Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Great Hershey CandyLane Message Surprise!

Tonight we continued with a fairly new Christmas tradition in the Auld home and went over to CandyLane in Hershey for the third straight year. We love to grab the Holiday Four Pack and head over for some rides and Hot Chocolate.

When we arrived, we got our bag of kettle corn and hit some of the rides that the kids and I love to go on right at the beginning of our evening (Susan's stomach can't handle the rides that just spin round and round...). While we were waiting in line for one of the rides, Susan discovered that there was a show playing and we decided to go to the 6:30 showing.

As we settled in, the show started with some fun holiday music that the crowd really enjoyed. It then moved into a story about a mother, daughter and grandfather wanting and waiting for their father to return home from the war for Christmas. The story is centered on Christmas Eve and the grandfather reads a number of fun Christmas stories like Frosty and Rudolph that are all acted and sung out in a creative fashion.

BUT... I got the surprise of my life when we hit Christmas morning in the production and the mother insisted they read the most important Christmas story ever told. They then proceeded to read about the birth of Christ from the Bible and one of the singers sang "Mary Did You Know" as they acted out the Nativity scene. I was both floored and excited all at the same time. I never in my wildest dreams thought a major amusement park would build the Biblical story into their one major Christmas production. It was really wonderful! The story also ended with the father returning from war on Christmas morning to be home with his family.

As we walked out of the show, I thought to myself... "I wonder how many anti-war and anti-Christian/Christmas people that production just offended???" Oh well... there was at least one family of four that thought it was a great show with a great message in a place I did not expect! Great Job Hershey Park!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Meaning behind a Toronto Maple Leaf Jersey!

I've received a few early Christmas gifts this year and like any kid who is excited about Christmas, I've already opened them. I've been very grateful for the kindness shown and the thought and effort that has gone into the gifts. They have been very creative and even difficult to find, yet the meaning represented in these tokens are special.

Tonight I received a gift in the mail that totally shocked me. It was a Toronto Maple Leaf Jersey (the hockey team I follow) and it had Auld on the back. As someone who grew up in Canada following this team and watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night, a jersey like this is special in and of itself. But when I saw the name and heard the story from my wife behind this gift, it encouraged my heart like it hasn't been encouraged for a while.

I have no desire to go into the story as there are some things a pastor holds near and dear to his heart with the Lord, but these are individuals at Grace that I've gotten to know and share life with through some hard times. The grace and faithfulness of God has been evident throughout this year and it's been my absolute joy to live in Biblical community with these people. There were times when we all grew weary, but there is something special about getting down to the nitty gritty of life and watching God work in us as Christ followers walking this journey of life together.

This jersey will always be one of those gifts that encourages my heart to keep on serving the Lord together in community as the Body of Christ. My days aren't always going to be easy as a pastor, but night's like tonight will keep me believing with all my heart that Christ through His local church is indeed the only hope for individuals, couples, families and the world!

Be looking soon for this jersey on a Sunday morning!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Four Services, Great Staff & Great Volunteers!

Well I'm writing this as the fourth service here at Grace is concluding. Because of Christmas, we decided to add a Saturday evening service to offer yet another option for people to come and celebrate the birth of a Savior amongst the many commitments we all have during this season.

As I reflect upon our services, I cannot help but give thanks for the creative and powerful way the Gospel message was shared over the past 18 hours. How wonderful to see people at each and every service make 1st time commitments to believe that Jesus is God the Son who came into this messy world to rescue us from sin. It makes it all worth while!

I also want to reflect upon the truth that we could not do what we do on a weekend without our great staff here at Grace Church. So much of what happens around the office goes unnoticed by the regular attendee on a Sunday morning, but I assure you that the office is moving at a fast clip when we seek to do four services on the weekend and three on Christmas Eve. Great Job Staff!

I also want to reflect upon the truth that we could not do what we do on a weekend without our great volunteers. Literally 100's of people give of themselves for the cause of Christ and in service to others on a regular basis. Thanks for pouring your lives into the ministry of Grace Church.

To each and every person who plays a regular part in our weekend services I say Thank You! Thank you for giving your life to something greater than self so as to partner with us in the pursuit of proclaiming God's truth whereby the fruit is lives changed for all eternity!

It's been a busy weekend, but it's been a great weekend! I can't wait for Christmas Eve services.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Memories: Atari & Zamboni's

There have been some Lexus commercials on TV this year that have me reminiscing about my childhood at Christmas. They are great memories that make me realize yet again just how fast time flies and just how much things change.

The Lexus commercial has got me thinking about the Christmas my brother and I received our first Atari. We loved that gaming system and would spend hours playing PacMan, Centipede, Asteroids, Space Invaders and many other games. As the years went by, we then moved into getting our first Nintendo which we thought was the best it could ever get. Times sure have changed when I think about the gaming system my kids now use! But... I would give anything to get my hands on an old Atari system and play a few of the games just for old times sake.

Another fond memory revolves around our yearly renting of an arena for one hour where we had the ice surface all to ourselves as a family. There was a tiny little town that had a small arena that we would go to either the day before or after Christmas and skate our hearts out for a full hour with no one else around. It was wonderful to have those family hockey games. It's a tradition we've done a few times with our kids, but getting ice time in Canada is getting more and more difficult as well as costly. But there is nothing like watching the eyes of child light up as they watch and sit on a Zamboni for the very first time!

It's also been fun to think about the many family gatherings that occurred as I grew up. This too has changed as family members age, pass on and move away. But as the generations go by, it is fun to begin my own traditions with my kids and their grandparents.

Sometimes I've been known around my house as a bit of a Scrooge as the commercialization of Christmas drives me absolutely nuts. But it is memories like the ones mentioned above that revolve around times together as family that makes me smile over the holidays. The greatest gift I get every year is celebrating the birth of our Saviour with a family that loves Him and loves each other. No present from the mall could ever replace that!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Our Third Child, Doctors and Vacation

A few weeks ago as my family and I prepared to get away for a few days, Susan and I experienced something we had never experienced before. We had to take our third child (a.k.a. Tucker the Dog) to the Doctor's before we could leave town.

Now we've had to take our kids to the Doctors before, during and after vacations, but never the dog. The events leading up to this particular need was both an ear infection and a rash problem that made the dog do circles because of the irritation. The night before we were to leave, Susan and I found ourselves debating what we should do for the poor creature. Should we just take him to the kennel or should we take him to the vet and get him treatment? As good parents (dog owners) we decided we had to take the dog to the vet.

The day we were to leave was crazy to begin with, but we figured out a way to fit in a Vet appointment. As we made the visit, I quickly came to learn that it was going to be more complicated than I first anticipated. It began with the normal weigh in and check up. We then moved to the ears. After a wonderful lesson on how to clean the ears (the infected one was gross) we got the drops we would use. That wasn't too bad... but it got worse.

After the ears we learned about the "rash". The Vet went into a lengthy discussion on how our dog is struggling with acne in his groin area which is causing the problems. Lucky for me, all it would take to clear it up was a needle, 30 pills and a special shampoo. Guess who gets to wash the dog with the special shampoo!!!

As we left that day, I took the dog out to the car to wait for Susan as she paid. All I remember asking was "Did the bill have a two in front of it?" Thankfully the answer was no, but we didn't miss the two by much. I've never really thought about my dog as anything more than a dog, but he came a little bit closer to the "child" status as now all of my kids at some point have caused Susan and I to pay a visit to the doctors while either prepping for or on vacation.

I guess we couldn't call ourselves real parents unless we've had a vacation impacted by a sick child and now we are offically experts as all three of our kids have made vacation interesting!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I know when my spiritual batteries start to get low...

I've engaged in a number of conversations over the past few weeks about the priority of staying spiritually fresh as pastors/ministry leaders when we pour so much of ourselves into the lives of others. It's been a good dialogue as I've been able to share the two biggest indicators in my life that show me my spiritual batteries are getting low.

1) Loss of Hope! When I start to lose the conviction that God is at work amongst all my efforts in a messy world and that it is in vain, I know my spiritual batteries are getting low. Gordon MacDonald once said it this way "I can delegate a lot of ministry tasks... but I cannot delegate hope" or that sense of "that with God we will prevail." I'm coming to learn that when "hope dies, motivation dies" and that is dangerous within ministry. I keep a close watch on my hope guage by regularly asking myself the question "Do I believe with all my heart that the local church is the hope of the world?" My honest reaction to that question helps me monitor where I'm at in respects to hope.

2) Loss of Love! When I start to lose a love for people, I know that my spiritual batteries are running low. I'm in no way suggesting that loving others is an easy task for we can all be unlovable at times, but I'm called to love as God has loved me. When people become more of a frustration and irritant rather than a person to love and show grace to as God loves and shows grace, I know that it's time to take action.

