Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Five


1. I took a couple days off work this week – Wednesday & Thursday. Needed the break. But I didn’t get the two full days; had a couple of medical emergencies that I responded to. Plus, I spent a lot of time on the phone. It was like the front seat of my truck had become my new office. Not quite what I had in mind.

2. I went to the beach yesterday and it was fabulous. A north breeze had flattened the surf, the water was crystal clear (aqua green), the sand was clean, and there were miles of beach without people. The best part of the BP oil spill is that there is no oil on Pensacola Beach and tourists are almost non-existent. If you like the beach, right now is the time to go. They are in pristine condition and beautiful. Take advantage of being a local. You’ll have the beach to yourself.

3. We’ll be setting dates for a few upcoming events – baby dedication, baptism service, Seminar 101. Still thinking about offering a Newcomers Coffee. All of this will happen after school starts. BTW, Vacation Bible School is next week.

4. The teenagers are returning from Student Life Camp tomorrow. They checked out this morning and will be stopping in Atlanta to spend the day at Six Flags amusement park. They’ll spend the night in Atlanta and drive home Saturday morning. They have had a blast together.

5. This Sunday’s message is entitled “Steadfast in the Face of Opposition.” It comes from Nehemiah chapter 4, and teaches us how to respond to criticism and opposition. Don’t you just love this guy Nehemiah? I think you’ll be encouraged and instructed well by the content of Nehemiah chapter 4. As always, we will honor and worship God in the beauty of holiness.

PS – I’m loaded up with blogs to post and plan to have very active week. I am lit up about a few things. Check back every day.

Will Be Posting Today...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Message From Student Camp


Courtney Alynn Decker says....

Worshipping tonight was so touching, I cried for about two hours. I'd like to thank whoever sponsored me to go, It's changing my life, and opening my eyes :)

Moving On....


Sometimes you just outgrow certain people. Don’t try to repair it, it’s too painful. Just move on.

So You Had a Failure....


The best way to compensate for a loss is to play the next game.

Politically Correct...


Nothing can be politically correct when it is morally wrong - ."Woe to those who call evil good & good evil" (see Isaiah 5:20)

Today...


Today I took the bull by the horns and slapped him across the face a couple of time reminding him who is in charge of this vision.

For Preachers...


PREACHERS: You dont have to hit a home run every week to grow a strong church... just consistent singles.

FYI - We Are Registered for Leadership Summit


Bring it on!

Small Groups


Church-organized, program-based small groups are basically forced friendships – which explains why so many of them fail. Small groups should be organic in nature and relationally based; you know, friends who hang out together because they actually like each other.

Dead Church...


If you are in a dead church, you should get out today regardless of who's feelings it hurts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

All is Well

This is a song from Robin Mark's latest CD. They lyrics are very good, speaking to the sovereignty of God and bringing comfort to those who absolutely trust Him. Listen to it, you'll enjoy. I've printed the lyrics so you can follow along.



He lowers us to raise us
So we can sing His praises
Whatever is His way… all is well

He makes us rich and poor
That we might trust Him more
Whatever is His way… all is well

All my changes come from Him who never changes
I’m held firm in the grasp of the Rock of Ages

All is well with my soul
He is God in control
I know not all His plans
But I know I’m in His hands

He clothes us now then strips us
Yet with His Word equips us
Whatever is His way…. all is well

And though our seasons change
We still exalt His Name
Whatever is His way… all is well

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - July 25, 2010


  • OMG! OMG! What a day at church! If anything could have gone wrong, it happened today.

  • More about that later…

  • Last night Renae and I went to a worship concert at Hillcrest Baptist Church. Robin Mark was leading worship (that's the guy in the picture). He is from Northern Ireland and attends a local church there, (Christian Fellowship Church Strandtown, Belfast, Northern Ireland) serving under his pastor as one of their worship leaders. His music is mostly acoustic in nature and has a strong Irish flavor. Gotta love it. Most appealing to me is that the lyrics to his songs possess strong scriptural language. He is best known for his songs “Revival”, “All for Jesus”, “The Wonder of the Cross”, “Not By Might”, and many others. His signature song is “Days of Elijah” – one of our favorites at PCC. And yes, he preformed it last night. It was a blast. In fact, “Days of Elijah” has become one of the most sung worship songs ever, and has become a worldwide best seller. This concert was one of the most enjoyable musical events I have ever attended. There was no showmanship, no costumes, no flashing strobe lights, and no screaming amplifiers. It was relaxed, spontaneous, and the music was acoustically pure. Plus, we were in real close to the guy; not like sitting in the nose bleed section of a large arena. It was more like a setting you see on Austin City Limits; low stage, personable, up close, touchable. Sweet is all I can say.

  • I saw this on Facebook the other day which was posted by Lori S. I thought it worth posting on my blog for you to see: PROMISE TO MY KIDS - I will freak out on you, lecture you, drive you crazy, be your worst nightmare, embarrass you in front of your friends, and track you down like a bloodhound until the day you understand why I do it. Then I will know you are a responsible adult. All because...I LOVE YOU! You will never find someone who loves you & cares about you more than your mom!

  • No matter how you slice it or dice it, that’s just good advice.

  • Last week I had intended to post several blogs I have been working on. But a few things interfered with my normal routine. There was the pet incident that I was dealing with Monday-through-Friday. Plus there were a few family crises’ in our church family that required my attention. In fact, three deaths occurred in connection to our church this week. I barely had time to prepare the message for Sunday.

  • I actually did post a couple of blogs that I had planned to publish (i.e, Come to Church – Don’t Try…. The Value of Church & Membeship), but my heart just wasn’t in it. I wrote from my heart about Brandy. The remaining blogs that I plan to post are: Church is Not a “Gig”…. Let Squeaky Wheels Squeak… Ten-Year Hiccup (Part 3)… How to Fail As a Pastor…. Big Church vrs Little Church. I might post them this week. I don’t know, I’m still a little down right now.

