Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday was a difficult day with many blessings. The blessings were the spirit we had in both our morning and evening services. This was a welcome time given the stresses of the week and Sunday itself. This past week we many who had accidents, physical scares and difficult days. We had a concussion from a roll-over accident, a broken wrist from a fall in the snow, a broken foot from sports, a heart related scare and the loss of a loved one all within 4 days. That was on top of many, many, many people who are sick from flu like symptoms.

One of the difficult aspects of the day was that we only had 2 of our band members present and one of them was leading worship because our worship leader was still gone. We had the worst morning attendance we have had in a long time and the worst evening attendance since I have been here. This was due to spring break travel, much illness and the aformentioned accidents.

Then we lost power to our platform lights, our projectors and music sound while my wife was singing a special song just before the message. She persevered and just finished the song accapella, it sounded great and I think actually added to the message of the song. The song was about God's faithfulness and the sound and light glitches seemed act as an illustration that no matter what God is still God.

We had a powerful time of prayer during the service. A man had asked to be annointed and prayed for, then I opened it up to anyone else who wanted to be annointed and another 6 or 7 people came forward. It was a very moving time in the service.

God is still God through low attendance, accidents, power failures and spring break. Here's hoping you get a reminder today that God is still where you are and that he cares for you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

My Reading

I recently finished an awesome book entitled "unChristian". I believe the author is Dave Kinnaman, or something like that, I don't have the book in my office right at the moment. It is a must read for anyone who wants to really make an impact in their world. It is one that will smack you in face and mess with your perceptions of christians and the church. It is a 3 year study of people, most of whom are not believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is really eye opening about those outside of the faith and what they think of christians and the church. We have some real work to undo some perceptions. Many of the ideas from the "outsiders" we have earned, some are misunderstandings and some will always be a struggle. Read it with an open mind and tell me what your impressions of the book are and what surprised you.

I am nearly finished with "Hazards of Being a Man" by Jeffrey E. Miller. It is an excellent study, I have used it with a Men's Bible Study. It addresses 12 hazardous areas that men must address and watch out for in their lives. The chapters on "Unresolved Anger" and "Partial Obedience" were awesome. It is a good read in that each chapter stands alone and there are excellent reflection questions with every chapter.

I am currently devouring "Simple Church" by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger. It is a study of vibrant, life-changing churches and there process for developing disciples of Christ. The overwhelming conclusion is that churches that have a simple process have a much greater impact in their world than those churches who have a complex process. I am very convicted as I read this book and it is really causing me to do some serious evalution of myself, my ministry and the church I pastor. I love thought provoking books and ones that are practical and applicable. Again I believe this one is a must read for any pastor or lay leader. I haven't finished the book but have already been impacted by what I have read.

I have just barely begun to read "Breaking the Missional Code" by Ed Stetzer and David Putnam. Stetzer wrote "Comeback Churches" which is an excellent book. The idea is learning how to be a missionary in your community. How else will we make a difference?

Let me know what you think of any of these books, or let me know what else you are reading.

Happy learning.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Morning Musings

As I posted last night, Easter Sunday was a very good day. I had been sick last week and was getting worse each day, with Saturday night being the worst. Sunday morning I was not feeling great when I got to church, but I didn't get any worse and the Lord really helped me during the service. I don't think I coughed once while I was preaching. Thanks to all those who were praying for me.

There was a very good spirit in the service, which is sometimes difficult when there are so many visitors. My wife was pinch-hitting for our regular worship leader and we were without our lead guitarist. It seemed that any obstacle that could come up did last week. Then people were late arriving to practice Sunday morning, but God came in and did his thing. The timing of everything in the service was nearly perfect which is remarkable given how many different elements took place in the service. The drama that took place just before the message went over really well and set the stage for the sermon.

There were several who made decisions at the conclusion of the message and that makes all the work worth it. Our attendance was the biggest surprise of all. With illnesses and travel I knew of many regular attenders who would not be here and yet we had 20 more than Easter a year ago. I am thrilled and humbled by that number.

He is risen, He is risen indeed!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I just couldn't wait until tomorrow to at least say that today was a very good day. God came through big time this morning. Not that it was a surprise that God did his thing, but it is still awesome to experience. Weather was good, attendance better than I expected, great music, wonderful drama, several visitors showed up and most importantly God really showed up.

More tomorrow in my Monday Musings.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Remarkable ...

The past couple of days have been remarkable. I am tied for first in our family NCAA bracket challenge. My co-leader is my oldest grandson, when did he get so smart? Of course this is just after days, but hey I better brag while I can. Then yesterday afternoon it began snowing, remember that is on Good Friday, and it didn't stop until there was about 6 inches this morning. Did I mention it was Good Friday, March 21? That stinks!

