Author Archive for

04
Sep
20

Would you try out for church?

Recently a father told me that I would probably not see he and his family much at church over the fall.  I thanked him for letting me know and asked what was going on that would be preventing him from attending.  He explained that his son’s were trying out for a travel sports team.  If they made the team they had practices three nights a week for two hours and tournaments most weekends.  Depending on how they did at the tournaments determined on how often they would or would not be there.  Wow!!  That is a big commitment I said.  That conversation really got me to thinking.  What if I got up Sunday and said that we were doing a special church training and ministry throughout the fall.  It will meet three nights a week for two hours and require most weekends and you have to try out for it.  How many people do you think would sign up? I have no intention of doing that but I did ponder what does discipleship really look like?  If is uncomfortable, inconvenient and takes precious time.  In fact, Discipleship should be defined by our lifestyle, not a class we complete.  Jesus did not pull any punches when he laid out what being a disciple meant.  It was not about buildings, programs, worship services or comfort.  It was about living a life of sacrificial service.  Today if the temperature is not just right, the programs not good enough or numerous enough or the ones that fit my desires we move on.  Maybe not physically but mentally.  We have lost the concept of buckling down, taking ownership, feeling the burn and making a Kingdom difference.  I am convicted that I need to do more to develop leaders and those desiring to understand this is warfare.  But the question remains.  Christ is asking for more commitment that any sports team.  Accepting His gift of salvation is the beginning of the journey but the next step is taking up His cross and following Him.  So how about it?  Are you ready to really live out your faith or do you just need another bag of peanuts and a soda so you can continue to sit in the stands?

14
Aug
20

I am a modern-day idol worshiper

I was going into fourth grade when I first heard the gospel.  Unlike most people, I immediately understood my need for Christ and began a relationship with Him.  Over the years I have battled doubts of whether I really meant it, doubts due to sinful choices I have made and I even struggle at times with the devil’s constantly evil yet convincing whispers in my ear.  Time and again Christ has proven Himself faithful and I type this with full assurance that I am a blood bought child of God!!

 

However, this does not mean I have not struggled in other areas.  One big one for me has been my consistent ability to be a redeemed child of God but to still allow myself to be like the Israelites.  Like them, I create and worship idols.  No, I do not carve anything out of wood or stone, but I do make people, emotions, dreams, and finances to become things that I am consumed with.  Instead of allowing my walk with Christ to be the source of my strength, joy, and confidence I cave into my flesh.  I allow myself to make the circumstances, feelings, and people in my life to become bigger than God.  If you asked me if I worship idols, I would give a resounding “no” but if you could hear my thoughts and experience my feelings you would see that I struggle in this area.

 

When I do get in my right Biblically focused mind, I put on the Ephesians 6 Armor of God, rest in the Word and smash the idols in my heart.  The key for me is daily readjusting my focus off the potential idols and back solidly on His Word and promises and following up with Biblical actions.  You may be willing to admit along with me that you are an idol worshiper, but we do not have to be defined by that if we are God’s child.  God forgives and restores so confess it, smash them, put on the armor, and fight the good fight.

06
Aug
20

The smallest violin in the world, playing the saddest song…just for you

Most of us have heard that statement, and many of us have said it to others.  It is usually said after the person hearing it perceives that we have been “excessively whining.”  This may or may not be true, but it sounds, to the hearer, like it is.  If we are honest, most of us struggle with “excessive whining.”   Sometimes we intend to do it, and sometimes it just comes across that way when we start to share what is going on in our lives.

It certainly is easy to focus on the problems of life.  We live in a culture in which from across the back fence to across the globe, the big news is always the bad news.  Inspiring stories are footnotes, and tragic ones are the headlines.  As a result, we have developed a culture of people who are intrigued by negative stories.