  • Several people made kind remarks to me about the loss of Brandy this morning at church. I know this isn’t a major crisis (in the bigger scheme of things), but your empathy was appreciated. It’s clear that many people have this as a shared experience.

  • This morning at church…… Where do I begin? First of all, at 2:30 AM this morning the alarm went off at church. The security company calls us at home jolting us awake. We rush to the church and two deputies are waiting for us. We check the building and all is secure. Get back home at 3:00 AM and fell asleep at about 3:30. We wake up at 6:30 to get ready for church. Renae finishes packing for Student Camp. At 8:30 AM we get a phone call that Marlene W. has suffered a stroke and is in the hospital. I get to church about 9:00 and at 9:15 Chris R. gets a call that her father has died. Five minutes before I walk to the stage I get informed in two separate incidents how our church is failing someone in this or that. Are you kidding me? Okay, right now I am ready to pull my hair out or go postal. I take a deep breath. Service begins at 9:30 and the bottom falls out. I mean it is raining cats-and-dogs outside and it’s very noisy in the sanctuary. During the song service, mid way through the second song, the power goes out. It’s total darkness inside. We waited a few moments and the power comes back on, and we finish the song service. I bumble my way through welcoming guests and receiving the offering. Next I step up to preach and people can’t hear me because of the noise on the roof. Although I am dying on the inside, I’ve got my best poker face on and somehow make it through the message – mostly on auto pilot. I can’t wait for church to get over. It can’t end soon enough for me. I am dying up there. I want to crawl in a hole, pull a cover over the opening, and not come back out. Church ends and in-between the two services I’m being swamped by an avalanche of people grabbing my elbow for “ear time.” My mind is swirling with information-overload. I’m weighted down by the real suffering that some of our church families are experiencing and these trivial matters that I’m hearing about are about to raise my indignation. Second service begins and it’s pretty uneventful. In fact, it was much better than the first service. My delivery for the message was much, much better the second time through. After church I went to West FL Hospital to visit Marlene W. – the fine lady who suffered a stroke. She was much improved, but her situation is still critical. She needs our prayers. While at the hospital Renae calls informing me that the van she has rented for Student Life Camp won’t crank! They are supposed to leave in a few hours for an out-of-town trip and now the rental van is broke down. She spent the rest of the afternoon getting a replacement.

  • Renae just called me from Pensacola. A little baby, six months old – who has a family connection to her sister DJ – suffocated in a blanket. The baby is ¾ brain dead. The doctors are advising the family to turn off the ventilator. Renae and DJ are at Sacred Heart Hospital now.

  • The last thing I did today before leaving church was tell Gene that I’m coming in to work for ONLY one day this week. I am probably going to get a pup tent and disappear into Blackwater State Forest to be by myself.

  • Just saw some encouraging comments on Facebook about today’s service (actually the first service). Cathryn said, “Church was awesome...great worship and Word despite the power going out mid-song!” Maureen said, “I needed that message, I was worried about a situation and after the message asked the Lord to handle it. And I would just have to wait the outcome and this afternoon, He answered! Thank you Jesus!!!!” Christa said, “I really enjoyed the message too!! I had just told Ash last night, that sometimes we have to wait a situation out!! Thanks for backin me up, once again!!”

  • Words like this are strength to a weary soul. My confidence is being renewed. Thanks for the encouragement, you guys. You have just done for me what I Thessalonians 5:11 says we should do for one another….. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

  • Maybe I don’t need a week-long hiatus in Blackwater State Forest after all.

I'm Writing Mind Dump Right Now.....




Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Do We Love Our Dogs So Much?


Most people are crazy about their dogs (cats too). The connections we have with dogs are often some of the longest relationships we have. For some people their pets even become best friends.

So what makes these creatures such key members in our families, and why do we love them so much?

Dogs show a large range of emotions—love, anxiety, curiosity—and thus trick us into thinking they possess a full range of human feelings. And perhaps they do. They dance with joy when we come home, put their heads on our knees and stare longingly into our eyes. Dogs are an unending source of hugs & kisses, snuggling, slobber, and laughs. Ah, we think, at last, the kind of love and loyalty we crave. Dogs become loyal companions to us and also possess the very appealing characteristic of not being able to speak; we are therefore free to fill in the blanks with what we need to hear.

Dogs have figured out how to integrate themselves into human society in ways that benefit us both. We get affection and attention. They get the same, plus food, shelter, and protection. To grasp this exchange doesn't trivialize our love, it explains it.

She Died Yesterday


Brandy, out pet dog, died yesterday morning at home about 6:30 AM. Renae and I were right there holding her in the final moment’s right up to the end. We watched her breathe her very last breath.

I was supposed to take her back to the vet Thursday afternoon to have her put down, but didn’t. Honestly, I just didn’t want to do it - the very thought of it tormented me so much that I fretted in the night and couldn’t sleep. I didn't want to take her on that ‘final ride’ and was certain I would lose it watching her die on a stainless steel table. Instead, Renae and decided to wait one more night in the hope that she would pass away at home on her own while in familiar surroundings. We scheduled another appointment at the vet for 10:30 AM Friday in case she didn’t die easily on her own, but, thankfully, she died four hours before.

Rest assured, if Brandy had been in any significant distress or pain at any time during the week, I would have immediately rushed her to the vet to have her euthanized because it would have been the right thing to do for her. Fortunately I didn’t have to do that. Although she was in obvious discomfort, she was calm all week and mostly rested in her bed. At times she was even alert. On her final night, at some time in the middle of the night, she got out her doggie bed, walked into our bedroom and crawled under our bed – a place she liked to go to often. She slept through the night and I checked on her several times. Then about daylight she let out a whimper. Reane and I quickly got out of bed and sat on the floor near her. She crawled out closer to us. We could tell this was it. She was breathing differently now. We touched her, caressed her, and spoke to her through our tears as her breathing slowed down slower, and slower, until it finally stopped.

We were there when it happened.

