Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Year is Coming

It's official.  We are going to be welcoming in another New Year in just a couple of days.  I'm sure that there are those of you who are going to make several New Year's resolutions.  And, if history tells us anything, most of those will be broken in just a few days! 

Perhaps we don't need resolutions.  Perhaps what we need are commitments - commitments that include accountability.  Just making resolutions and promises doesn't cut it.  We all need people to hold our feet to the fire and who will push us to be better than we are today. 

Let me encourage you to make one solid, meaningful commitment for this New Year.  If you like, tell me about it.  If not, that's fine.  But make sure you enlist someone who has the ability to hold you accountable to that commitment. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Questions that Sort Through Requests

I don't know about you, but sometimes I allow myself to take on too many things at once.  I am thankful that the Lord gives me the strength to approach each challenge, but at times I start to feel my age.  I'm trying to improve at saying "no," and I have actually turned down some things that would have burdened my already crowded schedule.  A friend who is a national figure and in constant demand once told me, "David, my life is not my own any more."  At first I was impressed with how important he was, and to be honest, I craved that lifestyle and the fame that came with it.  But my pursuit of being noticed did me far more damage than good, and it took its toll on my relationships. 

Over the years I've figured out that there are some questions I need to ask myself in narrowing the field of my involvements in order to eliminate the overloads.  Here are some things I've asked myself.  Perhaps they will help you.  If you have any to add, please do so!  We can learn from each other!

  1. Does the request fit within my life mission? In other words, will it help me accomplish my calling or will it distract me from where my vision should be focused?
  2. Will it take time away from my loved ones that will do damage to our relationships?
  3. Why am I saying "Yes?"  Is it to impress someone?  Does it fill some sort of sense of need of approval?  Or is it because it is the right thing to do?
  4. Is the investment of my time in this going to broaden the Kingdom of God, my life in general, or some other meaningful purpose? 
  5. Will others benefit from my involvement?
  6. Do I have the gifts and abilities to do the task that I'm being asked to do?
  7. Do I really have the time?  If I take this on, what might have to be put on hold or eliminated?
  8. Am I willing to make the sacrifices necessary to do this well?
I don't always succeed in saying no, but I'm getting better.  These questions help me a lot.  Let me know what works for you!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Proud Dad - Part 2

We celebrated my daughter's volleyball season last night with a banquet and awards.  I was thrilled to see my daughter walk up and receive her varsity letter.  But I was even more proud when the coach spent several minutes talking about my daughter's contribution to the team - her hard work, her all-out play on the floor, and her example to others about how hard work really does pay off!  Yep, the glow on that side of the auditeria was coming from my table! 

What I am most proud of is not what my daughter did (though she was a key cog in a team that was a semi-state finalist in Indiana Class 2A), but rather, who she is becoming.  She is becoming quite a young lady who is developing her leadership.  She is a member of the National Honor Society and is getting involved in community service.  She is a team leader.  She is an encourager.  Younger students look up to her because she brings positive energy to all.

As we were getting ready to leave the banquet, one of the coaches from the junior high girls team spoke with me about my daughter.  She interns for this coach who is a teacher at the high school.  The teacher told me that she is honored to have my daughter intern and that she is a blessing to her.  I thanked the teacher and told her how much she meant to my daughter.  The teacher's response:  "She's such a great young lady." 

Lord, all three of my children are awesome.  Thank you for how you have wired them.  I thank you for the contributions they are making to society and to your Kingdom.  Please continue to lead and guide their lives.  Give them dreams that exceed their circumstances.  Give them courage to passionately pursue the dreams you give them.  And please, give them a joy that comes from knowing and loving you!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Defining Ourselves

It's been two years since I began wrestling with our church's failure to effectively develop people into fully devoted followers of Christ.  It isn't that we haven't tried.  We've implemented several different components into our bag of tricks to help people discover their place the Church and the world.  While we have had a few people excited embrace their relationship with Christ, more than a few are simply content to receive Jesus and with that have their sins washed away.  They haven't grown much beyond that point.  At least not in ways that are evident.

