Monthly Archives: November 2016

Sprucing up the gym

This Saturday is First Central Bible Church‘s annual Women’s Christmas Friendship Dinner, one of our major outreach events of the year. Jim, Lisa, Spencer, Rachel, and others are working hard to transform the gymnasium into an elegant dining room. They are doing a beautiful job and it should be a wonderful evening. The excitement is building.


Keys to a stronger marriage

strengths-based-marriageBook Review: Strengths Based Marriage: Build a stronger relationship by understanding each other’s gifts, by Jimmy Evans & Allan Kelsey

It is often said that communication is the key to building a stronger marriage. Marriage experts Jimmy Evans and Allan Kelsey go one step further by helping couples better understand each other so that they can communicate better.

The premise of their book, Strengths Based Marriage: Build a stronger relationship by understanding each other’s gifts, is that our greatest contributions in life as well as our greatest joy will come from knowing and operating within our strengths. The authors believe that the same can be said of marriage. With that in mind, they show how couples can make use of the Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment tool to better understand each other. This will not only promote better understanding but will also help to break some of the negative cycles that creep into marriage.

To get the most out of the book, each partner must be willing to not only read the book but also take the assessment tool. (What the book does NOT mention is the cost of the assessment tool. It is $15/person to identify your top five strengths and $74/person to identify all 34 strengths & weaknesses. The extra cost will hinder many couples from taking the next step and getting as much out of the book as they can.)

In addition, it would also be helpful if a couple would engage a mentor couple or counselor to help them think through the material and how to practice it in their daily lives. Without the commitment of both partners and the guidance from a neutral third-party, the information will have limited benefit.

While the book is informative, they are too many drawbacks to recommend it.

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 November 30, 2016 in Books, Counseling, Marriage


Inspiration for busy men

a-minute-of-vision-for-menBook Review: A Minute of Vision for Men: 365 Motivational Moments to Kick-Start your Day, by Roger Patterson

Pastor and author Roger Patterson has written a one-year devotional guide for busy men. The goal of the book is

To engage men where they’re at while also helping them succeed spiritually. During my years as a pastor, I have learned that there are a number of men who want to grow spiritually but aren’t sure how to do it. Though successful in nearly every other area of their lives, they are intimidated by spiritual things, including the Bible and devotional books that take fifteen to twenty minutes a day to read. A Minute of Vision for Men is written to engage you in a daily thought from Scripture that should take just about a minute. In short, this book is a starting point to help you grow spiritually or a supplement to what you are already doing.

The book contains 365 daily readings, which are made up of a motivation thought, an inspiring quote from business or sports figures, and a verse of Scripture. The bulk of the illustrations and quotes come from NFL players and coaches. There are a few from baseball and basketball and a smaller amount from business leaders. As a result, the book will find its greatest audience among those who follow sports, especially the NFL.

My concern with devotional books like this one (and I comment from personal experience since I wrote a similar volume many years ago) is they should be a supplement rather than a substitute for Bible reading and study. Basing your entire spiritual input on a one-minute devotional would be like eating a multi-vitamin in the morning and skipping meals the rest of the week. The vitamin may keep you healthy, but only marginally so. Read this devotional as a motivational thought, but make sure you are also in the Scriptures on a regular basis.

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 November 29, 2016 in Books, Personal growth


At home for the holidays

We went over the river and through the woods last Friday to the Justamere Tree Farm to get our Christmas tree. Over the weekend, we decorated the tree and the house for the holidays. Over the next month, we will host family and friends to celebrate the season of the incarnation. Let the festivities begin.

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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Christmas, Photos


One of the great rivalries of sports

brady-vs-manningBook Review: Brady vs Manning: The untold story of the rivalry that transformed the NFL, by Gary Myers

If you compiled a list of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time, it would not be complete without Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The two of them have set and held many of the records for quarterbacks in the NFL. In addition to their individual accomplishments, they have gone head-to-head in many crucial games throughout their respective careers. Many of these contests resulted in their respective team going on to the AFC Championship Game and/or Super Bowl.

This is the story told by Gary Myers in his book, Brady vs Manning: The untold story of the rivalry that transformed the NFL. Not only does he describe the games in which these two quarterbacks competed against each other, Myers also describes their upbringing, college environments, relationships in the locker room, and family life outside of football. In short, Myers provides insight into the people and events that shaped the lives and careers of these two successful men. The epilogue brings the story up to date with Peyton Manning winning Super Bowl 50 and Tom Brady being investigated for Deflategate.

The book is well-written, insightful, and entertaining. If you are a fan of these two quarterbacks or just enjoy the NFL in general, you will enjoy reading this book.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Books, NFL, Sports


Celebrate the Son!

Thanksgiving and Black Friday are kind of ironic. We spend a whole day sitting around, thanking God for everything we have, only to plow each other down in a parking lot at 3 AM to purchase everything we don’t.

It’s like a dream episode of Oprah: Everyone gets a 52-inch flat screen AND a Cuisinart Panini press. We feel a little guilty because just a few short hours ago we were SO grateful. Buy hey, it’s capitalism! We’ll shop, but we refuse to drop!

It’s no wonder we tend to become a little cynical, as some of these quotes demonstrate.

“Only in America can people trample others for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”

“Black Friday is the day I can finally jump on the Christmas Bandwagon with the rest of the nuts who started on Halloween.”

“Hope you enjoyed Black-and-Blue Friday at Walmart.”

