Just Listen

[Disclaimer here: This is a shorter blog entry due to being on Sabbatical. However, I felt compelled to share a miniature update here.]

So it’s been 6 weeks since Sabbatical began. That alone seems unreal, yet, it’s accurate. In this time of refocus and rest, I can state very emphatically that the words I have heard over and over again from the Lord, in a multiple of ways are the 2 found in the title above: “Just Listen!”

That is exactly what I am doing, and I want to report: It has taken every ounce of effort and focus for me to do this – but I am determined to see it through. Beyond all else, in this season, I do not want to come out of it feeling as if (in any way) I didn’t seek and listen to the Lord. To me, that would be a tragedy and a complete waste of what the Sabbatical intends to do and provide.

I humbly request your continued prayers, and please know, I continue to seek and pray for you. I believe God has something very special and custom-tailored for us ahead. That is something we can believe in because He has our best interests at heart…always! Grateful…


A Season for Everything

It has been 11 years since I was first entrusted to follow the Lord’s call, from everything that had been familiar, with the “new” call to lead and under-shepherd God’s Church. But it was in 1999 that the journey really commenced, when we were led to the Harrisonburg First Church of the Nazarene. For nearly 7 years, God planted us in that local life-saving station to be nurtured, to grow, and to be discipled by some of the most gifted and godly servants I have ever known.

In 2002, while at the altar, God confirmed that I would be beginning a new phase to prepare for a life transition. And there could be no doubt that in order for my/our life to be redirected and uprooted in that time, it would take nothing short of the Lord Himself to navigate it. From furthering education after being out of college for 10 years to making energy, finances, and opportunities available – only He could have pulled it together. Confirmation came in God’s time as things started to fall into place, and as others verified what God was doing.

Some of what God dealt with and lead us through: Our current church and our involvement. Family demands. A very full-time job as a Manufacturing Manager. 2 young boys (at that time), 2 more who God gave us in the midst of it. Close friends and ties to a community I had grown up in. All of this – all of it – was going to be redirected as the call of God saturated my life. The only response I knew and could utter: “Lord, I will do what you say! I will go where you lead! Just lead the way and I will follow.”

So now, after 11 years serving in the Pastorate: 1 year on the Virginia District, and now 10 with the North Carolina District, I have been blessed to have been given and granted a Sabbatical. Yes, you heard that correctly: a Sabbatical. A time of refocus, renewal, and rest. And I must say: While I am very much looking forward to it and to what God will reveal, I am also a bit reserved. Rest? Downtime? Getting out of the routine? Being quiet and just listening to God?

For a Type AAA personality, that can be a daunting challenge. I recognize that. But I am sensing that for the long-term, for the betterment of Christ’s Kingdom, His Church, and those who do serve full-time in the ministry – it is absolutely needed. Far beyond a “want” there is the need. The need to refocus, to put first-things-first, to get back to living and leading from a position of strength and not weakness, and for long-term effectiveness and longevity – it is needed.

So many emotions, feelings, and thoughts fill my heart, mind, and soul. So much to pray for and think of and do. But even with the unknowns, I believe God is going to use this season in a variety of incredible, Spirit-filled ways. And I can’t wait to see how others respond, and step up, and utilize their God-given gifts. I am believing that God is going to do that and bring growth and vitality to His church.

I would like to thank our Leadership and Sabbatical Team at Bridgeway and our District Superintendent, Dr. Greg Mason. I so cherish and appreciate their support and approval because I know that they “get” the importance of it to the health of pastors, families, and the church body and mission as a whole. I would only ask for your prayers, for your deepest prayers in this time, and for your active continued participation in the ministries and mission we are called to work out. During this time: Get more anchored. Become more involved. Seek new opportunities to serve. Fill the gaps and step up. That is what I am hoping for, praying for, and believing in.

Without doubt, you are in my prayers and will go with me into this season. God is with us and He truly has our best interests at heart. You are loved by the One Who is love! BT!


When You’re Not Here

For as far back as I remember, to say that I’ve been a “sports enthusiast” is a gross understatement. As a young boy, as a teenager, as a younger adult – I have been immersed in athletics and sports at all levels, and across most leagues and the many conferences. But beyond what I’ve been, I know people (several) who don’t and won’t miss a game! Whether it’s in person, live on TV, or part of an expensive satellite package – they simply will never need the DVR. They can’t wait and they won’t wait to watch it later. Years ago, if/when we could “get tickets” to something – it would be exciting. No doubt about that. But what I came to see and realize is that when I couldn’t make it, or rearrange the schedule, or reschedule an appointment, or get the next day off work – was that my not being there didn’t impact the crowd and it certainly never changed the outcome of the game. In other words, my inability or unavailability to attenddidn’t alter the atmosphere because my attendance wasn’t missed.

That is a reality, a very direct reality that is absolutely true.

