Monthly Archives: January 2014

Blue Friday

Here’s how some Seattle fans prepare for Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup.

Boeing commissioned a “12th Man” aircraft – a 747-8 freighter.


The test flight for the aircraft was done in a “12” pattern. Pretty creative!

Marshawn Lynch got a sweet deal with the endorsement contract he signed with Skittles, his “power pellets.” They even released a Seattle version with only blue and green candies.


Forbes has an interesting article, “Super Bowl Quarterback Face-Off: Who Has The Leadership Advantage?” where they interviewed former NFL quarterback, Tom Flick.

A New Jersey artist turned his front yard into a Super Bowl snow sculpture.

SuperBowl snow castle

The Seattle Times has a creative graphic for their Super Bowl edition.

Attack force

And if that is not enough to get you ready, there’s a great feel good story about Derrick Coleman, the first legally deaf NFL offensive player, “Derrick Coleman surprises hearing-impaired fans with Super Bowl tickets.”

Let the game begin. Go Hawks. 12th Man in MA.

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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in NFL, Seattle Seahawks


Passionate pursuit or distracting pleasure

Former NFL quarterback Jeff Kemp asks a penetrating question about our passion for the Super Bowl.

How much do other interests of mine crowd out what should be my transcending joy and dominant interest?

If I can put so much energy into the Super Bowl, how much more focus and effort can I put into my marriage, raising my children to know Christ, preparing them to walk in His purpose for them?

To understand the context of Jeff’s question, read his article, “I never made it to the Super Bowl.” Good insights.

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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Marriage, NFL, Quotes


What’s your view of the future?

FuturevilleBook Review: Futureville: Discover your purpose for today by reimagining tomorrow, by Skye Jethani

What we believe about the future determines how we live today. This is the premise of Skye Jethani’s latest book, Futureville: Discover your purpose for today by reimagining tomorrow.

The author presents the view that our concept of the future gives us not only a sense of hope, but more importantly, a sense of purpose. “How we invest our lives, the work we pursue, and the goals we strive toward are inexorably linked to what we believe about tomorrow.”

In the first half of the book, the author presents the view that most people subscribe to one of two views about the future—evolution or evacuation. Evolution offers hope in the human ability to improve the world. This leaves us with a purpose of transforming the world into “Futureville.” Evacuation finds its hope in escape. Since the world will be destroyed, one’s only hope is in being snatched away by God before the hammer falls.

Jethani offers a third viewpoint, that of resurrection. “Rather than evolution or evacuation, through the incarnation God took on flesh and entered the wilderness of the world, and there he started to cultivate order, beauty, and abundance that could be experienced in the present.”

In the second half of the book, the author explains how the concept of resurrection changes how we approach our vocation and daily calling, as well as how we can partner with  God to create order, beauty, and abundance in the world, and ultimately enjoy a greater and truer sense of hope. In addition to being thought provoking, the author includes examples of people who are putting these principles into practice in their daily lives. It helps to move the ideas from conceptual to reality.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on January 27, 2014 in Books, Theology


Deacons Serve Wherever Needed

In 1968, the Swiss dominated the watch industry producing 65% of the watches in the world and 80% of the profits. Yet a short ten years later they had only a 10% market share. What happened? The Swiss were guilty of “paradigm paralysis” and could not see the future.

Ironically, Swiss researchers invented the electronic (Quartz) watch. However, the Swiss executives rejected it, believing no one would want to buy a watch they could not wind up. They were so confident in their belief they did not copyright their own invention, and instead displayed it at a trade show as a novelty. Japanese executives saw the invention as the future of the watch industry and snapped it up. In 1969, Seiko produced the world’s first Quartz watch.

It’s not just watch makers that get trapped in their own paradigms. People and churches can fall victim to the same disease and assume the world will never change. Acts 6:1-7 describes a church that was flexible enough to adapt to a changing culture. The passage demonstrates the principle that deacons serve wherever they are needed.

