Monthly Archives: January 2018

No commitment religion

Many people approach following Jesus in the same way that Zoe approaches becoming vegan.

On two different occasions, Jesus taught that we need to count the cost of following him. If we are not willing to pay whatever it costs, we are not truly one a Christ follower.

Matthew 16:24–26

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

Luke 14:26–33

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

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Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Baby Blues, Jesus, Scripture


Making the playoffs

Charlie Brown expresses my sentiments to my rehab process. 😉

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Posted by on January 17, 2018 in Peanuts, Personal growth


Worship Matters

Book Review: The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life, by Louie Giglio

Far too many people view worship as simply the music portion of a church service. People often limit worship to one hour a week on Sunday. In contrast, pastor and author Louie Giglio believes that every breath we take should be an act of worship. That is the thesis of his latest book, The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life.

The author begins by explaining that we were created for worship. Worship is what makes us human. We tend to worship what we value the most. For some, that is work, sports, shopping, family, or possessions. While some squander their worship, those who find the wonder-filled life of a relationship with God discover life at its best. When worship becomes as natural as the air we breathe and when our words and actions resonate with God and his purpose, that is we discover the true purpose of life.

While the book does not present anything new about worship, what sets it apart is the passion of the author. It is very evident that the book is written by someone who not only understands true worship, but one who experiences it on a regular basis. The book was originally published in 2003 and is now reprinted in a mass market paperback edition.

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 January 16, 2018 in Books, Worship


Of walkers, crutches, and baby steps

For those who have been following my baby steps back to health, I made a couple of significant strides in the past two weeks.

  • Sunday, January 7 – I started preaching again after a two month absence. I’m sitting on a chair instead of standing. Because of the frigid weather that weekend, we only had one service which allowed me to gradually work my way back.
  • Monday, January 8 – I started using crutches instead of the walker. Now I hurt in different places due to using new/different muscles.
  • Wednesday & Thursday, January 10 & 11 – I attended two board meetings, Awana, and a weekly lunch/prayer group. I’m starting to get out more. However, I was pretty tired in the evenings.
  • Sunday, January 14 – I preached two services. Between being out a lot on Saturday and preaching on Sunday, I fell asleep watching football in the afternoon. I still need to build up my stamina and endurance.
  • Monday, January 15 – I wrapped up 9 weeks of in-home physical therapy. Tricia, my PT, praised my progress and encouraged me to keep going. Next Monday, January 22, I begin six weeks of outpatient physical therapy at a facility.

It has now been ten weeks since my accident. There are things I can do, but still some I cannot do. I am mending, but not yet mended. I am on the road to recovery and making progress, though some days the finish line still seems far, far way. But overall, I’m encouraged.

Thanks for the support, encouragement, and prayers.


Posted by on January 15, 2018 in Personal growth


To the church in Ephesus: A Church with Misplaced Priorities

Since I broke my leg/hip in early November, my vital signs have been checked countless times. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists all want to make sure my health is stable and improving.

If your church was given a “physical exam” today, what do you think the doctor’s diagnosis would be: healthy, slightly sick, very sick, or dying? In Revelation 2-3, Jesus takes the “pulse” of seven churches. He diagnoses their health and prescribes a remedy for their illnesses.

In Revelation 1:11, Jesus sent a message to each of seven local churches in Asia Minor. Though each message is different, the letters have some similarities. Each one gives a particular description of Christ that is related to the message which follows. Each one includes a promise to those who overcome. Each one addresses the condition of the church through a commendation, a rebuke, and/or an exhortation. In general these letters to the seven churches address the problems churches have faced throughout history and provide insight into how Christ evaluates local churches.

In addressing the church in Ephesus, Jesus challenges them to reexamine their priorities. Though busy doing many good things, they had lost their love for God. They focused on duty rather than devotion. This letter provides the instruction that we are to love and serve Christ with our head, our hands, and our hearts.

The Church (1a). The church had a long history and was the most prominent one in the area. The apostle Paul visited Ephesus about AD 53, about 43 years before this letter was sent to them. He found a group of people who believed in Jesus but only knew John’s baptism (Acts 19:1-7). Paul remained in Ephesus for several years (Acts 20:31) and preached the gospel so effectively “that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).

The City (1a). Ephesus was a major city in Asia Minor, a seaport, and the location of the great temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. While not the capital (Pergamum was the capital), Ephesus was a prominent city. The Roman governor resided there. The population of Ephesus was between 100,000 and 250,000. The city was a center of business, religion, and civic life.

Emperor worship was a dominant influence in Ephesus, which was the leading center of the imperial cult in Asia Minor. The temple to the Emperor Domitian had a giant statue of the emperor. Christians faced enormous social and financial pressure to engage in the worship of the emperor.

The city was the center of occult and magical practices. The worship of at least 14 other deities has been documented in the city.

The Character of Christ (1b). Jesus holds the pastors & leaders of the churches in his hand and walks among the churches. As he walks among the churches, he observes what is taking place. Because he has been observing, he can both compliment and criticize their deeds and motives.

