Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's time to hang up that new calendar! My wife works hard on the kitchen calendar every year. She writes in every birthday (and age of the person), anniversary (and years of marriage), and any other special day that needs to be remembered. She's always reminding me that it's someone's anniversary or birthday. It's a good thing!

Many people are given to resolutions as the new year dawns. I would guess that a high percentage of those go unkept. Perhaps we are unrealistic in our self-appraisals. Maybe we have great intentions but no inner drive to accomplish that to which we commit.

I'm not going to make any resolutions this year. Oh, I have goals. There are some things I want to accomplish. There are changes I need to and want to make. I'm just going to dig down deep and go after those things, with the help of an accountability partner or two. Most importantly I am going to trust the Lord to help me, for apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5).

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

As I reflect on Christmas, I must share the following thoughts of gratitude:

I am thankful for my wife, Stevie, who works so hard at the hospital as well as at home.

I'm proud of Sarah, who along with her husband Adam and their son Micah, is making a great start in family life as well as her teaching career.

I'm proud of Jonathan, who has not only developed into a hard worker, but into an even better young man who has many interests.

And I'm proud of Bekah, who brings joy and laughter into any situation, and who strives to be the best she can be in life.

I'm blessed this Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Being Challenged

I'm privileged to be in a cluster group of pastors in my district. We have been reading and studying some great research information in the areas of church leadership and congregational development. Our group happens to be facilitated by our district superintendent, who does a great job managing all of our personalities!

I share this with you because I find the experience to be uplifting and challenging. I love the synergy that comes from being in a room of like-minded leaders. The ideas flow and the atmosphere is very positive. But I also find myself being stretched and challenged. Most recently, our discussion led me to make several personal commitments in a key area of my ministry. I had become a bit lazy about a couple of things. The iron sharpened the iron. I'm regaining some focus. I am thankful for the challenge.

Who is challenging you? What iron-sharpening things are you purposefully involved in? Who is holding you accountable? Think it through. If you have that in your life, please share how it is working. If not, will you consider finding that group of like-minded people and stretch in your faith walk? Be encouraged. It really does help.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

On Flu Shots and the Flu

I know. You can't get the flu from a flu shot. If you get the flu, it's from a different strain than what you were inoculated for, or you get a milder version of what you would have if you hadn't gotten the shot. I received a flu shot from my doctor a week and a half ago. I had a pretty good case of the flu this weekend, even missing church. Ok, I probably didn't get the flu from the shot - the flu bug was going through our day care all week. Kids and staff alike were sick. I guess I was not exempt. I am grateful to my wife for her excellent care and my daughter Bekah who called out "quarantine" if I even tried to walk out of the bedroom!

Over the years I've known Christians who believe that once they receive Jesus (their spiritual flu shot) they are supposed to be immune from the problems of life. Of course, seasoned spiritual veterans know this isn't the case. Life happens. Problems come. Jesus even said we would have trouble in this life (John 16:33). But in that same verse He told us to take heart because He has overcome the world! That means we have One who speaks to the Father on our behalf (1 John 2:1) and we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to empower and guide us through life (Read the Olivet Discourse found in John 14-16). How we respond to the troubles of life is indicative of our trust factor.

I'm no longer under quarantine. I'm once again "exposed" to the bugs of life. It sure beats hiding under the covers! And who knows - I might even get a flu shot again next year!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Exciting Days at EWC

These are exciting days at Edgerton Wesleyan Church. Our worship attendance has grown to the point where we are pushing up against the 80% capacity barrier of our sanctuary. Sunday School is near capacity. There are some Sundays when people have to park in the yard because the parking lot is full. Exciting!

Today I shared with the church the option of going to two worship services. We are currently exploring two different Sunday morning formats as well as a Saturday night service. The congregation received the information very well today. The church board and I have been working on this for a few months, and a focus group we brought in has endorsed the overall concept. Now we have to get a feel for which format would best serve this congregation / community.

Good days!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


My oldest daughter recently took in a "temporary" dog with the intention of trying to find a home for it. Unfortunately for her, the dog is making himself at home and endearing himself to my grandson, my son-in-law, and the family dog. I think I know how this is going to end...

Some of the "strays" that enter our lives (good or bad):
- thoughts that lead us away from God's will in our lives
- people in need who are really divine appointments
- challenges to our thinking about orthodox faith
- challenging people who say they want our help but really don't
- opportunities to grow

Some strays are good. Some, not so much. What are some strays that come to your mind?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Random Thoughts

I saw a great t-shirt the other day: "Guns don't kill people. Dads with pretty daughters do." If anyone needs a Christmas gift idea, I take a large.

People who criticize you for doing something you thought was nice or for their benefit seldom if ever notice when you correct your "error."

The virtue of confidentiality is nearly extinct.

Hard work produces results, which in turn require more hard work. This is a good thing.

