Monthly Archives: February 2016

Happy Leap Day

Arolo & Janis

Leap day

Brewster Rockit

Brewster Rockit - Leap day

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Posted by on February 29, 2016 in Fun


Passover Preparations

As the events of the Passion Week unfold (Mark 11-15), some scholars hold to the belief that the matters simply escaped Jesus’ control and that he became an innocent victim. Albert Schweitzer, in his famous The Quest for the Historical Jesus, gave voice to this opinion. He postulated that Jesus simply overplayed his hand and as a result was mangled like a doll in the merciless gears of history.

While it may sound plausible, it is utterly false. As Mark 14:12-21 demonstrates, Jesus wielded profound command from the very beginning of the final journey to the cross. Rather than an innocent victim swept away in the affairs of the crowd, Jesus was in control with every step towards the cross.

Jesus is in control in the preparations for the Passover (12-16).

Jesus and his disciples are staying in Bethany (11:1, 11). Since the Passover is to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:5-6), Jesus sends two disciples, Peter and John (Luke 22:8), into Jerusalem to make preparations for the meal.

Peter and John were to look for a man carrying a water jar. Since this was a task typically performed by women, it would be a unique sign. The man would lead them to the place Jesus had previously reserved. It is evident that Jesus had already made arrangements for the room. It was now up to Peter and John to take care of the meal.

Some ask, “Why did Jesus go to such elaborate lengths?” One answer is that he kept the location a secret to prevent Judas and his enemies from knowing. A second reason is he wanted to control the environment of the Passover meal since he was going to attach a new meaning to the elements. A third reason is that the Passover meal was a night when devout Jews were filled with hope of God’s intervention once more.

Far from being crushed in the wheels of history, Jesus was turning the wheels just as he wished. A God who is in control when the foundations of his earthly existence are crumbling is a God who can be trusted to sustain us when it appears our life is tumbling in.

Jesus is in control as he announces his betrayal (17-21).

Between verses 17 and 18 occur the events of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1-20).

While the original Passover meal was eaten in haste so the people were ready to travel, by the first century it had become an elaborate feast. It was customary to recline on couches, reclining on one’s left elbow and scooping food with the right hand.

While they were eating, dipping bread into the bowl before the meal began, Jesus announced with solemn words that one of the disciples would betray him. To eat with a person and then turn against him was the height of treachery. Jesus’ words called to mind David’s lament in Psalm 41:9 about Ahithophel who shared table fellowship with David and then turned against him.

The disciples are deeply grieved and sought to clear themselves. The question, “Is it I?” expects a reassuring, negative answer from Jesus. But he declined to name the offender. Repeating his statement, Jesus emphasized the treachery and also gave the betrayer a chance to repent.

Jesus’ statement in verse 21 blends divine sovereignty and human responsibility. While it was God’s plan for the Son of Man to die, the betrayer would be held accountable for his actions.

These events reflect God’s sovereignty over all. God created the world and had absolute control over it. If Jesus was in control of the details of his death, can you trust him with the details of your life?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on February 28, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


Don’t be a NAG

In Chris Mavity’s book, Your Volunteers: From come and see to come and serve, he includes a chapter on creating positive energy within your organization.

Energy is needed to get things moving and keep things in motion … One of the primary jobs of a ministry leader is the creation, allocation, and conservation of energy. Leading volunteers requires spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental energy … and a lot of each!

The author includes ideas about how to create energy through celebrating victories, creating energy through training, adding rewards and awards, and matching the right person with the right job.

Chris also addresses the topic of how to deal with

an energy-robbing volunteer, or a NAG—someone who is continually negative, arrogant, or grumpy (or a combination of the three). Left unchecked, NAGs can consume so much energy that others will mock them, avoid them, quit the team … or worse, become NAGs themselves.

What is the solution to a NAG?

NAG them back.

No, you don’t become like them! Let me explain. The appropriate treatment of a NAG is to neutralize them, advise them, and give them specific options.

As Chris explains, you neutralize a NAG by limiting their exposure and influence on other volunteers. This may entail reassigning them or positioning them in a role where their behavior is of little to no effect upon others.

The next step is to advise a NAG through a private conversation where you are honest about their attitude and how it is affecting others.

As a last resort, you give them specific options to either comply with the ministry standards, correct the unwanted behavior, or give up their ministry role.

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Posted by on February 27, 2016 in Books, Leadership, Quotes, Work


Would you rather be important or influential?

VIPBook Review: VIP—Very Influential Person: How to influence with vision, integrity, and purpose, by O. S. Hawkins

Culture preaches that we should strive for importance. We long to be a VIP—Very Important Person. We get caught up in the pursuit of wealth, status, power, and fame. We want to be “liked” on Facebook. But is that the best way to live?

