Thursday, February 26, 2009

There's no place like home

It's good to be home. Amy and I were warmly greeted by our girls. Maddy had been sleeping with some clothes that smelled like mommy and daddy. She told grammy that we always smell good to her. I know that feeling.

So we had a wonderful and blessed reunion with our girls today. We really missed them. It was great to see their reactions. I could tell that they were excited that we were home. Madalyn cried when Amy had to go to a meeting tonight. You could tell that she was so disappointed. I believe in that "distance makes the heart grow fonder" thing, even in regards to your children. And, I think it works on the parents and the kids. I love my girls, all of them, and I'm glad to be home!

I had a great quote e-mailed to me today about the economy. Pretty interesting, check it out:

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
~~~ The late Dr. Adrian Rogers , 1931 to 2005 ~~~

Good thought there.

I'm going back to working on the old sermon now. There's no place like home!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Stick a fork in me, I'm done

Well, the conference is over. What a great week. Amy and I got to share lunch with Dan Wilson today and a friend of his. It was good to see Dan and reconnect and fellowship with him. If you don't know Dan he was one of the pillars of Oakwood in the "glory days". A great man with a great heart. It's always good to reconnect with old friends and share your life.

We're heading home in the morning. I'm looking forward to getting back and getting to work. But most of all, I'm ready to see my girls. Amy and I have so missed them. Today was especially hard. I guess it's time! I can't wait to see them and hug them and talk to them. We may have to go get Madalyn out of school early! I don't know that I can wait till 3PM. I miss my girls!!!

These feelings well describe how God feels about us. His love for us is great. He can't wait to see us and is starved for time with us. When we ignore Him and don't spend any time with Him, I'm sure that he feels the same way that I do about my girls. I miss them. And He misses us. My prayer tonight is that Oakwood's members would daily be in the word and in prayer, spending time with their Father. If you haven't seen Him lately...he misses you.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Great day again

It was a great day again. Amy and I have gotten lots of ideas from the experts who have been leading in ministries for years. I went to a class today taught by an 82 year old man and Amy went to his wive's class (a similar age). They have minds of 35 year olds though. I laughed because they spoke the truth about churches and people in those churches so bluntly, but in love. I told the man leading my class afterwards that I think that he would offend some of our senior adults with his candor. He laughed and said, "Maybe they need to be offended." I laughed so hard. His philosophy is that age DOES NOT matter, you never stop growing and ministering in the Lord. So true. Even if you are 85 years young, you can still be a mighty tool in God's hands if you have a willing heart and joyful spirit. Plus, most people that age have a hot commodity that the 20-50 crowd doesn't have...time. I'm praying for God to instill this vision in the hearts of some of our people at Oakwood. We all are called to get out and do something for the Lord, yes everyone!

We heard some great teaching and preaching today. Of course, it is the teaching & preaching convention, you know. Lots of great insights to digest. I'm going to have to go to hand therapy and notetaker's anonymous when I get back to E-town. I do think that I know how I'm going to get more organized when I get back. God's given me ideas tonight as I've read and digested thoughts from today. We have a lot to do for the Lord, but God will provide the time, way, and means to do His work. I'm excited about what the future holds for Oakwood! If you're reading this, pray that you will catch the excitement too!

Well, I'm tired and it starts early again tomorrow, so I better get to sleep. Thank you Lord for another great day of life!

Turnaround Churches

Today I got to go to an all-day seminar followed by a couple evening sessions. By noon today (well now, yesterday, er Monday) I had taken 5 pages of notes, and that was just the morning. (You can ask my wife!) The session was "Turnaround Churches" and it was great! We got to hear Tim Harlow and Ben Merold speak about how to turn your church around and head in a Godly direction. There were well over 100 pastors and wives in the session with us. I got a lot of ideas, wisdom, and sound advice from guys who have been there done that. The most important thing I got though was that we are moving the right direction as a church. We're moving the right direction because we're moving God's direction. God cares about lost people. I heard it all day and even in the night sessions. It's nothing new. It's just that churches forget the great commission and get comfortable. Jesus seemed to come to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That's what we need to be about as God's children.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm going to hit the sack so I can stay awake tomorrow. My only complaint is that they cram a lot of stuff into each day. The day starts with teaching over breakfast at 7:30AM and goes till 9PM at night. You get breaks here and there, but they are teaching the whole time pretty much. It's excellent and I don't want to miss anything, but whew! Amy and I are busy. (And my hand is cramping!)