Think about how it affects us daily.  When asked how we are doing, most of us say, with a somewhat exaggerated sigh, “I don’t know what or who to believe.”  This is an expected answer in the world in which we live.  We face hard questions, “What is my position on Covid”, “What choice do I make regarding my child’s schooling” or “Will we run out of important supplies”.  Fear and division usually bring stress, and stress usually brings whining.  What we are really saying is that we can’t keep up, that we are being stretched in too many directions and that we are just stressed.

In our world of stress, one huge area that is affected is our time with God and the time we should invest in the things He tells us are important.  Instead of striving to be People of the Word, we are Masters of Excuse.  When living an excuse-directed life, we build on the wrong foundation and have additional and unintentional struggles that lead to more whining.  It is a vicious cycle.

Staying God focused is spiritual warfare.  The Scriptures make that pretty clear, and whining is a tool the devil loves to use.  Just look to the garden.  “Hey Eve,” the serpent said, “did you know that God knows that if you eat fruit from that tree, you will be like Him?”  His intention was to get Eve see herself as a victim.  “Eve, you are being held back. “or “Poor Eve!! If God really loved you, He would let you eat from EVERY tree instead of all but one.”

The truth is quite the opposite. God, in His love, was protecting Adam and Eve.  Today we get caught up in the same lies.  The devil says, “You are being taken advantage of, you are being lied to or about, you are being purposely discriminated against.”  How do we know that he is saying that?  It comes out in our whining.

How do we battle this epidemic? Praise and Thanksgiving.  Each day is a gift that comes with trials that our God will guide us through and pleasures we really do not deserve.  In every step, our heart and voice should be locked in praise and thanksgiving to our God.  This is the greatest weapon to fight whining.  Try it, I dare you.  What is the worst that could happen……..?

 

21
Jul
20

Are you defeated?

Life can be really difficult.  Each person has and will deal with different levels of pain and heartache.  Some will lose loved ones in what seems like premature ways.  Others will be betrayed by those they thought would always have their backs.  Yet others will struggle with physical, emotional, or mental health battles for their entire life.  Some of our pains are brought on by our own choices but many others are not.  It is very easy to ask the “why” questions and to constantly focus our energies on “what more bad can happen,” or “I barely made it through today so how can I possibly even think about trying tomorrow?”  It is so easy in a culture saturated in talking about the worst of life to be a victor.  However, victory is exactly what God has always intended for His children.

 

Defeat is easy but victory is hard.  Victory requires fighting when the statistics, pollsters and even your own mind says that you will lose.  Victory means hard work, battle wounds and a teachable heart.  Victory means choosing to focus on Christ instead of the crisis, sometimes moment by moment.  Victory also means the recognition that we need Christ’s help because we cannot win this one on our own.

 

Unfortunately, Covid seems to have brought the dark cloud of defeat over a world already lacking hope and purpose.  Too often we have bowed down to defeat instead of talking about the ways we have seen God’s hand at work, creatively finding ways to carry out His mission and vision for our lives. Too often we have forgotten that Covid did not take God by surprise and we have assurance that we can walk with God through it.

 

If you have been defeated, then I want to remind you that defeat does not have to be a life sentence.  Instead, remember that His mercies are new every day.  Know that He is able and wants to lift you up.  You may have to claw for every inch, but you are on the victor’s side if you are in Christ Jesus.  Decide today to go from being defeated to becoming a victor.  That is His plan – do you believe it and are you willing to fight for it?

17
Jun
20

What is Covid teaching you?

I am a people person and so I, like many of my people person soul mates, have not loved the inability to sit face to face over coffee and talk life.  I will have to say that this time has taught me many things.  Some have been great, and others have been disheartening.  I wanted to take a few minutes of your time to share the pros and cons of living in a pandemic.

 

What has been disheartening?

Some who are ok being disconnected from people.  I have talked to lots of people during this time who attend big churches and little ones.  I asked questions about what they are doing to stay connected to other people.  The answers that concern me the most are the ones that indicate that they are not doing anything to connect with people at all.  I know that introverts are loving this time much more than I am, but to choose to not work creatively to be connected is concerning on many levels.  The most important one is God’s command for Christians to be in community and to practice discipleship.  It’s very discouraging to know there are church members who do not desire fellowship with others.