Can't wait to see and feel what takes place on Easter Sunday. My expectations are high and low. They are high for some of the things planned and for God to do a "God Thing" among us. The drama is going to be awesome! I am nervous about preaching. I have been feeling increasinly lousy all week, so I am concerned about my part. It just means I must depend upon God completely, I should do that every week, but sometimes I try it on my own. Which never turns out well. My low expectation is concerning attendance. We have a lot of regular attenders who are out of town and now with the snow and cold I am concerned that others will use it as an excuse to do stay home. But I can't do much more about that now, just leave it to the Lord and minister like crazy to those who do come.

Here's hoping you get to experience a couple of remarkable days of your own, minus the snow of course.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Let the games begin

Today is a great day. It is the beginning of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, affectionately known as "March Madness". Games begin just after noon and continue the rest of the day. How cool is that? I have been feeling really lousy all week and need to get better before Sunday. I have had people telling all week to take it easy and this morning my wife asked "Why don't you just stay home and rest today?". So, I believe I am going to do that this afternoon, and I get to watch all of the games provided I don't fall asleep.

Our family has filled out the brackets for the tournament for many years. It is a requirement if you are in our family. That includes daughter and son-in-laws and the grandkids as soon as they are old enough to have some understanding of process. That means that we now have at least 9 filling out brackets. We now keep track of them online since we are scattered around the country.

When my children were still at home the reward was that the family winner got to choose a place for the whole family to go and eat. Of course this meant that even if I won I still paid, but it was fun no matter what. It allows for family trash talking and bragging rights for the next year. My wife came up with a new prize for the winner this year. Everyone who doesn't win must put a post praising the winner on their blog or facebook page. Since 6 of the 9 have one of those it should be fun. The only ones who don't have a blog or facebook page are the 2 grandkids involved and my son-in-law. I believe this is more incentive than a meal. Because we all know that the praises will likely be filled sarcastic platitudes. But I would rather receive those than have to write one.

Yes, I think I am definitely feeling bad enough to rest at home this afternoon. (insert cough and sniffle and imagine a very deep voice)

Here's hoping your brackets crash and I prevail (I say with deep compassion. Maybe it wouldn't be so hard to write some sarcastic praise after all.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Musings ...

Even though we are in the middle of March we had temperatures in low to mid 30's. I am ready for some warmer weather, the snow cover is gone, but nothing green is showing yet.

Yesterday was a good day. There was a good spirit in our morning worship celebration, and this was in spite of some technical and logistical problems. Our normal worship leader is on vacation so my lovely wife was the leader and she always does well. She included several of our children and had them help lead our time of singing. One of them sang alone to begin one of our songs and she had a second grader read some scripture. I believe that helped ease us past some of the other problems. We had an average attendance, but the exciting part was we had a new family who came back and another family that usually only has a couple of them attending had the whole group in attendance.

I have been preaching a series entitled "Breakthroughs". Yesterday was from the passage in Luke 19 where Jesus entered Jerusalem and some asked Jesus to tell his disciple to calm down. He said "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out". I love that verse. The point of the message was of our need to breakthrough our silence. The silence of not speaking up about our faith or the silence of not confessing our sins. There were several who responded to the call of the message.

In the evening we had terrible attendance, I think regular Sunday nights are getting more and more difficult to do well. We had a great discussion on the question "If I have doubts can I still be a Christian?". Even the children got in on the discussion. It was a very enlightening and meaningful time of sharing.

Next Sunday is Easter and I am praying for a real move of God in our worship. Here's hoping that you reflect on the power of the Easter message this week.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tonight's the Night

Our Fantasy Baseball league's draft is tonight. This is always a great event. We gather live, well almost all of us. My son-in-law thinks just because he moved to Arizona last week that he can just phone it in... literally. But the rest of us will gather in central Indiana from northern Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin for a fun night. There will be a lot of magazines, cheat sheets, snacks, pizza and most important trash talking.

I will let you know how it went later.

Hey Rob, you're going down. Oh, wait you didn't win last year. He LeVan, you are definitely going down.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I miss him ...

My youngest grandson had his first birthday (actually it was the 1st anniversary of his only birthday) this past Saturday. He, and my daughter and son-in-law, had just moved to Arizona 3 days before. We celebrated his birthday on Monday and made it a going away of sorts for the family as all our immediate family gathered at Chukee Cheese (I have no idea how to spell it). Okay, the place was more for the rest of us than the birthday boy, but he enjoyed it. But he is not who this post is about.

This is about someone else's anniversary. Saturday was the first anniversary of my Uncle Junior's passing. Yes, he died the same day that my grandson was born. There was something special about that fact.