I've come to learn that these two things are my primary indicators for making the time to re-calibrate my spiritual life. I'm sure God will continue to reveal other things that will act as the "warning signals" in my life, but these two are helping me continue to move towards the finish line for Christ!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Meaning behind my new Tim Horton's Mug

As I mentioned in a previous blog (which was over 5 days ago... oops) I purchased the latest Tim Hortons Mug from my favorite coffee shop in Canada. Every few years, this large corporation will put out a new style of mug right around the holidays for guys like me who can't resist making the $7 purchase (which isn't bad for a mug and it comes with enough coffee grounds for one pot).

But the real question is... Why do I get so excited about a mug? Here are three of my primary reasons for my love of the mug.

1) I collect coffee mugs. Whenever we go on a trip somewhere, I don't by t-shirts or other trinkets, I buy a coffee mug. I keep some of them on display in my office.

2) I love to drink coffee. As an individual who drinks coffee for the better part of a day, I need mugs to drink out of. The reality is that the mugs I collect I also use for a season until I get tired of it and make a change to another one.

3) Each mug represents a fond memory. I have numerous memories regarding Tim Hortons in Canada, but here are just a few.
  • In my previous church, we had a Tim Hortons coffee shop within walking distance. On at least two mornings a week, I would walk into my office and there would sit a large cup of coffee. The two maintenance guys would take turns once a week buying me a coffee and for that act of kindness I will always be thankful and have a fond memory of those two guys.
  • It was a Tim Hortons coffee shop my pastor buddy and I would go to talk ministry and re-calibrate after long ministry days. The atmosphere at a Tim Hortons is one where you sit down with good friends at any time of the day and just let it all out over a hot cup of coffee.
  • It was the place where every Tuesday morning I would have breakfast with my kids. At our previous church, my Tuesday morning routine included a very early prayer meeting. Susan would then bring me the kids so she could get to her early staff meeting at the school where she taught. Every Tuesday morning for over a year, my kids had a donut and hot chocolate for breakfast. Those Tuesday mornings still make for many wonderful conversations and memories in my home today.

That's why I love my new Tim Hortons Mug!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Morning Musings...

It was really nice to get away for a few days over the Thanksgiving holidays and visit with family and friends in Niagara Falls. As I settle in for the week, here is what's going on inside of my head as well as a preview of future blogs.

Sick Dog: As parents, we've had to make emergency trips to the doctor's office either right before or during a vacation. But... I've never had to make an emergency trip to the Vet for my dog just before a trip. The details of that visit are a definite blog!

Snow: I enjoyed the opportunity to drive through snow on the way to Niagara Falls and then watch my kids build an incredible snowman on Wednesday. I had also forgotten to put the snow brush into the car which meant I had to go out and buy one while in Canada.

Visits: It is always nice to visit with family and friends. Visits this time included my parents, my brother and his family, my grandmother in her new retirement home, dinner with pastor friends and a visit to a new youth outreach center. It was really wonderful to walk through this youth center in a part of Niagara Falls where there is very little outreach taking place. I can't wait to see how God is going to use my friend and the church I grew up in to make an impact in that part of the city. This too is going to be an upcoming blog!

Niagara Fury and Fireworks: On Friday night we spent some time down at the brink of the Falls and had a lot of fun. We started by riding the Niagara Fury which simulates what it would have been like to see the Falls evolve. Apart from the whole evolution thing... it wasn't bad, but I'm glad we got a really good reduced rate because it wouldn't have been worth what they charge the tourists. We then moved to the very brink of the Falls where we watched fireworks. We finished the evening off with coffee and candy cane hot chocolate at Tim Hortons. By the way... I'll most definitely be blogging about my new Tim Horton's mug.

Susan's Family and Country Cupboard: We finished off our trip on Saturday by stopping in Lewisburg, PA to visit with Susan's family that had driven to spend the evening at Country Cupboard. We enjoyed the few hour break from the road and enjoyed spending some time with her family over the Thanksgiving weekend. I think there may be a blog dealing with Country Cupboard as well.

As always, it was nice to get away and visit with family and friends but it is always good to get home. I'm excited about what my week holds as there are many exciting things God continues to do here at Grace which will no doubt lead to new blog posts as well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Grounded in Gratitude

We're doing a great series here at Grace Church that has encouraged us to be grounded in gratitude. Our worship leader has written a wonderful new song that encourages us to give thanks to our God for who He is and what He has done. So here I go... my top five in each of those areas:

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you are...
  • Sovereign and that I can rest and have peace in your Sovereignty no matter what the circumstances are that surround me.
  • Faithful and that I can always count on you to fulfill your promises.
  • Love and that we know how to love because you first loved us.
  • Just and that you rightfully saw the debt of sin paid and declare me righteous through your Son.
  • Holy and that there are none like you. You are set apart from all else!

Heavenly Father, I thank you that you have...
  • Freely given your Son to be my Savior.
  • Blessed me with a wonderful wife and children.
  • Blessed me with a roof over my head and food on my table.
  • Blessed me with a wonderful Church staff and family to do ministry and life with.
  • Given me a heritage that is rich in love for both family and Christ.
I must confess that this simple exercise has made me realize afresh and anew how easily I fall into the trap of discontentment and grumbling at times. I have so much to be thankful for and I need to continue asking the Lord to make me one Grounded in Gratitude. Have a Happy Thanksgiving in our wonderful Lord!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clean - Dirty - Clean Again

I took some time on Friday to give our dog a bath. Our dog takes baths in the laundry tub and although his body fits comfortably into it, there is never any doubt that I too will get soaked. But, whenever Tucker (the dog) gets washed, it becomes a family event as all we all love to see him wet and then do the shake once he gets out. I love nothing more than to see my dog's white actually white and his fur soft to the touch.

So... on Saturday morning when I opened the door and he decided to take his bi-monthly trip into the corn field, I wasn't to pleased. In fact, I really shouldn't call it a corn field as currently it looks more like a mud field. My first thought was, "stay calm... it's just his feet that are won't take long to clean him." But, as I walked towards him and called out his name, he flopped to his back and did a roll in the mud. My dog had remained clean for a total of 18 hours and now needed another bath.

As I was washing him, the following thought did cross my mind. I wondered if the emotions I was feeling were similar to what my Father in heaven feels when I sin. The Bible tells me that my Father is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins when I confess them before Him. (1 John 1:9) On a daily basis I go to my Father in heaven and in essence say "I got dirty again with sin, clean me up." For a few moments, I was lost in the truth that our God is such a patient, faithful and gracious Father. If my dog did what he did every day, I wouldn't have the patience or the desire to clean him every day. He'd be gone! Praise God that He is long suffering and daily cleanses me when I confess my sin after rolling around in the muck and mire of it.

That silly dog once again reminded me of a wonderful truth about my Father in heaven but also challenged me to abide in the vine so as to walk the walk of righteousness. For those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior, we've been made clean in Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 5:17, Titus 3:4-7). With that in mind, let's work towards not rolling around in the muddy cornfields of life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Books, Sex, Outreach Center and 1 Timothy - Thursday AM Musings!

It's Thursday morning and I've taken some time to catch my breath, organize my office and spend some time with God. With that in mind, here are some of my Thursday morning musings that have been rattling around my brain thus far...

I'm looking forward to getting away to visit some family in Niagara Falls next week and I have two books going with me. The first is one the entire elder board of Grace Church is going to read together throughout 2009. It's entitled "Who Stole My Church" by Gordon MacDonald. The second book I hope to get through is "The Case for the Real Jesus" by Lee Strobel.

Ed Young of Fellowship Church is preaching a powerful series entitled "Leaving Lust Vegas". He is approaching the topic of sex and lust from a very Biblical and real perspective encouraging the church and married couples to live and speak the truth about this subject. There is no doubt the world daily hits all of us with the topic of sex with anything but a Biblical perspective, so it is time the church and godly married couples start sharing God's perspective on this wonderful gift He's given to us. His November 16 message stirred a lot of attention from the secular media as he and his wife challenged the congregation to have sex for 7 days in a row... I have nothing else to say but you married couples better watch his message and listen to the preacher!!!

... my friend's new outreach center that the church he pastor's opened in a very dark part of Niagara Falls. Over the past two years, they have been praying and planning to launch a ministry in a part of the city very few other believers ever dare to go. I can't wait to see how God is going to use this center and my pastor friend to impact the lives of those in society that many (including many churches) want nothing to do with.