It's easier to plant a garden in the spring than it is to clean up the area in the fall.

People don't do what is expected. They do what is inspected.

Organization is not over-rated. It's understated.

A Sunday school teacher asked his class if they thought Noah did a lot of fishing when he was on the Ark. Little Johnny replied, "How could he with just two worms?"

Monday, October 17, 2011

Funny Guy

We spent time on Skype last night with Sarah, Adam, and our amazing grandson, Micah. He is a riot! He is finally at a point where he knows who we are on Skype and engages with us in a form of conversation that, at this point, only he really knows where it is going. Even so, he is entertaining! Micah is growing up so fast. He has become the family farmer, feeding the chickens every day and making sure his dog, Sable, is being good. He certainly enjoys every waking moment of every day!

Monday, October 10, 2011


It's a great thing to have friends! Our dear friends, Paul & Gale Imboden, are headed off for Arizona in a few days. They will be living out of their motor home and working in a campground during the winter. Gale has played piano for our church for many years, and Paul is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. While not formally appointed, they are missionaries in a camping ministry. We celebrated with them at church yesterday, and we pray for their safe travel as they head out across the country. We love you guys! Check out their blog at

Sunday, October 2, 2011

On Dying Churches

As a part of my responsibility as an assistant to the district superintendent, I attended the final service of a church in our district today. As I oversaw their final time meeting as a congregation, I was struck by a few thoughts.

It's a sad day when a church has to close. This church didn't have the resources to carry on. The pastor realized this and led the church into the decision to shut its doors. Efforts to reach into the community had failed for many years (20+). The church no longer had a positive image in the neighborhood.

It's a hard day for the pastor. Having had to close a church under my watch, I know how emotionally and spiritually debilitating it is to say "It's over." You battle questions as to whether or not you did everything you could to save the church. You battle depression as the enemy loves to make you think you are a failure. You battle a sense of abandonment as your peers keep their distance for a variety of reasons, none of which is justifiable.

It's a discouraging day for a community, though it probably doesn't realize the impact of a closed church. A source of light is gone. Even if the church has been in decline for years, there was always that chance that someone could be helped by that ministry.

Though those thoughts are negative, there is one positive. The Kingdom goes on! The gospel will still be shared by those true believers who move on and join other churches. Jesus said, "I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it." (Matthew 16:18, NLT). When I think of some of the people from my own church closer several years ago, I thank God that they are still serving Him all over the U.S. - Dave & Julie in Georgia, Patrick & Kathy in Arizona, Scott & Amy in Indiana, etc. God is still on the throne and will use those who are fully committed to Him!

Yes, it's a sad day when a church closes its doors, but believers will always have an impact, for WE are His Church!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hedgehog Concept

In studying for my message in a couple of weeks, I ran across something that I've read before and really appreciate. In Jim Collins' business book, Good to Great, he addresses something called the Hedgehog Concept. He relates an essay by Isaiah Berlin where Berlin proposes that people are in one of two categories: they are either foxes or hedgehogs. Foxes are diffused, scattered and moving on many levels, whereas hedgehogs simplify the complex world into a single concept that reduces all challenges to a simple idea. They refuse to be anything but hedgehogs! They have "a piercing insight that allows them to see through complexity and discern underlying patterns. Hedgehogs see what is essential, and ignore the rest." (page 91)

Let me encourage you to be a hedgehog! As Keith Drury used to teach in Strategetics, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." What is our main thing? Win souls! We are to fulfill the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment. Many people are trying to change and improve our world through secular theories. They are looking to the political world to "save them." Christians have the answer to change and improvement - Jesus! Let's not get sidetracked in doing good. Let us do the "goodest" we can by sharing the hope of Jesus with others. He alone is our hope and salvation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thoughts on Longevity

In my posting on Pastoral Longevity, I asked the question about what are some factors that contribute to longer pastoral tenures. I would still like to hear from anyone reading this what you think in this matter.

I believe one key to longevity is the issue of release. We put a lot of emphasis on the initial call to a congregation in The Wesleyan Church. I believe it is very important to match a pastor and a church. In our system, the district superintendent may be able to give assistance in this area, it is ultimately the pastor's responsibility to assess a church's culture and personality to see if there is a match.

But once the decision has been made to go to a church, a pastor needs to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit to know when it is the right time to leave. Just because we face some resistance does not mean it's time to go. Over the years I've watched some pastors leave churches well before they should have simply because they didn't want to deal with conflict. (At this point, I would have to recommend Dr. Wayne Schmidt's teaching on "Change and Conflict Management" I enjoyed in my masters program!)

I'll relate a personal story here. I came to the Edgerton Church after having closed a church plant that my family and I had worked to establish for five years. I was beat up and faced a lot of rejection from my district "tribe." I figured that I would stay in Edgerton for a couple of years, using the time to heal while helping the congregation find a new direction. Then I would head off for whatever ministry God had in store next. That was nine years ago! My district superintendent applauds me for hanging in there and building things up. But I will tell you what I have told him: I am here because God hasn't released me.

