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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Finishing strong

Well, we are almost there.

You know, I have a lot of weaknesses in life. But one of my strengths is - that I am a finisher.

When I used to play basketball, I loved the get the ball at the end of the game with the score close.

When I have a project at home, I work until it gets done.

When I drive somewhere on vacation, I want to get there with no delay.

We are almost there as a church. Our new church home awaits!

Mark Batterson writes:

"I discovered the importance of pacing when running my first triathlon. I did all my training for the swim leg of the race in a pool. And my times were fantastic. But the Atlantic Ocean is no pool. I was confident going into the race. And so on the opening swim leg, I sprinted from the beach to the first buoy. I wanted to be at the front of the pack so I didn't have to embarrass everybody by swimming past them. That's just the kind of guy I am.

Well, let's just say that the ocean ate my lunch! Or more accurately, I drank the ocean. It's amazing what a couple gallons of salt water will do to your stomach. Lora said I looked like a dazed boxer when I finally hit the beach. She was being kind. I started so fast that I couldn't catch my breath the rest of the swim. I'm embarrassed to say that I ended up doing the backstroke instead of freestyle for much of the swim leg. And I learned an important lesson: how you start is not nearly as important as how you finish. And pacing is the key."

So true. Let's all finish together - and finish strong.

Monday, August 30, 2010


I don't know if the word "stress" fully covers my emotions right now.

All I can do is to hang on and keep the faith.

As the old hymn of the church says, "it will be worth it all," and I know that. I know it is only a season of challenges (not that there will not be challenges in the future), and things will calm down.

I know God is in control.

But I just want to keep it real.

I feel the stress.

I feel the anxiousness of pulling all of this together.

Please be praying for me.

And this I know - God will see us through.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

24 hours to live

It can be kind of a morbid question: What would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours to live?

Yet at the same time, it's perhaps not a bad exercise in "remembering what's important" in life.

What would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours to live?

For 11 years, Mary Leonard of Louisville, Kentucky, has dealt with polymyositis, a rare inflammatory tissue disease that invades the muscles. There is no known cause or cure.

Mary's case turned deadly when the disease invaded her heart. In fact, in March of 2010, Mary was told by doctors that she had 24-48 hours to live. But after 20 days in a hospice center, another 51 days in rehab, and a number of days at home, Mary is still alive. She's now reflecting on the changes that take place when you learn your time is short.

"I call myself an average Christian," Mary says. "I don't know exactly why God has done this for me, but I do know that life looks different now."

Mary offers five life lessons she learned through the ordeal:

Know that prayer is powerful.
Mend fences now.
Release the reins of life to God.
Know that God is able—more than able.
Put your focus on what really matters.

I agree with Mary.

I would pray. I would make make sure that my heart is right with God. I would want to spend time with my family.

Kind of puts everything perspective today, huh.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dependant upon God

I am in a place where I am running on fumes and totally dependant upon God.

While I'm not really excited about the "running on fumes" thing, it is a real rush to be in a position where every move I make, every word I say, every thought I think needs to come from God.

I can do "all things through Christ who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13).

I like this story - let it be an encouragement to you today:

Gladys Aylward, missionary to China more than fifty years ago, was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng. But she could not leave her work behind. With only one assistant, she led more than a hundred orphans over the mountains toward Free China.

In their book The Hidden Price of Greatness, Ray Besson and Ranelda Mack Hunsicker tell what happened: "During Gladys's harrowing journey out of war-torn Yangcheng ... she grappled with despair as never before. After passing a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. A 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

"'But I am not Moses,' Gladys cried in desperation. 'Of course you aren't,' the girl said, 'but Jehovah is still God!'" When Gladys and the orphans made it through, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we feel, God is still God, and we can trust in him.:

Father, I trust in you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Watching out for one another

One of the key elements of the church is the challenge and opportunity to "care for one another".

In the New Testament, it continually talks about how in the early church, the Christians looked out for "one another."