I'm still reflecting upon the Pastoral Epistles right now and read 1 Timothy 5:4 and came to a complete pause as I reflected upon the truth written. I took a moment to pause because I see this particular verse being lived out in a very real and powerful way through my parents as they care for my grandmother which is pleasing to God. I'm proud of them and the legacy of truth they are living out as an example to me. Hats off to all who live out 1 Timothy 5:4 (I'd encourage you to click on it!!!)

Well, that's about it for now... a brief look into the Thursday morning mind of Pastor Tim!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cruelty, Character and Christ

Yesterday I had a conversation with a fellow pastor about how cruel our society continues to grow towards one another and how that has even moved into the church. We seek to hide our cruelty behind words like "constructive criticism" but yet the number of personal and cruel attacks is growing within our society (in my opinion) as self continues to trump all else.

What's interesting is last evening as the elders of Grace gathered to finish off a study we had been working on together from the book "Who You are When No One's Looking", we worked through a chapter on radical love. The very title of the chapter stated, "Radical Love, Breaking the Cycle of Hostility". I could not help but think back to that earlier conversation in the day about cruelty and the general anger and hostility people live life with. Whenever self is threatened, infringed upon or offended, people get angry, hostile and even cruel. What a call to show radical love like Christ did where a self sacrificing love for God and others trumps our love for self.

I was struck with the truth last evening that we are called to have the character of Christ which includes that call to show radical love. I know I can't do that all by myself! I can try and love others like Christ did, but my old nature fights that and if all I do is try to possess the character and love of Christ, I'm sunk. But, here was the great news from the final chapter of the book we read together as the elders. Once we trust Christ and become His disciples, we have a father in heaven who calls us His children and makes us heirs with Christ as our full identity is no longer wrapped up in self but rather fully in Christ. With this truth in mind, I was reminded that what I really need to concern myself with daily is the call to abide in Christ (the vine). The only way I'm going to possess the character of Christ and show radical love instead of love for self is to rest, live and abide continuously in the vine.

So... my simple prayer today is to petition God to help me ABIDE IN CHRIST (John 15:1-17)which in turn will continue the process of conforming my character (including the way I love others). If we as Christ followers will do this, then we continue to break the cycle of hostility and cruelty which is so prevalent within our world and even the church at times.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Frustrated Dad and the Extra Mile

Yesterday was one of those days as a parent where I was absolutely spent by the end of the day. Nothing dramatic happened, just the normal routines of life and 100's (I'm not exaggerating) of miles in the van left me feeling very frustrated by the time a few items were forgotten at home and yet another trip was needed. In total yesterday, I made six trips from my front door to the Grace Ministries and Lititz. Now I know I only live in Ephrata, but by trip number six which was totally unplanned because of something forgotten by my child, the emotion of frustration only begins to scratch the surface of how I was feeling inside.

But, as always, God has a way of smacking me back into reality. After a late night date at the movies with my daughter (We're huge High School Musical fans), I was driving home absolutely spent because of all the miles and life lived for my children yesterday. As I was driving and listening to my daughter laugh and we talked about our favorite parts of the movie, I was reminded of how blessed a man I really am. Was the frustration that was boiling up inside of me really necessary? With all the blessing in my life, what's a few extra miles once in a while.

The more I thought about this, I could not help but think of my Heavenly Father who has consistently gone the extra mile for me. Imagine how awful our lives would be if our Father in Heaven grew weary and frustrated with us and just walked away. Daily, we as His children do things that would frustrate any human father, yet God's love for us and His willingness to go the extra mile for us never ends. It's true that we grieve Him with our sin, but He never gives up on us or stops loving us. He consistently goes the extra mile with His grace and faithfulness.

As my Heavenly Father continues to transform me and mold me into the image of His glorious Son, I pray that He continues to help me become a father like Him. I have no doubt I'm going to have to go many more extra miles for the kids, but those few extra miles are worth it to continue watching my children grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ their loving Savior.

Thank you Jesus for going the extra mile for me through your death and resurrection that I might have a full and joyous life in you as one whose sins have been forgiven! Thank you Father for a wonderful wife and children. I'm a blessed man who really has nothing to be frustrated about! So bring on the extra miles... I think!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

People vs. Process & Policy

Over the past few weeks, I've once again been wrestling with how we do church in North America. Although many people might not know it, there is a continuous tension I am fighting and I believe many ministry leaders fight. It's the tension of seeking to remain true to Scripture in respects to how Christ desires His body to function together in community and our need to function within culture as a not-for-profit organization that needs to follow law and live by certain processes and policy. With that in mind, I have been really wrestling (part of it is my personality) with seeking to find a balance as God calls us meet and move people yet function as a large organization.

I have recently found myself frustrated with policy/process that gets in the way of meeting and moving people. Now don't misunderstand what I'm saying as I understand we need process/policy to keep us organized and help us manage our finances, facility and ministry with integrity. But, I've been amazed at how comfortable we all can get with certain processes and policies that we allow to trump our vision to meet and move. Now I'm not foolish enough to think that policies and processes aren't needed, but I'm beginning to believe that they must become much more fluid as we are more than just an organization. I would like to suggest that the church is a living organism that is constantly growing and transforming in Christ our Lord.

With this in mind, I'm beginning to understand more deeply that I and those I work with need to be comfortable with change because the church is more than an organization. We are a living, moving and vibrant body alive and free in Christ our Head. There is nothing worse than a stagnant and dying church. God is in the business of change/transformation which means that I can't allow processes/policy to stand in the way of what God wants to do. Jesus doesn't rescue us from sin so that we can remain the same. He rescues us from sin so that we can begin a journey of life transformation that is anything but static.

So, the big question for me then is "why do we allow or expect certain processes and policies to remain static?" I'm convinced that a lot of it has to do with our desire to be comfortable. Change is never easy. Whether we are talking about life change or policy/process change, it doesn't always excite us. It can get uncomfortable, yet, our God who never changes is in the business of changing us.

At the end of the day, people and life change must trump static and comfortable processes and policies. Yes, we will always need certain policies and processes as we function as a not for profit organization here in the state of PA. But, we at Grace are a living and vibrant organism first as we live, function and move forward in our living and vibrant Savior. I'm sure the tension will always remain, but seeing God transform lives must always trump static policies and processes which continues to be a growing experience for me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

People and a great big God!

It's Tuesday night and I'm getting ready to head into my final meeting of the day. Today has been a day of many discussions relating to many different facets of Grace Ministries. Through my many discussions today, I came to realize that every single one of them involved people and real life stories of living life on planet earth.

My day started at Spill the Beans where I enjoyed coffee and some good conversation with a friend. Of course, our conversation revolved around our families, our jobs and life in general.

I then moved into a meeting with our Human Resource Manager and talked about an array of HR related issues. Of course, anything to do with HR relates to people and their lives.

I then moved into a meeting with the two directors that serve our Children's' Ministry. Again, everything we talked about always came back to people, families and the real lives we were ministering to on a weekly basis.

As the morning moved on, I spent a bit of time talking with some staff about a funeral taking place this Saturday at the church. This too involved people and families grieving the loss of a loved one.

From there, I moved into a meeting with my Office Manager to talk about a cell phone need I have. As we discussed options, I came to realize that this too relates to people as I look to stay connected through modern day technology.

Shortly after this, I spent a few hours speaking with our Pastor of Connections about... you guessed it... people. We wrestled with how we can connect people with God and each other as we strive to build Biblical community at Grace.

I then moved into a late afternoon meeting to discuss a contract with an outside company we do business with. As we discussed the future of this contract, I came to realize that our decisions impact not just an organization but real life people who work under this contract. With each employee comes a story and life realities that must not be overlooked.

Well... time to head off to my final meeting of the day.... just returned from my final meeting of the day and once again it was about people.

My final meeting of the day was with our Worship Design Team and we were talking about the January sermon series that addresses our Biblical response to those in authority over us. This meeting was very much a call to honor, respect and pray for the people God calls us to be subject to. This is anything but easy at times as we are not always in agreement with those in authority over us, but it was a good reminder that they are people too who need Christ and have their own stories that have shaped the lives they lead today.

As I prepare to head home, I cannot help but think of all the lives and people that were represented in my many meetings today. Every day I catch glimpses into the complex and sometimes hard lives people live while doing life on planet earth and it could get overwhelming. I'm convinced that I can lay my head and sleep well at night because of a faithful God that loves and watches over us. He is Sovereign and over all people and is more than capable of handling every life and story that comes across my office in a day. I rest in a God who never slumbers nor sleeps as I close out my day with Psalm 121. Thank you Lord for who you are!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Ramble

It's Monday morning, I'm on my first cup of coffee and I'm in the mood to ramble on about a few firsts I experienced over the past few days.

