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Thursday, June 23, 2005

To read or not to read - that's the question

I just read where someone once wrote that you'll be the same person five years from now as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read. The idea is that you won't grow as a person unless you bring new and positive influences into your life.

This is my ninth summer of living in Battle Creek, Michigan. My family and I love Battle Creek. Great place to live and raise your family.

But I've noticed a trend as I watch people who live in the same place for a long period of time and am wanting to guard myself from the same temptation.

The temptation of never or rarely making new friends, seeking out mentors, or building into the lives of others.

The temptation of rarely or never reading meaningful and enriching books and articles.

Now, now, don't get me wrong.

I'm not Saying that you should dump all your current friends in favor of some new ones (unless you are hanging around with a group of negative, bitter people).

But I do challenge you today to take your relationships and your mind to the next level.

Let me give you a quote:

"Reading is the gateway for growth. Books contain information, insight, and inspiration - all of which contribute significantly to your mental and spiritual development. Without the guidance of books, you're guessing at best. You're like a boat at sea without compass or map: You have the power to get somewhere but you have no direction.

Books contain the experiences of people who have failed miserably as well as those who have achieved greatly (both are useful. Good books also present ideas and concepts that stretch beyond our self-imposed limits.

This is especially true with the Bible. The greatest book ever written will teach, correct, inspire, and point you to the author. David wrote that the words of God are "more desirable than gold" and "sweeter than honey" (Psalms 19:10). The Bible is the basic guide for life. Read it daily. And make it a habit to read other enriching books as well."

Good stuff.

Read, read, read!

I never want to remain the same, I always want to be growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally and relationally!

Read, read, read!

And may your life be changed forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Samson was a strong guy. Manly. The epitome of testosterone. Open to the sensual. Impulsive. Given to quick, rash decisions. Long-haired.

Samson falls spiritually. He gives in to the temptations of Delilah and loses his power.

Yet Samson was a "dead duck" spiritually long before Delilah came along.

Samson had taken a Nazerite vow, which said that he was not to cut his hair, drink anything with alcohol or touch a dead body. The Word says that "...he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey, which he scooped out with his hands and ate as he went along," thus, touching a dead body.

Not long after that "he made a feast" which suggests that he drank alcohol.

We rarely fall spiritually all of a sudden. Usually it is after many compromises and downward steps, howbeit small, in a downward negative direction.

It has been said that "living the Christian life is not difficult to live, it is impossible." That is so true in the context of living the Christian faith without the help of the Holy Spirit and accountability with others.

As one author said, "accountability is the missing link" in most of our lives. One of the greatest reasons all of us get into trouble is that we don't answer to anyone for our lifestyles.

We need accountability when it comes to our relationships with our spouses, children, God, our inner life, our use of money and time, our moral and ethical behavior and all areas of personal struggle.

There is the "visible you" that we all show to others around us. We talk about sports and the weather, it's on a cliche level.

But then there is the "real you" that we guard as tightly as Fort Knox. It is our unexamined life. Our secret thought life. Our ambitions, motives, our relationship (or lack thereof) with God, and the emotional issues that we deal with such as pride, fear and anger.

If we are not careful, and accountable, the "real you" will shear a hole in your ship as you float across the water of life. You might not see the tear at first, but it will eventually flood your soul and swamp your boat.

So - be accountable to someone. Let someone know about the "real you" on a consistent basis. Accountability is more than meeting once a week in a restaurant and talking and "chewing the fat". In that setting hard questions are not asked. Vulnerability is not encouraged.

accountability is a weekly time of sharing, praying and being open with someone about your deepest needs and fears. It involves living "in a fish bowl" with someone you trust.

Seek after accountability today. Don't be afraid to be open with someone for the sake of drawing closer to God and guarding yourself against failure.

Don't be a Samson! Don't try to do it on your own!

You will never regret it.

(For more information about accountability, read the excellent chapter on accountability in the book, "The Man in the Mirror" by Patrick Morely)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Being a good leader means following

Sam Rayburn once wrote, "you cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too."

