Category Archives: Scripture

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.


What is the secret of effective ministry?

On the evening of June 11, 2017, I had the privilege of preaching the message for Jack Gilbert’s ordination service at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA. The synopsis of my message and the challenge I gave to Jack follows below.


What is the secret of effective ministry? Several passages of Scripture have been read that all touch on this question. Isaiah 6:1-8 tells us that effective ministry begins with a great vision of God and a great vision for God. Colossians 1:24-29 informs us that ministry is a stewardship that sometimes requires suffering. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 instructs us to do the work of ministry–preaching, teaching, encouraging, rebuking, and sharing the gospel.

In addition, effective ministry requires balanced growth in all areas of life. If we want to impact the lives of people, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word, deepen and mature in our character, sharpen and hone our skills for ministry, and use our spiritual gifts to impact others. Effective ministry requires balanced growth in our content, character, competence, and call. That’s the message of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.

The Secret of Effective MinistryEffective ministry requires growth in our …

Content (6-10). We need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word. Each one of us should have a plan to deepen our knowledge of the Bible and theology. We might consider reading books on church history and Christian classics.

Character (12). Though in his 30’s, Timothy felt intimidated by the task of leadership. Rather than focus on his age, Paul encouraged him to be an example of godly character. We are to model Christlikeness to all those around us. We should demonstrate measurable growth in obedience, honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and the fruit of the Spirit. We should grow in our ability to withstand temptation.

Competence (13). Paul encouraged Timothy to become proficient in reading and teaching the Scriptures. As Christ followers, we should develop a plan to sharpen our skills in Bible study and prayer. We should hone our ability to share our faith and disciple others. We should seek to grow in our ability to lead and manage our time. We should become more proficient in teaching and evangelism so that we can share what we believe with others.

Call (14). In our day, we have placed an emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts. In contrast, Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect using his spiritual gift. Each of us should seek to use our spiritual gifts for maximum impact. We should have a better understanding of who God designed us to be, including identifying lifelong goals, core values, and a sense of purpose.

Effective servants are lifelong learners (15-16). They practice, focus, immerse, and persist in pursuing growth. They keep in mind that the goal is progress, not perfection. People should be able to see growth and change in all areas of our lives.

The Secret of Effective MinistryThis passage places the responsibility for personal growth squarely on our individual shoulders. We are to become lifelong learners and grow in our content, character, competence, and call. Other passages of Scripture reveal that the Holy Spirit assists us in this process. He illumines the truth and guides us as we study. He deepens our character and helps us mature. He equips us and anoints us so we can become more effective in using our skills. He gives us spiritual gifts and confirms our sense of call. Growth is a partnership where we work together with God to become more effective.The Secret of Effective Ministry




Where is God when life is darkest?

The headlines of the past week scream loudly about the darkness of our world!

  • 12 killed and dozens wounded in ISIS attack on Iran’s Parliament and Islamic shrine
  • Veteran to be arraigned on bomb possession, threat charges
  • Qatar and its neighbors have been at odds since Arab Spring
  • 22 die at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England
  • London Bridge attack—ISIS claims responsibility for Borough Market terror
  • Feds arrest alleged NSA leaker, Reality Winner
  • 5 reasons why marriage is harder in 2017
  • Russia has the third-highest number of new HIV infections in the world
  • Uber fires 20 employees after sexual harassment claim investigation
  • Study: Phone obsessed parent have naughtier kids
  • Three Michigan State University football players charged with sexual assault
  • Mom, young son dead after gunman opens fire on car in Utah
  • Bodies, plane parts found in search for Myanmar aircraft carrying 120
  • Japan murder suspect arrested after 45 years on the run
  • Springfield-Holyoke, MA (Pioneer Valley) is #3 of list of Top 20 Most Unchurched Cities (57% have not attended a church service in past six months; #5 on list to Top 20 Most Dechurched Cities (43% formerly were active but now are not)

Where is God? Doesn’t he care? Why doesn’t he do something?

3,000+ years ago, Moses was born into a situation very similar to our own. Exodus 1:1-2:10 describes the dark world that Moses was born into.

In the midst of darkness, God remembers his people (Exodus 1:1-7). In Genesis 15:13-14, God told Abraham that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt for 400 years and that he would bring them back to the Promised Land after that time. God told Jacob that he would prosper the nation during the time of adversity (Genesis 46:1-4). Even though they faced difficult times of oppression, God had not abandoned his people. He knows their names and their number, and he prospers them. Over 300+ years, they grow from 70 to 2-3 million people.

