ. That would be changing the world. I don't politic because I have more important work to do...I represent Jesus and so do you if you follow him. 4. Good Christian people land on both the republican and democrat side. This may seem crazy to some of you...but neither platform represents completely Christian values. Take the honoring of life for instance. The democratic platform is pro-abortion and many Christian republicans would say, "how can you be democrat when killing babies is wrong?" and they quote Scriptures about he sanctity of life. On the other hand, the republican platform is pro-war and many Christian democrats would say, "how can you be republican and kill tons of innocent people in war?" and they quote the SAME Scriptures! In other words, a republican Christian and a democrat Christian don't believe whole-heartedly everything their party or candidate stand for. 5. We should drop all affiliations other than the body of Christ. When you come to Jesus, you are a part of His body the Church...and that is the only real organization you belong to. Your energy, giftedness, passion, and service are to be for the Body of Christ. When we lose focus of this truth, we miss God's point for our lives. 6. Politics are devisive and the church protects unity. There is no wriggle room for this, disunity is sin and if we make distinctions between the wide variety of Christian brothers and sisters who are a part of our fellowship; we have erred greatly in Satan's favor. If Jesus is your Lord and your are living a life of following him, then you are my brother or sister...that's all...nothing can cause me to not love you or be separated from you. Well, I could go's what you need to know about me. I celebrate fourth of July, I get a knot in my throat when they sing the star spangled banner, I love America and fly our flag in front of my home, I love basebal, hotdogs and apple pie, I'm thankful for the freedom I have and those who died for it, and I'll root for USA in the summer olypmics....but all of this is worldly stuff and it will fade away. I have my eyes set on a higher place, my eternal reward with Jesus...until then He is my only cause.

Monday, June 4, 2012

after five

Yesterday, was June 3rd and it was after five when I began to share the usual stuff I do in our monthly "what we believe class" called step one. I completed my entire theology of the Bible in one hour as usual and then made my way back up to the office as we took a break for supper. This is usually a time for me to pray, collect my thoughts, stare out the window, wander around the church checking out ministries, etc... Yesterday, I was resting my voice and drinking from a water bottle when I noticed the front page headlines from the Pantagraph from June 3, 2007. Someone framed this page to commemorate the special day. It was the first Sunday that I was Sr.Pastor of Eastview as Gary York retired. Yesterday was five years as Sr. Pastor I reflected: after five...I'm just as excited about preaching this Sunday as I was the first after five...I'm still honored that I get to do this for a living after five...I love this church even more and feel like we have grown so much after five...I'm even more appreciative of Gary York, Bob Phillips and Galen Skinner that preachers that preceded me at Eastview (four in 57 years...pretty cool) after five...I'm amazed that God has done what He has and convinced He will do more after five...I'm still not very good at arranging my schedule and balancing things...still working on it after five...I realize more than ever how this is God's work and I am only someone He uses after five...I'm usually still working in the evening..but I love it after five...I'm usually out of bed in the morning, because I'm excited about the work God has called me to

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

sermon hecklers

sorry I didn't blog yesterday..hope everyone enjoyed a great Memorial Day and spent some time remembering. Sunday's second service presented a challenge right at the beginning of my sermon. When I began my sermon, I heard someone yell our my name (that's what I heard at least) and so I asked, "Did someone say something?" As I scanned the baptistery side of the congregation, I noticed an elderly gentleman in the lower balcony standing. He was nicely dressed in suit and tie and so I asked, "what was that?" He said something that was not inappropriate (though yelling out during the sermon is not normal by any stretch)..something like "Hear the voice of the Lord" or something like that. When I responded with an "amen brother" or something, I thought we might be done, but then he continued to ramble, and I couldn't really hear exactly what I was saying. Our security guys were moving in his direction, their communication channels buzzing and the young man next to him was tugging at his arm trying to get him to sit down. What passes through the preacher's mind in these split seconds? *Are the people I'm preaching to in danger? *Is this man dangerous? *Is the Holy Spirit trying to say something through him? *Where in my sermon am I at? *Are the security guys going to have to physically remove this man? *Is he troubled or in need? *Is this a visitor? *What would Jesus do? *Please don't allow anything stupid to come out of your mouth? All this is a matter of I asked if the man would sit down so we could go on with the sermon. I could see he left...still muttering loud enough for me to hear and know that he wasn't happy. I tried to proceed with the only regret is that I didn't stop and pray and just skip the introduction and get right to the text. I could tell the listeners were extremely I was trying to gather 1,500 people back into the sermon and away from the man. Come to find out, the grandson of this man led him out and the security guys met up with him in "the well". Unfortunately, the man had come to church drunk, but with a religious background was saying some "holy stuff". So, the family was totally embarrassed and I was hopeful that I had not said something stupid or offensive to their grandfather. Just goes to show you...never know what's going to happen. Not the first time I've been "heckled" during a sermon, but I hope it's the last one for a while.

