Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Looking Forward to Christmas

I guess I'm still a kid at heart especially when it comes to Christmas! I find my greatest joy at Christmas when I watch my children open their gifts and shriek with joy. Even as they have gotten older, they are still a blast to watch. But I think I want to look back a few years.

Sarah and her Barbie's and Barbie clothes - now that was a riot! Her excitement level was off the charts! I remember the doll house I built for her when she was 6 or 7. She played with it for a long time. I'm sure this year her joy will be in watching Micah tear wrapping paper as he is having his first Christmas. (Adam and Sarah, we wish we could be there!) Jonathan was addicted to Legos. I remember one Christmas when he got five major kits and we put them all together in one day! The last few years he's been getting tools and loves every one of them. He gets a gleam in his eye thinking how he might use each one. He still comes home for Christmas morning and wears a Santa hat just like when he was little (sorry Jon - I spilled the beans). Bekah has been into electronic gizmos - but she seems to get excited about anything in wrapping paper. She's been counting the days till Christmas for weeks now! And I've never seen her not be thankful for what she receives. Unfortunately she wants Ohio State "stuff" this year. :(

Of course, our greatest Christmas gift is the Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you Heavenly Father for giving us Your Heart both then and now. We don't deserve your gift. Thank you for loving us unconditionally and passionately. May we all be more excited about Your Gift than any other gift we may receive this Christmas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Staying On Top

I'm sitting at home this afternoon, waiting for the furnace repair man to arrive. Our furnace went out this morning. I was at a meeting when Stevie called telling me that a burning smell was coming through the heating ducts and that the furnace was making loud noises. I'm guessing that it's seized bearing in the blower motor. The fact is that I've heard a minor noises from the blower the past few days. I had planned on calling the furnace guy this morning anyway, just to check things out.

I'm somewhat frustrated by this. We just had the furnace serviced three weeks ago. There apparently was no noticeable sounds at that time. So now we're going to have to deal with another service call and the costs associated with replacing the motor.

What's the point? It's important to stay on top of things. This is true when it comes to simple home maintenance. It is also true in our spiritual lives. We stay on top of things by staying in God's Word; prayer; fellowship; building accountability; focus on mission.

So many people today wait until a crisis to get things right with God. Once the crisis is over, they go right back to the same level of living that got them in trouble in the first place. Let's commit ourselves to staying on top of things in all areas of our lives.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding Joy

In the movie The Bucket List, the two main characters played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are sitting on top of a pyramid. Their discussion leads to two questions. The first is, "Have you found joy in your life?" The second is, "Have you brought joy to someone else?" The answers to these questions were believed by the ancient Egyptians to pave the way to heaven.

What brings you joy? For me, it's seeing my children find success in their pursuits. I'm so proud of all three of my children. I hope that Sarah, Jonathan and Rebekah will someday truly understand the depth of joy they have brought me. Oh, don't get me wrong - there have been more than a few challenges along the way. But none of those can even begin to diminish the joy they have brought me. And now we add our grandson Micah to the mix - even thinking about him as I write causes me to pause, reflect, and rejoice.

The second question is harder for me to answer. I don't write this expecting anyone to tell me that I have brought them joy. That's not the point. Am I the only one who looks back at his life and questions whether or not he has brought joy to others? Laughter, yes. Happiness, possibly. But joy? I think this is something I have to work at.

Have you found joy? Have you brought others joy? It's something to think about...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spiritual Drift

I am growing increasingly concerned about the spiritual drift I am seeing in men and women of faith. This drift is the subtle yet deadly slide away from what I will refer to as being spiritual dead-center. It's a cooling of our passion for Christ. It's the increasing ease with which we justify sin. It's the lack of compassion for those who do not yet know Christ.

I call it spiritual drift because it happens slowly, almost imperceptibly. I liken it to the times I've been swimming in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Coronado Island. The waves slowly pull you out to sea, especially when there is a rip tide. You don't notice it at first, but before you know it, you are farther from shore than you intended. And the danger with a rip tide is that even a strong swimmer has difficulty breaking free of its grasp.

