Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Sunday I finished up a series called "Present" (you can listen to the messages here). The idea is that we need to be more present in the lives of people. Jesus modeled it by coming to earth to dwell among men. He was "Present" through the discipleship process as he chose 12 guys to do life with. He then tells his disciples to be "Present" in the world connecting people to Jesus as disciple makers.

I met with three groups this past week where we discussed Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." 

This verse means you need people in your life who are authentic, real and you trust enough to speak into your heart to make you a better person. While most agree that we need others to help us do life better we often forget this is not always a pleasant process.

In order for a knife, sword or tool to be sharpened there mus be some tension. There is a chipping away at the old in order to get a new, sharper edge. The problem is we don't liked to be stretched. We don't like the friction and tension. But this is what is necessary in order to be sharpened and get better. If we don't let others sharpen us then we can get pretty dull.

So there are a couple questions to consider:

1) Who do you let sharpen you  . . .

           . . . in your faith?
           . . . to be a better spouse?
           . . . to be a better parent?
           . . . to be a better friend?

2) Who are you sharpening?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Am I a Disciple?

In John 8:31 Jesus makes this statement, "If you hold to my teaching, you will really be my disciples."

Disciples are not defined by church attendance. They are not defined by self-proclamation. They are not defined by how many Bible verses memorized or if you carry a Bible. They are not defined by praying before a meal, in the morning or in the evening. They are not defined by how much you give in an offering.

Disciples do all the stuff mentioned above, but there is one defining thing according to Jesus that "really" qualifies someone one of His disciples. Do you hold to Jesus' teachings? Do you imitate Him?

Do people know you are a follower because you say you are a follower or because you live as a follower?

Our challenge is to live a little more like Jesus today than we did yesterday.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Church Marketing

Recently, I have heard people talk about how we need to do more advertising in the newspapers, radio or on our sign. The argument is that the way to get more people to come to the church is to market the church better.

I agree we need to do a better job in marketing the church, I just don't agree with the method or the message.

The method of advertising in the media is expensive and it does not produce great results. I understand the argument that people need to know who we are in the community, but what does an advertisement do other than giving the time we meet, where we are located and how to contact the church.

Important stuff, but that doesn't make people stay. They may come one time, staying for a few weeks, but whether they stay long term depends on so much more. We can say we have great music (which we do), a children's program and biblical teaching, but if we are not helping people connect with Jesus we are missing the mark.

If the church would become intentional on reflecting the image of Jesus in our community people would know who are and find out where we worship. When we live out the message people take notice. People become interested. People give of their time and resources at a higher level. An impact is made on the lives of those around us and on those who live out the mission of the church.

When we do a great day of service and people are serving in the community those they are serving or serving with begin to inquire about the church. They want to know why you would give up time on a weekend to serve people you don't even know. And the answer is not, "So you will come to our church." The answer is, "Jesus wants us to be the servant of all. And I have made the choice I am going to serve others the way Jesus served us all."

The method becomes taking the church to the world instead of hoping the world comes to the church. Kind of the way Jesus marketed the church, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Charlie's Oak

When we read through the gospels there will be times Jesus will say "the kingdom of God is like . . ." right before he illustrates the kingdom with a story. If we are looking to become more like Jesus maybe it would be wise to read through the gospels making note of the time Jesus illustrates the kingdom. 

In Mark 4:30-32 Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is like . . . a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." 

What is Jesus trying to say to us about the kingdom? I think he is trying to say, focus on the small things and let God make it something big!

Look, I am all for Big Hairy Audacious Goals, but if that is all you focus on you can really miss some of the greater things of God. 

Sometimes it is the little things that have the greatest impact because God is in the little things also. 

On one of my relatives farms in West Virginia there is this enormous oak tree. It is called Charlie's oak. I don't know why other than I have a great uncle named Charlie and somehow his name is attached to this tree. I am sure there is a story attached to it--but I don't know what it is and it really doesn't matter today. 

So this big oak, started from an acorn that fell from another tree, a tree that does not exist. I wonder how far it's roots extend. I wonder how many oaks around it have started from an acorn that fell from it's branches. I wonder how many birds or squirrels have made their temporary home in Charlie's Oak. 

Isn't it amazing God can take a small acorn and make such a difference within this small portion of space on earth. 

Can you imagine what God can do if we learn to live in the small stuff, letting God make it grow? Can you imagine what God can do through you if you let Him do his work?

What small thing can you do today, that God can use to make a big impact? 

Thursday, August 13, 2015


In Matthew 8:23-27 there's this story of Jesus and his disciples in boat on the lake. Without warning, a furious storm came up and was sweeping them across the lake. There are two types of storms, ones we can see approaching on radar and then those that just seem to come out of no where.