Monday, May 21, 2012

presidential stance

Well, it's been a couple of weeks since President Obama stated that he was in favor of legal unions (marriage) for homosexual couples. I have hesitated commentary on it because I don't want to appear to be political. So let me give a few caveats before I comment. 1. I am not republican or democrat...I'm Christian. No matter what label I may wear, Lordship of Jesus Christ guides my every thought, move, and motive. 2. Neither democrats or republicans are more Christian than the other. In my lifetime there have been both democrats and republicans as presidents who profess to be Christians, but I have not seen any that have clearly led based on Bible and Jesus principles. 3. I don't think the politics of America will change the world. God is clearly the King of all Kings - so His Kingdom will prevail regardless of kings and kingdoms of this world. They are all subject to HIM. 4. My job scripturally is clear: as much as possible live at peace with all men...and pray for my leaders (even ones I don't agree with). With that said, I must disagree with President Obama and his stance concerning legal unions for homosexual couples. I could make many arguments here, but I will use one. God list homosexuality as a sin (and any theologian that is trying to make the Hebrew and Greek words for homosexuality mean something else are stretching their scholarship to match what they want to believe). This means that homosexuality (like all sins we commit) leads to death and destruction. There is no joy in sin. Sin will always be destructive in our lives. Again, this is God's Word,not mine though I can tell you that in 27 years of ministry I can't remember anyone's sin choices (mine included) turning out good! Sin is harmful and therefore homosexuality is harmful. This means that the most loving thing I can do is to be against homosexuality (like I'm against gossip, lying, murder, drunkeness, pre-marital sex, etc... If God says it is a sin, I'm against it as a God-follower). So how can I be against homosexuality and love people who say they are homosexual? 1. Treat them as you would any other person with general kindness and politeness. 2. Pray for them. 3. Dialogue with them if they are interested. Don't argue. 4. Serve them if you get an opportunity (again, ask God to open a door for this) 5. Tell them the truth when asked. Some useful phrases I've used over the years: "What if I told you God has a better love than you feel you find in a homosexual relationship?" OR "Since the Bible says, homosexuality is a sin, I don't believe He creates people that way, would you be open to conversation about why you think you are?" 6. As a church continue to hold high the standards held in scripture (for eg. we don't allow anyone to serve in our church who is willingly and obstinately pursuing a sinful lifestyle). It is inexcusable for churches to cave to political pressure instead of holding to God's truth. 7. Vote as the Spirit leads you. 8. Be confident that God is right. A time may come when this biblical stance is in the minority, but it will still be the right stance...because it is God's. Don't let polls or public pressure make you afraid. Sinful people have always opposed God.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

San Diego

Sorry I'm just getting to this blog for my faithful readers! It's hard to believe the whirlwind that has been the last couple of soon as church was done Sunday (9 more baptisms by the way) we headed to Baxter's for Mother's Day brunch with my two favorite moms (my wife and my mom)with the boys (their gift to Sara was their presence:-) and then to the airport to head to San Diego for a retreat with our pastoral leadership team. We arrived at around 1:30 a.m. B?N time so we were tired, but we hit it early Monday to begin our annual look and listening to the Spirit concerning the vision statement at Eastview: Fearless Church of Christ followers whose ridiculous love and dangerous witness are irresistible. We have had some great prayer time and time in the Word along with sharpening and challenging each other with many thoughts and impressions from Scripture and culture on how to carry out this vision that God has entrusted to has been has been has been has been humbling...What might God do if we faithfully live out the truth of His Word and inspire, invite, and lead others to come along!? Only God knows. Yesterday afternoon, we had a rare opportunity to travel to Northcoast church where Larry Osbourne pastors a church of 8,500. He is understands church leadership at a very high level (author of Sticky Teams - check it out). He graciously gave us 3 hours of his Monday afternoon to talk ministry, church, preaching, outreach, etc... with him. I was moved by his accesibility and sacrifice of time. Why do we regularly take retreats as leaders of the church? Well, it goes back to the illustration I used Sunday. Retreats are the mountain top views of ministry that help us solidify our spiritual bearings. I shared how in many survivor shows as they are navigating the terrain, the adventurers always take advantage of a high place so that they can make out the entire landscape. This view gives them an idea of where to go and where not to go. Their future steps are determined from this height. Leadership retreats are the same leaders we try to catch a glimpse of what the entire Kingdom of God and how the Holy Spirit is leading Eastview as a part of that. Our vision at this level allows us to plan ministry for the upcoming year. Very important stuff and I'm privileged to be a part of it. Pray for God to speak to us as only He can in a variety of ways.