That is a wonderful statement that recognizes what Jesus teaches in the New Covenant concerning leadership and authority and responsibility.

One time Jesus was in Capernaum. He met a man, actually a centurion, who had a servant who was dying. Jesus came, and as he was near the house of the centurion, the centurion sent out some friends to say to Jesus, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, God, and he goes; and that one, come, and he comes. I say to my servant, do this, and he does it."

And then the Word says, "When Jesus heard this, he was amazed...."

It blew Jesus away that this man, a leader of men, knew that to be a leader, you had to know how to follow. To walk in submission and servanthood to those in authority over you.

In searching for leader in the kingdom, I try to always watch for those who are willing to be servants. For those who are willing to walk in step with leadership over them.

Are you that person today? Do you strive for authority and power for the sake of control? Or do you strive for leadership for the well being of the organization that you serve?

Interesting question. Dwell on that today.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Direction and goals

Kenichi Ohmae once wrote, "Rowing harder doesn't help if the boat is headed in the wrong direction."

Charlie Brown is shooting arrows at a fence, and then goes up to the fence and circles the arrow that he shot, satisfied that he hit his target.

That's the way that some people find their direction in life. Shoot a bunch of arrows and then go up and circle one of them.

It's so important to know where you are going. No one goes to the airport and says to the ticket agent, "give me a ticket" without having a destination in mind, a place to go to."

I encourage you this day to pause and mediate on the direction that your life is headed. Are you reaching goals that you have set in the near past? Is what you are doing today, helping you to obtain what you envisioned for tomorrow?

It's behooves all of us to not necessarily work harder, but to work smarter. To involved others, to seek the trusted counsel of many, and to ask God for his direction and help.

The Word says, "the steps of a righteous man (or woman) are directed by God." I find that as I walk in God's spirit and presence, I walk in His will.

Let God guide you today.

And may you find peace in doing so.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A blog to my hero

Fathers. We sons especially are greatly influenced by our fathers. And, I believe, we all eventually become our father's sons. Oh, we go through times of rebellion and disillusionment in our teenager years, our twenties are our greatest effort to "do it on our own," but by the time we reach our late forties, we grab for all the help we can.

Mitch Albom writes, "Before he can devote himself to God or a woman, a boy will devote himself to his father," and that is so true.


Let me use an acrostic today to describe my own father.

F - Faithful.

My dad is faithful. Faithful to God. Faithful to his wife. Faithful to his family. Faithful to his ministry. If dad is anything it is faithful. Nose to the grindstone stuff. Daily plowing away in the field of God's kingdom. Looking neither to the right nor to the left, always there, always persevering.

A - Accepting.

One of the things I really, really like about my father is the way he accepts those around him. Especially me. I rant and rave about certain subjects and dad just sits there and smiles, listening intently, never judging, always ready to throw in a word if asked. Perhaps that's why I choose to be so open with him about so many things. His love for his family continues to be evident in an unconditional way.

T - Truthful

I've never known my dad to not speak the truth. I've never known him to hedge on anything, be it the way he handles money, or the way he works with people. Truthful is a quality that is lacking in our world of compromise and subjective realities. To speak the truth, and to speak it in love is a rare quality.

H - Helpful

My father is always there to lend a helping hand. Many, many times in the past few years, he (and my mother) have rode up on white horses with the Calvary behind them ready to do battle with the enemies that my family were facing.

E - Expecting

Expecting, meaning, hoping, wanting the best, always looking for each of his family members to move forward, achieve God-given goals and to do the best they can. We are put on this earth for a purpose, to accomplish a dream, a vision. Dad is the ultimate example of that.

R - Righteous

One of my memories when I was a teenager in Brussels was waking up on a couple of occasions from a deep sleep to hear my father praying in the living room. And many times I heard him praying for me. My father is a praying man. I know that my family is covered with prayer on a daily basis. And prayer always comes from a man who walks with God. In righteousness.

"Let me tell you the two most important things I learned from my dad," says Michael [Tait, of the dc Talk music group].

