Thursday, February 26, 2009


1. concerning Church unity: relating to, involving, or promoting the unity of different Christian churches and groups
2. involving friendship between religions: involving or promoting friendly relations between different religions

Last night we hosted an ecumenical Ash Wednesday service. Unfortunately, other than our organist (who had to be there!) no one from the other church involved showed up! At first, I wondered whether or not I could still refer to it as "ecumenical" so I looked up the definition. Looking at the two definitions above, I determined that it WAS an ecumenical service since it was an attempt at church unity between our congregations.

There were some extenuating circumstances--the preacher from the other church was out of town and we recently hired one of their members as our organist (hurt feelings?) None the less, I can't really fault the ones who didn't come since many of our own members didn't come either. It was interesting to me to talk with some of the members before service who wondered, "When did we start doing this? Isn't this something that the Catholic church does?

I took that opportunity to better explain the season of Lent and the importance of this service as a "starting point." Did they understand? Only time will tell.

As for the ecumenical part, to me, the bottom line is this; we can offer to work together, to worship together, and to seek common ground, but we can not make that happen. I live in a small town and the only way we will be able to help all those in need is to work together. Let us hope and pray that we can find that common ground to be an agent of hope in our community!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More Lenten Thoughts

Yesterday I wrote, "Lent is not about what we give up, but what we add to our lives in preparation for Easter." I'd like to talk about the "giving up" for a bit today. Last night we had a pancake dinner at the church. While I was visiting with one of our families, I discovered that there child has juvenile diabetes. They came prepared with water to drink and sugar-free syrup for her. As I talked with them, I found out that they had a very healthy approach to dealing with her situation. They realized that there would be times when she would be in a situation where it would be awkward for her to completely stay away from sugar. So they "deal" with it. If she is in a place where she has sugar, she takes a bit more insulin and the balance is restored to her body.

I see this as an example of how we should approach Lent. If we have "given up" something for Lent--say chocolate--and we are at a birthday party where the cake happens to be a chocolate cake, there are two ways to handle it. First, we can simply just not eat the cake and explain that we have given up chocolate for Lent. The problem with this approach (in my opinion) is that it is very much like those Jesus condemned for making a show of fasting. The fasting wasn't wrong, but how they handled it was. The second approach (and the one that I feel is more in the spirit of Lent) is to go ahead and eat a small piece of the cake (and not draw attention to yourself) and then spend a little extra time with God later in the privacy of your own home. After all, the reason we are giving something up is not to be "holier-than-thou" but to give that to God.

Now I know that there will be many people who believe that this is a cop out, but I don't. The reason for the "giving up" is for giving more to God. If that is the case, then "breaking Lent" in order to avoid putting the focus on us rather than God seems reasonable.

Lent is a time of preparation for Easter. Don;'t let your own self righteousness get in the way! Make sure that in all you do (and that includes all you have decided not to do!) God is kept first and foremost.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


The Lenten Season is upon us. Forty days to prepare for Easter. I want to invite you to use these forty days from Ash Wednesday to Easter as a time of discovery and decision making just as Jesus used His forty days in the Wilderness to prepare for His earthly ministry. Use this time to get to know God better and find out just how He wants you to be His loving child and faithful disciple. Like Jesus did, spend time every day in prayer and Bible study groups at the Church or attend Sunday School. Most assuredly, make sure you regularly and consistently worship God each Sunday with other followers on the journey, as well as spend time alone with God every day.

I urge you to remember why you “give something up” for Lent. You may give up coffee to remind you that God is your true pick me up. You give up Coke to remind you that God is the “real thing.” You give up watching TV so that you can spend more time in God’s Word. You see what I mean. Lent is not about what we give up, but what we add to our lives in preparation for Easter.

May the forty days of Lent be a challenging, yet wonderful experience for you as you use this time to draw closer to the One who made you and loves you!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Healing Service

Do healing services work? That all depends upon how you look at them. Some people will be given healing, others hope. Is the gift of hope any less important than the gift of healing? Some people will not receive health, but instead they will hear (as Paul himself did), "My grace is sufficient for you."

