Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bad becomes good???

I was talking with a friend today in the Meetinghouse. She is struggling with the empty nest syndrome. Her daughter graduated from High School this month, leaves for a summer long mission experience and then is off to college. This is major emotional hurt for a parent to handle. I know ... I've been there, done that, and got the tee shirt to prove it, as they say.

However, when I reflect upon the definition of the Kingdom of God as "God's work throughout all of creation" then can there really be any bad experiences in life? Romans 8:28-29 says that "God is using all conform us into the image of Jesus Christ." We humans have a tendency to judge the circumstances of life as either "good or bad" based upon how we see it impacting us. But, if the circumstance, no matter how pain-filled it may be, is a part of God's "all things" then can it really be bad?

The key is probably surrendering "all things" over to Jesus. He is Lord and there should me no limitation to the claim He has over our life. If "all things" belong to God then there is no secular or sacred task or good or bad experience. All things are holy unto the Lord.

According to Romans 12:1-3 this is true holiness. The offering of our whole lives back to God through Jesus. It is taking all the elements that make up our human life (family, friends, money, work, possessions, success, failure, pain, loss, etc.) and giving them back to God for His glory and use, so to speak. By so doing the seemingly bad things in life then can be viewed as good.

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Break the glass in an emergency

Scholar and author Mark Sayers says that the majority of people in the United States say they believe in some form of god. However the god they believe in is so distant and their idea of him/her is so vague that it fails to make any difference at all in their life. Sayer calls this "the break the glass in an emergency god" referring to the being/deity they invoke during times of crisis or when they get into trouble.(Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways: Jesus in Disney Land, page 106).

Not having a relationship with the one true God of the Bible leaves an uncomfortable vacuum that must be filled. In the American Church the "filling of choice" is consumerism. It is the primary idol placed before God. Many think that it will provide the meaning, value, purpose, and becomes the quest for "the good life" they desire.

The safeguard for us is clearly stated in Exodus 20, "Thou shall have no other gods before Me, says the Lord." He is the only One who loves and redeems us and provides true satisfaction in life. Making Jesus the sole object of our worship will keep us in perfect peace and deliver us from the idol of consumerism: money, power, prestige, self, etc. Do not diminish His power and presence in your life. Exalt Him to His rightful place (Psalm 99:5).

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Demand of Christ

Tomorrow our weekly Men's Fight Club will meet in the church Cafe at 7:30 am. Once again Chef "Bubba" Harth will be cooking breakfast. NICE! For our study time we will continue to explore the "core truths of Christ" from the Gospels. This week we will use the following guide for our study:

Lesson Two: “Jesus demands an active faith and trust”

Key texts for observation:
Matthew 17:17-20
Mark 12:28-34
Mark 10:18-19
Mark 1:14-15

Discussion questions:
What questions do you have from a reading of the texts?

What are the implications of this core truth for the Individual and Church?

Site examples of how this core truth could be lived out individually and corporately?

Men, I invite you to come and join our Saturday morning fellowship and I welcome all of you to provide feedback and discussion on the above outline via the blog. Let's get preoccupied with Jesus!

Also this week is our monthly Ladies Prayer Connection at 9 am in room 227. Saturday is a big day at WHFC ... Y'all come!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why all the Focus on Jesus?

Once in a while someone will ask, "Why does Willoughby Hills Friends talk so much about Jesus and seem to exclude God and the Holy Spirit?" My reply, Because of our biblical worldview." The Bible teaches that God is One and that He redeems and claims all things through Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Deuteronomy 6 and Mark 12 tells us that "The Lord our God is one; and you should love the Lord your God with all of your heart, and with all of your soul, and with all of your mind, and with all of your strength."

Jesus said there is no greater command or insight than this in Mark 12:31. If you get it, it will revolutionize your life. In the Old Testament the Deuteronomy passage is known as the "shema" which means "pay attention too." He is One God, sovereign over all things (everything is in His Kingdom), every aspect of your life and being is sacred unto the Lord. All of life is integrated under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

To be in relationship with Jesus Christ is to experience the fullness of the Godhead. They are in perfect unity with One another, mutually submissive, and primarily present Themselves through the Person of Jesus Christ. COOL! For to know Jesus is to know God. For in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwells (1 Corinthians 8:6).

In addition, people will more often ask, "Why do you focus so much on outreach?" My reply, "Because of our biblical worldview! As we, 'pay attention - shema,' we note that our God presents Himself in scripture through Jesus Christ as good, holy, just, and compassionate and He requires us to be the same." In Mark 12:28-34 Jesus sums up the shema as "God is One, I represent the Godhead so as I have loved you you in return must go and love others" (Halvey's paraphrase).

