The Baker Blog
Pastor Mike Baker Of Eastview Christian Church 2016

(An open letter to the staff and volunteers at Eastview Christian Church)

Dear staff and volunteers at Eastview,

As I prepare for our annual vision Sunday and get stoked about challenging our people to take the next step as God guides us towards our vision, I was thinking of and thanking God for you.  When people ask me about all the cool stuff God is doing in our midst, I often reply, “all I do is preach”.  This is not to downplay my role, giftedness, and calling – I know it’s important, but I wanted to take a minute to thank you for making this ministry happen.  You are great partners in the gospel.

When people come into our property, they notice a beautifully landscaped property.   Mowed lawns, flower beds, trees, and shrubs all welcome thousands of people to our front door each week.  Thank you building services, for maintaining and caring for this important ministry.  Your work sets the tone for an encounter with God.  All I do is preach.

When people enter the building, they experience a clean building with fully stocked restrooms, safe class rooms, and inviting environments for worship and fellowship.  Thank you building services team, for cleaning, vacuuming, setting up chairs, moving tables, picking up trash, washing windows, repairing broken things, and repeating each of these dozens of times each week.  Your work is a testament to a God of order.  All I do is preach.

When people come to our church they are greeted, directed, and served by a group of people they meet from the street to the seat.  Thank you parking lot attendants, ushers, greeters, info center volunteers, and all who organize these ministries.  Your work is the first flesh-and-blood impression thousands get of our church and our Lord.  All I do is preach.

When people need to grab some food or coffee and find a place for community and sharing, they are waited on by the volunteers and staff of our Cafe’.  Thank you for those who make food, wipe tables, clean trays, empty trash and give people some physical nourishment ahead of the spiritual meal.  All I do is preach.

When parents bring their kids to our various children’s ministries, they find artistic, creative, and safe environments for their children.  Thank you nursery workers who rock babies and sing of Jesus’ love.  Thank you preschool leaders who teach children of his great love.  Thank you grade school leaders who engage kids with the love of Jesus in a fun way.  Thank you for literally raising up the next generation of missionaries, preachers, church leaders, world changers, and Jesus followers. The lessons you write and teach, the time you spend with these precious lives, and the passion you have for nurturing their faith is inspirational.  All I do is preach.

When students enter our Jr. High and High School environments, they are confronted with an authentic community of faith that speaks on their level and understands their challenges.  Thank you youth ministry staff and volunteers for helping students navigate an incredibly crazy time of life.  You are inspiring young people to use the gifts God has given them for his greatest glory.  All I do is preach.

When anyone enters into any of our worship venues, they find a sacred space that reflects God’s great creativity and presence through dramatic lighting, beautiful music, artistic design, and authentic worship.  Thank you music staff for giving your best for the Lord and leading us in worship.  Thank you tech staff for supporting and enhancing the message through video and sound that all can hear and see.  All I do is preach.

When someone wants to find information about or interact with our church, they find a number of tools via our website, social media, and church app.  Our whole staff relies on communicating with one another and to the congregation through this technology.  Thank you IT staff (Jesus geeks) for keeping us functioning, connected, and informed.  All I do is preach.

When someone wants to connect to our church family and grow, they are able to do so through small groups, spiritual formation resources, and a variety of connecting events.  Thank you connections, small groups, pastoral, and spiritual formation staff for meeting people where they are and getting them to where they need to be in Christ and in the church.  All I do is preach.

When under-resourced people come into our church for help, they find food, financial counseling and most importantly a friend who will walk with them through difficult times and circumstances.  Thank you local outreach pastors for literally giving a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name on our behalf.  All I do is preach.

When we want to communicate effectively and tell our story to the church family and those outside our church, we do so with powerful and creative videos, inspiring testimonies, and insightful tweets and posts.  Thank you to our communications specialists who represent us and our Lord in the public forum daily.  All I do is preach.

When we need money to do ministry, we have it because of great and intentional stewardship.  Thank you pastoral finance team for handling our resources with integrity, paying our bills and blessing our partners throughout the world with the money God has entrusted to us.  All I do is preach.

Behind all of this, we have the best administrative assistants in the world.  Thanks you admins, for your correspondence, organization, lamination, communication, scheduling, and helping in a thousand ways that allow all this ministry to take place each week.  You are a part of changing thousands of lives every week because of your willingness to serve.  All I do is preach.  

I realized half way into this blog that there is no way I could properly thank the thousands of people who serve in a thousand capacities every day to make the ministry happen at Eastview.  But I have to stop, because there is a sermon to write.  And all I do is preach.