So, what is the bottom line? We need to offer more services of healing. We need to believe that God can and does heal today. We need to be willing to accept whatever God deems appropriate for us, even if that means we do not receive the type of response we are expecting from the healing service.

We had our first healing service in Stillwater yesterday. many came for prayer and anointing. The results? I don't know, you see, results are God's business, my job is to be faithful. For me, being faithful in this practice is giving the opportunity for people to receive God's grace. If that grace comes in the form of healing, great! If God's grace comes in the form of strength to endure, that is great as well.

How was the service received? Well, let's just say that when I suggested to one elder that we should do this again in about six months, his reply was, "Why not quarterly?" I guess what I am really saying is that we need to embrace the healing ministry of the church--not that I expect to see someone come forward, receive prayer and toss their crutches aside (though I believe that if that was God's will it can happen!), but instead we simply need to reclaim what was once ours--the faith that God is in control and CAN do miraculous things.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Spring Training

Baseball season is almost here and it all ways reminds me of this story:
Willie loved to play baseball. His dream was to one day play in the major leagues. When he graduated from high school he began to play in the minor leagues. His first year he batted over .330 and was promoted to AAA (just one step below the major leagues). In AAA he was awesome batting .477 when he was promoted to play in the majors. When he reached the major league ballpark, he was surprised to see that he was starting in center field. Though his team won, he failed to get a hit going 0 for 4. He also went hitless his next 3 games. After getting his hit (a home run) he was sure that his slump was over, it wasn't. He failed to get a hit in his next thirteen at bats and was now 1 for 25 and batting just .040. Crying by his locker, he asked his manager to be sent back down to the minor leagues, he just couldn't hit major league pitching. Then his manager told him, "You're my centerfielder, as long as I'm the manager. You can hit, and you will."

Willie did begin to hit and became one of the greatest centerfielders of all time, hitting over 600 home runs. Willie Mays is proof of the power of encouragement.

In the Bible we read about Saul of Tarsus was persecuting the early church. He had special orders to find and kill all Christians. Then one day, on his way to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him and his whole life changed. He became a Christian and wanted to tell others about Jesus, but no one trusted him and he was forced to escape at night by being let down outside of the city walls in a basket. Then Paul went to Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples but they were afraid of him. Barnabas stepped in and supported Saul (now Paul) and then the people were were willing to accept him. Then the Jews tried to kill Paul, so the disciples sent him to Tarsus and it was there that Barnabas went a few years later to get Paul to help strengthen the church in Antioch.

You see, if it wasn't for Barnabas and his encouragement of Paul, we would have never seen the good that Paul was able to do. But because Barnabas believed in Paul and encouraged him, Paul was able to do wonderful things for Jesus.

What do Willie Mays and Paul have in common? They both had someone to encourage them when they needed it and they became great at what they did; Willie Mays in baseball, Paul in encouragement. Paul wrote in the letter to the Thessalonian church (1 Thes. 5:11) "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up."

Many people like to put other people down. They make fun of what they look like, how they dress, what job they have, or what they like to do for fun. That is exactly what Paul didn't want us to do. He expected us to do just the opposite. He wants us all to encourage others so that they can become the best possible people they can become. so, who have you encouraged lately?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lost in Translation

This picture is from "the Revenge of the Sith" Star Wars movie. The closed captioning was a direct English translation of the Chinese interpretation of what the script was saying. This translation seemed completely random until you realize that 'Jedi council' is being translated into Chinese then back to English as 'the Presbyterian church'. Something is definitely lost in translation!

Many times we have the same problem. We approach doing God's will interpreted by what we want God's will to be for us, and then low and behold, it is God's will! I know that the Bible says we should feed the hungry, but I think that my money is best spent on me, besides I'm hungry too! God wants to feed the hungry, so I'll go to McDonald's.

