Thursday, September 24, 2009


Most pastors have been teased more than once in their life, "Pastor, nice work. You only have to work an hour each week!" My seasoned retort is, "Not bad pay for that hour but the retirement benefits are out of this world." I long ago stopped letting it bother me. If I think someone is serious, I invite them to follow me around for 24 hours. I'm sure it would cure them of their misconceptions (and/or, envy.)

Because I DO work Sundays, my Sabbath is Friday and my "weekend" begins Thursday evening and hopefully runs to early Saturday afternoon. As such Thursday morning I often face a full "to do" list. Today, for example, I have two meetings, a lunch with a parishioner, a mentoring appointment, and some errands. I had a meeting tonight that was canceled because the members of that committee (the only group I meet with on Thursday nights)were too busy. My Associate Pastor, Barry, is preaching Sunday so I have sermon and worship items to tie up.

Thursday mornings are like Friday mornings for the Monday to Friday crowd. It is a time to check the "to do" list to decide what "not to do" and what to defer until the next week. It's a time of reflection on the work of the past week--what went well, what would you like to do over? Sometimes it's a prayer, "Thank God it's Thursday" followed by another one "Help me make it through one more day." Sometimes it's a time of anticipation, "Tonight I can kick back and relax!"

But hopefully, it's a time of thanksgiving--for what God has done in and through you in the past week.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Sometimes we send mixed messages. We tell people God loves them, but in the next breath gripe about people who are a pain in the neck. "Feel free to call me anytime," is the offer we make, but when they call they are screened by call waiting and answered by a machine that says "I'm not available right now, leave a message."

Churches and Christians are no exception. "Be still and know that I am God" is the reading for the day, only to be followed by announcements about the 300 activities the church has crowded into its schedule. "Jesus loves the little children" is the song we teach the little ones, but woe unto the little ones who sing too loudly and find it impossible to sit in the pew when an adult preacher is using adult words to speak to adults on Sunday mornings.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells people that they should say what they mean and mean what they say. "Let your yes be your yes and you no be your no."

Consistency in the messenger is vital to the integrity of the Message. Too often our inconsistency comes because our mouth is in motion before our mind is in gear. We mindlessly spout scripture without understanding its implications and then get angry when people call our inconsistency hypocrisy.

No, Christians are not perfect and our inconsistencies are a product of our imperfection -- which is sin. The mixed messages will sometimes come, but if we are truly concerned about giving people the truth that will set them free ... we need to be committed to consistency in our message and in the actions which reflect that message.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Long-suffering fans of certain sports teams have in their vocabulary phrases like "the curse," "choke-artists," "breaking my heart," "here we go again," and "maybe next year." For years the Phillies shared those laments until the arrival of people like Utley, Howard, and Hamels. The Red Sox had a very special extra set of negatives "the curse of the Babe" and "those d---- Yankees." From 1984 until 2006, those of us who root for the Detroit Tigers used most of first set of negatives. Then in 2007 and 2008, years of great promise--the frustrations returned.

Jim Leyland has skippered the Tigers through those years and I suspect he has gotten grayer because of them. A few weeks ago the Tigers seemed cruising for their first division title in years, with a 7 game lead. At one point a couple of weeks ago, the Twins were rushing away from playoff contention. So much so that the Minneapolis papers were begging the Tigers just to go on a winning streak and put the Twins out of their misery. But silenced bats and Kansas City Royals pitching began putting them into a slide. They entered this weekend with a four game lead over the Twins and their two best pitchers slated to open the series. Both pitchers lost without run support. Sunday Nate Robertson, who lost his starting job early this year, being sent down to the AAA Toledo Mudhens and then to the disabled list, was scheduled to pitch. A 3-game sweep by the Twins seemed imminent.

But Robertson stopped the Twins at the plate and the Tiger bats came alive. 6-2 the Tigers won and are again three games up. I suspect the curmudgeonly Leyland had some choices words in the clubhouse Saturday night. Whatever happened, the slide has ended for now. No more Kansas City Royals pitchers to face. Four games left at the end of the season with the Twins. Will Leyland rejoice? Will the Tigers fans stop saying "choke artists?" Will the Tigers win the division and the "honor" of facing the Yankees? We'll know two weeks from tonight.

