Monday, June 29, 2009

Living Together

Our friend Allan Hill had a birthday last week. He's the youngest 27 year old I know. Allan lives just down the road from the church, and very frequently drops by or calls both there and at the house. There are probably very few people who have lived in Valparaiso very long that have not seen Allan out walking, and a large number of those people also know him personally.

Allan's hard not to know.

He's never really met a stranger, and when he does, he's generally within hailing distance of someone he does know, so he does what comes natural to him. "Do you know David? David is my pastor" is what I have heard on several occasions when I ran into Allan while out in the community.

So today when we were at one of his favorite places, Dollar General, when we picked out a gift for him, Bunny asked the clerk if Allan had one of them already. "No, but he will like that.," she said, so our purchase was made. She knew him that well.

I sit here and wonder sometimes, what if the whole community - not just the church - but everyone, was as open and connecting as Allan? What if we knew each other so well that pretty much anyone among us could tell someone else whether something as silly as a birthday gift would make us smile?

Think about it.

And here is what Allan will be getting.

It plays "On the road again" and sways while its ears flap up and down.

I expect to hear it a lot until Allan runs the batteries down. But it will make him happy, and that will be a gift to all of us as well.
Our friend Allan Hill had a birthday last week. He's the youngest 27 year old I know. Allan lives just down the road from the church, and very frequently drops by or calls both there and at the house. There are probably very few people who have lived in Valparaiso very long that have not seen Allan out walking, and a large number of those people also know him personally.

Allan's hard not to know.

He's never really met a stranger, and when he does, he's generally within hailing distance of someone he does know, so he does what comes natural to him. "Do you know David? David is my pastor" is what I have heard on several occasions when I ran into Allan while out in the community.

So today when we were at one of his favorite places, Dollar General, when we picked out a gift for him, Bunny asked the clerk if Allan had one of them already. "No, but he will like that.," she said, so our purchase was made. She knew him that well.

I sit here and wonder sometimes, what if the whole community - not just the church - but everyone, was as open and connecting as Allan? What if we knew each other so well that pretty much anyone among us could tell someone else whether something as silly as a birthday gift would make us smile?

Think about it.

And here is what Allan will be getting.

It plays "On the road again" and sways while its ears flap up and down.

I expect to hear it a lot until Allan runs the batteries down. But it will make him happy, and that will be a gift to all of us as well.

Grace and peace,


Monday Morning After Action Report

What a weekend!

The concert by EPIC427 was really good. Having the last beans and rice of the week right before the concert -not sure how to rate that. But the Spirit that was present Friday night really carried us through the weekend - even through a rare business meeting. :)

That's not to say we didn't have some challenges.

Knowing that John and Amy worked their tails off to get everything back the way it should be for Sunday, and that I didn't take the time to get up there to do an equipment check until an hour before worship griped me. Needless problems that could have been solved. Won't forget that again.

Given the number of people we had at worship practice then compare that to the multitude we had up front Sunday, combine it with a sound system that wasn't working right, and you have a sub par music portion when it could and should have been much better. Don't get me wrong, I worshiped, and I'm sure others did too, but we left some blessings on the table that we could have enjoyed. Bethany and Kira - we'll take a rain check for this coming Sunday.

We have some opportunities in the way we care for our kids, the way we greet our guests, and how our facilities are cared for. I'm hopeful we took a leap forward last night toward making those better. And yes, I have the church pictorial directory here by the laptop and am praying off and on through the day over the pictures asking God to place His servants where they were gifted to serve.

As we move through the Summer, I'm looking forward to the beach baptism blast! To seeing the nursing home ministry get off the ground. To more children being sponsored. To movie nights...

And I'm looking forward to sitting around a table hearing person after person talk about how amazing God is and how incredible it is to be a part of His Kingdom work.