(An open letter to the staff and volunteers at Eastview Christian Church) Dear staff and volunteers at Eastview, As I prepare for our annual vision Sunday and get stoked about challenging our people to take the next step as God guides us towards our vision, I was thinking of and thanking God for you.  When people ask me about all the cool stuff God is doing in our midst, I often reply, “all I do is preach”.  This is not to downplay my role, giftedness, and calling – I know it’s important, but I wanted to take a minute to thank you for making this ministry happen.  You are great partners in the gospel. When people come into our property, they notice a beautifully landscaped property.   Mowed lawns, flower beds, trees, and shrubs all welcome thousands of people to our front door each week.  Thank you building services, for maintaining and caring for this important ministry.  Your work sets the tone for an encounter with God.  All I do is preach. When people enter the building, they experience a clean building with fully stocked restrooms, safe class rooms, and inviting environments for worship and fellowship.  Thank you building services […]

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In their book “Good Faith”, authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons reveal that according to their research (Barna), “60 percent of all adults in America and 83 percent of atheists and agnostics believe evangelism- one of the central actions of Christian conviction – is extremist” (p. 41). This is why many Christians are so intimidated when it comes to sharing the good news. The world insists on the rights of everyone to determine their own set of rights and wrongs – their own belief system, meaning that anyone who would dare to impose their set of beliefs on another is extremist. Ironically, the only wrong thing you can do in this culture is to tell someone else they are wrong.   

So, how do we as Christians engage this culture with the truth of God’s word and message? Gently. That’s the word used in I Peter 3:15 instructing us on how we should be ready to give a defense to anyone for the hope we have in Jesus. Do it “…with gentleness and respect.” I suspect that many non-Christians have encountered and been offended by overzealous street-preacher types or loud and condemning Christian activists. I often think they are extremist too. Still, the message we have is true – and worth sharing, so we have to evangelize (literally tell good news). Here are some ways I’m discovering that are easy, yet so blatantly obvious in today’s culture.

1. Publicly read and display your Bible in public. Bible apps on your iPhone are fine, but they won’t have the same social impact as when you open up the pages of your hard copy Bible and place it on the table of your favorite coffee shop. Everyone (yes everyone) notices. Sometimes Christians will give an encouraging word to you about how refreshing it is to see someone reading the Bible. Often strangers will ask what you’re reading. Always, people are aware of a spiritual presence. Because of the power of the Holy Spirit I believe you can change the spiritual climate of your classroom, office, worksite, and public place with the simple presence of the Scriptures. Try it.

2. Praying in public. I don’t believe that you have to pray before every meal or the food consumed will somehow be condemned and you will get sick. I don’t believe that Jesus will get mad at you if you don’t bow your heads and close your eyes. A joyful and grateful heart doesn’t have to express itself with a “dear Father in heaven”. Don’t get me wrong. We should pray all the time. So mealtime is a good time to reflect on his provision. But I think there is an added benefit these days. Praying in public is so rare that it’s noticeable. As a Christian, eating in public gives me an incredible opportunity to be visible with my faith. I don’t rush before the server gets there, I often intentionally wait until I know the waiter is coming to the table – hoping they will have to interrupt me. Sometimes, I even ask them if they have something they need prayer for. But if that’s too radical for you, just pray. This simple act will be noticed and God will use it. Try it.

3. Saying “God bless you”. It happened quite by accident, I didn’t transition from my church world language of “God bless you” to my world language of “have a good day”, so when the barista handed me my coffee, I blurted out “God bless you”. I don’t know who was more shocked, me or him. But in the end, he smiled. So, I’ve chucked “have a great day” for “God bless you” and the response has been great. Some have returned the blessing. Some have said thanks in a sincere kind of way. Others are flustered since most of their responses are just reflexive. “you….too….”, they mumble. No one has told me to take the blessing back or gotten mad that I dare talk to God about them. So I keep saying it because it’s a gentle way to gets God’s name into whatever setting I’m in. Try it.

I’m sure there are other ways to gently introduce our faith into our everyday experiences and the people we encounter there. But these three are a good start. If the world sees evangelism as extremist, then we just need to be gently extreme. And by God’s power we can. Go ahead, try it.

In their book “Good Faith”, authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons reveal that according to their research (Barna), “60 percent of all adults in America and 83 percent of atheists and agnostics believe evangelism- one of the central actions of Christian conviction – is extremist” (p. 41). This is why many Christians are so intimidated when it comes to sharing the good news. The world insists on the rights of everyone to determine their own set of rights and wrongs – their own belief system, meaning that anyone who would dare to impose their set of beliefs on another is extremist. Ironically, the only wrong thing you can do in this culture is to tell someone else they are wrong.    So, how do we as Christians engage this culture with the truth of God’s word and message? Gently. That’s the word used in I Peter 3:15 instructing us on how we should be ready to give a defense to anyone for the hope we have in Jesus. Do it “…with gentleness and respect.” I suspect that many non-Christians have encountered and been offended by overzealous street-preacher types or loud and condemning Christian activists. I often think they are extremist […]

Read More... at 1:29 pm Comments Off

Summer is winding down, and that means that the grade schools, high schools, and universities in my town are gearing up for another year of study.  You would think that this annual rite of fall no longer has any effect on me.  After all, it has been 34 years since I prepared for my senior year of high school, and 30 since I packed up for my last year of college.  Further, it has been 6 years since I had to help my wife get a kid ready for another year of learning.  And yet, I find myself both spiritually and emotionally excited for “back to school” season.  Maybe it’s just that the “back to school” specials and ads have inundated my world, but I think it’s more.  “Back to school” (even if you aren’t actually going back) is a natural time to make some changes…both literally, emotionally, which is to say, of course, spiritually.  Consider three “back to school” practices that we all need this time of year.