Philippians 1:1 states that there are two offices in the local church—overseers or elders, and deacons. Both are chosen on the basis of their character qualities (1 Timothy 3:1-13). The elders are tasked with leading the church while the deacons are to serve the church. The elders shepherd the flock—feeding, leading, protecting, caring, and modeling for the church. The deacons adapt to meet the changing needs of the body. The elders have a fixed job description while the deacons have a flexible one.

Acts 6:1-7 suggests several principles churches can employ to meet the changing needs of the body:

  1. Growth brings changes, complaints, and challenges (1). A growing church will face numerous changes—increased numbers, different needs, racial issues, maturity problems, to name a few. However, just because a complaint arises doesn’t mean there are problems. It could mean that the enemy is trying to nudge the leaders off center.
  2. Leaders must establish and maintain clear priorities (2, 4). While the apostles recognized that caring for widows was a legitimate issue, they rightly understood it was not one they needed to handle directly. It could be delegated to a group of deacons. Leaders must always wrestle with what could be done versus what must be done.
  3. The church must adapt to meet changing needs (1, 3). When you are a group of 120 in an upper room (Acts 1), you don’t need much structure. When you number several thousand people (Acts 6), no one group of leaders can do everything. The leaders need assistants. What got you here won’t get you there. You have to adapt.
  4. Leaders practice delegation and involve others in serving (3). This passage is a classic example of delegating up—“WE have a problem that YOU should fix.” The apostles proposed a solution but allowed the congregation to make the decision and implement it.
  5. Servants are chosen on the basis of their character (3, 5). The first group of deacons/servants was full of the Spirit, wisdom, faith, and a good reputation. Today’s deacons should not be any less (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
  6. The result is that the church moved forward (5-7). Unity was maintained, needs were met, and the church continued to grow.
  7. When the task is complete, servants move on to the next one. Deacons were not intended to spend their time in board meetings. They are task oriented and flexible. It is interesting to note that Stephen went from waiting on tables (Acts 6:1-7) to a ministry of preaching (6:8-15) and Phillip moved on to an evangelistic enterprise (8:26-40).

Applying this passage to a modern day church, I believe we can support the following conclusion. When elders and deacons serve well in their respective roles, priorities are maintained; needs are met; unity is preserved; evangelism is fruitful; the church grows; and God is honored.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on January 26, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


How grows the church?

“What is our plan to grow our church?” was asked Wednesday evening at our church’s annual meeting. We were discussing adopting an annual budget that was less than last year’s budget but more than last year’s giving. The new budget is based on the assumption that we will have more people to give and that people will give more.

When the question, “What is our plan to grow our church?” was asked, I did not respond. One reason is that it was not addressed to me directly. The second reason is I wanted to see how the congregation would respond.

Now that the meeting is over and the dust has settled, let me remind us of what we’ve been talking about for the past year. Our plan for growth is found in two documents, our 2020 Vision and our Purpose Statement, and a sermon series, “What makes a great church?” Granted, our plans are not spelled in action steps and milestones. But these two statements explain what we will focus on and emphasize in order to produce growth.

Our 2020 Vision says we want to become a church of 500-1000 people. Since we currently average 245, that requires a step of faith and dependence on God. It is even more challenging considering we live in the region that is #11 on the least of least churched cities in America. To see our attendance double or quadruple, we will need to pray and ask God to work.

The 2020 vision explains where our growth will come from:

  • Evangelism – With so many lost people surrounding us, we don’t want or need to take people from other churches. We will offer events where people can bring their friends to hear the gospel, but more importantly, each one of us needs to share our story with those we live and work with.
  • Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry – By placing an emphasis on children and youth, we want to attract and minister to young families. We are beginning to gain some traction in these two areas.
  • Small groups – By getting people into small groups, we can help people connect with one another on a deeper level and build a sense of community. Small groups also serve as a catalyst for greater spiritual growth.
  • Emphasis on missions – One of our goals is to adopt an unreached people group. This will remind us of the need for global outreach and help us maintain an outward focus. By encouraging adults to go on a short-term ministry trip, we encourage people to get out of the pew and into the world. Our hope is that we can begin to work more closely and partner with our missionaries in their endeavors.
  • Being a blessing to our community – We will offer events and services that allow us to be a good neighbor and contribute to the health of our community. We will live as salt and light and cause people to be curious as to why we are different.