"Number one, love people. That's what he taught, and that's what he did. He cried with people, he laughed with people. Everybody was his friend. He could care less about your race, your nationality, your socio-economic status, whatever. All he cared about was you, your soul.

"Number two, live for God and don't get caught up in the things of this world, because they're just fleeting. The world will get the best of you if you let it, so we need to truly live for God.

"My dad [a preacher] preached those two things his whole life. And those two things have shaped who I am today. I love people; I realize that life is short, God is real and that I need to live for Him."

Michael was visiting his parents in Washington, D.C., during the Christmas holidays in 1997 when his dad complained of stomach pains. Michael took him to the hospital, where doctors found the cancer. Michael was there, a few weeks later, when he breathed his last in February 1998.

"The man was my hero."

Dad, I want you to know that you are my hero!

You've taught me to love God and love people!

Thanks, dad, for all that you do. Thanks dad, for who you are. May you be blessed with many more years of love and leadership in our family.

With much love,


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Leading a secret thought life

It's an incredibly humbling thought: we are no better or worse spiritually than our thought life.

So many are doing the Dr. Jekyll and Hyde thing - living one life on the outside and another on the inside.

Each of us leads a secret thought life which is signficantly different from the person we project to others? No? You don't think so? Than you are being deceived.

Some deal with the obvious: thoughts of lust and sex.

Others deal with a dream world of fantasies in which they make up these wild plans that would make them really wealthy, famous and powerful.

Still others deal with thoughts of bitterness and resentment over something that didn't turn out as planned or thoughts of jealousy over the apparent lucky breaks of another.

God desires that we get control of our thought life.

Paul writes that we are to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Take captive. Get it under control.

Ben Patterson in the Message translation writes, "....Fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ."

How can you get control?

Make a decision today to allow Christ to put boundaries around your thought life.
Stay away from situations that lead to tempting thoughts.
Fill your mind with positive, pure and spiritual thoughts.
Pray something like this:

"Jesus, I believe you never ask me to do anything without providing the power to accomplish it. You've asked me to take every thought captive. Now, help me to draw a line that I will not cross. Amen."

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Talk the talk and walk the walk

One of the things I really liked about Jesus as He lived on this planet was the fact that He not only talked the talk - He walked the walk.

There was no separation between what He said and what He did. As a wise man once said, "more is caught than taught."

Pastor James in the New Covenant makes an interesting point when he says, " by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

When Jesus spoke events took place. Many were healed, touched and moved by God's spirit acting through Jesus words. When Jesus acted, others spoke of what He had done.

So the challenge is there. If I desire to truly live in my own life the words that I am speaking, my spoken words would become actions and miracles would happen.

How about you?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Developing an outreach church

I would like to share with you some thoughts today from a friend of mine by the name of Doug Murren. He starts out by giving just a great devotion from Mark 2, and then steps off into the fact that according to Barna and Associates latest website update, there are one million, yes you read that right, one million people added a year to the unchurched ranks of America.

Doug goes on to describe a church at is an outreach focused church. Any comments? What do you think?

From Doug Murren:

Egram - April 4


I trust all is well with every reader.

Mark 2 - starts with a story of a paralytic being dropped through the roof into a room Jesus was holding court in......Mark notes Jesus saw the faith of the two friends who had tore the roof up.....He healed and forgave the paralytic.

Every time I read this text I get stuck on the words “He saw their faith. It appears that faithing is seen by that lies undemonstrated isn't faith.

What do you believe God will work in your world? How can God see your faith to accomplish it? All true faith must be accompanied by an action that catches God's eye and shows our faith.

Take a moment and decide an action item that will demonstrate your faith in a way that God can see your "faithing" at work. I applied this thought this morning with a modest retirement investment I make each month. I want it to grow, and am asking God for increase. I felt prompted to add $50.00 to the amount normally invested....It had to come from my little book fund but I felt an action was needed to match my prayer and hope.

Point of interest: According to Barna and Associates latest website update there are one million people added a year to the unchurched ranks of America.