Let me ask my pastor friends this: How do you know when you are released? Have you ever left a church and regretted the move, realizing some time after the fact that you should have stayed? And have you stayed longer than you should have (for whatever reasons) and have regrets?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Feeding the Lions

"If you're thrown to the lions, of course you hope you'll be there in the morning to celebrate. But if not, you'll be in the presence of God, and you will have provided a small kindness to a few hungry lions." -Erwin McManus

OK, I'll admit that I've never really thought about conflict in this way before. I've been attacked by "lions" before. I bet you have, too. My competitive nature causes me to want to win at every turn. I don't like to be wrong, and I admit I love it when I've been vindicated. When an attack comes I want to celebrate in the morning.

I'm not sure I like feeding lions, but I think I get what Erwin McManus was referring to his comment. Is it more important to win the battle with the lions or to win the battle by being more like Christ? I know the answer to that question, as do you. But living in the reality of it is tough. I used to bristle at John Maxwell's axiom, "I don't have to survive." I hate to admit it, but the older I get, the more I buy in to it.

When the lions come, so be it. But just a word...I bet I don't taste that good anyway!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pastoral Longevity

I was talking with a pastor friend yesterday when the subject of how long I've been at the Edgerton Church came up. My association with this church has been nine years - a little over eight as the full-time pastor. My friend commented that he had read my blog and was encouraged by it. He has served for a little more than two years in an established, older church. We talked about the difficulty a pastor faces in trying to change the culture of a declining or dying church. In my previous post I listed seven things that I believe have contributed to our turn around in Edgerton.

However, one thing I left off the list was longevity. I think a lot of pastors get frustrated when they go to a church and can't implement their vision immediately. They work at a feverish pace for a year or two and then move on to what they hope will be a more receptive field. I know - I've done it!

The reality is that it takes time to change church culture. The attitude of many lay persons in the church is, "Pastors come and go." It's true. Take a look at the statistics. But the churches that experience growth, and the declining churches that experience renewal, have one thing in common - pastors who serve for a number of years in the same place.

So what's it take to hang in there for the long haul? I have some ideas, but what do you think?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Growing Time

Edgerton Wesleyan Church is an interesting case study. When I came to the church to simply "fill in" a few Sundays here and there in the fall of 2002, the worship attendance was in the mid-50's. The church had been in decline for a number of years. A rural church located near declining communities, there wasn't a lot of hope for growth. I filled in for a couple of months and then signed on as the interim pastor through the spring of 2003. Then God made it clear He wanted my family and I to stay. When I met with the church board to express my concerns about whether or not they'd be willing to make the changes necessary to their survival, one board member summed it up: "If we don't change, we'll be closed in five years." What an exciting prospect!

Our worship attendance is regularly over 100 these days, and in the month of August we averaged 128. We've set two all-time attendance records in the church's history this year: Easter @ 181, and Vacation Bible School program @ 168.

What has been the secret? I'll simply list what I think have been the key ingredients and if you are interested in commenting, we can flesh them out. Here goes:

1. A commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission in the spirit of the Great Commandment.

2. A missional approach to ministry.

3. A willingness to shut things down that don't work and start new.

4. Standing firm in the face of opposition to #3.

5. Moving outside our comfort zone.

6. Getting ministry into the hands of the people instead of having the pastor do it all.

7. Relationship-building.

These are some of our key moves. God has been faithful as we've trusted Him to lead us each step of the way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pure Joy

I think the title and the picture say it all. Oh that we could all get back to this!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Rod and The Staff

As we continue our look at Psalm 23, we can see in verse 4 the phrase, "your rod and your staff, they comfort me." It's interesting to note that the rod and the staff are the same Hebrew word, meaning that it is one instrument that has two distinct purposes.

First, the rod. It's an instrument of power, punishment and protection. In Exodus 3 & 4 we see it as the source of Moses' strength as well as disobedience. As an instrument of protection, a shepherd would beat the ground and bushes with the rod to scare off any predators that might be lurking nearby. That's why the young shepherd David had no fear of bears or lions - he had a rod. And in Hebrews 12:7-12, we see the that the Lord disciplines those He loves. The Word is a rod of discipline (2 Timothy 3:16).

The staff, on the other hand, is an instrument of peace. The curved end, or the crook, was used to lift up lambs and place them beside their mothers. It was also an extension of the shepherd's arm and used to guide the sheep. As such, the staff represents the role of the Holy Spirit who is the One who guides us into truth, walking beside us as our the paraclete (John 14:25-27; 15:26-27; 16:13-15).