I didn't see my uncle very often in recent years, but he was a special guy. Not just to me, but to so many people. Our family for sure, the community he lived in and pretty much anyone he had encountered for more than a few minutes all thought he was special.

I miss his mischeivious smile. I miss his pranks, well sort of. I miss his laugh and how his eyes crinkled up whenever he laughed. I miss his encouragement whenever I would see him or hear from him. I miss riding in the combine with him. I miss talking about Indiana High School basketball with him. I miss him telling embarrassing stories about people, especially other people. I miss knowing that I can go see him. I miss him.

As for my grandson, and his parents, I know that I will see him again before too awfully long. As for my uncle I have the assurance that I will see him again too, because he was a born again follower of Jesus Christ. As for my grandson I have a guess as to how long it will be, as for my uncle I have no idea. But in both cases I know I will be excited to see them and I believe that will be looking for me to come.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Jumbled Thoughts ..

Just a bunch of thoughts that are about to come tumbling from my brain, to my fingers, to the keyboard and on to the blog ...

*It is March 11 and I am ready to see green stuff on the ground instead of white stuff.
*March madness is about to begin (NCAA basketball for those saying "huh?") and I am pumped up about it.
*I love my wife.
*My fantasy baseball draft is this Friday, that is always a blast. I have to make a comeback this year, I came in last place last year.
*I need to do a little trash talk practice to get ready for the draft.
*For a move an hour ahead Sunday morning (wow that was a weird way to say it) I was thrilled with our attendance.
*They are losing a whole bunch of weight on "The Biggest Loser" show. I am really getting tired of Maggie and Brittany's repeated moanings (is that a word?).
*Is it just me or is this year's version of American Idol boring?
*I will celebrate 25 years of pastoral ministry in a couple of months.
*What is with the price of gas? This is killing some people.
*I can't wait to play some golf and do some fishing.
*I need a vacation.
*I can't believe Easter is only a week and a half away.
*I am ready to start riding my bike again.
*I have a great family.
*I am ready for political ads to be done, how long until November?
*So is the NBA season about ready to begin?
*There are a lot of commercials about food.
*Have you ever wondered how many people really read your blog? Yeah, me too, well that is if you said yes.

Until next time, here's hoping you get to see some green stuff on the ground soon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was a significant day. It was another opportunity for the body to gather and worship together. That makes it significant. How often do we approach worship this way? How often do we come to a time of corporate worship, or even our private times of worship, with the attitude that this is significant? I would dare say not often. It seems that unless it is Easter, or Christmas, or special day we just show without a lot of anticipation as to how significant the day may be. Well yesterday was significant because is was another opportunity to worship together.

The spirit of our morning worship was very powerful right up until the last few minutes of our time. The time of congregational singing, the special songs and the first half of my message were marked by the distinct presence of the Lord. Something seemed to slip about half way through the message. I don't know what it was, but it was different, the spirit of the service changed. God still moved and lives were still changed according the response of a few.

We had a very strong attendance with several visitors. It was a weekend of giving as well. On Friday night several of our musicians, led by our outstanding pianist, held a concert to benefit a local family. The family's 2 year old daughter has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and is undergoing treatment. The guys did a great job and it was a good night for a great cause. We will be able to send nearly $5,000 to help the family as a result of the giving that night. Then on Sunday we had "Undie Sunday". People brought in packages of underwear and socks for homeless kids in our county. There are many students who are homeless throughout the school year and something that you don't want to get at a second hand store is underwear or socks. Our people overflowed a couple of laundry baskets with new underwear and socks.

Then on Sunday evening we had a great time as our children shared in ministry (see previous post).

It is March 10 and it is still cold. We have snow on the ground and it was snowing just a few minutes ago. Easter is 2 weeks away and I am afraid the Easter Lillies are going to freeze.

Here's hoping you have a significant day. If nothing else realize that the most significant one loves you.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Willing and Enthusiastic

Willing and enthusiastic would certainly describe those who ministered in our service tonight. Tonight several of our children shared their gifts with us. There were piano solos, vocal solos and a duet, there was a clarinet solo, a flute solo and a dance number, it was so encouraging. There were also displays of crafts, photos, drawings, sewing projects and specially baked cookies. Each of these was done completely by these 1st to 6th graders. They also greeted at the doors, ran the sound, set up the program and ushered. There were 3 versions of one song, and it was still fun to hear it each time.

It was so cool to see the kids share, to see their nerves and their joy. To smile at them while they were singing and get them to break into a smile and break up the nerves. To see, and hear, people gathering around the kids afterward and encouraging them and to see the smiles on the kid's faces. To see a few relatives who don't normally come to church come and encounter such a positive experience.

My favorite moment was when one little girl headed up onto the platform to sing her song she was so excited she began to run to get to her place. She turned around with a huge smile on her face as she began to belt out her song.