Outreach Focus:

I have for years presented a seminar titled "Developing An Outreach Focused Church." The concepts are not as new or innovative as they once were. However, I still see churches flounder to increase outreach effectiveness. I have determined to give an outline of behavior to be emulated by any church wishing to increase outreach.

1. Ministry is lay driven
2. Leadership is staff driven
3. Leaders facilitate rather than do
4. Sunday services are to a fault designed to the experience level of the newest attendee.
5. Training is OJT - classroom work is much less deployed.
6. They have exegete their city and know the state of things locally.
7. They have more problems than nurture exclusive churches
8. They are comfortable with mistakes and understand Grace at work.
9. Limited time spent on traditional church business.
10. Tend to have shorter lasting projects
11. Ask the Question. Give people a chance to receive Christ.
12. Vital stats are related to outreach.
13. Invest money in outreach to the point of 5% of income.
14. Give a constant flow of outreach tools to their members.
15. Celebrate the story of the forgiven.
16. Develop a pipeline from conversion to discipleship components that work quickly and with ease.

If I were to pinpoint the single greatest obstacle to church growth I find as a consultant I'd have to stop at the feet of victimization. Leaders perceive themselves as victims of boards or members. Members espouse being victimized by leaders. Husbands feeling victimized by wives and vice versa. Churches are victimized by denominations. And on and on......

The truth is we are all victims. There is a difference between being a victim and making it a life style. Successful people move on and leave the crimes behind. Victims want to define their whole life by their victimizations and victimization as the emotional force to accommodate their wished.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Be bold and speak forth!

I like to hang around Christians who are bold about their faith. It's not only good for those who don't have a relationship with Christ to hear about what God can do for them, but it's good for me. For boldness is contagious.

When I am around someone who is excited about Jesus - I get excited.

When I listen to someone who believes, I mean really believes that God is the best thing in the world - I get motivated.

Not everyone has the same spiritual charisma or personality to be bold like that. But here's the point of the day - you can be.

Whether you are a quiet person, a meticulous person, a happy person, or an aggressive person, God's Spirit can give you the boldness you need to speak about your pilgrimage with God.

The key? Walking in the Spirit. If we walk in the Spirit on a daily basis, we don't have to worry about what to say.

We will find ourselves ready to speak when the occasion arises. Jesus said, "When they take you before....Authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say, because when the time comes, the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say."

We waste a lot of time in anxious preparation. Just speak out! Walk over right now to the co-worker next to you that you've been waiting years to talk to about God and say, "Can I talk to you about something?" "Would you like to come to church with me on Sunday?"

Let's "carpe diem" (seize the day) and go forth in faith and boldness that the Spirit that God gave us will speak in us and speak convincingly.

What have you got to lose?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


One of the things I find interesting in we as human beings on this planet is that there is in innate sense within all of us to be discontent in whatever state we find ourselves in.

We aren't comfortable with the job we have, we desire a different or perhaps bigger home, we plan and strain over something different and more exciting to do for vacations.

We have it so ingrained in the psyche of our American culture to strive, to gain, to achieve, that many times we lose sight of the fact that there is a tremendous amount of value to pausing and even stopping from time to time and realize what we do have.

I think a lot of that comes from a fear of appearing lazy. Non-caring. Apathetic.

Yet most of us need to take heed to the wonderful words of the apostle Paul in the New Covenant of the Bible which states, ".......I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.....I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation."

Paul learned to be content, which again says to me that it is not something that comes naturally because of our human tendency to want more. He says further that it is a secret. What is the great secret? That we can do this through Jesus who gives us strength, or the ability to be content.

Let me ask you this today. To what are you drawn when you feel empty inside? How can you find true contentment?

The answer lies in your perspective, your priorities, and your source of power.

I encourage you today to pause, look at your life from a Jesus perspective, put Him at the top of your list and rely upon Him, and realize that with Him, you need nothing else and yet at the same time have everything that you need - especially contentment.

It might even make your day go better.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Being a healing presence in the midst of others

I am a Christian. That means that I believe that Jesus gave his life on the cross for my mistakes and failures, that I might have a restored relationship with God. Once I decide to start a relationship with God through Jesus, God's Holy Spirit comes and lives in me.