Monday, May 7, 2012

smell of death

Sometimes as a pastor is running around back stage he has a completely different spiritual experience than the congregation. I think, some of this is due to the fact that God is working in the pastor's heart in a different way...moving his spirit by the HOly Spirit...a heightened spiritual awareness. This was my experience yesterday as my day was centered on two main events. Smell number one was due to baptism Sunday. We experienced 49 baptisms in three services after we preached from Genesis and God making "living breathing" beings and how Jesus breaths new life into us spiritually by His Spirit. After a while, as baptisms mount, the baptism ready area gets a distinctly wet smell. There are wet baptismal clothes, wet towels, water all over the floor, my shirt is wet...I'm sure I'm not describing it well, but there is a distinct smell of wetness - and for me this is the smell of death. Baptism is a picture of our self, to sin, to this world - and yesterday I could smell it. Praise God that since we are buried with Him in baptism, we also raise to new life in Him. Smell number two was due to the flowers on the other side of the stage. You see, the other ministry opportunity for me on Sunday was to conduct a funeral for Richard Gilmore. The visitation was in our auditorium Saturday from 3-7 (aren't you amazed at how our staff gets stuff cleaned up and ready for church on Sunday) and the flowers were stored behind the stage area in the dock (cross side). When I walked back there after baptizing several people, the smell of flowers overwhelmed me. Now, I know the flowers smell good, but when there are so smells like death to me, because this smell only happens at funerals. In fact, it was another distinct smell. Praise God, Richard was a follower of Jesus and is enjoying resurrection today. These two came together yesterday to remind that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" Galatians 2:20 That's the sermon I smelled yesterday and am still catching it's fragrance this morning.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Lost Vegas

Well, just got back from a great visionary trip to Las Vegas. It may surprise you that a pastor spent the weekend in what is known as sin city, but there is a lot to learn about the world and how the church connects with lost people. We spent about 15 hours visiting with the Sr. Pastor and leaders of The Crossing, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, and Central Christian Church. For them, sin city is grace city..for me it is also a microcosm of our lost culture that is enslaved to sin. We walked on the famous "strip" one night and the lights, crowds, and thrill of being in a world famous city is kind of exciting. People are dressed up for a night out, conversations and laughter fill the air. Many are simply going to do stuff that we all would do: eat out, walk around and people watch, hang out with friends, etc... Others are looking to do what the adds say - something they wouldn't otherwise do - something that will stay in Vegas. And they sin. They drink a lot, and the sensual dress of women is appalling, sex trade advertisements, and the language is terrible, and of course millions of dollars are wasted on gambling. Still, with the lights bright and music seems fun. Every morning, I got up at 6:00 to run. Don't get the idea that I'm super's just that my body clock was off and I couldn't sleep I exercised. Vegas the morning after is terrible. It dirty - streets littered with bottles, trash, etc... It's smelly, vomit and body odor. It's ugly - burned out, drunk people who haven't slept stagger around the streets among those who were jogging. It was a stark contrast to the glamourous look of the night. I reflected that sin city is a great picture of sin: Looks good and inviting and fun and ends up being ugly, smelly, and dirty. No matter how attractive sin looks in your life right now, it's going to be disastrously ugly in the end. You are not the go against God will ruin your life. This blatant view of sin renewed my passion for lost people. You see, everything I described happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas because it (sin) happens everywhere. The same sins and the same sinners live next door,work with you, are related to you, etc... So we preach grace because Jesus is the answer for all of this. Obviously, I didn't indulge in anything Vegas had to offer except the food, but I was recharged to preach the good news to sin-filled world. I also missed Eastview like crazy. Love this people, and this church,and the God who has brought it all together!