My odometer will roll over 10 years next month here, and I've never been more excited or more proud to be the pastor of New Hope.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Don't Be the Frozen Chosen

Bunny and I were at Chic-Fil-A in FWB a while back. That's pretty unusual for us in two ways. First, because we don't eat Chic-Fil-A that often. Costs too much. Secondly because we don't eat inside fast food restaurants very often at all. But on that day we thought we'd slow down, take a breath,and grab some lunch at the fairly new location across from Walmart.

We went inside and ordered, and stood waiting for our food. While we were waiting, it was apparent that while the food might come out hot, we wouldn't. It was FREEZING in there. Bunny didn't have a coat in the car, so when the food came, I told the server that it was freezing in the dining area.

"We have to keep the temperature down for the people in the kitchen."

Mustering every bit of customer relation skills, and ignoring the little devil sitting on my shoulder who was whispering "Give her..." well,you know what a little devil would say, I said politely, "But out here is where the customers are."

She looked at both of us, and repeated I think a little slower for my benefit...

"We have to keep the temperature down for the people in the kitchen."

Bunny and I tried to eat, but wound up tossing most of the food and leaving.

And we haven't been back.

I'm sharing this to remind those of us in established churches that at some times we are guilty of the same mindset as the woman at Chic-Fil-A. What we are doing and how we are doing it works for us, so why should we ever want to change?

Jesus had a far different attitude. He said that He "came not be to served, but to serve,and to give His life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

As we head off to church tomorrow, be praying for eyes that can see your buildings, your welcome, your worship, and yes - your people as someone who has never been to your church or perhaps any church would see them.

It's not about us. It's about Jesus, and reaching people with the good news.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We're In the Paper

From It's Like Herding Cats - A pastor's life

Take a look. And don't forget to come to supper and the concert tomorrow beginning at 6:30PM

The Passive Voice

Bunny was writing something the other day for her amazingly eclectic blog, and she decided to use a grammar checker just to make sure she was making her high school English teachers proud. She got nicked a couple of times by the software for "passive voice." I can remember the same thing happening to me when I used that kind of software. The writers of that software code were making sure that anyone who wrote was going to take you somewhere.

So I'm reading the gospel of Mark today, and I get to the calling of the first disciples. "Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples,and I will show you how to fish for people." And they left their nets at once and went with Him.

What does "Come and be my disciples..." mean?

The New Testament record indicates that Jesus and the disciples saw it as anything BUT passive.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Three Days In...

"So is this week (eating rice and beans) doing what you thought it would do?" asked the reporter from the Daily News.

If by that you mean that every time I whine about eating rice and beans I remember those who didn't make a choice to eat them...

Then yes. This week is doing exactly what I hoped it would do.

I came upon this passage today -

23 Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.24 But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.25 No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.
John 2:23-25 (NLT)

Fact is, we are so out of sync with what God values that it's very difficult to approach poverty with the heart of Jesus. We need to get slapped. We need to be shaken. We need to be made to awaken to the human cost of our indifference.

So if this week does that, I will end it thanking God and waiting for orders.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's SBC Convention Week

The Southern Baptist Convention is meeting right now in Louisville, Kentucky. Be afraid, be very afraid. I'm teasing, sort of. In years past, the week of the convention meeting has been one where I was afraid to read the newspaper. But since no one reads newspapers anymore, we should be okay.


Oh right, the Internet. Curse you AlGore! (JK again)

So I'm tracking the convention this year through Twitter feeds and have visited the official website a couple of times to see what was going on live. I just finished watching the president of the convention, Johnny Hunt, deliver a message on the future of the SBC. Well, I watched some of the message, like a typical Southern Baptist, I found it hard to stay focused.

We have a fix for that though, Baptist Press, so I went over there to see what has been happening.

When I searched Google for Baptist Press, one of the hits that came up was a news article of a Baptist pastor praying for the death of our president. Now that's some Baptist press, but not the right one,or the right kind.

So I finally found and clicked on the "Baptist Press" link.