Why all the fuss about Jesus? Because "in Him we live, move and have our being!" (Acts 17:28) He defines life for us and brings value to all things because it all belongs to King Jesus! Frame your life in that realization today ... Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Going over to the "Dark Side"

I am thinking about going over to the dark side. That can mean something different to a lot of people so let me explain. Going over to the dark side is a phrase used by nonconforming motorcyclists who run a car tire on the back of their bike. Crazy huh? Not really. A few of my friends who own cruisers have been doing it for years. I recently purchased my son's VTX with a balding rear tire and I'm thinking of "going dark" for more stability and longer wear.

I believe scripture teaches that Jesus was from the "dark side." He was a non traditionalist for His day. When Jesus asked the disciples what people were saying about Him in Luke 9:18ff they replied that "some think He is the resurrect John the Baptist or Elijah." John and Elijah were clearly not traditionalist of their day. They were viewed by many as "wild men" of sorts.

Yep, the people thought that Jesus was a resurrected wild man. In fact the Bible says in Luke 9:7 this very rumor reached the throne of King Herod who had beheaded John the Baptist some time before. John the Baptist back from the dead? Wow, these words can smudge our portrait of a warm and fuzzy, meek and mild Jesus, do they not?

We must have a right conception of Jesus if we are to emulate Him. To be fair to this discussion we must acknowledge there are presentations of a "lighter" more warm and fuzzy Jesus in the Gospels as well. But we must never loose sight of His "dark side." Like Peter we must ask, "What kind of Man is this? Even the wind and waves obey Him. Even the wild demons obey Him." Even the Pharisees were afraid that He would lead a revolt. What kind of Man "is" our Jesus?

In C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when Lucy was about to meet the Christ figure portrayed by the lion Aslan, she asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan is safe? Beaver's reply was, "Safe? Who said anything about him being safe? Of course he isn't safe but he is good. He is a good king and you can trust him."

Following Jesus may not always feel safe, warm and cozy as an individual or as a Church but in the end it is "good." We must expect Jesus to lead us over to "the dark side" on occasion. To rock our boat on occassion. Will you trust His leadership ... will you search out His plan? As a Church are we willing to become unconventional in how we "view and do" our mission? Remember, the scriptures teach that "God will shake everything that can be shaken. Only what is real, true, and according to His purpose will He allow to remain."

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Defining Jesus

The Gospels make it clear that those who understood Jesus and His message the best were the ones who wanted Him dead. He was considered a threat to the religious system they had grown accustom too. The religious establishment of Christ's day saw Him as a blasphemer, a heretic, a drunkard, a glutton, and a false teacher who twisted the scriptures and deceived the masses. To others Jesus was nothing more than an unschooled, self proclaimed rabbi from the God forsaken north who was stirring up trouble among the common, uneducated people who simply did not know any better.

Voltaire said, "that God made us in His image and we returned the favor." It is the tendency of man to re-create God in his own image because the real Jesus of the Gospels can be scary to the institution of the Church and the status quo of the individual. We do not want a Jesus who scares us so we put Him on tap so we can turn Him on and off as needed. We remake Him into our broken and needy likeness.

This is why we need a preoccupation with the Jesus of the Gospels. Without the Gospels we will fashion Jesus into our image and before long, He will hate the things we hate and like the same things we like. Without the Gospels we will shoehorned Jesus into our agenda and made Him fit our church structure.

It is time for those of us at Willoughby Hills Friends Church to recalibrate to the "true north" setting on our spiritual compass. Individually and corporately we must be discovering and rediscovering the Jesus of the Gospels and constantly bringing ourselves into alignment with His likeness. Our teaching Pastor must continue to break open to Gospels each week and expose Jesus for who He is. Our Christian education department must offer more Christocentric material to attendees. Perhaps we should change the focus from "adult discovery groups" which meet throughout the week to "Christ discovery groups").

We must involve more of our constituency in practicing/emulating the life of Christ outside the walls of 2846 SOM Center Road on a weekly basis. We must not be satisfied until we have 100% participation among our leadership in the Neighborhood Network outreach each year. Those in leadership must model for our attendees the life and teaching of Christ.