God's Word tells us to help the weak. I'm weak, so I will join a fitness club, then I won't be weak. It's God's will after all! You get it, we read the word and interpret it the way we want it to be and then translate it into the wrong actions.

Just as the Jedi Council was and never will be the Presbyterian Church, our actions can and never will be justified by misreading or misinterpreting God's Word. Instead of trying to get God's Word to fit into our lifestyle, isn't it about time we fit into God's lifestyle for us?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't Stop Till the Job Is Done!

In December of 2005 jockey Roger Loughran made a big mistake. Jeers greeted him when he mistook the winning post and lost the big race of the day at Leopardstown. Leading with 150 meters to go, Loughran, riding Central House, the 11-4 second favorite, thought he had passed the winning post, stopped riding and punched the air in triumph. He was still celebrating as Hi Cloy (8-1) and Fota Island (9-1) raced by to grab the spoils with Central House passing the post in third, one and a half lengths behind. Central House's trainer Dessie Hughes told At The Races TV channel: "He'd given him a super ride up to that point. It's human error -- he just thought he was at the winning post."

Sometimes we as Christians do the same thing. We feel that we have "finished the race" when in fact we still have more to do. I have heard it though all of my years in ministry. Things like, "well I used to teach Sunday School, but I did my time, someone else needs to do it now," or "I've done my part, it is time for the young people to take over." Don't get me wrong, I fully expect the younger generation to "do their part." The problem is not with those who are currently "doing" it, the problem is with those who feel that they are already "done."

Paul said near the end of his life, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me." If Paul never felt he had finished doing what the Lord had for him, how in the world do we think that we have earned retirement benefits on this side of heaven?

It is high time that every Christian remembered that our work on earth is not done just because we have "done our part." Our work is done only when we have completed the race and the Lord welcomes us home!

Monday, February 16, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number Five

Yesterday I preached on the 5th of the six purposes I see for the church--worship. When most people think of worship, they think of singing, prayer, giving and preaching. These are a PART of worship, but these actions miss the essence of what worship truly is.

Worship starts when we put God before all the other gods in our lives. You say you have no other gods? Well, for some, it may be money, for others it may be TV, work, golf, kids, or cars. You name it, if it takes precedence over time with God, you have made it a god in your life. We can even get so busy working "for" God, that we fail to worship Him!

The intent of worship is to magnify God. That is why worship can not happen in a life that has not fully surrendered to God. We either magnify God or we magnify ourselves in the way we live our lives. We have to forget what other people think about us and worry more about bringing glory, honor, and praise to Jesus!

We life in a WIIFM (what's in it for me) society. So, with worship, WIIFM? One benefit is that the church of Jesus grows stronger through worship. Another is that worship gives us power to live on in times of struggle and strife. Worship also looks to the future to inspire us to live better lives and do better things for others. Finally, worship allows us to experience fulfillment. When we truly worship God, He is satisfied and we are fulfilled. We were made to worship God, so when we actually let down our guard and open up our hearts to Him, we are complete--we accomplish what we were made to do and be.

Worship has become so watered down in some places that is is almost invisible! Oh, there is singing and praying and preaching, but there is no POWER. Let us all begin to worship God as we were meant to do and help those around us to worship Him as well!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Yesterday was Valentine's Day. The one day a year we tend to focus on "love." Hey, I like Valentine's Day and do something special with Amy--we met halfway between Stillwater and Princeton yesterday for a great meal and a chance to be together. It is just that we get so messed up when it comes to what love really is.

We "love" pizza. We "love" ice cream. We "love" the outdoors." We "love" our favorite team. We "love" our significant other. You get the picture? love has been "cheapened" by how we use it in our language.

One of my favorite songs says this, "Love was when, God became a man." Truly that was/is love. God, willing to come to earth, to take on our form, to live among us, and then to die for us (and of course rise again!). That, my friends, is true love. As we near the season of Lent, I feel that it is way past time that we remember what (and Who) True Love is. "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so," may sound simplistic, but that doesn't make it any less true. Jesus--God--loves YOU! Now, what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

High Wind Warning

There is a high wind warning here today. Winds of 30-35 miles per hour with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour. I feel like I am back in Oklahoma! As I walked to the church, I could already see the evidence of this wind--broken branches everywhere. in fact, I wonder how long it will be before a heavy branch falls across a power line and I am left in the dark.

