O Me Of Little Faith

Last night I took some of my youth group leaders to a Speed The Light banquet. For those of you who don’t know, STL is missions giving from youth, with the funds going to help missionaries speed the light of the Gospel. Many times STL funds go for items like 4-wheel-drive vehicles, sound systems, video production equipment, and the like.

Understand that up until a month or so ago our group had never really been exposed to STL. Our grand total to STL last year was $0. That’s right, nothing.

So I took them to this banquet to help them get a better understanding of what STL is. I’m a huge fan, so I wanted them to catch the vision for STL too.

Knowing that we were going to be asked to make a faith promise for 2010, I had a dollar figure in mind. I figured this amount would be doable, but a stretch, for a youth group that hadn’t given anything to STL yet.

Our District Youth Director Jeff Kennedy asked us to huddle as a team to talk about our faith promise amount. He said, “Remember: if it’s truly a faith promise, your amount will make you sweat.”

So I asked my team, “What amount do you think we can do?” And they totally blew me away! They came up with an amount three times LARGER than I had been thinking.

I joyfully wrote in that larger amount on our faith promise card. As I did, I heard the Holy Spirit chide me a bit, “O you of little faith.”

Thanks, team, for dreaming big—bigger than me. Thanks for having such big faith. Thanks for stretching my faith too.

Stand Up For Life

It’s a sad reality that Christians are known more for what we’re against than what we’re for. But we can change this perception if we’ll find some positive things to support.

Here’s a great opportunity:  Focus On The Family has helped to get a commercial on the air during the upcoming Super Bowl. The commercial will feature a woman named Pam, a mother who will tell how doctors recommended that she have an abortion after discovering some complications with her pregnancy. She refused to have an abortion.

Pam then gave birth to Tim—Tim Tebow, that is, who went on to become one of the most successful college football quarterbacks ever.

Pro-abortion groups are already lashing out. They are trying to bully and intimidate CBS into pulling the ad from the Super Bowl. Even though they haven’t even seen the commercial yet they are convinced that airing it will be a bad thing.

Here’s what you can do to help. Email Sean McManus, the President of CBS News and Sports, and tell him, “I want to see this ad during the Super Bowl.”

Don’t let a vocal minority intimidate CBS.

Stand up for life.

The iBible

Betsy finally relented and let me buy an iPhone. I’m absolutely lovin’ it!

Then, of course, news comes out yesterday about the iPad—whoa!

But have you seen the iBible?!? I’ve got to get me one of these!

Sermon Perceptions

I read an interesting article about people’s feelings about sermons. You can read the full article here, but allow me to list some of the main points:

  • Nearly all churchgoers “look forward” to the sermon.
  • Some view sermons as educational, some as entertainment.
  • Catholics wanted the sermon to last 10 minutes. Baptists were fine with a 75-minute sermon.
  • Only 17% say the sermon leads them to change their lifestyle.

Only 17%?!? If that’s the case, why do I (and other pastors) spend so much time preparing a message?

I made a change a while ago. Instead of trying to prepare a sermon, I try to prepare myself.

I’m not a fake-it-until-I-make-it pastor. I don’t tell my congregation how they should live, I tell them how the Holy Spirit is challenging me to live.

I don’t walk to the platform on Sunday morning with my finger pointing out at my congregation, but with my finger pointing squarely at me.

I stumbled upon this anonymous poem a number of years ago. This is my goal in my sermon prep:

I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;

I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.

The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;

Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.

And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds.

For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.

I can soon learn how to do it if you’ll let me see it done;

I can watch your hands in actions, but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true,

But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.

For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,

But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.


So, pastor, it’s not really sermon prep you should be doing, but individual heart prep.

Hurrying To Wait

In Genesis 18 God comes to visit Abraham. It’s interesting to note how Abraham responds. In a word: quickly.

  • He hurried from where he was sitting to meet God.
  • He hurried back to his wife Sarah and said, “Quick, make some bread for our Guest.”
  • He ran to his herd to pick out a calf to serve.
  • His servant then hurried to prepare the calf.

Abraham hurried to get into God’s presence.

However, once he’s there everything slows down.

  • He stood nearby while the Lord and His angels ate the food.
  • He walked with God as He continued toward Sodom.

Abraham WASN’T quick to leave God’s presence.

At this point, the Bible gives us an important word: Then. After Abraham hurried to get into God’s presence and continued to linger there, THEN God took Abraham into His counsel.

Why is it that my natural tendency is to do just the opposite?

  • I delay going into God’s presence because I try to figure things out on my own.
  • Once I finally go into His presence, I share my need with Him and then hurry along my way.

Abraham was called God’s friend. Maybe because he hurried into God’s presence, and then stayed right there.

Today I’m going to try it Abraham’s way.

Square One

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride. There is a scene about halfway through the movie where Inigo and Fezzik are reunited:

[Scene: Outside a hut. Inigo is sitting, nursing a bottle]

Inigo:      I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I will stay. I will no be moved.

Assistant Brute:    Ho there!

Inigo:      I do not budge. Keep your “Ho there.”

Assistant Brute:     But the prince gave orders.

Inigo:      So did Vizzini. When the job went wrong he went back to the beginning. Well, this is where we got the job, so it’s the beginning. And I am staying till Vizzini come.