We need not fear the rod or the staff. They comfort us. Whether it is in correction or guidance, the Holy Spirit is there to help us know and follow Jesus better. The better we know Jesus, the better we know the Father. Celebrate the rod and the staff and for the comfort brought to bear in our lives.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Passing Away

My father, Harry Dignal, passed away today, July 27, 2011, at approximately 3:15 PM. Dad was born December 13, 1921 in Stoneboro, PA. He finished the 11th grade and then left home. He worked in a grocery store and for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) until joining the Army in 1942. He married my mother, Juanita Styers, before going to Japan. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1945. Dad retired from General Motors, having worked for 44 years at the Packard Electric Wiring Harness Plant in Warren, OH. He lived the last three years at the Whitecliff Nursing Home in Greenville, PA. He was 89 years old.

Dad was a soft-spoken man. He seldom raised his voice. He was admired and loved by all the staff at the nursing home. Most importantly, he was loved by all of us. We will miss him greatly. Thanks, Dad, for always being there! We love you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dealing with Death

We returned home from vacation Thursday night with the news that my father had a stroke and is dying. I've been in PA since Friday night to sit with Dad. I'm thankful for God's presence and strength during this time. I'm asking all to pray for Dad to pass quickly and not suffer.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Long-time Friends

Sarah and Adam hosted a reception for us at their beautiful home in Jamul, CA, so that friends from our days here could come for a cookout and visit. It was a great time seeing such good friends! We appreciate Sarah and Adam's gift of hospitality, and we appreciate our friends coming out to see us! The fellowship was wonderful as we reconnected in person with many we have not been able to see for years.

Stevie, Bekah and I also spent the morning in Bonita where we ministered for nine years. We enjoyed the worship and Pastor Mark's message. Again, we were able to see a lot of dear friends there, too.

Yesterday was a great example of how God's love unites and never fades away. We are blessed to have so many great friends across the country from our years of ministry. We are grateful for the Body of Christ and the loving relationships that have endured the years. Thank you, friends!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vacation in Paradise

We are blessed to have the wonderful opportunity to spend two weeks in the San Diego area for vacation this year! We are staying with our daughter Sarah, her husband Adam, and our grandson, Micah in Jamul, a beautiful town 30 minutes outside of the city. It's hot up here in the mountains, but it is a dry heat, unlike the heat of an Indiana summer.

Yesterday was our first full day here, and it was great! Micah has grown so much in the last year. It's hard to believe how big he is. He has a playful heart and a sensitive spirit. Sarah and Adam are great parents - I'm very proud of them! I've enjoyed being "Papa Dave" and playing with Micah.

Well, I won't bore readers with details, other than the fact that yes, I did get a bit of a sunburn yesterday, laying by the pool, vegging out on our first day. But today is a new day, no pain, and looking forward to see friends and family!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Progress is Made in the Valley

When I was the Executive Pastor in Bonita, CA, I worked with an awesome Senior Pastor, Pastor Jimmy Johnson. Pastor Jimmy has since gone to be with the Lord, but I will never forget his infectious laugh and his great communication skills. And when I say I worked with Pastor Jimmy rather than for him, it's because he treated me as an equal partner.

Pastor Jimmy coined a phrase we used at the Bonita church: "Progress is made in the valley." It was a catchy way of saying things were happening at Bonita! But it was also a great way of telling people that it's in the valleys of life that real progress is made.

In Psalm 23:4, the Psalmist wrote of the "valley of the shadow of death." Sometimes we equate this passage with a funeral and the death of a loved one, but there is so much more we can gather from it. Many Christians want to live on mountain tops, but the real spiritual development in our lives takes place in the valleys of this life, places where danger lurks. But the Psalmist also reminds us that even though danger may exist in the valley, "I will fear no evil, for You are with me."

So what's so special about the valley? First, the only way to get to the next mountain top is to go through the valley. Valleys serve as bridges to the next mountain. If you find yourself on the mountain top, enjoy the view, but be reminded that the Lord is getting you ready for the next "something" in your life.

Second, the shortest way to the next mountain is through the valley. It's really the path of least resistance. To go any other way means that the Lord is not there with you. He is with you in the valley.

Third, the valley is a place of more and better food and water. It may be a difficult place, but it is where you learn and grow.

Finally, people in the valleys of this life need to see real people - people like you and me - who have problems just like they do. We are all common clay pots (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). The heroes of the faith went through the valley (Hebrews 11). Jesus went through the valley on His way to the cross, as well as on the cross itself ("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?")

So remember: the next time you find yourself in the valley, the Lord is with you, and He is growing you. Progress really is made in the valley!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

An Invitation to God

My friend Dr. Steve Forsyth, senior pastor at El Cajon Wesleyan Church in California, preached this morning on the subject of prayer. We were emailing back and forth encouraging each other about our preaching. He made this statement about his message: "Prayer invites God to get involved. It reminds us that our spiritual growth is not a self-help based practice. God's involvement is necessary."

