Pastor's Blog
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January 19, 2014, 9:57 PM


A few weeks ago, we woke up to 4-6” of fresh snow covering our driveway.  Certain areas of the driveway had drifted 8-10” deep.  It was -13 degrees with a wind chill of -25.  Neither Peggy nor I wanted to go outside, yet we needed to clear the driveway.  We each bundled-up with multiple layers of clothing, coats, hats, gloves, snow boots, and whatever else we could put on to stay warm.  Because of the intense cold and the fact we have only one snow shovel, we decided to do “tag-team shoveling.”   I shoveled for five-minutes, then I came in the house to warm-up while Peggy shoveled for five-minutes.  Then I shoveled while she warmed-up.  We were surprised at how well our strategy worked!  It still took us over 30-minutes to clear our driveway that frigid morning, but we accomplished our task without wearing either one of us out and did so in minimal time amidst terrible conditions. 

When we work together as a “team,” it is amazing what we can accomplish!  Even though the conditions may be less-than-ideal, or maybe the conditions are even BAD, when we work hand-in-hand with one another, we can achieve more than we ever dreamed possible!  We can do so without wearing ourselves out in ministry.  I have heard Dr. John Maxwell say, “Teamwork makes the dream work!”  I have also seen the acrostic:  T.E.A.M.Together Everyone Achieves More.  Both of these statements are very true.

When it comes to the local church, teamwork is absolutely essential!  No pastor, regardless of how talented he/she may be, can ever do-it-all.  A wise pastor will engage the congregation to actively participate in ministry.  The wise laymen within the congregation will partner with the pastoral staff to accomplish the task God has given their local church to do in its community.  I praise God for the hundreds of wonderful laymen who I have had the privilege of working with across my 32+ years of pastoral ministry!  Only eternity will reveal the full impact of our ministering as a “team.”  Together, we can achieve so much more than if we try to work independent of one another.  What does God want your church to accomplish in your community?  To maximize your impact with the limited resources you have, it will require teamwork.  Laymen, I encourage you to join with your pastor…pastor, join with your congregation…to become one ministry team!  Let God use you to touch your community for Jesus Christ!

January 2, 2014, 9:59 AM

New Year Opportunities

As we enter the new year, it is a “clean page” filled with countless opportunities!  Someone said, “The new year is a 365-page book with every page blank.  Each day, you write a new page.  Be certain to write a good one!”  Like it does every year, the bad news will abound, yet we create some amazingly positive news!  We each can make the most of the abundant opportunities that lay before us. 

We have the opportunity to more clearly live a Christ-like life than we ever have before!  By incorporating spiritual disciplines into our daily lives…things like passionate prayer, Bible study, private worship, actively telling others about Christ, generous giving, sharing Christ’s love with the less fortunate, to name a few…we can more vividly reflect our Savior to a world that is desperately searching for hope.

We have the opportunity to engage in activities in our local church that will have an eternal impact!  That may mean signing-up to help with a ministry that is already being done, getting involved and strengthening that ministry.  Yet for many, it will mean stretching-our-faith by obeying God’s call to start a new life-changing ministry in our local church.  Do not allow the fear of failure to stop you from doing what God is calling you to do! 

We have the opportunity to be-Jesus-with-skin-on to people who are lonely, the hurting, the impoverished, those feeling no one cares, and the disenfranchised.  Rather than turn our backs on them, Christ calls us to GO to them in His Name.  As Christ-followers, we must take the initiative to GO to the neediest around us and let them know we serve a Savior who cares…One who restores hope to the hopeless!  We must let them know we belong to a local church that welcomes them and wants them to be part of our “church family.”  If the church you attend is not such a church, I advise you to do one of two things:  1—work to change the unChristlike attitude in the church; if the congregation will not change, then take the next step, 2—change churches and become part of a church that lives The Great Commission. 