The administrative model and functionality of our church must represent the core truths of Christ's life seen in the Gospels. This must become the study and topic of conversation among our leadership. We can begin with the following scriptures/core truths:
1. Jesus ushers in the Kingdom – Mark 1:14-15; Luke 11:20
2. Demonstrates active faith/trust in God – Mark 1:14-15; Matt. 17:20
3. Mediates the grace and mercy of God – Matt. 12:7
4. Forgives sin – Matt.9:2; Luke 7:47
5. Demonstrates the love of God for His world – John 3:16; 14:21
6. Heals the sick and casts out demons – Mark 1:23ff; Luke 11:20
7. Calls all to follow and imitate Him – Matt. 4:19; 8:22
Key missional passages that define Jesus:
Luke 4:16-30
Luke 5:1-11
Luke 9:57-62
Matt. 4:23-25
Matt. 7:12
8. Sets the standard for holiness – Matt. 5-8
9. Introduces a non-religious way of loving and worshipping God – Matt. 21; Jn. 4:20ff
10. Shows love and compassion to the marginalized – Luke 4:18-19; 7:22-23
11. Befriends the outcast and misfit – Matt. 9:9-12; Luke 19:10
12. Follows the pattern for God’s redemption – Luke 15:4-32
13. Proclaims and demonstrates the good news of the Kingdom – Matt. 5:13-16
14. Calls for the redemption of the “whole” person – Matt. 22:37-40
15. Offers new beginnings – John 3:1-7; Luke 7:38-50
16. Hates hypocrisy (and defines it) – Matt. 23:28ff; Luke 12:1
17. Is coming again – Luke 11; Matt. 25:1-13
18. Lays down His life for others – John 15:13
19. Only means for salvation – Luke 1:76-77; 19:9

With each of the passages listed we must ask two questions: (1) "What is the implication to us?" (2) "How can we make it happen?" Are we ready to allow Jesus to define us? What say you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 25, 2009

What if Jesus showed up at church?

Dr. Alan Hirsh asked this question to his seminary students after studying the life and teaching of Jesus for a semester. What would people do with Jesus if He turned up in our churches exhibiting the same attitudes and behaviors demonstrated in the Gospels? One brave soul replied, "we would probably kill Him!"

I wonder what Willoughby Hills Friends would do with Jesus if He began attending our weekly services? Would He dress up and carry a Bible? Would He come inside for the singing and preaching or just hang out in the Cafe with those people? (You know who I mean ... "those people" ... the tax collectors, winebibbers, gluttons, prostitutes, sick and diseased people). Yes, it would be interesting to see how the we would receive Him.

In many respects His ways are still not our ways at WHFC. Here in lies the enormity of my job. How through my administrative duties of the staff and church do I lead transition from a body that has been strongly institutionalized and facility/program focused back to the basics of the Founder who was the undoing of formalized religion and the decentralization of the temple (Matthew 21:28-46; Luke 19:10-26; 23:45), without blowing the whole place up?

Under the ministry of Jesus the Kingdom of God breaks out of the building and into the world with purpose and freshness; unconditional love and acceptance. In light of this how then should we view our facility and what should the focus of our efforts be? We must follow our Founder and this must be seen in our strategic three year plan, become the agenda for every staff, elders and administrative council meeting and be experienced in every gathering our attendees participate in.

Oh how I long for the day when the attitude and mission of Christ is reflected in the weekly communication cards we received rather than people sharing personal preference about worship location, parking issues, kids that make noise and move around to much during the preaching time, and the volume and styles of music. I pray for angel donors to come forth and pay off our $40K per month mortgage so we can invest those dollars into our communities for the glory of God. Yep, I believe in miracles. Please Jesus show up at WHFC. We need You!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"Fight Club" Study

I'm pumped! We had a great men's Fight Club this morning. Every Saturday men gather in the church Cafe for relationship, Bible study and most of the time breakfast. Today the eggs and ham were plentiful and the study time was sensational.

This morning we began a series that focuses on the core truths about Jesus. The verses we used for our discussion today were Mark 1:14-15 and Luke 11:20. Our "core truth" was that Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God and focused it around His own person. Let me highlight where our discussion went ....

First, the question was raised by one in attendance: "What was the "gospel" in Christ's day? One man drew our attention to Luke 7:18-28 and the question asked by John the Baptist, "Jesus are you the Messiah?" We noted how Christ's response seems to define the Kingdom of God as involving the restoration of the whole person.

Then another man referenced Matthew 23:37 where the Kingdom of God is further defined as a relationship with Christ. A relationship that is spoken of in Matthew 3:2 as "one that leads one to repentance and surrender of life to the Lordship of Jesus."

Another man then asked, "What is the Kingdom of God?" After some discussion we agreed that all people are in the Kingdom of God but only those who have a relationship with Christ are a citizen of the Kingdom with full benefit (such as eternity in heaven, fullness of the Spirit, etc.). Through Jesus all have received a passport (or maybe Visa is more applicable) to experience (visit) in God's Kingdom but only those who request citizenship have full manifestation of God's grace.

Living in the Kingdom of God consists of God's Omni-benevolence for all of mankind which can lead to citizenship. Citizenship however refers to God's reign and rule in the heart of man. All are "in" the Kingdom of God but not all are "of" it.

A question I asked the men about this core truth was "What implications does this have to you and the Church today?" Response: (1) As a citizen of the Kingdom of God we have the fullness of God with us all the time. (2) We have a responsibility to take the Kingdom to the world so they "can taste and see that the Lord is good." (3) Taking the Kingdom to the world is emulating the life and teachings of Jesus. (4) The glory of God is man fully alive in Christ.