We Buried Our Dog & Why it Was Good for Us


After Brandy died Friday morning, Renae and I buried her about an hour later. I dug the hole the night before in anticipation that the end was near. I made the hole in a rectangular shape (about 2’x3’) which provided plenty of room for her to be buried without being cramped or contorted; and it was about 3 1/2 feet deep. Renae wrapped Brandy in one of her favorite blankets before I placed her in the ground. I removed her collar (with nametag) for a keepsake. Then I began covering over the finest dog I have ever known.

This wasn’t fun for me, but it was very helpful; almost healing. Placing her in the earth felt natural. It was early in the morning, about 7:30 AM, so the temperature was still cool enough to make the experience bearable; in fact, the birds were still vocal in the background. Renae and I took turns with the shovel so each of us could have a part in covering her. After filling the hole I smoothed the freshly turned dirt with my hands, and I swear it felt like I was petting her one final time. As I ran my fingers through the dirt I had the sensation of running my fingers through her coat of fur once again. Once finished we stood there at her graveside for a long time. I was leaning on the shovel, and through our tears we talked about what a friend and companion she had been to us over the last fifteen years.

We buried her on a five acre parcel of land that Renae and I own; a place where we plan to build a future home; our final home. Since this location will be the place where Renae and I will likely spend the rest of our lives, it seemed like an appropriate place to honor the memory of our pet. Here’s why it was good for us to bury her:

It was an emotional outlet. We were, of course, very upset that she died. We were numb as we drove her body to the burial site. We tried to talk to each other, but it’s hard to talk when you’re crying. But the physical exertion of wrapping her up, shoveling dirt, and filling the hole, was a physical and an emotional release. We felt much lighter by the time we were done. We weren’t happy, of course, but we were in a much better position to cope at that point.

It gave us some closure. Ask any shrink and they’ll tell you how often people torture themselves for a lack of proper closure. Putting the body of our pet into the ground was – for lack of a better phrase – something that felt right once it was done. As I stood there looking at the grave when it was finished, I realized that I probably would not have gotten that type of closure any other way. I still feel an empty place by Brandy’s death, but I also feel a certain sense of completeness by the process of putting her body into the earth myself.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Man Games


I’ve been thinking of some ideas for the fall. One I like is something we could call “The Man Games.” This would be an event for men, competing in manly events like wing eating, jalapeƱo eating, bench pressing, darts, archery, etc. We could even have a grand prize for the winner.

What if....

  • Instead of organizing large-scale expensive mission trips, we viewed our community as a mission field where the money, resources, and people could be easily deployed into the field with no overhead costs?

  • All our small group leaders and ministry leaders viewed themselves as shepherds, under-shepherds, who cared for the people in their group?

  • We had a chilled-out, acoustically driven worship service?

  • We had a choir on stage and rocked the house?

  • Everyone viewed the bringing of tithes and giving of offerings as a form of worship to God - and not as contributions to a non-profit organization?

  • That more of us truly lived a surrendered life to God?
  • More men at PCC stepped up into the minsitry?

Shepherding, Small Groups, Ministry Teams, & Friendships


Christian people need a mixture of relationships to help maintain a healthy spiritual journey. We need shepherds over us – to guide us and teach us. We need good friends who stand beside us – they are there through thick and thick and in all seasons of life. And we need people under us; those that we are helping, serving, mentoring, and discipling.

Everything a church does, groups should be doing on a smaller scale. Think of them like colonies of a larger country. Just like our church has a master strategy, every group and ministry team has the same strategy – just on a smaller scale. i.e, They get people to church, lead them to Christ, shepherd them, and disciple them.

Groups, ministry teams, and friendship circles should be designed to help one another know Jesus Christ through the gospel, share the gospel, and live the gospel. Meeting in homes, in public places, or on campus, is about doing life and your spiritual journey in the context of trusted friends. In the Bible you see believers meeting together in this manner.

This isn’t just for adults either – it’s what we should be doing with children and students as well. Everyone benefits, even young people, when they have an accessible “go to” person who is actively involved in their life and spiritual journey.

One of my prayers is that God will raise up 40 new leaders at PCC – leaders who will lead groups of children, teenagers, adults, and ministry teams. There are many people in our church who need to STEP UP into leadership. You need to MAN UP and do what God is calling you to do. Christianity may be personal, but it is not private. One of the best ways to serve God is to serve others… by shepherding them, standing beside them, or helping them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Feelings Verses Faithfulness in Worship


Seems like a lot of people consider “feelings” to be the primary motivation for everything they do. If they feel like doing something, they’ll go for it. On the flipside, if they don’t “feel it” they won’t do it.

This mindset holds true when it comes to our approach to church attendance, worship, and living the surrendered life. For instance, if we get into a worship service one Sunday and just don’t “feel it,” it’s easy to clock out spiritually and do nothing. We can justify that behavior by telling ourselves that we’ll wait until they play a song that “moves me,” or the preacher says something I’ve never heard before. Or we can simply opt out of the service until next week when we’ll hopefully be in a better mood. But this way of thinking reflects a major misunderstanding of what authentic worship really is…..

By Him therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name (Hebrews 13:15 KJV)

God says we are to offer Him a “sacrifice” of praise and that we are to do it “continually.” This means we offer worship whether we feel like it or not. Mood, favorite songs, frame of mind, or flavor of church service have nothing to do with it either. It’s about faithfulness –otherwise it wouldn’t be a sacrifice.

Your praises filtered through your feelings is not the criteria for engaging yourself in worship. Your faithful obedience is what pulls the trigger. Even if you’re not “feeling it,” offer the sacrifice of praise anyway. Put your feelings in their place and make them catch up to your faithfulness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Leadership Summit 2010


Here's a link to the 2009 Leadership Summit showing highlights. View the video from last years event - it'll give you an idea what it's like.


From there, you can click "home" (in the upper left corner) and will be taken to the 2010 Leadership Summit page... which takes place in a couple of weeks.