How do we avoid spiritual drift?
1. Realize that it exists. Don't pretend you can't be drawn away from your spiritual center.
2. Reaffirm your commitment to Christ. Is He truly the Leader of your life?
3. Replenish yourself daily. Don't neglect the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, solitude, giving, meditation, etc.
4. Remain accountable. There is no substitute for accountability. Have someone who is ahead of spiritually to look up to. Have someone you are mentoring to look up to you. Stay in relationship.
5. Repent. The moment you sense you have sinned, confess it for what it is and seek forgiveness.

These are just a few ideas. What do you do to avoid spiritual drift?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote

This Tuesday is the mid-term election. There are those who are saying this is the most important election cycle in the past 100 years. The accuracy of that statement may be suspect, but the importance of this election cannot be overstated.

Many surveys indicate the economy is the most important issue this election. I disagree. I believe the moral fiber of our nation is at stake. We have become a post-Christian nation due to the apathy Christians have shown in the electoral process since the 1960's. Think about it. Had we voted with conviction back then, things like school prayer and Bible reading would have remained in our schools. I know the courts made the decision to eliminate these things, but who appoints the judges? The people we elect! Since then we've experienced Roe vs. Wade and a plethora of laws designed to remove God from civic life.

It's time to take our privileges as Americans seriously. Vote. Connect with civic leaders. Let those who are doing the right things know, and let those who are not know that their actions are being evaluated.

Our daughter Bekah recently had a choir concert at school. The choir director selected several spiritual numbers for the various choirs to sing. I made sure to thank him after the concert for his stand. He blessed me when he said that the day he can't do that he's out. He is a believer and is committed to sharing his faith within the boundaries established by his superiors. But share he does! I know he was glad to hear of our support.

So let's get out there on November 2 and communicate our collective conscience. The moral fiber of our nation is at stake. You will make a difference when you vote. And you will make a difference if you don't. To abstain from voting is to say that you approve of the anti-God agenda being forced through Congress. No matter what the liberal media says, this is a nation that was founded "under God." Let's keep it that way!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Spiritual Horticulture

My son, Jonathan, is very talented. He is a welder by trade. He is one of the rare individuals who knew when he was young (sixth grade to be exact) what career he wanted to pursue. He is certified to use four or five different types of welding machines.

But Jon has another talent that has come to light over the past couple of years and has taken us all by surprise. He is a gifted horticulturalist. Jon can grow just about anything. He has acquired an amazing amount of knowledge about various plants and flowers. He put together several amazing flower beds around our home and our garden this year was more productive than anything I've ever done. Jon puts in many hours of work in caring for his hobby, and he receives great enjoyment in seeing the end product. When a particular flower blooms, he takes dozens of pictures so he can share the fruit of his labor with friends and family. I'm glad my son has this hobby and that he receives so much joy from it.

Here's a question to ponder: Are we spiritual horticulturalists? Do we put loving effort into our spiritual growth? Do we nurture our development? Do we produce fruit that others can enjoy?

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22

Monday, September 13, 2010

Prayer and Fasting

I watched a great web cast last night. It featured Dr. Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. He had a number of guests including Chuck Colson. They challenged believers to do a couple of things.

First, read the Manhattan Declaration. It is a call to Christian conscience. I would encourage you to read it. It addresses the sanctity of life, the biblical definition of marriage, and the struggle for religious liberty. You can simply Google it and find the document.

Second, Colson, Garlow and others are calling on Christians in America to fast and pray for 40 days, September 20 - October 30. We need to focus our hearts toward God during this pivotal election period, as well as for the heart of America itself. Some of you may be able to fast a meal a day. Others for health reasons may have to find something else to fast. The key isn't what you fast, but that you give that time to prayer and ask God to change hearts.

If you want more information, go to Colson's website: http://www.breakpoint.org/.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Defining Biblical Christianity

I have become increasingly concerned about the "dumbing down" of faith in our churches. I fear that we (the Church in general) have become so attraction-oriented that we have failed to teach our people doctrine. The easy believe-ism that has dominated the faith landscape has produced a void of understanding about what a Christ-centered faith is all about. Too many Christians don't read the Bible any more (I don't care what Gallup numbers may say). Too many pastors aren't teaching doctrine. They are afraid that people won't come to church if it isn't entertaining.