Today is the first day (this month) that I really wish I had a Tim Hortons to go to this morning for a coffee and a bagel.

Saturday was the first day I became a father to a 12 year old. Time is marching on!

I ate breakfast at the Lyndon diner for the first time on Friday. Enjoyed the Irish special and the company of my wife and good friends.

Made my first trip to the Apple store at the mall this weekend. I may enjoy going to the mall yet in life.

Penn State lost their first game of the year to Iowa. I guess there will be no trip to Florida this year.

For the first time we are having basketball shoes shipped to our house by FootLocker because they didn't have my son's size in stock. I did not know they could/would do this for free.

I'm not a guy who loves all the technological gadgets of the day, but I may have fallen for the first time for something called the i touch that my son got for his birthday. It is really cool!

On Sunday my dog ran into the corn field behind my house for the first time this month. It had been a few weeks and the corn has been cut, so it only made me mildly frustrated.

For the first time ever, I saw monks fighting at a holy site in Jerusalem on the news. It's not something you see every day!

It's now time to move on and get ready for the day. It starts with a first time meeting with one of the Executive Directors from LCBC as we talk about Org charts, Church Finances and Multi-sites at the Brickhouse.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Finish Well your Amazing Race!

There's an old saying that I just don't think means much anymore and that is "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." That all sounds fine and dandy, but how few actually see that played out in life. To be honest, for most of us, when the going gets tough, we get going into the pits of despair, depression and a new med program that seeks to run away from the hardships of life.

So I guess the question is, "is it possible to finish well for Jesus in a tough world?" I would like to suggest that based upon Scripture, it is more than possible, it is expected of us. Why wouldn't those of us who have found freedom from sin in Christ live out our lives in victory right until the finish line?

In preparation for my message this week, here are a few thoughts I've been chewing on.

1) We need to run fully aware that many don't finish well. Anybody who runs the race of life unaware of an enemy looking to knock them out of the race permanently is nuts. It's possible to get way off course if we don't take seriously God's call to die to sin through Christ our Lord.

2) It takes courage and resilience to finish well. Life is going to throw all kinds of challenges our way. Some of them are self inflicted while others hit us out of no where. Whatever the challenge, the call to run with endurance and perseverance through some of the pain is necessary. I'm becoming more and more impressed with those who finish well because I'm learning it takes guts to do so.

3) I need to stay focused on Jesus. He and He alone is my ultimate example of how we can endure incredible pain in this journey by keeping the eternal in focus. It is only when we consider Jesus that we will not grow weary and lose heart. People will let you down, but Jesus will forever be our perfect example on how to run a race and finish it well.

4) Be encouraged by those real life Christ followers who are honest enough to say that they've gutted it out to the finish line in the power and strength of Christ. I believe it is important to look to those individuals standing at the finish line with a smile on their face amidst the battle scars of life that litter their bodies and minds. They are not smiling because life was easy, but because of who they are in Christ their Lord. They've run well for Him and He has faithfully seen them through hell and back.

For any who might be reading my thoughts through this blog, I trust you will never give up on your race for Jesus because Jesus will never give up on you. He rescued and set you free from sin so that you may finish your race with great success not because of who you are, but because of who Jesus is. It doesn't mean it will be easy, but you can finish well with joy in your heart. The best thing you can leave those lives you touch in life after you are gone is a godly legacy that saw you finish your race well for Christ!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remembering a Friend and Mentor

I found out yesterday that a good friend who I served with in Kincardine ON passed away last week and it took me back to that particular time in my life. Back in 1998, my family and I moved to a little town on the banks of Lake Huron to work with a small church work meeting in a school gym.

It was there in Kincardine I met a man by the name of Jim Lawrence who was the chairman of our Deacon's Board. Jim and his wife Eileen were an elderly couple that had retired from Cambridge ON to this little town to enjoy a quiet and modest lifestyle in a scenic little trailer park on a small lake a few miles away from town. As I think about his passing into glory where he now has seen his Savior, here are a few memories that stick out most to me.
  • Jim had a fire in his belly that protected this young pastor with a passion to see me succeed in the ministry. More than once he dealt with situations on my behalf to save me from some of the battle scars that come with pastoral ministry.
  • When our daughter Emma was born, this tough yet gentle man with a fire in his belly melted into tears as he held her for the first time in the hospital. With our kids not having grandparents in the town with us, he quickly became Grandpa Jim to our children and little Emma always held a special place in his heart as we had him lead us as parents in the dedication of Emma unto the Lord.
  • Jim and I along with others worked hand in hand through our building program and made many last minute trips to various engineers and lawyers to secure papers and permits as we moved into our building campaign which was a great success.
  • Grandpa Jim would have my kids fish off the end of his dock where they ALWAYS caught tiny sunfish as soon as they put their line into the water. They loved it!
  • Because the church was so small and we were in the midst of a building program, the church could not always pay us much, but Jim always made sure the Deacons board worked towards taking great care of this pastor.
  • I always knew Jim prayed faithfully for this pastor and would have defended me to the death because together we were committed to the Word of God. Opinions and preferences didn't matter to this guy because he wanted to see people come to know Christ as their Savior no matter what!

There are many other fond memories I have of Jim and I look forward to the day when I'll see this friend and mentor again in glory. I'm thankful that Jim is one of the men who has forever left an imprint upon my life as a pastor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Amazing Race of Life

This Sunday, I'm going to start a two week series entitled "The Amazing Race". The Bible uses a number of athletic images to portray our life in Christ. One such image is that of a runner and a race and it is found in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. The Bible is clear, this thing called life is like a race and the race can be long. But, the race should be amazing and we should all look to finish well for Jesus. Sadly, many Christ followers would not categorize their race for Jesus as "amazing". The difficulties that go along with any race claims many along the way and I'm sensing that fewer and fewer Christ followers are finishing well for Jesus in our current culture.

As with any who engage in a race, preparations must be made. How foolish of us to think that we could run this marathon of life without first preparing to do so. For example, if I woke up tomorrow and tried to run 26 miles, I would most likely drop to my knees defeated before I finished that marathon. It's not because I wasn't willing to try but rather, I had not trained or prepared to do so. Sadly, many Christ followers attempt to run the race of life by trying to live for Jesus rather than training to live for Jesus. We must prepare ourselves spiritually to take on the race of life and finish well on a daily basis.

It is also important for a runner to run with purpose and direction. How foolish would a runner look if the starting gun went off and they started running in the wrong direction. A runner knows where the finish line is at and with great aim and precision they work towards that target. It's also very important that every Christ follower understand that they have been fearfully and wonderfully created for a purpose. It's not about you and I, but rather fulfilling God's purpose for our lives as His created. Are you running with purpose or just casually letting the challenges of this world blow you in many directions leaving you confused and discouraged? Know what your Creator wants to accomplish in and through you.

Finally, we must run with passion for the prize. Most runners run so as to win some sort of a prize. They run to get gold medals and advertising deals. These items create great passion within athletes as they want to be the very best at what they compete in. How sad that many Christ followers don't run with passion towards the finish line. Christ has promised to reward those who run a great race for Him. Not a perfect race, but a committed and passionate one where the runner is sold out to finishing well for Jesus and it tangible shows on a regular basis.

I firmly believe that many Christ followers are not experiencing an amazing race in our current culture. We've bought into so many worldly concepts about what brings satisfaction and value that we've lost sight of what Christ has called us to do. My desire as I write this today is to run well the race Christ has set before me by daily training in spiritual activities and running with purpose and passion. I'm not running a perfect race by any means, but I have the finish line in my sight and I know that Jesus is at the finish line. I want to cross that finish line with joy in my heart, not because life was easy, but because I ran well in my Savior who gives me strength and wisdom day by day to handle whatever the course of life throws at me. May your race for Jesus be an amazing one today!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Movin on Up and some Spiritual Lessons

Last week I mentioned that a number of moves took place within my family. I noted that a piano moved into my house, my grandmother moved into a nursing home and my in-laws moved into a new apartment.

I'm thankful for a great relationship with my in-laws and I'm glad they took this step of moving from their home into a brand new apartment complex where they will no longer have all the worries and concerns that go along with home ownership. As I think about the move they just made and the process leading up to it, a few thoughts come to mind.

1) The process of moving helps you clean out. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of stuff we North Americans have the ability to collect. Cleaning out is healthy as it removes unwanted stuff that so often clutters and disorganizes a home. It's a wonderful experience to have the Spirit of God and the Word of God clean us out at times. Isn't it amazing how we have the ability as humans to collect stuff (a.k.a. sin) that clutters our hearts. It isn't always comfortable to have God move us, but the clean out is needed more often than we may like to admit.

