Here Comes The ♥♥!

I Heart My Church

Thanks to everyone who gave me some input on what they ♥ about their church. This Sunday I am starting a new series at Calvary Assembly of God called I My Church. We’re going to look at a church that everyone in town was buzzing about. And except for the religious stick-in-the-muds, the buzz was positive.

I believe we can be that church today. If you’re in the neighborhood, I’d love to have you join us over the next four weeks as we learn how to become that church about which everyone in town says I My Church!

An Open Letter To My Daughter

My Dearest Samantha,

Last night as I watched your Mom teaching you how to put on makeup for the very first time, I couldn’t help but think how beautiful you are and what an incredible young woman you are becoming. It’s so wonderful to see that your beauty doesn’t come from anything you’ve done to the outside, but who you are on the inside. All the makeup did was enhance that beauty a little bit.

As you get older I know that fashionable clothes, the latest hairstyles, and the newest cosmetics will play more and more of a role in your life, but always remember where your true beauty comes from. The Bible says it this way, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

You already have such an inner beauty that God loves … and your Daddy loves! It shines out of your eyes, I can hear it in your voice, I can see it in your actions, I can feel it in your hugs. You are so beautiful!

To keep this unfading beauty shining brightly, remember this: “Charm and grace are deceptive, and beauty is vain [because it is not lasting], but a woman who reverently and worshipfully fears the Lord, she shall be praised!”

I couldn’t be more proud of you than I already am, so I will always be your loudest cheering section and chairman of your fan club! You are my beautiful Rose!

I love you,

   Dad

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Everyday Greatness (book review)

Everyday Greatness

I have read almost everything that Stephen Covey has written, so when I saw this newest title—Everyday Greatness—with his name on it, I was really looking forward to it. I know the classic rule is “Never judge a book by its cover,” but I admit I broke this rule!

When I saw “Stephen Covey” on the cover I was prepared for his typical thought-provoking insights. Instead what I got in Everyday Greatness was anecdotal support of Covey’s profound teachings from other authors. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this.

The premise of this book is similar to Covey’s other books; namely, you have the power to make the choices that will make your life more effective, more fulfilling, and more beneficial to those around you. Everyday Greatness reinforces this message by letting you hear Covey’s thoughts through the stories of “everyday people.”

The book is divided up into seven categories that everyday people live each day—

  • Searching for meaning
  • Taking charge
  • Starting within
  • Creating the dream
  • Teaming with others
  • Overcoming adversity
  • Blending the pieces

Each of these seven categories is supported by three principles, and each of these principles are illustrated by three short stories and a few pages of noteworthy quotes. So in essence Everyday Greatness presents Covey’s thoughts in 63 short stories and several pages memorable quotes.

Stories are so much more effective at driving a point home than is a lecture, and these stories are the perfect length for anyone. This is a book I’ll keep handy on my shelf so I can return to these stories time and time again. An excellent read!

Do You ♥ Your Church?

i_heart_ny

Several years ago New York City started an advertising campaign to attract tourists to their city: I NY. It worked. More people began to visit the Big Apple than ever before.

But the advertising campaign did something else too. It created a logo sensation that many began to imitate. All over the world we started to see the “I ” logo attached to just about anything: certain dog breeds, small-town USA, international cities, mom & pop and 5-star restaurants, schools, and even sports teams.

One “I ” logo I don’t recall ever seeing is “I My Church.” Why is that?

Do you your church? How about helping me out with some research: In the comments, please tell me what you about your church…

  • what attracted you in the first place?
  • what kept you coming back?
  • what makes you excited to invite others to your church?
  • what makes you proud to say, “That’s my church”?

I’d to hear from you about this!

Good And Angry

When was the last time you got good and angry? Be careful how you answer because I want you to notice that important conjunction AND. So maybe I should ask the question this way: when was the last time you got angry and were still good?