But you know what? After I first believed and became a Christian…it didn’t take long for me to see things entirely differently about the church. Perhaps it was one of the few things that just seemed to come quickly, and clearly, in my journey. So I want to take a moment or two just to elaborate in the hope that it will help someone, in some way, and to some extent.

So let’s get right to the truth: When we miss Worship, when will genuinely don’t make it a priority for God, for ourselves, and the church body – the church suffers. I have heard people try to dispel and dismantle church/corporate worship attendance over the years, many of whom are professing “Christians.” Some have gone so far as to try to use God’s Word, The Bible, to do this very thing. It’s kind of like the seminary student who misses church in order to stay home and study on Sunday morning. Crazy, huh? But the truth is: It holds no weight and it has no substance. ReadHebrews 10. God’s Word is emphatic about being a part of His body, The Church, for the furtherance of His Kingdom. And to this, one must be present.

When you, or I, or anyone who is a part of the church is not there…

  • The body of the church is incomplete;
  • Our voice, and heart, and passion is not heard or felt when it is lifted up, corporately, to God;
  •  We cannot actively serve God or others (who may need our gifts and talents);
  • We do not receive God’s Word and challenge, which often can be, and is, custom tailored to speak to us more directly;
  • We miss out on corporate prayer, encouraging others and building them up; anointing, and testimony;
  • We forfeit the blessing of fellowship with others;
  • We send a message to kids and youth (future generations) that missing church for a litany of “stuff” is acceptable and “just fine!” Statistics among Millennials show this to be all too accurate.
  • We miss out on what God does throughout the worship encounter; and we miss very special aspects like communion, 1st time decisions, renewed commitments, child dedications, honoring and celebrating victories, etc.
  • For more serious patterns of absence – signs of apathy and indifference can really set in, and be hard to break;
  • It is harder for others as they bear more of the weight of ministry, which goes against our beliefs, sound doctrines, and the very teachings of Christ to be unified as one body.

While not an all-inclusive list, we have most certainly gone deeper. And no, it’s not to say that illness and vacation and work are not real legitimate things. Of course they are! But still, even to this day, illness/vacation/required work are a small % of the reason people (mostly Christians) miss worship. The much more frequent reasons have to do with “a day to sleep in” “going to the beach” “the kids didn’t want to” or “we just overslept” – to name a few.

Trust me: The Church misses you…your local church misses you…the various ministries in and around the church misses you…when you aren’t present. When missing and skipping church becomes a regular/systematic practice, here is really what occurs: We stymie our own spiritual growthwe can fall back and sputter outand we really weaken the ministries and vision of the entire church body.

God has given and provided us a place where we can truly belong. We are His ambassadors and representatives, who were bought at a great price. There is no question: It beats and far exceeds any sports or concert or entertainment venue, where it doesn’t make a difference if we’re there or not! Your attendance matters at church and it must always matter. So come and be a part of what God is doing and will do, in our midst, and have presence. You are both needed and wanted in this great mission.


A Big Difference

There is a big difference in these two: confidence and arrogance. While it may seem to go without saying, it seems that some do struggle with it deeply. I’m not talking about the world or those in politics or business. For the purpose of this post, I reference those in the Church and engaged in the Mission. Does the Church, and more specifically, does some of its people and leaders understand the undeniable difference between confidence and arrogance?

I pray we do. I sincerely hope we do. And I am glad that God has placed me, and my family, in a church that does. But if some don’t get it, we should be praying without ceasing that God will get a hold of us and show us that we should have confidence in Him and in what He has done and is doing in our life, in our world, and with His others. But the reality is that there are traces and many examples of nothing but arrogance (today) among some who claim and state to be Christian, churched, and informed.

In the last few weeks, a very large Christian publication with a tremendous presence tackled this very issue with a title that was eye and heart grabbing. The title, “Elitism,” and it showed how churches and movements today are following a doctrine of internal self exceptionalism. What it promotes and teaches, at the core, really flies in the face of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and only creates more confusion and divide between a lost and fallen world and the Good News we have received and are called to distribute.

Arrogance. Narcissistic. Prideful. Conceit. I know better than you. I have it all figured out. No one else is as good as us. We have the answers. You know, I have personally had to help several people, in counseling, who were indoctrinated and churched in this way and who desired to be freed from it. It is not a theory or a rare form of theology – it is becoming more prominent, and unfortunately, more widespread.

These are all ways to define this dangerous and toxic attitude. But it’s more than just an attitude – it’s become a central pinnacle in both movements and networks.