Let me give you just a few of the examples in God's Word:

Ephesians 4:2
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:19
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 4:11
Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:9
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 5:5
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 3:11
This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

We really do need each other.

But here's what I know. We should not only try to meet the needs in our church family, but actively look out for those who are in need.

Sally Jacobs writes:

"It can never be said that Adele Gaboury's neighbors were less than responsible. When her front lawn grew hip-high, they had a local boy mow it down. When her pipes froze and burst, they had the water turned off. When the mail spilled out the front door, they called the police. The only thing they didn't do was check to see if she was alive. She wasn't.

Police finally climbed her crumbling brick stoop, broke in the side door of her little blue house, and found what they believe to be the 73-year-old woman's skeletal remains, where they had lain, perhaps for as long as four years. "It's not really a friendly neighborhood," said Eileen Dugan, 70, once a close friend of Gaboury's, whose house sits 20 feet from the dead woman's house. "I'm as much to blame as anyone. She was alone and needed someone to talk to, but I was working two jobs and was sick of her coming over at all hours. Eventually I stopped answering the door."

On any given Sunday, there are hurt, wounded, and needy people in attendance. May we all be discerning and watchful with a caring, loving eye.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

The Chicago White Sox continue their downward spiral. Not much time left.

Lou Pinella retired - one of my favorite managers. You always knew where you stood with Lou.

I like the new show Rubicon on AMC. It makes you think.

The presence of the Lord was evident in a powerful way in Sunday mornings service.

I sense that our church family is beginning to catch the vision of our church.

David Dewes' life group has great food.

David Dewes has a servant's heart.

John Hayes has done a great job as the leader of our building committee.

I am thankful for our building committee.

We had a great time Saturday evening at Buca's - giving me an opportunity to extend my thanks.

I love my church family.

My son went off to college for his senior year. Hard to believe.

I love my kids.

I love my wife.

Busy, busy, busy, busy.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How far do we go?

I love modern technology.

I really do.

But how far do we go in using it in ministry?

Please read this article and then some thoughts and a question below:

"In a modern spin on Christianity's most sacred rite, worshippers are being invited to break bread and drink wine or juice in front of their computers as they follow the service online.

Churches usually require a priest to take the Eucharist, but the Rev Tim Ross, a Methodist minister, will send out a prayer in a series of Tweets – messages of up to 140 characters – to users of Twitter.

The move is likely to upset traditionalists, but the Rev Mr Ross argues that it is an important step in uniting Christians around the world and reaching those who might not normally go to church.

Hundreds of people have already registered to follow the service and Mr Ross hopes that thousands will have signed up by the time he sends out the groundbreaking tweets next month.

"Twitter offers unique possibilities for communication for the Church," he said.

"It's a community that's as real and tangible as any local neighbourhood and we should be looking to minister to it.

"The perception of church is often that it is rusting away in antiquated buildings and not in touch with the world around us, but this is a statement that we're prepared to embrace the technological revolution."

He added: "Those who are from a high [traditional] church background might be concerned about whether this is a valued form of communion, but this is for a global community."

Last year, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, warned that social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace could encourage teenagers to view friendship as a "commodity" and claimed the internet was "dehumanising" community life.

However, the Church of England has tried to appeal to the internet generation by setting up an online church which offers prayers and worship.

Following its launch in 2006, a number of other internet churches have been set up, creating opportunities for people to talk online."

So here's what I get out of this. If you can't make it to a worship service, that's okay. Some minister will tweet the Communion service for you. All you have to do—besides having some bread and wine/juice near by—is read the tweets from the minister aloud and type "Amen" as a reply at the end of the tweet.

Do you agree or disagree with this?

Let me know what you think. I'll simply add that this strikes at any number of issues: Communion (its purpose and communal nature), incarnational ministry, Body life, relationships, etc.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Our distinctive

About the 10th time you hear, "we love your church, and we love you, but there's this thing about 'speaking in tongues' that doesn't resonate with us. We are going to try another church," you begin to grow weary of our doctrinal distinctive.