A final question I asked but we did not have time to discussed at length was, "What examples are there of how this core truth could be carried out?" We must emulate the life and ministry of Jesus for others to see. As they use their Visa (passport) to visit in the Kingdom (whether they know it or not) it is our responsibility to demonstrate the benevolent nature of God. To be a tour guide, if you will.

Can you add anything more to our study this week? I would like to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Refounding the company

"Refounding" is a term I remember from some of my business classes. Without it most companies will fail within a few generations. The idea behind refounding is there is a certain way of thinking and acting that must continuously be traced back to the founder for consistency and passion to remain in the organization. It refers to a foundational culture that maintains the following beliefs: values and assumptions of the founder; the continued validation of these beliefs through the learning/training experiences of employees; and the embellishment of these core beliefs into the current culture and experience of the company. No doubt, that is why "Dave's" picture seems to hang on the wall of every Wendy's restaurant (my favorite burger joint by the way) with his core values listed below.

The church must be "refounded" on Jesus Christ every time we are together or focus will soon be lost. He is the critical link for the health and success of the Church. The defining role Jesus played in the conception of our organization sprang from His life and work. We must remain preoccupied with these things!

What is the difference between the average church person and the Pharisee of the New Testament? Think about that for a moment. The Pharisees are the prime examples of what can happen to Christianity if we do not refound regularly on Jesus. They had a sincere belief system. Were extremely zealous about their religion and meticulous tithers (even beyond what was required of them). They held to a strong doctrinal/biblical moral code and believed in the authority of scripture. They even believed in miracles and were devoted to prayer. And yet, they were divorced from love, humility, mercy and God's direction and fashioned the plan which crucified Jesus. What if they had refounded in Christ?

The description I just listed for the Pharisees is a portrait of the dedicated church person today. However, like them we can all fall prey to religion if Christ is not refounded daily in our lives. Our rules will replace His core values. Our spirit of compassion will give way to being critical and judgmental of others. Living the status quo of our religion will eventually stifle our "going forth into the world" as Jesus did and will make the walls of the building sacred and our preference for worship territorial. Who knows, Jesus probably came to earth to save us from our religion!

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Where has the power gone?

That's the question I asked while reading in Philippians this morning. Paul says in 3:10 "... that I may know Him (Jesus) and the power of His resurrection." Why isn't "the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead" displayed in the church today? Deductive reasoning from this verse says, "because we do not know Jesus." Knowing and practicing His teachings and ways unleashes the manifestation of God's Spirit in our lives. Plain and simple.

Many are religious but not followers of Jesus. They know of Him historically and religiously by not personally and experientially. It is similar to what God spoke to Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos thousands of years ago, "these people draw near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips while their hearts are far from Me, and their worship of Me is a human commandment learned by rote" (Isa. 29:13; 58; Jer. 7:3-16; Amos 5:21).

Blaise Pascal said these words about the spiritual condition of his day, "Christendom has become a union of people who, by means of sacraments, excuse themselves from knowing and loving God." Religion was and is a way of escape from knowing God. How do we safe guard this? By not reducing our faith to intellectualism or rote behavior.

The Truth that brings resurrection power into our lives, the Truth we must follow and learn of is a person-and His name is Jesus Christ. The power to live a life pleasing to God and bring transformation to men on earth comes through "real time" relationship with Jesus. We must know Him.

To know Jesus we must study the core passages about His life in the Gospels. We must note the importance they are to us individually and the Church. Then we must find examples of how to transfer His life principles into our world. Also, we must embrace His presence. He is with us through the person of the Holy Spirit. We must give Him ownership and follow His leading and direction.

Lord Jesus, send us Your power we pray!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good preaching

I really enjoyed past Sunday's activities at the meetinghouse. Nothing turns my crank quicker than when the music and preaching is anointed by the Holy Spirit. At WHFC we have skilled and gifted people in the pulpit and leading/providing music in our worship services but unless God anoints their effort little really happens in the lives of people. Yesterday I sensed God's anointing.

I think one main reason why God anoints our teaching pastor week in and week out is because of his focus on Christ. Greg views the role of a preacher/teacher as keeping people and the Bible Christ centered. As we work our way through the book of Genesis we are discovering numerous connection points with the Christ of the Gospels. I like that!

Walter Brueggeman says "the role of the preacher is to provide Christ-centered imagination. The church needs to be continually refocused on Jesus and those who give voice to the church's public speech ought to be committed to drenching the preaching of the Bible with the Gospels" (Bueggeman. Finally Comes the Poet, Fortress Press, 1989, pg. 23).

Atta boy Greg! Keep on showcasing Jesus from every page of the Cannon. There must be a constant return to Jesus in our lives and church. He is the only way to renewal.

