Monthly Archives: October 2016

Trunk ‘R Treat 2016

Tonight was our annual Trunk ‘R Treat at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. It is an opportunity to bless the community by providing a safe, fun alternative to Halloween. We can connect with our neighbors. In addition to giving out loads of candy, we also distribute literature about the church, gospel tracts, and answer questions about our church. It is a very fun evening.


God designed the church to develop leaders

designed-to-leadBook Review: Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, by Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck

Rather than merely exist and/or go through the motions of playing “church,” churches should be intentional about developing leaders for all areas of life. That is the fundamental conviction of authors Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck and the main idea of their recent book, Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development.

The authors argue strongly that churches should be developing, forming, and sending leaders into the world. However, developing leaders is hard work, especially for the local church. In order to accomplish that task, churches must possess conviction, culture, and constructs.

Churches that consistently produce leaders have a strong conviction to develop leaders, a healthy culture for leadership development, and helpful constructs to systematically and intentionally build leaders. All three are essential for leaders to be formed through the ministry of a local church.

Conviction is a God-initiated passion that fuels a leader and church… Developing leaders must be a burning passion, a non-negotiable part of the vision of a local church and her leaders, or it will never become a reality.

Once the church leaders share this conviction, this ambition must become part of the very culture of the church itself. Culture is the shared beliefs and values that drive the behavior of a group of people.

Wise leaders implement constructs to help unlock the full potential of a church that seeks to be a center for developing leaders. By constructs, we mean the systems, processes, and programs developed to help develop leaders.

The strength of the book is that it answers the What and Why questions. It describes in great detail the type of conviction, culture, and constructs needed for a church to develop leaders. It explains why they are so important. The weakness of the book is that it doesn’t go far enough in answering the How question. The book needs a companion volume that details the process of implementing the idea or suggesting how a church leader can find and employ a mentor who can help guide the reader in putting the concepts into practice.

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Publishing through the B&H/Lifeway Bloggers program The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Books, Leadership


How to Pray Intelligently*

*even when you don’t know what people’s needs are

One of my favorite verses on prayer is found in Psalm 116:1-2.

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

This reminds me that prayer is a conversation with someone who listens. It is a relationship with someone who cares. God leans forward and inclines his ear to listen to my concerns. His response causes me to want to pray more and to love him more deeply.

I also appreciate Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-14 because it gives me a model of how to pray for people even when I may not know their needs. I can pray that other Christ followers will understand what God desires and that they will live their faith.

In verse 9, the apostle Paul prays the Colossian believers will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. He wants them to understand what God’s desire is for them. In the late 80’s, a book was published with the clever title, All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.  The sad thing is that is summarizes many people’s knowledge of Scripture. Many believers are immature and have never grown beyond, “Jesus loves me.”

Paul prays the Colossians will be filled with a knowledge of God’s will. The word, “filled,” pictures a ship laden with cargo ready to leave port on an ocean voyage. It is filled to completion. The word also carries the idea of control (Ephesians 5:18). When we are filled with anger, we are controlled by anger. When we are filled with alcohol, we are controlled by that substance. When we are filled with a knowledge of God’s will, it should transform our lives. That leads to Paul’s second request in verses 10-14, that the Colossians would live their faith.

In Scripture, knowledge always has an ethical dimension. What we believe should impact how we behave. Knowledge of God and his will should change our lifestyle. Paul goes on to describe four characteristics of a lifestyle that pleases God—fruitful service, growing knowledge, patient endurance, and a thankful heart. Paul closes his prayer by giving three reasons for giving thanks—we share in Christ’s inheritance, we were rescued from danger, and we are forgiven.

The next time you feel prompted to pray for a friend, family member, coworker, or acquaintance, pray that they will know and understand God’s will for their life, and that the knowledge will help them live in such a way that gives glory and honor to God. Pray their lives will be characterized by fruitful service, growing knowledge of God and Scripture, patience with people and circumstances, and that they will give thanks for what God has done for them.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 30, 2016. It is part of a series on Prayer: Moving Heaven for Earth. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Why does anti-discrimination feel like discrimination?

We are in the process of planning and booking a vacation in 2017. I had researched and considered a boatload of options for airfare, hotels, B&B’s, tours, rental cars, and more. One option we considered was using Airbnb for one of our hotels. That is, until I received the following note this morning from the organization.

The Airbnb Community Commitment


Earlier this year, we launched a comprehensive effort to fight bias and discrimination in the Airbnb community. As a result of this effort, we’re asking everyone to agree to a Community Commitment beginning November 1, 2016. Agreeing to this commitment will affect your use of Airbnb, so we wanted to give you a heads up about it.