The Condition of the Church (2-4, 6). Commendation (2-3, 6). Jesus commends the church for three things: hard work, perseverance, and doctrinal purity (they don’t tolerate false teaching or false teachers). They hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. While the details are unknown, this sect probably is tied in the practices of Balaam which involved sexual immorality in worship. The religion tried to redefine faith to allow Christians to fit in with the surrounding culture with its idolatry, immorality, deceit, and false worship. Concern (4). Jesus soundly rebukes the church. The church had “heart trouble.” They lost their love. This could be love for God, love for each other, love for the lost. They had misplaced priorities.

The Command (5). The road to revival involves three key steps: remember, repent, and repeat. Remember what it was like when you first trusted Christ. Repent and change the direction of your life. Repeat the spiritual disciplines that you practiced in the beginning. Change is possible but it demands drastic action.

The Consequences (5b). If they don’t change, Christ will remove the church. Removal of the candlestick indicates God’s judgment. The church could come under the influence of the surrounding pagan culture and lose their identity as a church.

The church continued and was later the scene of a major church council. However, after the 5th century both the city and the church declined. The immediate area has been abandoned since the 14th century.

Could that really happen today? Might God remove a church? How many church buildings are now community centers? How many churches have been turned into museums or art galleries? Yes, God can and does remove a church when they lose their love and purpose.

The Challenge (7). Take the message to heart. Hear and heed the message.

The Commitment (7). There is the promise of eternal life in heaven. This should be the normal expectation of all Christians. The idea of overcoming is a reminder that we are in a spiritual battle.

Principles. Our deeds are important, including the hard work of contending for the truth of the faith. We must retain biblical love in our pursuit of truth. Repentance is essential for believers who have forfeited love.

We are to love and serve Christ with our head, our hands, and our hearts.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 14, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on The State of the Church. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Bring on the biscuits!

One Sunday morning at a small Southern church, the new pastor called on one of his deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, “Lord I hate buttermilk.”

The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix ‘em all together and bake ‘em in a hot oven, I love biscuits.”

Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what you are doing, that we need to wait to see what you are making. After you get through the mixing and the baking, it’ll probably be better than biscuits.

(Author unknown)


I can say the same thing about a broken leg/hip, walkers, physical therapy, blood clots, crutches, snow and ice, and disability. Yet I am confident that God is at work to weave them all together to accomplish his plan and purpose in my life. Bring on the biscuits!


Posted by on January 13, 2018 in Personal growth


Measuring Church Health

Book Review: Building the Body: 12 Characteristics of a FIT CHURCH, by Gary L. McIntosh and Phil Stevenson

While some people may appear to be healthy, that doesn’t mean they are fit enough to run a 5K race, let alone a marathon. The same is true for churches. A church may appear to be healthy with no obvious issues or conflicts. In contrast, a fit church is not satisfied with merely coasting along. A fit church is actively making disciples, helping people mature in their faith, mentoring future leaders, meeting the needs of their community, and much more. These are the convictions of authors Gary L. McIntosh and Phil Stevenson in their book, Building the Body: 12 Characteristics of a FIT CHURCH.

The book is divided into four broad categories related to health and fitness—cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. Within each category are three characteristics of church fitness—outreach, effective evangelism, community engagement, personal ministry, God-honoring stewardship, leadership development, Christ-exalting worship, disciple-making strategies, pastoral leadership, loving community, vision-directed systems, and divine empowerment.

What sets this book apart from most church-growth books is the inclusion of a very practical strategy to identify where your church and ideas on how to move it forward. The authors describe five levels of church—beginner, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite. They describe how each characteristic is demonstrated within that type of church. They also include practical suggestions for each type of church to strengthen the characteristic and how to move to the next level.

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 January 11, 2018 in Books, Church


Russia 2018 – January update

Dear friends,

Now that we’ve turned the corner into the new year, my preparations for the April trip to Russia have increased.

  • I just sent my application for a letter of invitation to the MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) office in Moscow. Once I obtain that, I can apply for a Russian visa. As I did last year, I will be applying for a humanitarian visa for religious work.
  • I starting preaching an 8-week series on The State of the Church, examining the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Yesterday’s sermon was on The Lord of the Church (Revelation 1). The series helps me cast vision for First Central Bible Church as well as prepare to teach Revelation in Russia.
  • I’m reading through different commentaries and resources in order to gain an overview of the book as well as a better understanding the details.

On a personal level, my broken leg/hip is healing and progressing. The surgeon cleared me for full weight-bearing status a few weeks ago. My in-home physical therapist is pleased with my progress and continues to add more exercises to strengthen my leg and increase my mobility. I will begin six weeks of outpatient physical therapist on January 22. I was told the recovery time is about six months. The first three months is about healing and regaining strength. The second three months is about getting back to normal. Since the trip to Russia in April is in the sixth month, barring any setbacks, I should be good to go.


  • The trip is fully funded!
  • My leg/hip is healing!

