Thursday, November 30, 2006


The "F bomb."

This is one reason I go to the gym. Because at the gym, I get to hear the "F bomb."

I often joke that when I announced that I was going to be a pastor, a miracle occured. All of my friends and family immediately stopped swearing! It's a miracle! (or could it be that people get this goofy notion that I have some power to send them to hell for swearing...?)

And I spend so much time with Christians, which is part of my job, of course. But I never get to hear the "F bomb."

Not that I want to hear it, per se. But I know it is out there. And my life devoid of the "F bomb" lulls me into thinking that we live in a world full of Christians.

Ah, but at the gym, I am reminded "au contraire." For at the gym, people don't seem to know or care that I am a pastor. And so they drop the "F bomb" on me. For me, a powerful reminder of why Jesus got Himself into these kind of situations....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

They that wait upon the Lord...

I can't really give you the details at this point, but I am very excited about a recent development in my life. First of all, read this. Is that great or what? Just a simple reminder that waiting on the Lord is where it is at. So why don't we wait on the Lord? BECAUSE WE'RE IMPATIENT, that's why! We don't like to wait (remember that car you were driving behind on your way to work this morning? I rest my case!). And we really don't like to wait where we cannot see the outcome. And so it is with waiting on the Lord. And yet, when we do, He renews our strength. Can I just say that my strength is renewed today? How about you? What are you "waiting" on Him for? Have you seen Him renew your strength?

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Revelation

At Cornerstone, I am preaching through the Christmas season from the book of Revelation. Christmas, after all, is the first revelation of God to the world in Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation deals somewhat with a coming revelation of the Lord to the world. But in the first few chapters, He also talks about how He wishes to be revealed to us in the moment. I think this is perhaps the greatest reason for the book. I believe that the Lord just wants us to see Him, to know Him, to love Him, to surrender to Him, to be with Him for eternity. That's His purpose in revelation, to make Himself known that we might love Him.

And so in these weeks of preparation for Christmas, my prayer will be that I might see Jesus revealed right here, right now, in and through my life....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wow, is God good or what?

I had breakfast this morning with a man who, with his wife and son, wishes to be baptized. Talk about the fire of the Holy Spirit...this guy has it!!! It reminded me of why I do what I do. I can get so caught up in the institution of the church that I miss the ways in which Jesus is grabbing people's hearts and bringing radical changes to them. Thank you Lord, and may that fire spread to me as I rub shoulders with the world.

I'm hoping to have a chance to do that tomorrow as my wife Carla and I and some friends from Cornerstone help to serve a Thanksgiving dinner to the community of people in the South Side of Pittsburgh. It is to be a beautiful day, and I hope to have the chance to spend time on the street with people...just loving them and looking for ways to let Jesus shine through me. Pray for us as we have this privilege...that it would be one of Kingdom harvest.

Could these verses ever be truer?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit's fire!!! (NIV)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Return to your first love...

If you know me at all, you know that I love Carla, my wife. Our first date was on my 22nd birthday...she was only 16!!! That night I kissed her...her first ever. Although I had dated before, I can say she was my first love. I still get all giddy and smushy inside when I think about her, and when I think about how I felt on the first date. Yep, she is my first love. At least in the earthly realm...

But you know, I remember when I first gave my heart to Jesus. I was raised in a church going home and had the "religion," but I still remember when I knew beyond a doubt that God was real and that He wanted to be in a relationship with me. Talk about giddy and smushy....

So why do we forget? I'm preaching on Revelation 2:1-7 this Sunday...which you can read HERE. In this text, Jesus encourages the church at Ephesus (and I'm guessing the church at Cranberry) to return to their first love. It seems that the church in Ephesus may have gotten caught up in all the churchy stuff and in their busyness, forget why they were the church. Boy does that hit home.

Who is your first earthly love? What about in the eternal realm? How can we help each other to return to Him?

Monday, November 20, 2006


In Luke 5, we read this interesting account in Jesus' ministry:

Luke 5:27-32
27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" 31 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (NIV)

We preachers love to hang out with the saved. Jesus didn't. He went to where the sinners were. Maybe that's why He was so good at reaching the lost.