1.  Back to school is a time of taking inventory.  This is the time of year when parents make their way to Wal-Mart with lists to buy supplies for their students.  How many pencils do I have and need (and are they the right kind…they still use pencils right?)?  Do I need new clothes?  Time to buy a laptop?  What text books do I have to have?  This kind of inventory is essential for having all the right tools for learning-every student is making sure they have everything required for success.  It’s not a bad practice for all of us.  Student or not, take some time to make a list of what you need this fall to succeed spiritually.  Maybe time to buy a Bible (or a new one)?  When’s the last time you read something that challenged your faith?  Did you sign up for a small group or Bible study at church?  Is there a spiritual growth app (maybe your church you attend has one) you have neglected to download?  For best spiritual results this fall, take inventory of what you have and don’t have on hand for growth.  

2.  Back to school is getting ready to grow.  Willingly or not, back to school is naturally a time to think about growth.  It’s more easily measured in the grade school years.  For instance, when you go from addition and subtraction in math class to multiplication tables, you are growing.  Even students who don’t go to school with the desire to learn as much as they can, will end up growing.  Back to school is moving from Jr. High to Sr. High, moving off to college, finally becoming a senior, a measurable moving up the “grade” ladder.  And with each stage of progression, growth happens.  Again, I see the spiritual parallels.   This is the perfect time of year to consider what your next stage of growth in Christ is for you.  What areas in your walk to you need to mature in?  What specific spiritual discipline need more discipline?   How would you like to grow in your faith?  This is a natural time of year to talk to God about these things.  Whatever you do, don’t stay the same.  Get ready to grow!

3.  Back to school is getting back to routine.  Finally, back to school means the end of mid-week sleep-overs, camping trips, vacations, staying up and sleeping late, summer jobs and chores, and watching hours of t.v.  Soon, you’ll have to set the alarm to catch the bus, have a class schedule, and get assignments that will take hours to complete.  And you’ll development a routine, day after day, week after week that will allow you to accomplish all the stuff you have to. While we all claim to hate  the boredom of routine, there is actually something comforting about routine.  Embrace this in your spiritual walk as well.  Get back in the habit of going to church every week.  Reconnect with your small group and Christian friends.  Recommit to your daily times of prayer and the word.  Set a regular time for eating meals together as a family.  Routine allows us to form habits that become lifestyles that make us more and more like our Lord Jesus.  

It’s that time of year.  The time for new routines, new learning, new growth, and a new you.  Back to school.  

Summer is winding down, and that means that the grade schools, high schools, and universities in my town are gearing up for another year of study.  You would think that this annual rite of fall no longer has any effect on me.  After all, it has been 34 years since I prepared for my senior year of high school, and 30 since I packed up for my last year of college.  Further, it has been 6 years since I had to help my wife get a kid ready for another year of learning.  And yet, I find myself both spiritually and emotionally excited for “back to school” season.  Maybe it’s just that the “back to school” specials and ads have inundated my world, but I think it’s more.  “Back to school” (even if you aren’t actually going back) is a natural time to make some changes…both literally, emotionally, which is to say, of course, spiritually.  Consider three “back to school” practices that we all need this time of year. 1.  Back to school is a time of taking inventory.  This is the time of year when parents make their way to Wal-Mart with lists to buy supplies for their students. […]

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It happens occasionally when you get to some remote spot on the map, or a pocket where cell phone towers are not as frequent as they need to be, or when something is wrong with your provider’s satellite: the dreaded “no service” notification on your cell phone or iPad.  Now what??!!!  I can’t check the weather, get the latest sports scores, see who has posted on my Facebook page, catch up on what’s trending on Twitter, instantly communicate to my friends or loved ones,  or read Mike Baker’s latest blog (okay, almost nobody worries about that last one!).   Isn’t is amazing how desperate most of us get when we are disconnected from the Internet and all the “social” options it provides?   

This desperate desire to be connected is precisely why I’m going to intentionally disconnect for the next two weeks.  The leaders of my church have given their blessing and encouragement for me to be completely off the grid as I vacation with my wife until the beginning of August.  Here’s why I think this will be a great spiritual discipline and one I’d encourage you to try:

1.  I will be able to hear God on a deeper level.  Unfortunately, God is the voice that often gets drowned out in the cacophony of media and constant bombardment of messages.  Think of the amount of advice, opinion, and information that we consume every day.  Literally hundreds if not thousands of messages, and most of them are not necessary at best, and not Christian at worst.  God is not a shouter.  It’s not that he doesn’t have a booming voice, it’s that he calls us to listen to his still small voice.  The Psalmist says, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) and disconnecting from the Internet noise is a step in quieting my soul enough to hear him.  