It's an incredible, almost surreal thought. That the Spirit of God comes and lives in me!

Yet, we in the kingdom can become extremely self-serving and selfish if we are not careful with what God has given us.

We speak of God's spirit as being the "power of God". God's power. And God is mighty.

In the world power is used to win, to enforce to dictate. The world speaks of power lunches, power ties, power forwards in basketball, power tennis, power, power, power!

Yet in the spiritual kingdom that we walk in as Christians, God's power is used to heal, reconcile and unite. It is the power of The Spirit. It's given not that we might be served but that we might be servants, not that we might take control but that we might relinquish control.

Some become "altar junkies" in that they look forward to experiencing God's spirit so they might leave with a "spiritual high", only to live as they lived the week before, and the week before that.

God gives me the power of His spirit that I might grow, and grow in my service to others!

It's in giving that I receive.

It's in dying that I live.

When Jesus walked on this planet as man, people wanted to be close to him and touch him because, "power came out of him" (Luke 6:19)

It is this power that Jesus wants to give us.

But here is the reason that he gives us His power: To be a healing presence in the midst of others. We can get so caught up in experiencing God's power in the big building where we have celebration services on Sunday morning that we forget that when we are filled with God's Spirit, we cannot help but be healers to the world around us.

May God's power be shown through you and I today in a way that brings peace, love and joy to those around us!

Monday, June 06, 2005

The following was written in response to my blot on governance in the church. How are we to govern in the church?

Andrew writes:

"Theocracy. Love it. But why do you limit the rule and reign of Christ's theocracy to the Church? Is he Ruler of the World? King of Kings? Has all power and authority been given to him? Sure. Then wouldn't any political system (or institution) that does not submit to his Law(s) be an apostate system of idolatry? (The religion of Democracy may be a fine example)

Just wondered your thoughts..."

Great questions!

Any responses out there?

Written below is the blog Andrew responded to.

"A deal was reached yesterday in the Senate to preserve venerable opposition rights while allowing a vote on some of President Bush's stalled judicial nominees.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is quoted as saying that politicians on both extremes would be "disappointed" with the deal, but insisted the senate and the country would win.

Thus, we find democracy in action. Two opposing sides reach a compromise that benefits both parties.

Is this the way, however, that we are to "govern" in the church?

Let me give you some thoughts from Dr. Richard Dobbins. He writes and I quote:

"Church government is very important. You need to know church government if you intend to be a worker in your church. Churches cannot function as God intends them to if they are not governed as He intends them to be governed.

If those chosen with the ministerial team are not familiar with Biblical forms of church government, they will tend to superimpose worldly organizational forms of government with which they are familiar onto their understanding of how the church should function.

So you're elected to the board. So you become leaders of the men's fellowship. And you think, well, as an American citizen, I know how the American government works. And all of us in the church are Americans, so our church should be a democracy. And the pastor is the president; the board is the senate; and the people are the house of representatives; and the purpose of the people and the board is to keep the pastor's power in check. We want check and balances all the way.

That's a world form of government that will bring division to your church.

Or you may be a businessman. And you say, well, there's no business in the world as great as God's business. So as a businessman, I insist that his church be run like a corporation. The members are the stockholders; and the board's the board of directors; and the pastor is the chief executive officer. And we've got to see that he runs this church for a profit. We want to take a look at the bottom line. Attempt to run your church like a corporation, and you will divide it.

The church is not like the American government; it is not a democracy. In a democracy, there is always the loyal opposition. There is never unity in a democracy. The nature of democracy it to have a powerful minority that is always challenging leadership. You cannot have unity in a democracy. And the church is not a business.

Or, you know, you may have been a union organizer. So you're elected to the board. And you see the pastor as your adversary. Because now, you see, we're in a labor management model. And the board is labor; the people are labor; and the preacher and the staff are management. And we want them to be liberal with the benefits they provide us, or we're going o go on strike and withhold our tithes.