Our purpose statement also explains where our growth will come from:

At First Central Baptist Church, we are Building a Community to Change the World. We seek to Glorify God by Connecting people to Christ, the church, and one another; so that we can Grow in our faith, character, and skills; in order to Serve the cause of Christ with our time, talents, and treasures; and to Share the message of the gospel where we live, work, and go to school; both locally, and as far around the world as we can reach.

  • Connect – We will use evangelism to connect people to Christ; small groups and other ministries to connect people to the church and one another.
  • Grow – Small groups, Sunday School classes, worship services, leadership training, Celebrate Recovery, and numerous other ministries help people grow in knowledge, character, and skills.
  • Serve – We want servants, not attendees; participants rather than spectators. We will challenge people to use everything they have—time, talents, treasures, resources, etc., to help build Christ’s kingdom.
  • Share – God has entrusted us with the message of hope and reconciliation. We will encourage, challenge, and equip folks to share their story.

A sermon series I preached last fall also explains our plan for growth—“A great commitment to the great commandment and the great commission makes a great church.”

  • A great commitment – As disciples, Christ calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him.
  • To the great commandment – We are to love God with every aspect of our being and love our neighbor.
  • To the great commission – We are to share the message of the gospel and make disciples here and around the world.
  • Makes a great church – We work with Christ as he builds his church.

Rather than compete and conflict, our 2020 Vision, Purpose Statement, and “Great Church” series are designed to complement one another. They serve to help us have a balanced ministry—Upwards to exalt the king; Inwards to equip his servants; and Outward to expand his kingdom.

I was reminded once again that vision and direction needs to be cast, recast, and continually communicated.


Posted by on January 24, 2014 in Church, First Central Bible Church, Leadership


Senior Pastor annual report for 2013

On Wednesday evening, January 22, our church, First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, held its annual meeting. Below is the annual report I submitted to the congregation.


Welcome to the New Year! God did amazing things in and through FCBC in 2013. We look forward with great anticipation to what he is going to do in 2014. We trust him to give us boldness to share our faith, save people from their sins, and transform sinners into saints. We anticipate times of worship and praise, service and sacrifice, equipping and evangelism.

Our focus in 2013 could be summed up in the phrase “depth versus breadth.” Rather than expand our ministries, we focused on building deeply into individuals. We emphasized depth and allowed God to determine the breadth of our ministry. We cast a 2020 vision for the future—the type of church we want to become. We’re beginning to discuss how to measure our progress towards those goals. 17 couples participated in an elder/deacon leadership study. We began work on a profile for a disciple—what we want a disciple to look like when they move from elementary school to junior high, from junior high to senior high, and what a fully formed disciple looks like as an adult.

We will continue the emphasis on building deeply into people in 2014. During January – March, we will offer two parenting courses, Raise Up A Child and Raising a Modern Day Knight. In February, Carol and I will be in Tsibanobalka, Russia, helping to train Russian pastors and leaders. We are discussing launching a leadership development track in April.

2014 will be a year of change and transition. We will be moving from a deacon led church to an elder led congregation. The elders will be the shepherd leaders who lead the congregation, teach sound doctrine, guard and protect the flock, care for the people, model godly character, and serve as a team. The deacons will be the servant leaders who assist the elders in meeting the needs of the congregation.

We will transition from maintaining separate budgets for church ministry and missions to one unified budget for all our ministries. Rather than give to personal preferences and favorite people or ministries, we encourage each one to give to the ministry of the church. All aspects of our ministry—education, evangelism, missions, facilities, salaries, programs—are equally important.

