Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I Can Only Imagine

Do you know the worship song sung by Mercy Me that talks about the incredible nature of heaven? I can only imagine what it will be like. We have such a small sliver of information about heaven. But what we do have is enough to whet our apettite for such a day in the presence of God.

Dan Phillips has written a great blog post at www.teampyro.blogspot.com about the close of our brief lives here on earth that considers what we might imagine about the future in glory.

"Do you honestly imagine that there is any chance you'll regret trusting the Word too much? That you'll regret believing in God too heartily? That you'll regret giving too much of yourself to Him, in His service? That you'll regret having mortified the flesh too much, having walked in the Spirit too much? That you'll regret having been too godly of a husband, wife, parent, child, churchman, citizen? That you'll wish you'd indulged your fleshly passions more, loved the world more, pursued your private agenda more, absorbed yourself in the world's passing distractions more? That you'll wish you'd gotten more things, better things, and given less of your time and energies to the Word and the Lord?"

Well put Dan. Even with our limited understanding of heaven and God's character, we know that to buy the trinkets of this world at the expense of our greatest treasure in heaven is foolishness. Life is indeed short, live well and live wisely!

Choose treasure,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Caroling in the Village

Last night we caroled in our village of Wyoming. We had one of the largest groups in our history of mobile minstreling and spent a record 1 3/4 hours on the street. We ministered at 30+ homes and had some unique experiences. Here are my nominations for the WyBC Colden Chorus Awards (somewhat akin to the Grammy's).

For Best Aggressive Doorknockers: Caleb W & Scott P
I really couldn't determine who was more aggressive, so they can share. Both boys were intent on not only being the doorknockers, but also on rousing the occupants to meet them at the door. Both boys had to be warned, just one knock and wait. I think that Caleb actually tapped out a message telgraph style on one person's doorbell. I hope actually that they were not really home! I have to give them the award, because I really need some enthusiastic knockers like that in the future! Don't crush enthusiasm -- simply redirect it!

For Most Vocal Challenge to the Words of the Final Song: Owen E
While this award was previously held by Carrie W, Owen was a surprise candidate. The controversy about the singing of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" was solved until I printed different words in the "new" versions of songbooks. I must not have saved the changes last time and printed the "wrong words". I believe we finally settled on "Good tidings of Christmas" as the penultimate phrase. And Owen did not mutiny -- thanks.

For Best Choreography: Stephanie L
Stephanie decided that We Wish You a Merry Christmas was the only song that needed a little something extra. She took it upon herself to choreograph a little two-count sway with some of her partners. The only problem is that she had no concept of stay with the group! :) To the innocent observer too much eggnog might have appeared to be the culprit!

For Best Scrooge-like Reaction to Carolers: the family that sat at the window and continued their board game
I believe that the non-answered doors were easier to handle. This family looked out of the picture window through a sheer curtain and kept right on playing a game. They refused to come to the window! We still wished them a Merry Christmas in song. They were not the only ones to try to ignore us. However, 30+ people standing in your front yard would tend to get my attention. I guess some people just don't know what to do with carolers.

For Best Tiny Tim-like Reaction to Carolers: the Innkeeper at Wyoming
The new owners of the Inn came out and listened at his door. He invited us all in for hot cider and doughnuts. Walt and Lou S were a close second: these folks were ready with their plate of cookies for us and sent it out to us. These are great reactions and were a super encouragement to me. We are having a positive influence in our community for Christ.

For Best Set Design: God
We had one of the most mild caroling nights ever. It allowed us to stay out for so long this year. We are grateful for the break in weather even though it meant no snow for our trek. O what fun it was to sing a christmas song last night (sans a one horse open sleigh).

For Best Supporting Cast: the 39 carolers (men, women, teens, and kids) who went out
I was really grateful to all that attended the event and especialy for kids and families that make this event part of their holiday planning. There were even some of our neighbors who were looking forward to hearing us again this year -- actually looking forward to us coming! There were also some great comments about "could we please stop here -- I told them we were coming. I really want to minister to these people; I know them through .... "

All in all a huge ministry success. Special thanks to Paula B who would have rather been out caroling and agreed to woman the kitchen front, getting all of our goodies ready for our return. I guess that would be another classification -- "Best Home Front Support". Thanks to everyone who took aprt ion this special holiday tradition of community outreach. 'Tis the season to be sharing the love of Christ in a real and tangible way.