Our Pet Who's End is Near


This is Brandy a couple of months ago; a perfect specimen of beauty and health. Last night she crawled under the bed. We let one of her companions (To-Jo) in to see her. He stood vigil over her. I think he could sense something is wrong with Brandy. When I left for work this morning both of the other dogs (Patch & To-Jo) were hovering very close to her and wouldn't leave her side.








Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Come to Church. Don't TRY.


The only thing that gets my goat worse than hearing someone say they are “shopping” for a church is to hear them say they will “TRY” to come to church.

What does that mean anyway? Do you “try” to go to work? Do you “try” to go to the beach? Do you “try” to go to the baseball game? No, you don’t. You actually go to the places you want to go to. So instead of saying that you will “try” to come to church, go ahead and admit it, you don't want to come to church.

The word try is a term that has no commitment attached to it. When a person uses the word try in connection with church attendance, they sound disinterested and uncommitted. Either you will come to church or you will not… there is no “try” to it. It’s not like you are having to fight off terrorists or contend with 30-foot tidal waves to make it to church.

Let’s just be honest here. Going to church in the United States in the 21st century is not a difficult thing to do. Most churches have multiple services so you can choose a time that best suits your “get up” schedule. When you get to the church campus, you don’t really even have to think about where to park; there is a parking team that helps you find a spot. From there it’s a short walk to free coffee, pastries, and snacks. You don’t have to worry about handling your kids; church workers who have been screened with background checks do that for you. Ushers will help you find a seat, and a worship guide is provided so that you can keep us with what’s going on. The chairs are plush and comfy, and the room temperature is just right. The worship team will guide you through a number of songs that you can listen to or sing along to – and the music is much better than the half-drunk band that you listened to Saturday night. And then there is the sermon – it’s straight forward, full of deep eternal truth, but communicated in a way you can understand it. Oh wait… THAT’S your REAL PROBLEM. Church is easy enough, until it comes to hearing God’s Word. You don’t like being challenged about sin or the way you are living your life. You don’t relish the idea of having to live a surrendered life. You don’t like God’s Word intruding into your self-willed life. Now I understand why you “try” to come to church… and rarely do.

Okay. Now that we are on the same page, let’s stop using the phrase “I’ll try to come to church.” Just be honest and say, “I won’t be at church because I would rather sleep in every Sunday and live by my own rules. I don’t want to live for God right now. But one day when my life and my family are going down the toilet, you will see me at church. I won't try. I'll be there.”

The Value of Church and Church Membership


The local church is more important than most people realize. For instance:

In Matthew 16 Jesus told Peter that He would build His church. Jesus didn’t say He would build a non-profit organization, a publishing company, a traveling quartette, or big business. He didn’t say He would build stay-at-home-Christians. He said He would build His church. Then in the book of Acts we see that beginning to happen as the church is birthed and begins to spread by carrying out the Great Commission. Jesus identified so closely with the church that when Saul was persecuting Christians, Jesus said he was persecuting Him. The book of Ephesians describes Jesus as the head of the church and us as members of the body.

In the Old Testament, God’s glory was displayed through the Tabernacle and later the temple. In the New Testament, it was displayed through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The book of Ephesians tells us that God’s glory is now on display in the local church!

In other words, church is IMPORTANT. Church participation is important. And being members of the church is important.

This is where it gets confusing. Membership in a local church means a lot of different things to different people and in different churches. Many people associate the term membership with meaningless rituals, silly rules, having your name on a dusty roll book, and secret handshakes. For others it means nothing more than joining a non-profit organization and becoming part of a legislative body to carry out business. Borrrring.

The word member is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of its original meaning.

The Bible paints a very different image about membership. Being a member in a church is not some cold induction into an institution, but rather becoming a vital organ of a living body (Romans 12:4-5; I Cor. 6:15; I Cor. 12:12-27).

At PCC we try to capture that image. When we offer membership we are asking people to commit themselves to the THIS CHURCH FAMILY and to OTHER BELEIVERS in this church. We are not asking people to commit to a business institution, but to become a member of our family. Big difference. This is entirely Biblical.

The phrase “one another” or “each other” is used more than fifty times in the New Testament, telling us of our responsibility to each other. We are told to love each other, pray for each other, encourage one another, teach each other, bear one another’s burdens, submit to each other, and be devoted to one another. All of these commands are what membership in a local body of believers is all about.

The essence of membership in contained in our willingness to commit to one another. We don’t transfer letters, and we don’t accept the transfer of letters either. That kind of institutionalism has nothing to with being a member of a family.

If you are not committed to a local church, you simply will be unable to grow spiritually as you should. Additionally, there are many commands in the NT that you are being broken by not being committed to a church family. Many Christians like to hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. This is a direct expression of America’s rampant individualism. They have not been taught, or either ignore the fact, that the Christian life involves more than believing – it also includes belonging.

We belong together. We need each other. We are connected, joined together as parts of one body. We are a family.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Personal...


Today I am sad. My dog (a Jack Russell Terrier) has been showing some signs of sickness recently, so I took her to the vet this morning. Within 30 minutes the doctor discovered a massive tumor in her abdomen and told me that the best option would be to have her euthanized. I was totally unprepared for this. This dog entered our lives at a time when I needed an unconditional friend. She has been with us fifteen years. As you can see, her abdomen is very swollen. She has been gasping for breath. She is dying. I’m taking her back to the vet in a couple of days to have her put down. I couldn’t’ do it today. I needed some time to say goodbye.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Worship Band at Starbucks Before Church



This is the worship band at Starbucks this morning before church. It looks like they are having too much fun to me. A couple of them are even doing the hoola-hoop in the place! I guess they were warming up for the worship service.

Thanks Shelby for the picture - I stole it from Facebook.


Sunday Mind Dump - July 18, 2010

  • Good attendance today. First service was slammed. Second service looked good and is looking better all the time.

  • Started a new series on the book of Nehemiah. Got off to a good start by laying the foundation for all the events that will follow.