One of the songs I remember from my childhood is "Look and Live." The refrain goes something like this, "Look and live my brother live. Look to Jesus now and live. Its recorded in His word hallelujah, look to Jesus now and live!"


Thanks for stopping by!


Prevenient grace is an important doctrine found in the scriptures. It means that God has gone before every human and made a deposit of His grace. He has touched every person, leaving His unique fingerprint on their soul. The Latin term for this is imago Dei, "the image of God."

To acknowledge the "imago Dei" in humans is to make a statement about God's love for people and the uniqueness and beauty of all people in God's eyes. To hold to imago Dei is not a denial of the inherent sinfulness of all people and need for repentance but rather to say that the image of God is so clearly stamped on mankind that not even the fall can completely erase it.

The example that Christ presents in the scriptures concerning evangelism is going forth into the world to identify the image Dei in others. Finding it in the least likely people of His day - foreigners, criminals, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes and the like. Each of these Jesus treated with great respect and grace.

The work of an evangelist is not to bring God to sinful humanity but to uncover the imago Dei and assist people to use this knowledge for the salvation of their souls. We must assume that the gospel is buried deep in the soul of all people and it is our responsibility through relationship and service to others to uncover the imago Dei so God can restore His own unto Himself.

This is why we must move beyond the walls of the sanctuary and out into the world. This is why we feed the hungry and clothe the poor, visit the imprisoned, tend to the sick, organize Neighborhood Networks each year, and partner with our local municipalities (like WHISPER)in servicing the needs of others. Each one bears the image of our Creator. They are worthy of our love and respect.

This is why we view the building at 2846 SOM Center Road as a "relationship incubator," as an equipping, encouraging and educational center, and as a place where the church comes together to love and encourage one another and exchange God stories. For us the building is not a "salvation station" where people must come to hear of their depravity and sin and get saved nor is it "the house of God" where Christians must come to worship Him once a week. There is nothing wrong with people learning of sin and depravity and worshipping God in the meetinghouse but we must never loose sight that true worship is going forth into the world and find God - imago Dei "in the least of these," as Jesus so clearly said in Matthew 25.

The Bible commissions us "to go into the world," to "do the work of an evangelist" and "to be equipped for every good work." That does not mean knocking on doors with a salvation tract in hand and a Bible tucked under the arm. No, it means saying respectful words to your neighbor, esteeming those whom society would deem beneath you, going forth with a sack of groceries in hand and a hammer in the other. Evangelism is uncovering imago Dei in others so the Holy Spirit can save their soul.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pentecost brings new life

Happy Birthday! In two weeks we will celebrate the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is the beginning of the Church and the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon humankind - Acts 2.

As we read through the Bible we see where the Holy Spirit is great things happen. Broken people are made whole, ordinary people are able to do extraordinary things and lives are transformed. Ezekiel 37:1-14 is a description of such an event.

In 597 B.C. the southern kingdom of Judah surrendered to the powers of Babylon. Jerusalem was destroyed and the people are exiled into Babylon. It was during this time that Ezekiel became God's prophet.

The people of Judah were suffering and wondering what would happen to them next. In the beginning Ezekiel offered no words of hope. The first 24 chapters of the book are filled with words of death and destruction. He spoke of judgment and further suffering because of their unfaithfulness to God and love for the world.

Ezekiel said that God’s chosen people had profaned His holy name (36:20). What does that mean?

In chapter 33 the message begins to change. Ezekiel begins to speak words of restoration. There would be a time when they would no longer be in captivity. A time when He would cause them to walk according to His will (36:27). A time when He would put His Spirit in them and give them a new heart (36:26-27). What does receiving a new heart mean?

Why is God doing this? For His name’s sake (36:22-23)

Ezekiel's vision of dry bones is the third of four times he is transported from his home in Babylon to the Valley of Dry Bones. As he looks around at the bones God asks him a question, "can these bones live?" Ezekiel does not know the answer. Then God tells him to prophesy to the bones. Not words of death but life. When he does the bones come to life.

These are not just any bones ... they represent God's people. They have been utterly destroyed by their sin but they are not forgotten. God will restore them. They will be His people once again no matter what they have done.

We all have need for the restoring power of God's Spirit. Like the people of Judah, God loves us, cares for us, and renews us. Like Judah we are given a new identity as a people He has brought back to life. Our identity should be in our relationship with the Lord and not in self or the things of this world. We should live our lives as if a relationship with God means something to us ... makes a difference.

What does this look like for you?

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Participatio Christi

C. S. Lewis said, "...the Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If the Church is not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose."

I think that is exactly what the Church is supposed to do. We should identify with Jesus, act like Jesus, be like Jesus and help others do the same. God has called us to be imitators of Christ. This means that we must do more than follow Him in our heart and talk about Him at our church. To imitate Christ means we must act Him out in the world.