For a season, I shied away from it.

My reason for doing so was not birthed out of some kind of doctrinal disagreement, but from a desire to see our church grow and remove any barriers for doing so.

Also...I don't like you?

However, and this is huge for me, I have swung back full circle and am now very, very comfortable with what is and remains one of our biggest distinctives as an Assemblies of God Church. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. A prayer language. Signs and Wonders.

We focus on Christ. Our whole "centeredness" is on Jesus. However, we do also have the privilege and the opportunity to walk in the power and strength of His Holy Spirit in our lives.

I guess to say it crassly, "what it is is what it is."

It's who we are.

I don't say this with some kind of chest pounding at all - only out of a heart that is finally at peace with the doctrinal distinctive that we have.

May we all be filled with His Spirit today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Answers to prayer

I don't think that I am the only one who tries to answer my own prayers.

I am not saying that we pray and then do nothing - like the person who ask God, "Father, please give me a job," - and then they sit on the couch watching T.V. and eating Kettle Potato Chips.

We do have a part.

But many times, we go to the other extreme. Instead of waiting on God, we push ahead and try to bring about the answer WE want instead of what GOD wants.

Thomas Merton (the Catholic writer and mystic)once wrote, "What is the use of praying if at the very moment of prayer, we have so little confidence in God that we are busy planning our own kind of answer to our prayer?"

Good, practical words of counsel to you and I.

Faith says I bring my need to God in the first place. Confidence in God says that he will answer my prayer in a way that fits into His will for my life.

So....I pray and leave the answer in the hands of God, all the while following his direction for my life in the process of waiting.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

What a powerful service yesterday!

I began a three week series from the Book of Acts chapter 2, and challenged everyone to come around the altars to pray.

Many, in fact most responded.

People were still lingering around the altars until 12:30 P.M, worshipping God and waiting upon Him.

I am so appreciative and thrilled at the hunger I sensed yesterday for more of God's Spirit and power.

Our "success" as we transition, will only take place as we rely upon God's power and might.

Paul writes, "The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." (1 Corinthians 4:20)

And again, my prayer for our church is the prayer that Andrew Bonar wrote in his diary on December 13, 1880, "I long more and more to be filled with the Spirit, and to see my congregation moved and melted under the Word, as in great revival times, 'the place shaken where they are assembled together," because the Lord has come in power."

I'll tell you what will draw people to our church, even more than powerful preaching, wonderful worship or fantastic fellowship, it's when they see God's power and anointing being manifested.

May it be so, Lord!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately.

One of the ways to draw closer to others around us is by being real. And by "being real" I mean being vulnerable and open about our lives and our walk with God.

Pastor and author John Ortberg writes of the power of no-secret friendships:

"One of the most important moments of my spiritual life was when I sat down with a longtime friend and said, "I don't want to have any secrets anymore."

I told him everything I was most ashamed of. I told him about my jealousies, my cowardice, how I hurt my wife with my anger. I told him about my history with money and my history with sex. I told him about deceit and regrets that keep me up at night. I felt vulnerable because I was afraid that I was going to lose connection with him.

Much to my surprise, he did not even look away.

I will never forget his next words.

"John," he said. "I have never loved you more than I love you right now."

The very truth about me that I thought would drive him away became a bond that drew us closer together. He then went on to speak with me about secrets he had been carrying.

If I keep part of my life secret from you, you may tell me you love me. But inside I think that you would not love me if you knew the whole truth about me. I can only receive love from you to the extent that I am known by you."

So true.....may we all strive to be open and vulnerable with one another.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The availabilty of the Holy Spirit

I have heard people say, "Oh, if only I could have been there to talk to Jesus." "If only I could of hung out with Jesus while he was here on this earth."

I have often thought of that as well.

Yet Jesus gives us some interesting words in John 16:7, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you."