I started a new series in the book of Jonah last Sunday.  In the midst of my preparation, I began thinking about Jonah's concern for his nation via patriotism and nationalism as well as his refusal to follow God's command to reach others who were not like himself.  All of a sudden, it hit me.  I don't know why it hit me then, but it did. As I looked at some practical applications, I thought to myself, "The problem is that we are working off of the wrong definitions.  We are content to call ourselves Christians but we aren't disciples.  Christian is a title; disciple is a lifestyle."  I don't know about your church, but my church is filled with Christians, but we have very few disciples.  I don't mean that as an insult.  I'm not throwing stones.  If there is anyone to blame, it's me.  I have not led us well in the disciple-making process.  We've created more decisions than disciples, more congregants than converts.

I've started reading Francis Chan's book, Multiply.  I'm seeking to better understand how I can better develop Christ followers.  I'm working through the idea that we aren't where we ought to be, but by the grace of God, we will get to where we ought to be. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Proud Dad

I am proud of all of my children!  My oldest daughter and her family live in southern California.  They are doing well and are making a difference in the lives of the people they touch.  My daughter and her husband are doing a great job raising their son, my grandson, and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do for God some day.

My son lives in our area, has a good job and a wonderful girlfriend.  I have an excellent relationship with him.  He is a welder by trade.  In addition, he has a phenomenal green thumb.  I go to him for all advice on gardening and landscaping.  I enjoy spending time with him whenever we get the chance.  And son, if you are reading this, we need to get to the shooting range again soon!

But today I want to brag just a bit about my youngest daughter.  This has been a great Fall for her.  She is carrying a near 12.0 average (similar to most school district's 4.0).  She was elected by her classmates to be the Junior Class Homecoming representative this year.  I'm biased, but she was the most beautiful young lady on the court!  To top it off, last night her varsity volleyball team won the class 2-A sectional championship!  She is the starting defensive specialist for the team.  Tuesday they play in regional competition, and if they win, they are off to semi-state on Saturday.

I've been blessed to have three wonderful children!  Thank you, Lord!

An addition as of 10/30/13 - My daughter's team won their region last night!  They are off to semi-state!  Great job girls!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


I'm starting a sermon series on Sunday in the book of Jonah.  I know that there are those who dispute the authenticity of the book or even the veracity of the story.  I don't argue about it.  If I can believe that God spoke this world into existence (which Genesis says He did) then I can believe that He provided a large fish to provide an "Atlantis" for Jonah!  I'm just saying...

As I reflect on Jonah, I am a bit amazed at how he spiritualized his hatred for others.  Before we come down too hard on the man, let's understand his position.  As a good Jew, he put his nation ahead of a pagan land like Assyria, which, by the way, had already begun oppressing Israel.  It would only be 2-3 decades before Assyria would destroy Israel.  So, Jonah's strong sense of nationalism is easy for us to understand. 

Jonah would have also embraced a bias that the message of salvation was only for the Jews.  He would not naturally have considered that God's love extended to the pagans from another land.  And he certainly couldn't see himself traveling from the Mediterranean Sea near Egypt to Nineveh, located in what is today southwestern Iran.  That's a long way to go.

If the book of Jonah teaches us anything, it's that we need to value what God values, or rather, who God values.  He doesn't value just those who look and dress like ourselves.  He values people who are very different from us, who come from different backgrounds and cultures, who believe differently than we do, and who are from different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

Here is a question for all of us:  Who do we value? 

A second question:  Does it show?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing It

One of the challenges we all face is to "bring it" each and every day.  What do I mean by that?  Let me state it from my life.  To bring it every day means that I have to be at my best at all times.  I need to attempt to do my best when I counsel a person, when I am coaching someone, or when I am teaching and preaching.  I especially feel this when I am speaking on Sunday mornings at my church.  While I can accept the fact that every sermon I write isn't going to be a best seller, I need to bring every ounce of energy I have to the platform.  But before that I need to prepare well.  I can't lead expecting others to follow if I convey anything that would cause them to doubt the wisdom in following me. 

