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?