Even though Inigo was slightly the worse for alcohol, he gives some sage advice. When we run into problems—when we get off track—it’s good to go back to the beginning.

After his ill-advised trip to Egypt, Abraham returns to square one. He goes back to the last place he heard from God.

He moved on from the Negev, camping along the way, to Bethel, the place he had first set up his tent between Bethel and Ai and built his first altar. Abram prayed there to God. (Genesis 13:3-4)

When I seem to be on the wrong path, I must go back to the place I last heard from God. Perhaps it’s significant where Abraham’s tent and altar were set up. Between two cities:

  • Ai which means “heap of ruins.” It comes from a root word meaning “bend, twist, distort.”
  • Bethel which is made up of two words beth (house) + El (God) = house of God.

This is my life: always between two options. I can have a distorted/twisted view that leads to a heap of ruins, or I can live where God dwells.

I can have my way or God’s way.

I can have blessing or ruin.

When I find what I’m doing is a mess, it’s time to go back to the beginning—to go back to square one—to go back to the last place I heard from God.

Just Be Yourself

How many times have you ever made one of these statements:

  • “If I could only sing like her.”
  • “I wish I could draw like you.”
  • “Wow, I wish I could write like that!”
  • “You have way more Facebook friends than I do.”
  • “I could never stand up in front of an audience like that pastor.”

If you’ve ever said something like this, what you’re really saying is, “I want to be someone else.”

But God made you you. He didn’t make anyone else you. No one can be you but you.

When you get to heaven, God isn’t going to say:

  • “Why didn’t you learn to sing like her?”
  • “You should have taken art lessons.”
  • “Your blog wasn’t as popular as his.”
  • “You had fewer friends than anyone else.”
  • “Why didn’t you become a pastor/missionary/evangelist…”

All God is going to ask is this: “Were you the best you that you could be? Did you use the talents, personality, passions, gifting, and opportunities that I gave to you and to no one else?

On Wednesday nights in our Impact! youth service we’re exploring this topic in a series called Be You. That’s all God wants you to be. Come join us at 7pm on Wednesdays. In the meantime, listen to the Holy Spirit teaching you to be the best you you can be.

Too Good To Be True

You know the old cliché: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Yet time after time we buy into the hype…

  • “I get all of this for free!”
  • “I’ll be able to make this big score and it’s gonna cost me next to nothing.”
  • “He agreed to help me out with this just because he likes me. He’s not charging me a dime.”
  • “I think they really want to be my friend.”

It never works out that way, does it? Because if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Do you know when those with these great offers show up? Right after you’ve done something well. Like Abraham in the Bible when he had just won a dramatic victory.

Here’s what happened. The bad guys swept in, defeated the good guys, and in carrying off the loot from their victory, they took Abraham’s nephew Lot with them. Abraham called out his special forces team and conducted a surprise night raid on the bad guys’ lair. He not only rescued Lot but all of the other captives too.

Abraham comes back loaded with everything he’s just recovered, and the King of Sodom comes out to meet him. This king is a big shot. It would be a career-advancing move to get in good with him. The King of Sodom says to Abraham, “Great work! Just let me have all the hostages, but you can keep all of the other loot. Even the stuff that was mine that the bad guys stole, I’m going to let you keep it.”

But Abraham knew that if it sounded too good to be true, it probably was.

Abraham wisely answered, “I’m God’s man. I’ve given Him my word: I will accept nothing that belongs to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’”

Smart move. Those things that seem to be free always come with strings attached. How much better to simply trust God for everything. So when God makes you successful, no one else gets the credit but Him.

Here’s the simple decision: Trust God or rely on “freebies” from men. Who are you going to trust?

Precious Life

Today is Sanctity Of Human Life Sunday. It’s the day we take time to remember this awesome truth:

For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

Your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in Your book

before one of them came to be.

Life is precious… all life. Today I’m challenging Calvary Assembly of God to help support the Alpha Family Center in Cedar Springs, MI. This is a wonderful organization:

  • Gives free pregnancy tests.
  • Helps young people cope with the anxiety of an unexpected pregnancy.
  • Provides resources to young parents.
  • Offers counseling to those who have experienced sexual abuse or a miscarriage.
  • Supports women who have undergone an abortion.

Celebrate precious life whenever and however you can. Life is so very precious!

Relearning To Pray

I’ve been sharing a series about prayer with my congregation. It’s called Total Access. The premise of the series is that we have total access to the treasure trove of God’s blessings, and prayer is the key which unlocks the door.

One of the things I love about preparing a message for my congregation…

how much more I learn.

One of the things that challenges me about preparing a message for my congregation…

how much the Holy Spirit convicts me.

I feel like I’m having to relearn how to pray.

It’s so simple, yet it is so deep.

I love the words to Kari Jobe’s song The More I Seek You

The more I seek You
The more I find You
The more I find You
The more I love You 
I wanna sit at Your feet
Drink from the cup in Your hand
Lay back against You and breath
Hear Your heart beat
This love is so deep
It’s more than I can stand.
I melt in Your peace
It’s overwhelming

It is overwhelming. And at the same time so comforting. I love relearning to pray… again and again and again.

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