Singing in the Night,
Praising him in the Day,

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Getting Your Worship Buzz On

My brother Thad has posted an interesting question about worship that has generated some comments from his regular readers. I posted a response, but couldn't leave it alone so to speak. (By the way, this is the sign of a good post in my opinion) So as I was reading the Disciple-Making Church by Bill Hull, I came across this quote:

"With the recent surge in church planting has come an intense interest in creating environment. The lack of a praise environment, not a lack of technical know-how, most hinders the contemporary church. Avante-garde church planters, those on the cutting edge, have begun to ...use drama, special effects, and whatever can be found that will hold the congreagtion's interest. ... However, I do not believe the worship environment they seek can be found through such techniques. These merely simulate a real, Spirit-engendered environment, while their artificial nature highlights the talent and abilities of man. A spiritual buzz based on highly gifted person's presentation will require a long string of buzzes. That, of course, leads to a desensitizing that eventually becomes boredom." pp. 71-72

I believe worship that is not anthropocentric (man-centered) but is theocentric (God-centered) is built on genuine enthusiasm. Hull writes rightly
"Enthusiasm [in the early church] made ministry a natural overflow of internal experience." p. 71.
That is, genuine worship comes from the inside out, not the other way around.

On this basis, how was your worship this weekend? Did it flow from a growing, developing relationship with God or did it wait for the gifted worship team to give you an infusion of their synthetic sugar-coated worship narcotic? Did you worship with the worship leader or watch him worship and draw a vicarious, second-hand drag off of his performance?

Tough questions. But they must be answered. It's time to detox and sober up on this topic.

Striving to be a lead worshipper not a worship leader,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

30 Days of Focus Logo Evaluations

We are embarking on another "30 Days of Focus" here at WyBC. It will begin on Dec31 and run through Jan 28. This campaign style annual address is a blatant plagarism/borrrowing from Rick Warren's 40 Days of Purpose. While we do not buy into all that Rick has espoused, we do believe that the focused attention as a body on one topic is very helpful. So we will borrow the concept, rename it, rework it, reframe it and serve it up to our flock.

This year's theme is "Service". Its byline is probably "Every member a minister". But I am working on a logo for the 5 Sundays that we will be working through these things. The logo will be on notes pages, slide shows, bulletin shells, wall decorations, etc. But after polling 5 people, I got 5 different sets of input. Go figure. I guess I must be a glutton for punishment, because I am asking you to weigh in on these designs. If you would view the logos attached and then "vote". You answer may be any of the selected logos or a compilation of them. Please tell me what you like and what you dislike. Simply typing a number in the comments section does not help me very much.

Thanks for your help,
Associate Pastor/Graphic Artist in Residence

Don't Tweak My Tradition

Can you recite the Lord's Prayer from memory? Did you know that there are two accounts of this model prayer recorded and that they don't agree word for word with each other? I hope that this does not tweak your tradition or rock your liturgical world!

We are working through a series with the teens on the life of Christ. This week, Bethany will teach on prayer and specifically the Lord's Prayer section of Matthew's and Luke's accounts. Something caught my attention in the discussion of the passage. The KJV has a phrase at the end of the Matthean account that is not in the oldest and best manuscripts.

"For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." Mt. 6:13b

So, the thought is that if the older manuscripts don't have it, then it must be an addition. Is it legitimate? Does it have a place in the prayer? Did Jesus say it or not? Does it matter? Is it in keeping with the prayer? Why might a later copyist add the commentary?

I would love to hear your feedback on this topic. Charles and I discussed it this morning at Bible Study, but you weren't there! :)

And finally, I want to put this caveat on this post: I am still convinced that I have the Word of God translated into my own language, that it is inspired and that it is inerrant; I still believe that tradition is okay as long as someone remembers the meaning behind the form; I will still read the Lord's prayer and observe its presented principles of prayer.

I will call upon the Lord
Who is worthy to be praised
So shall I be safe from my enemies
I will call upon the Lord
The Lord liveth and blessed be my Rock
and let the God of my salvation be exalted


Monday, November 27, 2006

Leadership in the Holding Pattern

I will admit, I do not like waiting. I believe that this is not the first time that I have had to post this message/confession either. Patience is no virtue of mine! Yet Joshua 3 has yielded some really helpful stuff for me as a leader in the holding pattern.

