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Soundbytes from my Sabbatical

I just recently returned from a month-long Sabbatical that my UPCC church leadership and family allowed me to have. It was wonderful, and I think that I could literally write books about it. God corrected, encouraged, refreshed, connected and stirred me. I will probably write more in depth about some of these sound bites but tonight I am going to write just a few off the oodles of pages I wrote. These are just ten of the random thoughts and lessons that God showed me along my way.


Fear is a way that the devil rips trust from life.


God’s good will be your good too.


Rest should be enjoyed in lavish amounts not with leftover moments.


Real friends are the friends that after not seeing them in years you not only pick up from where you left off but you enjoy deep conversations almost immediately.


God’s Word is a gift – unwrap it daily and deeply.


The race of life is all about endurance not speed.


There are few things sweeter than genuine, spiritual, deep discussions with your spouse and children.


Preaching/Teaching and Shepherding should walk arm in arm – one is not greater than the other, but neither was intended to exist without the other.


Prayer should be richly enjoyed, be embarrassingly honest and always a journey to be enjoyed mile by mile and obstacle by obstacle. It is, after all, a command not a suggestion.


God genuinely wants to have a relationship with us – why do we struggle so much in desiring to have one with Him?





Messy, painful and oh so wonderful

Those first screams. They are the herald that welcomes a father to the sound of new life. Yes, we felt them kick and squirm but for most fathers the sound of that scream made it all so real. I am sure that many dads were hit with the same thoughts I was. “Wow!! I have never loved my wife more!!”, “Wow!! This is really my child!!” and of course when reality sets in, “Wow!! He is coming home to live with me … forever!!” I felt ill prepared and it showed as stage after stage and year after year I realized more and more that it truly is only by the grace of God that my kids survived their childhood.


Now I stand at the spot where my kids no longer need me like they used to but probably much more than they think they do. There are no more diapers to change, booboos to kiss and bandage, no more excited greetings when I get home. No more high school games to watch, giving rides to events and no more cash going out to them…Oh wait…I do still do that😊.


My prayer for my children is simple. “Lord, help each of my children to love you and love others, equip them for the roles and responsibilities they have chosen or been placed in and help them to truly understand what it means to be your redeemed child.” I feel so helpless and yet now I have the opportunity to continue pursuing them through prayer, texts, calls and going out to where they are. Now they desire my prayers for them and with them. Now it is much easier to talk about and get sought out for Biblical conversations and advice. III John 4 says my heartfelt desire this way, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”


Dear brothers and sisters we have enough people reminding us of when our children, tiny or adult, fail. Let’s all be champions to share with our friends and family the great things we see each other’s children doing and to be the best, most supportive voice in our kids’ lives.


Because we all know that parenting is messy, painful and yet, oh so wonderful!!


I can’t struggle because I am a…….

I recently was reading about Charles Spurgeon. Anyone who knows anything about him knows the immense impact he made for the Kingdom of God. He was used by God to build an amazing church, trained the next generation of pastors and wrote volumes of books that are still impacting lives today. Did you know that he struggled with depression? Did you know that he was kicked out of his role as the pastor of the church he led? In his writing “Lectures to my Students” in the chapter “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” he shared his incredible personal battles, especially regarding his depression.


When I read these things, it hit me hard. As I took time to reflect, I realized that too often the mindset I have when I face challenges in ministry is not “who can I talk to,” but “I can’t struggle with this because I am a pastor.” My family has had many battles in our lives like most everyone I know. Some are of our own making and others are just from living in a world where sin exists. In looking back to my earlier years of ministry, I often did not share because of what I was afraid would be others’ responses. What I did not realize was that bearing the weight of the struggles we faced alone had a long-term constant wearing on my own physical, emotional and spiritual energy. I had become depleted and did not even know it.