Remember, friends, if you don't run the church God's way, it's going to be a divided church. It doesn't make any difference how bit it gets, it won't have the power it needs to impact your home, your children, your community, let alone this nation and the world.

The church is not a democracy.
The church is not a business.
The church is not labor verses management.

The church is a "theocracy" - The body of Christ, governed by His laws.

The church is a theocracy. It is not a democracy. The corporate management model will not work in the church. The labor/management model will not work in the church. The church is a theocracy.

You say, "I thought sooner or later you were going to say that; that's what the preacher always keeps telling me when he says, ""Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets not harm."

Well, a theocracy is not a people under a preacher. A theocracy is a church to be governed by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the head over all things to the church. The church is not an ecclesiastical dictatorship to be governed by the preacher. The church is no a democracy to be governed by the majority.

It is a theocracy where the pastor and leaders of the congregation may vote form time to time; but in a theocracy voting serves a very different purpose than it does in a democracy. In a democracy, you vote to determine government. IN a theocracy, you vote to determine unity. So that when the pastor and the board vote, the most important thing they are discovering is, do we have enough unity in the church to act on this matter without fractioning the body of Christ?"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Do two wrongs make a right?

Secrets. For 33 years Mark Felt and Bob Woodward kept a secret. That's amazing in the times and environment that we live in. Was Mark Felt right or wrong in what he did? People smarter and more informed than I are weighing in on this. Was he a "leaker" (a sleaze who share information for his own personal gain or revenge) or was he a "whistle blower" (a person of integrity who tries to right a wrong).

While you want to think that Mr. Felt had the best intentions of the country in mind, it is unsettling when you read the following quote from the New York Times:

"On Wednesday, word came that the family of Mr. Felt, the ailing, 91-year-old former No. 2 official of the F.B.I., had sought payment in vain for his story after failing to reach a collaborative agreement with Mr. Woodward - not only from Vanity Fair, but also from People magazine and HarperCollins Books. They are apparently still determined to claim their share of the story that helped make Mr. Woodward a famous millionaire.

"It's doing me good," Mr. Felt told reporters outside his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., when asked how he was reacting to the publicity. "I'll arrange to write a book or something, and collect all the money I can."

I don't fault the family for wanting to "cash in" the way Mr.Woodward and Mr. Bernstein have over the years (both are now millionaires). The family probably has kids in college, bills to pay. And on top of that, who really knows a man's motivation?

Yet did he go about giving out the information in the right way? Secretly? Behind his superior's backs? Do two wrongs make a right?

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

To forgive or not to forgive - that's the question.

As a pastor who teaches on a regular, weekly basis, I can pretty much tell you what topics will be "best sellers" to those who seek after audio and video tapes of our services.

One "best seller" is forgiveness.

There's so much anger, hurt and resentment in all of us, really, that the topic resonates with the body of Christ.

Being as close as we are on a weekly basis, a community of faith not only provides a sense of intimacy for you and I, but also reveals the tensions among us. Think of it as one, big, extended family.

And as in any family where a husband and a wife don't talk to each other, or a child refuses to eat, or brothers and sister bicker, there are tense silences, the body of Christ can be the last place where you want to be.

That's where forgiveness comes in.

Forgiveness means that I continually am willing to forgive the other person for not being God - for not fulfilling all my needs.

And when the shoe is on the other foot, I must ask forgiveness for not being able to fulfill other people's needs as well.

No matter how sincere we are, all of us are concerned about getting our needs met. Since w want so much and we get only part of what we want, we have to keep on forgiving people for not giving us all we want.

We must forgive. This is so important because in the day and age we live in people are constantly looking to blame their parents, the church and their friends for not giving them what they need. So many are so angry.

Yet forgiveness will set us free. We say, "I no longer hold your offense against you."

But there is more.

We also free ourselves from the burden of being the "offended one."

It releases us from the emotional load that we carry.

The great temptation is to cling in anger to those who have offended us and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. It becomes our identity. We wallow in it. We relish it. We become comfortable with it.

Be set free today!

Why not? The other option is misery.