Sunday, October 29, 2006


It is about 7 a.m.--yes, we remembered to set our clocks back--but I have been awake since 3:20 a.m. This is the time every Sunday where I try to reflect on my sermon notes and prepare mentally for the preaching/teaching of the gospel to the people God has entrusted to my care.

This is like most Sundays--thoughts of my inadequacy, concerns about the contour of the service, structural concerns (we are stil setting up in a rented building), etc. It is difficult in such a cluttered environment to think clearly about the Word I feel called to preach.

Why is that? The discipline of the mind to do what God has called is not automatic. Paul's directive to "set your mind on things above" in Colossians 3 is a clear indication that such a mindset does not happen as a matter of osmosis or robotic stimulus' rather, it is a discipline of the will and the intellect to focus on things spiritual.

And so, every Sunday, I seek to do this. I get up early, spread my sermon notes on my desk and ask God to clarify for me once again His purpose for me, His message through me. Bev and I set aside time to drink coffee and to pray. Often, I rehearse the salient points of my message and listen for her words of approval and assurance.
Sometimes she raises a questions, asks for a point of clarification and, more often than not, those are factored into my message.

Why share this with you? I think everyone of us require the same preparation for a meaningful Lord's Day. We don't just slide into Sunday at the end of a week of hurrying from one responsibility to another, and then to Sunday services because that's what we always do. Well, maybe that's what we do.

But Sundays can be so much more if we will prepare our minds for the Word and our worship of the Lord. It will take disciple, setting our mind on things above.

And it's not just for Sundays!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

the plight of the 21st century missionary

The plight of the 21st century missionary is that he struggles to raise his support. It is common practice for missionaries to come back to the States on "furlough" to rest (hah!) and renew the support needed while they are serving ina foreign country.

More often than not, missionaries visit churches which allow them (maybe) an opportunity to share their passion and needs (usually in that order). The testimony of most missionaries--and church pastors--is that attendance is generally down when a missionary's visit is announced, and that the financial response is minimal.

I suppose that phenomenon, tragic as it is, can be dismissed with the cursory, "I already give to too many things", or, "There are enough needs here for me to support", or, "How do I know what they are doing with their money", etc.

Two missionary families that I support are doing a great work in Africa. One works in Malawi at an African Bible College training young men and women to minister to their own people. The other operates a printing press in Uganda and prints Christian outreach and training materials for churches and others who evangelize and train believers.

What do these two missionary families have in common? They need more support; in fact, one may have to come home from the field if support is not raised.

Here's the kicker. The plight of the 21st century missionary is...the church. The church is more committed to spending money on itself--often, to fatten the already obese--than it is to train others to share the gospel with those spiritually starved and mal-nutritioned.

May God help us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cleaning a floor seems like such a mundane task. No special skills training required.


When the floor is 9,000 square feet and the surface being cleaned has been stained with two coats of acid-based stain, there are special considerations, to be sure.

The application of the water on the acid-etched concrete surface is a tricky one because water must be applied again and again (and again), until no dirty water remains. The water neutralizes the acid and sits on the surface discolored until it has been sufficently rinsed. This completed, the floor is ready to be sealed.

About twenty of us gathered at the building site today to tackle the sanctuary floor. It had already been stained and was ready for the rinsing stage described above. There was plenty of equipment--buckets, five gallon containers, "squeegies", mops, cleaning rags, a hose, extension cords, a buffing machine, etc.

What was needed was coordination--who would give directions? Who would share the necessary precautions? Who would assign tasks? Who would demonstrate the appropriate technique for using the buffer? Was there enough work to go around? Was there sufficient equipment to fill every willing hand?

A task we calculated would last all day took us four hours! Our work force included people ranging from 10 years to 80 years of age, ten men and ten women. Each one worked--did their share of the task. Some evidenced obvious experience in using a mop and a squeegie; a few of the men could control the buffer. Some of the stronger guys moved water in and out and a few of the others demonstrated profiency in wielding a hose.

In the end the task was finished, and completed well. A morning snack of donuts and drinks was followed with sandwiches, chips and cookies for those who worked and could stay.

Cleaning a floor, though a mundane task from another's point of view, was a glorious picture to me of how the church works. Everyone pitches in and does their part. Some have skills and strengths that others don't have, but the others bring their own contribution and willing spirit to serve to the completion of the total task.