Participatio Christi-Latin for "participating in the life and mission of Jesus." We are to be a community within the community and add value, bring wisdom, peace and grace to the community in which we live. Is this not the definition of loving people ... is this not God's will for the Church today?

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 15, 2009

"If you have seen Me you have seen the Father, I am the Father are one" (John 1, 14)

These verses have great importance to Christian discipleship. The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God and these verses point out that Jesus is the revelation of God. That He defines our concept of God and models for us what a true human being should be like.

Focusing our discipleship on Jesus forces us to take serious His words and actions. It sets the agenda for our discipleship. He is the standard by which we measure ourselves. His model and teachings must become the norm for the Christian life.

This means that an authentic comprehension of Jesus becomes critical. We need a refined process of discipleship that studies the Gospels giving specific care to the words in red and less concern about doctrine and theology. Our objective is to know and emulate Jesus.

Our discipleship must have a preoccupation with the person and work of Jesus. We must determine what elements of His life we can emulate through daily activity. We may not be able to die for others as Jesus did but we can live sacrificially on their behalf. Effective discipleship will help us to understand Jesus better and provide the tools and opportunity for appropriating His example into our lives and world.

In his book The Forgotten Ways, Allan calls this process "the conspiracy of little Jesuses." He adds, "if Jesus is perfectly human, the human image of God, how bad can we or the church become if we became more like Him? Would the world not be a better place if there were more little Jesuses around?"

As we embark upon structuring a three year plan to lead us as a body of Christ followers we must ask, "are we fundamentally aligned with Jesus' purposes and will for His family on earth?" At this critical time in our church we must allow Jesus to under-mine status quo thinking and call into question our religion, the institutional process we have developed and the behavior we practice. May we never give up on this holy quest.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Whoever desires to be My disciple ... let him follow Me" (Mark 8:34)

At Willoughby Hills Friends Church our leadership believes that following Jesus involves more than simply accepting Him as your Savior through a prayer of commitment. The prayer of commitment is the initial step and is vital to pursuing Jesus but no matter how sincere it may be it does not make one a disciple of Jesus. A disciple is one who emulates the life of Christ. A follower of Jesus uses His life as a pattern for their own. The Bible calls the person who emulates Jesus a "Christian" or "little Christ."

The term "Christian" has become way too generic and needs to be refined back to its original use. Saying we are a Christian means we adopt the values embodied in Jesus' life and teachings. It means embracing His hospitality and generosity, a commitment to speaking the truth in a world of lies and deception, it requires one to embrace selflessness, sacrifice and suffering as the norm.

It is our goal at WHFC to re-establish ourselves as an authentic church in form and style. We want our witness to be consistent with the life and teachings of Jesus. To eliminate anything that is incongruous with His faith and practice. Our goal is to bring continuity between Jesus Christ and our faith and action that bears His name.

To this end I need your prayers. Pray for God to give me wisdom and discernment that extends well beyond my human limitation. Pray for the Spirit's anointing on the administration of WHFC. For unity of human thought, purpose and passion among laity and staff. Celebrate through prayer and testimony the sufficiency of Christ at WHFC in meeting our financial need and funding the vision and mission He has ordained. Pray for Holy Spirit to honor our effort to this end by calling men, women, boys and girls in from all points of the compass to join us in our pursuit of emulating Christ. Pray for God to be glorified through us corporately and individually in who we are and what we do.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Unless the Lord builds the house they who build it labor in vain"

There are many interesting sites to see in Kansas. Across from the Big Well memorial is a silo home under construction. I wish my pictures would have turned out so you could see it. It looks like a three story high concrete bunker with windows. The weekend we visited Greensburg the builder dropped a mid size car on top of it twice to prove its strength and storm resilience. INTERESTING!

(Big Well memorial)

Can a home be constructed to withstand an EF-5+ tornado? I have no idea but what the residents of Greensburg said was that most of the damage was from items (cars, tractors, trees, etc) being hurled through the air by 225+ mph winds. I think the builder could have better proven the durability of the "silo house" by crashing his pick up truck into it at 100+ mph. Oh well, what do I know about tornadoes and silos ... I'm just a hoe handle from Ohio.

This I do know however ... A life that is not grounded in Jesus Christ has no security and is destined to fail. As the Ole hymn states, "on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand." Jesus Christ is the only bunker that can weather the storms of life and provide safe haven from the damnation of sin. Have you surrendered your life to Him yet?

Silo homes seem to be quite popular in Kansas these days. Many are taking old silos and converting them into living space. I wish we could have seen inside this one. It looks really cool. This particular home is located in Pittsburg, Kansas. Imagine that ... we drove west 1200 miles and were still haunted by the Pittsburgh Squealers! I assume there is a Cleveland, Kansas as well ... I wonder why it is not the capital of the state? (ha)

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Free coffee!