Some who are ok being disconnected from God.  In our church and in many others, there are people who are not doing anything to stay in an active relationship with their church community but there are also some I talked to who are not connecting with God.  The reasons vary but some are, “If the church is not guiding me, how am I supposed to know what to do?”, “ I have just gotten out of the habit since my normal systems are not in place.” or “I struggle with fear and that has crushed my spiritual desires.”  There are others but these statements concern me on many levels.  If we are God’s children then we will want to stay connected with Him, right?

Some who are being destructive to others.  I have stated in previous posts my concern for the unity of the body.  Fear, arrogance, and other non-Godly attitudes are allowing people’s ugly side to show. We need to fight this temptation.   If people do not believe the way you do or are not as passionate as you are, it does not mean they automatically become your enemy.    Lack of grace, compassion and empathy concern me as we take the next leg of our journey. I don’t want this to adversely affect our relationships with each other or with God.

 

What has been great?

Connecting with fellow believers around the world.  One of my Zoom Bible studies has parents of young children, fellow Believers in other states and from other churches and even a missionary from another country.  Many of these people would not be able to join us if we only ran an in-person Bible study.  Praise God that we can connect over His Word literally around the world.

More have been reached with truth than maybe at any other time.  Almost every church has had to figure out ways to go digital.  As a result, I am hearing that people who are shut ins, non-Christians and our own church families are showing up in record numbers.  This is allowing an audience we would have never had if this time had not been thrust upon us.

We now have options.  Is the weather bad, or do you have young children and cannot afford a babysitter?  Does that mean you are stuck missing church activities?  Because we now have Zoom and other platforms, we can still meet virtually even when we cannot meet in person.  These new tools will allow us to include people digitally who cannot attend physically. It is one more tool to help us become more like Christ.

 

I am not sure what you are loving or hating about Covid but please share your thoughts.  I hope mine will be a blessing and a challenge to you.

10
Jun
20

Wendy: A spark plug for God

On June 1, 2020 God decided to bring home one of His own.  One who had been impacting lives in the Upper Perk valley for years.  If you knew Wendy, you knew that Wendy cared about you.  She lived a lifestyle of love in so many real and powerful ways.

She worshiped her God with love.  Whether she was singing, sharing a God story, or helping serve her church, she spilled over God’s love to anyone near enough to be impacted by it.  There is no doubt that Wendy not only knew Christ as Savior, but she was passionate about seeing others know and love Him.

She served her community with love.  Wendy was born, grew up and died being a part of this valley.  She knew so many people and cared deeply about how to help her community be taken care of well.  You saw that in her involvement and conversations with friends both old and new.  When UPCC began and she started attending, she often mentioned how thankful she was to see what God was doing in this community that she helped see impacted for Christ.

She invested in her family with love.  Wendy would be the first to admit that she had sinned and grieved God at times in her life.  The beauty of her life was that in the depths of sin she reached back out to God to forgive and restore.  As a result, she worked hard to see that both her and Rod’s family knew that she cared for them and wanted to make sure her personal and family relationships were right before them and God.  It took work but one by one she kept at it, while striving all along to develop a God-focused marriage with Rod.

She walked life with her church family in love.  It did not matter if you were old or young.  Wendy could not have cared less if you were rich or poor either.  If you were a part of her church family then you knew she desired to walk life with you however that worked best for you.  Bike rides, walks, meals, and work projects were all ways that she did life with us daily.

 

The bottom line was that Wendy was a spark plug for God.  She was an example to us, and she will be deeply missed.  Her desire would be to challenge all of us to love God more each day and to find ways to serve Him and others.  Will you join me in evaluating your life and seeing how you can step up and step in wherever God wants you to be?  I know that I want to leave this earth with the confidence that He will say, “well done.”  Wendy lived that way and you and I can too.