Author O. S. Hawkins takes a counter-cultural approach by encouraging people to pursue influence rather than importance. Just as each person has a unique fingerprint and DNA, he believes that God has designed each of us with a unique sphere of influence. But to have the greatest impact possible, we need to become a VIP, a person of Vision, Integrity, and Purpose.

According to Hawkins, a person of influence is a person of:

  • Vision—They cast a vision of what God wants them to be, where he wants them to go in life, and how he wants them to get there, and others get caught up in the flow.
  • Integrity—A person of integrity is authentic from the core to the crust. There is no difference between their private life and their public life.
  • Purpose—A person of influence knows why they exist, and they marshal all their energy to achieve that purpose.

The author weaves together numerous passages of Scripture to flesh out his concepts. He also includes the examples of several people who demonstrate these qualities. The strength of the book is that it motivates the reader to want to live this kind of life. The weakness of the book is that the author does not address how to develop these qualities. The assumption seems to be that if the reader is pointed in the right direction and encouraged to start the journey, they can figure out the rest on their own. While the book is encouraging and biblically sound, it is not that helpful. Consequently, it falls short of the goal.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> 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 February 26, 2016 in Books, Leadership, Scripture


Don’t Waste Your Retirement

“When are you going to retire?” Having turned 61 years of age two weeks ago, I’m starting to hear that question more often. To be honest, I have no plans to retire. I want to continue serving, preaching, and pastoring as long as I am healthy.

With that in mind, I read with great interest an article by John Piper entitled, “Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me” in which he challenges baby boomers not to waste their retirement years. He opens the article with these thoughts.

At 70, I am energized to dream great things, because this year Hillary turns 69, Bernie turns 75, and Donald turns 70. My rising energy has nothing to do with their policies or character. It has to do with the incredible fact that all of them want to spend their seventies doing the hardest job in the world.

This is wonderfully counter-cultural. I doubt that it’s motivated by a passion to magnify the greatness of Jesus. But that makes it all the more inspiring for me, because nothing gets me more excited than spending my seventies spreading a passion for the glory of Christ and his word. Paul is still my hero when he says, “My eager expectation and hope is that Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

So if Hillary and Bernie and Donald want to bear the weight of the world for the next four to eight years out of man-centered, philanthropic motives, I find my seventy-something zeal for Jesus heating up. They only get to be president of a tiny territory called the U.S.A. I get to be an ambassador of the Sovereign of the universe. They only get to change the way some people live for a few decades. I get to change the way some people live forever — with a lot of good spill-over for this world in the process.

But this is not an article mainly about me. It’s about the 70 million Baby Boomers coming behind me. I’m the oldest (born in 1946; the youngest born in 1964). Ten thousand Americans turn 70 every day. And they will continue to do so for about nineteen years. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to get us to waste the last chapter of our lives on leisure. I’m spending one afternoon to plead with the rising seventy-somethings: Don’t waste it.

Being in the center of the baby boomer generation, I’m one of the people Piper is addressing. I appreciate his perspective and agree that we need to redefine retirement.

Piper concludes with these words.

Make no mistake. The Bible believes in retirement. It’s called heaven.

Click on the link to read the rest of the article.

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Posted by on February 25, 2016 in Culture, News stories, Quotes, Retirement


Lies we buy into

On Sunday, our worship leader, Dave, commented that the Christian cliché, “God will never give us more than we can handle,” is very common place and popularly accepted. It is found on posters, bumper stickers, and coffee cups. Unfortunately, as Dave also pointed out, it is completely false.

The popular sentiment is based on a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 10:13.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

On the one hand, the verse says that we will not face any temptation that we cannot handle. On the other hand, the verse also says that God will provide a way of escape, which means that some challenges will be beyond our ability, and rather than stand and fight, we need to escape from them.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8–9, Paul comments that God allowed him to reach the point of helplessness so that he might learn to rely on God.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes his experience with his thorn in the flesh. His experience was so difficult that he begged God on three occasions to remove it. However, God repeatedly denied Paul’s request. Instead, God gave Paul an extra measure of grace so that he might learn to depend on God’s strength rather than his own.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

A cursory reading of the story of Gideon and his 300 men facing the Midianite army of 135,000 shows that, yes, God does allow us to face insurmountable obstacles so that we learn to trust him. If we can handle it, we will take the credit every time.

The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2)

If we never faced a battle, challenge, enemy, problem, person, situation, or obstacle that we could not handle, if God never gave us more than we could handle, then we wouldn’t need God. All we would need is us. We would receive the credit and take the glory.