I'm going to Starbucks...gonna grab a Peppermint Mocha, and I'm going to work on Sunday's message there. Maybe I'll get some needed perspective...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Start with the foundation

It seems so simple, and yet the church just doesn't get it sometimes...

We in the Western PA Conference of the United Methodist Church are beginning a new campaign called "Believe Again." It is a plan for try to stem the decline of our churches. Now let me state that I am all for that!!! If the church isn't growing, then it isn't healthy. If it isn't healthy, then it isn't doing something right! (or Godly....hmmmm)

So now, many of our congregations are trying to turn things around. But I am sensing a growing tendency to do what we do so put bandaids on cancer. I am fearful that many of our churches will try to work with surface issues and ministries to try to patch their sinking ships. But we must start with the foundation! We must assess the real problem and be bold enough to fix it.

In some churches, that may mean merging with another nearby congregation. In some churches, that may mean a change of pastor. In some churches, that may mean a change in lay leadership. In some churches, that may mean ending programs that have no purpose but to perpetuate the institution. These kinds of radical changes are needed to rebuild the foundation. And no church or ministry will be stable without a sure foundation.

What will not work is "remodeling" the programs or ministries without addressing the cracking and crumbling foundations.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Shhhhh! (a.k.a. why do we keep secrets?)

Thursdays get me pumped! It is my early day...4:30 a.m. (that's right, 4:30 does come around twice daily!) to the gym and then to our men's group at 6:30 for bagels, coffee, and good company. We have a faithful group of 9-11 guys and we laugh, cry (but very little...we are MEN you know!), and try to figure out what God is saying to us through His Word. We have been studying Genesis...just fascinating. Today, we were on chapter 3 which deals with the first sin. We spent the entire time dealing with the issue of temptation. But when push comes to shove, we just can't let the secrets out. We are all friends...all trust each other...we're all Christians...we're all probably dealing with nearly exactly the same things, but shhhhhh. We only wanna go so far in admitting our sin struggles. We don't want to let the secret out.

But why? Won't that help? Isn't that what the Lord was saying through James when He said "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other that you may be healed." Don't we really want healed? Then why are we afraid to confess, at least to each other.

I'm praying for strength today...strength to be real. Strength to be vulnerable. Strength to open up. Strength to ask some of the strongest guys I know to help me to be strong...

What about you?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fun Quotes for the Day

"When I die, I want to die like my grandfather--who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car."

Advice for the day: If you have a lot of tension and you get a headache, do what it says on the aspirin bottle: "Take two aspirin" and "Keep away from children."

"My Mom said she learned how to swim when someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat. I said, 'Mom, they weren't trying to teach you how to swim.'"

"A study in the Washington Post says that women have better verbal skills than men. I just want to say to the authors of that study: "Duh."

"Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh my.... I could be eating a slow learner."

"I think that's how Chicago got started. Bunch of people in New York said, 'Gee, I'm enjoying the crime and the poverty, but it just isn't cold enough. Let's go west.'"

"Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress.. But I repeat myself."

Oh to be like...

What a world we live in. Always wanting to be like somebody. I work out at a gym every morning and I see us guys trying to be as strong as someone else. I watch Ricky Skaggs play that bluegrass and wish I could pick and sing like he does. I was in the room with one of our sages of the church yesterday, a retired clergy man whose heart resembles the heart of Jesus more than mine...and I long to be like him.

Then as I am preparing for our Vision Team gathering tonight at our parsonage, I've been studying Nehemiah. You owe it to yourself to read at least the first chapter and the first part of chapter two. Check it out here.