The Breaking News story - "The Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee recommended in a unanimous vote Monday afternoon that the denomination cease its relationship with Broadway Baptist Church, a Fort Worth, Texas, congregation that has been the source of controversy over its stance on homosexuality."

Then there were hits on disaster relief, and the Crossover Louisville project where thousands were fed.


Maybe next year.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lunch - Day 1 of Worth the Sacrifice

The bags of herb seasoned rice that our Child2Child girls put together to help us along is what I had for lunch today. Pretty darn good fare with a little pepper sauce.

Bunny added 3 cups of water and a little olive oil and with the whole bag of ingredients it cooked up perfect.

Buy a bag and try it out. Money goes to Amazima, you encourage the girls in mission action, and you stay on your rice and beans course (Worth the Sacrifice)

Church Planting - The Church at Skyline Valley

One of the critical needs as we seek to have the message of Jesus heard by as many people as possible is simply venues to hear it in. The culture has changed, and most churches have lost much of their effectiveness at reaching out into it. So new churches are desperately needed.

My friend Tim Fowler is a church planter. This time around he's planting a church outside Ft Hood Texas in a town called "Copperas Cove." The fledgling congregation will meet for their first preview service this weekend. Previews are a time to try to draw people who are looking to find a church, to work out the kinks behind the scenes, and to form a core of people who are totally sold out to what God is calling them to do and be. I can tell you that getting that "core" means everything. I wouldn't take anything for the core of people God has gathered at New Hope, so I'm praying like mad that God would send Tim exactly who he needs.

Tim is a hero of mine. Please pray for him and the church. If you'd like to send an email of encouragement, or something else encouraging $ :)

Phone: 254-285-8668


Saturday, June 20, 2009

I Finished It!

Now I remember why I loved the Classic Comic Books back in the day. Great start and awesome ending to the book, but seriously - it cut have been a third as long and been so much better.

What's Not To Love?


Our big friend, sitting on the couch tonight.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Review: Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart

Click on the book to be taken to

Fiction isn't what I read most often. And when I do, it's usually authors like Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, or the like.

It's been a long long time since I read anything with knights in it, and longer since I read a book intended for young adults.

But the publisher was good enough to send me a review copy of "Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart", written by Chuck Black, and it's summer. Kids are out of school, and if I could find something good for them to read, it would be a help. So here we are.

The first thing I noticed was that Chuck Black used to fly F-16s. Then I noticed that this was book 3 in a series "The Knights of Arrethtrae". I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to come in late to a TV show, movie, or series of books. I'd like for example to see what the TV show "Lost" is all about, but never having watched it, I'd have to get the DVD collections staring with season one and work my way through them to today.

But this was a great book!

It blew away all the preconceived notions I had about it and the genre and I just enjoyed reading it. From the first few pages, I was hooked. Black not only weaves good vs evil through the narrative, but he creates characters that you care about. Their quest becomes yours.

Pick it up. Shoot, buy the whole series and start reading book 1. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It Can't Happen To Me - Happened

About 4:30 this afternoon, my Google account refused to let me log in. I tried entering my password every way I knew to do it on my laptop. Then I tried on the eMac in my office. I was locked out of my own account.

That meant no mail.
No Google reader.
No Google Docs.
No Blogger.
No Google Talk.
No Google Calendar.


I am the most security conscious person I know, and choose very secure passwords. I back up often. But because Google is so good and so... well, free, I found myself in the unenviable position of having access to none of them. It was crippling.

The folks at Google, after verifying I was the owner of my account,helped me reset my password and get back in. Thank you Google!

I'll be looking at ways to avoid another repeat of today.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Book Review: "Eyes Wide Open" Jud Wilhite

I received a copy of this book from the publisher and having followed Jud Wilhite's work at Central Christian church in Las Vegas for a while now, was eager to dive in and see what the author had for us there. I was not disappointed, in fact I used the book as a general outline and partial source for a series of messages on approaching God, Our Identity, and Change with our eyes wide open. It worked very well.