Monday, April 23, 2012


Spent this morning at the eye doctor. It's just my yearly check-up...and my eyes are getting older and so, I go to get eye drops in my eyes and stare at lights and charts, etc.... because vision is important. My eye doctor is awesome, so I know that my physical vision is in good hands, but what about spiritual vision? The elders (I'm one of them) will be gone this weekend visiting three different churches in Las Vegas (yeah, I know what your thinking...but it really is all about vision) You see, we are visiting with some pastors and elders of these growing churches to learn from them. We are praying for God to expand our "distance vision" by revealing some stuff that He is doing in other churches. Particularly we want to know how they are being "dangerous witnesses" in a place that is called "sin city". Hopefully, what happens in Vegas comes back to Normal and God will use these other parts of his kingdom to expand our vision for the work here. Of course, vision also entails seeing clearly what it near. I knew my readers are becoming more of an issue because I can't read the scores on the bottom of the screen when I'm watching ESPN...or I can read them but they are blurry. Another part of spiritual vision is seeing clearly what is right before you. This happens in two ways: 1. We see clearly when we pray and read the word of God. The Bible is most obvious guage for what God wants us to do. If our sight is lined up with God's Word, then we can see clearly to do the work He calls us to, but if our sight is not lined up, our ministries will be blurry. 2. We see clearly by looking at the people and resources that God places in our lives. All of our leadership comes from clearly seeing the lives/needs of those around us. Blindness is the worst thing that can happen when it comes to your eyes. There are so many limitations when you can't see. This is true spiritually too. When Jesus called the Pharisees "blind guides" he was questioning their ability to see God's Word and the sheep of Israel clearly. Of course, the leaders at Eastview don't want to be blind guides, so pray for your leaders always so that they can clearly see God's work up close and what He is leading us to in the future.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Yesterday, I announced two exciting ministry things that Eastview is partnering with. One is the Global Leadership Summit, August 9&10. Eastview is a video site for this worldwide event (ie. this is a big deal!) For years I have gone to this event with both staff and elders and we have learned a lot, had a lot confirmed in what we are doing and been inspired to vision more for God than ever before. I am encouraging anyone who leads ANY TEAM here at Eastview to use you influence to get your whole team here. Going to a leaderhip thing together allows you to be inspired in the same direction AND allows you as leader to tap into leadership principles you all heard. Also, you can make your leadership team better. If your team grows in leadership then your job becomes easier. How important is it to me? I'm requiring all of my staff leaders to choose ten leaders from their ministry and pay for their registration from their budget! All the elders are going and bringing people of influence they know as well. Can't wait to see how God grows us in leading what he is doing here.

Also, we talked about a new partnership with a church plant we are doing in NYC (Manhattan) with the Orchard group. We have already sent them one work group (Jr. Highers on spring break) and $30K to help start their work that will begin in September (officially). I don't think that Jesus was giving us a necessarily prescriptive plan of ministry when he said in Acts 1:8 (Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and all the world), but it feels like we are covering our town, our region, our country and our world with the gospel and ministry that has been entrusted to us! May we remain faithful to continually reach out in dangerous witness to those who are lost. For more information on either of these new endeavors, please head to

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter reflections

I wonder why ham is one of the main foods consumed on Easter (we had it yesterday)? Of course, to a Jewish person, pig is an unclean meat, so, they probably didn't have it on that first Easter to celebrate the Risen Lord...and I'll bet they didn't have deviled eggs either.

I wonder why some people sit in an Easter service and hear great music, a sermon, an invitation where people respond to Jesus' call and then decided not to come back next week? Are they afraid? Disinterested? Unbelieving?

Easter is a vision of what your church can become. Our former Sr. Pastor, Gary York, used to say, "if you can hit it, you can average it". I think that's true. If people will come to church on Easter, then you just have to figure out what might minister to that group the other 51 weeks of the year. I have prayed this morning that God would grow us into the church we saw yesterday. It is also a great way to assess possible limitations, programmatic challenges, staffing/volunteer needs/parking etc.... If God would make yesterday's service a normal Sunday what would you have to do grow into for that to happen?

It is a wonder that the good news of the resurrection never gets old. I have told it hundreds of times and prayerfully on Easter Sunday, 2035, I'll still be preaching somewhere on Easter and I'll still be moved by the good news!

