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.