The book is laid out in those three divisions, with individual chapters within each. As a storytelling pastor, I was especially interested in the stories that his ministry in Vegas had generated. The book was filled with instances of God's grace. Some celebrity names that popped up in the book - Evel Knievel, and "Dog the Bounty Hunter". But it's the stories of raw love and grace that really moved me.

This is a book that you could give to a new Christian, or to someone who's been a little jaded by the "Christianity" they have seen in the past, and walk away confident that if they read it, they will see the heart of God on display in real life.

The idea in "Eyes Wide Open" is to discover who God is, who you are in His radical love and grace, and find the path through this messed up world that following Jesus wholeheartedly supplies. Read it. Give it away.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Night Reflections 14 June 2009

It just keeps getter better. The Holy Spirit is on the move and He's moving New Hope.

Going into today, I knew that we'd have several elements in worship that wouldn't be the norm.

First - We'd have the folks who went on the mission trip home and eager to talk about what happened.
Second - Larry Smith Sr. would give his testimony of how the grace of God changed his heart of rage and anger at the Vietnamese people into one that God could use to touch the life of a Vietnamese girl.

That would happen after a video challenge outlining our "Worth the Sacrifice" week of eating rice and beans.

So in looking at the music, I chose: God of This City and Hosanna, then Jesus Paid It All. Originally I had another song as well but we cut it in order to give more time for the testimonies.

The message was the last in the "Eyes Wide Open" series and it was set up to lead folks to be open to how God can change us, and how we are to respond.

More later

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Long Obedience In the Same Direction

Word came in tonight that there may have been some real spiritual activity among the youth we sent out on mission. You have to hope that is so. As a pastor, seeing people gripped by the awesomeness of God, their own sin, and the possibility of freedom in Christ - who then start following Jesus - -that is what fans the flame.

It's been almost 36 years since I became a follower of Jesus, and I've seen times when for me the trail has gone cold - when I chose my own way for a time. Following Jesus can be extremely hard. It's not natural for flawed human beings. Eugene Peterson wrote a book, really one of the first on the spiritual disciplines, called "A Long Obedience In the Same Direction." Ironic that the title comes from a quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, "The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is. . . that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."

Peterson takes the Psalms and uses them as a tool to keep us pointed in the right direction. As I think about my day today, the people I talked with, the Scripture I read, and the events both here and in Kentucky, I am grateful for this passage from his work.

“Important in any community of faith is an ever-renewed expectation of what God is doing with our brothers and sisters in the faith. We refuse to label the others as one thing or another. We refuse to predict our brother’s behavior, our sister’s growth. Each person in the community is unique; each is specially loved and particularly lead by the Spirit of God. How can I presume to make conclusions about anyone? How can I pretend to know your worth or your place? …. A community of faith flourishes when we view each other with this expectancy, wondering what God will do today in this one, in that one."

My prayer as I leave this day behind is that some of the people I love and care for at New Hope have made a few more steps in the right direction.

Hand, Meet Forehead

Was trying to explain to a friend why we at New Hope were doing the "Worth the Sacrifice" week (Jun 21-26) of eating as the orphans in Uganda do, and this post rolled into my Google Reader.

You should read the whole thing, but here's a sample.

Neue Ministry | Join the Conversation
“Would you rather your children have grown up in Uganda or in America?”

That was one of the questions David Kuo asked at our dinner with leadership development students while we were in Uganda. A man who is a Ugandan national, a father, a pastor, and leader answered without hesitation,


Some of us seemed a little shocked. America. It’s the land of opportunity. It’s safe. You can get medical attention. At least three meals a day.

“Exactly,” the man said. “You know where your next meal is coming from. You have jobs. Paychecks. In Uganda, you may not know where your next meal comes from. You have no money. You have nothing to depend upon but God. And i would rather have my children rely on God more than i would want them to be distracted by everything else.”
Amen. Our adults need to live that way too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is It Worth It?