I have a sign posted above the door in my office that says, "Preach Like a Champion Today!"  I got the idea to put it up years ago from the University of Notre Dame football program.  As the team goes out the tunnel to play home games, there is a sign that every player touches.  It says "Play Like a Champion."  While I don't usually touch the sign every Sunday, it is there every day to remind me to give my best in all I do.  Some days are better than others, to be honest.  But I love the reminder.  And it's interesting that I have a couple of guys in the church who know about my sign.  One of them regularly says, "You preached like a champion today."  That's a big boost after a message!

I want to challenge each of you who read this post to "bring it" today!  Give God your very best, whether it is at work, at home, at school, or in serving others.  He gives you the ability to be your best - honor Him with it!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Choosing Jesus Daily

"Ours is the first generation in American history that has been born into a world where Christian truth is no longer the reference point for defining the story of humanity."  I don't know who wrote this, but I ran across it in my reading this week.  As I think about it, I unfortunately have to agree.  Privatized faith, pluralized beliefs, marginalized religion and relativized values have contributed to the spiritual restlessness that exists today.  Ours is a morally gray world where absolute truth has been replaced by "if it makes me happy, it works for me." 

The compartmentalization of our lives has brought about spiritual drift.  As a result, we have a decision deficit.  This undermines the very core of our relationship with Christ and fuels the inconsistency we struggle with.  The way that we (Christians) can combat this is to realize that our decision to follow Christ must not be taken lightly. As Jesus said, we must "remain" in Him.  That word means "maintain unbroken relationship with."  This implies a choice that is followed by ongoing choices.  Like the recovering alcoholic who has to decide day by day (even hour by hour) that he will choose not to drink, Christ-followers must decide day by day who it is that we are going to follow/serve.  We have to choose Jesus every day!  That's what a living sacrifice (Roman 12:1-2) is all about. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What Are You Thinking?

Sometimes you look at the actions of another person, shake your head, and ask yourself, "What were they thinking?"  You might utter those words under your breath or even be so bold as to flat out ask the person.  Typically it's not a positive question.  It is usually thought or uttered with total disbelief.

Let's take it a different direction.  What are you thinking?  Perhaps I should ask, "What are you focused on?"  What grabs your heart today?  What is it that you value most?  Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).  The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."  In Proverbs 27:19 we read, "As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man." 

These and other verses tell us the importance of right thinking.  What we think about impacts our hearts.  The fruit of our lives flows out of our hearts.  I think it's safe to say that godly thinking will ultimately produce godly living. 

You might be thinking right now, "That's not very deep."  But review your attitudes, thoughts, and practices over the past three days.  What were you thinking?  Now ask, "What am I thinking?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Tyranny of the Urgent

I am in a season of life that seems to have no slow down in it.  My summer was extremely busy, filled with a lot of good things.  We threw in a surgery for my wife, a month-long visit by my oldest daughter and my grandson (and my son-in-law was here for a week), our awesome Vacation Bible School at church, several trips to the hospitals and rehab centers to visit ailing congregational members (all trips were long ones - our nearest suburb where everyone goes is Fort Wayne), and, oh yeah, a vacation!  Then school started and my youngest daughter is in volleyball and we are out most evenings at games.  We even have an all day tournament tomorrow that is 2 hours away from home. 

I say that knowing that your life is probably as busy as mine, if not busier.  So here's the question:  What things are important and what things are urgent?  I know I allow a lot of urgent things dominate my time rather than keeping the important things at the forefront.  Then I complain that I don't have time for the really important things.  I have to work very hard at making this distinction and then prioritizing my schedule.  If I don't, the urgent becomes a tyrant.

A friend of mine once said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."  Any thoughts?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Confessions of a Baseball Junkie

I have to admit that I am a bit of a baseball junkie.  I have followed baseball since childhood when I listened to my first game on a transistor radio (for those who don't know what one is, google it!).  Don Drysdale was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Despite growing up less than two hours from Pittsburgh, I became a rabid Dodger fan until my wife, children, and I moved to San Diego in 1988.  I "converted" to being a Padres fan and enjoyed watching the great Tony Gwynn master the art of hitting into the 5.5 hole.