2) The process of moving helps you realize how greedy we can be as North Americans. Now don't misunderstand, I'm not stating that owning nice things is evil. But, isn't fascinating that almost immediately after we clean out, we need to start adding to our collection again. Moving has always helped me really think about how much stuff do I need to be happy. It's good to think about at times as we often forget how the majority of the world has nothing and the greed that drives us must be anything but pleasing to God.

3) Movin on Up! My in-laws moved into an apartment complex to the fourth floor. As noted within my previous blog about my grandmother, every year that goes by is another year we all move up one day closer to death. The Bible clearly teaches us that it is appointed unto man to die once and after that judgment. I'm just thankful that for each of us who are in Christ, it truly is a movin on up!

All these moves this past week has me understand yet again just how temporal this journey on earth really is. The days are short and there is much to be done for Christ. May our gracious Lord help each of us stay focused and fulfill the purpose for which He has created you and I!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Dad, A Daughter, A Song and A Tear

On Friday night and Saturday of this past weekend, I spent a wonderful 26 hours with the other girl in my life. That's right... this pastor has two very important ladies he lives with. The first one of course is my lovely wife who I even today enjoy dating and romancing on a somewhat regular basis (always room for more dates). The second lady of my life is my 9 year old daughter. Now I don't get a chance to spend long portions of uninterrupted time with her as like most families we go hard all week with our busy schedules. But this weekend was different!

This weekend, Emma (my daughter) and I went up to Camp Conquest for their Father/Daughter weekend. Now I will be the first to confess that my idea of fun does not include camp or sharing a bunkhouse with 17 other guys. When I as the camp rookie get handed a pair of brand new ear plugs (I was offered used ones too...) by a merciful man, I know it's going to be a long night. It was!!! I never knew that much noise could come out of 18 sleeping men. Between the talking in their sleep, snoring and the many contraptions used to help reduce snoring, I'm sure we kept the wooded animals awake for most of the evening.

But, even with all that, my weekend was a blessing to my heart. The one on one time I enjoyed with my daughter playing games, shooting rifles, doing crafts, decorating cakes and eating meals cannot be adequately described with words. The best meal we enjoyed together was a candlelit dinner for two in the camp dining hall. We both dressed up and through the pouring rain headed off to our quiet dinner where I gave my daughter flowers and she gave me a card that melted my heart.

As great as all that was, the highlight for me was the hour of karaoke we had. To see the 39 girls singing their hearts out was a blast. But, the leader socked us dads with one at the end. We together as men would sing a song to our daughters (karaoke style) and he picked Butterfly Kisses. (Click on the song to see the lyrics) As soon as I knew what song he had picked, I knew I was done for. I tear up when my little girl isn't even with me, let alone cuddled up in my arms when that song plays. Now I know that us guys are supposed to be tough and macho, and I bit my tongue hard to hold back the tears, but by the time we got to the part of the song about giving her away on her wedding day, the tears were flowing. Thank the Lord there were other men casually wiping their eyes as well as I didn't want to be the only wimp in the place.

I'm still not a big fan of camping, but I left that 26 hours with my daughter and thanked God the whole way home for the joy of getting to raise a little girl. Emma, you have a special place in my heart and you will always be my princess no matter how old you get! I Love You!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

One Final Move

On Monday, my parents had the job of moving my grandmother into a nursing home. As grandma has moved up into her 90's, the aging process has been evident these past few years as she has gone from independent living to needing day to day care. Over the past 18 months she has gone from living in an apartment on her own, to a few month stay in the hospital because of a fall, to a semi-independent living arrangement to the nursing home with full time care.

The emotions that go along with all these moves has been huge in that Hebrews 9:27 becomes more of a reality as the years go by and both individuals and families are faced with the reality of aging and death. The wages of sin is indeed physical death and families every single day around the world stand at the graves of loved ones. Until the return of Jesus, one profession that will always have work is that of the funeral director.

Now, odds are good that this was grandma's last move here on earth and to a certain extent there is sadness in that. But, here is the wonderful truth of God's Word that my family and I are resting in very comfortably. Most likely, the next move grandma makes is from that nursing home into the presence of Jesus. (See 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, Philippians 1:21-24) No U-haul will be needed as our glorious Savior has made all the arrangements through His death and resurrection. The debt of sin has been paid by Jesus (See Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9-10, 13, John 14:1-6)and when grandma closes her eyes one last time here on this earth they will open to gaze into the face of her Savior that she has put her trust in for salvation and has faithfully loved and served for 90+ years.

Please understand that I'm in no hurry to see her leave this earth, but the reality of this most likely being her last move here on earth cannot be denied. But praise God that through the emotions of all this, my entire family has a HOPE that cannot be shattered or shaken. (See 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8:18-39) For any who may be following my life journey through this blog, my honest prayer is that you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior so that your final move from this old earth into eternity is one that is filled with hope and assurance. If you find yourself full of only fear and uncertainty when thinking about your final move, I would love the opportunity to dialogue with you about Jesus who longs for every human being to see their final move into eternity firmly secured in Him and Him alone. You can contact me at

I know the day will come when I have to preach grandma's funeral, but amongst the tears there will be joy in knowing she finished well for her Savior whose presence she will spend eternity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Expedition, U-Haul and Memories

This morning I sit and look at a piano sitting beside my sofa where once a book shelf sat just a short week ago. It all began months ago when I learned that Susan's parents were moving and that we were getting the piano she had grown up with. I must confess that my enthusiasm levels were not as high as hers as I've moved piano's before (even little ones like this). Moving a piano ranks right up there with moving a sleeper sofa. My back aches just talking about it!

But... because we're in this thing called life together, we borrowed an Expedition from some good friends with a hitch, visited the ever trustworthy U-Haul (we only got bumped to a new location within the county once and the tires were only half worn this time), got the dog into the kennel and headed out onto the PA turnpike to begin the piano moving adventure.

Now I must confess yet another item of the heart. As the journey towards Altoona began, I noted that the traffic was busier than normal only to find out that it was Homecoming weekend at Penn State which left in me less that a great mood. But I did come to find out that if you want to change lanes with a large U-Haul trailer in tow, people move for you. I also enjoyed arriving in Altoona to find out that their football team was playing State College in the big Friday night game which also had tremendous crowds in the area. By the way... her parents and the piano live right across the field from the football stadium and their street becomes a virtual parking garage. Thus me moving the U-Haul into their yard by hand was nothing but joyful even though my large coffee from Sheetz had hit almost an hour earlier.

But here is the good news! The rest of the weekend went wonderfully. The piano move went without a glitch (for the most part) and we arrived safely home and have a wonderful family item sitting in our family room that carries many wonderful family memories for Susan.

As the weekend wrapped up and the Tylenol kicked in for my sore back, I took a moment to give thanks unto God for our family. Both Susan and I have a wonderful God honoring heritage for which I am very grateful. This piano is more than just an item, it represents the many memories Susan has of her mother and father practicing and preparing for the many ways they used the gift of music to serve within their local church for many years. It represents the times she shared with her mother as she practiced and learned to play the piano. It represents hours of family sitting around and singing and laughing together.

Now I have no desire to move a piano across the state any time soon, but I'm already grateful that it has become the place where my daughter practices her flute with Susan playing the piano at her side. My desire is that it becomes a place where new memories are created for my kids as the years go by even though it creates some interesting looks upon the dogs face as the music flows. But even that has provided the family with some good laughs in just a few short days! I wonder if my daughter's husband 30 years from now will lament in a blog about me when I give the piano to them because I ain't moving it again...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Moving, In-Laws, A Piano and 1 Timothy

My desire this week is to really return to the world of blogging and continue to capture my many thoughts "en route" for God as it is turning out to be an interesting week of sorts within my extended family.

This week has and will see a number of moves that impact my family and show forth the faithfulness of God through the seasons of life. Within a five day span, a piano has moved across the state, my in-laws will move out of their home of 40+ years and my grandmother in her 90's will most likely be making her last move before going home to glory. All these moves have sparked a number of memories and emotions that I will seek to capture through my blog this week. Even though these moves are all very different, I have a confidence that there will be one common thread that will be woven through each experience. I am sure that the common thread will be the gracious and faithful hand of God in each and every detail. His goodness, grace and mercy will most definitely be seen and experienced within the lives of His children through this week of transition.

My desire is also to share a few thoughts on my journey through the Pastoral letters. I've really gotten hung up on the 1st chapter of 1 Timothy as it is full and rich with much to ponder.