Praise the Lord for being here with us this week. We already have been blessed and had our spirits uplifted. We're learning a lot and are going to be excited to get back and share with the great church family at Oakwood.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! E-

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We're live from Joplin!

Amy and I arrived safely in Joplin, MO tonight. We are here for the Preaching & Teaching Convention. I'm looking forward to the week. Tomorrow we are attending a session with Ben Merold and Tim Harlow called Turnaround Churches. We're excited to learn all that we can and bring it back to Oakwood.

Today was a great service. God's Spirit was heavy on everyone, the worship team, the staff, and the people. What a sweet time of fellowship with the Lord and each other. I had someone in the lobby after church tell me that they can't wait for Sundays. It's their favorite day of the week because they get to come to church and encounter God in an awesome way. Oh that all of us would feel the same way.

Someone told me today that I lowered the boom in the message. If I did, it wasn't my intention. Define lower the boom?! I just know that when the Spirit convicts, it doesn't much matter what the preacher is saying, it's all about what God is saying and doing. I'm just glad to be a part of what He's doing at Oakwood. He deserves all the credit for life-change in our church.

This will be a great week. I'm looking forward to it. My thoughts are with Derek, however, as he steers the ship. I know that he is able and will do a great job. I also know that he has ALOT to get done this week. Please pray for Amy and I as we are taught and trained this week. Also pray for Derek to accomplish all that he needs to.

We're live from Joplin! (Time to get started on next week's message!)

Grace and peace to all in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Keep the faith!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Laugh a little

Or...he's just that guy that always ties the tie a little short for his belly. I've never seen that in our church (not)!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fear This

If Daddy is afraid, where can a little child turn? Daddies are supposed to be safe. They are supposed to know what to do and how to solve problems and fix things and, most of all, protect the children from harm. But what happens if a child sees fear in Daddy's face? What if Daddy is as scared as the child, and doesn't know what to do? Then the child is utterly distraught and feels panic. He feels that the one strong and good and reliable place of safety is no longer safe.
But if Daddy is confident, then the children have a refuge. If Daddy is not panicking, but calm and steady, all the walls can come tumbling down, and all the waves can break, and all the snakes can hiss and the lions roar and the wind blow, and there will still be a safe place in Daddy's arms. Daddy is a refuge, as long as Daddy is confident.

That's why Proverbs 14:26 says that "his children will have a refuge," if Daddy has a "strong confidence." Daddy's confidence is the refuge of his children. Dads, the battle to be confident is not just about us, it is about the security of our children. It is about their sense of security and happiness. It's about whether they grow up fretful or firm in faith. Until children can know God in a deep personal way, we are the image and the embodiment of God in their lives. If we are confident and reliable and safe for them, they will be much more likely to cleave to God as their refuge when the storms break over them later.

So how shall we have "strong confidence"? After all, we, too, are little children, clay pots, weak and broken and battling anxieties and doubts. Is the solution to put on the best show we can and hide our true selves? That will lead to ulcers at best, and God-dishonoring teenager-repelling duplicity at worst. That is not the answer.

Proverbs 14:26 gives another answer: "In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence." This is very strange. It says that the solution to fear is fear. The solution to timidity is fear. The solution to uncertainty is fear. The solution to doubt is fear.

How can this be?

Part of the answer is that the "fear of the Lord" means fearing to dishonor the Lord. Which means fearing to distrust the Lord. Which means fearing to fear anything that the Lord has promised to help you overcome. In other words the fear of the Lord is the great fear destroyer.
If the Lord says, "Fear not, I am with you, be not dismayed, I will help you," (Isaiah 41:10), then it is a fearful thing to worry about the problem he says he will help you with. Fearing that problem when he says, "Fear not, I will help you, is a vote of no confidence against God's word, and that is a great dishonor to God. And the fear of the Lord trembles at such dishonoring God.
If the Lord says, "I will never fail you nor forsake you," so you can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6) - if the Lord says that to you, then not to be confident in the Lord's promised presence and help is a kind of pride. It puts our reckoning of the trouble above God's. That is why we read the amazing words of the Lord in Isaiah 51:12, "I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies And of the son of man who is made like grass?" Who are you to fear man, when God has promised to help you? So it is pride to fear man. And pride is the exact opposite of the fear of God.

So, yes, the Proverb is true and a great help to us. Fear God, dads. Fear God. Fear dishonoring him. Fear distrusting him. Fear putting your assessment of the problem above his. He says he can help. He is smarter. He is stronger. He is more generous. Trust him. Fear not to trust him.