Last year we adopted an overly aggressive budget and we were not able to keep up with it. This year we have taken a step backwards and have put together a balanced budget. This meant reducing expenses in all areas of ministry. Our missions budget is undergoing a two or three year process of refocusing and reprioritization. Feeling like we were spread too thin, we are beginning to reduce the number of missionaries we support so that we can partner with and invest more significantly in a smaller number.

Our 2014 budget includes a modest 3.5% increase over last year’s giving. The increase is based on two presumptions. One is that the congregation will grow in numbers and we will have more people who can give. The second assumption is that each of us will reexamine our giving habits and ask God to give us more faith so we can give more to ministry.

While First Central has a wonderful heritage, I believe our best days are still ahead of us. Please join us in Building a Community to Change the World.

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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in First Central Bible Church, Ministry


Celebrate Life!

Today, January 22, marks the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision handed down by the Supreme Court legalizing abortion. Rather than focus on the negative aspects of that decision, we encouraged the people of our church, First Central Bible Church, to celebrate the Sanctity of Human Life. Using the word ACTS as an acrostic, here are some suggestions how you can celebrate life:

Adoration – Read Psalm 139 and meditate on the uniqueness of life. Take time to praise God for the magnificence of his creation.

Confession – Confess the sins of our nation; we have not honored God as the Creator and we have denied his sovereignty over our relationships, over life and over death.

Thanksgiving – Give thanks for God’s grace, his mercy, and his loving-kindness.

Supplication – Intercede for those who are suffering the pain of guilt and remorse following an abortion and ask God to bring healing to their lives. Pray that God would cause our nation to seek and honor Him. Ask God for wisdom on how you can reach out to a hurting world searching for answers.

For more information on the critical issues surrounding abortion and euthanasia, contact the Springfield Pregnancy Care Center, 704 Sumner Avenue, Springfield, MA 01108, (413) 732-2006 or Pioneer Valley Region Massachusetts Citizens for Life, P.O. Box 96, 109 Center Street, Ludlow, MA 01056, (413) 583-5034.


Change your perspective

Many of us go through life with a self-centered, self-focused point of view. “It’s all about me,” is the unstated philosophy of our lives. “Get Service” is a powerful video produced by Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, AR, that will change how you view other people.

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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Personal growth, Videos


Champions with correct priorities

For those who want to bash the Seattle Seahawks because of the Richard Sherman interview at the end of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, perhaps you’d reconsider your opinion after listening to several of the ‘Hawks share what Jesus means to them.

Jesus is better than the Super Bowl” is an interview conducted by Pastor Mark Driscoll with four players—Russell Okung, Chris Maragos, Clint Gresham, Russell Wilson—and one coach, Rocky Seto. Mark asked the question, “Who is Jesus?” and each one shared their perspective about what Jesus means to them.

The making of a champion“The Making of a Champion” is a video several of the Hawks produced and distributed at a home game last October. It contains the testimonies of six players and coaches—the five mentioned above plus running backs coach Sherman Smith.

Testimonies such as these give a few more reasons to root for Seattle in the Super Bowl. Go Hawks!

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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in NFL, Seattle Seahawks


Put the cookies on the lowest shelf

“How do you make things so clear?” is one of the best compliments I’ve ever received for my preaching. A woman asked me that question as she was leaving the worship service yesterday. She went on to say, “I come so worked up with so many questions and I leave understanding what it means. How do you make it so clear and easy to understand?” Her husband added, “That’s why we keep coming back.”

As a student, I was trained to “put the cookies on the lowest shelf” when preaching. Don’t make the text seem simplistic was the reasoning, but make it clear and easy for all to grasp and understand.

Compliments like this one encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing. At least one of my teacher’s lessons seem to have sunk in.

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Posted by on January 20, 2014 in Preaching