Two weeks ago, I spent almost every minute over four days sitting or lying on the floor next to my big friend Henley the Great Dane. He had come home from the vet when I was presented with a "take him home or put him down" choice. Henley is a member of our family. As much trouble as any of us may be, we don't put family members "down" because it is inconvenient to care for them.

Started out filled with love and compassion and a "whatever it takes" attitude. Over the next four days it got hard. Sleeping on the floor for four nights in a row wasn't any fun at all. Trying to get a dog who was so sick he wasn't interested in eating anything to take his medicine meant getting up close and personal with some large teeth. Helping him to his feet with the help of others and the use of a towel under his belly was nerve wracking.

These are, as was so famously written, the times that try men's souls. It's easy to love someone or something when everything is going swimmingly. But what if things get bad? Emotion only takes you so far. Commitment has to take over. You have to have already made the decision that it's worth it. Tonight as I type this, my big friend is doing much better. He can walk on his own (with a slight limp), and he's back to doing almost everything he did before. Right now, he and I occupy our customary and well loved places next to each other on the red leather love seat we love.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


That's just too cute.

The Times, They Are A Changin'

My friend who I've never met in person but have admired for years, Marty Duren, has written what for him is a very rare post about something in the inner workings of the Southern Baptist Convention. He does a great job with it, and you should read his thoughts on the "Great Commission Resurgence" document. I've also been meaning to write something about where we at New Hope find ourselves, so this is that rare day when both Marty and I write about the SBC. I expect Halley's comet's return before it happens again.

Having successfully avoided every state and national convention for the 36 years I have been a Baptist, you could say that I'm not really interested in what happens in the SBC. You'd be wrong. I care a great deal about what the SBC does where the rubber meets the road. That would be the local church, BTW. People seem to forget that the convention exists to serve the churches instead of the other way around, and that the various entities that make up the SBC exist for the same reason. Absent that need, they should not exist.

Our church is a contributing member of the local group of Baptist churches, the Florida Baptist Convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. We give money. We pray for our leaders, and those who serve our Lord as missionaries. As far as I know, that's about all they want from us.

That's just not enough.

We have flung the door open for a delivery of new wine skins and aren't looking back. Our people are being encouraged to sponsor children through Compassion, World Vision, or other Christian efforts. (We'll soon hit a dozen kids!) They are engaged in helping across the world with other groups who are making a difference. For example the younger girls have in successive months made crafts that were sold to fund stainless steel food bowls for kids in Haiti, formula for an orphanage in Guatemala, and VBS materials for kids in the Ukraine. We've given the shoes off our feet (and out of our closets) to and left worship barefoot. We're about to embark on the most radical thing I've ever been a part of - a challenge to eat as the orphans do for 5 days, and give the money difference between that and what we normally eat - to the orphans at Amazima Ministries in Uganda.

Oh and lest you think we've forgotten the Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria part of the Great Commission - we have 17 folks away on mission to Appalachian KY right now, have done more local benevolence work this year than ever in our history, and are about to start our summer movie outreaches.

And exactly what has the SBC have to do with any of that?


That's not intended to be a swipe at the SBC, just a fact. Times are changing. Churches are looking for ways to DO SOMETHING, not outsource it to "professional missionaries." There are many outlets for that desire that lie outside the SBC and are easy to find. Why is that? And why are the leaders of the SBC fixated on a document like the "Great Commission Resurgence" (which in classic SBC fashion will be submitted to a committee at the convention to be studied for a year) instead of asking the local church what we need?

We're going to continue to look for the most effective way our local church can change the world for God's glory. If that's through the SBC, great. But I doubt it. I also expect that we will find a better way to ensure that the monies we contribute to God's work through the SBC don't get frittered away at the state level or absorbed into the "machine" and get to the missionaries on the field. The times, they are a changin' - and I'm thrilled about how much more impact we are having for the Kingdom of God - and can't wait to see what's ahead.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

It's Almost Movie Time

Last year we were able to partner with the City of Valparaiso, Valparaiso Communications, Turner Classic Movies, and the NW Florida Heritage Museum to offer free nights at the movies to families in our area. Well, we're a little behind the curve right now - a lot going on - but our friend at the Valparaiso Communications HQ is checking with Turner to see if they are offering summer movies again.