Here's hoping that all of us will be that excited to serve at our next opportunity.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Not Quite

Last night the weather people had forecast a big storm to hit our area. There were to be several inches of snow with a lot of blowing and drifting. The big storm warning has been cancelled. We got an inch or less, with some blowing, but not the several inches that were to paralyze our area. That is good news for us. However, south and east of us did get hit pretty hard. So I guess the forecasters were correct, just off a bit in the location.

I am one of the few who actually enjoy winter, for a while. But it is now March 8, it is time for the snow to go away, the temp to rise and the birds to begin singing.

Here's hoping you were not in the area that got hit with this storm. This is one time that "not quite" was a really good thing.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

They're gone ...

My daughter, son-in-law and youngest grandson have done it. They have completed their move to Arizona. My son-in-law has begun his new ministry as Minister of Worship and Arts, it is an exciting opportunity and I pray that God will move in special ways. They have some things still up in the air and the whole job thing, but they are there and there is a long way from here.

When each of my children were deciated to the Lord as infants part of that commitment was that I would pray for, and allow, them to follow God's will. They are all doing that for which I am extremely grateful. That has meant that we are not always able to be together and that we have not, and will not be in the future, able to always live close to each other.

It hasn't really hit me that they are in Arizona and probably won't until the next time I could go run d0wn to Indy and see them and realize they aren't there anymore. My wife is already checking out flights and prices to Arizona.

But this is really what I have prayed for from the day my daughter was born. That she, and her family, would listen to God's call and follow it. So this is actually a praise. But I must confess at this very moment it feels like something else.

My Dad's signature phrase during his 44 years of pastoral ministry was "God is still God". That is true and will continue to be true. So God, watch over them in a special way and continue to work in their lives.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What I have learned ...

I have been doing a water and juice fast for the past 3 days (plus some de-daf coffee). Here are some things I have learned:

*There are adds for food everywhere! On TV, on the radio, in newspapers, in magazines, on billboards and even on the sides of trucks.
*I spend a lot of time eating, preparing to eat, planning what to eat and thinking about eating.
*I am hungry.
*Just because my stomach growls doesn't necessarily mean I am hungry. It just means that my stomach is used to getting something and is complaining.
*God is really cool.
*I think I have a bigger problem with food than I thought I did.
*Whenever you are trying not to eat, you will be offered a lot of food.
*I have at least 10 appointments a month that are around food. (Not all bad for time management, but not so good for health and food issues.)
*I am hungry.
*I have not done as well in seeking God during this time as I hoped.
*God is still faithful and has been showing me stuff even though I haven't done as well as I hoped in time with him.
*There are a lot of food smells around me everyday.
*Apple juice tastes pretty good.
*My stomach is not growling much now that I am winding down my third day.
*I am going to try a "Daniel Fast" for the next two and a half weeks until Easter.
*I really want to hunger for God more than I hunger for food.

Just a few thoughts from the past 3 days.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Monday Morning Musings...

God blessed yesterday in a very special way. It certainly wasn't because of the human efforts. We were missing 2 of our 5 worship band members and it showed as it make the timing of some of the song difficult. My associate led a very good time of prayer and that really helped set things in motion. God worked in spite of me yesterday (see previous post).

We had several regular attenders missing for a wide variety of reasons, but our attendance was still good. The response at the altar at the conclusion of the message was very moving. It was encouraging to see a man be the first to come forward and to see many youth come to pray as well. This was no "I am going forward just to feel better" moments. Those who came forward prayed for a long while and many stayed and talked about what they were praying about for a quite a while. I am very encouraged by what I saw yesterday.

God is so good.

Here's hoping you recognize God's grace in your life this week. Here's hoping you share that with someone else this week.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

In Spite Of ...

Sometimes good things happen "in spite of" someone's poor execution. This happened in worship this morning. Some great things happened. These things happened "in spite of" me. That's right, God was gracious and blessed in a powerful way this morning, but it was definitely "in spite of" me and my efforts. I did a poor job in presenting the message, but the Holy Spirit really moved and we had a powerful time of response with several people coming to the altar. The time at the altar was solid, it was not "I want to feel good so I am coming forward". There were many people really wrestling with issues and desiring to settle things and go with God.

This week was terrible for me in my personal Bible reading and God moved "in spite of" me. I was hesitant in my presentation, and worked in people's hearts "in spite of" me.

Maybe this is a living definition of God's grace. That "in spite of" us, God loves us, "in spite of" us God reaches out to us, "in spite of" us God forgiveness and cleanses. I kind of like that definition, "in spite of".

It doesn't take me off the hook. I am broken by my failings and am seeking God in a desperate way.

So, what is God doing your life "in spite of"?