2.  I won’t feel the need to talk or give opinions.  I talk for a living.  I preach four times most Sundays, and meet with staff members and church members regularly.  I speak at civic events, and even have pastoral conversations at Lowe’s when I’m looking for weed trimmer line and I hear the words “hey pastor” when I’m not looking particularly pastoral.  My spiritual gifts involve using words, but sometimes, I fear I talk too much.  So for the next two weeks, I’ll follow James’ advice – “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19).  

3.  I won’t have to fix problems.  One of the great temptations with social media and connectedness is that we become independent little messiahs who feel we need to fix everything.  This can be especially true of parents who refuse to be out of contact with their children via text messaging.  The same can be true of pastors.  We can sometimes feel like we are so important, that the church won’t go on unless we can give our wisdom on every situation that arises (like should we go with the sugar cookies or chocolate chip in our atrium Sunday morning?).  Again, disconnecting is a sign of trusting that there are well qualified leaders and volunteers that will effectively guide the church while I’m away.  God’s church, by the way, not mine!

So, I’m going to intentionally be with “no service” for the next two weeks.  Until then, consider disconnecting a few hours yourself.  I don’t think any of us will regret it.  

It happens occasionally when you get to some remote spot on the map, or a pocket where cell phone towers are not as frequent as they need to be, or when something is wrong with your provider’s satellite: the dreaded “no service” notification on your cell phone or iPad.  Now what??!!!  I can’t check the weather, get the latest sports scores, see who has posted on my Facebook page, catch up on what’s trending on Twitter, instantly communicate to my friends or loved ones,  or read Mike Baker’s latest blog (okay, almost nobody worries about that last one!).   Isn’t is amazing how desperate most of us get when we are disconnected from the Internet and all the “social” options it provides?    This desperate desire to be connected is precisely why I’m going to intentionally disconnect for the next two weeks.  The leaders of my church have given their blessing and encouragement for me to be completely off the grid as I vacation with my wife until the beginning of August.  Here’s why I think this will be a great spiritual discipline and one I’d encourage you to try: 1.  I will be able to hear God on a […]

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It’s been a bad stretch for our society. Remember how stunned everyone was over the Orlando shootings just three weeks ago? Or the fear that emerged after yet another bombing in the Istanbul airportlast week? Here we are again, the tragic deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police, followed by the shocking sniper attacks on Dallas police in the last three days. Everyone seems to have an opinion and are broadly posting these opinions on social media. I’ve noticed that many of these posts are from preachers, some of these pastors are friends of mine and some I know only from a distance. I’ve also noticed that some of these preacher posts have been useful and others have been more divisive than helpful.    So, as I thought about how I, as a preacher should (and shouldn’t) respond, I thought through a list of rules that will guide my response to this seemingly endless string of violence and social upheaval. Humbly, I share these with my pastor friends in hopes that they along with me will represent Jesus well in times like these.

1. Digitally disconnect. Before I allow the images and emotion of the constant replay of violence and injustice to bombard my mind and soul, I need to disconnect and spend time with God. I need to take my emotions, thoughts, pleas, concerns, and fears to the One with all the answers. Preacher, don’t just shoot off some reactionary tweet. Give God time and space to mold your response.

2. Get beyond your situational bias. Here’s what people sometimes don’t understand. Preachers are people: we’re black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, poor, rich, ex-cons, ex-jocks, ex-gangsters, city, country, doctorates and drop-outs, blue collar, white collar and no collar. But whoever we are, whatever we have experienced, and wherever we come from – preachers can not represent only our point of view. Our calling demands that we represent all humans because our message has no color, no social standing and no prejudice. Remember Jonah’s big fail? Arguably, the best revival preacher in history argued with God because he couldn’t get past his Jewishness. To preach in Ninevah we need to love all Ninevites, without bias for our own tribe.

3. Be biblical. As you respond make sure that every thing you say is scriptural. If you have something to say that you can’t immediately think of in context of a Bible verse, don’t post it. As many of my preacher friends do, it’s probably best just to simply post an appropriate verse with no commentary. The Bible is relevant, living, and true. As preachers, let’s allow God’s word do the heavy lifting needed in these times.

4. Point to Jesus. The answer to all of this is Jesus. He faced every injustice of every sin of every person in his life and then carried it with him to the cross. Only when America turns back to Jesus will the heart’s of people truly change. You’re a preacher and are called to point people to this life-changing savior! Proclaim the good news that Jesus understands and that he is also the solution.

5. Be confident in the hope you have. As preachers, one of our main jobs is to encourage people that Jesus has overcome all of this. He’s not surprised the by the ugliness and pain of this world’s sin, but he was confident that he had overcome. He said, “In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” ( John 16:33). There is a kingdom that is not shaken by racism, fear, violence, injustice, and all the other things sin brings our way. Jesus overcame all of this on the cross. This is the hope we should promote.