Prayer invites God to get involved. That's a powerful statement! I think many Christians mistakenly assume that God is involved in every arena of their lives. But is that really the case? If we are not surrendered in a particular area, is God really involved? He no doubt wants to be, but is He able to be involved without our invitation? I know some of my Calvinist or Reformed Theology friends would say yes. But I again ask: Is God involved in every area of a life that is not fully yielded to Him?

Romans 12:1-2 says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this work, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. They you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." It seems to me that there is a direct correlation between our offering and His transforming. Our offering invites God to be involved.

What about Matthew 16:19? "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." I've always struggled a bit with the total implication of this passage, but it seems to me, in the broader context, that the building of Jesus' church (Matthew 16:18) depends a bit on our inviting Him to do just that! He will build a prevailing church; of that I have no doubt. But just what does He mean about binding and loosing? Does this imply that we need to invite Him to participate? And by participate, I'm really saying "lead."

Please hear me out. I don't mean to say that God can't work if we don't invite Him to do so. At the same time, God's Word indicates that our disobedience hinders God's actions, and our invitation to Him to act allows for a greater flow of the Holy Spirit to move. God's involvement is absolutely necessary for there to be victory in this world. But do we limit Him by our failure to invite Him to participate?

I don't know about you, but I will assume nothing when it comes to God's involvement. I need and want it. How about you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soul Restoration

"He restores my soul." That short phrase in Psalm 23:3 is powerful. What does it mean to have our soul restored? Is the psalmist speaking of sinners who need to be restored to a right relationship with God, or is he referring to Christians who sin and need to return to a proper state? Could it be a little of both?

When it comes to having our souls restored, there is a great need for repentance. This is necessary for salvation and involves a purposeful decision and an act of our will. We have to willingly turn from sin and turn to Jesus if we desire to be forgiven of our sin (see John 1:12; Acts 3:19; Acts 17:30). It involves a change of our heart, mind, direction and goals. And it's more than a one-time act. It's an attitude for a lifetime.

Restitution is also necessary to experience soul restoration. It's a "facing what I've done wrong" plus a desire to make things right. It's a desire to follow Jesus all the way and influences our relationships. In Luke 19, the tax-collector Zaccheus acknowledged that he defrauded his fellow countrymen in his work for the Roman government. But he went further. He repaid everyone four times over what he had stolen from them. That's making things right!

Then there is restoration. To restore means to repair; to make usable; to make complete; to make better than before. This refers to our relationships within the Body of Christ, His Church. We are to be reconciled to those with whom we are at odds. Jesus' teaching on the subject makes it clear that we are not to wait for others to come to us and apologize. We are to take the initiative and seek healing in the relationship. For instructions on how we are to do this, see Matthew 5:23-24, 18:15-18, and Galatians 6:1-3. When true restoration takes place, that which was once broken is made stronger.

Soul restoration is more than a make-over. It's a total change in every area of our lives. It's something to think about.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quiet Waters

As we continue our look at Psalm 23, I want us to consider the phrase in 23:2, "He leads me beside quiet waters." Some translations say "still waters" or even "peaceful streams." Water was not always plentiful in Palestine during the days of David. The shepherd had to lead the sheep to find water to drink.

In my studies I ran across the fact that splashing or rushing water scares sheep. They need quiet water - still water - to drink from. In our turbulent world, we all too often do not take the time to drink from the living water provided by our Shepherd. We are easily frazzled, given to racing away from quiet time with God rather than running to Him for our peace.

The shepherd had to work hard to get the sheep to the quiet waters. He had to keep an eye out for the enemies of the flock that would hide near watering holes, waiting for that single sheep to stray just far enough from the rest of the flock to be vulnerable. And isn't that when the attacks come? When we are most vulnerable? When we are alone, or think we are?

While the shepherd was responsible to guide the sheep to the watering hole, it was the responsibility of the sheep to follow the shepherd. Sheep have to get up and eat in order to get all the shepherd wants them to have. We don't really like that kind of responsibility. We would rather have room service, or better yet, to be spoon-fed.

If we want the quiet waters to flow in our lives, we must make time to be with the Shepherd. We must recognize that our spiritual development is not the result of instant gratification. We have to figure out the difference between living it up and really living. One may taste better, but only one satisfies.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Laying Down in Green Pastures

Our continuing study of Psalm 23 leads us to the second verse: "He makes me lie down in green pastures." The NLT substitutes the word "lets" for makes. Green pastures are cool and relaxing (Can't you picture laying on your back on the grass when you were a kid growing up? Wasn't it a relaxing place to be?) The idea here is that our Shepherd gives us the opportunity to rest. We were designed to rest. We need rest. And when we are where we are supposed to be (green pastures) there are fewer issues that keep us from resting.