Here is some of God’s truth, from 1st Corinthians 1, that I believe speaks right into it and against this: Brothers and sisters, consider what you were when God called you to be Christians. Not many of you were wise from a human point of view. You were not in powerful positions or in the upper social classes. 27 But God chose what the world considers nonsense to put wise people to shame. God chose what the world considers weak to put what is strong to shame. 28 God chose what the world considers ordinary and what it despises—what it considers to be nothing—in order to destroy what it considers to be something. 29 As a result, no one can brag in God’s presence. 30 You are partners with Christ Jesus because of God. Jesus has become our wisdom sent from God, our approval, our holiness, and our ransom from sin. 31 As Scripture says, “Whoever brags must brag about what the Lord has done” (vv.26-31).

I believe some like to hear their own voices. I believe some like their own style. I believe some like to boast on what they have done. I even know of many examples of people/leaders who believe and think that no one can do it as well as they do it.

How dangerous this is, in the Kingdom of God!

Aren’t we to be humble? To serve others? To build up the Kingdom of God in grace, in humility, and in love? I’m not saying that we don’t stand for beliefs, and values, and essentials – but rather, we don’t teeter on the line of elitism or exclusiveness. No, that is not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I end with the words written by the Apostle Paul, because the longer I go on in this life, the more I relate…“I am least in the Kingdom of God!” 

Blessings and joy,

Higher Altitude

[This post was formulated during a counseling session, and while name is withheld, permission to share was given because that’s how we do things.]

A few weeks ago now, I was asked to meet with a man who was struggling. After setting up a time about 48 hours later, he met me at the church.

After the greeting and welcoming, my initial prayer followed by a start question was directed at breaking some ice and getting to the heart of what was wrong. Note here: I really didn’t have a lot of pre-gathering info to have a formulation of what was going on. This gathering was the “ice-cracker” to learn and to listen.

About 5 minutes into his sharing, and my occasional asking ~ he made this statement, which I wrote down verbatim: “I know God wants me at a ‘higher altitude’, but I just can’t seem to get there.” Just so you know for the record: Everybody who is living and breathing today; everyone who is still walking on planet earth in 2016 right now, spare no one, has something that is hindering, slowing down, or altogether bucking up against our Christ-followship. No matter how long people have been alive, how experienced they are in following Jesus Christ as Lord, where they live, what’s happened in their past, or what situations and circumstances have now arisen ~ there is always a battle, a circumstance, or a situation that is being contended with or flushed out.

Here is a list of possible things: busyness, drama, finances, home-life, illnesses, relationships, kids, school, sports, work,  etc. etc. etc. In all, just about anything will “rob your joy” “deplete your energy” and “distract your focus.” But the answer also resides in this fact: “if you will let it/allow it.”  There is one and only one person who can permit these things to occur, and that person is YOU. That is a point that seemed to be clear in this appointment, without my even having to say it, verbally. It just seemed to surface right there, right then. And God made it exceptionally clear.

The fact is: In most all cases when things are seemingly most difficult and challenging to us spiritually, if we really look at it, we aren’t as close to God as we ought to be. More than not, we are relying on things like experience, intuition, self-sufficiency, and just for time to pass. Question is: Where is God in all of it? Maybe we’ve been putting off making Him our first priority. Perhaps we’re slack in our Worship or in our commitment. It could be that we are minimizing the purpose and role of our church family: simply not showing up, not investing in this mission or in others, dodging what God is revealing to our heart. The list is full of things we could insert here. Insert yours: ________________.

But in it all, and through it all, the voice of the One Who is completely able to bring forth restoration, hope, and healing comes. Sometimes as loud as a rushing wind, other times as a soft whisper. And here is what He says… “I came to give life, and life more abundantly” (John 10, v.10).

It doesn’t mean there won’t be problems. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have seasons of hurt, of uncertainty, or of deep challenge. But it does mean you will have a different focus from a “higher altitude.” And that altitude, friends, brings us closer to the One Who is the light of the world. When we see from His perspective, things change. Our viewpoint shifts. We even observe things that we couldn’t see, or get, or understand before.

This particular counseling session ended after about an hour. In that time, I answered about 2 questions and he answered about 12 of his own. When he left, he looked back at me and said, “I’m glad I came today” and I responded, “The most important thing is that Jesus was here with us, and He is with you.” Let’s never forget that! He has our best interests at heart.

Joy for the journey!

Faith @ Work

“Whatever you do, whether in word or in action, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” – Colosians 3, v.17

Most today will spend about 1/3 of their working life at their place/location of work. We set the alarm, hit the snooze button a few times, crawl out of bed, get the early morning chores done, down some coffee, send everyone off to school, and then start the day. Lunchtime comes around 12 noon. Back to work shortly thereafter. But if we are all just honest, some days it’s a struggle to keep focused and honed in until the work is done, until the shift is over, or until it’s time to go home.

This can be the routine day after day, 5 or even 6 days a week. And many people ask and deeply wonder: “Is there a point, or a purpose, to all of this?”  Come on now…everyone’s asked that at least once or twice.