If they are, we'll try to renew the partnership. If they aren't, then we'll look for movies we can show under our license. The only catch to that is that we'll have to show them at church instead of in the park.

So- any movies that you think would be great draws for families to come, hang out, eat somefree popcorn, have some free sno-cones and just enjoy summer?

Let me know your nominees.

Growing Boys Into Godly Men

I love this picture.

Not only is it set in a beautiful place, but it is a wonderful picture of a father and son exploring the world they live in together.

If you look at the statistics, the presence or lack thereof of a father in the home during the formative years is the catalyst for either a good transition into adulthood for boys (especially, but also for girls), or later problems with many areas - their relationship to God being at the top.

As I wrote yesterday, we have invested a lot of energy, time, and love into the development of boys at New Hope. But we are still lacking in seeing the type of spiritual transformation that I know would make a life-long difference for boys as they grow into men. So I am doing what I do when God shakes my tree - praying and seeking. At this point I haven't formed even an outline of what I am looking to see created here, but I know it has to be done.

The best picture I could give at this point would combine a Creed that boys would learn and be formed by, a Code that they would live by, and a process where men would mentor boys, who as they grew would be taught to mentor others. I've asked my pastor friends, especially those who have a particular passion for men's spiritual development to help. Here's a tidbit from one program for boys in Texas called "Young Guns." (Sounds like Texas :) ) It's their credo.

Before the brotherhood and God, (1 Peter 5:9)
To strive to be men of meekness, (Matthew 5:5)
Power in the Mighty hands of our King, (1 Peter 5:6)
Above reproach, remaining, (Daniel 6:4)
Brother to Brother, (Proverbs 17:17)
Shield to Shield, (Ephesians 6:16)
Soul to Soul, (1 Samuel 18:1)
And Iron to Iron, (Proverbs 27:17)
For the body of Christ, (1 Corinthians 12:18)
And in the name of the Lamb (John 1:36, 14:13)
Amen. (Revelation 22:21)
Each of those equates to a component in the program they used to help mold boys into godly young men.

My thoughts are that this needs to be a helper for dads as they steer their boys through adolescence, and yet be able in the cases where a dad isn't present in the home to morph into something our New Hope mentors could do. The emphasis would not so much be on learning by sitting in a room, but learning by doing. Possibly have a camp experience a couple times a year to bring boys and men together and into the group.

Images of Knighthood come to mind, but I'm not sure how that resonates with today's boys.

Still praying and seeking. Any ideas, thoughts, or help - send them on.

It's Late, Or Early So I Probably Shouldn't Write This

But just for the record...

I don't really want to find 10,000,000 Christians on Facebook.

/rant off

Monday, June 08, 2009

The End of One Road, And the Beginning of Another


Springfield, MO

Aaron Winowiski, a church planter from Wisconsin, was one of thirty-three graduates honored during June 5 graduation ceremonies in Springfield, Missouri.

Diploma in Ministry Leadership: Christopher F. Cahill (Florida), Luke Crosby (California), Melanie Ann Dixon (Maryland), Ellie Louise Edwards (California), Bill Johnson, Jr. (Alaska), Thomas C. McElligott (Washington), Elizabeth Puffer (California), Janice Sawyer (California), Jane Sue Wallace (California)

Master of Ministry Leadership: Mark Edward Canfield (Florida), Joseph Michael De Rico (Arizona), Ronald Ed Emmerling (Michigan), Douglas L. Hart (California), Karen Klender Heist (Maryland), Joseph F. Kane (Ohio), Stacey M. Manske (Virginia), Mark Andrew Miller (Missouri), Katherine Ann Oshiro (California), Robert K. Paylor (Virginia), Mark A. Sisler (Illinois), Douglas Edward Street (Taiwan), Thomas Michael Thompson (South Carolina), Heath Owen Tucker (Oklahoma), James R. Wilke, Jr. (California), Aaron T. Winowiski (Wisconsin), David Anthony Wilson (Florida)