In the midst of darkness, God causes his people to grow (Exodus 1:8-14). After the death of Joseph, there is a regime change. Rather than being viewed as an asset, the Jews are seen as a threat. The Pharaoh decides to oppress the Jews in an attempt to blot them out. He is unaware of the Second Law of Thermodynamics—the greater the heat, the greater the expansion. Instead of disappearing, God prospers his people and they expand.

In the midst of darkness, God brings help from unlikely sources (Exodus 1:15-22). Since Plan A—oppression didn’t work, Pharaoh turns to Plan B—abortion. However, he didn’t account for god-fearing midwives who practice civil disobedience. He then implements Plan C—infanticide, murdering baby boys.

In the midst of darkness, God raises up a deliverer (Exodus 2:1-10). Moses is born at the right time in history. He becomes a man of great faith because he had parents of great faith. In an effort to hide the baby boy, God brings an unlikely ally, the daughter of Pharaoh. She rescues Moses, adopts him as her son, but allows Moses’ mother to nurse and raise him.

When life is darkest, remember …

  • God knows where you are and what you need. Hard times don’t erase God’s promises. Harsh treatment doesn’t escape God’s notice.
  • God will use the situation for your benefit. Romans 8:28-30 reminds us that God is actively engaged in overseeing the details of our lives and can use anything and everything to help us grow to be more like Christ.
  • God will provide the help you require. If you choose to honor God in (whatever challenging situation you face), how might God meet your needs?
  • God is at work to deliver you. God’s timing is always best. Deliverance doesn’t always mean removal. Sometimes God takes us out of the trial; sometimes he takes us through the trial.

When life is darkest, remember that God is at work in the dark.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church on June 11, 2017. It is the opening message in a series on The Life of Moses. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


Gaining Victory Over Our Toughest Challenges

Book Review: Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants, by Louie Giglio

How do you gain victory over your toughest challenges? How do you get rid of an adversary that constantly steals your joy and passion? How do you live a life of victory rather than succumb to defeat and give up? Those questions lie at the heart of author and pastor Louie Giglio latest book,

Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants.

Using the story of David and Goliath as a backdrop, the author suggests that each of us face one or more threatening giants. He specifically addresses the issues of fear, rejection, addiction, anger, and comfort. Rather than be demoralized and defeated, the author reminds us to fix our eyes on the size of our God, not the size of our giant. The author combines Scripture, personal stories, illustrations, and practical application to flesh out his argument.

On the one hand, Goliath Must Fall is a helpful and encouraging book. On the other hand, I found myself uncomfortable with how the author interprets the story of David and Goliath. As he explains, he adds three twists to the story.

If you’ve been keeping track of the twists and turns in this book, we started by touching upon one big twist. In the story of David and Goliath, we are not David; Jesus is David. We unpacked that twist in depth near the beginning of the book.

Then we looked at a second twist, that our giant is already dead. The victory is already won. Jesus has accomplished what he set out to do. We have unpacked that twist throughout the whole book as we’ve looked at various specific giants.

As we close this book, we want to look at one final twist, and we’ve touched upon it in several places already. It’s that David’s motivation in this whole thing was the fame of God. David was motivated by God’s honor and glory. That’s our invitation as well.

While I understand what the author is trying to do, and while I agree with his main points, I am not comfortable with spiritualizing a story rather than interpreting it correctly. Jesus is not in the story. David faces a very live giant, not a dead one. David is victorious because he keeps his focus on God and his promises, and because his motivation is for God to be honored and glorified. While his third twist is true, his first two are not. While you can be encouraged by the stories and principles, you must not follow his method of interpreting Scripture.

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 9, 2017 in Books, Quotes, Scripture


On Target

A world renowned archer had a sterling reputation for hitting the target every time. On the eve of a major competition, a young boy stumbled upon his practice session. Rather than aim at a target, he let the arrow fly and then painted the target around wherever it embedded itself. A bullseye every time!

Rather than aiming at nothing and hitting it every time, I want to live with a sense of intentionality. I want my life to count for something and to make a difference. This is the meaning of the name of the blog, “On Target.”