  • Nehemiah’s story is amazing. It is a book written in the first person, you are actually reading a leaders journal.

  • Serveral people posted some very nice comments on Facebook about the message today. Most of us at PCC share mutual friends on this social network, so if you'd like to read them just navigate around and you'll find what you're looking for. It's always a good thing when people are deeply stirred by God's Word, and when people say they're going to read ahead.

  • My delivery was much better in the second service than in the first; think I had a better grasp of the content the second time around.

  • Student camp (for teenagers) in two weeks. Vacation Bible School (for kids) in three weeks.

  • We had a LOT of visitors today in both services.

  • In the last few months I have been able to identify a new group of emerging leaders at PCC. They have been stepping up, meeting challenges, and demonstrating the kind of skills that leadership requires. It’s time to ramp up our investment in them. Hope to be doing that soon.

  • I’m confident that we are gaining a certain momentum that is going to continue with us into the fall and until the end of the year. i.e., A lot of summer activities, emerging leaders, and the series on Nehemiah all add up to one thing: A Prevailing Church.

  • We have a baby dedication service coming up soon.

  • We will also be scheduling a baptism service soon.

  • Our wedding anniversary is coming up in August. Twenty-nine years. Renae and I will probably be gone that week (or the week after).

  • Have you ever looked around you life and realized that you have some great friends? That means something.

  • If you have God, a good family, and a good church to go to, you can’t be any richer than that.

  • Every time I look around at my life and take inventory of it, I am blown away by God’s goodness.

  • I have family who love me even though I have messed up. I have a wife who loves me and has been through hell to prove it. I have a church full of the some of the greatest people in the world, and I am employed in a terrible economy. Yea, I feel fortunate.

  • I met several new people today. Met a couple of Navy flight students. Even met a couple of people who haven’t been to church in more than ten years. I think it’s cool that PCC attracts visitors from all walks of life.

  • I’m thinking ahead on leadership training. I mentioned last Sunday night about leading a once-a-month (or bi-monthly) leadership training event. I’m also thinking about some other (or additional) options. Whatever we end up doing, this much I know: I will be teaching these training sessions myself – from kids, to students, to adults – because I want all our leaders to see themselves as pastors and care-givers to the groups they lead. Everything our church does on a macro level (evangelism, discipleship, community) our groups and ministry departments should also do on a smaller scale. Why? The smaller scare often leads to larger impact.

  • I think I would like to have our worship team offer a chilled out, more acoustic, unplugged, type of song service some time. Same message, just a different vibe. I love the loud music, but would like to have a different feel from time to time.

  • There are a number of urgent needs in our church family right now. When you pray, just call out these unspoken requests before God. He knows. We had special prayer for a teenage girl today in the second service. Called her to the front, anointed her with oil, and about 30 people gathered around to lay hands on her. We’re believing God.

  • I’ve got some pre-written posts that will drop this week on my blog. A couple of them even have attitude. As always, you are welcome to long on, read, and leave comments.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dangers of Sugar


Here
is a link to an good article about the dangers of sugar. Below are some bullteted points about the danges of sugar.

Besides ruining the shape of your body, too much consumption ruins your health.
  • Sugar is without question one of the most dangerous substances on the food market today.

  • What we are talking about here is sucrose, the white crystalline sugar refined from cane or beet juice by stripping away all its vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, water, and other synergists.

  • White sugar is an industrially processed chemical not found in nature, and it is not fit for human consumption.

  • Other sugars such as fructose (in fruit and honey), lactose (in milk), and maltose (in grains) are natural substances with nutritional value.

  • Raw sugar is a coarse, brown, sticky variety made by simply boiling down whole cane juice and it too is a wholesome food, but it is very difficult to find in the Western world.

  • The so called 'brown sugar' sold in supermarkets is nothing more than refined white sugar with some molasses spun back into it for color and flavor. It is not a 'health food'.

  • Sugar suppresses the immune system by causing the pancreas to secrete abnormally large quantities of insulin, which is required to break it down.Insulin remains in circulation in the bloodstream long after sugar has been metabolized, and one of its main side effects is to suppress the release of growth hormone in the pituitary gland.

  • It can easily cause diabetes.

  • Since sugar is 'nutritionally naked', the body must 'borrow' the missing vitamins, minerals and other synergistic nutrients required to metabolize sugar from its own tissues.

  • Heavy sugar consumption therefore causes a constant siphoning of nutrients from the
    body.

  • The nutritional leaching caused by sugar can give rise to intense food cravings and eating binges, as the body seeks to replenish the nutrients 'stolen' from it by sugar.

  • A 12-ounce can of a typical soft drink, for example, contains about nine teaspoons of refined white sugar.

  • Sugar consumption in the USA is so high that it has also caused a social problem through its deleterious effects on behavior, especially in children, who are displaying increasingly severe behavioral disorders and learning disabilities.

Matt Maher - Hold Us Together


This song is everywhere right now, and Renae says this song might be in our near future at PCC. Can't wait.


New Series Begins this Sunday


Nehemiah – The Leadership Difference
If you have ever wondered what it’s like to be a leader, thumb through the pages of the book of Nehemiah. It’s not a book of theory. It’s about one mans determination to get something done for God’s honor, and the leadership abilities he had to employ to get the job accomplished.

Within its pages are Biblical principles of leadership, that, when put into practice in your own life will teach you:
  • How to relate to a difficult boss
  • How to balance faith in God and personal planning
  • When to pray, and when to get up off your knees and do something
  • How to encourage and motivate others to serve the Lord
  • How to handle discouragement when things don’t go right
  • And how to handle opposition and criticism from your enemies

The book of Nehemiah is manual for a anyone and everyone who wants to live a victorious Christian life, and you are going to love this story.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Relationships - The Glue that Holds a Church Together


Jesus began his Church as a FAMILY. It changed to an institution in Rome, a political view in Europe, and has become big business in America.

