Wednesday, January 28, 2009


As a follow up to yesterday's post, I want to share with you a story that a mentor of mine shared with me when I was in the youth ministry used to tell. It seems that the new youth minister of a local church LOVED object lessons (well, so do I!) He was always trying to come up with bigger and better object lessons every week. One week the circus was in town, so he arranged to have one of the elephants brought into the parking lot during his youth lesson. later that day, one of the children in the group was asked about what he had learned in youth church. The child quickly and excitedly talked about the elephant that was the object lesson. The father asked what the elephant had to do with the lesson and the child responded, "I don't really know, but we had an elephant at church today!"

As exciting as new worship ideas may be, they are only "right" if they aid is in the worship of our Lord. If they distract from the message, no matter how well intentioned, they are wrong. This is something that I have to face each time I bring a new aspect to the worship service--is this helping us to worship or is it just fluff? It is sometines a hard decision to make. That is why I do my best to listen to what people say after the service (and during the week). Do they remember the service for its worship aspects, or do they remember the elephant?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Are You Ready?

The weather forecast for our area calls for 6-8 inches of snow tonight and tomorrow followed by freezing rain that could accumulate up to an inch of ice! People are already stocking up for this next storm. I know that I went out to the garage to bring in some more logs for the fireplace just in case I lose electricity. In fact, because there seems to be many times that the electricity here is out, I have purchased two hurricane lamps! I find it a bit amusing that as far as we have come, sometimes "old" technology is better. All I will need to keep warm and to see will be a few matches to go with he lamps and fireplace.

As I was considering all this (about old technology being more stable than the new) I realized that this is also true in the church. There are many churches trying to reach out to the lost through technology (facebook, websites, and such things) and by changing "how" they worship (praise hymns for instance). Don't get me wrong, I am all for reaching out in new and inventive ways for the cause of Christ. I plan on getting a website up and running this spring myself.

My concern comes when the message is diluted by the presentation. No matter whether you have praise hymns or Bach, skits or 45 minute sermons, it must be Spirit led. Skits for the sake of skits and praise songs for the sake of praise songs is wrong. I like both and can see how they can enhance worship...but that is the key, they are a tool to enhance worship. If using them detracts from the worship and fails to bring people closer to God, they are not right for that situation. New is not always better, though often it is.

When we try new things, and they don't work, do we get discouraged and sit in the dark, or do we get out the kerosene lamps and continue to work? My point? Go ahead and try new things if God is calling you to do so, but remember, if the power goes out, there is always the "old" technology to rely on. God, through His Spirit, will never abandon His people.

Monday, January 26, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number Two

This week I looked at the second of the six purposes of the church--DISCIPLESHIP. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:-18-20) tells us to teach new disciples obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you. There is more to the church than evangelism! Once we have a new person in Christ, we must help them grow into all the Lord expects them to be. In baseball, we don't get so excited by someone getting on base that we we forget that the purpose is not just to get on base, but to cross home plate and score a run! In the church we sometimes DO have that problem. We get so excited that someone has come to the Lord that we forget that is just the first step.

Discipleship is about facilitating spiritual growth in Christians. Spiritual growth is not automatic. Spiritual maturity is not measured by how much you know. Spiritual maturity is not some mystical, unobtainable goal. The best definition of discipleship is "make one to be one!"

There are several ways that the church can help a disciple to grow--Bible studies, Sunday School Class, preaching, fellowship, service and mission opportunities are some of those. There are also things that we do as individuals that help us to grow into the disciples the Lord expects us to be. Bible study, prayer, devotional time, helping others, and giving of our time, talent, and treasure.

The greatest thing about discipleship is the way it affects the church. A church that has men and women maturing as disciples will be a growing church! Actually when a church stops making and developing disciples, it is no longer a church, but a club. The lost don't need another club to join, they need a church to love and support them, to help them to grow, and to help them become all that God would have them be.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spiritual Leadership

Churches all across America are struggling because of what I see as a lack of spiritual leadership. What is spiritual leadership? Or maybe a better question is, "what do spiritual leaders do?" The best definition of spiritual leadership I have found is in the book Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby. They define spiritual leadership as, "moving people on to God's agenda." Sounds simple enough doesn't it?