Why? He works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4). He will solve the problem. He will rescue the family. He will take care of the little ones. He will meet your needs. Fear not believing that. Then your children will have a refuge. They will have a Daddy who "has strong confidence" - not in himself, but in the promises of God, which he trembles not to trust.

John Piper wrote this devotion and I so enjoyed it I wanted to share it here. How true this is. I also look at this in the context of church leadership. The elders and ministers are the "spiritual fathers" of the church. We are called to live our lives in such a way that when the waves of an economic downturn, family destruction, societal isolation, or whatever else the devil throws our way comes against our spiritual family, our people (God's children) can look our leaders in the eyes and see the faith and reverence of the Lord. In this they will find refuge, not only in us as spiritual fathers, but in the Father of Lights! Praise God for His love, mercy & grace!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

God is good in spite of me

I messed up while preaching today. I got too far off of my notes and couldn't find out where I was. Too funny, but very painful and nerve racking to me at the time. God is good and worked in spite of me. I feel that way much of the time.

God blessed our offerings today. Every week I go back and tell the counters that if the offering is short of the weekly budget need, then they better bless it and get out their checkbooks and make up the difference. It's an ongoing joke with us. Anyway, I go back today to say my line and they both just look at me and smile. The offering was over our weekly need. I couldn't believe it. That was great news and something that we've been praying about as leadership lately, that God would supernaturally provide for our finances. Praise the Lord for His provision for His church.

On another note, Isabel and Abigail had to see the doc on Friday. They were both running a temperature. When we got to the Dr.'s office, the nurse took Izzy's temp at 105.5 degrees! We couldn't believe it. We had given her ibuprofen, but it wasn't touching the fever. The nurse acted concerned, so I was too. Amy and I were thinking meningitis or something like that. So the doc comes in and puts her on some medicine. Ends up she had some type of virus and an infection on top of that. Anyway, at 8PM that night, it was miraculous healing. She went from fever and cranky back to Isabel. The fever broke and hasn't been back since. I'm thankful to all of those in our church family that were praying for us Friday. Your prayers were definitely answered in a supernatural way. Again, God is so good. I stand amazed!

Every day people ask "how are you?" or " how are you doing?" I answer "better than I deserve" these days. It's the truth. God treats me and gives me a great life that is better than I deserve. I deserve pain and punishment, a bad life due to my sins. But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins. (Eph. 2:4-5) Praise the Lord for working good in spite of me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Maddy's Program

I got to go see my oldest daughter's school program tonight. It was great. She sang really well and even had a part in the program (a dance with another girl in her class). I was the proud daddy through and through.

At these programs, you see about everything. It's so funny. Amy and I came home and laughed and talked about everything that we had seen and experienced. God made each of us so unique. He must love the wondrous variety. Even families are so unique when compared to one another. I could tell you everything, but I'd be up all night typing. I really need to get back to my sermon now.

If you see me, ask me. I'll share a story or two.

The Mouth Speaks

The calendar and the pocketbook reveal a lot about your priorities. The conduct and comments of our children reveal a lot about your home life. Your work habits reveal a lot about your ethics and integrity. But the clearest indication of a person's heart is their speech.

Peoples' words, especially those spoken under pressure, reveal their true nature. You've heard that before. Someone hits their thumb instead of the nail. The volleyball hits them in the face. The windshield on the car is broken in an accident. Life's instantaneous pressure can cause you to react in a strong way. When you are in the "pressure cooker" of life, a lot can be revealed about your character. Matthew 12:34 reminds us that "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."

Bob Russell suggests, "The mouth is the billboard of the heart because it publicizes the content of our character." When your guard goes down, the best expression of who you really are on the inside is what words you speak. And when the pressure is on, you tend to accentuate what truly dwells in your heart most of the time.

There is a positive side to this though. Positive and encouraging words that build up and are God-honoring will reveal a true heart that, even under pressure, is doing the God's will. You and I have these opportunities for encouragement every day. What words do you speak?

Jesus said it best (as He usually does) in the verses that follow Matthew 12:34: "35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. What are our words reflecting about our hearts toward God? I'm praying that God will help all of us reflect His character in our language.

Monday, February 9, 2009

We're live, people!