6. Don’t retweet people you don’t know. Happily, in times like these, a preacher’s voice is often magnified. This means that the people who follow us also trust the people we retweet, quote, favorite and like. Make sure the person you quote is a Christ follower, otherwise you may unwittingly push your audience to some unChristian thinking and reasoning. I checked out a Twitter account that one of my preacher friends had re-tweeted and found it to be profanity laced and hateful. Don’t give someone else your voice, especially one you wouldn’t agree with!

7. Steward your flock. As preachers, God has entrusted to each of us a certain number of people that we get to influence, inspire, and instruct. This Sunday, you have a chance to preach to those people. Some of us have dozens and some of us have thousands, but the people we do have in our congregations are the ones that God has allowed us to speak to. So speak. Point them to Jesus, preach the word. Influence who you can when you can.

Live it. You’ve heard it said a million times, “practice what you preach”. This truism is most important for preachers. You may not change the world, but you can love people of every race in your daily life. You may not start a revival, but you can show extreme faith when everyone else is afraid. You may not spark a movement, but you can move in your community with the love of Jesus flowing through you. Love. Listen. Pray. Cry. Preach.

It’s been a bad stretch for our society. Remember how stunned everyone was over the Orlando shootings just three weeks ago? Or the fear that emerged after yet another bombing in the Istanbul airportlast week? Here we are again, the tragic deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police, followed by the shocking sniper attacks on Dallas police in the last three days. Everyone seems to have an opinion and are broadly posting these opinions on social media. I’ve noticed that many of these posts are from preachers, some of these pastors are friends of mine and some I know only from a distance. I’ve also noticed that some of these preacher posts have been useful and others have been more divisive than helpful.    So, as I thought about how I, as a preacher should (and shouldn’t) respond, I thought through a list of rules that will guide my response to this seemingly endless string of violence and social upheaval. Humbly, I share these with my pastor friends in hopes that they along with me will represent Jesus well in times like these. 1. Digitally disconnect. Before I allow the images and emotion of the constant […]

Read More... at 2:13 pm Comments Off

I don’t meet many people these days who would not admit that their schedule is out of control. When asked how one is doing, the common answer seems to be “I’m busy” or “life is hectic”. Even the carefree teenage years have been defined in poll after poll by the word “stressed”. Believe me, I’m not the exception to this rule, but recently I’ve been convicted that this is not the way God intended for humans to live. God does not want us to be “busy” all the time. Maybe it’s time to address the spiritual discipline of time management.

As far as I can tell, there are three who ultimately have access to our calendars and the schedules we keep. A good biblical interaction with these three will help us lead less busy and more peaceful lives

1. God. First and foremost, God is in charge of our calendars and schedules. From creation God designed humans to enjoy a rhythm of rest. God made us in such a way that we need sleep every night to renew us for the next day. You are supposed to sleep 1/3 of your life! Not only that, but God also designated a day of rest within each week. At the end of his creation, he rested and set a pattern for rest called “Sabbath” for mankind to follow. If your schedule is such that you aren’t sleeping enough or not taking a regular day off; you are busier than God designed you to be. To go on like this is to disobey him with your time.

2. You. The second most important person when it comes to your schedule is you. I know that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how we sometimes let others take control of our time. The Bible gives us some guidance here as well. Our plans should be made with awareness that God is in control of it all. James asks “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (James 4:14-15). Then we find that we should be “making the most of the time, for the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). God’s desire for us is to get the very best out of our time. We only have so many days. We can’t and shouldn’t do everything. There are some better ways to use our time. Allow yourself to say “no” more and consider what the best things are and this will help you have a holy schedule.

3. Others. Finally, others have access to our calendar and schedule by demanding time from us. Spouses, children, bosses, coaches, friends, extended family, and church leaders regularly ask us for our time. Deciding what to say “yes” to is the test we often fail. In an attempt to please everyone, we over-schedule and consequently have little energy to please anyone. I’ve noticed in Scripture that Jesus didn’t allow anyone else to have control over his calendar. They tried, but he moved at his own pace. Remember how long it took for him to get to Lazarus’ house when his sisters told him his friend was sick? By the time, he got there, Lazarus had died! If Jesus could save the world without being stressed and busy, we should be able to live our lives in the same way. The key is to focus on the things God has entrusted to you and give them highest priority. Once you have a reasonable amount of activity for those things and people who are most important in your life, then you can say “no” to everything else with confidence that you are using your time as God intended.

Take some time today to consider your calendar and work at lining it up with God’s design for your life. Then the next time someone asks how you’re doing, maybe you’ll be able to answer “rested and peaceful”.