On Target began as a newsletter while I was the Pastor of Christian Education at the College Church in Wheaton, IL (1986-89). About once a month, I wrote to those who served in the Christian Education ministries. Sometimes it was a devotional thought, sometimes an idea for teaching and learning, and sometimes an upcoming training event. When I became an Associate Pastor at Crossroads Bible Church in Bellevue, WA, I continued to write On Target for our Christian Education team and missionaries.

Life became busier when I became a Senior Pastor in 2004 and I stopped writing for a period of time. However, there were things God laid on my heart to communicate. My wife suggested I try writing a blog. In April 2008, On Target joined the blogosphere on the World Wide Web. This past week, On Target took on another form as the weekly radio program of First Central Bible Church. On Target can be heard on Sunday mornings from 6-7AM on RealOldies1250.

Like my life, the blog version of On Target is intentionally eclectic. Sometimes I write a devotional thought. At other times, I share cartoons or humor. On occasion, I review books I have read. Periodically I post photos of places my wife and I visit. Occasionally, I write about my family and their adventures. Once a week, I post a synopsis of the sermons I preach.

The idea of living an on target life is significant for two reasons. One is that we all naturally miss the target God desires us to aim at. Romans 3:23 explains, “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” To sin means to miss the mark, to fall short of the goal of God’s standard of perfection. Fortunately, God provides a solution. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We simply need to acknowledge that we are sinners and ask God to forgive our sins, come into our lives, and make us part of his family.

The second reason for living an on target life is that it gives us a sense of purpose. The apostle Paul expressed this idea in Philippians 3:12–14.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

I want my life to be On Target. I want to accomplish something and make a difference. Through new life in Christ, I can hit the target that God has laid out for me. In so doing, I will bring glory to God.

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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Personal growth, Scripture


A Tale of Two Leaders

Imagine your church bulletin contains an announcement, “Housing needed for a pastor and his wife, who will be in town for 5 nights from September 28 – October 3.” Would you offer to host the guests at your home? Would you wonder why they can’t stay in a hotel and rent a car during their visit? How you respond to this opportunity says much about your character.

In his third letter, the apostle John paints a contrast between two different leaders. Their character is revealed in how they treat ministers and missionaries. John encourages his readers to make a wise choice as to whom they will pattern their lives after.

Like a musical composition or a movie script, 3 John has both a major theme and a minor theme, a plot and a subplot. The major theme is to make a wise choice as to whom you follow (11). The minor theme is that ministers and missionaries are to be loved and cared for (5-8).

Gaius was a man who put ministry first (1-8). Gaius was a man who had a healthy spiritual life (2-4). He walked in the truth which pleased John immensely. He was a man who was generous and hospitable towards visiting ministers and missionaries (5-8). He was ministry minded and honored those who loved Jesus Christ.

Diotrephes was a man who put himself first (9-10). In contrast to Gaius, Diotrephes was a man who was ambitious, arrogant, a malicious gossip, and controlling. His root problem was pride and he wanted to be preeminent. He was not teachable and would not submit to authority. He made evil accusations against the apostle John and spread malicious rumors. He wanted to be the gatekeeper of the church, controlling who came and went. If you did not agree with his position, he asked you to leave the fellowship. His life was a contradiction to the gospel.

John encourages his readers to make a wise choice in whom they follow (11). He points out Demetrius as an individual with an excellent reputation (12).

Like 2 John, John closes his letter with heartfelt greetings (13-15). While he has much to share, he prefers to do so in person rather than in a letter.

In this short letter, John paints a stunning contrast between two leaders.



Motivation Love for others

He took care of strangers; others gave testimony about his love

Love of position

He wanted to be first; to be recognized as most important

Attitude to Instruction

Walks in truth

Listened to instruction; obeyed the Scriptures

Won’t listen

Would not submit to John’s leadership

Treats Others

Open arms

Welcomed strangers

Closed heart

Refused to welcome fellow ministers and threatened others if they didn’t follow his opinion

Builds up

Looked for opportunities to encourage

Tears down

Spread malicious lies about John; evil gossip

Use of Resources


He gave and supported other ministers and missionaries


He controlled not only his resources, but those of others as well



Whatever it takes to move the gospel forward


Don’t rock the boat; don’t change things


Honor God

Sent missionaries off in a manner worthy of God

Honor self

Wanted to be first



John praised him for his lifestyle of truth and love


John pointed out his ambition, arrogance, gossip, and controlling nature

Is your example worth following?

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on June 4, 2017. It is the final message in a series of sermons on The Letters of John. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.