The result? A beautiful sanctuary floor!

Here's the deal. In the days ahead we will have opportunity as a body of believers to work together to do some things that have eternal value, things that are more than buildings and floors.

I can't wait to see what that looks like!

Friday, October 13, 2006


For the last thirty months we have been building church home. It has taken a lot longer than we planned, cost a lot more money than we budgeted, and presented more challenges than we imagined.

But we are almost done!

We are finishing air conditioning, fire suppression, the sanctuary floor, outdoor parking...and a number of other last minute tasks. Almost!

And then we have a frantic week of cleaning to do--windows, carpeting, touch-up painting, furniture placement, etc. Almost.

And, then, we need an occupancy permit to have our first service on November 5th.

I met with a county supervisor who walked with me through the building; I had called him because we are waiting--again--on the building department, andI needed someone to "encourage" them to help us move throught this process which is almost completed.

I have runa few 10K's in my younger days and I know how it was to be almost at the finish line. there was a unique euphoria and burst of energy as the end of the race was in sight.

That's where I am to day. Euphoric.

We are almost there.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


She has been a single mother for a long time, even when her husband lived with her. In fact, even now she allows him to have a room at the house even though he is an alcoholic, and for all intents and purposes, their marriage is over.

She is extraordinary.

Her parents were divorced when she was young, and she had little contact with her father until the final years of his life when he became terminally ill. She was with him at the hospital when he died, praying for him and sharing her faith.

She is extraordinary.

Her mother returned to her mother's home (her grandmother) to care for her as she died from Alzheimer's disease and became totally disabled and depedent in her final days. It was her granddaughter's faith that buoyed her mother's as she cared for a dying grandmother. Her mother's walk with the Lord has grown in the shadow of her daughter's.

She is extraordinary.

Her oldest son, totally dedicated to Christ, has distinguished himself in every way and is now preparing for vocational Christian service. He lives, for the moment, in the home where his mother cares for his angry and alcoholic father. He has observed her love and grace and he is becoming like her.

She is extraordinary.

Her faith is what has transformed her. I have known her since the days she babysat my youngest son as a typical teenager. What I see now is a mature woman, fully engaged with her family and church, spending her life in causes that reap eternal dividends.

I saw her today and visited with her.

She is extraordinary.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


We want to communicate, I assume, and that is why we engage in verbal and written messages with one another. Sometimes body language accomplishes what we need to say.

But what do we do when we want to communicate thoughts that are diametrically opposed to those of the receiver? We feel like we need to express ourselves but we know at the outset that it is risky, and we can even extrapolate (with a certain degree of accuracy) what the response will sound like.

When we read or listen to the response--or interpret the body language--we ask ourselves, "Why did I even bother?"

And, yet, some of us are driven to communicate. We want to "dialogue"about the things that matter to us. Obviously, we would like an agreeable and affirmative response. Often, however, the response we receive is contrary and even cantakerous. Is the process, then, of any value?

I say "yes!"

It is valuable because we have determined that sharing our feelings is more important than remaining silent to avoid confrontation. We learn to do it in a "winsome" way--non-judgmentally, kindly--and then resign ourselves to the fact the response may not what we desire but telling the truth about how we feel is worth the attempt at dialogue.

What do you think? I promise to listen.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

a cold or allergies, or...?

Is it allergies or is it a cold?

Runny nose, stuffed head, itchy throat, draining mucus (I know, it sounds horrible...and it is!), sore throat, cough, occasional headache (or sinus ache)...

Anyway, I have had one of the two--or a combination of both--for the last few weeks, coinciding with my vacation. Not the best formula for a restful time away.

I thought about what I would say when people asked, "How was your vacation?" One option included a brief recitation of all of my physical woes, my quandry in distinguishing betweena cold and/or allergies.

Another option was to simply talk about the great time I had relaxing and resting in the shadow of Palm Springs for seven days.

And that's the option I have chosen, even though the cold I have had is not easily camouflaged.

Generally it is easy to get caught up between an exercise of deciding whether or not it is one thing or another that is making us feel badly. What we sometimes miss is the obvious.

Cold or allergies...I was in Palm Springs!

It was great!