May I suggest some of them to you?
  1. A great leader gathers recon data and makes a decision to move forward, often without giving the data to the people. (note: ch. 2:22-24 is a private reporting of the news back to Joshua; ch. 3:1 begins with Joshua rising early to make the company march to Jericho)
  2. A great leader rises early. (3:1) I wonder if he doesn't rise before the rest of the crew. The morning walks around the camp at Lamoka before the cabins erupt with campers have always been an encouragement to me.
  3. A great leader delegates tasks (especially communication and direction) to his officers. (3:2)
  4. A great leader communicates great vision of the future possibilities to instill excitement in the troops. (3:5)
  5. A great leader who waits for God to exalt him in the sight of the people has a stronger ministrywith them. (3:7) (note: the strength of ministry is not mentioned, but the connection with Moses is; Moses is the standard for great leaders in the minds of the people)
  6. A great leader speaks the words of the LORD to the people with confidence. (3:9) His confidence as a leader must be built on truth. Following a leader is so much easier when he is on track with God. (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1)

The minutes preceding the attack is perhaps the hardest time to lead. You must instill courage and confidence in the men (and women) around you. You must be confident in the decisions that you have made and be committed to seeing them through. You must be ready to lead when the light turns green!

Pray for me as I lead that I will wait for the green light. Pray that I will lead with excellence through the wait and the charge/march into uncharted waters. Pray that I will watch my Leader and not rush ahead or lag behind.

Desiring to leave a leadership legacy like Moses and Joshua,


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanks to All Who Help Me to Be Excellent

Thanks to all of you who are faithful readers of this blog. But again, I want to thank those of you who are alert enough to realize, "Hey I already read that" and comment. I am afraid that it is akin to those conversations like "You've got spinach in your teeth" or "Your zipper is down" -- everyone wants to be told discreetly, but no one wants to be the bearer of the bad news. Thanks to all who are so bold and confident in their relationship with me to tell me that I had posted twice. You really are my friends. I hope to be able to repay you somehow.

Thanks to all of you who are faithful readers of this blog. But again, I want to thank those of you who are alert enough to realize, "Hey I already read that" and comment. I am afraid that it is akin to those conversations like "You've got spinach in your teeth" or "Your zipper is down" -- everyone wants to be told discreetly, but no one wants to be the bearer of the bad news. Thanks to all who are so bold and confident in their relationship with me to tell me that I had posted twice. You really are my friends. I hope to be able to repay you somehow.

Thanks for pointing out my stuttering issues,
Mike :)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Sweet 16

Yesterday marked a great milestone in my/our life. It was our wedding anniversary -- the sixteenth actually. Sixteen years ago on a "black Friday", we avoided the malls and focused on saying we do in an evening service in our home church; black Friday became teal & rose Friday! :) It was a great celebratory event, filled with family and friends.

We have made many more aquaintances along this journey of marriage, but my wife still continues to have them all beat. She knows my most private thoughts and emotions. She can help me recover fastest from a botched, mangled day. She is a very suitable helper, fit for me. After Solomon tried a couple of models out, he came away with this appropriate jewel of wisdom, " He who findeth a wife, findeth a good thing" (Prov 18:22). I certainly have been favored by the LORD.

A rich, rich man,


Do you remember Little Orphan Annie singing this one word over and over in her Broadway hit song by the same title? Her confidence and ability to face a rainy day was in the fact that tomorrow started something new -- the chance at seeing sunshine again. The possibility of a different existence, the start of the next chapter, the freshness of another day all bring a charge of anticipation. Is it possible to plan for tomorrow without stressing over it's vulnerability and risk? Yes. In fact, Joshua gives a great pithy plan to the sons of Israel in Joshua 3:5:

Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among

I do not know if tomorrow will bring wonders for me or for you. We no longer communicate through prophets or audibles or oracles. But I do know that tomorrow holds that possibility. "My God" is the same God that did wonders with the Israelites -- parted the Red Sea and the raging Jordan. He can still do amazing miraculous intervention sorts of acts that totally separate Him from the rest of the field of suitors. That's one of the reasons why I love Him so much.

So if tomorrow is one of those days that he plans to bring about "water division" I want to be ready! I must consecrate or separate myself for his service. I must get up early and pack up my tent and get ready to travel. I believe that I am also called to lead others to do the same thing, so that God can do these wonders among US, not just me.

I don't know if the sun will come out, tomorrow, but I am packing my sunscreen and my Bermudas just in case! :) I know that of God desires me to get to the other side, He will make a way, where there seems to be no way. As I am ready and available to participate with Him, He will exalt me in the sight of others. I want to be there so that I can cast that spotlight on Christ -- the Living God!