Friday, September 18, 2009


"And in all things God works for the good of those who love the Lord, who are called according to His purpose." - Roman 8:28

Not all things are good ... but God works for the good in ALL THINGS.

God WORKS ... He doesn't sit back disinterestedly, leaving everything up to us.

God has a PURPOSE for us out of His love and we work according to the purpose out of our love for Him.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


NOTE FROM STEVE: I write three blogs, this being my general public blog. Today I am reprinting a piece from my devotional blog THRIVING IN CHRIST.

"Humble yourself in the eyes of the Lord, and in due time He will lift you up."
- 1 Peter 5:6

One of my favorite shows, AMERICA'S GOT TALENT, had its finale last night. There were five finalists: Voices of Glory, The Texas Tenors, Recycled Percussion, Barbara Padilla, and Kevin Skinner. Voices of Glory were a family of three African American kids who got their start singing for a seriously ill mother who was in a coma. Their voices and love brought healing to their mom, who was present that night. The Texas Tenors were three brothers who got together less than a year ago and began singing in part to honor their father. Recycled Percussion were bunch of crazies from a small town in New Hampshire--and they repeatedly shared the message, "Kids of America, you should not let small beginnings stop you from following your dreams." Barbara Padilla was a mother who survived cancer, went back to get her Masters degree in music, and sang out of a heart of faith to encourage other cancer survivors to never give up. Kevin Skinner was an out-of-work chicken catcher (you heard me right)who used his down time to sing and to spend time with his family, who were always a centerpiece in his life.

What impressed me was not simply the talent--incredible talent ... Barbara was a classical opera singer who will soon travel the world ... Kevin was a country singer whose voice astounded us with its heart and clarity ... what impressed me was the humility of each of these finalists. They didn't start out polished. A dream moved them but not a greedy ambition. They were supportive of one another. They were grateful for their opportunity. But most of all, they exhibited an incredible humility that never seemed to leave them. The two ultimate finalists - Barbara and Kevin seemed genuinely stunned by their success, and were filled with tears of joy.
No fist pumps, high fives, not a touch of arrogance. HUMILITY.

In a world of self-promotion, self-serving manipulation, celebrity arrogance, hard core drive for success ... genuine humility is both refreshing and itself a powerful lesson.

By the way, country won out over classics. Kevin Skinner was the winner of a contest that originally had 110,000 contestants.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Someone sent me this cartoon reflecting the theological realities of golf. Have a good laugh. I did.


From Steve: A friend of mine and fellow "evangelist" Micah Brickner published this comment a few months ago on his blog ORANGE FAITH. I thought it was worth reflection and discussion.

I just started putting together a teaching based on Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus, But Not the Church. He talks about the fact that the world likes who Jesus is, but the clearly do not like the people who follow Him. If you look at all of the people who were hurt by Christianity, they were hurt by people in the church, not by Jesus Himself.

If we look throughout pop culture, Jesus is a huge part of things. A ton of TV shows make references to Him, music stars, actors and actresses; they all talk about Him. Jesus is a popular guy. However, a lot of people choose not to follow Him. Why? Because of His followers.

As the church, we need to show people that we are like Jesus. Gandhi once said that he would have become a Christian, but he never met one. While I believe that his statement was a bit extreme, it is based on some truth. We let ourselves get wrapped up inside of a bubble and forget to connect with people. We become so distant from people in the world that we forget how to treat people who are not Christians. And so, people think we are weird, crazy, and intolerant.

Jesus wants us to be missionaries in our communities, teaching people the things that He taught us. We need to share the change that He has made for us with the world. Just because people respect Jesus, or like Him, doesn't mean that they understand the technical terminology that we have developed over time. We have to be relevant to the world, we have to be in it, and we have to love them... all of them. No matter what.