Spiritual leaders are called by God to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be. The only way for that to happen is for the spiritual leader to follow God's agenda in his or her own life. The only way for a spiritual leader to follow God's agenda is to depend upon the Holy Spirit to lead them.

We need to have a revival of the Spirit in the pastorate today. We have too many men and women that are depending on seminary training and well written work plans to determine the direction of their ministry. Seminary education is great and having a work plan is good, but if we leave the Holy spirit out of the equation, what good is it really?

It is time for those of us in leadership positions to remember who we are and who God is. We are servants and He is the Master. It is time we acted like it! Let us ALL get off of our high horses and become the humble leaders God has called us to be. Let the Spirit lead and don't be afraid to follow! True spiritual leaders are those men and women who will humbly submit to God's agenda and move those people with whom they come into contact where God wants them to be!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number One

I am in the first stages of a sermon series on "The Purposes of the Church." On Sunday I preached the first of these sermons. For the next 6 weeks, I will talk about 6 purposes of the Church. I will then spend at least one post the week following the sermon to talk about the purpose that I preached about the previous week.

The first purpose of the church is clearly defined in Matthew 28:18-20 (The Great Commission). That purpose? To reach the lost for Christ or EVANGELISM. Evangelism is the one thing that we are asked to do as Christians that seems to be the most intimidating to most people. While there are many "methods" of evangelism out there, I would rather focus on 3 principles that Jesus used to attract people and let those principles become our principles for reaching out to the lost.

The first principle is that we must have LOVE for people. When you look at the ministry of Jesus, you see that he attracted crowds because of His love for them. Check out Matt. 14:13-14; Mark 10:21; Matt. 9:36-38 for a few examples of this. When we have a love for people it will help us to have the right attitude toward them. We will see them as Jesus sees them and that in itself will lead us to the next step.

The second principle is that needs must be met. If someone is hungry or hurting, they won't be able to focus on the message--they simply want their needs met. Jesus didn't look down on people that had a need, instead he reached out--he fed the hungry and healed the sick. When the physical needs were met, His message was able to be "heard." We need to realize the same thing today--if we want to reach out with the gospel, we need to be willing to deal with the pain in the lost's lives first.

Finally, when we share the gospel, it must be done in a practical and interesting way. Jesus taught truth, but He did so in a way that was both interesting and related to life. He often used parables to get His message across to the people.

So, if we truly want to be the evangelists that the Lord calls us to be, we need to love people, help meet their needs, and present the gospel in an interesting and relevant way. You see, we are are called to be evangelists--the only question is, "Are you a good evangelist or a poor one?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Power of Preaching

I used to hope that every sermon I preached had power. Now I know better. Every sermon I preach DOES have power as long as I preach the WORD. It is the Word of God that has the power in preaching. My job (and the job of every other preacher out there) is to make sure that we present the Word of God in a clear way. Preaching does no good if it is done in such a way as that no one understands what is being said. That is why I tend to use humor and many illustrations in my preaching.

When I preach, the biggest thing that I have to look out for is that I cloud the Word with my humor or illustrations. Their purpose is to illustrate and enlighten, not become the central theme of the message.

The Word of God is powerful. As preachers and teachers we must make sure that the power of the Word comes through. I know that I have had sermons that were really well received, but the Word of God was weak because I failed to keep the main thing, the main thing. In preaching, the Word of God IS the main thing.

This year, as I plan and write my sermons, it is now my goal (more than ever) to make sure that it is God's Word that shines through. We preachers like to have people consider us "smart" or "witty' but if that is all they are getting from my sermon, I have failed in my responsibility to the Word!

Don't get me wrong, I will still use humor and I will of course still use illustrations (after all the greatest teacher of all time , Jesus, used stories to get His point across), but I will make sure that they do NOT become the focus of the message. God's Word must ALWAYS be that focus! If you hear me preach this year and I fail to make the main thing the main thing, make sure you call me out!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Last Week Was Bad!