Did you notice that?

"It is to your advantage that I go away." What did Jesus mean by that?

Well, one thing is this. While it would have been very cool to have personal, "face time" with Jesus over 2000 years ago, it would have also been very difficult.

Jesus had physical limitations during His time on this planet.

He could only see so many people at one time.

He was one man. He could only speak with people one at a time or in groups.

But the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is available to all believers at the same time and at all times.

Through His Holy Spirit, God speaks to us personally.

There is no waiting list. There is no long line to attend to.

The Holy Spirit never puts us on hold. There is no numerical list to follow:

For help - press one

For advice - press two

For healing - press three

For encouragement - press four

Well, you get the idea. The Holy Spirit is the channel by which I communicate with God.

Thank you God, for making your Holy Spirit so available to us!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Keeping the faith

Why do you and I have a relationship with God?

Is it for what he can do for us? Or is it for the relationship itself?

What happens when it seems like I am not getting what I ask for - from God?

Do I lose a desire to connect with Him?

Do I allow myself to no longer believe or have confidence in His power?

Ravi Zacharias, philosopher, apologist and evangelist, writes, "Faith is confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in his power, so that even when his power does not serve my end, my confidence in him remains because of who he is."

Powerful quote. Even though I might not get the answer I want, my hope and faith remains in God.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:

We had close to 70 people show up for our Saturday morning work day at our new church campus.

I was thrilled at the response. Everyone worked very hard. There was a great spirit. The excitement was high!

We have such a loving, caring, "willing to serve" group of people.

Windows were washed, carpets were vacuumed, floors were mopped.

I am so grateful for everyone who came!

I went and saw Russ Bettenhausen last night at the hospital. He should be released today.

Russ had his right foot amputated a couple of years ago and had another inch taken off due to infection.

Yet his faith in God remains strong. His belief that God could heal him remains steadfast.

Yesterday morning....I genuinely experienced the presence of the Lord in a personal way. God is on the move - our desire is to worship and praise Him!

Only a few more weeks until we move!

Watched Emmitt Smith's Hall of Fame induction speech. I was thrilled as the first words out of his mouth were, "I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

What a powerful testimony. He described himself as a "man of faith."

It's a shame that all we hear about (in sports) are the "less than intelligent" who do stupid stuff.

There are a lot of good guys out there as well, men and women who love God.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Getting our second wind

Well, we are going down the home stretch on our church relocation.

It's time for that last "kick" (as runners get when they are near the end of a race) that will propel us past the finish line.

A kick is a technical runner's term that means that when runners get to the last one hundred yards or so, they can still sprint. No matter how much the runner has run, he can sprint to that last leg to the finish line and win the race.

I'm thankful that we have a group of people at our church who are ready and willing to provide that "kick", that "second wind".

"Help us Lord, give us the strength we need to finish this "race"!"

Here's what I know: No matter what your circumstance, God wants you to finish strong. He wants you to have a kick.

Philippians 1:6 doesn't say, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day you fail and flop on the track."

It says, "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Hang in there! Don't give up! Let the Holy Spirit provide you with the "kick" that you need this day.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

God's dwelling place

If there is one thing that I desire for my life it is the prayerful wanting for God's presence to dwell in my life.

Here's what I know: The entryway for God's presence in my life is fear and humility.

I am to fear God (a respect and reverence of God) and I am to walk in humility.

Pastor James writes, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you......Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up." James 4:8,10

And then I read today in Isaiah 57:15 that God, "...dwells in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit."

God is not looking for a place to visit. He is looking for a place to dwell. And he dwells in the lives of those who walk in humility.

Walking in humility is not being weak, wimpy, soft spoken or spineless.

It is being obedience to God. It is depending totally on God. It is realizing that I am a child of God. That I have (as someone once wrote, "a right estimate of myself." I see myself as God sees me.

Father, help us to walk in humility today!