So today, the man I wish to be like is our dude Nehemiah. A man who loves God more than himself. A man who loves the people entrusted to him more than himself. A man who sees a greater reality for God's people than they are currently experiencing. And a man who will risk it all to see that God reality come to fruition. Lord, could you help me with that....A LOT?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Leadership Summit

As Cornerstone Church, we held our first ever Leadership Summit yesterday after worship. All of our people who had been nominated to serve in any of our operational teams came together for a time of lunch and vision sharing. I explained to the group our current leadership structure, its flaws, and the process leading us to this point. Then I detailed the strategy for the new leadership structure and how the pieces will all play their part. We were focusing on how everything we do needs to be in line with our vision. I asked the group to focus their leadership on asking two key questions at every turn: Why, and What If? If we continually ask the WHY question, then we'll always know that their is a vision centered purpose for every discussion we hold and every decision we make. If we continually ask the WHAT IF question then we'll always be walking by faith...leading in a new direction.

After this initial presentation, we split into breakout groups in different areas of the building. Led by representatives from our Lay Leadership Team and Ministry Management Team, each operational team went through a team building exercise. There was lively discussion about how to make decisions and how the decisions we make in ministry effect people for their earthly and eternal lives. Each team member also filled in a survey during this time to share their hopes and vision for the operation of the team. They also wrote down the name of someone they would feel comfortable with leading their team.

Now the Lay Leadership Team will take our observations and the teams' written input and put the finishing touches on our nominations for leadership in the coming year. This was a radical departure from the way things have been done...both in structure and method. But to this point, I am declaring it a great success.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The GREAT pastor

First, read this from John 10:7-11!

"I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (NIV)

Now the word "shepherd" in the Bible is sometimes translated "pastor." That means that Jesus calls Himself the "good pastor." I like to think of Him as the "GREAT PASTOR!"

He is always loving, always holy, always concerned for the spiritual, emotional, and physical well being of others, always looking to see where God is leading, and always faithful to take His people there.

Oh, that I might be a pastor in the footsteps of Jesus...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How Do You? (and other parenthetical thoughts...)

Carla, my wife (and bestest friend in the whole wide world!), and I were talking the other day. (Which kinda makes it sound like that is a rare occurence...not true!) I asked her this tough question that I now share with you. How do you plan for the future when you don't know what the future holds? How do you plan for tomorrow and still be faithful to today? Some wise words of Jesus (as if there were any other kind!):

Matthew 6:33-34 "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (NIV)

He makes it pretty clear that we are to live our lives faithfully in the moment. I'm down with that. (I say things like that to make me sound young!)

But, how do we prepare for the things of tomorrow that we really should prepare for? Cornerstone is at a very exciting time in our short history. Our attendance is up about 30% over last year. Our giving is up about 35% over last year. We are clearly a church on the move. Praise God...He is just awesome!!!

And yet there is this looming question of "where do we go from here?" We meet in rented space which we are rapidly outgrowing despite a recent expansion. Property in Cranberry Township is prohibitively expensive. What's a church to do? (Or what's a pastor to do?)

Any ideas from the blogosphere? I want to plan and I want to be an effective leader for the future of ministry here. AND I want to be faithful right now. The big question is HOW DO I DO BOTH? HELP! (Please comment, and feel free to use parenthetical statements in your response!)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Busy, Busy, Busy

Wow, am I busy this week! Lots going on...lots going on that's good!!! I'll blog later this week about some of the highlights. Sorry to be so blogfully absent of late! I promise...more tomorrow!

Friday, November 03, 2006

The role of a friend...

If you read this passage from Proverbs 27:5-6, you'll see how friendship is elevated to a new level for the Christian. Go ahead and read it. I'll wait here.

Thanks for coming back. Good stuff eh? Or should I say God stuff? God is showing us that as friends in Him, we need to be open and honest with each other even if it hurts. Why? So that we can be nasty and not care about others' feelings? No. In fact, it is for just the opposite reason.

If we are desiring to grow in our faithfulness and holiness to the Lord, it is tough to do it alone. We are often not the best judges of our own character and struggles. If we have a brother or sister in Christ who will be honest with us, in order to help us to grow, then we have a much broader picture of who we really are.

I appreciate my friends who will love me enough to be truthful with me. Thank you!

(PS: Is there something you've been meaning to tell me?!?!)