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.