As I thought of this wind, it made me think of preachers! How many preachers are blasting away with "heavy wind" each Sunday from his or her pulpit? If it is a "human" wind, I fear that there will be damage much like I am seeing outside of the office today. As branches are broken by heavy wind, peoples' lives can be broken by heavy-winded preaching.

In the Old Testament we see the Spirit (or breath) of God translated from the word ruach. In the New Testament, it is the word pneuma. It is the ruach that hovers over the waters in Genesis 1:2. It is the pneuma that infuses the apostles with power on the day of Pentecost. Wind is therefore not the problem, it is where the wind comes from that is the problem.

My prayer for everyone who goes to the pulpit this Sunday (and every Sunday) is that he or she lets the ruach/pneuma blow and lets his or her own wind remain calm!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I just had to go to the "do not call" website to deal with the dozens of unwanted faxes the church gets every week. Faxes for everything from health insurance to roof repair to cruises to Alaska! It is amazing how many faxes like this we were getting. It seems that everyone with a business and a fax machine wants to tell us about how much better they can make our lives.

What I find even more interesting is that we as Christians truly have something (Christ) that can make everyone's life better and we don't tell anyone! Wouldn't it be great is Christians had the same willingness to share Jesus with people they don't even know the way these businesses do? You bet it would.

Well, I don't expect people to tell complete strangers about Jesus (I am a realist), but I think it is high time we talked to our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about the Man who can make such a difference in their lives. Come on, if a business who doesn't know me from Adam can try to sell us on their product or service, can't we tell those we know (and love) about Jesus? Just so you know, the Bible says we should!

Monday, February 9, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number Four

Well, three down and three to go! This week we looked at FELLOWSHIP. There is probably no term in the Christian "language" that is more abused than fellowship. What is fellowship? To many, it is a warm fuzzy feeling that soothes your nerves and provides relief from the battering of everyday life. To others, it is simply the social aspect--good food, or a good time at a retreat. Fellowship is so much more than that.

Fellowship is a participation of people together in God's grace. It means you have something in common. Common participation by giving what you have to another person or receiving what he or she has. It is a community where individuals willingly share what they have. They support one another and they bear each others burdens.

The reason for fellowship is to help each other grow in Christ. We are to encourage each other to live for Jesus. We are called to belong--not just believe. Just as parents work with their children to prepare them for life outside of the family, we are to equip each other for works of service, to lift up the fallen, and to encourage the downcast.

People to live with is a basic human need. Fellowship not only gives us people to live with, it gives us the encouragement of a family. Fellowship gives us support in times of need. When God grants us the gift of true fellowship joyful sharing replace polite "small talk." We discuss the things that really matter. We can express our greatest fears, hardest temptations, and deepest joys.

Fellowship is based on our relationship to Jesus. Fellowship is a very important purpose of the church. It is fellowship that people will be attracted to when they actually see it. If people don't see our congregation as one with a heart and a purpose, they will never feel the need to become a part of us.

So, how about you? Are you a part of a fellowship of believers, or just a group of people that get together for an hour each week?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We Can Learn a Lot From Potatoes

Some people in the church are very bossy and like to tell everyone what to do, but of course they do not wish to soil their hands. You might call that type "Dick Tater."

Some people never seem to be motivated to participate. They are content to watch while others do. They are "Speck Taters."

Some people never do anything to help, but they are gifted at finding fault with the way others do things. They are called "Comment Taters."

Some people are always looking for ways to cause problems. They look or others to agree with them. You call them "Aggie Taters."

Then there are those who always say they will, but somehow never get around to doing anything. They are "Hezzie Taters."

Some people put on a front and act like they are someone they are not. They are "Emma Taters."