Here is another question (or set of questions that arise, for the believing Christian): “How is my relationship with God growing in all of this?” or “Amidst all these work related issues, and problems, and deadlines…how can I flourish in my faith?”

Let me tell you this: I know it. I faced it. It was real in so many ways for many years. And here is the reality of what it can do: The temptation is to divide our life into at least 2 parts when work is concerned: (1) Life at work; and (2) Life with the church family. It can further divide from there, but let’s take these 2 for now.

Let’s interject this question, and trust me, it is a real and present question that God will integrate into your experience and situation. Here it is: “What is God’s expectation of me, at work? Surely He understands; surely He knows what I am facing at my workplace. He knows how busy and overloaded and tired I am. What is His expectation?”

In part, and get ready for this:

  • He expects that those others, His other people at your workplace, will see your faith in action. Not just words. Not just a cute picture or a Scriptural passage hanging around your workstation. Not just your Cross earrings or bracelet. You see, your co-workers know about your faith. Most, or at least some, know about your involvement in a local church. You’ve probably even told a few “I will pray for you” as they faced a crisis or a life situation.So whatever your job is, whatever work it is you do day in and day out – make your life “the pleasing fragrance of Christ” (see 2 Corinthians 2, v.15). Look and seek ways to model your faith in “gentleness and respect” and “always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope” (I Peter 3, v.15). Some days and seasons, this will be among the most challenging things you can do.  Again, I know. But it is in these times that people, your co-workers, are looking at you, and to you, to see how you respond.
  • Stay Focused in it all. If you ever wonder, “How did I end up here?” or “I wonder if people see that I don’t really have it all together?” or “How can I be a witness here?” – you are in good company.Read the account of Esther and the life-lessons that she gleaned from Mordecai. It is amazing how closely our lessons are to those shared in the Scriptures. You know, they are there for a reason. God knows and He placed them there for a very specific purpose: To encourage us, to teach us, and to build us up!

    God has placed you, where you are planted, for a very specific plan that He is executing and working out. Your work is a mission-field and He will bring you opportunities to share His hope, joy, love, and healing right where you are. You are there, like Mordecai, “for such a time as this” (read Esther 4).

  • God is present with you. He will never leave you or forsake you – that is His promise! Don’t think this excludes your work, your job, or your workplace. God is there…He is here…He is everywhere.He will use you and your influence to reach those around you, to expand His Kingdom and His Church. Just be willing. Not for your glory or so that anyone can boast, but so that you can be a vessel of His divine and undeniable presence. You can be that vehicle! In the words of my brother, mentor, and pastor, Kerry Willis, “Bloom where you are planted.” Then, begin to plant seeds so that they can bloom.

I really do hope this encourages someone at work, whether tomorrow, next week, or next month. I have spent years in places and positions where I have wondered myself. Some that were not at all, on the surface, seemingly interested in belief, or hope, or the Lord Jesus. But you know what? In deep ways that only God could see and sift through, they were. And God was working, right there, even if I couldn’t see it or understand it.

Don’t give up on Hope, because Hope has a Name: Jesus Christ. And He will shine through you anywhere, if you will just let Him.



Bye, Bye Pride!


You may read that title (at the top) and think, “Yeah, right!”  I get that, and I am sure many others do as well. But the fact is: In our faith and in our follow-ship of the Lord Jesus Christ, pride has no room and we should have no tolerance or allowance for it.

Life’s pace can be ridiculous at times. Fast. Quick. In a hurry. – all ways that people describe the incredible and increasing pace. There are real and desperate needs of family. The pressure and demands of work. The escalating friction of the world. Hard and urgent situations. It doesn’t take much for one, for anyone, to develop and feed a prideful position and posture. It’s the pull and tug of the world.

If we are simply honest: pride often sets in when we think too highly or lofty of ourselves. And it just typically blows up from there. We will trust our own wisdom, our own capabilities, and our own resolve. And by doing this, by placing our confidence in “ourselves” – the typical outcome is that we can end up thinking too little of those who are around us; no matter who they are. In the Book of Proverbs, however, the Word states that “God opposes the proud…”

The remedy for this is to allow God, through the infilling presence and revelation of the Holy Spirit, to direct us and train us in humility. Not to elevate ourselves and devalue others, but to be good in listening, slow to anger, and quick to forgive. Oh yes, there are many more things we could list and expand on – but let’s start with these 3. No one said or claimed it would be easy – but what is godly and right, usually isn’t. Nevertheless, let us be seekers after God’s own heart. Let’s trust Him. Let’s put Him first.

Lord, help us in humility. Help us to be done with pride once and for all – that we would lean on You more and more and on ourselves less and less. We need You to help us in this, and we yield to Your ways. May we truly be people, men and women and teens and children who see You for Who You really are, and desire Your Spirit to be our true Guide. We love You Lord, and we thank You in advance for Your work. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.