Then we started a church. The spiritual attacks intensified and came like the constant, pummeling waves in the oceans. The devil lied to me in such subtle ways that I thought that by bearing it all silently I was being noble. It did not take long to feel a conviction about my silence but when I shared some of my struggles with those who I felt were closest to me I was immediately and, in my mind, mercilessly judged wrongly. I once again buried deep the pains and struggles, feeling like it was my duty, that came with my role, to just keep my mouth shut. Again, God graciously and mercifully showed me the error of my way and I opened up again. I was then amazed at the floodgate of those who appreciated our honesty but there are still some that I know wish that I was quiet about it or maybe that I was that untouchable, pillar of strength that they wish every pastor was.

I do not regret the openness that we have chosen to take and I do not want people to feel sorry for us. I just want to be able to live life transparently with people who we can love and to challenge each other as we travel this journey together. That is my desire for my church but also for the whole kingdom of God. How would we live differently if we embraced this lifestyle? Honestly, it comes down to daily growing into the people of God that He desires for us to be. I think that is a dream worth pursuing even if we will all still battle the “I can’t struggle because I am…” lie of the evil one. Will you join me in helping to change this stigma and lead the way in being a voice for truth? It will not be easy but it will be oh so worth it.


What does hypocrisy look like

Recently my son Caleb was able to share about his journey in mental health and addiction. He was honest and bold, and I know God used him. One topic he was asked about by the moderator was the stigma attached to mental health. Caleb gave vivid examples of the hurts he had endured as people wrongly judged him due to his struggle. People who would have only been compassionate to someone with cancer treated my son with disdain because of his mental illness. I felt my son’s pain swelling in my chest as I remembered some of those occasions. How could someone be so narrow in their mind and so calloused in their heart?


I saw him waddling down the street. He was overweight, dressed shabbily, with a bag hung over his neck. He quickly passed out of sight and I forgot about him almost as fast.


I pulled into the parking lot of a local coffee shop, excited to grab a cup of coffee and dig into some reading and writing. I grabbed a table, unpacked my things and quickly became immersed in my world.


Little did I know that Louie would end up in the same coffee shop that I had decided to settle into for the afternoon. Louie was the guy I saw walking down the street. Louie was a little slow mentally, he was sweating profusely, and he grabbed a table closer to mine than I would have liked. I quickly became agitated by his loud presence. Louie said hi to everyone including me with a big toothy grin that just bothered me even more. As Louie sipped on his water and unpacked his bag, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that he took out a big Bible, put in his head phones and watched preaching on his computer. He would quietly mumble, “amen” or “I need that” as he watched. You can imagine what happened next. I was convicted. I had wrongly judged Louie. Even if he was not in the Bible, I had put Louie in a box that he should never have been in. Instead of disdain for fellow man, I should have exhibited love. Here I sat with my nose in my Bible asking Jesus to make me more like Him. Instead I focused more on me.


You see, just like my son, he was judged wrongly for something he had no more control over than zebras do their stripes. Louie was the way God made Him. I am a hypocrite when I start judging people based on my narrow set of criteria for what people should look like. The Bible is to be my guide, but I already knew that. “And this is how they will know that you are my disciples (followers of Christ). If you have love one for another” (John 13:35).


What does hypocrisy look like? I suggest you join me in looking in the mirror. “Lord, help us to be more like You and exhibit your love so that the whole world will know.”



The devil wants you to think that spiritual warfare does not exist

It was the first weekend in June and we had one of our best Elder retreats ever. One on one time, praying over the flock time and great unified planning. I was so excited and on top of it – my first ever sabbatical was only a month away. It was awesome, but I missed something. I failed to realize how fierce the devil would come after us as a team and a church. It all started a little more than 24 hours after the retreat. Attacks came at all the Elders in different forms. Family, finances, leadership and more. Texts arrived often to ask for prayer and God’s guidance and sometimes His endurance.


I will admit that when they started I began to grow bitter and angry at people. In the early morning hours of Wednesday June 6, God broke me. I was crushed at what I was letting in and how much I was letting it all affect me. God reminded me that after great victories come great attacks by the evil one.