So when we have Glenn Beck calling America back to God, many evangelical Christians are jumping on the bandwagon and applauding his message. It's true that we must return to our God. But here's the rub - Glenn Beck is a Mormon. I appreciate his political conservatism. He has crafted an agenda and a position of influence. But Mormonism isn't Biblical Christianity! The doctrine of the Mormon church is not biblically sound and is in a state of constant change. Every new leader brings his own version of revelation to the table. The Book of Mormon even has supremacy over the Bible as far as Mormons are concerned. So when I hear Joel Osteen sharing with Pat Robertson that Glenn Beck is a Christian and I hear them both applauding this, I can't help but cringe.

I'm not writing to attack the Mormons, Joel Osteen, or Pat Robertson. I challenging my fellow pastors and teaching friends to join me in preaching doctrine in such a way as to inform and transform our people. Let's lift Christ higher than we ever have. Let's teach truth in an uncompromising fashion. Let's be unapologetic in our stand that the Bible is the only source of truth and that God is speaking - to us! Our people need to know what it is they believe when they say that they are following Jesus. If you and I don't teach the truth, they will look elsewhere. And who knows what they will find!

"Biblical Christians approach the Bible with reverence and respect, because they believe it is true and authoritative - that it contains God's very words." (Fritz Ridenour in So What's the Difference)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Just for Laughs

When I first started blogging, my oldest daughter, Sarah, requested that I include some humor from time to time. I'm sure she was referring to things that I do that would make others laugh. I haven't written for some time, but I ran across these short blips that I hope will cause you to chuckle a bit.

Did you hear about the new line of Elvis Presley-themed steakhouses? They will be for people who love meat tender.

Ever since my friend had all the digits amputated from his feet, I find him annoying. I think I might be lack-toes intolerant.

How do two snails settle their differences? They slug it out.

Our local Catholic church has plans to bring its parishioners to services by bus. They plan to call it mass transit.

Did you hear the one about the man who dreamed he was a muffler on a car, and then that he was part of the wheel? He woke up exhausted and tired.

A jumper cable walks into a bar and looks around aggressively at the other customers. The bartender says, "All right, I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

My biologist friend tells me that constantly developing new varieties of plants can be a strain.

What do you call four matadors in quicksand? Quatro sinko.

What is an archaeologist? Someone whose career is in ruins.

Had enough?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gone Fishin'

I just returned from our annual summer camping vacation in upstate New York. Cayuga Lake is always beautiful, and it's nice to spend time with my wife's family.

One of my favorite things to do on vacation is to fish. My brother-in-law and I get up every morning at 5 AM, get on his boat, and fish for about four hours. Some years the fishing is great. This year it wasn't so good. The surface water was too warm for the fish we go after. About mid-week, the lake did a "turn over," but even though the water was cooler, the fish were skittish and we didn't catch as many as we would have liked. But even though the conditions were not ideal, it didn't stop us from going fishing. We still got up every morning at 5 AM with the hope of catching fish.

Do those of us who call ourselves Christians or church leaders have that kind of desire to catch fish? Jesus called His disciples (both then and now) to be fishers of men (see Mark 1:17). He said that He came for but one purpose - to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). Jesus' life was that of "fishing" for those who needed Him the most. Do we do that? My friend, Chris Conrad, wrote a book entitled, "Your Church Can Win." He mentioned some disturbing stats that come from our Wesleyan "tribe." A year ago, 400 of our 1700+ churches didn't report a single salvation. The year before that it was 168. Those same churches spent over $13 million doing ministry without seeing a single soul won to Christ.

I'm not out to crucify those churches. When I look at my own ministry and our church, we do a lot of good things but we aren't really reaching the lost in a significant way. We do a lot of good things related to ministry, but our focus really hasn't been on others. Oh, we talk about reaching the unchurched, and we encourage our people to be missional. And in many ways we are. But the sad part is that very few people have come to Christ through our ministries this past year. The church grew, but that was in large part due to transfer growth - people who left another church to attend ours. That's not growth - that's simply shuffling the deck! A truly missional emphasis will result in people being saved and brought into the Kingdom of God. Anything less is merely being a social service agency that does good for self-gratification.

