Monthly Archives: June 2017

The 14-Minute Business Meeting

Last night, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, held our semi-annual business meeting. Jim, our moderator, asked me to open in prayer at 7:01PM. After reading the minutes from the last meeting, voting on four nominations for open board positions, hearing an update from Doug on the building renovation project, and me giving an update on our intern, Jack, the meeting was closed in prayer at 7:15PM. A 14-minute church business meeting!

Afterwards, several commented about previous 3-hour, contentious business meetings where we talked in circles and the comments generated more heat than light.

On the one hand, there was nothing significant on our agenda. We will undoubtedly have a much longer meeting this fall when we present the proposal to renovate our building. In fact, we will have several presentations, Q&A sessions, and discussions before the actual vote.

On the other hand, the shortness of the meeting demonstrates the improved health and stability of the church.

  • We started 2017 with a financial deficit and our giving is now ahead of budget.
  • There is greater confidence in and trust of the leadership. I have now been here five years and we have elders, deacons, and deaconesses who are all functioning in their respective roles.
  • We are stable and headed in the right direction.

That being said, there was still a fair amount of slack-jawed amazement when the moderator asked J to close in prayer. 😉


Chicopee sunrise

One of the benefits of not being able to sleep is to see a spectacular sunrise. God’s glory in on display.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.”

Proverbs 4:18

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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Chicopee, Photos, Sunrise


The Character & Habits of a Leader

Further proving the adage that there is nothing new under the sun and the maxim that I get my best ideas from other people … I will be starting Veritas: Church-Based Leadership Development at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, this fall.

Veritas was first developed in 2001 by Tim Jack and myself while we were both serving as associate pastors at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA. When I became senior pastor of United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle, I took it with me and implemented it there. It will begin its third generation this fall at FCBC.

Rather than simply being one more program of discipleship, Veritas is a philosophy that seeks to train and equip men and women for leadership in the local church. Veritas aims to help people grow in six broad categories—knowledge of Scripture, understanding of theology, ministry foundations, ministry skills, character development, and life skills development. The purpose statement, “Bringing All to Maturity and Many into Leadership” comes from Colossians 1:28 and Ephesians 4:11-16.

Colossians 1:28 – Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Ephesians 4:11–16 – 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

To understand more about the philosophy, purpose, and goals of Veritas, click on the link to download a copy of the philosophy of leadership development.

The first course we will offer will be The Character & Habits of a Leader. This course is not about management, although the principles discussed will certainly affect how you manage.  It is not about discovering the latest trend, technique, or methodology in leadership, even though it will undoubtedly affect your methods and style of leading.

Instead, this course is about becoming the kind of leader whom others will want to follow. It’s about discovering how God shapes spiritual leaders and then letting him work in your life. It’s about finding God’s plan for your life and following it, as well as learning how to lead others where they need to go.

Whether you are a veteran leader or just beginning your trek, a leadership expert or a novice just beginning to study the subject, this course is your invitation to climb higher and grow deeper.

In this course, we will study the lives of five biblical leaders—Joseph, Moses, David, Nehemiah, and Paul. Our goal will be to discover what character traits are required of mature Christian leaders and how they relate to the task of being a leader in the local church. The course will also help you develop a plan for personal evaluation and the strengthening of character.

Format: Seminar/Independent Study

Meetings: 6 seminar sessions designed to guide and deepen your own research. The class will meet every other week on Monday evenings from 7:00-8:30PM, September 11, 25, October 9, 23, November 6, 20.

Instructor: Pastor Mark Wheeler

Assignments: During the course, we will read one book and work together to develop an expanded profile of a biblical leader.

Cost: $20 for the course materials and textbook.

To register, contact Pastor Mark Wheeler at the church (413-592-5353) or send a note to Please register by September 4.

Click on the link to download a copy of the course brochure.


On the Fast Track to Failure

The story is told of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and how he played a practical joke on some friends. As the story goes, he sent an anonymous telegram to each of twelve friends, all men of great virtue and considerable prestige and position in society. The message simply said: “Flee at once … all is discovered.” Within twenty-four hours, all twelve had left the country.

No doubt there is some playful exaggeration here, but the point is that each one of us can identify with failure. Each one has at least one skeleton in their closet. However, very few are willing to admit it. John F. Kennedy once said, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan; no one wants to claim it.”

Moses was no stranger to failure. Though he was on the fast track to success, he ran ahead of God, made a huge mistake, and then ran and hid from his failure. His early life provides a cautionary tale for us all about the danger of running ahead of God’s plan.

Moses was on the fast track to greatness (Acts 7:20-25). Moses had:

  • Position (21). Moses was brought up in Pharaoh’s palace and nurtured for the throne.
  • Education (22). Moses was probably educated in the Temple of the Sun, “the Oxford of the ancient world.”
  • Skills (22). Moses possessed intellect, charisma, eloquence, and leadership. He made a name for himself as a young man.
  • Heritage (20, 23). Though raised in the palace, he identified with his Jewish family. He knew who he was.
  • Sense of compassion and justice (24). Moses could not stand idly by and watch the weak being downtrodden. He wanted to help the oppressed.
  • Destiny (20, 25). Though God does not call him into service until the burning bush (Exodus 3), Moses seemed to sense what God was going to do through him.

