Monthly Archives: May 2016

Five Words to Live By

During the Baccalaureate Service for the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University on May 26, 2016, Dr. Michael Wilkins gave the charge to the graduates. During his remarks, he shared five words to live by, five phrases that he said he has followed throughout his life.

Know yourself (as God knows you) – You are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Accept yourself (as God accepts you) – God created the universe, yet he cares for men and women. He has crowned them with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5).

Build on the good; Grow on the bad – God has created each of us with a unique package of strengths and weaknesses. Recognize and accept both (Romans 12:3). Our strengths give us a platform to accomplish great things. Our weaknesses teach us to depend on God and others. Don’t compare yourself with others. “Comparison tends to rob us of the uniqueness God has given us.” Dr. Robert Saucy.

Forget about yourself – As Christ followers, we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34).

Get into God’s people – Follow the example of Christ—serve others and give yourself sacrificially (Mark 10:45).


Jon’s Graduation

Yesterday, we celebrated Jonathan’s graduation from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. It was a typical SoCal day–sunny, low-mid-70’s. Carol’s mom, Barbara, and Carol’s sister, Nancy, Amanda & Phillip, and Carol and I were there to cheer Jon’s accomplishment. Tonight we’ll take family and friends out to Lucille’s Smokehouse Barbecue for a celebratory dinner.



Carol and I are in So Cal to celebrate Jonathan’s graduation from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Jon is receiving two master’s degrees this afternoon, one in New Testament and one in Old Testament. Thursday evening was the Baccalaureate service where the graduates were hooded. The graduates were hooded by the professor of their choice and each gave words of thanksgiving and praise. With about 200+ grads, it made for a very meaningful, personal evening.

After the ceremony, Carol and I reconnected with one of my mentors, Dr. Donald Sunukjian. Don was one of my professors at Dallas Theological Seminary 30+ years ago, where he taught me much of what I know about preaching. During the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Don and his wife, Nell, spoke at two of the Couples Conferences we held during my time on staff at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. It was encouraging to get caught up briefly.



Switch on Summer

The patio furniture is out.


The AC units are in.


Let summer begin!


Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Chicopee, Photos


He Is Risen!

About an hour north of London, England, lies the village of Tewin. St. Peter’s Church in Tewin dates back to Saxon times. While the church is an interesting structure, what people come to see is the massive single tree with four trunks that grows over the grave of Lady Anne Grimston, who was buried in 1713.

Lady Anne was a proud, obstinate woman who enjoyed her wealth and lands and the society of her friends. She believed that there was nothing else in life except what she experienced—her riches, her grand house, her friends, the fine dinners, and the elegant clothes she enjoyed. There was no eternal life, no heaven and no hell.

Her friends tried to tell her otherwise, but she proudly stated, “I shall not continue to live. It is as unlikely that I shall continue to live as that a tree will grow out of my body.” She went so far as to make a challenge to heaven, saying, “If, indeed, there is life hereafter, trees will render asunder my tomb.”

Lady Anne Grimston died November 22 1713, and was buried in a strong tomb made of marble. Many years later, the marble slab over her grave was found to have moved from its position. The builders fixed it firmly in place. Again the heavy marble slab tilted slightly on one side, and in the middle was a crack, with a tiny bunch of leaves bursting through. Lady Anne GrimstonThe crack was closed with cement, and the slab put back. But again the slab was lifted up, the crack opened wider than ever, and the thin trunk of a tree appeared. They repaired the tomb and built tall iron railings around it to hold the masonry together. But the young tree made its way, breaking the masonry, destroying the walls of the tomb, and tearing the iron railings out of the ground.

Today, growing right from the heart of Lady Anne Grimston’s grave in St. Peter’s churchyard in Hertfordshire County is one of the largest trees in England, with four trees growing from one root. The trunk of the tree has grown fast through the iron railing, which cannot be moved.

Through his resurrection, Jesus dealt the final victory blow to Satan. The resurrection demonstrates God’s power over life and death. The resurrection demands a response. It calls us to put our faith in the Son of God and to persevere in the face of doubt, suffering, and persecution (Mark 16:1-8).

Once the Sabbath concluded, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James & Joses, and Salome purchase spices to anoint the body of Jesus (1). Rather than trying to preserve his body from decay, however, they want to demonstrate their devotion to the Lord.

The women set out at dawn (6:00AM) on Sunday morning (2). On the way there, they wonder who will move the stone for them (3). The women did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead. When the women arrived on the scene, they immediately noticed that the very large stone covering the entrance had been removed (4).

resurrection-of-jesus_christ PP crosshatchUpon entering the tomb, the women were startled by the presence of a young man sitting on the right hand side of the burial chamber (5). Luke (24:3-4) and John (20:12) mention two angels, but Mark only speaks of one, presumably the spokesman. Their white clothes indicated the dazzling character of their glory. The women were alarmed when they encountered the divine messenger. It’s not every day you meet an angel.

Sensing the women’s distress, the angel commanded them, “Don’t be alarmed” (6). The angel knew they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth. His greeting reassures them they did not go to the wrong grave. The angel announces that Jesus is not dead. He has risen!

The empty tomb does not prove the resurrection. It simply raises the question, “What happened to the body?” The question is answered decisively by the angels’ statement, “He has risen.” The angel invites them to examine the evidence. The women could see the body is not there. The tomb is empty and confirms the resurrection.

The women were given a task. They were to go and tell Jesus’ disciples that they would be reunited with him in Galilee (7). Peter was singled out not only because he was preeminent, but because he was forgiven and still included in the Eleven despite his triple denial. The message given to the women was not for them alone. It was for all of Jesus’ followers.

