Monday, August 30, 2010


There is a saying that I have used many times over the years in teaching (not my original work)-thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, habits become character. It can be a positive factor in life, but more often than not is a negative. My thought life is something that I struggle with-my mind is often my greatest enemy. I allow thoughts of inferiority to creep in, misperceptions of people and their reactions to me, impurity that frustrates me to no end and even speculation that my imagination runs wild with.

As I was mowing this weekend and my mind wandered (sometimes in positive directions) I reminded myself of the verse in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that challenges us to take every thought captive. As I thought of this verse however, I almost laughed out loud. "Really God? You want me to take captive the thoughts that I can't control even though I try? And what exactly would that look like?"

It wasn't until this morning as I was praying that I realized the only way to take my thoughts captive is to surrender them. I know that seems like an oxymoron-how can you capture something that you need to surrender? That is the whole story of God though-surrendering something/everything and yet finding victory instead of defeat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Continuing to Chisel

God has been working on me lately-more so than usual-as He preps me for what is next in His great plan for my family and His church. Dana and I both have had some tough personal times lately as God has revealed through His Holy Spirit where we need His transforming power to work. We have had to humble ourselves to receive the healing power that God offers. It is not easy, but we can taste the sweetness of what He is doing and see that it is necessary.

I am nearing the end of reading Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life, and it has been a challenging and rewarding book as God has used it as part of the chiseling process. I read this passage today and feel that it stands on its own without any clarification needed from me.

"Light has one law: it shines wherever it is admitted. That is the only requirement. We may shut it out of ourselves; it fears nothing else. If we throw ourselves open to God, he will reveal. The trouble comes when we have closed areas, locked and barred places in our hearts, where we think with pride that we are right. Our defeat the lies less in our being wrong than in our not knowing that we are wrong.Wrong may be a question of natural strength; ignorance of it is a question of light....God is light, and we cannot live in his light and be without understanding."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


As I work my way through the chronological Bible this year, I found myself in Micah this morning. As I read of the disobedience of God's people and the impending judgment that is about to fall on them, the question asked in Micah 6 is, "what do we do now?" God's people become concerned because they realize that they might be in trouble and now want to offer the right sacrifices so that God won't do anything to them. In essence, they want to ask forgiveness so that they can avoid the consequences of their decisions.

God offers forgiveness, but He isn't looking for people who are sorry that they got caught. It isn't just about having them wiped away so that we can go back to what we want to do with our lives. It's the recognition that our decisions need to be filtered through the Holy Spirit so that we can find the lifestyle change that Micah 6:8 challenges us to have. He is looking to transform us into His likeness-not out of His own tremendous ego, but because He sees the big picture of life with Him and that it is better for us than the path of life that we most often choose for ourselves.

Micah 6:8 "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly
and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

If this becomes our life philosophy and the flavor of who we really are as Christ followers, I would wager that the world would view the church as caring, effective, powerful and genuine with all credit going to the King instead of our own individual efforts. We would truly become a people after God's own heart and our individual lives would be sweeter in the process.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What a Difference a Year Makes

How much can change in one year? When I was younger, a year seemed like it would last forever. As I grow older however, I feel as if they fly by so quickly I almost can't keep up with them. Each one brings new opportunities and experiences and more often than not, things that I do not anticipate.

Our lives were changed forever exactly one year ago today. The recognition of that doesn't make me melancholy-it just causes me to pause for a few moments and reflect on the experiences and emotions of the last 365 days that are both enriching and testing.
  • A spirit of peace & calmness that can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit
  • Asking God the question, "What's next Lord?" and listening more intently than ever
  • Seeing our faith in God refined & increased as we have no choice but to trust Him fully
  • Packing up a house that was our 1st as home buyers and wondering how God was going to handle that part of the equation
  • Being reminded of God's protective plan by three job offers within seven days
  • Leaving a hometown that I had lived in for 30 years of my life-my children for all of theirs
  • Being so warmly welcomed by new family & friends in Georgia
  • Recognizing within five days that God had definitely brought me here, in His timing, to be part of this team
  • Painful and yet necessary refining by God
  • Challenging conversations with a brother in Christ who understands where we have come from and pushes me to seek God's best for the future
  • Seeing and hearing of the impact that we have had in other people's lives-even from a distance
  • Recognizing that we are in better spiritual shape as we go through the process of healing
  • A sweeter and richer relationship with God for my family
  • Lessons that I trust will guide me down God's path for the next steps in my life
It hasn't been an easy journey these last 525,600 minutes, but our family is truly learning what it means to trust in a God for whom there are no surprises. Thank you Father for what you have brought us through and what you have brought us to.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I pray quite a bit for success in ministry and life and for God to show me what path He wants me to take as a pastor. There are many times that I feel I am waiting for an answer that never comes, so of course I pray harder. I pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will change me and guide me down the right path.