Prayer requests

  • Greater insight and understanding of the book of Revelation
  • Applications for Letter of Invitation and Visa
  • Complete recovery and full health and strength in my leg/hip

Thanks for your prayers and encouragement. I’m in your debt.

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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in Personal growth, Prayer, Russia


Heaven is not a cartoonist’s punchline

The comic strip, Non-Sequitur, by Wiley Miller, occasionally pokes fun at religion and spiritual things. In so doing, he often expresses truth whether he intends to or not. Two recent strips speak of the reality of heaven and who can enter.

“The ultimate glass ceiling reinforces the truth of Matthew 7:21-23.

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“The uncertainty of the afterlife” is a direct contradiction of 1 John 5:13.

 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

If we put our faith in Jesus Christ, trusting him to forgive our sins rather than depending on our own good works, we can have the confidence that heaven is open to us. All because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in Heaven, Non-Sequitur, Scripture


The Lord of the Church

If Jesus wrote a letter to __________ Church, what might he say? Would he commend us? Might he correct us? Would Jesus praise our teaching or our ministries that bless the community? Might Christ express concern about our busyness? Would Jesus challenge us to reexamine our priorities?

During January & February, we will be studying the letters that Jesus wrote to seven churches in Revelation 2-3. We want to see what we have in common and where we need to learn and grow.

The very first lesson we need to learn is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church (Revelation 1:1-20). When we gain a bigger and more accurate vision of who Jesus is, we will worship him and serve him.

In the opening verses, the apostle John explains that the book of Revelation is both from Jesus and about Jesus (1). It reveals new information about the future that was previously unknown.

Far too often, we read Revelation simply because we want to know about the end times. However, the book is designed to transform us, not merely to inform us. There is a blessing for those who read, hear, and obey the lessons found in this book (3).

Since Jesus Christ will return soon, we need to be serious about living for him today (3). We need a greater sense of urgency and purpose in how we live our lives.

In verses 4-8, John explains that the message comes from the Trinity (4-5). He specifically mentions the Father (who is and who was and who is to come); the Holy Spirit (the seven spirits who are before his throne); and the Son (Jesus Christ).

John states that Jesus Christ fulfills three roles (5). He is the Prophet (the faithful witness); the Priest (the firstborn of the dead); and the King (ruler of kings on earth). John goes on to say that Jesus Christ loved us (5) and he saved us (5) (has freed us from our sins by his blood) so that we might serve him (6) (made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father).

John closes his greeting by stating that Jesus Christ will return in a very public, visible manner (7). God is the first word and the last word on all that will take place (8).

The apostle John was persecuted and exiled for preaching the gospel (9). He was exiled to the island of Patmos, off the coast of present day Turkey. While worshipping God on a Sunday (the Lord’s Day), John had a vision of the exalted Christ (10-18). He was told to write the message and communicate it to seven churches in Asia Minor (11).

Keep in mind that John is not giving a physical description of Jesus. His constant use of the word “like” tells us that he is trying to picture or put into words what he saw. John’s vision of Christ included:

Jesus speaks with a loud voice like a trumpet, and one which sounds like a roaring waterfall (10, 15). Jesus speaks clearly and in a compelling manner that cannot be ignored.

Jesus is in the midst of the lampstands (12-13). Since the lampstands represent the church (20), this tells us that Jesus is present among the churches.

Jesus is clothed with a long robe (13). Jesus wears the garments of a priest. This fits with what the book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our great high priest.

Jesus has white hair (14). This image explains that Jesus is eternal. He is the Ancient of days. White hair also indicates the wisdom and knowledge that accompanies age. Jesus is omniscient, knowing everything. White also indicates purity and holiness.

Jesus has flaming eyes and bronzed feet (14-15). The eyes indicate that Jesus sees all. Since the brazen altar in the temple was where sin was dealt with, the bronze feet show that Jesus has the power to judge sin righteously and decisively.

Jesus holds seven stars (16). Since the stars and lampstands represent the church and her leaders (20), this picture shows that Jesus sovereignly possesses and is Lord over the church. He holds the church in his protection and care.

Jesus’ mouth is like a two-edged sword (16). This image brings to mind the description of the word of God in Hebrews 4:12. However, the word for sword in Hebrews is a dagger, a short knife. The word for sword in Revelation 1:16 is a long sword, one that the Romans used to kill someone. Thus, verse 16 speaks of judgment. Jesus speaks clearly and directly, penetrating heart and soul. He has the power and authority to judge and conquer his enemies.

Jesus’ face shines like the sun (16). Jesus is the Lord of glory. John caught a brief glimpse of Jesus’ glory during the Transfiguration. Now, his glory is fully revealed.

John is overcome with emotion and worships Christ (17). Jesus comforts him with the knowledge of his life and power over death and hell (17-18).

John is given the task of communicating Christ’s message to the world (19). He is to tell the story about the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-3), and the future (chapters 4-22).

When we understand that Jesus is the Lord of the Church, we will worship him and serve him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on January 7, 2018. It is the opening message in a series on The State of the Church, examining the seven churches in Revelation. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.