If I haven't lost you, let me get to my point.  San Diego is a beautiful city for baseball.  There are many distractions that keep people from going to games - the mountains, surf, zoo, wild animal park, museums, water parks, etc. - all compete for people's attention.  I loved going to games at the old ballpark - Jack Murphy Stadium (I know it's called Qualcomm not but the old name just sounds better).  The new stadium, Petco Park, is absolutely gorgeous - a great place to watch a game.  I've enjoyed taking my youngest daughter, Bekah, there on two occasions.  I get a thrill just walking into the stadium.  I love the smell of the ballpark (not just the brauts!).  The rich green grass, pristine white chalk lines and brown base paths simply take my breath away!  And when the Padres take the field, the fans go crazy letting the team know they are behind them all the way!  When we are there, we expect the team to win. 

Shouldn't that be the same feeling when we go to church?  Shouldn't worship be a time when believers gather together to experience the awe of being in the presence of Almighty God?  Shouldn't it be a heart-stopping, life-changing, celebration of the Lord of the universe?  Why do we let so many other things distract us from going, and even when we are there, distract us from what our focus is to be?  We worry to much about little things.  Insignificant things.  Petty things.  We allow the temporal to keep us from the Eternal.  Does God sense our "support?"  Do other believers?

Some people think that it's the pastor's job to make things exciting.  I agree that all church leaders have a responsibility to eliminate distractions and center the focus on God.  At the same time, every believer walking in to the "stadium" has a responsibility to support the "home team."  You have to come expecting to win. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Labor Day

This is Labor Day weekend.  Created to honor the working men and women of our nation and giving many an extra day off from their toil, it's become a long weekend; a getaway opportunity; a day to get things done around the house.  Whatever you are doing with your weekend, I hope it will be enjoyable.

I can't think about Labor Day without thinking of my late father.  He worked hard all of his life.  He grew up poor, picking up coal along the railroad tracks that ran past his childhood home in Stoneboro, PA.  He left home at a young age and eventually worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps during the depression.  WWII called and he served in the South Pacific.  When he returned from the war, Dad eventually got a job working at Packard Electric in Warren, Ohio.  It was a wiring harness supplier for General Motors, and after 47 years of laboring in the factory, Dad retired.  He enjoyed his retirement years until his death two years ago at the age of 89.

I think of Dad on Labor Day because of how hard he worked to provide for my mother and me.  I didn't appreciate it when I was growing up, but as the years went by I realized how much Dad sacrificed to make my life better than what he had when he was young.  He was a hard-working man who gave his all in many different ways.  I wish I could still spend time with him.  I miss him.

What am I going to do on this Labor Day weekend?  Well, for starters, I'm going to go to my son's house today (Saturday) and help him change out the power steering unit on his truck. I don't have a clue how long that will take, but if there is time left in the day I'll probably try to clean out our garage.  Tomorrow will be worship in the morning, and Jon and his girlfriend may come over tomorrow or Monday for a cookout - a family tradition.  I mostly want to spend the weekend with family.  With all the work all of us do, it's nice to shut down and be with those we love most. 

What are you doing this weekend?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Failure is Not Final

It was January 3, 1993.  The Buffalo Bills were playing the Houston Oilers in the NFL playoffs.  The Oilers, led by quarterback Warren Moon, had built a 35-3 lead with two minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.  The Bills were without starting quarterback Jim Kelly who had been injured the week before against these same Oilers.  To compound matters, running back Thurman Thomas was injured during the game.  Things looked bleak for the Bills and their backup quarterback, Frank Reich. 

But then something magical happened.  In the next 17 minutes, the Buffalo Bills scored 35 points while the Oilers could only manage a single field goal, forcing the game into sudden death overtime.  Steve Christie's 32 yard field goal in overtime gave the Bills the win, allowing them to move on in the playoffs and eventually play in their third of four straight Super Bowls.  What an amazing comeback!