It's going to be an interesting few days amongst all the other "normal activities" that go into an Auld week, but I have no doubt some life lessons will be captured and stored away in my heart for future use as I get the updates on all these moves!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canadian elections, Gaither's and King Jesus

This past week was one that had me reflecting on my Canadian citizenship. I'm sure it had something to do with a visit from my brother who currently lives in Niagara Falls, Canadian Thanksgiving (this past Monday) and the Federal election that just happened on Tuesday.

Last night after a long day, it was fun to come home and not turn on CNN to see what the latest news is relating to McCain and Obama. I went straight to and begin to track the election results that started rolling in at 10:00 PM EST. In Canada, we have a parliament that consists of 308 seats in the House of Commons. Whenever a federal election is called, parliament is dissolved and the campaigning process begins. Now both are strong democracies where the people's voice determines who will govern, but there are many differences between a U.S. and Canadian election.

One difference is that people vote for an individual who represents their party in their particular riding (There are 308 riding's that represent the 308 seats in the House). You don't vote for the actual Prime Minister on your ballot. There are five major parties in Canada and if your party receives the most votes, that parties leader becomes the Canadian Prime Minister. This federal election saw Mr. Stephen Harper become Prime Minister once again with his Conservative Party winning 143 out of the 308 seats which gives him what is called a minority government.

One of the other huge differences is the length of the Canadian federal campaign. In this particular election, I believe the campaign trail only lasted 37 days. It's an intense 37 days and there are only 33 million people in Canada to be reached versus 300 million in the U.S., but the airwaves aren't littered for literally years of campaigning before the current administration is even close to being done. That's refreshing!!!

Although there are differences, I was glad the Conservative Party of Canada won (they are like the Republican Party in many respects) and I'm glad the U.S. elections are just a few short weeks away. BUT... the thing I was most thankful for last evening as my head hit the pillow is that my true citizenship is in heaven with a Sovereign God who is in complete control of our world. I have the utmost respect for the office of the President and Prime Minister, but I have a love and devotion towards the ultimate King of Kings and Lord of Lords that I'll never feel towards a human ruler. I'm so glad I'm a part of the Family of God (sounds like a Gaither song coming...) where there will be no elections in eternity. King Jesus is on the throne for good!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crazy Dog, Family Time and Rest

It's Thanksgiving in Canada today, so this morning I gave a great big thank you to God for my family and the fun times we have together. This past weekend, my family and I enjoyed a visit from my brother, his wife and daughter from Canada. There was a lot of laughter and fun outside as the weather was summer like to say the least. One of the highlights of the weekend was to watch my children interact with our crazy English Springer Spaniel.

Now I must confess that this my dog brings me more frustration than joy as of late with his every increasing runs into the corn field behind my house only to pop out a block away 10 minutes later. But, one of the things we love to do with Tucker (our dog) is play sports with him. Last night, under the lights (the spot on the back of our house) the football game got rolling. It was Tucker and I against Josh (my son). What joy I had to watch Josh and Tucker running, laughing and rolling through the grass having the time of their life. It was also a great joy to watch Emma (my daughter) and her cousin Rachel jumping up and down on the trampoline cheering the boys on while also laughing at the antics of our dog.

The other game we enjoy is keep away with our dog. We all get to different points of the backyard with a soccer ball and pass the ball around keeping it away from Tucker. The fun part comes when Tucker actually gets the ball and then we have to catch him. But I do believe the family laughs hardest when dad is chasing the dog and the dew on the ground causes him to stretch and fall in ways that just isn't normal. That's when the roars of laughter (especially from my wife Susan) really light up the neighborhood.

But here is the best part about hanging out with my family (dog included). By the time we all go in, everyone is tired. There is nothing more rewarding than watching my dog fall to the ground in exhaustion knowing full well he and the kids will sleep heavy. This means dad gets to sleep and rest well too! Maybe that's why I'm so thankful this morning!?!?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Stop with the Economic Blues... Jesus is My Hope!

It has finally happened... I hit a point this morning where I turned off the news in absolute disgust as I'm tired of all the doom and gloom that comes across the airwaves. The doom and gloom is of course related to the rapidly declining global and national markets.

BUT... here is what really has me frustrated... Christ followers who can utter nothing but doom and gloom because of the economic crisis. Now some may take offense to this, but have we become so comfortable with credit and instant gratification as even Christ followers that when the economy takes a down turn we lose hope and faith. I recognize that some tough days are here and may be coming for many people and even local churches, but where's the hope and joy that should be in all of us as Christ followers even in the most difficult of times.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I've begun very slowing chewing on the words of the Pastoral letters. I'm still sitting in 1 Timothy 1:1-2 thinking about the hope I have in Christ Jesus. As I think about Paul and the early church, they knew what financial instability was all about. It was not uncommon for Christ followers in the early church to lose everything because of their faith in Christ, yet Paul sees his blessed Savior as nothing less than his very real hope.

As I dug deeper, I was reminded that hope in the Bible express absolute certainty about something and not a mere wish. As I perused through the pastoral letters, I came across Titus 2:11-14 (emphasis on v13). It states that we are to live self controlled and upright lives in this present age while we wait for the "blessed hope". (see also 1 Timothy 6:14, 2 Timothy 4:1) I believe with all my heart that Paul lived day by day with the absolute certainty that the best was yet to come in that Jesus His Savior was coming again. Paul lived out his days with an eternal focus which brought the temporal (i.e. economic downturns) into focus.

I'm thankful for the reminder that JESUS CHRIST IS MY HOPE and not the economy. I've learned again this morning that spending more time watching the doom and gloom report of the news creates within me a temporal focus. When I get into the Word and read that Jesus is my hope, certainty and future, the temporal begins to fade in comparison to His glorious grace, mercy and peace that is mine in God the Father and Christ Jesus my Lord (1 Timothy 1:2).

So... I'm done whining and listening to others whine about the economy. I'm not going to put my head in the sand and pretend that there aren't concerns, but as with all concerns, I lay them at the feet of my Savior and rest in the Blessed Hope I have in Him.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Journey into the Pastoral Letters

I'm desirous as of late to return to the letters of Timothy and Titus for my own personal time in the Word. They are three books of the Bible that are familiar to me, but it's time to let the truth of these letters soak in once again as I ruminate on them for the next little while.

My reason for heading back to these letters is that they are "pastoral" in nature. They are letters of truth written to provide those giving leadership in the church wisdom and focus as they lead the people of God. I also love the intimate and personal nature of these letters. We catch glimpses into the heart of Paul (especially in 2 Timothy) as he prepares to pass the torch onto the next generation of shepherds (a.k.a. elders/pastors). Paul would have been a terrific mentor and I'm believing that this current journey through the pastoral epistles will be like having Paul as a mentor almost 2000 years later.

I share all this as I am desirous to log my journey through the pastoral epistles here on my blog. It won't consume every post, but I am looking to share some of the lessons of the heart I believe God will teach me while ruminating in these letters at this particular season of life. Looking forward to this journey!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Launch into the World of 3 Services

Last night (Saturday) I did something I hadn't done for a while as a pastor. I laid awake from 2:30 -4:30 AM thinking through the launch into three services here at Grace Church and all the logistics we have worked so hard to put into place. The staff at Grace has worked months and months in preparation for this big day. Their hard work is evident in that the morning thus far has gone off with nothing more than a few bumps. All in all, it's been a wonderful launch into the world of three services.

Here are three things that I'm most thankful for this morning:

1) I'm thankful that God has allowed me to be a part of a church that has a need for three services. In a culture where many churches are declining in numbers, God continues to transform lives through the faithful teaching of His Word, wonderful times of worship and creativity which is leading to consistent growth patterns here at Grace. What a joy to be used by God here!

2) I'm thankful for hundreds of volunteers that made this morning a success. As the one giving leadership to many of the logistics that go into adding a service, I am so grateful for the people of Grace who have flexed, transitioned and rolled up their sleeves to make transitioning into three services a reality. They've been great and I know God will continue to bless their service here within our ministry. We could not do what we do on a weekly basis without our volunteers!

3) I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve with a great team every single day of my life. The staff of Grace church is incredible. Their willingness to sacrifice and pour themselves into the commitment that adding a service takes can not be underestimated. Their gifts, skills and passion to meet and move people for Christ is contagious and I'm blessed to do life and ministry together with them.