I don’t meet many people these days who would not admit that their schedule is out of control. When asked how one is doing, the common answer seems to be “I’m busy” or “life is hectic”. Even the carefree teenage years have been defined in poll after poll by the word “stressed”. Believe me, I’m not the exception to this rule, but recently I’ve been convicted that this is not the way God intended for humans to live. God does not want us to be “busy” all the time. Maybe it’s time to address the spiritual discipline of time management. As far as I can tell, there are three who ultimately have access to our calendars and the schedules we keep. A good biblical interaction with these three will help us lead less busy and more peaceful lives 1. God. First and foremost, God is in charge of our calendars and schedules. From creation God designed humans to enjoy a rhythm of rest. God made us in such a way that we need sleep every night to renew us for the next day. You are supposed to sleep 1/3 of your life! Not only that, but God also designated a […]

Read More... at 2:06 pm Comments Off

Let me begin here.  Throughout my ministry I have adamantly and intentionally remained non-political.  This article will not be the exception.  THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT FOR TRUMP OR ANY CANDIDATE!  I have said before, when a presidential candidate says, “Jesus Christ is the answer for America”, then, and only then, will I take political sides.  Until that time, I will use every speaking opportunity I have to endorse Jesus.   With that said however, there are things to be learned from every presidential election cycle.  And I believe that Donald Trump can teach 21st century American preachers a lesson or two (okay three).

Again, let me reiterate that I am not endorsing Donald Trump, but one must admit that his nomination as the presumptive Republican nominee is one of the most stunning, fascinating, and polarizing political events in recent memory.  What many thought was a joke or some sort of  publicity stunt turned into a winning campaign.  But why?  Well, there must be something (or things) that he did that struck a nerve with a majority of voters.  What is it?  I think there are three things that Trump has hit on that we as preachers can learn from.  Here are three lessons for those who teach the Word of God.

1.  Unapologetic boldness.  This guy is bold!  Brash?  Yes.  Arrogant?  Yes.  But what I can not get over is how bold he is.  Every speech he gives is just so sure that his words are right.  He talks about world leaders, media people, and political opponents with an assuredness that is intimidating.  Even the pope backed down from his remarks about “the Donald”!   I think one of the things missing in today’s preaching is boldness.  It’s as if we are ashamed of the true, life giving nature of the gospel we proclaim.  It sometimes feels as if we are shying away from preaching the hard stuff that may be offensive.  I wonder if our people are waiting for some courageous, fearless preaching instead of the soft-sell gospel we often offer.  When it comes to the teaching of Jesus and his word, we need to recover some of the boldness of the early church whose persecution only emboldened them.

2.  Refusal to follow cultural script.  Once more, let me go on record saying I don’t endorse anything Trump has said.  And you know what?  He doesn’t care.  He is not trying to be “politically correct” for me or anyone else.  He’s not trying to sound like a politician.  He will not soften his words to appear “presidential”.  His nomination reveals that for all our media-driven, political rhetoric for social change, a fairly large number of people are not buying the hype.  What else could it mean?  People are voting for a guy who is not saying the “right things”!  What will they do with preachers who go off script to preach the word of God?  I think it’s time for preachers to stop trying to say the “right things” people want to hear and start saying things that are right, that people need to hear.  The message of Christ and consistent teaching from the Bible will find us in opposition to this culture’s script, but it might be just the thing people long to hear.  Maybe we should stop scratching itching ears with our preaching, scratch a soul one instead.  

3.  Authenticity.  Whatever you think about him, Donald Trump is authentic.  As far as I can tell, he is being himself.  He has always been a ruthless, straight-shooting business man who always thinks his way is right.  Remember his famous line from his show? “You’re fired!”  This is who he is.  He may be authentically a jerk, but guess what?  People (even those who don’t like who he is) admire him for being himself.  In politics (and I’m afraid too often in pulpits) listeners intuit that those doing the talking are not the least bit sincere.  Preachers have gotten a reputation for being fake and hypocritical.  Trust me, I’m not down on preachers.  Much of people’s assumptions about us are untrue.  On the other hand, we have been characterized as inauthentic so we must work hard at being real.  This begins with preaching all the Bible in a straightforward way with a humble honesty about who we are as God’s spokesmen.  

Well, there you have it.  Don’t know whose gonna be the next president, but I do know that God provides me with an audience every Sunday and I believe my best preaching is unapologetically bold, not culturally scripted, and authentic.  

Let me begin here.  Throughout my ministry I have adamantly and intentionally remained non-political.  This article will not be the exception.  THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT FOR TRUMP OR ANY CANDIDATE!  I have said before, when a presidential candidate says, “Jesus Christ is the answer for America”, then, and only then, will I take political sides.  Until that time, I will use every speaking opportunity I have to endorse Jesus.   With that said however, there are things to be learned from every presidential election cycle.  And I believe that Donald Trump can teach 21st century American preachers a lesson or two (okay three). Again, let me reiterate that I am not endorsing Donald Trump, but one must admit that his nomination as the presumptive Republican nominee is one of the most stunning, fascinating, and polarizing political events in recent memory.  What many thought was a joke or some sort of  publicity stunt turned into a winning campaign.  But why?  Well, there must be something (or things) that he did that struck a nerve with a majority of voters.  What is it?  I think there are three things that Trump has hit on that we as preachers can learn from. […]

Read More... at 1:29 pm Comments Off

Recently, I was drawn to the story of Jacob in Genesis 28.  You’ll remember him as the third member of that famous covenant trio of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But at this point in his life we find him in a place called Luz on his way to his uncle’s house and so tired, he uses a stone for a pillow.  But something happened that changed everything for him.  Through a dream of angels on a ladder to heaven, he found God.  Here’s how the Scripture recorded his discovery  “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’” (Genesis 28:16).  I think that we are often like Jacob in three ways.