Friday, September 11, 2009


As a pastor, I am in the vision business. My job is to help people and churches identify the vision God has for them, to embrace it, and to work in obedience to that vision. The scriptures tell us that when the people of God begin to move to a new level of impact and fruitfulness "your old men will see visions and your young men will dream dreams." Proverbs tells us, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." A more accurate translation is "where there are no VISIONARIES the people CAST OFF RESTRAINT." What that literally means is that not everyone originates the vision. It's not done by majority vote and it is not dependent upon everyone giving it equal support. But most of us live by "little pictures" defined by the comforts and concerns of everyday existence. Our vision is limited by our limited experiences, the boxes we live in. God's vision always takes us outside the box. The body of Christ lives by "the big picture" - what God is doing and having visioncasters who help us see what GOD is doing and encourage us to go and do what God is doing.

Churches without vision "cast off restraint." That means they have no focus, no boundaries, temporary expectations. They also have no unity because as individuals, we think like individuals. Armed with a vision, we are drawn together by the higher goal of serving Christ instead of self or self-interest,a true unity of the Spirit that blesses everyone.

Note: This Sunday, September 13, 2009 at the Church of God of Landisville--we will be observing SHARE THE DREAM Sunday where we examine the vision that God has given this congregation for serving Him and His world. You can find out more about the church, its location, its worship times, its ministry at our website


It is raining this morning. Pretty miserable. The rain has washed out my Friday morning golf round with some good friends. My alternative plan for today would have been yard work. Plan B is now highly unlikely. Plan C is to work on household finances. My inclination is to go to Plan D-curling up on the couch and reading a good book.

Rainy mornings often bring to mind a verse from the Bible. "The rain falls on the just and the unjust." In the arid climate of the Middle East where that word was first spoken, rain was something vital. Without rain, the crops did not grow. Without crops there was famine and poverty and hunger. Be rainless long enough there was death and extinction. Rain was considered one of the Creator God's most significant blessings.

Yet rain was not reserved for just those with whom God was pleased. That really was a pagan concept. The Hebrews understood that such a concept was too simplistic and perhaps even too materialistic. God was the sustainer God. He provided life to ALL.
Sometimes He withheld rain to make a point, to get their attention, to call them to repentance but was primarily a message to the people who at least CLAIMED that He was their God.

It was also a message that we should not assume that material blessings were the ultimate sign of God's favor. The farms of evil men were nourished by God as well as those of the devout. God's blessings are not limited to the material--like wealth and good health. For those who truly believe that God is the one to whom they entrust their lives, you learn to look beyond such things. You look the peace that comes from a clear conscience, the self-respect that comes from godly character, the blessing that comes from good deeds done anonymously. And the ultimate blessing ... that a life lived for God continues -- beyond death, to the eternal joy of living in His loving presence.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


In recent years television has spawned a plethora of "reality shows." Once the province of game shows ("Queen for a Day" "The Price is Right" etc.), this has been expanded into thing like "Survivor" "The Apprentice" "The Bachelor" "The Biggest Loser" "Extreme Home Makeover" MTV's "Real Life" and some pretty obnoxious things like "Tila Tequila's Shot at Love" and "Iron Chef."

Where as the previous reality shows were based on giving away home appliances and meeting someone's materialistic dreams, many of the contemporary reality shows ("Extreme Home Makeover" not among them) are based on a contrived reality. They place real people into surreal situations and watch the madness that emerges. And Americans have a real talent for going public with their dark sides, giving vent to the madness that can be found within. It's not generally a pretty sight, but it sure generates an audience and pumps up the ratings (thus increasing the advertising dollars.)

Many of us have our "reality" shows - just like my grandmother had her soaps and others have their favorite version of the CSI's (Crime Scene Investigation shows).
Mine is one called "America's Got Talent." I have now watched it through four seasons.

Like "American Idol" it has its bizarre opening rounds where everyone who thinks they have an artistic talent, or an artistic delusion, or simply a streak of exhibitionism takes the stage to "perform" and receive reviews (and generally rejection) from judges who are trying to discover genuine talent that will ultimately grace the entertainment world -- giving us our next Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Pavaracci, or Jay Leno. When you get to the final rounds you begin to hear the stories of people who have made great sacrifices to pursue their dreams or to share their gift or to achieve the success that they desire. Those human interest stories often tell you about the incredible resiliency and hope in the human spirit that simply wants to be who they have been created to be and share their gifts to the benefit of others. Some of the "acts" are an acquired taste, but all have obviously received some wonderful gifts by God.