I have always been convinced of the importance of helping the members in our church family develop friendships. Since our very first year this has been a major emphasis of ours. Why? Because relationships are the glue that holds a church together. Friendships are the key to retaining members. And fellowship (koinonia) is the Biblical purpose to make it happen.

I read an interesting story once. A church took a survey of its members and were asked, “Why did you join this church?” Ninety-three percent of the members said, “I joined because of the pastor.”

When asked, “What if the pastor leaves? Will you leave?” the same ninety-three percent said “no.” When asked why they wouldn’t leave, the response was, “Because I have friends here.”

Do you notice the shift in allegiance? This is normal and it is healthy. It is also a vital reason why PCC is such a healthy church today.

It’s true, the more friendships (and mentoring relationships) a person has in a congregation, the less likely he is to become inactive or leave, and the more likely they are going to grow and flourish into a mature disciple.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Church Cannot Compete With the World


It has become increasingly popular in churches to model their guest services and children’s ministry environments after places like Disney World, Chucky Cheese, or theme parks. After all, these places are a magnet for kids and are very successful.

I’ll admit that church leaders can learn a lot from these kinds of places. But I want to PUSH BACK against the notion that we have to look like Nickelodeon or spend money like Disney to reach kids. The fact of the matter is that no church can compete with the world on that level; the world has more money, more resources, and more bells & whistles than the church will ever have. Nor should we try. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy or lame – it’s just reality.

However, there IS one area where we can always do a better job than the world in reaching people, especially children and students:

Relationships.

A vicarious relationship with Hannah Montana or a cool set of strobe lights will never impact a child’s life the way that a COMMITTED CARING SMALL GROUP LEADER will. Funny YouTube videos or even Christian concerts may get kids talking for a day or two, but life change happens because a CARING ADULT IS INVOLVED in their lives. Even when it comes to guest services on Sunday morning – we can give away coffee mugs and Starbucks gift cards to first time guests to the point of breaking the budget, but apart from THE GOSPEL and establishing MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS with people, they will only be impressed but not changed.

This is why we must always keep the main thing the main thing. We want to see lives changed. We want to take people who are far from God and turn them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Yes, we should open the doors with a smile, serve coffee generously, and program well. But let’s not leave God out of the equation, and let’s get directly involved in people’s lives.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Prayer Journal...


I pulled out my prayer journal last week. It was buried deep in my book bag that I carry around. It's leather bound and well-worn. But I will confess, it has been a little while since my last entry. So I read my way though some of the thoughts I have recorded over the years. It was like catching up with an old friend. A flood of memories came rushing back as I read about and relived past events; Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Dennis, the collapse of our church building, the excitement of moving into the building, our church’s Ten-Year Hiccup, a few family crises, personal struggles, my meditations, prayer requests, answered prayers, and outpourings of gratitude to God. I was once again reminded of something I don’t always recognize – God is always there.

My prayer journal is a travelogue of my spiritual journey. It contains the ups and downs I go through. I show my emotions in there, confess many sins, and record my prayers. If you are like me you have a hard time keeping your thoughts on track during prayer, especially when you are praying in your head. Putting my thoughts on paper helps keep the task at hand. Writing out my prayers takes a little longer than thinking them and forces me to be clear. Written prayers become deeply embedded in my mind.

Prayer journaling helps me to be more reflective about how I feel and what I’m thinking. It also helps me keep an open mind and heart so that I am better able to hear what God expects of me. My prayer journal is a running conversation with God. At other times it just contains random thoughts.

Writing about these experiences and re-visiting later helps me to gain clarity about my relationship with God, myself, and others. In some ways it is a journey of self-understanding. More importantly, it contains evidence of God’s work in my life.

I'm glad I dusted this book off. It's time to start jounaling again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - July 11, 2010

  • Church was good today. Attendance was 449 – pretty good for the dead of summer.

  • Preached from Romans 12:1-2 on the topic of surrender. The message title was “A Living Sacrifice & the Heart of Worship.” We learned from this text what God expects from us. After saving our soul He begins His work of sanctification – working from the inside out – and expects that we surrender our Body to Him, our Mind, and our Will. This is all-encompassing and is what a surrendered life looks like.

  • After the message someone told me that they really enjoyed the illustration of surrender – i.e., That everyone surrenders to someone or something. If we don’t surrender to God, we’ll surrender to the opinions or expectations of other people, money, lust, pride, ego, etc.

  • Another couple told me they really liked the thought of dethroning yourself and putting Jesus on the throne of your life.

  • Several people picked up CDs of the message and told me they were going to give them to friends or family members who needed that Word.

  • I just got home from a workers meeting where we talked about security issues related to the Sunday morning services. It was very productive and I especially liked seeing the high level of interest being demonstrated by everyone. This is very encouraging to me. We’ve got some good people at PCC.

  • We are taking a three-pronged approach to security: (1) The Children’s Environment (2) A Background Check for all children’s workers (3) and All-Building Security.

  • Here’s how it fleshes out: (1) The children’s ministry environment is now a totally secure area with new check-in & check-out procedures – Ann Lewis is the team leader. (2) All children’s workers are filling out applications and must pass a background check – Gene Tharp is responsible for this process (3) We are implementing an Emergency Response Plan in the event of a medical emergency, a combative person, fire, bad weather, etc – Wayne Orr is the team leader.

  • A lot of summer colds are going around right now.

  • Today was a good day at PCC for me.

  • I’m not only thankful for the friends God has placed in my life, I’m also thankful for the mentors I have learned from.

  • I am specifically praying for three things regarding PCC. I can’t say what they are right now; they have to remain unspoken for now. But I would like to ask you to join me in prayer. God knows what it is.

  • PCC could not exist if it were not for all the key people who make it happen.

  • More and more every day I am learning the importance of honoring the boundaries that I have established in my life. They do me no good if I don’t observe and enforce them.

  • I hope to take a 1-or-2 week vacation in August. That’s anniversary month for Renae and I.