I'm frustrated, but perhaps more so with my own failure in this area. I need to recommit myself to the task of reaching souls. I can no longer allow myself to be distracted by my administrative responsibilities at the local and district levels. God forgive me for failing to be a soul winner in recent years. I'm going back to keeping the main thing the main thing.

Gone fishin'.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Am I Concerned About America?

I met with a fantastic group of Christian men the other day. It's a group that gets together to pray and share truth in such a way that inspires the participates to go out into their daily grind and live wholeheartedly for Christ. As we met and shared on Monday, it was apparent that we are all concerned about the direction our country is going and what we would perceive to be the outcome of said path. The men in the group shared a number of concerns.

What I took from our meeting was a sense that the Church of Jesus Christ MUST take a stand. However, I am not advocating a social-political solution. Now, if God has led you to make a mark through the political system, go for it! I would never suggest that anyone not obey God's leading. But what I am suggesting is far more spiritual in nature, and we find the basis for these thoughts in 2 Chronicles 5-7. King David had turned the nation of Israel over to his son, Solomon (see 1 Chronicles 28). Solomon was anointed king, and he set himself to the task of building the Temple, the permanent place of sacrifice and worship for the Jews. Upon completion of the Temple, Solomon led the people in an incredible dedication ceremony as they consecrated not only the Temple but themselves to the Lord God.

God knew that His people had great intentions, but He also knew they had a propensity for spiritual failure. God also knew that this would bring about ruin in the land of Israel. But He gave them (and us) hope. I know you are probably familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14, but let me remind you of the key to the redemption of a nation that has fallen from God: "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

The call here is for God's very own people to repent and turn back to Him! We can bemoan the moral collapse of our country and blame it on anyone we like, but God says that if we want our nation to be restored, if we want to become a great nation once again, His people - the Church - must get very serious about our relationship with Him. Too many people who sit in church pews (or other styles of seating) Sunday after Sunday do not have a relationship with God. Oh, they've prayed a prayer so that their fire insurance is paid up, but they are not passionately pursuing God! I know that sounds very condemning, but I perceive it to be true based upon what I see and what I hear from my pastor friends. America's complacency toward God is a result of our complacency toward Him.

The answer is not to rebel against the government nor against the church. I am a fan of the church! It is God's organization - the only organization Jesus both left behind and blessed (see Matthew 16:18). The answer to save America is within the hearts of those who make up the Church! Perhaps if we took our faith more seriously and passionately pursued God, others would hunger and thirst to do the same!

So what is your passion? What are you pursuing?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I Don't Like Weakness

I spent time this week with my father. He's in a nursing home in my home town of Greenville, Pennsylvania. He's been there since falling and breaking a hip nearly two years ago. We've tried to convince Dad to move closer to us, but at age 88, he's determined to live out his life where he grew up and lived nearly all of his life. So my monthly visits consist of driving five hours, spending the day with him, spending the night at a local motel, getting up and spending the morning with him before driving home. I do enjoy my time with him.

Dad is getting weaker, and I don't like it. He's a man who worked hard all of his life. He worked for General Motors for 44 years in a factory. He served in the South Pacific during World War II. It's only been in the last 6 or 7 years that we've watched him become frail. It's hard to watch him as he is confined to a wheel chair, totally dependent upon others for nearly everything in his life. He has to be assisted with everything. It's hard to see this strong man in this stage of life.

I don't like what I see. And physically, I don't like what I feel. I'm not that old (I don't consider 52 to be old, no matter what you think!), but even now I face limitations that I never thought I would ever experience. At times I fear that I will some day be just like my dad.