My thinking has been challenged this morning by Watchman Nee and his book, The Normal Christian Life. In it he says that the Holy Spirit is in us and ready to work if we are baptized believers. We don't have to ask for it-it's already there. If that is true then the true heart of the matter comes down to our recognition of Him. A big part of that also comes down to surrender.

Are we willing to submit ourselves to the will of God-no matter what it may look like and where it may lead us-or are we caught up in our agenda and routine that we do not surrender it all? Perhaps the reason that we feel spiritually "out-of-touch" or "out-of-sync" is that we have a blockade up against the moving of the Holy Spirit. Instead of praying for more of God, maybe our prayer should focus on asking God to reveal that hindrance(s) in our life so that we might fully realize who He is. Surrendering that relationship, habit, goal, priority, reputation, material object or sin may be what God is waiting for so that He can reveal His full power in our life.

The process is not easy-in fact it can be quite frustrating-but to fully embrace God as the King of your life it is necessary and certainly rewarding.

Psalm 73:25 "Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides You."

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Promise

I read in the book of Joel this morning of the great swarms of locusts that God sent as punishment (and attention-getter) on Israel. They had lost their focus on Him and allowed other things to become their god. When His people are willing to return to Him however, He has promised to return His favor to them.

In Joel 2:25, God says that He will repay them for the years of the locusts. Obviously this refers to the physical needs of His people, but I see a spiritual parallel as well. When we suffer through periods of isolation and trial (some of it self-inflicted), we can be restored if we will allow our hearts to be broken for God. It is another reflection of God's great metanarrative-His people wander from Him, He draws them back to Him, and when they repent, He restores them.

I see so much of this story in Joel in my own life in the past year (and even farther back.) I am thankful for a God who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. I can already see His great repayment to our family in the lives of those around us.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Transform vs. Transplant

My first car was a 1974 Ford Pinto-I bought it in 1989 and it only had 38,000 miles on it. It certainly wasn't the greatest of vehicles, but it was mine and it got me around town. As a young man however, I was was disappointed in the pick up of the car. Since it was a straight-four (not even a V6 for this bad boy), it didn't get off the line very quickly. I wasn't engaging in street racing, but it would have been nice if it got moving just a bit quicker.

I could have spent a lot of money fine tuning that engine. Put the absolute best parts on it, the highest grade of gasoline and the most expensive oil in it. I actually could have replaced the interior with leather seats and even added the best sound system that money could buy. Even if I did all of that I still wouldn't have won a street race with a Vespa. The problem is that the car would still have been a 1974 Pinto.

We face the same dilemma when it comes to following Christ. We spend a lot of time and effort in dressing up the old self when the first thing that God needs to do if we are going to be successful is to throw the old away and give us something new. Transformation of our soul is key as we continue to grow in Christ, but we have to let Him give us a heart transplant before we can start to be more like Him.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17

Friday, August 13, 2010

In Due Time

As I read in 1 Peter 5 this morning there is a challenge for the leaders of the church. Peter writes to us to direct us to the proper attitude that we should have. The basic thoughts are: have the attitude of a servant as you lead, enjoy the challenge of ministry-not as a burden or simply as a way to make money, be a godly example to the people you are leading and have the attitude of humility. Those concepts are much easier to write than to fulfill, but the promise from God in verse 6 is that He will lift you up in due time if those characteristics become part of who you are.

It is definitely not a "magical spiritual checklist" of things that you must do before God takes you to the next level of His plan for your life. It is instead a mark of spiritual growth and maturity-a level of transformation-that must take place before we are ready for what God has to show us next.

I feel safe in saying that this isn't just for church leadership either. It is the attitude that husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, employers and employees must also develop before God will reveal the next part of His vision for our lives. It is a good reminder for me this morning as it is so easy to get caught up in the flow of life and forget the greater meaning behind who we are and what we are here for.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Time Is It?

The blog title is a question that was asked on multiple occasions this summer-first at a week of middle school camp and then again on our mission trip to Michigan. Our theme for both weeks was "Time", with the focus being on getting the youth to see that now is the time to do something for God and to let Him work in our lives. Obviously the message was not just for the campers, but continues to be reinforced for me as well.

I was reading this morning and the verse that jumped off the page for me was 1 Peter 4:7. It says, "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers." It obviously speaks of many things, but what caught my attention the most was the theme of not wasting time.