I wonder what first time visitors thought of the mix of people we have at Eastview? We are becoming a beautiful kaleidoscope of all kinds of people! Some were in shorts and some in three piece suits, some poor, some rich, some from India, Mexico, China, and Leroy. All of God's children come together as one family...beautiful!

The video stuff yesterday was awesome: if you were late, you missed the movie trailer for GENESIS. Then of course the "siltent film" about Jesus' death and resurrection! The staff were real gamers for dressing up and playing the part, our video guy Scott - great job.

The music was off the charts - Matt and his musicians did a great job with every element..pointing to our awesome God ....I could go on...if you stayed at the end of the service, we rolled credits just like the end of a movie and there were literally hundreds of names who made yesterday possible...I can't say enough thanks to the staff and volunteers for all they did

Decisions were made at the invitation each service! The third service had five scheduled baptisms with three more spontaneous and at least two more confessed Jesus as Lord and will schedule baptisms this week! Praise God.

Monday, April 2, 2012

no fooling

Well, yesterday was Palm Sunday that fell on that silly holiday we have called April fool's day. Of course, the triumphal entry into the city of Jersusalem ahead of Jesus' death burial and resurrection was the focal point for my soul yesterday....loved how we sang HOSANNA which is what the people sang 2,000 years ago and literally means "SAVE". Our worship was great yesterday...could almost see Jesus riding into town on a donkey...but still my mind thought about April 1st...not because I wanted to play some joke (I'm really not any good at tricking someone into thinking something is true when it's not...just can't keep that kind of thing in...I want to tell people I'm just kidding before I tell them what I'm kidding about...just doesn't work).

To me, April 1 is the anniversary of our Executive Pastor, Mark Warren being on staff at Eastview. Yesterday marked 19 years for he and his wife Rachel! Nineteen years is an awesome long time to be in one place doing ministry and it says something about a's what it says to me.
1. You are willing to grow! Mark could not have done this job 19 years ago...he was an associate in "new community" our old college/career age ministry, then he became small groups guy for the whole church, then he became a departmental director, then he became executive pastor. To stay somewhere for 19 years you have to be willing to grow, mature and learn new things about how God is using you in ministry. Mark has done that well.
2. You are loyal! Mark's value to me is several fold, but the thing I love about him most is that he is loyal to the ministry at Eastview and what God is doing here! I never worry that Mark has some ulterior motive for what he says or does because he cares mostly about the ministry of Eastview Christian Church and helping me lead...very cool.
3. You are family! Mark and I have a relationship that is more like being brothers than co-workers. Mark and I can have in depth conversation, disagree on things (strongly even), pray together, laugh together, talk trash to each other, share ministry experiences, etc.... When you hang around a place for 19 years, a famliy relationship exists.
4. You are patient! Of course, there have been ups and downs in the ministry here over the 19 years...some really tough, discouraging, polish up your resume' times! But Mark has prayed, served, met, planned, communicated and led his way through. He doesn't have to have instant results...he knows some things take time and you learn this when you stick around.
5. You are visionary! Mark and I have conversations about stuff that God may do here in the year 2025! Why? Because, when you've been somewhere for 19 years, your vision expands. You are able to see that somethings happen over a ten year period instead of "next Fall" and that allows you to vision (of course, as God will's and His Spirit leads) further into the future.

So here's to Mark Warren...April 1's to another 19....and don't bother mentioning this blog to him...he doesn't read it...and that makes me smiile.

Monday, March 26, 2012

open dates

I'm taking a big, refreshing breather this morning in God's presence as my calendar has eased a bit. Really, my March was so crazy, I was overwhelmed at times, but this morning I, while I still have tons of things to do, I'm feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off of my back! Anyway, it appears I am constantly learning this lesson...along with my wife. We received an invitation to something the other day and I made an offhanded comment that was completely Spirit led (I think). Sara said, "That date is open". I replied, "The goal is not to fill every date on the calendar." It not you know! Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should! This reality hit me last week, when someone wanted to meet with me on a Tuesday, and the first open date was in May!

I remembered back to my first summer of full-time youth ministry: four (count em) four days on the calendar that didn't have a church event. I jumped in to my first year of full-time ministry thinking I should fill my schedule with God I did. The only thing I really remember about that summer is being tired (though I'm sure God used it somehow for His glory). And now, 26 years later, I'm still trying to get past this idea that I must do everything! What is wrong with me? Well, the problem is that we live in a culture whose technology has provided more time and ease, but instead of resting in that time, we have added more things. Did you know that most high school students list "stress" as a major concern?! Wonder where they get the idea that they can overload their schedules to be stressed as a teen-ager? What is wrong here?