Master of Divinity: Thomas F. Bartlett (North Carolina), Bruce C. Coats (Wisconsin), Patrick W. Giraldin (California), Scott Steven Mills (Texas), Matthew Nash (Michigan), James A. Robbins (California), Timothy Gary Swigart (Wisconsin)

Yes, it is now official. Yours truly completed the requirements for the Masters of Ministry Leadership at Rockbridge Seminary earlier this year. I would have loved to been able to go to the physical graduation and meet some of the great people I took the journey with, but that wasn't possible. So I want to take this opportunity to once again thank the staff, faculty, and students that walked with me along the way, and in particular a couple of people who really made it possible.

First, to my wife Bunny, my cheerleader and motivator, I owe more than I will ever be able to repay. You have been the greatest gift my Savior has ever given me. Thank you for encouraging me and supporting me.

Second, to a fellow student and brother in Christ who stepped up at the end of the journey when I was unable to continue for lack of funds - again, my heartfelt thanks for the sacrifice you made. I'll not give your name, since that wasn't what you wanted, but I will never forget the grace you bestowed on me.

To you who read this and are wondering about a seminary education, all I can tell you is go for it! The advent of quality online education is upon us, and Rockbridge offers world class and practical instruction that will make you more effective for the Kingdom of God regardless of what your role might be where you are.

Do Hard Things

Just finished reading Alex and Brett Harris' book "Do Hard Things - A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations", and I am seriously impressed with this book and its authors.

The premise is that generations since WW2 have created a period in the life of people that didn't exists before "teenager", and that as a result have created an artificial rest state when it should be advanced training for life. The authors woke up to this while still teenagers themselves and decided to start a "Rebelution".

As a pastor, I am so heartened by this book's call to the young men and women in our churches to step up and step out for God. Seeing teens waste those years and wander away from God has always brought heartache for me. As a father, I wish I could have put this book and that mindset into the DNA of our family when our boys were in that stage of their lives.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who works with teenagers, or who parents them. It is actually written for the teens themselves, by teens, so maybe you could buy a copy for your teens and read along with them, getting together to discuss what the book's impact on you is from each of your perspective.

Now I need to go and write a "Rebelution" book for Boomers like me. :)


Sunday, June 07, 2009

7 June 2009 - wrapup

The day really began at 3:30, as the New Hope "away team" headed out for Big Creek Ky for a week on mission. Big Creek Missions is doing a great job bringing the love of Jesus to the people of Appalachia. Led by our youth/admin pastor Doug Fannon, they'll be busy working repairing homes and leading children in summer programs the staff of Big Creek work hard to create. We'll be praying for them -join us.

With a large group away, it was easy to think that we'd be "down" today. First week after school's out too. But God blessed us with a good crowd of people and several visitors.

Today was also "Barefoot Sunday" where a bunch of us left our shoes behind as an offering. I think there was about 100 pairs of shoes all totaled.

I continued the mini-series "Eyes Wide Open" and this week we took a look at our identity in Christ. I was praying all week that someone might finally grasp what God sees in us as a result of the Scriptures. I hope someone walked away with the Truth.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Who Am I?

Last week we looked at who God is with our eyes wide open. Tomorrow, we'll look at who we are. This great song by Casting Crowns points in the direction we'll head.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

If the City Prospers...

4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem:
5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.
6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Jer 29:4-7 (NLT)

When this was written, the Jews were in captivity in Babylon. They had been ripped from all they owned and transported to a culture whose values, religion, and status was radically different from theirs. You'd think that God would tell them to go underground, form an insurgency, or something.

But notice "where I sent you..."?