What is the Community Commitment?

You commit to treat everyone—regardless of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

How do I accept the commitment?

On or after November 1, we’ll show you the commitment when you log in to or open the Airbnb website, mobile or tablet app and we’ll automatically ask you to accept.

What if I decline the commitment?

If you decline the commitment, you won’t be able to host or book using Airbnb, and you have the option to cancel your account. Once your account is canceled, future booked trips will be canceled. You will still be able to browse Airbnb but you won’t be able to book any reservations or host any guests.

On the one hand, I agree with Airbnb’s desire to treat all people with respect and dignity. We are all created in God’s image and should be treated as such. However, to tell me that I am not welcome in the Airbnb community unless I agree with their values and convictions feels a lot like discrimination. It sure feels like Airbnb is passing judgment on those whose religion leads them to different convictions on these topics.

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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Culture, Travel


Work together to reach the city

pier_disruptivegospel_wSpine.inddBook Review: A Disruptive Gospel: Stories & Strategies for Transforming Your City, by Mac Pier

If you only read the headlines and listened to the “experts,” you would conclude that Christianity is waning and losing its impact. Author Mac Pier wants to counter that perception by declaring that God is at work in the cities of the world. The gospel is on the move and is bearing fruit.

Understanding this truth and becoming part of a global movement is the theme of Pier’s book, A Disruptive Gospel: Stories & Strategies for Transforming Your City. The theme of the book is based on a simple conviction: “When the gospel takes ahold of your life, it completely disrupts everything.” As the author explains in the opening chapter,

The gospel is the power of God to forgive us and the presence of God to form us into the image of His Son, Jesus.

The gospel does disrupt our lives—it affects our decision about where we live, who we marry, and what kind of work we do. It also disrupts cultures, cities, and civilizations. Jesus is inviting all of us into this yes-or-no encounter.

Jesus came to not only rescue us but also enlist us to become agents in a gospel movement.

When the gospel disrupts our lives and penetrates our beings, we become concerned with God’s concerns—the spiritual emptiness of a vast world, the economic deprivation of billions of people, the racial divide of our cities.

As we study, learn, and live the gospel, our lives should become organized around five matters:

The Gospel Matters. The truth of God turns irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Church Unity Matters. Churches uniting across denominational and cultural lines breathe the aroma of belief. Division in the church breeds atheism in the world.

Cities Matter. The story line of the New Testament is about Jesus going to die in Jerusalem, the religious capital of the world, and Paul going to die in Rome, the political capital of the world.

Millennial Leadership Matters. Most spiritual movements are started by leaders under the age of twenty-eight. Attracting millennial leaders to the church and keeping them is crucial to the flourishing of the church.

Movement Matters. Given the exploding needs in the world spiritually, economically, and socially, the status quo is unacceptable. Christianity needs to grow rapidly in difficult places all over the world—particularly in cities.

After laying out these convictions in the opening chapter, the author goes on to describe what is taking place in various cities around the world—New York City, Dallas, London, Singapore, Mumbai, Dubai, and several others. In addition to describing how the gospel is moving forward and disrupting these cities in a good way, the author lays out principles that can be implemented in any city to bring about the same result.

The books is enlightening and encouraging.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Books, Church, Ministry, Quotes


Did Jesus Have Bad Habits?

the-bad-habits-of-jesusBook Review: The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the way to live right in a world gone wrong, by Leonard Sweet

Far too often, the way we talk about Jesus tends to sanitize him and remove the revolutionary edge from his teaching. We refer to him as “gentle Jesus meek and mild,” and only talk about his instructions to “love one another.” As a result, we miss seeing the “rebellious rabbi” who demonstrated a number of bad habits. This is the conviction and thesis of author and speaker Leonard Sweet in his latest book, The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing us the way to live right in a world gone wrong.

Sweet’s premise is that we need to fully understand Jesus for who he is if we are to follow him wholeheartedly.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he had habits and behaviors that were considered bad in the eyes of the culture of his day. Some of them seem wrong even today. All of Jesus’ “bad habits,” however, reveal truths about God’s love and message that are vital for us.

From a human perspective, Jesus demonstrated what we think are bad habits. Jesus offended people, especially those in positions of authority. He was constantly disappearing and going off by himself. Jesus told stories that didn’t make sense. He loved to party and hang out with the “wrong crowd.” Jesus broke the rules of the day. Jesus enjoyed the company of women and children in a culture that valued neither.