Aristotle correctly pointed out, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, and to the right degree, and at the right time, and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Over the past week, I’ve been studying the life and leadership of Nehemiah, an incredible leader who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. But when I got to the final chapter of his account, I noticed quite a bit of anger coming from Nehemiah. As a kid, I used to have to really battle against my temper, so this aspect of Nehemiah’s life intrigued me. Can someone be good AND angry?

I think that the deeper I love someone or something, the greater my anger will be towards anyone or anything that violates what I love.

Nehemiah loved God and he was passionate to see God’s holiness magnified. All of his anger is directed at those people or things that violated or detracted from God’s holiness. Look how he got good AND angry

  • Towards Tobiah, who moved his personal belongings into God’s temple, a place reserved exclusively for the worship of God. “I was angry, really angry, and threw everything in the room out into the street, all of Tobiah’s stuff” (v. 8).
  • Towards the people who stopped financially supporting the priests, forcing the priests to leave the temple and work as farmers. “I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, ‘Why has the Temple of God been neglected?’” (v. 11).
  • Towards those who violated the regulations of the Sabbath Day. “I got angry and said to the leaders of Judah, ‘This evil you are doing is an insult to the Sabbath!’” (v. 17).
  • Towards those tried to get around Nehemiah’s new Sabbath Day regulations. “I spoke sharply to them and said, ‘What are you doing out here, camping around the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you!’” (v. 21).
  • Towards those who had intermarried with false-god-worshipping people. “I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair” (v. 25).
  • Towards Joiada, a priest who married a non-God-fearing woman. “I banished him from my presence” (v. 28).

After each of these incidents, you might expect Nehemiah to regret what he had done and think to himself, “Perhaps I overdid it. Maybe I was too zealous, or maybe I went a little overboard.” But instead, each time Nehemiah was righteously angry he prayed this to God, “Remember me for this, O my God. Remember me with favor because of what I have done” (vv. 14, 22, 29, 31). He was unashamed that he got good AND angry.

The Bible says, “Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angrybut don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry.”

Can you be good AND angry? Yes! In fact, I think being good helps us be angry with the right person or thing, in the right way, for the right purpose, and for the right length of time. 

Consequences

It was a beautiful sunny evening. All of my work was done, Betsy was home from school, our cooler was packed, and we were off to the park. We were all looking forward to spend this lovely evening grilling some hotdogs, splashing in the water, enjoying the breeze off the lake, and just spending time as a family.

But like an unexpected rear-end collision, all our plans for a fun evening were smashed in a single moment. As we were carrying our cooler and towels and toys toward the picnic tables, a couple of my kids acted up… they broke some of our family no-no’s.

Their actions took less than two seconds. It was just between two of them. But the entire family was affected. We turned around and headed home. No hotdogs on the open grill, no beach time, no after-dinner walk on the trails.

Two made a mistake, but all suffered because actions have consequences.

Isaac Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We often think of this when, for instance, in a game of billiards the cue ball hits another ball. The energy from the cue ball is transferred to the other ball, moving it in the direction it was struck. Sometimes we might be tempted to believe that the only two balls affected were the cue ball and the ball that was struck. But that is not correct. Since those two balls have now been moved to another position on the table, their new positions now affected the entire table—the entire game is now different because of action and reaction.

There are consequences for our actions. And almost always those consequences are felt by someone other than the one who acted. Sometimes the consequences are pleasant and sometimes they are painful or even disastrous.

In Old Testament history, we see good consequences. King David was a righteous man, one who loved God and obeyed God’s commands. About 300 years later King Hezekiah sat on the same throne of Israel. When the Assyrian army was headed toward Jerusalem, Hezekiah prayed and asked for God’s help. God responded, “I promise that the king of Assyria won’t get into Jerusalem, or shoot an arrow into the city, or even surround it and prepare to attack. … I will protect it for Myself and for My servant David.

And we see bad consequences. There was a wicked king of Judah named Manasseh. He is not only one of Judah’s longest-reigning kings, but he is also widely regarded as Judah’s most wicked king. Yet in his lifetime, his kingdom seemed to prosper. And even though his grandson Josiah turned away from evil and turned toward God like no other king ever had done before, just four years after his death Jerusalem fell. King Jehoiachin was defeated and all of Judah was carried off into exile by Nebuchadnezzar as a consequence of Manasseh’s sinful behavior.