Moses ran ahead of God’s plan (Exodus 2:11-12; Acts 7:23-25). As a man of action, Moses did not like marking time and waiting. He initiated his own plan to deliver the nation of Israel (Acts 7:23). He rolled up his sleeves and jumped in. In so doing, he demonstrates a misguided understanding of his own importance (Acts 7:25). He seemed to have the idea that all he had to do was sound the rallying cry and all Israel would come running. Rather than think through the situation and develop a plan, he reacts emotionally (Exodus 2:11-12). He acted alone, in secret, and in his own strength. With one rash act, he threw away forty years of preparation.

Moses ran away from his mistakes (Exodus 2:12-15; Acts 7:26-29). When you act in the flesh, you have to cover up your sin. Moses buried his in the sand (Exodus 2:12). However, it did not remain a secret very long and the next day it was common knowledge. Rather than embrace him as deliverer, his own people rejected him (Exodus 2:13-14; Acts 7:26-28). After realizing his failure (Exodus 2:14), Moses flees and becomes an exile (Exodus 2:15; Acts 7:29).

When we take matters into our own hands …

  • We think we are the answer to God’s problems, not the other way around. He reveal our pride and arrogance.
  • We become impatient because God is not moving fast enough. We become anxious and chafe at waiting.
  • We react instead of respond. Rather than think through the issue and develop a plan, we react emotionally in the heat of the moment.
  • We experience rejection because of our foolish mistakes. Instead of our message being rejected, we are rejected for our choices, rudeness, or compromising approach.
  • We end up as exiles. We find ourselves on the sidelines wondering if God can ever use us again.
  • We discover the well of a new life lies nearby (Exodus 2:15). Unbeknownst to Moses, the well Moses sat next to would lead to a new life and renewal.

Don’t run ahead of God. As Moses learned, God will not be bent to our will. He will bend and shape us to his will. Even if it means letting us sit on the sidelines for 40 years.

This is the synopsis of a message given to the congregation of First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 18, 2017. It is part of a series of messages on The Life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Marking time

In what seems like a former life, I was in the marching band during my high school years. Our band director was a Navy veteran and a stickler for marching with precision. We drilled for hours on end to perfect our stride and formations. Performing in halftime shows was fun and marching in parades was enjoyable, though exhausting. But what I enjoyed the least was marking time, simply marching in place while waiting for the signal to go forward.

To my chagrin, I hate to admit that not much has changed. Though far removed from my high school years, I still don’t like to mark time. I don’t like standing still. Waiting is one of my least favorite things to do. I want to move forward and accomplish something. Rather than mark time, I want to make progress. I want to be productive.

Perhaps this is why I identify with the story of Moses. I can put myself in his sandals as he waited forty years as a shepherd in Midian before God appeared to him in the burning bush. I can guess how he felt while Israel took one more lap around Mt. Sinai and wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent the bulk of his life marking time.

And yet, Moses developed a unique relationship with God during those years of waiting. He was known as the one who spoke with God face to face. He begged God for his presence and caught a brief glimpse of his glory. Though he did not travel far geographically, he traveled deeper into the heart of God than many others have done.

Rather than chafing when God sends me into the wilderness, I need to use the time to get to know him better. Rather than feeling frustrated when I find myself marking time, I need to seek God’s presence. I must learn to wait in a productive manner.

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Posted by on June 17, 2017 in Moses, Personal growth


Take a Risk and Become an Artist

Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age, by Jeff Goins

If you major in art, you’ll starve! If you want to be a writer, you’ll never make a decent living! These are two of the myths that most of us have heard growing up. And they are the myths that author Jeff Goins wants to eradicate in his latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age.

As the author explains,

You don’t have to starve. Today there is a New Renaissance changing everything we thought we knew about creative work—one that is turning Starving Artists into Thriving Artists—and all we have to do is embrace it. We can, in fact, create work that matters and earn a living doing so. We can share our gift with the world without having to suffer for it. And the sooner we acknowledge this opportunity, the sooner we can get on with doing our work.

The author uses Michelangelo as his primary illustration, along with stories and lessons from Jim Henson, C. S. Lewis, Dr. Dre, George Lucas, John Lassiter, and many others. He divides the book into three major sections—Mind-set, Market, and Money. In the area of Mind-set, we need to realize that artists are not born, they are developed; you don’t have to be an original but simply build on the work of others; you should learn from a master rather than try to grow by your lonesome; and you need to be stubbornly persistent. In the area of Market, an artist cultivates patrons, goes to where creativity is happening, collaborates with others, and demonstrates their work in public. Regarding Money, an artist doesn’t do anything for free, they own their own work, diversify their portfolio, and make money in order to make more art.

In the Renaissance, artists were not aristocrats as Michelangelo hoped to become. But he was committed to not only making a living but earning the respect of his peers. It was not easy, but in the end, he changed the game for artists. How did he do this?

First, he mastered his mind-set. When many artists were opening shops to train apprentices, he resisted such temptations to conform. He knew that to make for himself, he would have to think differently. He befriended those in power so he didn’t have to beg for scraps. He became an apprentice.

Then he mastered the market, plugging into a web of influential relationships that included popes, kings, patrons who helped his work thrive. Building this network ensured he’d never starve.

Finally, he mastered his money, earning ten times what an average artist made by charging what he was worth. He invested in land and property, which secure his position as an aristocrat. Only the wealthy owned property. But long after he had more than enough money, he kept creating, living twice as long as the average person and creating an unforgettable legacy. He made money to make more art.

The book is both informative and encouraging. It also provides practical ideas on how to pursue your art and craft in the midst of your daily life until you get to the point where you can do it fulltime.

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 June 16, 2017 in Books, Quotes


A matter of perspective

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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Baby Blues, Fun, Peanuts