I'm talking to my accountability team today...a confession really. I have to do better at this. I have to respect the fact that God rested (Sabbath) and maintain this reality for godly living. I'm sure there will be times in the future when I'll be overstretched again (sometimes, life does that), but I want to work at the balance God has for my life. The only way I know to do this is by leaving more open dates on my calendar. Go ahead, look at your calendar like I am today and mark off some "no appointment" days in June, July, and August. Trust me, you'll be glad you gave yourself some open dates.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What God is saying to me

Well, this is another crazy hectic week on the calendar, but one that will definitely be spiritually encouraging. Yesterday's services lifted my spirit in many peculiar ways. We saw the breakthrough of Will Nott confessing his faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior after a long 16 year run from God. He was previously on staff here, but a sin disqualified him from serving...and that began a long, tough journey away from God. But yesterday....triumph, renewal, victory in Jesus! Really cool stuff and so blessed by Mark Warren's tears in this moving time...then Will baptized his daughter in our sr. high service! Take that Satan!

Last week I as you read, I spoke at a preaching conference in Indianapolis...some have asked if there are recordings of those sessions....there can find them at if interested. But today we begin our fourth annual "Power of the Word" preaching conference here, with guest preacher Gene Appel sharing with us. We have around 100 preachers (and fans of preaching) registered representing at least 38 churches. We have intentionally subsidized this conference to make the cost affordable for preachers to attend (least expensive conference in the country!) Why? Because we believe in preaching and encouraging preaching. This is what we are trying to accomplish...encouraging preachers to keep preaching and getting better at it. It will bless my preacher's heart.

This Friday and Saturday (all day) I will be in the final class of the Spiritual Formation degree program we offer here at ECC. It is about prayer and J.K. Jones will lead (and I will help some) us in several prayer passages from the Bible (Matt 6:9-13, Psalm 148, Psalm 51, Psalm 107, Genesis 18:23-33, John 17) and then we will have opportunity to practice several times of prayer. I will literally spend 15-16 hours studying and practicing prayer. That can't be bad.

I was thinking today during my time with the Lord that these two things are the things I want to mark my ministry. Prayer and preaching will mark my week and hopefully my life. Not everyone who reads this blog are preachers, but we are all prayers and I pray that you will spend some time talking with God this week and time in His Word. These two long standing disciplines will be a stable foundation for your week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Preaching Nirvana

I'm in Indianapolis this morning attending the National Preaching Summit. It is a two day blitz of preachers and preachers-in-training sitting through about 8 main sessions and two electives about preaching. This event is held at Indian Creek Christian Church on the southeast side of Indy and they are expecting anywhere from 300-500 guys. I'm a little nervous because I am one of the main session speakers, but I'm excited because it's about preaching from the O.T. One of my favorites! Today I'm doing a main session on "Preaching the OT for examples of godly (and ungodly) living" the key text is from I Corinthians 10:6 which speaks to OT issues that a 21st century culture needs to hear. Then I'm doing an elective called "things I've learned over the years about teaching the OT effectively" not much of a title, but I've come up with 13 things...a Baker's dozen:-) Tomorrow, I will teach this elective again and then do a main session on "The "usefulness of the OT in preaching" the opening scripture is II timothy 3:16. I'm looking forward to this opportunity to share what God has done in my preaching life and is doing with my home crowd at Eastview....but I am speaking to preachers so that's a little nerve wracking. When preachers hear sermons they often have one of the following reactions: "I wouldn't have said that", "I have said that...better", "I will say that Sunday"... The deal is that a preacher can be very tough on sermons, because it is our craft.
So I'm praying for receptive hearts audience and mine...I will teach four times, but I'll also hear five sesssions on preaching. I want to grow in my preaching...wish you all could be back in town Tuesday night and then into a regular week.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Some God thoughts