But what keeps us from laying down in those green pastures? There are several things that come to mind. First, fear keeps you from laying down. When you are alone you are vulnerable. You have to stay in community (in the sheep-fold). Then you can hear the voice of the Shepherd and know His Presence.

Friction - a competitive attitude - will keep you from laying down. Sheep tend to pick on weaker members of their flock. There can be a pecking order that is used to keep the sheep in line. But God has said that the weaker members of His flock are necessary (1 Corinthians 12:21-26). Our Shepherd often puts the weaker in authority to destroy the pecking order and reduce our friction.

Flies, those pests that bug the sheep, keep you from laying down. When we let little things bug us - eat at us - we are unable to rest. You need to allow the Shepherd to use the oil of His Spirit rid you of the little things that keep you from laying down.

Finally, well-fed sheep are able to lie down. A lack of food will keep you from being in the green pastures. Isn't that ironic? There is good food all around but you fail to eat. We have so many resources at our fingertips yet we are some of the most undernourished believers on the globe.

The Shepherd of our souls wants us to rest in His green meadows. He only makes you lie down when you love Him and listen to Him. Are you experiencing green pastures?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Lord is My Shepherd

We began a study of Psalm 23 last night in an H3 Bible study that I lead. There were a number of great insights that we pulled from the first two verses. Let me focus for just a bit on Psalm 23:1.

First, we note that the psalmist referred to the Lord as a shepherd. The Scriptures do not often refer to God in this way (see Genesis 48:15; 49:24; Jeremiah 31:10). The term was commonly used for rulers in the ancient Near East. The rarity of its use in reference to God is significant and should catch our eye.

Why? A shepherd was indispensable to the flock. The sheep saw him as a constant companion, a guide, a provider, a physician, and a defender. In the same way, the Lord is to be all of those things to us. And He is, if we know Him as the psalmist did: "the Lord is my shepherd." Note the word "my." It denotes an intimate relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. It's a reflection of the relationship David had with Yahweh, Israel's covenant God. It's the type of relationship God wants to have with us.

Someone once said, "I would rather have less and have the Shepherd than to have more without Him." How about you?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pet Peeves

Ok, I'm going to get this off my chest! I am tired of the attitude that is prevalent in our technologically "advanced" world. The rudeness is driving me crazy! So here is what is bugging me.

Texting: I know that for some this is a great tool. But I'm tired of being in meetings where the participants feel like they have to reply to every text message they receive during the meeting. If I'm in charge of that meeting I want you to give your full attention to the task at hand. It's not multi-tasking. It's just plain rude!

Phones going off in church: If you can't shut your phone off for 60-75 minutes to allow God to talk to you, then you have a problem. Are you going to try to tell me that you can't focus on God for that period of time? Oh, and texting during church? Come on. If you are that bored, stay home! You are a distraction to others!

Taking calls when you are talking with others: Hey, I'll give you 100% of my focus when you and I are talking. What you have to say matters. Don't give me "I'm multi-tasking" when you interrupt our conversation to answer a call that could wait. What did you do before cell phones?

I know, I'm being too picky. But it bugs me. Anyone else?

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Christian Response to bin Laden's Death

No doubt you have seen the various responses to the news of Osama bin Laden's death. There has been a great deal of relief with the knowledge that this evil master mind has been eliminated from terrorist leadership. Some have celebrated openly. For many, justice has been brought to bear against the man who planned the 9/11 attacks that forever changed the lives of the families of those who died at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania.

I do not question the raid which brought about bin Laden's demise. I have no strong feelings about his being killed versus being captured alive and brought to trial. I trust the members of Seal Team 6 who had to make split-second decisions in a genuine life and death situation. They are courageous individuals who serve us with little concern for personal safety.

My great concern is the open celebrations that have taken place in our nation. I remember the disgust I felt after 9/11 when I saw Muslims and others dancing in the streets of their countries. They were celebrating the deaths of the innocent.

I for one am glad that bin Laden is out of the picture. I'm not sure we are any more safe than before. No doubt others will rise up and take his place. We will continue to live in the reality that there are people in this world who want to destroy our nation and our way of life.

But I'm not sure celebrating is the right response. Lives were lost in this raid - lives that were committed to a false god. Those who died without Christ will spend eternity in hell. I know some of you might be thinking, "Well, he got what he deserved." That may be true. But if we all received what we deserve, would we be celebrating? Would others? I celebrate the fact that I don't get what I deserve thanks to the grace of God. If not for Jesus, I would spend eternity with bin Laden and others just like him.