I sure like coffee. Hot, cold, fresh or old it doesn't matter ... I have not met a really bad cup of Joe. On Saturdays at Barclay College the dining hall serves a brunch from 10-11 am. Well, I am usually getting up to start my day between 4 and 5 so waiting until 10 am for a cup of Java seemed life threatening.

Fortunately the Haviland Hardware and General Store opens at 6 am and has fresh coffee on tap and thanks to Lisa I drank for free. NICE! Yep, all the coffee I could consume was on the house because Victor the store owner took a liking to my gal and the fact that she is a registered Republican.

Little did we know that early on Saturday mornings the city fathers and community leaders gather around the tables in the store front to talk current events. In addition they had warm homemade sweet rolls and biscuits with sausage gravy which they chased down with lively conversation and fresh coffee! Fortunately we had met a couple of the men the evening before at the college alumni banquet and were invited to stay for the Saturday morning "Think Tank" as it is commonly referred too.

Near as I could tell the men gathered around the tables were faith filled. They spoke of Christ, church, Bible, family, and other subjects of interest to me. This seems to be a common occurrence among God's people. Christians like to be together and share their lives with one another.

Some of the most encouraging moments in my week is meeting with other men over a cup of coffee and talking of Jesus, the Bible and life issues. Of course consuming sweet rolls and gravy soaked biscuits once in a while is nice too! I am so glad to be a part of the family of God and to be associated with such a fine church as Willoughby Hills Friends!

At WHFC we value small groups. We believe a lot of what God wants to do in our life will not occur in just our programmed worship services. We need more intimate relationship where we can share and process life experience with others. If you are not involved in a small group then make it a goal this month to find your own "think tank." We have several to choose from. I bet you will get free coffee too!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 11, 2009


Lisa and I took a whirlwind trip to Kansas two weeks ago. We visited with old friends, made some new friends, participated in the graduation ceremony at Barclay College, and did some site seeing along the way. One of the places we visited was Greensburg, Kansas. The city is 10 miles west of Barclay College. On May 4, 2007 an EF-5 tornado wiped out the entire city.

One of the tourist attractions in Greensburg was the historic "Big Well." It is the largest hand dug well in the USA and was built nearly a century ago to service the booming railroad industry. As you can see in the photo below the Big Well did not weather the storm on May 4. The residents are in the process of cleaning it out and rebuilding it once again.

Currently at the site of the Big Well there is a small gift shop and this memorial.

The city of Haviland where Barclay College resides has never been struck by a tornado. On the night of May 4, 2007 the F-5 that struck Greensburg was a mile and a half wide and was on the ground for some twenty miles. For some reason it lifted before reaching Haviland and set back down after passing over the city.

I will not speculate why the tornado skipped over Haviland that night but I did learn on my last visit to Barclay that the standard protocol in Haviland when the tornado sirens sound is to gather in the basement of the College library and pray for God's protection over His campus. My heart is encouraged by such faith. I also believe in the power of prayer. Prayer changes things. Let's make WHFC a house of prayer this year. Who knows what God will change as a result of our prayers. Why it could even be us!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

"All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother." -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

"God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers." -- Jewish proverb

"Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother." -- Lin Yutang

"The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness." -- Honore' de Balzac (1799-1850)

"My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her." -- George Washington (1732-1799)

"By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1907- )

"The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom." -- Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

"Youth fades; love droops, the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life." -- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." --Author Unknown

This year I four mothers in my life to give thanks for. My mom, my mother-in-law, my dear wife Lisa, and my pregnant daughter-in-law Elaina. NICE!

Thank you Heavenly Father for each of these women You have placed in my life. You have used them to encourage and bless me in so many ways. May they enjoy their relationship with You this day and feel honored to a child of the King.


Bizarre Bazaar?

Bazaar is the name of this bridge. It is the first of several cattle bridges over the Kansas turnpike (I-35). From Kansas City to Wichita there is nothing but lush green prairies with cattle grazing in the beautiful Flint Hills for as far as the eye can see in this region of Kansas. Last Fall when I traveled to Barclay College via motorcycle the ranchers had cattle in the pen and were in the process of moving them from one side of I-35 to the other.

Kansans must take their cattle raising seriously because Bazaar would not have been a cheap bridge to build. It is a concrete structure that appears to be wide enough for automobiles to cross three or four abreast. But there is no road. Just green grass on either side of Bazaar with these elaborate pens which are used to stage the cattle.

To me the Bazaar Cattle Bridge seems to be a bit "bizarre." But then again, I think in the context of an Ohioan. In a Kansas economy it probably makes good sense to have such a crossing out in the middle of the prairie.