I'm excited that we now have our new website up and functional. It was a good decision from a financial standpoint, and a technical standpoint as well. The functionality of the new site is so much better than our old one. Updating the site is very easily done in just a few minutes, where our old site would take forever. We'll save thousands in the future in man hours by making this change. I'm jazzed and the staff is pretty excited about it too.

My vision for our website is that it would grow as a connecting tool for our church. Over the last 3 months, 80+% of our guests and visitors at church found out about Oakwood on the internet. That is amazing! So, it's definitely bringing people into the church. I also want to make our website a place where Oakwood members can come in and get connected. The more information and connecting tools we can put out there the better. Our staff is doing the best job we can at taking care of the site, with little or no technical knowledge. We need a volunteer I.T. person who will enhance the site even more. I know that God has them out there. We just need them to answer to call and rock out our website!

All glory goes to God for the website shift. It's a long story how we came on to this company, let alone how they ended up being cheaper than our old service, faster, and easier to use. God orchestrated exactly what we needed in His timing. Thank the Lord!

I'm also excited about a lot of our new people who have been coming and visiting with us on Sunday mornings. We've had 12 families plus visit with us in the last 2 weeks. We must be ready to help bring these people into the fold of Christ and our fellowship. I pray that God will open the hearts of everyone at Oakwood to receive new people and help them get comfortable. I learned a long time ago that people will not be theologically aware till they are environmentally comfortable. We're better than we've been, but we've still got a long way to grow! Thank the Lord for His patience and goodness to us.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Slept where you fell & Jr. High

Have you ever been so tired that every time you relax, even if it's just for a few minutes, you slept where you were? This week has been really long. I've been so tired that I fight sleep every time I sit down and relax for a minute. I hate it, but I can't stop it. I'm just praying for God to give me some 28 hour days and then I'll be good to go!

I got to see the Jr. Highers off to CIY Believe Conference today. I had Thomas, Jeremy, Rob and a couple others ask me if I missed going. I actually do. They asked me if I'd come with them, and I actually would consider it if I didn't have so much going on this weekend already. I miss those trips with those kids. Those short trips, weekend retreats and the like, are great and highly impactful. That Junior High group will come back bonded and fired up. I got to pray with them before they left and I prayed not only for their safety, but their openness to hearing God's message as He speaks to them this weekend at the conference. If you are reading this, please pray for them too. They are a great group of kids.

Well, I better get to going before IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiikkslfnwpjffk.
(Goodnight!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Accountability vs. Isolation

Proverbs 18:1 "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom."

Many times Christians run away from accountability. A good friend of mine has said that it's like showing someone the light. When the light exposes a person, everything is seen. Most people don't want everything to be seen. We like to have the option of "privacy" in our faith. But for those of us who allow someone in our life to be the light that exposes, deeper and richer obedience and faith can be developed.

What is this verse in Proverbs actually telling us? If you separate yourself, it's easier to sin. No one knows about it. There is no light to expose it. Isolation and temptation often go hand in hand. How does a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8) hunt and devour? You've seen it on Discovery channel. He waits till one antelope gets off by itself. And you know that sometimes you are not able to withstand temptation on your own (at least for now). That's why I think that it is critical to have the REAL brothers and sisters in your life that will speak God's truth to you and care enough about your relationship developing with Christ that they will speak His truth into your life, even if it hurts a little bit.

The bottom line...it pleases God. You are pursing holiness, righteousness, and other virtues and characteristics that will make you more available for God's use for Kingdom advancement.

Just remember...he who separates himself seeks his own desire. Don't separate yourself.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl

Great game. I'm glad the Cards came back. Should have reviewed the last play. His arm was going forward and the ball was in his hand. Plus the 15 yard penalty on the unsportsmanlike "helmet off" penalty would have put the ball on the 30 with about 7 seconds left. That would have been a better finish. Oh well. It's over and there's no going back.

Today I preached my last message in a series call 30 Days to Live. If you want to catch any of the messages, just go to the church's website and check out the sermons link. Anyway, I think that today's message really got to some people. Through e-mails and conversations, I've had some incredible feedback. God gets all the glory. It's His Word and His message. Let's face it. It's true. No one really wants to talk about death or dying. But when you are a Christian, saved by the grace and blood of Christ, you can look death in the eye and be confident in what's to come. I'm thankful for all of the scripture that I was able to share today and pray that it will go a long way as people dwell on it this week. I'll continue to pray for God to do His work, even beyond Superbowl Sunday.

Give praise to God today and everyday for ALL that He has done for you!