Ok, so what's my point? We should be praying for the Muslim world. We should be praying for the terrorists who threaten to destroy us. We must ask the Holy Spirit to break through the brainwashing of Satan and speak truth to the hearts of men and women everywhere that they might come to repent and receive Christ. Osama bin Laden's death, though it brings us some form of relief, should sober us to the reality of the horrors of sin and the lost condition of men's souls. Pray for the lost. All of the lost. Not just the nice person across the street. Pray for the jihadist who is strapping a bomb to his body in an attempt to earn eternal life. Pray for those whose intent is to harm us. Pray that someone will speak truth - the truth of Jesus - that they may turn from their ways and embrace the One who will set them free!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Truth Wins

I typically don't attack other pastors publicly unless there is a real problem with regard to heresy. Rob Bell's latest book, "Love Wins," promotes a false gospel. Bell promotes the idea that hell does not mean eternal damnation and that sinners who die will get a second chance to wiggle their way into God's graces. Bell's argument is that a loving God would never send anyone to a place of eternal torment.

Ultimately, Bell is a universalist. His position is not even close to orthodox Christian faith. I will say that his teachings certainly draw a crowd (a church of about 10,000 in Grand Rapids, Michigan). But a crowd does not confirm that a person is right. What it may confirm is that those people like what they hear.

I'm not going to write a lengthy post in an attempt to refute Bell's heresy. The Bible makes it clear that all men are sinners and that the wage of sin is death, separation from God. That separation is eternal, just as the reward of the righteous is eternal life with God in heaven. Jesus spoke of hell often in the gospels. He indicated that it was a place of eternal torment from which no soul could escape. The only way to heaven is to embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in this life. This has been the teaching of orthodox Christianity for nearly two thousand years. And the reality of hell goes back to origins of biblical faith and historical Judaism. Bell's teaching is dangerous. It is heretical.

One final thought: God doesn't send anyone to hell. We choose (ah, free will) to either respond to God's grace by receiving or rejecting Jesus Christ. God is love, but He is also holy, just, and righteous. We must either embrace all of Him or none of Him.

Yes, love wins. But love only wins when it is founded on truth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Does Easter Mean?

This Sunday is Easter - the most significant day / event in Christendom. Christians all over the world will gather in churches to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. American churches in particular will be filled, many to overflowing, with crowds they won't see again until Christmas.

But what does Easter really mean? Yes, it's the resurrection of Jesus and we will reflect upon that historical event. But what does it mean? If people only come to church on Christmas and Easter, is there really any reason for them to even participate in the celebration? Does the resurrection have any true impact on a life that doesn't participate in the resurrection during the rest of the year? Is it an annual event or a living reality?

What does Easter mean to you?

Monday, April 4, 2011


I've had a weekend of extremes. I went to see my father in PA on Friday and Saturday. It was sad to see the toll age and illness have taken on him. He was too weak to feed himself, and as I was feeding him, he said, "David, I never thought I'd get like this." He was so discouraged! We both cried as I left to come back home.

Then on Sunday, a family in the church asked me to dedicate their young son in a couple of months. He is a healthy little boy with his entire life in front of him.

The contrast was so stark. In just a matter of hours I went from feeling the pain of old age and hopelessness to the anticipation of a life. It was a real jolt as I dealt with my own emotions in all of it.

Appreciate the elderly and the infirm. Embrace the energy of new life. But hold both very carefully in your hands - they are precious!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who's Got Your Back?

I preached on the topic, You Were Meant for Community from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 last Sunday. One of the key points was "a real friend will fight to protect you or your reputation." Here's a quote from that section of the message: "The words of this verse were written based on the military strategy of the ancient world. Nearly all combat was hand-to-hand. Soldiers went into battle with a partner, someone that could be counted on and trusted implicitly. The soldiers stood back-to-back in battle, always keeping their backs in contact. They fought whatever enemy came from any side."

It's essential that we have friends who have our backs. No matter how badly you mess up or fall short, it's comforting to know that you have someone who will be your friend. A real friend is someone who when you've made a fool of yourself doesn't feel you've done a permanent job.

A long-term friend told me today that he'd really made a mess of his life and was having to deal with a number of painful results. I let him know that I'd be his friend - I'd have his back - no matter what. He needed to know that no matter his failure he wasn't rejected by everyone.

Do you have friends who "have your back" no matter what? We all need them. And we need to be that friend for others. Think it through...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


In the Greek language, the word agony has an interesting history. It was originally a term that was an alternative to another word (agon) for a place of assembly. It was later used to denote the contests or games that took place in those assembly areas. These contests usually involved great struggle. Eventually it was used to denote severe emotional strain and anguish.

Have you ever been at a place of agony? Perhaps you know what I am referring to...those places that we find ourselves in where we experience great strain or stress. We tend to agonize over significant things - the death of a loved one, financial pressure, health concerns, a wayward child, a career choice - you can name many more. Sometimes we agonize over things because of poor decisions we've made. At other times we agonize over things about which we have little or no control.

Question: Do we agonize over the same things that God agonizes about? Personal sin? Lost souls? The hurts of others? And then: Does our agony move us to action?