  • I’m thinking about getting around to doing something that I have considered doing for more than a decade: a once-a-month leadership training and development event. It might be called Leadership Summit, or S.A.L.T (Strategic Advanced Leadership Training), or C.O.R.E, or Leadership Advance. This is how it would work: once a month on a Sunday evening we would gather for an hour or two of intense teaching on the importance of spiritual leadership. It would include testimonies and reports from the field and ministry departments at PCC. There would be vision-casting by the pastor, skill-development and leadership training. Also included would be teaching on the Biblical requirement for elders and church leaders, as well as the commissioning of new lay ministers. The benefit for you personally would be enormous, and it would be very good for our church too because we would raising up new leaders for PCC.

  • Would you be interested in something like this? Let me know. Leave a comment.

  • I’m excited about the potential of PCC. I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that God is doing some awesome things right now and it’s only going to get better.

  • My mind is racing like wild about all the things I want to blog about.

  • We need to make some changes in the SCHEDULING of all our VOLUNTEERS who serve on our ministry teams. There are at least ELEVEN ministry teams in our church that are dependent upon volunteers to serve in the rotation. More than ¾ of these teams CHANGE workers EVERY SINGLE WEEK. This is killing us. It is a nightmare for the department head (or team leader) trying keep warm bodies plugged-in every week, and it also creates a lack of consistency (even instability) in the ministry teams. Very often they feel “wobbly.” In response, we are going to be moving all of our ministry teams towards a MONTH-LONG rotation instead. With this kind of consistency our performance would go up exponentially. This CAN be done. Four Sundays in a row is not too much to ask. And given the fact that we offer two services each Sunday, it means that no one would EVER have to miss church.

  • Our motto: ATTEND ONE and SERVE ONE.

  • I’m also thinking about restarting something we used to do, but stopped about three years ago. It was called NEWCOMERS COFFEE (or sometimes called “Pastors Chat”). This was a once-a-month informal coffee in my home for all guests and newcomers who had visited PCC in the last month. The first 25 to sign up would be invited to my home on a Sunday night It was always a lot of fun and highly successful for us. But we had to stop it when the event got too big – my home simply could not accommodate the crowds. I’ve been rethinking this and thought we might could host the event in the atrium on Sunday night.

  • What do you think? Would it be helpful? Let me know. Leave me a comment.

  • Ron & Carole Bryant are doing an excellent job with our hospitality services on Sunday morning. Be sure to tell them so.

  • I enjoyed the song service today. The last song we did (You Are God) is a song we used on our very first Sunday in 1998.

  • Going to get up early tomorrow morning and run 3.5 miles.

  • After the two-week painting project our house is slowly going back together. Next Saturday we are having a major garage sale.

  • As excited as I am about PCC, I am really excited about the fajitas I’m fixing to eat.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Five


1. This Sundays Message: A Living Sacrifice & the Heart of Worship. Based on Romans 12:1-2. We will learn what a living sacrifice is, what the heart of worship is, and the three areas of our lives that God requires we surrender to His will. Only then can we become an acceptable offering to Him.

2. Will be starting a new series soon. I’m working on something I am going to simply call “Rabbi.”

3. For the last two weeks our house has been being repainted. The whole inside. It was a big job. Donnie Smith did the painting – excellent work. Renae and I have moved a ton of junk in and out, and from place to place. Everything we own is piled up in the garage. The painting was just finished yesterday. Now we get to put everything back. Oh, joy. Think we’ll have a giant garage sale Saturday.

4. The church building is full of people today. The regular Friday crew has come to clean, set up, etc. About twelve people. This is always the last push in preparation for Sunday. Couldn’t do it without these great workers.

5. Rethinking Our Future. The biggest hindrance to future success is PAST success. Because something worked in the past, the tendency is to keep doing the same thing in the present believing it will bring success in the future. Not always so. Times change. Churches change. The context changes. We're putting a lot of things on the drawing board right now.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wisdom for Pastors....

  • Misusing ANY doctrine to excuse evangelistic apathy and defend ones failure to witness to the lost is exegetical apostasy.

  • If you genuinely love people, you will have to lock the doors to keep people away. People always flock to places where Christ-like love is given.

  • A church stays small when a pastor uses an outdated preaching style. God has called you for today's hearers, not 500 or 50 yrs ago.


Texting While Driving

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Five Reasons I Give to Pace Community Church


In addition to being the founding pastor of PCC, I am also a member who financially contributes to the ministry here. I give at least 10% of my pre-tax income (from all sources) to the church that I belong to. Here are five reasons why:

1. First, I believe in the mission of PCC. I’m very glad to be part of a church that really cares about reaching people who are far from God. This is a church that doesn’t just give lip service to evangelism, we put our money where our mouth is. Every time I hear another story about a family put back together, or a teenager who decides to follow Christ, or a man who finally gets back in church after 30 years away, I know my contributions played a small part. The lives of people are being changed by the power of God through he ministry of PCC, and I’m glad to be involved. Jesus said that our treasure would follow our heart, and since my heart is in this church I want to financially support it.

2. Secondly, I want to model an example to my family and the congregation of PCC. I’m so tired of hearing people complain about the younger generation of today. In many respects they are simply following our example. I don’t want selfish children or selfish church members who are concerned only with their iPods, new cloths, stereo systems, and other toys. I want my family and the PCC family to be generous and care about other people. That doesn’t happen by accident. Someone has to model an example in front of them. I can’t tell others not to be selfish and then spend 100% of my paycheck on myself only.

3. Third, I give because God commands me to give. In the Old Testament God commanded His people to tithe and obedience to this plan was not optional. In the New Testament Jesus endorsed tithing as something to be done. We are instructed to give by being motivated by love and generosity. Jesus talked about a lot about giving. Paul talked about giving. So when we tithe, give, and bring offerings today, we are following the pattern given in the Bible. “Because the Bible tells me so” is a pretty good reason for me.