We have the opportunity to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ like never before!  I urge you to CHOOSE to make this a year of unparalleled spiritual growth for yourself!  Determine that no matter what anyone else does, YOU will invest whatever-it-takes to know Christ more intimately this year than at any time in your life!  To make the most of this opportunity will require discipline and sacrifice.  It will mean turning off the television and the computer, restructuring your schedule, and making your time with the Lord the utmost priority of each day.  If you will do that, your life will be radically changed by the time the year is over!  God wants to do more in your life than you can begin to imagine! 

There are too many other opportunities to list!  Make the most of them in 2014 and allow God to use you to build His Kingdom where you are!

December 23, 2013, 11:15 AM

CHRISTMAS: Then and Now

While growing-up, Christmas was without question my favorite holiday!  As you might guess, the receiving of all those gifts made it the top holiday on my list.  Another reason was because we always went to my Grandpa and Grandma Cecil’s farm for Christmas.  Grandma Cecil was an outstanding cook and she simply out-did herself at Christmas!  It was fun being with my cousins and simply being together as a family.  Christmas at my grandparents’ farm was a noisy, fun, laughter-filled time with family.  Grandpa and Grandma Cecil always gave us the biggest, best, most exciting gifts each Christmas!  Some of the best gifts I ever received were ones they gave me…a Johnny Lightning race car set, my Matchbox City and Country fold-out play sets, a gas-powered dune buggy, a Hairy Canary airplane set, to name just a few.  Only recently did I realize how their gifts must have made my parents feel.  My parents struggled to make-ends-meet.  The gifts they gave my sister and me were modest, but given with love.  My grandparents gave elaborate gifts, partly because they could afford to “spoil us” and give what my folks could not give.  Even as an adult taking my own children to Grandpa and Grandma’s for Christmas, the joy and excitement was still there.  I am thankful for the handful of home videos I have of those final Christmases at Grandpa and Grandma’s. 

That was THEN…somewhere across the years, things radically changed.  NOW…Peggy and I are “Grandpa and Grandma Cecil” to six wonderful grandchildren.  NOW…getting together with our four-adult-children and their families is a geographic impossibility.  Two of our children live in Florida, one lives in Oklahoma, and one is here in Illinois.  Even trying to get with my extended family for Christmas seems to be beyond our ability to coordinate.  This year, Peggy and I will spend part of Christmas Eve with one of our daughters and her family.  Christmas Day will be a quiet day which Peggy and I will spend with each other, although there will likely be several Christmas phone calls and maybe even a Skype visit with a few of our children and grandchildren via the Internet.  Christmas lunch is looking to be leftovers. 

At the risk of being hyper-nostalgic…I wish we could merge THEN with NOW.  I wish my children and grandchildren could be together at our house for Christmas!  Peggy is a great cook and would be thrilled to work-herself-to-a-frazzle to feed our crew!  When I think of what my grandchildren are missing by NOT being able to share in those Christmas-type family gatherings that I once knew, my heart grieves for them.  Phone calls…Skype visits…cards…gifts sent in the mail…those are weak substitutes for the joy of being together at Christmas.  Sadly, that is the reality of NOW.

The one consistent factor THEN and NOW is that Jesus Christ came that first Christmas as the unmistakable demonstration of God’s extreme love for us!  He is “Emmanuel---God with us!”  Because of this fact, whether your house is full of people or whether it is just you sitting alone this Christmas…you are never really alone on Christmas (or any other day of the year).  Be encouraged for God is with you! 

December 17, 2013, 11:51 AM

Giving and Receiving

As a child, I was taught that giving to others was far more important than receiving from others.  I was taught to think of other people before thinking of myself.  These values were based on Biblical principles which my family embraced.  Across the years, Peggy and I have tried to practice these values in all aspects of our lives, while also passing them along to our four children. 