Frances Chan writes in his book, "Crazy love":

"A medical doctor who utilized his skills in Ethiopia for more than 60 years, Nathan Barlow dedicated his life to helping people with mossy foot. Mossy foot is a debilitating condition [that] causes swelling and ulcers in the feet and lower legs. The subsequent deformity and secondary infections makes people with mossy foot social outcasts equivalent to lepers.

I met Nathan shortly before he died. His daughter attended my church and brought him to her home from Ethiopia when his health started to fail. After only a few weeks, he couldn't handle being in the States. The people he loved were still in Ethiopia, so his daughter flew him back home so he could spend his last days there.

Once, Nathan got a toothache and had to fly away from the mission field to get medical attention. Nathan told the dentist he didn't ever want to leave the mission field for the sake of his teeth again, so he had the dentist pull out all of his teeth and give him false ones.

This amazing man was the first to help these outcasts, and he spent his life doing it. Yet no one really knew about him. It surprised me that such a man of God would faithfully serve for so many years, despite minimal recognition."

Wow....I don't have anything to add to that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

God's leading

God's leading...I love it.

Here's what I know - God's leading does not have to some kind of "out of body experience", where we go into some kind of trance like state.

God normally leads us every day of our lives, in ways that many times can escape us.

What I want to say is this: Let's all be open to God leading us on an every day, every hour, every minute basis.

My friend Dave Gable writes this:

"Pastor, could I talk to you for a minute?"

Her voice was low; she wasn't sure of herself. She looked to be in her early 20s, a girl I'd never seen at our church before.

It was my first year as senior pastor at Full Gospel Tabernacle in downtown Fresno, California. I was greeting people after the Wednesday night Bible study.

"What can I do for you?"

"Would you please talk with my husband? He moved out from our home and into an apartment with two women. I don't know what to do."

"Is he a Christian?"

"He's the one who led me to a relationship with Christ."

"I'll be glad to talk with him. How can I get in touch with him?"

"That's the problem. I can't reach him. If he wants to talk, he calls me."

There was little I could do. I asked her to have him call me if he talked with her again.

I remember the look of despair in her eyes as she walked away.

Friday was my day off. I got up early. We were landscaping our front yard, and I wanted it finished. By late morning the end was in sight. It was hot. I was muddy, aching, and thoroughly tired of the whole project. To add to my woes, I ran out of ornamental plants. I drove to the store for more.

The first store had the right kind, but the price had gone up. A store a mile down the road had them, and the price was right. I loaded my cart and headed to the checkout.

As I waited in line, I glanced at the cashier's name tag. It looked familiar.

As he began to ring up the plants, I motioned to his name tag.

"Is that your name?" (Dumb question, but I wanted to be sure.)

He looked at me blankly, going on full "village idiot" alert. "Yes."

"Are you married to ________?" and I named the woman who had talked with me on Wednesday night.

He looked wary. "Yes?"

I drew myself up to my full 6 feet 5 inches—unshaven, messy, sweaty, and muddy. I gave him my happiest smile.

"God has sent me here to talk to you about your marriage."

Some 300,000 people lived in the Fresno area then. Out of all of them, the first person I had talked to—other than family and staff—since Wednesday night was this husband."

Dave concludes by saying:

"In a lifetime of seeking to be led by the Lord, that is the most powerful example I have experienced. I had heard many stories of people led by the Spirit to go to unusual places or to say unusual things. I always wondered what that would be like. At times I've really needed guidance and have prayed earnestly for it. God has helped me. But my unerring, no-wasted-step trip to that husband remains my most remarkable example. Not only was I not trying to be led, I wasn't conscious of God's leading. I just wanted the yard finished."

May that be an example to us today.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend

Thoughts from the weekend:


It was good to see people coming back from vacation to our Sunday morning services....

Worship was powerful as we sought God together.

I was also thrilled to feel the level of excitement growing....we are almost ready to move to our new church campus!

Thanks to all who sent me birthday greetings today.

I am now, officially, a middle aged man.