4. Fourth, to position myself for God’s blessings & protection. God said He will rebuke the devourer for my sake if I am faithful in giving. I need this kind of protection. I am not rich enough, smart enough, or powerful enough to secure my family’s financial future by my own efforts. So it is very important to me that I position myself under God’s umbrella of blessings and protection.

5. Fifth, So I can hear God say one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to hear God say “well done” in Bible reading, soul winning, leading well, feeding this flock, being faithful, and all the other things that go with being a Christian. But I also want to hear Him say “well done” when it comes to faithful stewardship because that is as much a part of my Christian life as anything else is.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tomorrow....


Tomorrow I will be posting two blogs:
  • The Sovereignty of God in Salvation
  • The Free Will of Man

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - July 4th, 2010

  • Happy 4th of July! Hope you and your family had a good day.

  • After church this afternoon Renae and I had some family and friends over for dinner. We grilled chicken, pork sausage, kabosa sausage, baby back ribs, steak, pineapple, and corn. In addition we had mashed potatoes, creamed corn, strawberries and shortcake, and garlic bread. Pretty fine eating. BTW, I did not eat anything sweet. But it was still a pretty good spread.

  • The month of June has been a very long month for me. Things got pretty hectic and almost spiraled out of control. I couldn’t slow it down and as a result, some other important things have fallen behind. Hope to correct that in July. Time to take the bull by the horns.

  • In the second service today a man YELLED at ME from the congregation. It was his first time at church and was a total stranger to me. I was saying something about “common sense taking flight” in our society today and he yelled out (at me) something about condoms. Okay, this was a freak-out moment. It stunned everyone. I turned to the man, pointed my finger at him and almost yelled back at him. It was very awkward and tense. Instead, I just moved on with my message because he quieted down. I started looking around and could not find an able bodied man to escort this guy out, or even go sit near him. So I kept on going with my message until I finished. After I dismissed service, this guy decides to comes to the font towards me, and he does so very rapidly down the isle as I’m trying to come off the platform. I thought, “Something bad is about to happen.” So instead of waiting for him to get to me, I started towards him just as rapidly and met him in a way that interrupted his pace. He said, “My name is so-and-so.” I said, “I’ve got to tell you something, you were way out of order with your outburst and it startled everyone in the room. We don’t do that here.” He apologized saying, “Yes, I know I should not have said that.” We continued the conversation and it ended well. He said he would be back.

  • This experience UNDERSCORES the point of how quickly THINGS CAN GET OUT OF HAND in a church service. Just when you start relaxing and everybody cuts out for July 4th activities, then BAM! – a stranger shows up in the second service and creates a scene.

  • I also realized something else; if someone is going to get out of hand in a church service, they might be more likely to do it in the second service (like today) because there are fewer people in the building and there is less of a show of force.

  • I’m not crying wolf, here. This really happened, and it happened today.

  • Last Wednesday night we had vandalism at our church. Someone was cutting doughnuts in the parking lot, leaving rubber on the pavement. We could see the numerous skid marks that indicated they were doing it again and again. The car must have eventually spun out of control because it slid sideways into a white rail fence and busted it completely down. Posts, rails, post caps, and bushes were scattered all over the place. Did this vandal leave us a note, offering to pay? No.

  • Yesterday, Saturday, was a good day. Started at 7:00 AM with a 3.5 mile run. Afterwards I did a lot of yard work. Then Renae and I mowed 3 acres of grass on a lot we own (and hope to build on). I then shoveled a half trailer load of dirt, twice; once when I shoved it in, and once as I shoveled it out. I used the dirt to back fill the retaining wall I recently built. Then I went to Home Depot and bought 20 bales of pine straw, came home and spread them in the flowers beds. The day ended at 7:00 PM. I felt like I burned one million calories yesterday.

  • I love the summer because of the long days. And I like doing hard strenuous work outdoors.

  • In the month of July I will be conducting a series of meetings that will include all staff, department heads, and maybe even all-workers. There are some things we need to talk about, some things we need to clean up, some things we need to improve, and some things we need to change.

  • These meetings will include security related issues and background checks for all age-level workers. Some changes in personnel will also take place. There will be changes in some of the schedules and activities we do. There will be time changes for the Sunday services. I’m also going to be giving a talk entitled, “It’s About the Weekend.” I want to be sure that everyone is putting their best effort into the Sunday morning experience first. Otherwise, we will end up spreading ourselves too thin which always results in mediocrity across the board. I also want to talk about our mission because I think some mission drift has set in.

  • Having said that, I also want to add that - RIGHT NOW - Pace Community Church HAS THE BEST TEAM we’ve ever had. The current cadre of leaders, staff members, department heads, and workers are the best that we have had in our twelve year history. I’ve seen a lot of people come and go over the last decade, but this is the best team yet. Some of the people have been with us since the beginning, others are newer. But collectively, this current team represents the best we’ve ever had. They are highly motivated and enthusiastic about their roles. They have a “can do” attitude about getting the job done. Most go above and beyond the call of duty. They serve selflessly and give sacrificially. They love their church, embrace its mission, and are not troublemakers. From my perspective, this is ENORMOUS. Amazing things can be accomplished for the kingdom of God with a team of people like this. The only thing that is needed now is clear decisive leadership. I think people want to know “what are we doing?” and “where are we headed?” I hope to answer those questions very soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Sunday


This Sunday is July 4th, Independence Day. It was on this day 234 years ago that the United State of America gained its independence from from Great Britain. We are a great nation and all Americans have much to be grateful for.

Yet, we are not without our problems either. As a society we are becoming increasingly godless. In spite of the unprecedented prosperity (in all of human history) that we as Americans enjoy, we are more selfish, greedy, ungrateful, and arrogant than ever before. And in some ways we are beginning to lose our conscience as a nation.

That's what I will be talking about this Sunday. "Does America Have a National Conscience?" In this message we will find out what happens when God is eliminated from our national conversation, and what we as Christians should be doing.