I believe with all my heart it is only a short period of time before we see three services full. I believe this because we serve an awesome God who loves to meet and move people unto Himself, we have devoted volunteers and a fantastically gifted staff who are pouring themselves into this ministry. It's a good day!!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Highlights (Part Two)

Highlight # 5: Water, Water Everywhere! As I mentioned in my previous blog, we finished off the month of September with baptisms. The normal excitement that goes with baptisms was also accompanied by a sense of panic about half way through our first round of baptisms. As the pastor in the hot tub (we don't have a built in baptism tank) I get rather wrapped up in what I'm doing, so the fact that the people in the front row were starting to lift their feet because of the water seeping out escaped me. I knew it was bad though when I got to the final person I was baptizing and I sensed the water was a little lower than normal. I just wrote it off to us splashing around. But... when that final song hit and I saw those helping me starting donning the life jackets, I knew it wasn't good. The highlight though revolves around the great people of Grace. How cool it was to watch so many of our people roll up their sleeves and help mop up the water, empty the tank with a bucket brigade and help us punt to option B which is my next highlight of the weekend. The church family is awesome here at Grace!!!

Highlight # 6: Outdoor Baptisms! We have half an hour between our two services on a Sunday morning. With six individuals slated to be baptized during our second hour, we decided that the dunking must go on. So once again, the great volunteers of Grace rolled that hot tub outside onto a large grassy area, dried up the auditorium floor and filled the hot tub with water (warm water no less) and had us up and ready to go before the second service got rolling into full swing. It was wonderful to have these six individuals share their testimony in the auditorium and then move outside to be baptized (in a hot tub that was still leaking like a sieve) to the cheers and applause of hundreds of people who came out to watch. I'm not opposed to doing baptisms indoors (especially during the winter months) but there is something really special about doing them outdoors.

Final Highlight: Club 56 Event! Last evening finished off with a Club 56 Purity event that my son was a part of. Club 56 is our pre-teen program for fifth and sixth graders at Grace. Last evening was a night when fathers and sons were invited to an evening of sports in our gym, followed by pizza and a talk on purity. (Mothers and daughters were at the opposite end of the building) The highlight for me was to spend an evening with a bunch of other guys and their sons playing sports. I have never really seen any of these guys in a setting other than a Sunday morning, so it was really cool to hang out together as guys and get competitive for a few hours with our boys. I must confess that I still feel like I got it when it comes to staying competitive with sports... but I must also confess that my failing to stretch and warm up is costing me dearly today. The moans and groans as I sit into my sofa are a little louder than normal as the evening wears on. All in all, it was a great night with my boy on so many levels.


As I have sought to show, it was a very busy weekend, but one full of great highlights.

Weekend Hightlights (Part One)

Highlight # 1: My sun roof was closed! A few days ago I was driving home and a bird flew right into the path of my car. It bounced off the hood up to the roof where it hit my closed sun roof. I'm pretty sure that if the sun roof had been open, I would have had a dead bird sitting in the passenger seat. I never thought having a sun roof would provide that much excitement. I was reminded of the truth that God's eye is even upon the little birds of the air which is used to teach us that His eye is even more so upon us.

Highlight # 2: The Ephrata Fair! I enjoyed a wonderful evening with my family on Friday night at the Fair. Each of my kids had a friend to hang out with which always provides me the opportunity to hold my wife's hand and hang out with my best friend. We had supper before we went, but enjoyed funnel cakes, candied apples with sprinkles and waffles with ice cream. The rain held off and we all left with smile's on our faces. It's always fun to people watch, but I always come away with an awareness of how many people need Jesus. There is much work to be done before His return.

Highlight # 3: Night of Worship! Saturday night was yet another powerful evening of worship under the leadership of Matt, our Director of Worship at Grace Church. It is an evening that always refreshes me in the Lord as we focused upon so great a salvation. Thanks for a great job Matt and worship team.

Highlight # 4: Baptism Sunday! Yesterday, I had the privilege of baptizing 14 individuals. As we wrapped up our series on the Antichrist, how powerful it was to finish the month of September with these individuals publicly identifying themselves as nothing less then devoted Christ followers who celebrate what God has done and is doing in their lives. To hear their stories always moves me as it is amazing the lengths God will go to rescue people from their sin to set individuals and families off on a path of life, hope, love and joy in Christ.

Highlight # 5 will pick up with the excitement that accompanied our baptisms which forced us to make a quick change.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Ephrata Parade Experience

Last evening I spent 4 1/2 hours navigating my way to and from the Ephrata Parade and learned a whole lot about life in Ephrata and myself. My primary reason for being there was to watch my daughter participate in the parade with her Irish Dance Group.

1) The Ephrata parade is a huge deal!!! My whole neighborhood was buzzing about this yearly event weeks ago.

2) I saw a driver block an entire line of oncoming traffic with her SUV to let a long line of people who wanted to go left make the turn. I heard more honking and foul language in those 30 seconds then I have heard since moving to Lancaster County. Nothing like Fall Fair Fun!

3) I must confess that the reason I know number 2 is that I was one of those left turn drivers that took advantage of this drivers gutsy move. Thanks whoever you are.

4) I really don't know my way around Ephrata that well yet.

5) I learned a big lesson regarding the need to stake your claim at least 5-7 days in advance if you want prime front row seating for the parade. Thankfully, us parade rookies found a few families from Grace that were kind enough to let us sit with them for our viewing pleasure.

6) I felt immense pride as a father watching my daughter dance her way up the street to a wonderful Irish jig with a huge smile on her face enjoying every moment of life. Those few minutes in that 4 1/2 hour trek made it all worth while. What a blessing it is to be a dad of two great kids!

7) I thought Halloween had come early with the amount of candy my son and his friend took in from the parade. The kids actually come with bags and make out like bandits as many of the parade participants throw candy to the cheering crowd. I'm not convinced throwing candy into the middle of the street is wise when the next parade participant is a transport truck, but it works.

8) Apart from my daughter, my favorite part of any parade is still the Pipes. There is nothing like the sound of the bagpipes filling the air on a beautiful fall night. It brought back some great memories of the Pipe parades we would watch every Saturday evening throughout the summer when the little town of Kincardine (where we lived) would shut down main street so a 100 pipers or so could walk down the street and play. It's the Scottish in me!

9) At the risk of raising controversy, I can appreciate a church's desire to participate in a parade, but I'm not convinced the outdated tracts they throw into the crowd are going to draw the multitudes of people we saw last night into church. It would be an interesting thing to measure how effective that method of outreach really is.

10) It was fun to be reminded that my little girl has a special place in this daddy's heart. There was a brief moment when I wasn't sure where I would meet up with my little girl after the parade and my long legs had me moving at a pace throughout that crowd to find her that was impressive for a man my age. To finally see her at a distance with that big smile on her face and to have her run up to me and give me a hug made that whole evening all worth it. I'm pretty sure what I was feeling at that point is what my heavenly father feels every time I come running into His loving and secure arms with a smile on my face because I love living life in and through Him.

It was a fun family night!

Monday, September 22, 2008

User Friendly Christian Language

Recently I took on a new pastoral role a Grace Church. Since beginning this new phase of pastoral ministry, I have come across a number of new languages in my meetings with experts in a wide array of fields. I have met with marketing, insurance, accounting and technology individuals and each field has a "language" all to its own. As I've sat listening, I must confess that there have been statements and phrases used that have me nodding my head on the outside with the hamster on the wheel of my brain running like a mad critter trying to process what I'm hearing. I've been amazed at how easily these various concepts flow from the lips of these experts but I've been equally grateful for their kindness in putting some of their terminology into language and concepts that I can understand without compromising the integrity of their message.

As I came away from one such meeting recently, I could not help but think about how easy it is for me to use Biblical language that is very familiar to me with people that don't necessarily have that same level of understanding. I wonder how the seeker/unbeliever feels when they get around a group of Christ followers using terms, concepts and theological frameworks that are foreign to them.

I'm in no way suggesting we dumb down the gospel message of Jesus, but rather creatively think about how we can present the important truths of Scripture (in no particular order) like redemption, salvation, justification, repentance, reconciliation (and the list could go on) in terminology that communicates powerfully the truth of God's Word in language the average Joe can understand. I believe we as Christ followers need to get serious about how we communicate truth in a relevant way so as to not leave those seeking for spiritual answers feeling like I did when I left some of the meetings mentioned above. I don't want seekers leaving a conversation with me feeling like the waters have only been muddied because I didn't clearly communicate their need for a Savior in terminology that resonates deep within their hearts.

I'm thankful for an accountant who speaks "user friendly" accountant talk that helps me understand the main points without me feeling lost, confused and stupid. It was a good reminder to put myself in the listener's shoes when sharing the truth of God's Word with them. I want them to be drawn to Christ through my words and His Word, not turned off because they feel stupid for not understanding.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Punch Buggy, Mustang Flicks and Family Time

I was recently driving with no one else in the car and found myself feeling rather lonely. I must confess that I usually enjoy my times of solitude with the music loud and the sun roof open to the heavens. But a small little VW known as a punch buggy in my home went by.