But as I write this, I'm also reminded of a spiritual truth. Unless I am totally dependent upon God, I can never become the person He intended me to be. It is only in my weakness that I experience His strength. Do I struggle with this? Yes I do, and perhaps you do as well. I too often depend on my talents or intelligence to pull me through. More than ever I need to allow Him to be my strength. How about you?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bekah's Softball

This has been a great year for Bekah in fast pitch softball. She's played for four years at the Division I level. Last year, her team was undefeated and won the tournament championship! This year has been a bit rougher. The team was very young, and Bekah was the oldest player on her team. She was the obvious team leader, and she had a huge role in her team doing far better than anyone anticipated. She's the starting catcher, plays some shortstop, and this year, she added pitching to her list of accomplishments. In her final regular season game last night, she played a stellar game behind the plate for 5 innings, and then, pitched 2 shutout innings to preserve a 2-1 victory! Next week it's tournament time. Way to go, Bekah!

You might wonder why I'm blogging this. I'm a proud father, no doubt! But Bekah learned a lot of valuable lessons this past season. She learned how to encourage the younger players who really have a lot to learn about softball. She also learned when it is necessary to light a fire under a player who isn't performing up to their ability or to expectations (yes, Bekah can light a fire under her peers). She also learned to sacrifice for the good of the team. Her own talents improved, but she helped others get better at the same time.

There are good lessons for all of us who are older than Bekah's 13 years. We need to be driven. We need to expect more of others, but at the same time, we need to encourage along the way. We need to improve consistently as we help others improve. The list could go on...

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mystical Experiences

I've changed a lot over the years. No, I'm not referring to my graying hair (and lack of it), nor am I thinking about how my health has been changing for the better over the past several months. I'm slowing down in certain ways, all the while watching life speed by. But those aren't the changes I'm mulling over.

When I was younger, I felt like I had to explain God to everyone - how He works, why He does what He does, etc. For some reason I was obsessed with having to have all the answers, even if no one was buying in to them. But over the past few years, I've become more "mystical" in my musings. No, I'm not slipping into some cult-like fanaticism. I just thing that there are some things that take place that can only be God at work, with no explanation.

Let me share with you some examples. Take communion, or The Lord's Supper. In the tradition I am from, we believe that the elements represent the body and blood of our Lord Jesus. And we eat and drink in remembrance of Him. But we also think of The Lord's Supper as a "means of grace." So just what does happen when we consume the elements? I think it's something different for all of us. The same could be said of baptism. The ritual itself is sometimes referred to as "an outward sign of an inward cleansing." This rite, too, is a means of grace. Is it more than a sign? What about those people who have been released from demons and dependencies during the act of baptism? Isn't that somewhat mystical?

The other day I was musing about fellowship, when it hit me. Fellowship could also be viewed as a means of grace. While there are very practical benefits for being involved in a fellowship - accountability, friendship, learning, encouragement, etc - are not some of the benefits mystical in nature? Does not the Holy Spirit draw us it to fellowship? For those of us who are committed to a fellowship, there are perhaps benefits that can not be put in to words. Those who refuse and choose to go it alone in the faith (the thought of which is ludicrous) are missing something glorious, something wonderful, something...mystical. What do you think?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Barbarian Way

I have to admit, I'm just getting around to reading "The Barbarian Way" by Erwin McManus. It was recommended to me by my friend, Tom "Hit Man" Hartman. I found some really intriguing words. After you read them, I'd like to know what you think. Perhaps you've read the book and have some feedback. Or maybe something inside of you is stirred and you have to respond.

McManus writes, "Two thousand years later the call to follow Christ has been repackaged to be smooth and trouble-free, filled with opportunity and promise but lacking risk, passion, and sacrifice. Is this really what Jesus died for? If He chose the way of the cross, where would He hesitate leading us? Is it possible that to follow Jesus is to choose the barbarian way? Jesus never made a pristine call to a proper and safe religion. Jesus beckons His followers to a path that is far from the easy road. It is a path filled with adventure, uncertainty, and unlimited possibilities - the only path that can fulfill the deepest longings and desires of your heart. This is the barbarian way: to give your heart to the only One who can make you fully alive. To love Him with simplicity and intensity. To unleash the untamed faith within. To be consumed by the presence of a passionate and compassionate God. To go where He sends you, no matter the cost."