Ready for dry ground through the waters,

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What Will It Take to (re)Build the Church

Want to build a powerful, vibrant, emerging church? Or empower, revitalize, grow a stagnant plant? Hull may have nailed the concept in about 18 words:

"Inspired people must still communicate a contextualized message to those
who have been gathered by creative, powerful means."
Bill Hull, The Disciple-Making Church, p. 58

Preaching the word contextually (ancient and modern),
For genuine church growth,

Exercising Your Faith

Pastor Evans had this quote in his message Sunday AM:
"Faith puts God between us and our circumstances."
--Daniel Webster

As we journey through some tight financial times here at Wyoming Baptist, I am reminded that these times are refocusing times to bring us to into total reliance on Him. I want to have financial comfort and security. I want to have extra even. Is "provision for needs" or "daily bread" always to be at banquet level? Am I called to stop doing anything to support my family?

No, faith has substance in God (He has promised to supply all my needs + He who refuses to work ought not to eat + He has created me for good works) and has evidence (I will therefore stop worrying or fretting about it; be anxious for nothing + pray without ceasing). These are emotionally loaded, spiritually charged words of truth. I say that I believe them.

O Lord, help my unbelief -- increase my faith (acted on). I do not want to be a platitudinist (preacher who gives right words without appropriate action to match). I choose your faithful way (Ps 119:30); I shall run in your way (Ps 119:32). Enlarge my heart (Psalm 119:32)! What faith stretching exercises are you going through right now? Be comforted to know that you do not walk alone.

Relying on a relationship more than a religion,

Consciousness and Meditation

The US NEW & World Report magazine for October23, 2006 has an interesting (albeit disturbing) article in it entitled: Is There Room for the Soul? In it, the scientists from Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggest that the consciousness that separates us from animals is only a way to explain what we have already decided using our more evolutionary factors. The author of the article correctly assesses the situation: "There is something troubling about reducing consciousness to the operations of a 3-pound chunk of wrinkled brain tissue. ... Deny or attempt to disprove the immaterial character of the mind, and you elicit some of the same passions that have animated the culture wars over evolution in the classroom, exposing the deep divide between hard-core religious fundamentalists on one side and the equally hard-core scientific fundamentalists on the other." If we are simply a series of electronic pulses in the brain then why would the psalmist write, "...for I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands which I love, and I meditate on your decrees." (119:47-48). We are both material and immaterial. Both parts of our bodies are to be in subjection to God and His will. Both are involved in the service and celebration of the King of kings. The creation of man in the image of God suggests that we can relate to Him, He being a spirit being and we being spiritual beings. All this discussion reminds me that we must be careful not to allow the "discoveries" of science to drive the train. Is that anti-enlightenment? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is only a warning that the stuff of faith is not always that concrete. Think on these things (with both material and immaterial portions of your person), Mike

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Power of the Pastors

We are reading the Disciple-Making Church (Bill Hull, ISBN 0800756274) together with our leadership team (deacons and trustees). Hull has a great passion for disciple-making, for helping others grow and succeed. Thus he wrote a book with the expressed intention to "provide a scriptural apologetic for a full-bodied discipling model" (p.12). To seek to deliver people from bondage to sin, develop them into fully functioning disciples of Christ and to deploy them into the whitened harvest fields is discipleship in a nutshell.

When Christ walked the earth, he was a one-stop discipler. Twelve men followed him closely and came away having been discipled. Hull suggests that these twelve, however, could not do it alone. They needed twos and threes and twelves to accomplish the same effect. We need the body of Christ to be engaged in discipling, not just the pastors or leaders. This may have even been the issue in Corinth as disciples began to hold their key discipler up as a model for others -- the ultimate discipler. Yet Paul's begging message is for reconnection of the body with all of its pieces. Each person must be discipling his neighbor and involved in the call to obedience and holding each other accountable.

Hull also says that

...pastoral care plays a vital role in drawing people to the church and supporting them in Christ. Unless a loving, caring community exists to help new-born babes and heal the wounded, people won't come to Him or stick around long enough to be trained. Love within the community of Christ is the most powerful of all the church's evangelistic tools. pp.31-32

If Hull is right, then the old Baptist adage, "every member is a minister" is true in a church that understands its evangelistic and disciple-making mandate. If the nurturing to disciple factoid is added to the no solo, lone ranger disciplers factoid, then the result is a strong Biblical belief in multiplicity of pastors (even if you don't believe in ordaining every person to the position/office).