It is sad that some still believe that spiritual warfare is sort of like a fairy tale. They think it might happen, but the likelihood is ridiculously small. I feel like I can almost hear people say, “Warfare only happens to missionaries in tribal lands where voodoo exists. It certainly does not happen in civilized places.”

I am here to tell you as a pastor with over 30 years of experience that spiritual warfare exists!! The devil does not have your soul as a Christian and he can not possess you, but he can oppress you.


I am not trying to scare you, but wake you. I love that the Scriptures remind us in I John 4:4, “Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world”!!! Highlight and underline that verse. The devil is real and active, but he is defeated, so don’t treat him like a victor. Give him no territory in your life, reject his lies but claim God’s promises.


My challenge to you is to be alert, be a person of the Word, pray often, be connected to a local body and be in a discipling relationship. Serve gladly and disciple others. Memorize His Word and live in the victory that only comes through Christ!!


Can I handle a Sabbatical

Almost nine years ago a group of people gathered over the summer of 2009 and began to form what would become Upper Perkiomen Community Church (UPCC). In January of 2010, UPCC officially began to meet. It has been an amazing journey. God has used this church as a place of healing, teaching, growing, discipling, training and even for helping other ministries. We are blown away at how we have seen God work in so many lives and ways. He has allowed us to be a part of a great community that has taken us as one of their own and we have loved on them as well. All this effort took many people to see what we have seen happen.


As the Lead Elder I have been giving it my all since the very beginning. Sandy and I were having some of our own personal ministry challenges at the time, but God directed us to take on this task. It is one I took on reluctantly, but this body has blessed me in so many more ways than I am sure I have impacted them. This is our family and we love being here.


Over the last several months the Elders started to talk about me taking a Sabbatical. A Sabbatical, for a pastor, is not only a time of rest and refreshment personally but a time of spiritual renewal and growth. After working through some details and concerns, we all concluded that it was time for me to take a Sabbatical. So for the month of July 2018, I will be taking a much needed time of reflection, refreshment and reenergizing. This is not being done because I am finished or nearing the end of my ministry. Just ask the staff, I still have plenty of ideas and vision😊. This is being done proactively for my benefit but also for the benefit of the church.


Personally, although I am excited, I am also a bit concerned. I am not concerned for the UPCC family. They are under great leadership and will be fine while I am away. I am concerned that I will be ok being away. I love this body. I am concerned about being alone. I know I need time alone with God but that can really affect my anxiety. I am concerned that I will not make this time as profitable as it needs to be. However, none of these things will stop me from going. In fact, since the decision has been made, the ferocity of the evil one’s attacks on the ministry of UPCC and me personally have become more intense. That is an indicator that I really need to do this. However, I covet your prayers. I promise to share the lessons that God teaches me. I ask those of you not at UPCC to encourage your leadership to consider having your pastor take a Sabbatical.


What is church to you?

Is church a building to you? How about a place you pop into a few times a year to ease your conscience and meet some cosmic expectation? Is church the place you check into most weeks to meet friends and family? Do any of these fit you? The reason I ask is because these questions swam through my head as I greeted our members, attenders and visitors this past Sunday.

I guess the ultimate question really is, “What does God intend church to be?” Humans can bring their own traditions, expectations and styles with them but what really matters is what God calls the church to be.

God did call us all to meet on a regular basis. He knew we needed the environment of support, encouragement, conviction and remembrance. God also uses church as a place for us for us to gather to be taught through the music, preaching, small groups and organized classes. All of these are ways that we can be taught and be grounded in the Word so we can then teach others the Word through organized groups and one on one or small group discipleship. God uses the church to provide spiritual leadership and guidance to give us oversight, direction and correction.

You see God never intended church to be a place that was a “sort of” part of our life but a foundational part of our life. He knew that as the world progressed in its sinful paths we would need the connection, edification, education and authority the church was established to provide more and more. I encourage all of you to embrace His institution of the local church with all its human flaws. Go there to be impacted but also to be an impact to those we call our church family.

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