The Best Gifts…

…are people!

I had a wonderfully memorable last 24-hours. I was looking forward to Christmas — as usual — but this year brought some unexpected opportunities to spend some time with very special people.

Michael, Harrison, Samantha, Brandon
Michael, Harrison, Samantha, Brandon


On Christmas Eve my family got to know the McRae family, and to take a Christmas present to Michael. It was wonderful to see Michael’s face light up when he opened up the gift he had been dreaming of. Michael had worked very hard to raise money for a Nintendo DS, but unexpected family circumstances meant that his family had to use his popcorn sale money for family necessities. It was such a joy to be there when Michael got to open his DS!

While my family was with the McRaes, Jessica and Dave Czerny (our children’s pastor) were visiting with the Kimball family. I wrote about Tina in an earlier post. We presented this opportunity to our church, and the Bethel A/G family came through… big time! Jessica & Dave had the joy of delivering a huge stack of toys and clothes to Tina!  Check out some more pictures of Michael and Tina on Flickr.



       Today my family made a return visit to Caretel nursing home. I did a weekly chapel service at Caretel for three years, and passed the baton to Tom Johnston a little over a year ago. Today we got to go back to Caretel and sing Christmas carols with some very special friends

Christmas carols at Caretel

Christmas carols at Caretel

Then it was off to Grand Rapids to spend time with my family.

Truly the greatest gifts in my life are the special people I have the privilege of spending time with every day. These last 24 hours have been incredible — I am a blessed man!

What A Gift!


I am so proud of our team for the great Christmas play they presented last night called The Gift! The play was written by our very own Kevin Simonye, and the entire cast and crew were students and parents from Bethel Assembly of God.

The play was a look at how parents can get so caught up in what they believe will make “the best Christmas ever.” Some parents tried presents, some tried trips, some tried inviting lots of family members, and some tried outrageous decorations. But when all of the parents’ plans fell apart, the kids showed them that the real meaning of Christmas was The Gift God gave to all mankind when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

I am so thankful for this incredible gift! And I am thankful for a highly dedicated and extremely talented team that put on such an excellent Christmas play! Check out some highlights.

And in all of your busyness this week, please remember to celebrate the real reason for the season—God’s gift to you is Jesus! God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Merry Christmas!

No Cowardly Lions, Please


When Jacob was blessing his sons (Genesis 49) he called Judah a lion’s cub. From that time on the men of Judah were known as skilled and fearsome warriors. Years later The Lion of Judah, Jesus, would come from this noble tribe.

But during the time when the judges ruled Israel, Judah and all of Israel “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” (Judges 13:1), and “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

As a result, the mighty lions of Judah became the cowardly lions.

Samson is a well-known judge. He is known for his single-handed exploits against Israel’s enemies. As a result of his victories against them, the Philistines moved into Judah’s territory arrayed for battle.

In response, the mighty lions of Judah muster a force of 3000 warriors. This should look good to the warriors of Judah, since the Philistines came to the battlefield with just 1000 warriors—after all, 3-to-1 seems like good odds.

But instead, the cowardly lions of Judah decided to take all 3000 warriors to confront just one man: Samson. They went to him in the cave where he was staying, not to ask him to join them in battle against the Philistines, but to ask him to surrender to the Philistines.

Samson agreed.

But when the Philistines approached Samson “the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson” (Judges 15:14). He picked up a donkey’s jawbone and killed all 1000 Philistines. And when they saw God’s power at work in Samson, the mighty lions of Judah jumped into the fray all around Samson!

Uh, actually, no, they didn’t.

The cowardly lions of Judah were nowhere to be found. When Samson had finished with the Philistines, there was not even one lion of Judah around to give him a drink!

They all ran away.

It’s amazing to see what the Spirit of God does for someone. God’s presence in Samson gave him victory when the odds were 1000-to-1 against him. The lack of God’s presence in the lions of Judah made them cowardly lions even when they had a 3-to-1 advantage and had Samson on their side.

“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. … For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (Deuteronomy 20:1, 4)

Don’t try to go to battle on your own. Even if you think you’re a mighty lion, you will end up like the Cowardly Lion if God doesn’t go with you.

What A Woman!

Gustave Dore’s painting of Deborah’s song of triumph

Do you remember the old Enjoli perfume commercial? It was a classic! What a woman—she could make breakfast, pass out the kisses, and still get to work before nine in the morning. She could work 9-5, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never let her man forget he was a man.

Wow! What a woman!

I was reading Judges 4-5 in the Bible this morning and was reminded of this commercial when I read about Deborah—the Bible’s version of the Enjoli woman.

Deborah was a devoted wife, a first-class mother, and a full-time prophetess. People from all over Israel came to her for godly advice for their domestic problems. There were national problems too—King Jabin and his general Sisera, with his 900 iron chariots, held an iron grip over all of Israel. Things were so bad that the Israelites stayed off the main roads, and life in their villages as they knew it ceased. Until Israel’s Enjoli woman came along.