I know the quote is lengthy, but as I read this, my heart was challenged afresh. Do we (Christ-followers) play it too safe at times? Are we guilty of following the path of least resistance rather than passionately pursuing Christ? Do we (pastors) try to make it too easy for people to follow Jesus, failing to explain the true cost of discipleship as laid out by Jesus in Mark 8:34-38? Have we become accustomed to a "smooth" cross? What happened to the old rugged cross?

Thursday, May 27, 2010


As a pastor, I feel like I am constantly facing challenges. There are new people to try to assimilate into the fellowship. Finances are always an issue, and we have to look for ways to encourage people to give. The needs of the community are always pressing in, which is great for ministry opportunity, but it causes me to evaluate each opportunity to decide if it is a "good" thing or the "right" thing in which to engage. Of course, each day is filled with the "regular ministry stuff," and if you don't mind my saying so, some of it is less thrilling than the rest!

I find encouragement in the words of Scripture. I'm reminded that the Jordan River was at flood stage when Joshua was leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. I made a note in my bible the other day - "High tide demands high trust." I am reminded almost daily that the success of this church does not depend upon me, but upon my faithfulness to trust the One who builds the church. After all, Jesus said He would build His church, and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. A prevailing church is filled with challenges, but it is His church, and during the high tide times I need to increase my trust.

Got challenges?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Failure - Is It Really Optional?

Quite some time ago I read Craig Groeschel's book, It. The book is about how churches and leaders can get "it" and keep "it." I found the book to be an excellent read; it was both challenging and practical.

I remember reading about the issue of failure. A common phrase we hear in life is "Failure is not option." Do you remember those words from Gene Kranz about bringing the Apollo 13 astronauts home? But Groeschel makes what I think is a great point on page 114 of his book: "Failure is not an option. It is essential." As I think about it, I have to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in life - mistakes that many would consider failures. I also have to admit that I am I've been an equal opportunity failure - my mistakes and failings are not limited to one particular area of life. And if I can be really honest, I've beaten myself up a lot over those things.

But I've also learned that failure is not final. I've learned a lot from my failures. I guess I've learned to fail forward (thanks for the phrase, John Maxwell!). Again, quoting from the Apollo 13 movie, I've learned the art of what it means to be a "successful failure." Let me give you an example. In 1997 I moved my family from San Diego to Fort Wayne (right there some of you would say "failure"!) to do a church plant. After five years, I had to walk away from the plant and it folded. Many of my peers called it a failure. And if the only criteria of success was to have an established church, then they were right. But let me tell you about the successes out of that experience. Several of the families who were a part of that plant are now in different parts of the country, and they have taken the great things we did as a church plant and implemented them in their lives and ministries. They are bringing about life-change in others, and they would tell you how instrumental Summit Church was in their spiritual development. I am now the Director of Church Planting for the Indiana North District of The Wesleyan Church, and I do church planter assessments with our denomination. I learned a lot about how not to do a church plant, and over the years I've adopted some better practices that have helped us plant 3 new churches in the past 3 years. I've learned the importance of having a team of people who are involved in the process, and God has given me a great team.

Have you had some "successful failures" in your life? Care to share? Do you think that failure is essential or would you take issue with that? I'm listening...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eagles Wings

Year ago, my former district superintendent, Dr. Steve Babby, presented me with an eagle statue during a morning service at Wesleyan Church of the Valley in Bonita, California. His kind words about my leadership of the church and district both humbled and inspired me. That eagle is one of my most prized possessions and has a place of prominence in my office. I'm always lifted up when I see that eagle.

In Isaiah 40, we find these words of hope: "but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (40:31)

For those of you who take the time to read this blog, would you please do me a favor? Would your please take a moment and tell me an "eagle story" from your life? What has God renewed your strength? When did He enable you to soar on eagles wings, especially after a time when you struggled? Let's share our stories with each other and encourage one another with these words of hope.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tracing Spiritual Formation

I did something today that turned out to be a great blessing! I spent the past couple of days in Greenville, PA, visiting with my dad @ the nursing home. As I left to return home to Indiana, I took a different route to the interstate. The route I took led me past the church where I was saved and where I received my call to ministry. Even though the church fell on some bad times many years ago and the buildings are now occupied by a different ministry, I felt compelled to stop. I wanted to stick my head into the place where the foundations of my spiritual development were laid.

