Saturday, October 30, 2010


I had a great week, but one thing that was frustrating was the time I spent preparing for the message on Sunday. This week's is one of those that just did not come easy. My guideline is that the message is ready to go by Thursday at midnight. That didn't happen this week. It's not that I don't know what to talk about. Quite the opposite. There are so many roads to go down with this Sunday's topic, it's been a real task upbringing out which road to take. I'll get there. And this is not the point, only the example.

What I'm thinking about this morning are priorities. I didn't finish the prep for that message on Thursday. That meant that I felt the immediate temptation to work on it on Friday. No go. Friday is my Sabbath day - my weekly day of rest. So, now it's Saturday morning and I have a ton of stuff I'd like to do today. Still, the priority is to be very well prepared for that message tomorrow morning.

My pastor, Gerry Stoltzfoos, taught me a long time ago, "When you say yes to one thing that's always saying no to another." That is the essence of priority. I've said yes to communicating God's Word on a weekly basis. This week, that means I'm going to do less fun stuff today and watch less college football than I'd like. Those are small sacrifices, but it's the small incremental decisions we make that define who we are.

How about you? What sacrifices are you making to prioritize the most important things in your life?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who's your source?

I came across this in my Bible reading this morning. Proverbs 18:9 A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things.

It reminded me of a lesson I learned years ago. A wise man named
Tom Rees taught me that there is always a fine line between what we need and what will destroy us. In this case, there is a fine line between rest and laziness. There is a lot of talk out there about "taking care of yourself first". It sounds good and makes sense, but again, when pushed too far it gets dangerous.

I'm all for resting and taking steps to see that we are healthy people. But how quickly we can cross the line from taking care of ourselves to just plain old selfishness. The fact of the matter is that Jesus taught us this in Matthew 6:33 "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

Rest. Be healthy. But above those and all else, seek God out. He is the source of all we're looking for.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

up before the sun

I love being up early. I love being up before my wife and my kids and the sun. It's just a peaceful time to read God's Word, think, pray and write. It's before all the demands of the day get a chance to start pulling on me. Just like I give my first dollars to God through tithes, I can give the first minutes and even hours to God by being up early. Yeah, I give up some sleep and some mornings it's really tough to get out of bed, but it's become a habit. A habit that I love and is helping me grow closer to Jesus a little bit at a time. Never underestimate the power of incremental living. Very small steps toward or away from Jesus add up powerfully through a lifetime.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Luke 9:62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

I came across this verse this morning as I was reading my Bible and it felt so significant. I recall a time about fifteen years ago when I was about to enter ministry and I was doubting if I wanted to take that step. In fact, I was doubting if I even wanted to continue to follow Jesus at all. I was doing some serious looking back at the life I had come out of a year or two earlier. During that time, a guy named George Stoltzfoos showed up at our church. He lived in Florida and just happened to be in town because his job as a truck driver brought him nearby and his brother, Gerry, was the pastor of our church.

I didn't know George and he didn't know me. But after the service that morning, he came over to me and said, "I don't know exactly what you're wrestling with, young man, but God wants me to tell you not to put your hand to the plow and then look back." I said thanks and he went on his way. But as I reflected on that through the day, it just turned me up-side-down. I decided to stay on the path of following Jesus and to ministry.

It was a couple years later, when I was in ministry school, that I came across this Scripture and realized that awesome word George had given me actually came from the Bible! Just like that Scripture inspired me fifteen years ago, it inspires me today as I pour my heart and soul into establishing a new life-giving church in Tulsa. We are well on our way and I am not about to look back. Thank you, Lord, for your life-giving Word.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

awesome day today at church

Today was just great. For the last couple weeks I've been hearing a lot of my friends who are pastors talking about huge #s of people being out of church . I was feeling pretty blessed that we hadn't seen it yet. Well, we saw it today. I can count two dozen regular people who were out today. We even had three of our seven kids ministry leaders call out.

So, today we had our record low attendance but our record high giving day. If Jesus was right when he said that our hearts always follow our money (and He was right), that tells me that people's hearts are beginning to connect with our church. Love that. We're still seeing new guests each week and people beginning a new relationship with Jesus each week too!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Think about all God has done for you

If you're tempted to complain that God's not doing anything, don't forget what He's already done. Here's an example . . .

Psalm 77
I cry out to God; yes, I shout.
Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble,
I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan,
overwhelmed with longing for his help. Interlude

4 You don't let me sleep.
I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days,
long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever?
Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever?
Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he slammed the door on his compassion? Interlude

10 And I said, "This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me."
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord ;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

13 O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph. Interlude

16 When the Red Seas saw you, O God,
its waters looked and trembled!
The sea quaked to its very depths.
17 The clouds poured down rain;
the thunder rumbled in the sky.
Your arrows of lightning flashed.
18 Your thunder roared from the whirlwind;
the lightning lit up the world!
The earth trembled and shook.
19 Your road led through the sea,
your pathway through the mighty waters—
a pathway no one knew was there!
20 You led your people along that road like a flock of sheep,
with Moses and Aaron as their shepherds.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

no human endeavor

I woke up early this morning and can't seem to get back to sleep. Looks like I have some extra time to read my Bible and pray. It seems like I have a million things on my mind.

We're about six weeks into the official existence of our church and it's both more rewarding and more difficult than I had anticipated. It's not that I didn't believe all the books I read and training I received prior to starting - they all told me the exact same thing. I think it's just something that I have to experience first-hand to truly understand.

I'm beginning to understand, on a deeper level, that this is not a human endeavor at all. There is more to this than just starting a church. The church is started. The challenge now is to build a church that will make a deep and lasting impact on the people of this city. That's a tall order and I would feel very overwhelmed with that . . . if it were up to me.

You see, it's not really up to me to make that happen. It's up to my God. He's the one who planted this idea in my heart. He's the one who assembled a team around me to get this far and He's the one who will continue to build His church. I laugh to myself when I think about the fact that He chose me as the leader of this thing. Me? I'm so weak. Maybe that's why. In my weakness, God's strength shows through all the more.

No, church-planting, as they call it, is no human endeavor at all. Whew . . .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

it's hard to grow if . . .

I didn't write this. Shawna did. But I feel this every single day. You?

It's hard to grow, if you fight it. If you try to hide it. I have found it fascinating that everything else in nature seems to grow without the slightest bit of effort, but not me. It feels hard. Hard and stale. But when I stop fighting it, and stop hiding it, and let myself travel from day to day without digging my heels in as if I can do anything but drag... it makes for a crisp, fresh day, unfrowned upon.

Stay true to yourself, and accept the cost.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

how to drop some weight

Simple. When the weight of the world is on your shoulders it's because you have decided to take it on. If I'm carrying more than I can handle, it's really me saying that I don't trust God with it.

"No, God, you just step back. I've got this." Ridiculous, but I do it way too much. We all do.

Let's drop some weight today. It's an act of your will. You control your will. It does not control you. Whatever you're worried about, give that thing over to God - right now.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

too much to tweet about

Today was great. We had a fantastic team from Gettysburg Masters Commission with us and they were so wonderful. They, and some of our team here, got about 1500 door hangers put on local homes on Saturday. Today was week 4 of Freedom Valley Church in Tulsa. There were 87 people in attendance, 4 began a new relationship with Jesus, and we baptized 4 others in water this afternoon at our All Church BBQ. It was really a great time. I got to know some great new people I had only casually met at church before.

I have that all spent for the sake of building God's Kingdom kind of hung over feeling right now. I don't mind that a bit. God was very generous with us today. I feel so grateful.