Now the reason I got feeling a little lonely was because in our home, we can spend quite a bit of time flicking and tapping whenever we see a VW Bug or a Mustang. (The flick is for the Mustang). There are days it gets a little long when the kids can't quite figure out who saw the car first with a brief disagreement to follow, but the noise and buzz of a family in the car is quite fun. In fact, Susan (my wife) and I love this game too. When it's just the two of us in the car, we play Kiss Buggy instead of punch. It's a win win when it's just the two of us for it doesn't really matter who sees the car first. I guess my loneliness was due to the fact that I just feel so blessed to have a fantastic wife and two great kids who love to hang out with me. I know I don't deserve this, so I just sit back and say THANKS GOD - You are the giver of all great gifts!

The great news is that I will forever view these two cars in very unique ways. Long after the kids have left home, I have no doubt that many wonderful family memories will come flooding back as Susan and I cruise down the road in our twilight years. What a great reminder to once again cherish every moment I have together with my kids even if its a short car ride to school or some extracurricular event.

The solitude is nice at times, but I'm growing to appreciate the buzz of a car full of family. The bad news is, my son is getting very quick at this punch buggy game leaving me with a sore shoulder at times!

Friday, September 19, 2008

It is not in Vain!

I had a conversation yesterday with a fellow pastor on staff regarding how our faith and call to follow Christ is not in vain because of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. We thought back to 1 Corinthians 15 and this powerful chapter of Scripture that speaks so emphatically to the truth of the gospel. The simple reminder of this particular chapter is that without the death, burial and victorious resurrection of Christ, our pursuit of Him and a life in Him is useless and we are to be pitied more than any other people on the planet earth.

BUT... I sit here this morning with a smile on my face writing this because with great confidence, I by faith hold on to the truth of the gospel which means my life in Him and with Him is not in vain. As I thought about this truth, here are some of the very practical aspects of my life that are not in vain as I live in the power of 1 Corinthians 15.

Pursuing a life of holiness through spiritual disciplines is not in vain as God wants to transform and conform me to be like Christ my Savior. All the spiritual training is worth it because of the resurrection.

Loving my wife as Christ has loved the church is not in vain as it is a picture of the church's relationship with Christ here on earth. All the hard work that goes into marriage is worth it because it's a beautiful picture of the love Christ has for His church and a reminder that our risen Bridegroom will soon return.

Raising my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord is not in vain because I want them to grow up to love and follow Jesus because He is truth and He is the only way to God. All the hard work that goes into raising my kids for Jesus is worth it because they need to know the freedom that comes from sins forgiven and a life lived in Him.

Serving Christ on a daily basis is not in vain as it is nothing short of an immense privilege to be engaged in the work of my risen King. It is worth it all as there is nothing more exciting than to be a part of Christ's powerful and victorious work here on earth.

Loving people in a fallen world is not in vain even though it is tough and can lead to hurt, betrayal and heartache. It is worth taking the risk to love because there are so many people living without hope because they haven't yet experienced the love of Christ. The world needs to know and see my Savior through my desire to take a risk and love others with the love of my gracious, faithful and loving Savior.

Standing at the grave of a loved one with hope is not in vain. To stand at the grave of one who knew Christ as their Savior with a smile on my face amongst the tears may seem foolish and even sac religious to some, but it is done in the confidence that the grave is really a place of hope where one day all the dead in Christ shall rise to be with their Savior in the sky. Without the resurrection of Christ, this is indeed foolishness.

I would be lying if I said there wasn't times when I step back weary and wondering if it is worth it all. But a quick read (or discussion) of 1 Corinthians 15 reinvigorates me to keep on keeping on because I am no fool and I am not to be pitied. I without a doubt believe that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, has ascended to the right hand of His Father and is soon to return as my victorious King. That truth makes it worth it all!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

9 Down - 9 to Go!

Today is my daughter's 9th birthday and I found myself experiencing a wide range of emotions. She is my youngest and having grown up in a home with all boys and with my first child being a son, this little girl holds a special place in her daddy's heart. She is my princess!

I doubt that 9 will ever be one of those birthdays that holds a significant milestone in this world like sweet 16 or middle age 40, but it has become very significant for me. It's significance lies in the fact that I may be to the 1/2 way point of launching her off onto her own. My desire is to see both of my children graduate from high school and then move on to pursue their Bachelor's degree. If they both fulfill my desire, then by 18 they will be looking to venture out on their own into the wonderful world of higher education which begins a new and significant part of their lives. If my plan actually works, that means in 9 short years, my little princess will be venturing out on her own to explore and become the woman God would have her become.

The part that has my attention today is the fact of how I must once again commit to investing myself into the lives of my kids. For a very brief period of time, God has entrusted them to me to teach, lead and live out my faith in Christ so as to prayerfully see them move down the same path as they launch out on their own. Now that I'm 1/2 way there with my youngest, it was fascinating to take some time to think about how I've been doing. There have been many successes and many failures but I have so much to be thankful for and I'm looking forward to the next 9 years with my little princess.

Just as my relationship with my son is changing as he totters on the ledge of adolescence, so too will my relationship with my little princess soon change. But, the one thing that will never change is my love for them. They are both God's gift and responsibility to Susan and I and we're loving the trip so far.

I know the weight of raising our kids for Christ in a fallen world is heavy at times, but I would encourage everyone to keep at it because I realized once again today just how quickly those first 9 years went by and I know how fast the last 9 will go.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Look what I Found... A Word of Caution...

I was cleaning up my office today (I can only take so much clutter before it drives me nuts) and I came across a great little bit of writing by Chuck Swindoll I had tucked away in a file. It's a blog post that gives some great insight on how a pastor can prevent the accountability breakdown. This brief little article gave me pause as I reflected on how a number of us around the office were talking about yet another well known pastor who fell into an inappropriate relationship with a woman other than his wife recently. Here are a few of the key thoughts that jumped off the page at me:

1) Although we as pastors are surrounded by scores of people, we know the feelings of isolation, loneliness and solitude very well. If we are not careful we can become closed off from the world and leave ourselves very vulnerable to an accountability breakdown.

2) I can avoid accountability breakdown by being vulnerable with other men of integrity.

3) I need to be committed to gut-level honesty as self betrayal is a dangerous path to try and walk.

4) Am I deliberately engaging myself with those who will keep me honest as the backlash of accountability breakdown is huge.

5) I need to regularly answer some of these questions as noted by Swindoll:

"Have I been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?"

"Have any of my financial dealings lacked integrity?"

"Have I exposed myself to any sexual explicit or other forms of inappropriate sexual material that leads to improper thoughts?"

"Have I spent adequate time in the Word and prayer?"

"Have I invested sufficient priority time to my family?"

"Have I fulfilled the mandates of my pastoral role?"

"Have I just lied about any of these?"

These are not easy things we as guys like to think about, but as Swindoll put it "the pain of real accountability is nothing compared to the pain from a lack of integrity and an accountability breakdown."

I'm thankful that God has helped my guard my heart thus far and for the genuine accountability I have enjoyed with other guys along the way. GREAT REMINDER CHUCK!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's getting loud around here!!!

This morning I had the privilege of speaking at LCS (Lititz Christian School) for both the elementary and secondary chapels. I always enjoy my time with the kids down at the other end of Grace Ministries as I come away with a sense of great hope. This hope comes as I look out at all the talents, gifts and abilities sitting before me. But, I also learned during the elementary chapel that a room full of these kids can be loud.

As I was preparing for the young kids to arrive, I was warned by a teacher to be ready to plug my ears. With that warning fresh in my mind, I put my Bible down in preparation to plug away! Funny thing is, we went through the worship time with these 1st - 5th grade students and I didn't find it really that noisy. As the worship concluded, I stood up and did my little talk for about 15 minutes and then the worship leader got up again. I thought, "he must be the one who gets to dismiss them." Well... he dismissed them with a group scream that I didn't see coming. My first clue should have been the elementary teachers throwing their hands to their ears as the worship leader walked forward, but I'm a little slow before my many cups of AM coffee. All I know is that they hit a pitch that I thought would definitely draw blood from my ears.

As the noise subsided and I got my regular hugs and high fives after a chapel with the kids, I began the long walk back to my office. As I did, I couldn't help but think about the time Joshua and the children of Israel marched around Jericho and let out a loud scream which brought the walls down. Isn't it funny that we so often equate spirituality and the presence of God with silence and quiet. Now, believe me, I'm not opposed to quiet and solitude at all, but... I think I learned today that God doesn't mind loud if it genuinely comes from the hearts of ones who love God.

Come to think of it... I don't think heaven is going to be a real quiet place either! From what I can understand, we're going to hear the angels repeat HOLY, HOLY, HOLY over and over and over and over and over... well you get the idea!