After getting sick at the beginning of the week, I fell on the Manse steps last Saturday while bringing down my laundry. While I am mostly "OK" I still can't sit for more than a few minutes at a time anywhere other than the lazy boy recliner!

I just wanted to let anyone who reads this blog know why I haven't been updating as much as I normally do.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Technology and Lifelong Learning

We live in a wonderful time if you like the challenge of lifelong learning! The internet provides us with so many opportunities to expand our knowledge and our skills. I know that I need to continue to learn and to grow or I will stagnate and cease to be effective.

Right now, I am "auditing" classes on preaching, worship, Biblical theology, and Calvin's Institutes by way of itunes! These are classes from Covenant Theological Seminary. While I don't have the time or the budget to continue to go to seminary, I have the benefits of attending class every day in my office!

All you have to do is ask Amy and she will tell you that I once said that I would never get a degree for the sake of the degree. It was hard for me to go back to seminary because I felt the 20+ years in ministry was enough for me. I felt that the books I read were enough. Well, they aren't. As much as I would like to think I have a good handle on ministry, if I fail to realize that I can still learn more, I am being too pig-headed. I may not agree with everything I hear or read, but by disagreeing, I am forced to articulate (at least in my own mind) WHY I disagree.

At one time, I thought about continuing my education via a DMin program. Some day I may consider that again, but for now, I have found a way to learn and grow without the expense that comes with another degree. Degrees are great, everyone should have one! But what is even greater is what we learn--whether in a seminary classroom, a good book, or even from a class downloaded from itunes!

To me, it doesn't matter whether you are a pastor or a dog catcher--whatever you do, there is always going to be better ways to do it. Become a lifelong learner and you will always be doing your best!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

No Heat (again)

For the third time this year, I woke up with no heat. It is a shock to get out of bed to temperatures in the high 40's inside! This time the reason I was without heat was my own fault. I made the false assumption that when they came to fill the church's fuel oil tank, they came across the street to fill the manse. Nope! So without any fuel to burn, there was no heat in the house.

Sadly, that is how many people's Christian lives go. They don't keep fuel in their tank and then wonder why they are "without heat." Prayer, worship and Bible study are the fuel we need to keep our Christian lives going. When we fail to "fill up" on these are spiritual life suffers. It is at these times that we wonder where God has gone. People, God hasn't moved, we have!

If you are struggling in the cold and despair of a life that has lost its spiritual fervor, just go back to the basics. Read and study the Word of God, pray, and make sure you are at worship next Sunday. These are the fuels necessary for you to life the life that God has for you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'll get back to you soon

I am sorry that I haven't posted in a few days. It has been very busy for me. Now, I feel I need to "catch up" but I am not feeling well. While the weather kept many people away from church yesterday. Someone came and shared a "bug" with me! I woke up at 3:30 this morning feeling sick. I am still feeling lousy, so this will simply be a post to let you know that I will start back as soon as I feel better! Pray for me. I hate being sick and I am learning that the only thing worse than being sick, is being sick when you live alone. Enough whining for now. I hope the rest of you avoid whatever I have.

Friday, January 9, 2009

What Ever Happened to Sin?

We live in a time where anything and everything goes. If it is right for me, it is right. We need to realize that sin is not just things like rape, murder and stealing. Sin is failing to do the things we should do and doing the things we should not do. Sin is failing to hold to God's standard of perfection. Sin is that which keeps us from having the right relationship with God.

Sin does not just keep us from having a good relationship with God, it also keeps us from having a good relationship with people around us. You only have to look as far as the morning newspaper or the evening news to see that this is true.

Sin will always be in the world, but we should always remember that we have within us the ability to live above this world. Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world. We cannot escape the consequences of what sin has brought into the world, but we can begin to do our part to live into our salvation and brighten the corner of the world in which we live.

What ever happened to sin? Sin is alive and well in the world. We simply have tried to ignore it by calling it by other names. We have good news to share with those who are caught in its clutches. It is not that by changing what we call it, you can still do it; instead it is by letting people know that they can face sin and overcome it with the Holy Spirit's help!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Where's Your Treasure?