12
May
20

30 years and counting….

It was a Saturday afternoon and a young lady named Cassandra Danae Brown came walking down the aisle toward me.  Our family and friends had gathered to celebrate this special day that was seven years in the making. I stood there hardly believing my eyes.  This woman was choosing me.  Little did we know where life would lead us.  It all happened on May 12, 1990.

 

Fast forward to May 12, 2020.  This date marks 30 years of marriage and we have certainly gone through some deep valleys and amazingly high mountain tops.  I can honestly say that I am more in love with this woman God allowed me to marry than ever.  If I had it to do all over again, I would pick her every time.  As I sit on the eve of our anniversary, I never thought that we would be celebrating it in a pandemic.  One good thing is that it does give us more time to really think about the ingredients that have gotten us this far.   Here are five that I think have made a huge difference in keeping us strong for these thirty years!!

 

Marriage is more about giving than getting.  Early on in our relationship I had the idea that a wife is someone who did what I wanted her to do.  Now before you get all worked up, you can be assured that I learned pretty quickly that I was completely wrong.  Sandy and I have done many hours of marriage mentoring with couples and we let those we journey with know how important it is to be willing to enter this life-long commitment looking to serve the one you love and not to focus on being served.  It makes all the difference.

 

Communication is key.  I am sure many of you have heard about the love languages.  It may or may not work for you, but for Sandy and I it was transformational.  We learned that for too long in our marriage we were saying, “I love you” in our own way but completely missed the way the other heard it.  Once we realized how to communicate about love, it bled over into so many other areas of our life.  Whenever we are not communicating, we are not in a good place relationally, so find ways to stay talking.

 

Accept as is.  Another way I entered marriage was looking to make a “better” Sandy.  I thought it was my calling to help her to be the person I thought she should be.  Not true! I missed that what matters is that she is the person God made her to be.  Any changing is between her and God alone.  When I learned to embrace her as she is, things changed.  God changed me to love her in fresh and new ways as I focused on the many reasons why I had married her instead of the few that I wanted to change about her.

 

Only Christ can complete.  If you are married or looking to get married let me say this very strongly.  It is not your spouse’s job and it is not in their ability to complete you.  Humans can help each other and even sharpen each other but they cannot complete each other.  That is something only the Lord can do.

 

Love is a choice.  There will be conflicts and valleys so deep that you wonder if you can ever get back.  Let me say emphatically that love is a choice.  There will be times that you do not like your spouse and even feel like running away but don’t.  Fight for your marriage and when you don’t feel like loving then ask God to give you the tenacity to love anyway.  You can make marriage work for a lifetime, but there will be times of intensity that seem overwhelming.  Hang on.  It is worth it all!!!

 

Please join us not only in celebrating our 30 years but in helping others to celebrate their milestones as they arrive.  This is a journey enjoyed best when it is done in community, so love well.

28
Apr
20

Divided we fall

We are in the middle of a war.  Not a war against a virus or a war against the right or the left.  The devil has craftily utilized out current circumstances to create misinformation, strong feelings and heightened sensitivities.  This is the time when the church should be on the front lines of hope.  We should be more vocal in sharing the gospel, more avid in building bridges and more active in serving each other.

 

Those activities are going on, but a long dark shadow has cast itself over all of the great things we are doing.  That shadow is division and apathy.  The devil has repeatedly used our strong feelings on different issues to breed division in the church.  As Covid-19 spread around the world, almost immediately you saw the gospel at work powerfully.  Some were wise and saw the coming attacks that were bound to happen but many of us were so focused on how to deal with this strange new world that we were blindsided. As the devil raised the fear of death to a new level, he hit us with misinformation.  As this grew the lines were drawn in the sand.  The church, instead of sharing more grace, attacked each side with accusations of lack of love or being blind to the facts.  Can you hear the laughter?  The evil one is ripping from our hands this amazing opportunity.