Our kids that acted up wrote notes of apology which they read to the family (as we ate our hotdogs at home) and we all forgave them. And we had a nice evening playing around the house. But the evening still had the tinge of regret for what could have been.

Our choices today will have consequences tomorrow. Our actions always affect more than just ourselves—they affect everyone close to us. The people in Hezekiah’s day were grateful for the blessed consequences of David’s right choices. The people in Jehoiachin’s day were grieved for the disastrous consequences of Manasseh’s wrong choices.

What about you? What will your descendants feel about the consequences they are experiencing because of your choices today? It’s up to you, and it’s for them, so live right today.

(Re)(Un)Learning

Alvin Toffler wrote, “The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” For me, the Sabbath Day—a day God institute as a break from our day-in-day-out routine—is the best day to do this (re)(un)learning.

I took an unusual Sabbath break this weekend. Several of my family members are missionaries, and it is rare that they are all in the United States at the same time. This summer happens to be one of those times, so we took full advantage of catching up and relearning one another.

We all met at my grandparents’ old farmhouse in southern Ohio. Grandpa died in 1984, and Grandma died just a few years ago, but their legacies are alive and well. In no particular order, here are a few things I (re)(un)learned this weekend…

  • Nehemiah was an extraordinary leader that I want to emulate.
  • My daughter is a persistent and naturally-talented horse rider.
  • Every time my extended family gets together I learning something new about their past… and my past.
  • I love my family heritage!
  • It was so cool watching all the boys play the same games in the barns that I used to play as a boy!
  • Sleeping in the same room with Betsy but in a separate bed makes for a lousy night of sleep. The closer I am to my best friend, the better I sleep.
  • Eating meals with 15 people around the table forced me to listen more intently to the one who was talking. Why don’t I do this all the time?
  • One should not play American football, rugby, ultimate Frisbee and soccer (world football) on the same day without a good supply of Motrin handy.
  • Bradford, Ohio, is just as I remembered it as a kid. So is my grandparents’ farm.
  • My puppy only had to get shocked once by the electric fence to learn her lesson. Sometimes it takes me more zaps!
  • I missed my new church family this weekend!
  • Fireside chats are one of the best places to really get to know someone better. And a great place to reveal my own heart more intimately.
  • I need to keep my camera close as there is so much that I want to document and preserve for my kids and grandkids.
  • These kinds of weekends should be more regular in my annual calendar.
  • Sitting on the couch snuggling with Betsy is the best wrap-up to any weekend.

Did you (re)(un)learn anything on your Sabbath? Whether or not you did any (re)(un)learning last week, today is the start of a brand new week. Let’s make it a goal to (re)(un)learn something this week, and use our next Sabbath to reflect on it.

Whirlwind Weekend

I’m up early (as usual, since this is the best time of the day!) getting ready for a full weekend. As a general rule I consider Saturday my Sabbath Day. Sundays are usually “work days” for me, although I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m at church… it’s just way too fulfilling. But this weekend is going to be a little different.

Studying my Bible this morning, because it’s the best way to start every day. Looking at the life and leadership of Nehemiah.

Still fasting along with our Impact! youth group until noon today. I’m just so proud of these leaders for setting a great example. Hey, if you’re in the area over the next four Wednesdays at 7:00pm we’re talking about setting an example from the life of Timothy. Join us and you’ll see some real live example-setters!

Sipping some green tea and praying for some very special friends. I love the connection to our Heavenly Father I have in prayer.

Scooting south in a couple of hours for a family reunion with my missionary relatives. These family members are my heroes! They serve in Israel and Sudan, and it’s rare that they’re in the USA at the same time. This summer is one of those times, so we’re going to enjoy catching up.

So missing (already!) not being at our new home on Sunday. I haven’t even spoken on a Sunday as the “official” pastor yet, but it already feels like home. I can’t wait to get back!