1.  On the run from the past.  Jacob was on the run from his past.  His life of cheating and deceiving had finally caught up with him.  After stealing his brother Esau’s blessing, his brother threatened to kill him and Jacob’s mother took the threat seriously enough to send her favorite son to her brother’s house.  Like Jacob, we have all done things, said things, hurt people, been hurt, made mistakes, and failed greatly in our collective pasts.  We have a tendency to run from these things and try to put them as far behind us as we can.

2.  Heading into an uncertain future.  Not only was Jacob running from his past, he was heading into the unknown.  He grew up in Beesheba and now he was traveling to his uncle’s house in Haran over 450 miles away.  Sure, he was family, but as he would soon find out, Uncle Laban was a cheat worse than him.  Like Jacob, we have a lot of unknowns we walk towards every day.  Will I get married?  What will I be?  Where will I live?  What is God’s plan for me?  How will this turn out? Will I get cancer?  Will I be healed?  Will I be okay financially?  How will my kids turn out?  I could go on.  Truth is, we all are on this “unknown” path of Jacob’s.

3.  In the “nowhere” in between.  Finally, Jacob stopped for the night in a “random” place.  Just a place to lay down and get some rest.  I think we all take for granted the place in which we find ourselves.  Have you noticed?  Everyone seems to want to be somewhere else all the time.  Why does life always feel like we’re in a nowhere town with jobs, relationships, and lives that are going nowhere?  Could it be that this “no place” is an awesome place?

Well, it is if God is there.  What Jacob didn’t know is that the God of his past (“I am the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac” – Genesis 28:13) was also the God of his future (“I am with you and will watch over you” Genesis 28:15) as well as the God of his present (“this is none other than the house of God” – Genesis 28:17).  What made Luz an awesome place?  The location hadn’t changed, but Jacob’s awareness of God had.  

Maybe we should consider today that the God of our past is directing our future and this place is an important God-stop along the way.  Maybe the difference between our living in Luz and Bethel is just realizing Who is with us here.  When we do, we’ll discover an awesome place.

Recently, I was drawn to the story of Jacob in Genesis 28.  You’ll remember him as the third member of that famous covenant trio of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But at this point in his life we find him in a place called Luz on his way to his uncle’s house and so tired, he uses a stone for a pillow.  But something happened that changed everything for him.  Through a dream of angels on a ladder to heaven, he found God.  Here’s how the Scripture recorded his discovery  “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.’” (Genesis 28:16).  I think that we are often like Jacob in three ways. 1.  On the run from the past.  Jacob was on the run from his past.  His life of cheating and deceiving had finally caught up with him.  After stealing his brother Esau’s blessing, his brother threatened to kill him and Jacob’s mother took the threat seriously enough to send her favorite son to her brother’s house.  Like Jacob, we have all done things, said things, hurt people, been hurt, made mistakes, and failed greatly in our […]

Read More... at 1:20 pm Comments Off

So, I’ve spent much of the last month writing a strategy for our church that extends from 2016 well into 2026.  Actually this strategy has been in the making for the past 6-8 months via many prayers, staff conversations, planning retreats, budget considerations, number crunching, staff and volunteer input, Holy Spirit nudges, biblical inspiration, timely interactions and experiences, and more prayer.  Honestly, since God is always moving and moving his people, ideas and potential actions are unending.  Still, I am called yearly to present to the other elders of Eastview a plan for what we are going to do to accomplish our vision.  

Some people wonder why we need a strategy.  If God is sovereign and his will is going to be done and his church is going to prevail; do we really need to come up with a plan for how to accomplish it all?  Not to mention there are millions of things we don’t know as we make plans for the future (like if this is the last day of the world or our lives, for instance).  Here’s my biblical conclusion.  In a way that we can’t understand, the God of the universe will advance his kingdom and by his choice he uses the strategies of his people to do so.  In other words, God could make it all happen without us and our plans and our strategies, but he doesn’t.  Here are some strategy lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1.  Tell God that we know our limitations and can’t do it without his help.  Solomon, one of the greatest builders of all time, says this, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” Psalm 127:1 KJV.  In other words, no matter how smart you are, or how well you plan, or how prepared you may be.  You will not accomplish anything for God without God doing the work.  Remember, it’s his house you are building and not yours.  This should help guide what you think about your building ability.

2.  Admit we don’t know what the future holds.   Strategies naturally talk about what we will do with our resources of time, people, and facilities over the course of the next several years.  The problem is that we don’t know what the next several years (or hours for that matter) may hold.  So, we should not write strategies of what we are going to do.  “Instead you ought to say, ‘if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:15).   This means that strategies are always written in pencil, because you’re going to have to erase as circumstances, challenges and new opportunities arise.