In preparation for my message this week, I am reading the story of the Israelites' battle against Ai (Joshua 8).  In the previous chapter, we learn how the Israelites were defeated by the people of Ai because of the sin of Achan (read Joshua 7).  Things seemed bleak for the Israelites.  Fresh off their victory over the people of Jericho (Joshua 6), their hopes and dreams were shattered.  Where was God?  Had He led them to the Promised Land to die?

But there was indeed a comeback.  Once the people had dealt with the sin, they received another promise from God - "I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land" (Joshua 8:1).  From there the story unfolds of a great victory for God's people.

My friends, failure is not final.  You may be facing the darkest moments of your life right now.  You may face them in the days to come.  You may find yourself in the place you are due to bad decisions or sinful disobedience.  But God is in the restoration business.  While you may have to deal with some of the consequences of your decisions, there is healing and hope.  You can make a comeback if you humble yourself before God, confess your sins and / or poor choices, and in turn, receive His amazing grace and forgiveness.  From there you can move forward in victory. 

Sunday's outline?  To make a comeback, you have to Contemplate God's Promises, Construct a God-sized Strategy, Commit Yourself to Obedience, and Celebrate Each New Victory. 

Monday, August 26, 2013


Due to the fact that we are in between youth pastors at the moment, I have been taking my turn with the teens on Sunday nights leading the youth lesson.  Last night we were talking about what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  We started with this definition of follower:  "A follower is a person who believes in something or someone so much that it is reflected in the way they live their life."

The 25 minute bible study that ensued was quite enlightening.  The students shared openly of some of the experiences they have faced as Christ-followers.  The challenges in their schools and social orbs are huge!  While I had my share of struggles as a Christian in my teen years, today's student really has to be committed to the right path, realize that it is a spiritual battle, and remain focused on God's plan for his or her life. 

I have to say that I was impressed with their thoughtful comments and the transparency they showed as they communicated their struggles. My take-away from the evening is that I need to be more prayerful, both as a pastor as well as a parent, for my own daughter and the youth of our church and community.  It's sobering to hear what they face.  And they don't need cliches; they need to know they have someone they can fall back on to help them walk through the challenges of following Jesus.  I resolve to do a better job in this area.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Profiles in Courage

I was only five years old when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember that day very well.  I was sitting in our living room, watching a children's program when the news bulletin came through.  My mother was upstairs and when she came down the steps, she asked me what I was watching.  When I told her that the president had been shot, she sat on the couch and started to cry. 

I recently took note of the fact that as a student of leadership, I had never read Kennedy's Profiles in Courage.  Don't ask me why.  I just hadn't.  I recently received my copy via 

I found this statement to be an indictment of our lack of leadership in America:  "The way to get along," I was told when I entered Congress, "is to go along" (2006 edition, page 4).  JFK went on in the first chapter to talk about the need in compromise and live to fight another day.  He also downplayed standing on your principles if your principles got in the way of your goals.  Kennedy seems to be saying in this chapter that to succeed you may have to let go of your principles and resist the urge to do what is right if compromise is possible.

I think too many leaders have subscribed to that and that's why our nation is facing such a lack of moral character.  Statesmanship seems to be more valued than character.  Our politicians depend more on public opinion polls than moral principle.  Re-election is sought more than doing what is right. 

It takes courage to do and say the right thing even if it is not popular or politically correct.  May God give us leaders who have a strong moral compass and who understand the saying, "Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it." 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Doing Dumb Things

I know I'm not the only one to do something dumb, but when it happens, you have to wonder "How did I do that?"  A couple of weeks ago I jammed my big toe on the deck at our home (I blame my tri-focal lenses for that!).  I could tell that I might lose my toenail, but all in all, the pain was decreasing daily and I thought I was on the mend.  Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon, while moving some tables at the church, I hit the toenail with a table leg, ripping it about 90% of the way off.  Talk about pain!  I made it through the rest of the day and went to my doctor on Monday morning.  He removed the nail, told me to make sure it didn't get infected (I'm a diabetic - gotta watch these things) and said that the nail would grow back in 6-12 months. 