The first, while it can be rough to go through at least gives you time to prepare. My father who lives in Florida has been through several hurricanes. He knew a head of time they may reach land about where he lives so he was able to prepare for the storm. He has hurricane windows that he can put into place and he can get supplies ready in case they are confined to the house for several days. He can even prepare for clean-up. The storm is still hard to go through, but if you are proactive you can make things a little easier.

It is the storms that just seem to come out of no where that can make us panic. I was on Lake Erie fishing with a friend. We had checked the weather and everything seemed like it was going to be a perfect day. Even though it seemed like it was going to be a good day there is always a chance on Lake Erie a storm can come out of no where. It did.

Panic set in as we headed toward the shore line. As the water got rougher the ride in got more intense. You begin to wonder if you you are going to get to a safe place in time. We did, but it was a rough journey.

Life is the same way. There are storms that arise sometimes with warning and sometimes with no warning. They can both be difficult. They both can end badly. Yet there is one constant when you are a follower of Jesus. Faith.

In the story from Matthew while the boat is being blown across the lake the disciples wake Jesus and say, "Lord, saves us! We are going to drown!" Sometimes in the middle of life's storms we think we are going to drown. And in the middle of those storms there is only one place to turn--God.

Jesus gets up rebukes his disciples, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he rebukes the storm and it was completely calm.

I think he got upset with His disciples because they had forgotten who was with them.

The thing is these storms that come up in life can cause us to forget or at least not acknowledge who is with us, who is in our presence. While these life storms don't always cease in a moment like the storm in this story, we can be at peace knowing we are in the presence of a God who is powerful enough to calm a storm on a lake. A God who tells us not to fear, who takes a hold of our hands and walks through the storms with us.

The way we can prepare for these spontaneous storms is to have a relationship with the one who walks with us no matter how hard it can get. The one who allows us to trust him when our instinct is to have fear.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living (Loving) God

The Vision Statement at Northwest is "Living God, Loving People, Changing Lives."

It is only a statement unless you begin to put it into practice.

Here is how this vision statement works for Northwest. We are going to challenge people to first Love God with all of their being. But what does that mean? Saying you Love God is only a statement unless you put it into practice. So the question is, how do you put into practice "Loving God?"

1 John 5:1-3 says, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands."

If we are going to practice loving God, we are going to live by his commands and we are going to live for him everyday.

So the question for each of us today is: How are you living out you love for God?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Cheerful Giver

Nobody really likes being asked to give money. And nobody likes to ask for people to give either. Yet the Bible is filled with passages that teach followers of Jesus to give regularly. Nobody wants to hear and nobody wants to ask. So there is this natural tension within the church.

If followers would just strive to give 10% then nobody would ever need to ask and the church could do incredible things throughout its neighborhoods and the world. One of the reasons Christianity is struggling in the United States is because we are not making an impact on our communities. Because we are not in the habit of giving. When the church does have good offerings they seem to be using it all on their own wants rather than investing it into building God's kingdom.

Look, I get it, those multi-million dollar buildings are being used to attract people to the church. It is being used for kingdom work. But couldn't we build buildings that are more functional rather than so extravagant? I know what you are saying, we should build the very best for God, like Solomon did when he built the temple. How did that turn out?

I really think God is more into advancing his kingdom and reaching people who are far from Him rather than maintaining a nice building that has a lot of people in it every week. I know what some of you are thinking--that is success. By who's standards? Mans or Gods? It reminds me of Isaiah 1 when God tells Judah that he is tired of "meaningless offerings" and when they pray he "will not listen." Look, Judah was doing all the right things, but when it came to worship, he was still not pleased.

In Isaiah 1:16-17 it says, "Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encouraged the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Just because we give it does not mean we are doing the right things. Like Dave Browning says, “It is more important to do the “right things” than to do things right.”

I heard this great quote the other day that I am going to change around a little bit to apply to giving a regular offering-- "We are asking the wrong question, which is, 'How do we make people give a regular offering?' What if we started to ask, 'How do we let people give a regular offering?'"

The first question is out of law, the second is about grace.

We know the Bible teaches that we should give a regular offering yet the average for a Christian who faithfully goes to church gives an offering of about 2% of their income. And church leaders are constantly asking how can we make people give more? When they do give more a lot of leaders just turnaround use it for better things and not necessarily for ministry (encouraging the oppressed, defending the fatherless and pleading the case for the widow).

If the church could change how it uses it resources so that people could see real ministry and life change happening people would then become cheerful givers. They would live like 1 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Leaders need to begin to ask the question, “How can we let people give?”