Discussion Q's:
  1. Whose responsibility is disciple-making?
  2. If people are getting saved (responding to the gospel personally) and not growing or becoming functional members of the church, what is missing?
  3. How many people does it take to grow a fully functioning mature disciple of Christ? Is it higher or lower than the number of Baptists it takes to change a light bulb?

Passionate about disciplemaking (relationship combined with instruction),


Monday, November 20, 2006

To Be Or Not To Be A Disciple-making Congregation

We are reading a book together as a leadership team here at WyBC -- The Disciple-making Church (Bill Hull). Actually, I am re-reading it; I read it for a course at seminary. It is a great book with lots of good reminders of the mandate for disciplemaking. Bill Hull writes:

Unless the church makes making disciples its main agenda, world evangelism is a fantasy. There is no way to reprodcue, multiply, and decentralize people and the Gospel without diligently making disciples. [p. 11]

This conclusion only stands to reason as the Great Commission begins with the making disciples participle. Hull further comments:

Denominations that change their methods and cast off unproductive tradition will flourish and experience God's power, while those who insist on the status quo will die a slow, unpleasant death. [p. 11]
I would like to change "denominations" to "churches" or even "pastors/leaders" since as an independent Baptist, I believe in the autonomy of the local church and the responsibility of the local church leadership to shepherd/grow/nurture/disciple its local flock. That is not a denominational thing. I don't like slow, unpleasant death. That sounds like good motivation to evaluate! :)

Desiring to experience God's power and flourish-ment,

Rollie's Love Connection

My good friend Rollin called me the other day and we had an in depth conversation about Scriptural stuff. We talked about:

  1. How the Hebrew letters are really pictographs (picture characters), much like chinese or hieroglyphics
  2. How we have used arabic script to write and Greek conceptual definition to describe these Hebrew pictures (example: the word for father is actually the construction of two characters, aleph = strength and beth=house; therefore, "father" is the strength of the house; hmmmmmm)
  3. The difference in nuance of the two Grk words used for will (of God) in NT; thelema and boole. Rollin suggested that the thelema of God is a desire that expects and waits for our response or action on it, while boole is the will of God that he will act upon himself. That gives some interesting discussion and thought on some key passages! Words mean something and there are no true synonyms!
  4. Rollin talked about some work that he had done on the prepostion phrases beginning with "according to" in NT Greek. He suggested again that there was a two part formual implied. One part was the need or requirement and the other part was the resource or the answer for the request. The resource of God is always enough, with some left-over! This has some cool implications to a group of phrases that I was chasing down in Psalm 119; "according to your promise", "according to your word", "according to your love". Thanks God -- cool timing! :)
  5. He recommended a website (www.ancient_hebrew.org) and a book (Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti).

All that was incredibly enriching and we talked about some of the ramifications on some key texts in 1 John and in 1 Peter. I love talking with my friend Rollie. But then he made another reflection on a huge area that just boggled my mind. I want to share it with you for your discussion and comment. So here is the set-up:

  • Again, remember that words mean something and there are no real synonyms in language
  • Inspiration means that God (the HS) superintended the selection of words for a purpose without mechanically dictating these words; the message was clearly communicated!
  • There are four spearate words translated "love" in the NT: storge, philo, agape, eros; each of course has a separate nuance or field of meaning
  • storge = the traditions or mechanics of loving; philo = the being in fellowship or friendship with one another love; agape = the self-sacrificing, compassion love; eros = the ecstatic experience love
  • The statement: In the book of Ephesians, and in the whole of the NT, eros is never used in connection with the normal Christian life or the description of the love of the body of Christ.
  • The impact: Epehesus was into Diana worship. They uderstood the climax of sex to be the ultimate human experience and thought that during that moment they could actually touch God. Thus it made "sense" to employ thousands of temple prostitutes for the worship of Diana.
  • In order to avoid this pagan connection, Paul used every other word for love to describe Christianity.
  • YET, in our modern church, we have intorduced ecstatic experience back into our services through the "worship experience". This is especially true of the church growth movement and charismatic groups.
  • While Rollin was not saying he had direct evidence to the conclusion, he suggested that perhap sthat is the reason why we have so much sexual immorality adultery and divorce running amock in our Christian communities.