As the author explains the purpose of the book, he says that

This is fundamentally a book about the Incarnation. Where does the Incarnation fit in terms of theology? Most see it in terms of soteriology (salvation) or eschatology (end times). But I think it properly belongs within the framework of Creation. The consummation of the original act of Creation was the once-for-all-time incarnation in Jesus and the ongoing incarnation of that once-for-all-time incarnation in each and every one of us. If Jesus had not left but stayed, he would have kept inside him what was in him. That Jesus left us and sent us the Holy Spirit meant that what was inside him was let out and now is inside us.

That meant Jesus left us both his good and his bad habits. And in Jesus’ day he was most known for being bad, not good. The religious establishment of Jesus’ day were good—no, they were great. In fact, there was nobody better at keeping a list than the Pharisees were. The problem was they were so good, they ought they had it all wrapped up. Today, too, far too many churches are filled with people who are unrecognizable as Jesus’ followers due to their lack of Jesus’ bad habits!

Jesus was a master at challenging convention and the status quo. But he was also a master at healing brokenness. If you want to incarnate Jesus in your life and in your church, you need to quit tallying up your “good” behavior and try a few of Jesus’ bad habits!

Perhaps if Christ followers were less afraid of offending people and more concerned about letting people see Jesus in us, we would have a greater impact on our world.

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 October 28, 2016 in Books, Jesus, Quotes


Seek guidance from the right source


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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Quotes, Tim Challies


A mixed bag of encouragement

Someone designated the month of October as “Pastor Encouragement Month.” I suppose it is the evangelical equivalent of a Hallmark Holiday. As a result, I’ve received a number of cards and notes thanking me for my ministry. I am grateful for each and every one. They encourage me to keep pressing forward. 

However, I’ve also received a fair amount of criticism during the past month for various things including my personality, actions—both done and not done, preaching, and ministry philosophy. The most recent was an anonymous note that came in today’s mail telling me I needed to read an article entitled, “Epidemic: On The Creeping Hollow Within a Pastor’s Soul.” Since the individual only gave me the title, I had to google it to discover it was a blog post about burnout. I don’t know if it came from someone within my church or from a random person. I don’t know if the individual was genuinely concerned about me or whether they were taking a veiled shot.

If you want to encourage your pastor, send a card, note, or email, and be sure and sign your name. Don’t send anonymous notes! They are discouraging. If I have a hollow in my soul (and I don’t think I do and I don’t think I’m burned out), anonymous notes only serve to widen and deepen the hole rather than heal it.

All of this reminds me that I am in a spiritual battle and the enemy doesn’t want me to succeed. It’s probably not coincidental that our elders’ & wives’ Bible study tonight is on how to ensure that our church leaders are staying healthy. Ironically, the book we’re reading is written by the author of the blog post, Carey Nieuwhof.


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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Ministry, Personal growth


Life philosophy


My piano teacher used to say that if you make a mistake, keep going, and no one will ever know. As long as you make a good recovery and stick the landing, no one knows you made a mistake!

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Posted by on October 27, 2016 in Calvin and Hobbes, Fun


Standing against the flow of culture

the-daniel-codeBook Review: The Daniel Code: Living out Truth in a Culture That Is Losing Its Way, by O. S. Hawkins

We live in a culture that has drifted from its moorings. Violence abounds. We tolerate and even praise what would once have been spoken of in embarrassed whispers. There are new assaults on religious liberties every day. How do we live out our faith in a culture headed the wrong direction?

That is the question posed by pastor and author O. S. Hawkins in his latest offering, The Daniel Code: Living out Truth in a Culture That Is Losing Its Way. The author explains that the Old Testament prophet, Daniel,

grew up in a culture built on biblical truth and centered in traditional family values. And then he found himself living in a culture that was hostile to everything he had ever known. His value system, his truth claims, and his moral compass were challenged repeatedly at every turn. His world was suddenly a world of pluralistic thought. But Daniel had a different spirit about him. He was a man of integrity who not only engaged his culture head-on but actually was used by God to transform it. And—just in case we need to be reminded—Daniel’s God is still our God!

The author uses the first six chapters of the book of Daniel to lay out principles and guidelines for how we can stand firm in the midst of our changing culture. Based on the examples and illustrations the author uses, the book is aimed at an older generation. The cover of the book is crafted to make it suitable for use as a gift book.

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 October 24, 2016 in Books, Integrity, Scripture