Village life in Israel ceased,
ceased until I, Deborah, arose,
arose a mother in Israel.
 (Judges 5:7)

Wow! What a woman!

Deborah sent a message to a warlord named Barak, “God commands you to gather an army and head into the hills of Mount Tabor. God will lure Sisera into the Kishon River valley and He Himself will fight Sisera’s armies ahead of you.”

Barak is a man who has enough clout with just two tribes of Israel, that at one call 10,000 warriors join him. Barak is a man who has just been told that God Himself is going to fight Sisera alongside Barak’s forces.

But Barak is a coward!

A man with everything going for him says to Deborah, “Only if you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

All of Israel is forever grateful for that Enjoli woman who went with the army, and led them in an incredible victory.

Wow! What a woman!

I am praying that God will raise up more godly women who will boldly speak God’s word to fearful people today.


Tina with our children's pastor Jessica

Tina with our children's pastor Jessica

I remember being asked by my church (Brightmoor Tabernacle in Southfield, MI) to help distribute Christmas presents to needy families. I recruited a couple of buddies to help me, and we visited some of the most desperate families I had ever seen.

That Christmas Eve changed my life. From that time on, I could care less if I ever received another Christmas gift. I am so blessed all the time, that my desire is to be a blessing to others.

Christmas should be more about giving than receiving.

We have a wonderful opportunity to put that in practice this year. Our church was made aware of a family in need right in our neighborhood. Don is a single father who has been out of work following some surgical procedures, and he has a beautiful 13-year-old daughter named Tina.

Like many teenage girls, Tina enjoys playing video games, going bowling, and playing with her friends. Her favorite colors are pink, purple, and blue. And Tina is autistic.

Bethel Assembly of God has adopted Tina for Christmas, and we’re going to make sure she knows how loved she is. Our children’s ministry, The Rock, is gathering toys and clothes for Tina for Christmas. Can you help us?

Tina likes arts and crafts projects (anything she can put together), dolls and doll clothes, and books. She also is in need of some clothing items. She wears girls shirts size 14/16, and girls pants size 14. Due to Tina’s skin sensitivity, she cannot wear jean material, or anything with buttons or zippers. Fleece or sweat material seems to work best for Tina.

If you are able to help Tina have a Merry Christmas, please bring unwrapped items to Bethel A/G by Sunday, December 21. We will be delivering all of the gifts to Tina on Christmas Eve.

A Tale Of Two Funerals

I was involved in two funerals in the last three days, and they couldn’t have been more different.

At both funerals people said goodbye in their own way.

At both funerals family members cried.

At both funerals there was singing.

At both funerals the life of the deceased was celebrated.

At both funerals loved ones grieved.

The huge difference was how they grieved.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Paul says that we are sad, we grieve, but we grieve differently when we have hope. What hope? The hope of life after death. The hope that only belief in Jesus can bring. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26).

At Thursday’s funeral the family grieved deeply because they had no hope of life after death, no assurance, only wishful thinking.

At today’s funeral it was a joy to grieve with a family because they had such solid hope! They have an absolute, unshakable assurance that their loved one has life after death. And that makes all the difference in the world in how they will grieve.


“…Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

I have to choose.
Not my parents.
Not my heritage.
To choose for me.

I have to choose.
Not trapped by yesterday.
Not anxious for tomorrow.
To choose this day.

I have to choose.
Not to be in control.
Not to be the master.
To choose whom I will serve.

I have chosen.

“There is a choice you have to make
in everything you do.
So keep in mind that in the end,
the choice you make makes you.” (John Wooden)

Are you choosing? For yourself? Today? Jesus?
What “you” are your choices making?

Celebrating A Heart Theft

She still steals my heart away!

She still steals my heart away!

Twenty-four years today, December 2, 1984, my heart was stolen. December 2 marks the anniversary of the first date Betsy and I went on. She is the only girlfriend I have ever had, she is my best friend, she is my favorite playmate, and she has made me into the man I am today. Our first and favorite love song sums up the way we feel about each other: “There could only be you for me… the only one who stole my heart away.”

Betsy, you still steal my heart away every day. I’m looking forward to the next 24 years with my favorite girlfriend!

Rethinking The Master’s Master Plan

master-planBetsy and my kids had a snow day today, so I took the opportunity to work from home too. I spent some time this afternoon reading some more of Robert Coleman’s excellent book The Master Plan Of Evangelism. Here’s a quote from this book which has stuck with me all day:

“If Sunday services and membership training classes are all that a church has to develop young converts into mature disciples, then they are defeating their own purpose by contributing to a false security, and if the new convert follows the same lazy example, it may ultimately do more harm than good. There is simply no substitute for getting with people, and it is ridiculous to imagine that anything less, short of a miracle, can develop strong Christian leadership.” [emphasis mine]

I need to prioritize my schedule so that my time is focused around people. I’m looking forward to Coffee With The Pastor tomorrow, where I’ll be able to spend some quality time with Barney, Dave, Elias, Jerry, and some of my other Starbucks friends who will be there. What about you? What are you doing to make sure you are “getting with people”?

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