Where New Hope sits is no accident. God has placed an outpost of His Kingdom right here at 108 Aurora St. Call it a Forward Operating Base. It's the jumping off point for us as we work to bring the peace of God to Valparaiso Florida. For a long time, Christians tried to find peace in the city by withdrawing from the world around them into a holy huddle. But that's not what we are put here to do. We are to work and pray for the peace of the city.

So what can we do to see God's shalom peace come to Valparaiso?

First, we are to pray. Pray for the spiritual condition of our neighbors here. Pray for their economic well-being. Pray for the leadership,and all the public servants. Pray for the safety of people here.

Then we are to look for where God would have us work, and join Him there.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Worth the Sacrifice

When I became a pastor, I dreamed of serving a church that wanted to change the world.

I am.

New Hope has been challenged to swap our normal food for five days to experience in a small way what the orphans of Africa experience. The first week's presentation featured John Anderson's frank testimony of how God had changed his heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sunday's testimony was from Missy Hickman who described what God had done in the life of their family through their adopted son, Levi, who was born in Liberia.

This summer, New Hope is kicking the devil in the teeth.

*Child2Child - gathering funds for other children's needs around the world
*Community Garden - raising vegetables to help the poor
*Mission Trip to Kentucky - repairing homes and teaching children about Jesus
*Soles4Souls - our older girls (Niara) are asking the church to leave worship barefoot and give their shoes to the poor
*Worth the Sacrifice - eating as the orphans eat and giving the money we save to them

That takes care of June :)

When Amy Sings

10 Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it:

1 Peter 4:10 (MSG)

Bunny called me out of my office one afternoon. I was in the middle of trying to find a path through Mark 8, while simultaneously reformatting one computer and defragging another. Neither was going well and I was becoming increasingly frustrated. Normally, that's not the best time for anyone to interrupt me. I get a wee bit grumpy. Okay, I get MORE grumpy.

But she said "come hear Amy sing."

Bunny teaches children to play piano and every one of them is awesome. Great, great kids. And it isn't unusual for her to call me in to hear the kids play. I enjoy it and it gives the kids a chance to play for an audience and get the "butterflies" out. Most of them will later play something for an offertory at New Hope, even though most aren't regular attenders here. New Hope LOVES kids.

So I came in and sat down, and Amy began to sing.

And I began to grin.

Her little voice was great, but it was the way she really sang the words.

She was... earnest. I know that's a strange word, but I don't know how else to describe a little girl so serious about singing.

It was one of those moments in life when you think "she might actually DO this for thousands someday."

She's a blessing if she never sings a note, but you should hear Amy sing.

God bless her, and all those who give to others what God has blessed them with.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Barefoot Sunday @ New Hope 7 Jun

This Sunday we'll participate in "Barefoot Sunday" along with others within the Church. (Big "C" for church meaning across denominations and distance)We're going to challenge people to leave worship barefoot, leaving their shoes behind as an offering to God for the poor.

Shoes? Why shoes?

Here's the deal. Half the people in the world do not own a single pair of shoes. This includes 300 million children. They are forced to walk around barefoot, often in unsafe—even life-threatening—situations. Many of these are children.

If I want a pair of shoes I go to my closet.

So we're helping a ministry called Soles4Souls to get what God has placed here in excess to those in distress.

You have shoes.


Do something!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Recap for Sunday May 31st @ New Hope

During the announcements, we were called to worship God as living sacrifices by three different groups within the church - the Child2Child ministry that has raised $400+ for orphans in Ukraine, the Naira girls who are challenging all of us to leave barefoot next Sunday to help Soles4Souls put shoes on the feet of the poor, and then we saw a video and Missy Hickman gave testimony to how God had worked in her family's life through their adoption of their son Levi from Liberia - and beyond.

This was before we even prayed for God to join us as we worshipped Him.

I have never been in a church that's doing so many things in so many places through so many people. It feels like Pentecost at New Hope right now (and today WAS Pentecost in the Christian calendar).

More later - gotta crash.