God is everywhere..if you just look and listen the evidence is overwhelming....
I know most of you were not excited to see snow last evening (of course I liked it), but how random and unexpected was that? I walked out of step one last night after talking about how Jesus saves us and so we follow Him only to find the ground covered with a blanket of snow. A great picture of what He has done with my sin.
The last several mornings, as I have made my way into the day, I have been amazed at the spectacular sunrises God has graced us with. This morning the sun was a blazing red ball of fire, hazed ever so slightly with the frozen atmosphere. What an incredible combination...I whispered a praise to God
As I sat reading the Bible in my office...I noticed a small bird landing on the bush outside my window, displacing the powdery snow as he did. He was chirpin' it up and I wondered what He was saying..."Man, it's cold!" OR "I need some seed" OR "God is awesome." The Bible indicates he was probably singing praise to God...even a bird brain knows that God will feed him and protect him from the cold today. I wish I had as much faith.
Reading through the New Testament in the month of March and today was Mark 9 - Luke 1. Like a big breakfast to get the day going, I'm stuffed spiritually after this Bible intake. You know, it really is true...God's Word does replenish us spiritually. It was amazing how God spoke to me spiritually on so many levels as I's one thing I guy asked Jesus to help his son, "IF you can" and another simply said "I want to see". I want to pray the prayer of faith that simply says, "I want to see" and not one lacking faith that half-believingly asks God to move in a maybe kind of way.
Shout out to my brothers and sisters in Germany who read this blog every week. We've never met and yet I feel a connectedness to you through our Lord Jesus. My prayers are for the church in Germany today...and I'm amazed by a God whose kingdom is so worldwide and so powerful...all through His son...JESUS.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Yesterday was a sermon about the encouragement the Antioch church received from the letter written by the apostles and elders from the Jersusalem church. This word "encourage" means "to call beside"'s very, "we're in this together" and "lean on me" in it's meaning. The church is a place of encouragment and I can testify that I am who I am today because of so many encouraging voices:

My first and second grade Sunday school teacher (Avis Milford) encouraged me to love the Bible and learn it. Now in her mid 80's she still writes me a hand-written letter of encouragement everytime I write an article for the Christian Standard.

My mom encouraged me to truly love and serve people. I don't really live up to her standards of loving others, but I her encouragement to love is deep within me.

My dad encouraged me to preach the Word and to be optimistic (which I hope is truly faith, lived out). I don't remember exact conversations, but I know we had them about preaching and before he passed on, I'm sure he was my biggest fan.

My wife has encouraged me for the past 28 years. Even before we were married. She told me early on that she thought God was going to do something great in my life...and her consistent (sometimes loud and sometimes gentle:-) words of encouragement have carried me many times.

My staff encourages me almost daily. There are not many weeks where someone on my staff doesn't tell me that they appreciate being on this team and working together in the Lord. I'm blessed by their words....they inspire me to do greater service for God and make me want to be a better shepherd.

The elders encourage me. The men who I serve with as shepherd/leaders here constantly send me e-mails thanking me for preaching or leadership. NOTE: they also speak truthfully and lovingly about my weaknesses, but we love each other that much.

The people of Eastview encourage me. Even though I told people yesterday that I was not asking for encouragement from them, I have already received 5 encouraging e-mails this morning!

What's the point? The point is that all the stuff I am able to do by God's grace and His Spirit's power in my ministry has been strengthened by the Christian steroid (listen to yesterday's sermon for explanation) called ENCOURAGEMENT! So here are some questions for you to ponder: 1. Who encouraged and encourages you ....return the encouragement
2. Who around you could be so much better for God if you would encourage them?
3. Who has great potential but just needs a word of encouragement?
4. Who is about ready to quit, but a word from you would keep them going?

Answer the questions and then live out I Thessalonians 5:11 today.

Monday, February 20, 2012

more accountability

Accountability was the topic in yesterday's sermon and I failed to mention my number one accountability wife Sara. I believe this is the way it should be in a Christian marriage. We are in life (and for us ministry) "til death do us part", and so we owe it to each other to answer for all areas of our journey together. Money...I don't (and can't) spend any money without her knowing about it. Time...she has access and changing rights to my calendar...her emergency is always my emergency. Attitude...she speaks into my life about how I'm living out the Christian life (she has seen my very best and very worst attitudes...she's not afraid to tell me when I'm out of line believe me...and I welcome it..sort of). Spiritul life...she holds me accountable for comments, life stuff and goals I may have that seem to her out of whack with my faith. So, I have more accountability than I mentioned in the sermon starts at home.

But I do have "Timothys" - people in my life who are younger and in the same line of work as I am...I gravitate towards young preachers trying to give them whatever wisdom I have.