Why am I telling you this?  First, it's easy to blame the wrong thing for our problems.  I said it was my tri-focal lenses that were the cause of the first injury.  Actually, it was the fact that I was in too big of a hurry and I didn't scale the steps correctly.  Second, I should have taken better precautions.  Moving tables with flip flops on is always iffy, but to not have any protection on the toe exposed it to danger.  Finally, it takes less time to do something damaging than it does to heal the situation.

Can you see the spiritual implications?  We often blame others or situations for our own mistakes.  We make choices that put us in harms way, or in a position of compromise.  We could take better precautions by doing the right things but often choose a quicker way that does not require discipline.  That can be costly.  And when we fall from the place where God wants us to be (that's called sin), the damage that takes place can often take a long time to heal. 

Here's the good news:  God is in the life-healing business.  He rebuilds us when we have experienced damage.  We must come to Him just the way we are and experience His grace and forgiveness. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Back At It

I know it's been months since I put anything on this site.  Perhaps by now no one is even looking at it.  But I'm going to get back to throwing out ideas and thoughts and hope that someone responds. 

Each day I wrestle with the idea of leading like Jesus.  I've been reading a great book on this topic (Leading Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard).  The struggle comes with the whole idea that leadership is often divorced from spirituality.  It shouldn't be.  But recently, during a message on spiritual leadership, I made the statement that everyone is a leader if we accept the definition of leadership as being influence.  Someone in the congregation vehemently shook his head "no" when I said that everyone is a leader.  Even as I explained my thoughts more completely, I saw that he was totally checked out from that point on. 

That's too bad.  I really believe I'm correct in my assessment of what leadership is, but far too often individuals do not see leadership for what it really is.  And the truth is, if you are breathing, someone is watching, and if they are watching, you are influencing, and that makes you a leader! 

How is your influence going?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Well, it's finally happened!  My youngest child has a learner's permit and is driving.  Bekah is doing very well, but my nerves are simply not what they used to be!  It's really not her fault, but I've decided that at age 55, I'm just not qualified to sit in the passenger seat while someone else is learning to operate a motor vehicle.  The good news is that she will get quite a few hours in before driver's training starts next month.  I'm hoping by the end of her driver's training that they will be able to sign off on the driving test.  But at least I get a break until August 11 - Bekah's 180 day waiting period will be over and she'll be eligible for her license.  The break is that I won't have to pay for insurance for her until then!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What Kind of Day Will You Make?

In his book, Coach Wooden, Pat Williams lays out the great coach John Wooden's 7 Life Principles.  One of those life principles that Coach Wooden lived by was "make each day your masterpiece."  Former basketball great Swen Nater played for Coach at UCLA.  He said, "John Wooden's philosophy was that you have never lived a perfect day until you have helped someone who can never repay you in any way.  John Wooden's goal was to live a perfect day - not once, but every single day." (page 94)

While there are a number of thing that we can do to become more efficient in our lives, the most important thing we can do is to invest ourselves in others.  Who is it that you could help today - someone who could never repay you for your act of kindness?  What can you do to make a difference, even a small one, in someone's day?  How many opportunities do we miss simply because we are so focused on what we can get out of life? 

Today our church will have a distribution, giving away non-food items to people from the community.  Some of those people will sit in our parking lot for up to 4 hours before they go through the line to get roughly $50-$60 worth of paper products, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items, etc.  Most of them are so grateful for the chance to stretch their limited funds with this free service provided through the generosity of our congregation.  Those who are working and those who have given will be making a masterpiece of their day today.  What about you?

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Throughout history we have seen faith play a significant role in secular life.  In ancient times, kings were often appointed because they were men of faith.  This was practiced by many people groups but was especially true in Jewish culture.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of how when the people obeyed God, the nation was blessed.  When they turned from Him, there was trouble in paradise.  The place faith played in culture was the leading indicator of the nation’s success or failure. 