Perhaps the most powerful demonstration of these values I have ever participated in is our church’s involvement in OPERATION SLEIGHBELL each December.  This ministry event provides low-income families in the Decatur, Illinois, area with the ability to purchase Christmas gifts for pennies-on-the-dollar, thus assisting them in stretching their personal finances.  This is funded through financial donations, as well as donations of merchandise, from both individuals and businesses.  2013 was the eighth or ninth year of West Side Nazarene’s involvement with this, but only my second year.

In 3 ½-days (December 2-5, 2013), we served 295-families who had made reservations to participate in Operation Sleighbell!  Part of my job in this event was to talk to every family, share a Gospel message with them, pray with them, and review for them how Operation Sleighbell works.  Over those 3 ½-days, I talked to approximately 400-people.  I shared about “Emmanuel…God with us!”  Then I told them of the miraculous healing God worked in my life last month after my accident with our gas fireplace.  My sincere prayer is that many of those who came through received a “spiritual seed” planted in their hearts and minds which will lead them to seek the Lord, as well as choose to worship with us here at West Side Nazarene.

I cannot express my appreciation strongly enough for the awesome group of laymen from our church who volunteered their time and helped with Operation Sleighbell!  It is a massive and time-consuming undertaking which proves my upbringing to be correct, i.e. it really IS better to give than receive.   Are YOU focussed more on giving to others…or do you find yourself more concerned with what you receive?  Living a life of generosity reveals an attitude which clearly reflects that of Christ.   Who does your life reflect?

November 27, 2013, 7:38 AM

Thanksgiving Memories

During my childhood, Thanksgiving Day was a very special time.  It meant going to my Grandpa and Grandma Cecil’s farm near Lilbourn, Missouri, for a feast fit for a “country king!”  Grandma Cecil was an incredible cook!  She was one of those unique cooks who could make a bologna sandwich into a marvelous dining experience!  I well remember the Thanksgiving meals of ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey, butter beans from their garden, and Grandma’s “cat head” yeast biscuits (referred to as “cat head” because they were as large as a cat’s head)!  My Dad’s only sister and her family would be there, so I was able to spend time with my cousins.  One of our rituals was to look through the “Sears Wishbook” and try to determine what we wanted Grandma and Grandpa to get us for Christmas.  It was a wonderful time with family…a time of laughter…a time of creating lasting memories.  Christmas was similar to Thanksgiving, except there was more excitement and the day was much noisier. 

One of the most difficult aspects of growing-up, getting married, and moving far from my family was the loss of those family gatherings.  My children participated in only a handful of those Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts at my grandparents’, but I doubt they remember them very well.  As an adult, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have all fallen-a-bit-short for me, because they have never measured-up to the treasured memories I have of those holidays spent at Grandpa and Grandma Cecil’s when I was a child.  Now Peggy and I are “Grandpa and Grandma Cecil!”  How I wish we could recreate those scenes from my childhood for our grandchildren!  Four of our grandchildren live so far away, we only see them once or twice annually.  We are thankful to have two of the grandchildren 90-minutes away, so we get to spend time with them regularly.  We have never had all six-grandchildren together in one place.  All the cousins have never been able to play, laugh, or be together in one place.  They do not know it, but they are missing a priceless memory…and so are we.

Peggy and I have more to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving 2013 than we can possibly recite!  We have four healthy, wonderful grown children...six beautiful, loving grandchildren…two great sons-in-law.  We serve with a great group of people at Decatur, Illinois, West Side Church of the Nazarene.  God has given both of us His special touch as we have gone through many physical trials over the past few months.  I praise God for intervening in my life as I have faced possible cancer, dealt with significant heart issues, went through surgery, had a gas fireplace malfunction and explode in my face, and for  His supernatural healing of my severe burns from that explosion…all which happened in the past 60-days!  Most of all, Peggy and I thank God for His unending love for us, for His salvation and new life bestowed on us, His Holy Spirit’s cleansing and empowerment, and for the assurance He will continue to guide and keep us!  We are two wonderfully blessed people!   Thank You, Lord, for loving us so much!

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