This watch is the "Tour de l'Ile" manufactured by Vacheron Costantin. It's cost? 1.5 million dollars. As I was shaking my head at the insanity of the price I glanced at my own 48 dollar watch. It tells me the time just fine. I guess that would leave me about 1.499952 million dollars left over. With that I could send 36 kids to college for 4 years each with room, board, and books included. With that I could sponsor almost 400 needy children overseas into adulthood. With that I could buy meals for 5 million starving people around the world. With that much left over money I could do so much good, help so many souls, and still know the time whenever I looked down at my wrist.

When did our society become so insane that anyone would think they needed a 1.5 million dollar watch? When did people become so shallow that they would believe a one million dollar car is essential? My first car cost me only 800 dollars (OK, I bought it from my brother)and it still got me wherever I needed to go. When did 50 million dollar yachts and 100 million dollar houses become so vital to a person’s happiness?

I pray that at some point our society says "Enough!" and wakes up from this nightmare of materialism. Each of us only has one life. Let’s not waste it on the watches we wear and the cars we drive. Each of us only has one soul. Let’s not lose it trying to gain the whole world. God put us here to love each other, to help each other, and to make this world a better place together. No house or boat will ever bring us joy like living the way that our Heavenly Father meant for us to. No amount of material wealth in this world will ever equal the treasures of Heaven. Live your life in love, joy, and oneness with God then. Help others whenever you can. Make this world a better place now. Life is brief and no watch will buy you an extra second of it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Well, I am sure many people made New Year's Resolutions and many of those have already been broken, but I have a resolution that I think EVERYONE should make this year. I think it would make a great difference in each of us and in our respective churches if we would simply make it a goal to practice Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God."

With our sagging economy, there will be many people who try to cut corners. Using inferior materials to complete jobs that were bid with better materials, taking things from the office for home use, and misrepresenting how much money was made on your income tax form are just a few of the things I believe will happen this year. This is not following the Lord's command to "act justly." We have to be better than that. While the old adage is "honesty is the best policy" as Christians it should be "honesty is the ONLY policy." It is what is required to act justly.

The second thing we need to do is love mercy. The Hebrew word used here is a rich one, translated in other places as "tender mercies," "lovingkindness," and "steadfast love." It is a word most often used in a covenantal sense. In relation to God's mercy, it is used most often of His grace, or of unexpected kindness. We don't tend to love mercy. We don't value kindness. We return rudeness with rudeness. We allow opportunities to show kindness to pass us by. When we should be gentle with others, we are harsh. This is not what we are expected (no make that required) to do. We are instead required to love mercy.

The first two things God requires have to do with how we behave toward one another. The final one,"walk humbly with your God" shows that He expects us to have a right relationship with Him. That relationship begins with humility and not arrogance. God expects us to walk humbly with Him. Easy task, but hard to make it a reality. We are proud. We tend to think that God's role is to make us happy, to serve us, and to answer our prayers. But it is we who are to serve and glorify God.

So, what does God want from us this year? Not that much really. Simply to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Impossible, Difficult, Done!

Hudson Taylor once said there were three stages of God's work: Impossible, Difficult, and Done. We have great examples of this in the Bible. Noah who was given the task to build a great boat after the age of 500, yet he did what seemed to be an impossible task. It was difficult, but with God's help, he got it done.

Joshua had the unenviable task of following Moses as the leader of the Children of Israel. It is always hard to follow a legend, whether it is a spiritual leader or a great coach. Joshua's first task was to take the fortified city of Jericho. He was given the instructions by God and had to share those with the people of Israel. March around the city once each day with your army and the with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Then on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, then have the priests blow their horns and the people shout and the walls will fall down. Can you imagine what the people must have thought? Probably something like, "Where is Moses when you need him!" The people did as the Lord had told Joshua and you know the results: Impossible, Difficult, Done!

Gideon, David, and so many more are examples of how God works. What seems impossible, may be difficult, but is eventually done. As you look at this new year, remember that the Lord may have what seems to you to be an impossible task. It isn't. Do as the Lord commands even though it may be difficult. When we do that, we will see the results. Want to have a Happy New Year? Remember the stages in Gods work, Impossible, Difficult, Done! and get busy!