During the 1700’s, Europe and Great Britain were suffering from moral and economic decay.  The Great Awakening, led by men like John and Charles Wesley, brought a revival to the whole of society.  That awakening spilled over into the American colonies where powerful preachers like George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards continued to fan into the flame a spirituality that impacted culture and brought about positive change.  One such change was the human rights movement which, in the early 1800’s, fueled the eventual freedom of slaves, brought an end to child slavery, and gave women a rightful place in society.  The revivalist movement of the early 1900’s continued these emphases as well as providing people with faith in the midst of two world wars and the Great Depression.

But a major shift has taken place.  Secularism has reared its head and demanded that faith take a back seat to humanism – a system of thought that is centered on man’s interests.  The defining moment for our country was in 1948 when the Supreme Court used the “Separation of Church and State” argument to outlaw a time for school prayer.  In 1962, the Supreme Court again ruled that prayer in school was unconstitutional.  Then in 1963, the Warren Court stopped schools from allowing Bible reading in classes.  The Supreme Court declared in 1980 that posting the Ten Commandments in a school classroom violated the constitution of The United States. 

What has essentially happened is that our culture has determined that the Church has no right to political or social influence.  According to those in authority, the only place for Christian faith is within the confines of a religious institution.  Christians who attempt to use their convictions to guide their moral and social commitments are assailed as being out-of-touch with the mainstream and are ridiculed for taking stands that are synchronous with historic Judeo-Christian principles.

This should not really surprise us.  The earliest Christians found themselves in the same position.  Palestine was ruled by Rome.  Thanks to Alexander the Great’s philosophy of world rule through cultural saturation, Christ-followers found themselves out-of-step with a society that was anything but spiritual.  One example of this is found in the life of the apostle Peter.  As Roman persecution of the Christians increased, Peter found himself in the crosshairs of Nero’s aim to exterminate people of faith.  In his reflections on this matter, the Apostle Peter wrote how believers live as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Peter 2:11). 

It would appear that from the beginning of time, people of faith have found themselves (for the most part) to be a part of a counterculture – one that had the potential to bring about wholeness, but that stood in opposition to the mainstream of their society.  We find ourselves in that same place today.  In their book, Resident Aliens:  Life in the Christian Colony, authors Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon state that the church should in all times assert “that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.” 

If this is indeed the position that we are to take (I believe it is), how then do we take back territory we have surrendered to the forces of evil?  How do we take the battle to the Enemy?  What are the possibilities that our normal daily lives can have supernatural eternal influence?  
The foundation for making a difference in our culture lays in our ability to build relationships that have a redemptive quality - to make friendships that literally change our world.  Take a look at Colossians 4:2-6 and see what the apostle Paul challenged the people of his time to do. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Struggling with Social Media

Ok, my younger pastor friends are all over me about my refusal to dive completely into social media.  They give me grief for not having a Facebook page or a Twitter account.  Oh, they also hassle me for still carrying a flip phone that doesn't have internet on it.  They tell me that to reach 20-somethings I have to become more involved in these other things.

Here's my problem.  I simply don't want to add another thing to my life and schedule.  It's really that simple.  And I'm just OCD enough that if I do take on one of these forms of social media that I'm going to feel obligated to follow along and that takes time!  I'm simply not sure I want to dedicate significant time to social media matters.  But on the other hand, I can see how you can use these tools for ministry.

So I'm going to give it some thought.  Not sure what I'm going to do...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Leadership is Influence

It is time for my local church to vote on whether or not to retain my services as pastor.  I am completing the fourth year of a four-year call, and my tenth year in full-time service to this congregation.  I have actually been associated with this church for over 10 1/2 years.  The church has grown from an average in the low 50's when I arrived to an average attendance last month of 115.  That's not too bad for a church out in the middle of rural Indiana!  God has been good and the church is healthier than it has been in many years.