Synced my iPod with some great listening for the 8-hour roundtrip this weekend. Going to get some good stuff in me while I have the windshield time.

A busy weekend, but one I know will recharge my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual batteries. What’s on tap for your weekend? I pray it is as fulfilling as I know mine will be.

Get Ready For Impact!

Yesterday on Facebook I jumped into a conversation that a couple of guys from our Impact! youth group were having. I loved it—they were trying to organize a 24-hour gathering to pray and fast.

When spiritually hungry people make this sort of commitment, I just know God is going to show up in a powerful way. King David said, “Blessed are they who keep His statutes and seek Him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2).

There’s no greater way to seek God with all your heart than to deny yourselves and focus on His provision.

So beginning at noon today, nearly 20 of our Impact! youth group will be camping out on the church property. They’ll be praying, fasting, worshiping, and intently seeking God’s favor for the needs which are confronting us. The fast will continue until noon Friday. If you can, join them on-site. Otherwise, fast with them wherever you are.

You can post a prayer request in the comment section below, and you can also check back here to see prayer requests and thoughts that the group will be sharing during their 24-hour season of prayer. We’ve also setup a Twitter account to follow real-time updates from the group.

I’m so proud of these students for taking the initiative to seek God with all their heart!

UPDATE… pictures are being added here.

Stocking Your Arsenal

As a general rule, it’s best to have all of your ammunition ready to go before the bullets actually start flying! It’s not really effective to say, “We’re taking fire! Now someone go and get me some ammo!”

Yesterday I wrote about the before-the-battle-starts strategies for your marriage. One of those strategies was arming yourself with some reading materials and strong, healthy friendships prior to the assault. I’d like to share with you some books Betsy and I have enjoyed reading together.

Love Talk by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott. We’ve read a few books about the differences in communication styles between men and women, but this was the easiest to put into practice. The Parrotts contend that many of the hindrances to more effective communication stem from the fears we have: like the fear of the loss of connection with someone special or the fear of not being in control of our own lives, just to name two of them. Once I understood what fears I had, I could see why I closed off some areas of my heart and mind to Betsy. And when I knew what fears she had, I could be more sensitive in discussing those areas with her.

In addition to the book, we also purchased the workbooks which are specifically designed “for him” and “for her.” This helped us get some thoughts and goals down in writing. Betsy and I would each read the same chapter, work on the corresponding pages in our workbooks, and then find some couch time after the kids were in bed to talk. The combination of reading material and workbook gave us a great foundation to have some meaningful dialogue.

Wild At Heart by John Eldredge. This is touted as a book for men, so I read it first. But after I read it and begin to talk about the ways this book had so connected with me, Betsy said, “I think I need to read this too.” The subtitle to the book is “Discovering the secret of a man’s soul,” which makes it a valuable read for women as well.

Too many men today feel, well, unmanly. John does an excellent job in identifying the core needs every man has: to fight for a noble cause, to live an adventure, and to rescue his damsel in distress. It’s the stuff of all the epic stories and it burns within the heart of every man, but our society has asked men to become tame. When both Betsy and I read about the longings in a men’s soul, it resonated with us. I instinctively knew this was right, and Betsy had a whole new appreciation of my role as her knight in shining armor!

Intimacy Ignited by Dr. Joseph & Linda Dillow and Dr. Peter & Lorraine Pintus. Sex plays a vital role in marriage, but sex isn’t intimacy. Using the biblical book The Song of Songs as their main text, these authors explore the incredible intimacy that King Solomon had with his wife. They show how the taboos of intimacy within a marriage have been reinforced through the years, and what God really has to say about the white-hot passion that should exist between a husband and wife. A sizzling read!

Those are just a few of the books we have found helpful in strengthening our marriage. If you would care to share in the comments a book or two you have found helpful, we are always looking for more ammunition for our arsenal. Be ready for the assault on your marriage before it comes … fight for your marriage … it’s so worth it!

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