For me -- that's entertainment. And right now I'm rooting for Lawrence Beamer and Barbara Padilla and Kevin Skinner.

Monday, September 7, 2009


College football season began last weekend. Although my beloved Detroit Tigers are still leading the American League's Central Division, creating the potential that MY baseball season could continue until almost November--I was eager for the college season to begin. (I usually give little energy to the pro football season until Thanksgiving--maybe because I root for the pitiful Cleveland Browns).

Twelve noon came on Saturday and my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes met the Navy Midshipmen in Columbus. Now Navy is no pushover--they have had multiple consecutive seasons of 8 plus wins--beaten Notre Dame more than once--and have played several bowl games in recent years. But the Buckeyes were rated no. 6 in the preseason polls (I actually thought that a bit generous) and by half time it looked pretty much like the Buckeyes would end up overpowering Navy. Until Coach Tressel decided to go for it on 4th and one instead of kicking a field goal that would put them three scores ahead. The kick failed. One the next play Navy went straight up the field and into the end zone. In fact, they pretty much had the Buckeyes in the palm of their hands when THEIR coach called a pass play for a 2 point conversion on the second touchdown after OSU's miscue and that was intercepted and returned for a two point conversion for the Buckeyes. The game was then out of reach and Tressell's boys slipped through.

They will have to play a whole lot better if they expect to beat Southern Cal next week in Columbus.

Afterwords Chris Spielman of ESPN said "Navy always plays 60 minutes." Unlike teams who get behind and surrender, Navy--typifying the dedication and determination of their branch of the service--give it everything even if the cause is lost. And sometimes that mean they snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I published this yesterday on my devotional blog, THRIVING IN CHRIST. Thought the general public might find it interesting as well.

"Whatever you do in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord ...." - Colossians 3:17

I am not always the most efficient worker. Sometimes it takes me twice as long to get something done as I think it should. Many years ago I decided to replace the faucet in our kitchen sink. It had been leaking, much to Dianne's annoyance. It didn't annoy all that much--but when she told me we were wasting money--that motivated me. As a homeowner with little money, I thought, "Go to Sears, buy a faucet, and put it in." So off to Sears I went.

The salesman assured me it would be a simple task. It would take me maybe 30-45 minutes to accomplish. Since I am not much of a handyman, I decided to wait until I had nothing better to do. So one night around nine o'clock I decided to tackle it. First problem, I had to find the wrench needed (I had everything else I needed in the kit.) Once that was located, I started to take off the old faucet, only to find that this required me to get under the sink to do so.

There I found that the depth of our sink did not accommodate my short-handled wrench. I needed a long-handled one. Since I did not own one I went next door to my neighbor's house. Dick WAS a handy man and he had almost every tool imaginable. He had the needed tool. By now I had easily killed the salesman's "30-45 minutes."

Dick followed me home. There I discovered that no amount of effort with new tool would budge the old faucet. "Let's just take the whole sink out," suggested Dick (now we were past the first hour of this project.) That made sense, so we started -- only to discover that the sink was anchored into the cabinetry. Whoever had put the sink in must have feared earthquakes or just had too much time on his hands. He had anchored it in MORE THAN 30 PLACES. Now we had to remove drawers, wedge ourselves into many small place (and did I tell you? Go in search of NEW TOOLS).

Finally, after three hours--we got the sink out, the old faucet removed, the new one replaced and the sink back in place (this time with perhaps a dozen anchor points). Guess what?

You guessed it--the new faucet leaked, as well.

After that I determined that you can work or you can work smarter. There is little satisfaction in work that requires a lot of effort and produces minimal results. And there's no merit in working faster if the job still isn't done right. It's not about the work--it's about the results.

Jesus reminds us that the best results for our work come when we work according to His purposes, following His plans,and doing it to help people honor Him. In the end that is the work that will be effective and whose results will be lasting.

Note: You can access this devotional blog by going to This Sunday I am also preaching on this topic at the Church of God of Landisville.