 

As new ways to connect digitally emerged, we are not embracing them holistically but allowing our fear of technology and its possible risks to isolate us even further.  Laziness and apathy have crippled even more as we find it easy to create a new normal that does not include community.

 

These new trends add to the division and the church must decide.  Will I truly allow the decisions of others to create a wedge in between them and me?  Will I listen to the few and ignore the many?  Will I embrace the comfortable and refuse to be moved to action?

 

Church, now is our time.  Rather than resist, complain, attack and disconnect let us find new ways to show love, shower grace and trumpet hope.  We have the opportunity to be the beacon that calls folks to Christ and refines His bride, or we can be the laughingstock of a world in desperate need of answers.

 

Will you join me and pray that God would give us level heads, reasonable responses, creative connectivity all built on an unwavering trust in God?

20
Apr
20

The body is still there

I dreamed a dream that seemed so real

It was vivid and colorful in a way you could feel

I had walked into church and there was no one to be seen

Taking each step one at a time to see what answers I would glean

As each floor was passed the same stillness was there

I passed no people and the coat hooks were bare

Passing the fellowship area, I took a quick peak inside

As I wandered about there was no one, as I looked far and wide

The tables that were usually filled with treats were instead neat and clean

And the coffee pots that should be brewing were nowhere to be seen

I ran to the place where each week together we worship with preaching and song

There was no one there and it was all so very wrong

I could feel my heart beating and questions swirled through my head

This cannot be real, maybe it means that I’m dead

And with that wild thought I bolted up in bed

My breathing was labored, and my legs felt like lead

It took a bit for me to understand it was just a bad dream

Then it hit me from out of nowhere and I wanted to scream

The dream I had was actually coming true

Our buildings are empty and our hearts are so blue

We are not meeting in person to teach, pray or just hug

Instead we are isolated due to a vicious little bug

It has stolen our freedom to be in the places we should be

So does this mean church is over and from now on it’s just me?

No, because church is not just meeting in a building we built

If we think that then we should be overcome with guilt

God’s command is to make disciples and to share truth with those in despair

We must be creative and intentional to show the world that we care

After all, we have the hope that the whole world desperately needs

Texting, posting, calling and more are the way to spread seeds

We are not at all beaten but instead we are called

We can fight the evil one instead of allowing ourselves to be mauled

Stay faithful, connected and following His Word

We will not stop until the whole world has heard

Don’t lose heart due to the state we are in

Instead seek His direction and join Him for the win

 

 

 

13
Apr
20

You can rejoice during difficult times

Fear, Uncertainty, Paranoia, Anger, Frustration……Do any of these describe how you have been feeling lately?  If you are a blood-bought child of the One True King, then let me tell you something.  I certainly understand the struggle we have on a consistent basis with our flesh and these emotions. They battle for our attention during the best of times and even more when life seems so fragile.

However, we can still rejoice during times of difficulties.  How you ask?  It is all about who you choose to focus on and not what you choose to focus on.

 Anytime you focus on the storms and difficulties of life you will quickly find yourself thinking about what bad things will happen next or question why you should even try.  However, if you choose to put your focus on the God who, with His very words, created the whole world in which we live out of nothingness, then all of the sudden things start to change.  Your perspective will begin to brighten, and you will feel hope again.  His promises are not just for days with sunshine and flowers but also for dark skies and floods.  I know it is not easy because the voice of the evil one shouts the loudest when we struggle the most, feel the most alone and are the least confident that the sun will rise tomorrow. In your deepest pit look up!!  Remind yourself that He who began a good work will bring it to completion.  His promises are indeed for you.  You can get victory because you were saved by the Victor.  When Jesus was tempted, He confronted lies with truth and quoted Scripture.  I think we can do the same since He showed us how well it works.

You may have fallen flat on your face in defeat yesterday but today is a new day with new mercies and past promises that are still true today.  Join me dear brothers and sisters in living not the way the devil would love for you to live but in the victory that has already been won for you.  Because He is alive, we are alive!!




Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 83 other followers

Archives