Context means everything. The Bible says "that in the fullness of time" or "at just the right time" God sent forth Jesus into the world. God's timing and provision is perfect. As I look back on the twists and turns of my existence I see where this plays out time and time again. Bizarre isn't it? Naw, it's just a God thing. :-)

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 8, 2009

God's provision

My God shall supply all of my needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I thought of this verse while visiting with Pastor Ben Staley in Wichita Kansas. After leaving Barclay College last Tuesday Lisa and I met up with Ben and his wife Denise in Wichita. Ben now pastors Northridge Friends Church and was my pastor in high school at Salem First Friends. I wonder where I would be today had I not met Ben?

I received a call to the ministry at a young age but did not follow Christ through most of my high school years. However in my senior year I refocused and recommitted my life to Christ. Unfortunately academics had not been a priority and I could not gain admission into a Christian college. When Ben heard of my dilemma he drove me out to his Alma mater and introduced me to the right people. After telling my story to the dean of admission I was granted permission to attend fall classes at Fort Wayne Bible College under academic probation.

Ben could have easily overlooked me at that time. I was not a saint in youth group and he was saddled with a large church who was grieving over the sudden death of their 56 year old senior pastor. He had every reason to overlook a troubled teen from Leetonia, Ohio and everyone would have understood.

I thank God He placed me in Ben's radar screen some 30 years ago and I appreciated the opportunity to meet up with him after so many years to say "thank you." Ben was one of the ways that my God has supplied all on my needs through His glorious riches in Christ Jesus down through the years. What a great God He is. I will always love and serve Him.

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, May 7, 2009

It's a girl!

I found out tonight that the grandchild we are expecting to arrive in late September will be a girl. Her name will be Hannah Rea. NICE!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The power of a story

As Christ followers we generally love hearing stories of people who are fresh recipients of God's grace. Last week I sat with a man in Kansas who moved to the USA after finding Christ in Bombay India. He shared how difficult it is to win a Hindu to Christ in India and yet boldly shared his story of transformation. Now when he is not teaching Missions and Evangelism at Barclay College he returns to Bombay to share the life and love of Jesus with his fellow countrymen.

Dr. Prosperly's story is stimulating to hear. However, it is really not much different than yours or mine. The name and location may be different but the need was the same. We were lost and needed a Savior. There is power in each of our stories and we should share them as often as we can with one another in the Way, in the meetinghouse when we gather for corporate worship, and when we engage others who may not have a story with Jesus yet.

I got to share my story a few times while visiting in Kansas last week and it felt good. Tell someone your story today. Let God encourage you and bless others through your testimony!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Lisa and I spent a lot of time traveling in the RV last week and as usual we took turns reading to one another (OK, we didn't have the tent with us this trip so I'll call it a minivan). One of the journals Lisa was reading from said studies show that left alone, most heart patients choose death over making the lifestyle changes they need to live. But when they receive support from fellow patients, dietitians, psychologists, friends and family members the numbers are almost reversed.

A similar pattern exists in all of our lives. Most of us will not make the necessary changes to conform into the image of Jesus without the support of others. The Wesleyan Bible Commentary says that the believer's sanctification cannot be viewed in a solitary state. This same literary work defines sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every Christ follower to recreate the lost image of God.

I want to thank God today for the dear friends He has placed in my life. I cannot envision a world without them. Nor do I expect to see the image of Christ to fully manifest in my being without their help and support.

Thanks for being my friend and for stopping by!


Monday, May 4, 2009

Pink Flamingos

OK this is a little out of the ordinary for a Fodder post but I thought it was a very creative idea to raise funds for local benevolence needs. First Baptist of Lake Worth Florida raised large sums of money to support their local mission efforts through plastic pink flamingos.

The article in Outreach (May/June, 2009)said First Baptist notified their constituency of the outreach in their weekly bulletin and church announcements stating that a large flock of pink flamingos has migrated into the community and may show up in their yard. Should they want to have them humanely disposed of it would cost $15; for $10 they could have them migrate to another attender's yard; and for $25 they could purchase "flock" insurance.

Think it would "fly" at WHFC?

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Work out your salvation - 5

"…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13)

The Lord Almighty created the stars, every animal and living insect on the earth. He created the trees and every flower that springs up. Yet these were not the works of His hand that gave Him pleasure. God takes pleasure in His ongoing relationship and work in you, and in seeing His salvation displayed in/through your life! "...He is working in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." What a great phrase to conclude this week of blogging with.

I like that. Just think... God gets hopped up on us. COOL! Christ now has a bride. A people set apart for His name, whom is He takes "pleasure, satisfaction and delight in." (Amplified Bible) Just think of that as you reflect on your week and prepare your heart for the Lord's Day.

God takes pleasure in you. He takes pleasure in being with you, working His ways and character in and through you, and He takes pleasure in seeing you work it out (live it). NICE! Could there be a more fulfilling life? I think not...

Thanks for stopping by!