Still, there are those who live what they talk. They are always prepared to stop what they are doing to lend a hand. They bring real sunshine into others' lives. You might call them "Sweet Taters."

Well, that brings us to the Tater Tots in the nursery. They will probably look at the other members of the church family and decide that they want to be like one of them. They might become a Dick Tater, a Sweet Tater, a Speck Tater, or an Emma Tater. Let's hope that they make the right choice.

What do you think? don't you agree that it is time for us to "sweeten" up and be the Tater that God has called us to be?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Church Sign Theology

Amy gave me an interesting gift last Christmas. It is a page-a-day calendar of sayings from church signboards. As I look at these each day, sometimes I chuckle and sometimes I wonder what people who drive by that church must think! These pithy sayings are neat, but I think that they tend to lead those who drive by to think of the church as a place of pithy sayings and not a place of God!

Now I am not suggesting that we only put scripture on the signboard. What I am suggesting is that we don't live our lives like a church signboard--a short, pithy statement for any and every situation. We need to be deeper than that. We need to be more involved with people we come into contact than that. We need to genuinely interact with those people we meet.

My challenge to us all is simple--don't take the easy way out. Take time to genuinely listen to people. Take the time to know them and then take the time to respond to them in a loving, God-centered way. As Christians, we have a responsibility to take everyone seriously and answer their questions to the best of our ability. And remember, the Spirit is always there helping us to share the hope that is in us!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

6 Purposes of the Church --Number Three

The third purpose of the church as I see it (and I believe the Bible show us) is Service (or ministry, if you prefer). Just as Jesus said of Himself, "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give His life a ransom for many," we are called as Christians to service. The first thing we have to understand is that EVERY Christian is a minister called into service. We have different gifts and talents, but we are expected to use the gifts and talents God has blessed us with to serve Him. It is important to realize that EVERY ministry is important. The best sermon in the world won't help if a couple visiting that Sunday has a bad experience with the Nursery worker. Everyone has a role and they are ALL equally important.

It is also important to realize that there are no "Lone Rangers" in God's kingdom. We are to work together to accomplish what God has planned for us. As we work together, we strengthen each other and protect each other. As we work together, it is so we can reach out and serve others--especially those who don't know God. Why? Because when we willingly serve those who do not know Christ we are building a bridge to lead them to Christ.

If a congregation is not focusing on serving others, that church will simply become friendly to themselves, take care of themselves, and focus all of their resources on themselves. For the body of Christ to be what the Lord has called her to be, we MUST use our gifts and our talents in His service. Too many times we sit back and want to be served and then we complain about the service! Too many times we feel sorry for ourselves. The best way to get out of that is to simply serve others. Remember that we are called to be like Jesus--Jesus who came to serve and to seek those that are lost.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl

Well, later today the Super Bowl will be played. I admit that I am looking forward to watching it with Amy (though that means traveling down to Princeton and missing my Sunday afternoon nap!) I find it rather amusing each year how people get so excited by the commercials that they forget that there is a football game on! In fact, there was a TV show on last night showing the "best" of Super Bowl commercials--and there were commercials during it!

Watching the Super Bowl for the commercials for a football fan is like going to worship to visit with friends and forgetting that the purpose of worship is WORSHIP! Through the years (and too many different churches I've attended to count) it has always bothered me when people really don't "get it." They are worried that it was "too cold" or "too hot;" or the music was "too loud" or "too soft;" or the preacher preached too long or too short; or, or get the picture. Something was not up to par (at least in their opinion!)

What I have learned is that worship is what YOU put in to it. Worship well, and the worship service is uplifting; worship poorly, and not even Peter or Paul's sermons would be inspiring. My challenge to you today is simple--go to church to WORSHIP. Do your best to praise God throughout the entire service. If you do that, I can guarantee you that you will encounter God--even if the choir sings a bit off-key and the preacher stumbles over his or her tongue. You see, worship isn't about what you "get," it is all about what you give!

Go in peace and serve the Lord!