Let’s face the facts. That is not God’s plan for any of us. We are not self-sufficient for every challenge. We are deluded if we think otherwise.

God often places in situations where we are in over our heads because he wants to teach us to depend on him. Only then do we realize that his grace is sufficient. Only then do we give him the glory.

Dave, thanks for sharing your insights and prompting my thinking.

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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in Scripture


When God calls you to risk it all

PowerPoint Presentation

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Posted by on February 22, 2016 in Quotes


Are You “ALL IN” For Jesus?

The sports world is replete with examples of total dedication. Players dedicate themselves 24/7 to off-season training. Fans dress up in jerseys, hats, beards, and face paint of their favorite teams. Business owners cease working in order to watch their favorite team play in the World Cup Soccer Tournament.

Why is it that we expect and applaud total dedication when it comes to our sports teams, but we frown on that same level of fanaticism when it comes to worshipping God? Why do we counsel someone to think twice before cashing in a stock dividend to help fund a church building program? Why do we consider someone foolish when they use their vacation time to teach in VBS or go on a short-term ministry trip to another country? Where did we get the idea there is a verse that states, “Follow Jesus, but don’t go overboard about it”?

I find it interesting the Jesus applauded two women who went “all in” in their worship of him. In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praises the widow who gave her last two cents as she worshipped in the temple. In Mark 14:3-9, Jesus applauded the woman who anointed him with the contents of an expensive jar of rare perfume. The people who observed these events thought their sacrifices were foolish. They felt they should have paced themselves or at least used their resources in more productive ways. Jesus’ own disciples were critical of what they considered to be frivolous expenditures. Yet Jesus lauded these two women and memorialized their gifts and dedication.

If we go all in to celebrate our favorite team, how much more should we go all in to celebrate and worship our Savior?

Let’s be honest. There are always reasons not to worship. There are reasons not to serve. There are reasons not to give. Perhaps you are too busy. Maybe you feel you have nothing to offer. Chances are you cannot afford it. Perhaps you think you’re not mature enough. Maybe the economy has you scared. Chances are headlines of world crises keep you hidden safely inside the four walls of your home.

As Mark 14:1-11 demonstrates, commitment is seldom convenient. The account of the woman who anointed Jesus (3-9) is sandwiched between opposition (1-2) and betrayal (10-11). The religious leaders were tightening their noose around Jesus. It wasn’t safe to be identified as a passionate follower. Yet Mary took a stand and declared her love for her Lord.

In the midst of mounting opposition, an ordinary dinner party became a time of worship (3). Mary (John 12:3) took an alabaster flask of expensive perfume, broke the neck and poured the liquid on Jesus’ head and feet. The spiced perfume was extremely costly, having been imported from India. The flask was possibly a family heirloom, perhaps part of a bridal dowry passed down from mother to daughter.

The dinner guests were indignant at Mary’s sacrifice (4-5). They were embarrassed by the extravagance of the gift. Judas Iscariot was incensed and commented on the wastefulness of the offering and voiced it could have been better spent on ministry to the poor (John 12:4-6).

Not much has changed in 2,000 years. If you give up vacation time to serve at a summer camp, people will tell you that you’re foolish. If you go on a summer ministry trip to Spain, people will say it’s a wasteful boondoggle. If you want to rebuild houses in rural Arkansas, people will criticize you for not addressing needs in your own city. Like Judas, the critics often don’t care about ministry. They just don’t want you to care about ministry. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, not on the opinions of others.

Rather than be deterred by the critics, we need to keep in mind that Jesus values and celebrates sacrificial commitment (6-9). Jesus commended Mary for her gift (6) because she had her priorities in the right order (7). Her anointing was timely and insightful as it prepared Jesus for his soon death and burial (8). Her gift would not be forgotten but would be celebrated every time the gospel was preached (9).

Don’t look for reasons to avoid commitment. Don’t let criticism keep you from demonstrating your commitment. Like Mary, go “ALL IN” in your devotion to Jesus Christ.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on February 21, 2016. It is part of a series on the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


A matter of perspective

Abraham Lincoln - rose bushes and thorns

Thanks to SonScape for the graphic quote.

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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in Quotes, SonScape


Science Camp – Day Two

Today was Day Two of First Central Baptist Church‘s Science Camp during mid-winter break. Steve & Tammy Richter, along with their daughter, Trista, taught the kids about bacteria. On Tuesday, the kids swabbed various surfaces in the church as well as their own hands. Today, they discovered which one had the most bacteria. The bathroom faucet won hands down! It was another fun, interactive, hands-on learning experience. Thanks Steve & Tammy!

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Posted by on February 18, 2016 in First Central Bible Church, Photos