Votes for pastors can be nerve-wracking.  I do not worry about this upcoming vote.  The worse thing that can happen is for people to say it is time for a change and ask me to leave.  My church board has unanimously recommended me for an extension.  That's cool, and I am appreciative!

But my main thought today is that of leadership.  A position is the weakest and least effective level of leadership.  True leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less.  I love the old leadership proverb:  "He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him only taketh a walk."

With that in mind, I'm asking myself the following questions.  You might find them helpful.

Top Five Project:
1.  Who are the five people I most want to influence this next year?
2.  What am I currently doing to influence them?
3.  What will I have to do to increase my influence with them?
4.  How will I measure the successfulness of my influence?

Lead on!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't Kill a Dream

Have you ever had someone who shared an audacious dream - a dream so big and bold that unless there was some kind of divine intervention or supernatural assistance it would be absolutely impossible?  Have you ever looked at that person and thought to yourself, "Well, the dream is great but you, my friend, don't have what it takes to pull it off?"  I'm sure you have either encountered such a dreamer or you've been that dreamer.  And if you've been that dreamer, you know how hurtful it is to have people throw cold water on your dream.

I recently attended a meeting where that very thing happened.  The circumstances shall remain private, but I will say that I was angry when I saw a group of leaders pile on a guy for having a dream that didn't fit into their own model.  They were critical of the man's attitude, which, to be honest, needs some work.  But instead of it being an uplifting time, it frustrated the dreamer.  He left that meeting discouraged and wounded.  All of my efforts to redirect the conversation failed.  And to be honest, I was angry!  I called the man the next day and apologized for my failure to keep the conversation positive and I apologized for the attitudes of the others in the room.

I've been one of those guys who has had his dreams crushed.  Sometimes it has happened because of mistakes I've made or just simply having a wild idea that didn't work.  But I've also been the victim of the criticism of others who, for whatever their reasons, didn't support me or my dream.  I've been wounded deeply in the past. 

What gets us through those times?  I think I can reduce it to two things.  The first is simply the fact that we need to tenaciously hang on to the dream that God has given us.  If we believe that our dream is a "God thing" then we must hang on for dear life.  And the second thing helps us with that.  We need others in our lives who are dream encouragers, not dream crushers.  A dream encourager doesn't just rubber stamp our stuff.  They push back.  They help us make adjustments.  They ask the hard questions, but they do it without crushing our spirits. 

To all of my dreamer friends out there - keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Certified Coach

In December I became a certified coach with the Wesleyan Coaching Network.  I'm thrilled to be able to offer my services in the area of life coaching for pastors and other individuals who desire to grow in their lives.  I will specialize in pastoral leadership but am open to whatever God directs. 

The training to be come a coach was incredible.  The initial two-day training session, reading, mentoring, and practicum hours combined to stretch me in many ways.  I've learned better how to help people develop their own plan rather than me trying to be their "Mr. Fix-It."  I'm less of a consultant and more of a facilitator.  I've found this approach to be most satisfying and have used the approach in my local ministry.  The results are awesome! 

I am available to do six and twelve month contracts.  Rates vary depending on the situation.  Coaching calls are monthly unless otherwise needed.  There is unlimited email consultation between calls.  For pastors / churches, I provide two on site visits at cost.  Contact me if you want to explore what it means to be coached. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Serious Business

On Sunday I spoke about how following Jesus is serious business.  The reality of the fact that our faith is important to Jesus should mean our faith is important to us.  What does that mean?

Discipleship is not a part-time, once-in-a-while investment.  It requires the total investment of myself in following Jesus.  It means that while it is important that Jesus belongs to me, it is equally, if not more important that I belong to Him.  He is not at my beck and call.  I am to follow His lead and allow Him to be Lord of my life.  It is His tower - it is His war - that I am engaged in (see Luke 14:25-33).  The old hymn says it well:

"All to Jesus I surrender.  All to Him I freely give.
I will ever love and trust Him.  In His presence daily live.
I surrender all.  I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender.  I surrender all."

What is your greatest challenge in following Jesus?