It can be easy to take a day for granted-to assume that if we don't do something today we can simply do it tomorrow. While that may be true for simple things (ie. mowing the grass, taking out the trash, doing laundry), the opportunity to do something for God may not be there the next day. Today might be the day that a focused prayer needs to take place for someone else. Today might be the day that a simple interaction with someone might help to guide them closer to Christ. Today might be the day that a conversation I have with my children is a small part of who they will become in the future. Today might be the day, as a pastor, that the words God has given me to share-through preaching or simple one-to-one interaction-are exactly what someone needs to hear for their situation.

I am still challenged by the depth of this verse as I sit here. It helps to create a sense of urgency in my spirit about the state of mind that I should continually be in. It should cause all believers to give emphasis to the state of their prayers and the intent of their words and actions.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Already Done

I pray and struggle over sin in my life so much. I continually ask God for strength to resist temptation and courage to do the right thing.

As I read Watchman Nee's book The Normal Christian Life today, I am struck by the thought that perhaps I am fighting a battle that has already been won. I continue to pray for power and victory over sin when the outcome of that fight has been decided! Instead of wallowing in the guilt and shame of temptation and sin, I should be living freely in the grace given by God and won by Christ's sacrifice and resurrection. I keep longing to be a man who is free from earthly/fleshly issues when God is trying to tell me that I already am that man. My calling now is to live in the power of the Holy Spirit and be who I am now-justified and sanctified by God, ready to do His great work.

How different would our churches and communities be if we could realize what is already ours and simply live & communicate that truth? Satan shudders at the thought.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Influence: The Mainland Years

After a slight hiatus from blogging due to a powerful mission trip to Michigan, we have returned.

Mainland High School is a special place to me. My mother and father graduated from there as my sister and I also did. When I graduated from college I was blessed to get a job at my old alma mater and spent nine very good years there as a teacher and the head athletic trainer. I don't think one blog could give credit to all of the people who invested in me and influenced me as a leader today, but here are a few:

Dan Eppelheimer-assistant principal, athletic trainer, mentor and friend. His passion for youth today and for seeing them succeed is contagious. You never doubt where you stand with Dan-glad I stood in a good place.

Dick Toth-athletic director extraordinaire and great friend. Committing his entire life to working with young people and understanding the connection between athletics and positive student growth is a trait to be valued. Also a great coach and leader for several generations of young men & women.

Charles Brinkerhoff-coach, teacher and friend. It was a pleasure to watch him coach and work with young men for several years. One of the most intelligent people I know who always challenged me. Our friendship was formed over the years through countless hours traveling and a bond of Christian brotherhood.

Doug Stanley-football coach and friend. Doug was the football coach at MHS my first two years as a faculty member there and taught me valuable lessons in caring for students and developing a family atmosphere in your staff. It was a brief football span together, but I value those lessons and our friendship.

Patsy Graham-principal, mentor and mother figure to us all. Patsy was my boss for the last seven years of my MHS tenure and was the most influential leader I have served under. She was challenging and loving, and managed to get the best out of an impetuous young man who's ego got out of control too many times. I always said that I would follow Patsy into hell and back and that is an honest statement. Telling her that I was leaving to go into ministry was one off the hardest things I have ever done.

As I write this, so many other names of influential friends & family come to mind: Ellen Clontz, Gertrude Sheppard, Greg Cardino, Jim Gardinier, Derrick Henry, Barb Putnam, Jesse Duval, Tim Huth, Tom Novotny, Cheryl Salerno, Melissa Carr, Jamie Pinyan, Don Garner, John Maronto and so many others.

My Mainland family holds a very special place in my heart that no one else can take. Thanks to all of them for influencing me in more ways than they could possibly know.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Gotta Earn It!

The way our society is structured we have to earn everything we desire: the respect of others, the right to be heard, the trust of those around us, our standing in society and especially the physical things that we desire. The problem with this mentality is when it leaks over into our spiritual understanding. We start to believe that we have to do enough "good stuff" to earn God's favor and to keep our standing as Christians. If you have spent anytime in a real relationship with God you know that is not possible, but it certainly doesn't stop us from trying. The side effect of that is a poor self-esteem and an increasingly negative view of yourself since you can never "measure up" to the standard.

It also makes it difficult to keep the two greatest commandments-love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I can love God (or at least profess it), but it's difficult to love others as yourself when you don't tend to love yourself too much based on your own multiple failings and screwed up decisions. At the root of it, it comes down to whether you believe that God loves you for who you are or not.

"Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don't believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the cross."   -Brennan Manning