The current pastor of the church, Pastor Jim and his wife, Pastor Jan, graciously allowed me to look around. Memories flooded my mind and my heart. Then Pastor Jim invited me to his office (my old senior high Sunday School classroom!). As we shared together, I was able to help fill in the blanks on a few years of the church's history - the "boom years" of the church. But more important, he shared with me how the vision given to him for this church in 1993 was identical to the one given to my pastor, Rev. Clemens Farver, way back in the late 1960's! We rejoiced in the fact that while the "players" have changed, the mission hasn't!

Those of you who know me know that I am not a sentimental person. But as I got up to leave, I shook Pastor Jim's hand, and I prayed. I wept as I asked God to "do it again," just as he had during those days long ago. God is blessing the ministry there in a new and fresh way, but in many ways, it felt like it did those many years ago.

I have never put much stock in places. That's been a mistake! Today I realized why God told the Israelites to pile up stones, or name cities certain names, or why certain stands of trees where so important. They were spiritual markers as well as reminders of what God had done. Today, I visited one of those markers in my life. It was a rewarding visit, and one that I will make again and again. Let me challenge you to go back to a spiritual high water mark place in your life. Allow God to speak to your heart afresh.

Thank you, Pastor Jim, for allowing me the privilege of spending time with you and for your faithfulness to God's unchanging call and plan!

Friday, April 2, 2010

How's Your Coffee?

"Like great coffee, great churches are slow brewed." - Matt Keller in The Up The Middle Church

My "growing up" years in ministry training were in what I will fondly call "the church growth era." I went to conferences and heard great speakers, read books, and followed great churches, all of which told me that if I plugged in their formula, my church would experience explosive growth. I have to tell you that I tried all of that. I was privileged to pastor some great churches, but I never once experienced that big blow out that was promised. I worked the programs, trust me! I stressed, put in the long hours, and busied myself with the task of growing a great church. I was a ministry-aholic who put my work above everything, including my family. And I was miserable, but I didn't want to confess that to a single soul.

I've learned in recent years that my job isn't to grow a great church. That was a hard pill to swallow. This revelation was contrary to everything I had been taught about church growth. But I've come to the conclusion that it's not my job to build a great church. It's Jesus' job - He said "I will build my church..." (Matthew 16:18). He promised to build a prevailing church; a church that would stand against the forces of hell itself!

So what's my job? I'm supposed to build people - people Jesus will use to build His church! It's a slow process. Oh, some individuals "build" faster than others, but over alll, it's a lengthy process. I wish I had embraced this concept years ago. I wouldn't have been frustrated about ministry for all those years. I'm not saying I don't get frustrated now. But I'm learning to walk with people in the three-steps-forward-two-steps-back faith journey. I'm learning to be content with that. It's not always easy, and there are times I still want things to happen sooner rather than later. But just as I've learned to enjoy a good cup of slow-brewed coffee (thanks, Sarah!), I am learning to enjoy seeing God work out His will in an individual's life. And I'm learning to enjoy that process in the life of the church.

That's where I'm at. How about you? How's your coffee?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thank You

I was humbled today when a member of the congregation called to tell me thank you for being there for them during the loss of a parent. Yes, it's my ministry to do it, but at the same time, it's really nice to have someone say thank you.

So that got me to thinking that I need to say "thank you" to those who have invested in my life. I doubt I've expressed my thanks to many of you who have befriended me, cared for me, encouraged me, and otherwise graced my life. I won't attempt to name everyone - the list is too large! I am deeply indebted to so many people. But if you are reading this post, I thank you for your love and friendship. I thank you for the relationship I have with you. Thank you for being there for me when I've needed you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Necessary Change

I have been reading the book "The Fly in the Ointment" by J. Russell Crabtree. There are a lot of great insights in this book as to why denominations are failing their churches and how to change that trend. It's a great read for anyone who desires to be a change agent.