The women were confused and terrified by what they saw and heard. The women fled from the tomb just as the disciples fled from the arrest, trial, and crucifixion (8).

Rather than resolving the story, Mark leaves his readers to ponder the meaning of the empty tomb as interpreted by the angel’s revelatory message. He wanted his readers to continue the story in their own lives. Mark is asking the question, “How will you respond to the announcement of the resurrection?”

By stating that the women told no one, Mark challenged his readers to assume the responsibility of telling the good news to everyone.

The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on May 22, 2016. It is the final sermon in a series on the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Don’t be a “Whatever” Christian

lukewarmThe term “Whatever” represents the philosophy not only of our modern age, but of many Christians as well.

…churches in modern America are actually aiming for the middle ground.  They want enough religion to be respectable, but not so much that they are viewed as zealots. Parents tell their children that they shouldn’t be atheists, but, at the same time, they tell them not to take this religious thing too far. Lukewarm religion is actually the goal.

This is the conclusion of Michael J. Kruger in an article entitled, “Apathetic about Your Apathy? Here is Why a Lukewarm Church is a Bigger Problem Than We Think.” He points out that apathy is much more dangerous than we think. It is the religion of our age and ultimately, it is out of sync with the greatness and glory of God.

The article is well-written and thought provoking. The author calls us back to a bigger view of God and to fall in love with Jesus Chris all over again.

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Posted by on May 21, 2016 in Church, Quotes, Scripture


Once upon a “Future” time

Will Mancini believes that church leaders should engage in long-term planning. Not just six months ahead, but five to ten years ahead. This is the focus of chapter 3, “Obsessing with Now” in his book, God Dreams: 12 Vision Templates for Finding and Focusing your Church’s Future. Here are some highlights I noted from the chapter.

“…the Horizon Storyline also takes on another problem that thwarts visionary leadership: the tendency to obsess with ‘now’ to the point that you don’t plan. The goal of this chapter is to challenge you to trade an obsession with now for a mind-set that values thinking long.”

“God wants church leaders to think long so you can dream even bigger and attempt even greater things for Him.”

“People of faith always take the eternal view, the longest view possible.”

Twelve Compelling Reasons to Think Long

Biblical Reasons 1. Think long to love people beyond your lifetime.
  2. Think long because that’s how God reveals himself.
  3. Think long because, most likely, you will lead for a long time.
  4. Think long because God thinks generationally.
  5. Think long because you will live forever.
Practical Reasons 6. Think long because how big you think guides how much you accomplish.
  7. Think long to build a ministry that will endure.
  8. Think long because it costs you nothing.
Motivational Reasons 9. Think long to master-plan your disciple-making impact.
  10. Think long to connect people to God’s big story of redemptive history.
  11. Think long to focus a broader resource base.
  12 Think long so that God can do more than you think.

Mancini’s principles reminded me of a statement I read years ago in one of Warren Bennis’ books, “The curse of our generation is short-term thinking.”

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Posted by on May 21, 2016 in Books, Church, Leadership, Ministry, Quotes


Construction therapy

Ministry brings unique challenges. There are benefits to be sure. There are times of great joy. You see lives that are transformed by God’s grace. But there are challenges that can be draining—leading people when they don’t want to follow, caring for people who would rather be left alone, and keeping folks on track when they would rather wander into and stay in the weeds. On top of that, people are always in process, ministry is never complete, the next sermon needs to be prepared, and there is always more growth to be pursued.

I love ministry, and would not change what I do. But there are times when I need to do some construction therapy where I can demolish, build, and complete a project. Over the past month, I have worked under our back deck to replace an aging retaining wall and a screened wall. Here are some before and after pictures.



On the one hand, construction projects may be more expensive than seeing a therapist. However, they allow me to work with my hands, build something, and step back and admire a finished project. On top of that, the nails don’t complain if I hit them too hard or don’t drive them in straight. 🙂


Walking the Red Carpet … at Awana

Tonight was Red Carpet Movie Night in Awana at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA. It was one of our monthly theme nights. Kids and workers came dressed in the finest. With next week being the Awards NIght, this was the final club meeting of the year. It was another great year of fun, learning, games, food, skits, friendship, and spiritual growth.


What does humility look like?

The Blessing of HumilityBook Review: The Blessings of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling, by Jerry Bridges

Humility is neither valuable nor practical in today’s world. Besides being unwanted, humility is impossible to achieve in a world that prizes assertiveness and dominance. Author Jerry Bridges seeks to dispel these notions in his short volume, The Blessings of Humility: Walk Within Your Calling. The book is a series of devotional thoughts on each of the eight qualities found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12).

At the outset, the author lays down four key principles:

  • All Christians are meant to display these characteristics. They reflect qualities of a normal Christian life.
  • The characteristics are not meant to be reflective of our personalities, or temperaments, or even spiritual giftedness. They are similar to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the results of his work in our lives.
  • Our progress in growth in these traits does not determine our acceptance with God, either in our eternal salvation or in our day-to-day standing with him.
  • We are dependent on the Holy Spirit for any progress we make.

The strength of the book is found in the author’s lifelong conviction that “The Bible is meant to be applied in your everyday life.” While he takes time to unpack the meaning of each characteristic, he spends the bulk of his discussion describing what the qualities look like in daily life, or how to practice them. He also explains the benefits of living a humble life.

The book includes a discussion guide for personal or small group use. Being just over 90 pages, the book can be easily read in a couple of hours. The real benefit will come by reading it a second time and pondering how to practice the qualities in your own life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale Blog Network 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 May 16, 2016 in Books, Character, Quotes, Scripture