In the weeks that lead up to Easter, let us not forget the agony that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. He agonized there for you and for me. That agony led Him to make the ultimate sacrifice. Let us embrace Jesus and allow Him to move in our hearts for all the right reasons.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Investing in Others

My friend, Shawn, is an amazing coach! Once he has entered into a coaching relationship, he has the uncanny ability to see what others either overlook or simply cannot see. He is a blessing to the people he coaches. His investment has saved the ministry life of one man I know, and I'm sure there are others who would say the same.

When it comes to coaching, mentoring, or otherwise partnering with others, I want to ask this question of myself. Perhaps you'll be willing to ask it of yourself. Am I intentional in partnering with another person for the sake of building them up so that the Kingdom of God may increase? And a companion question might be this: Do I care who gets the credit?

Many people around us are drowning spiritually and professionally. Wouldn't it please God if we were to come along side them, just like the Holy Spirit (paraclete) does with us? Would it make a difference if we were to invest ourselves in another so that they might be more fruitful or productive? I believe the answer is yes! You may not feel qualified. You may feel inadequate. But you just might save some one's life if you were to simply invest yourself in another.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Faith Enough

I received a call from a long-time friend who told me that he had just received word from his doctor that he has an aggressive form of cancer in his lungs. Treatment would take the better part of a year and he would then have a life expectancy of 2-3 years afterwards. To do nothing means that he has 6 months to a year. He and his wife have prayed about it and he has opted to do no treatment. He is asking God to heal him, and if He doesn't, then my friend said he has to be willing to get on the bus and go home when God says it's time. My friend is full of faith and is believing God for healing.

Have you ever wondered if you would have enough faith when you needed it? It's one thing to say we have faith in religion-protected America, but when your back is really up against the wall will you trust God to be faithful? When you still have a lot to live for and do, are you able to say, "I will trust Him"?

My friend's name is Dave Terhune. He is the pastor of a new church called The Cross in Rochester. Please pray for Pastor Dave, his wife Susan, and the rest of the family. Please ask God to heal Dave for the Lord's honor and glory.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Proud Papa

I have to show off my grandson, Micah, who will be one in just a few days. He is one handsome dude!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Living and Loss

My cousin, Sandy Frampton, died on January 7. Sandy was only 49. She died after a return of cancer to her body. I was greatly encouraged at her funeral in Reynoldsville, PA, when the pastor of her home church related her conversion story, her baptism, and her unselfish service over the years both there as well as the church she attended near her work in Johnstown, PA. While her passing was untimely, at least from my perspective, her life was full of family and service for Christ.

For me, the loss was bitter sweet. I knew Sandy, but I'm afraid I didn't know her well enough. You see, over the years I've allowed my busy schedule to interfere with spending time with extended family. At the funeral I found myself being re-introduced to family members I hadn't seen in years - anywhere from 15 to 35 to be exact! For that, there was a profound sense of loss. My children have missed out on knowing much of their family due to neglect.

Let me encourage you to spend time with family. Go see your parents, your grandparents, your aunts, uncles, and cousins. Don't wait for a funeral to see them again. And if the miles are too great to see them in person, pick up the phone, write a letter, or even Skype. But don't let the years go by without connecting.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


When you are traveling and in need of lodging, those "no vacancy" signs in front of a hotel or motel are annoying. But when you think about it, a vacancy isn't necessarily a good thing. There may be a reason why that particular establishment isn't full. That reason may not be a good one!

Our nation is definitely lacking in authentic leadership - there indeed is a vacancy in this area. The recent events in Arizona bear this out. The tragedy of a gunman killing and wounding several people, including the injuries suffered by Congresswoman Giffords, is morally reprehensible. But to see people trying to politicize the incident is heartbreaking. Has our nation really descended this deep into the abyss of the absence of decency? Where is the compassion for those who have lost loved ones and those who are trying to cope and heal from this awful tragedy?

Paul's words to the church in Philippi are applicable here. In trying to help the early church work through conflict, he wrote, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit." (2:3).

We need leaders who will put others first. There is a vacancy in leadership in America. Where have all the leaders gone?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Who's in Your Circle?

I love to read autobiographies and biographies of leaders. It's a habit I started many years ago. I am currently reading George W. Bush's Decision Points. It's a great read! I consider Bush to have been a good leader. He led from the heart, not from public opinion polls. He wasn't always right, but I respected Bush's leadership. Enough said.

In his chapter on personnel, Bush writes, "The people you choose to surround you determine the quality of advice you receive and the way your goals are implemented." Anyone in leadership understands this to be true when it comes to hiring staff, selecting confidants, or developing a team.

In Acts 6 the apostles needed to select men to care for the widows in the early church. Some would have looked upon this as a minor issue. But even in something like food distribution, the apostles selected men who were known to be "full of the Spirit and wisdom" (6:3).

Surround yourself with leaders who are truly spiritual. We live in a time where we cannot compromise on this. Raise the bar and expectations.