One quote that really stuck out to me is this: "Every day that we resist necessary change closes a door of opportunity somewhere in the future." (see page 7). My first impulse was to agree, but then the word "necessary" really caught my eye. Change for change sake isn't spiritual nor is it satisfying. But what necessary changes do I have to make in my life to make sure I don't miss out on future opportunities? I have to be honest and answer that one. How about you? What necessary changes does my church have to make so as to have a positive impact in the days to come? For my church-leader friends, have you asked yourself that recently?

But here is the real rub: Am I really willing to change whatever necessarily needs to be changed? Ultimately the change has to start with the strategic change agent. That's me! That's you! What do you think?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Launching New Journey!

Please celebrate with me the launch of a new church in Indiana North District! New Journey Community Church of Wabash, IN, had its first public service on February 7, 2010. Pastor Tom and Sarah Cochran are the dedicated church planters. They are assisted by Matt Cox. There were 123 people at their first service! Two people came to know Christ for the first time, and another person rededicated his life to Christ! Pastor Tom, Sarah, and Matt, thanks for your faithfulness and hard work. This is why we do what we do!
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Introducing Micah

This is Micah James Burmeister - the most handsome grandson on the planet! We are so proud of Adam and Sarah. Congratulations to the Burmeisters!
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Monday, February 1, 2010

Papa Dave

Exciting news! Our daughter Sarah and her husband Adam are the proud parents of Micah James Burmeister, born January 31, 2010. Micah weighs in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, and he is 21 1/4 inches long. We are absolutely thrilled for the Burmeister's of Jamul, California! Of course, we are thrilled to be first-time grandparents! It looks like I'm going to be Papa Dave, but Stevie isn't too excited about the term "grandma." She's adopted the Spanish term for grandmother - abuela (I think I've spelled it right), but she prefers abuelita (which means young grandmother). And Rebekah and Jonathan are now aunt & uncle respectively!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

I am grateful to report that my knee surgery on Monday (1/25) was a success! The torn cartilage was removed and they scraped out some arthritis that managed to accumulate under the knee cap (of course, it didn't show in the MRI). I have had a great recovery and am walking, occasionally using a cane. I abandoned the crutches by Wednesday morning. Painkillers went by the wayside Tuesday morning. Of course, Stevie was the nurse-in-charge, worked hard, and now is off the clock! I just have to get in shape for the Easter weekend basketball marathon!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Great News!

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in September. I've been working on my diet, taking Metformin once a day, and testing my blood twice a day. My original A1C test score was 10.3 (it's supposed to be between 4 and 7). The GREAT news I received yesterday is that my new score is 5.5! That means my daily average blood sugar level has dropped from 200-220 to 100-110. The doctor says I'm "normal" - I know, don't say a word! I've also lost 26 pounds since September! I am to continue on my diet and lose another 15-20 pounds. That will happen once I can exercise again - after my knee surgery this coming Monday. You might wonder how I celebrated. I ate another salad...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's Right With the Church?

Ok, I'm going to go on a bit of a rant right now. As a pastor and church leader, I've often been confronted by individuals who desire to tell me everything that is wrong with the church. They don't always limit their comments to a particular local church. They attack all churches, alleging that all churches have the same shortcomings and therefore are to be shunned. As a former church planter and current church planting director, I am a bit alarmed by some of the tactics used by planters to attract the unchurched to their new work - a "we aren't like everyone else" approach that again insinuates that every other church is faulty. And the books - good Christian books - often attack the church's shortcomings, leaving many with a sense that church is of little or no value.

My problem is this: the Church is Jesus' creation (see Matthew 16:13-20). Unfortunately, the Scriptures really don't tell us how to "run" the church, so we organize and facilitate ministry based upon our desire (or lack thereof) to connect with our culture. Our finite efforts often fail to mirror the ultimate image of what the Church of our infinite God and Savior intended, but even so, Jesus said "the gates of hell will not prevail against it (the Church).

So what's right with the Church? I can think of a ton of things, but I'd like for you to tell me what you think. Let me get you started. I think one thing the church gets right is drawing people together in unity of purpose and spirit. Another positive is how many churches are really great at "being" Christ in the community by meeting needs in tangible ways. Of course, the Church is awesome when it points people to Jesus. How's that for starters? What can you add?