“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness simply didn’t know where to go shopping.”

“Oh for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.”

“When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

We need to rediscover the true message of Christmas. Christmas is a time of celebration as we rejoice in the birth of our savior. We remember that the manger sits in the shadow of the cross. This theme is clearly seen in Mary’s song of joy in Luke 1:36-59.

In verses 26-38 of the first chapter of Luke, we read the account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary and announcing that she will bear the Christ child. As proof that God can accomplish this miracle, Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, has become pregnant in her old age.

Mary responds to the news by packing her bags and heading for Elizabeth’s house, a three to five journey away. After arriving, Mary greets her cousin. Before she finishes the words, Elizabeth’s unborn son, John, leaps in her womb (41, 44). It is quite mind-boggling to think that one unborn child acknowledges the presence of another unborn child!

Elizabeth declares that Mary is blessed among women (42). In Hebrew culture, a woman’s status was based to a great degree on her children—the greater the child, the greater the mother. While we do not want to elevate Mary higher than she deserves, neither do we want to minimize her place in God’s plan.

Though Elizabeth is the elder, she steps into the background and assumes the position of a servant. She recognizes Mary’s son as “my Lord” (43).

Mary responds to these events by breaking out in song. She sings what is referred to as “The Magnificat” (the Latin word for “magnify” or “glorify”). Mary’s praise is both personal (46-49) and prophetic (50-55). Her words reveal a deep understanding of Scripture. She traces God’s dealings with his people beginning with Abraham. Mary has a firm grip on the promises of Scripture. The song comes from a grateful heart and a humble spirit.

Mary’s song is also very specific. She praises God for what he did for Mary (46-49), what he did for all believers (50-53), and what he did for Israel (54-55). In her own life, God saved her (47), chose her (48), and was mighty for her (49). God demonstrated his mercy for the god-fearing (50), the helpless (51), the humble (52), and the hungry (53). Lastly, God kept his promises to Abraham and his descendants (54-55).

As you begin the season of Advent, what song is on your lips? Is it a song of joy or a song of sadness? Are you celebrating or mourning? Your answer depends in large part on the source of your joy. Let me encourage you to discover that joy is found in obedience to Jesus Christ. Then we can join with Mary in singing, “Magnify the Lord for his mercy!” Celebrate the Son!

This message was preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 27, 2016. It is one of several messages on Advent: The Mystery of the Nativity. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Foiled by Kryptonite


I know just how Calvin feels. Some days, your personal Kryptonite just won’t let you get off the ground. 😉

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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Calvin and Hobbes, Personal growth


Subtly communicating a worldview

Most commercials are loud, direct, and blatant in their message. Retailers like Target, Wal‑Mart, and Toys-R-Us shout “BUY!” Car dealerships shout the same message while high end auto manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, and Audi tweak the message so it proclaims, “Status!” Drug companies promote health (blood pressure, diabetes, Hep-C, etc.) and pleasure (Viagra, Cialis). Trailers for movies and TV shows shout, “Watch me!”

On rare occasions comes a commercial that promotes a subtle rather than overt message. During the FOX broadcast of the NFL Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game on Thanksgiving Day, there were two commercials that promoted a very subtle worldview. One praised mankind while the other promoted tolerance and acceptance.

Dodge Ram pickup trucks aired a commercial that was aimed at praising hard-working Americans. However, it is blatantly man-centered. The tagline of the commercial was “Praise the work!” As parents, we teach our children to say “Thank you” to someone who does something for you. As Christ followers, we say “Thank you” to God because we know that all good gifts come from his hand. The Dodge Ram commercial promoted thanking yourself because you did all the hard work required to obtain and enjoy all the blessings you have. Because men and women are strong, wise, creative, and hard-working, they don’t need to acknowledge anyone else. They can “Praise the work” rather than give thanks. A very subtle, self-centered message.

Apple aired a commercial promoting tolerance and acceptance. The commercial, called “Frankie’s Holiday,” began with a Frankenstein creature laboring in a workshop. He took a package and walked down the hill and into the town square. He took out two Christmas lights, one red and one green, and attached them to the electrodes on his neck. He then played “There’s no place like home for the holidays” on his smartphone and started to sing along. The townspeople stared at him in horror and amazement. When one of his bulbs went dark, a young girl in the crowd helped reattach it so it lit up. She then started singing with the creature. Eventually, all the townspeople joined in. The commercial’s tagline is “Open your heart to everyone.” The subtle message was that there are no monsters, only people who are different. We should accept and tolerate all people, especially those who are different. Again, a very subtle, worldview shaped message.

While most commercials air several times during an NFL broadcast, these two commercials were only aired once during the FOX broadcast. Not watching any of the other two Thanksgiving Day football games, I don’t know if they appeared on CBS or NBC. While the commercials were creative and well done, they were frightening in the subtle way they communicated and attempted to shape one’s worldview.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have to be alert and aware of what is being taught and communicated. We have to ask the question, “How does this fit with what Scripture teaches?”

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Posted by on November 25, 2016 in Culture, NFL, TV


Thanksgiving Bonfire & Praise – 2016

Our church, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, has been gathering for over 110 years at Szot Park for a Thanksgiving Bonfire & Praise service. We sing songs of praise, share favorite verses, tell about what we are thankful for, and then end with coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts. It is one of my favorite services of the year and a wonderful way to start Thanksgiving Day.


I give thanks

PowerPoint Presentation

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in Scripture, Thanksgiving Day