3.  Expect the Holy Spirit to guide us.  The goal in every strategy that we write around here, is to be able to present it with a confident “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” Acts 15:28.  All through the process of strategic planning, we absolutely trust that as we try to accomplish God’s will in God’s church through God’s people, that God’s spirit will absolutely be involved.  We credit great ideas and consensus among leaders as signs that the Holy Spirit is leading us.  Conversely, we have witnessed times where we have wrestled with great ideas that simply fell to the wayside.  Why?  Because the Holy Spirit didn’t endorse it.  

4.  Pray what you believe.  Finally, we believe that a strategic plan causes us to pray harder for things we articulate by faith.  When we write something on paper that we believe God can do and wants to do through us; we tend to seek his power to accomplish it.  It may sound crazy, but as I look back over the last nine years of plans.  Most of them have either come to pass or have exceeded our expectations.  Why?  I believe that we asked God to do what only he can do, believing we were following his Spirit.  

So, I submit another plan…and I can’t wait to see what God does to bring it about.

So, I’ve spent much of the last month writing a strategy for our church that extends from 2016 well into 2026.  Actually this strategy has been in the making for the past 6-8 months via many prayers, staff conversations, planning retreats, budget considerations, number crunching, staff and volunteer input, Holy Spirit nudges, biblical inspiration, timely interactions and experiences, and more prayer.  Honestly, since God is always moving and moving his people, ideas and potential actions are unending.  Still, I am called yearly to present to the other elders of Eastview a plan for what we are going to do to accomplish our vision.   Some people wonder why we need a strategy.  If God is sovereign and his will is going to be done and his church is going to prevail; do we really need to come up with a plan for how to accomplish it all?  Not to mention there are millions of things we don’t know as we make plans for the future (like if this is the last day of the world or our lives, for instance).  Here’s my biblical conclusion.  In a way that we can’t understand, the God of the universe will advance his kingdom […]

Read More... at 2:42 pm Comments Off

“That’ll leave a mark” is the constant refrain of the accident prone Tommy (played by Chris Farley) throughout the 1995 film Tommy Boy.  It’s simple, when something hard strikes a softer object (like Tommy’s head) it will leave some sort of impression.  And believe it or not, this is what we as Christians are called to do.  This is what Paul is talking about throughout his letters to believers in the first century when he uses the word “example”.

In II Thessalonians 3:6-9  Paul is reminding the Christians that while he was with them, he worked with his own hands to support himself.  It’s not that he wasn’t worthy of receiving monetary support while he preached the gospel.  Instead, he says in verse 9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”  Notice that word “example” in this verse.  It is the Greek word “tupon” which literally means “to strike” or “leave a mark”.  In Paul’s day it described (among other things) the mark left when a chisel was driven into a piece of marble to leave an impression (usually in the form of a letter for a monument).  We get our word “type” from this ancient word.  An old typewriter had individual keys that struck the page and left a distinctive mark on a sheet of paper.  

This means that Paul worked in Thessalonica to leave a mark on the Christians there.  Or said another way, he wanted to set an example.  Of course this “leaving a mark” is one of the most effective ways for Christ followers to influence the lives of those around us.  People often imitate our example better than listen to what we say.  As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.”  This is the advice Paul gives Timothy when people look down on him because he is young “set an example (tupon again – literally “leave a mark on those around you”) by your speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity” I Timothy 4:12.

So what are you doing today that will leave a mark on people that you hope makes a lasting impression.  What marks your children in your commitment to church?  They will follow your example long after they have heard your words.  What impresses your friends in your speech?  No amount of posing as a Jesus follower will influence more than what they consistently hear you say.  What example are you setting in your workplace or school with your ambitions, attitudes, and response to adversity?  People are watching us Christians.  Our actions matter, and good or bad, the way we act, love, talk, and live will change how they respond to Jesus.  And that’ll leave a mark that last forever.

Two questions: What in my life is an example worth imitating?  And What in my life is not worth imitating?  Pray for God to help you with the latter and magnify the former.  Cause both are gonna leave a mark. 

“That’ll leave a mark” is the constant refrain of the accident prone Tommy (played by Chris Farley) throughout the 1995 film Tommy Boy.  It’s simple, when something hard strikes a softer object (like Tommy’s head) it will leave some sort of impression.  And believe it or not, this is what we as Christians are called to do.  This is what Paul is talking about throughout his letters to believers in the first century when he uses the word “example”. In II Thessalonians 3:6-9  Paul is reminding the Christians that while he was with them, he worked with his own hands to support himself.  It’s not that he wasn’t worthy of receiving monetary support while he preached the gospel.  Instead, he says in verse 9 – “It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”  Notice that word “example” in this verse.  It is the Greek word “tupon” which literally means “to strike” or “leave a mark”.  In Paul’s day it described (among other things) the mark left when a chisel was driven into a piece of marble to leave an impression (usually in the form of a letter for […]

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