I do have "Barnabi" (That's plural Barnabus') - Guys who will laugh and cry with me, pray with me, fight me and fight for me...This relationship takes time because it takes a proven track record and trust...I have five in my life right now locally and many pastor friends throughout the country who serve in this capacity.

I do have a "Paul" - someone who has complete right and permission to ask me anything and probe any attitude. I have had exactly three of these in my life and my current "Paul" is awesome...wouldn't want to do life without him.

I guess what I'm saying is I want accountability, so I look for it...even pursue it...because accountability helps me grow.

Monday, February 13, 2012


At the annual sr. Pastors conference I attend this week in San usual our attempts to be somewhere warm during the winter months has failed (it was 35 degrees this morning as I ran!). But I have already had breakfast with some great ministry friends...catching up on what God is doing in each others lives and churches. God is at work all over the place and it is humbling to be a part of His kingdom. I can't't tell you what it's like to chat with guys who do what I do. These guys understand the pressures, leadership challenges, and nuances of leadership that come from being a Sr. pastor...easy to relate to and a great place to be challenged.

Pray for me on Wednesday...I'll be leading the session on maintaining balance in life and ministry. This is one of the hazards of our calling as get so busy working for God, that you neglect family, friends, and even God Himself! So, I'm going to talk about examples of leading for God while balancing family (there are no good examples in Scripture, believe it or not) we'll have to learn from bad examples and each other's experience. I'll conclude with a panel discussion of ministry couples from all stages of experience and life and then lead table discussions on this important topic.

Ultimately, this discussion embodies what this conference is all about: Talking to someone who knows where you're coming from...listening to the wisdom of others who are on the journey, and encouraging each other to keep going in the strength of the Lord.

Monday, February 6, 2012

what I think about preaching

Yesterday we preached about preaching and it's importance to the ongoing growth (numeric and spiritual) from Acts 5 and 11. As usual some stuff I write and think about in the office doesn't make it to the finished here are some things that I deeply believe about preaching that will give insight as to why I preach the way I do at Eastview:
1. The Bible is powerful, lifechanging, convicting, encouraging, etc.... Therefore the thoughts of the sermon, words of the sermon, and point of the sermon must come from what the Bible actually says.
2. Preaching through whole books of the Bible keeps me honest in addressing the whole word of God and not just my favorite parts. By preaching through Deuteronomy, Luke, Acts, and heading into Genesis, I am dealing with texts that many have never heard sermons on before...and you know what...they are awesome teachings from the Word.
3. Preaching over the long haul makes more of a difference than one great sermon. My desire is to preach weekly with passion, spiritual insight, and hard work so that over a period of time God grows us through a consistent diet of his word. To me, the "that sermon was awesome" is a spiritual steroid...only several years of a steady diet of preaching will make the body the preachers job is to just keep feeding the bread of life.
4. Preaching is an individual event for the specific audience it is delivered to. I believe that the Holy Spirit moves in each speaking of the sermon to each audience involved as HE wishes. This means that while the sermon may be the same, the third service sermon may be a bit different from the first service sermon. I think this incarnational approach to preaching is best...a real live human, speaking to other real humans the real live Word of God.
5. Preaching is a gift that God has given to people within His church from the very beginning. It is good to remember that preaching is one of many spiritual gifts and is not more important than the others, however, it is crucial to inspire, instruct, convict, motivate, and exhort those of hte body who have other spiritual gifts. So, preaching is not more important than mercy, but preaching may inspire those with the mercy gift to use their gift more effectively.
6. Preaching is where the best leadership takes place. I think that I have a leadership gift, but more I think I'm a preacher and that my best visionary leadership comes from preaching the Word. There are some who complain about not being able to lead their leaders or congregations to go in certain spiritual places. I always respond, "If this is a God's vision, why not preach them there?"
7. Preaching is an honor and a burden. It is hard work and incredible fun. To preach means to carry the burden of communicating on behalf of God and it is the privilege of saying, "Thus sayeth the Lord." Those who don't preach would be surprised at two things: It is so hard it can give you a headache and even old guys like me still get nervous AND it is so fun, there are not many things in life I would rather do.
8. Preaching is definitely affected by the listeners. I am privileged to preach in a setting where people are ready (even anxious) to hear the word of God...this makes it so much easier. Of course, there are those who aren't listening, don't want to listen and can't listen because of distractions, but the influence of listeners around them draw them into the teaching. It is amazing to watch even as I'm preaching.