Whow! (combination of wow and whoa) That will make you think twice about leading worship towards experiential goose-bumping. Caution. Do not lead towards a fabricated "frenetic" worship lest you exchange worship of God for worship of experience. Some of our worship choruses are just packed with that intimacy language. Hmmmmmm.

Let's engage in a careful dialogue about this topic.

I look forward to your insights,


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Are You A Threat to the Survival of the Species?

How can a theory of origins affect your life? Read the following quote from a popular news magazine;

"Not only do the new atheists find religion intellectually irredeemable, morally dubious, and socially unnecessary, they judge it as a clear and present danger, maybe even the greatest threat to the survival of the species."
The New Unbelievers, Jay Tolson, US News & World Report, Nov 13, 2006, p.40-41.

Darwin's theory has farther reaching tentacles than just to biology! Evolution is more than a scientific premise; it is a worldview! It affects the way that one looks at the world and evaluates the data. It is a philosophy; it searches to apply a wisdom structure to the observation of life.

I choose instead to be a creationist who believes that a relationship with a holy God through the sacrifice of his one and only Son. His death burial and resurrection on my behalf for my sins has made all of the difference. This gift is life! It is for the preservation of the species and is intellectually superior, morally significant, and totally socially necessary. WITHOUT it (his sacrifice) we will die!

I am a sin survivor and a soul rescue technician,

Fur Todd, Not Elise

Todd is the blogger hound. He loves to challeneg me to blog. He loves to challenge other family members to blog. He does not have the gift of encouragement. He has the gift of exhortation and prophecy (calling it as he/God sees it). As I type this post then, I am writing it to get Todd off of my back first of all. Accountability does work! But as I am writing I find that I have missed this aspect of my QT. I enjoy writing. And I enjoy reading the Word and other books. Here's a quote that I found while studying in Psalms 119.

No man is holy by chance.
CH Spurgeon

Discipline isn't like falling off a log -- it takes effort. In fact, spiritual disciplines are more like staying on the log! Balance and concentration and practice.

So now, I say thanks Todd. You have called me to get back on the log -- or rather back on the Blog. So this one is for you brother! :)

Your falling off the blogging wagon and getting right back on again brother,

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A New Look

Yes, you are at the right place! I am trying out a new template for the site. After all, the 101st post ought to be dsitinctive yes? I thought so too. The old posts did not transfer quites as smoothly as I might have hoped and I deleted a couple fo the old ones to try and make the update work -- but to no avail.

Please check out the website link to the template source. Interesting? Do you like? Drop me a note!

The character on the left just seemed to fit the blog title "the open mike". I get paid to talk! :)


Friday, October 13, 2006

100 blogposts -- Annual Report

Dear Faithful Readers,

This post marks the 100th post at this site, "The Open Mike". That is great news! I am pleased to say that the site has been a boost to my spirits and a great outlet of writing. Thanks for reading. It has taken me some time to discern what post might be the 100th and I have decided to include the annual report that I just wrote for our church annual meeting. This report includes a smattering of tasks that I have accomplished (with God's help of course) this past year. It also gives a challenge to the people of Wyoming that God has allowed me to minister with and to for 5 years now.

May Jesus Christ Be Praised!

Associate Pastor’s Report

As part of the programming offered at the YMCA, Scott took a class in Tae Kwon Do. As I watched the trainees follow the patterns set by their leaders, I became interested in this oriental martial art. From the outset, it seemed that the study was more than a series of kicks and punches; this practice was an action based on an idea or philosophy. Tae Kwon Do is much more than great exercise.

The World Taekwondo Federation describes Taekwondo as “one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts that teaches more than physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind.” [www.wtf.org] As you can see, Taekwondo is not that far afield from the practice of Christianity. Notice these three similarities:

1. A unified mind, body and spirit
Paul called the Corinthians to live the taekwondo lifestyle with these words “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.” (2 Cor. 13:11b) To the Colossians he wrote: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col. 3:17) We must not only say that we love God, we must show it through our actions; we must not be isolationists but instead be a community bent on living out the principle of unity and peace, with all of our mind, body and spirit.

2. Preparation of a ready defense
We understand fighting an enemy (Eph. 6:12). Paul encouraged believers (then and now) to “put on the full armor of God”, so that you can “stand firm”. There must be a readiness, a stabilized stance and a mental preparation, that characterizes each believer if we are to extinguish the fiery attacks of the adversary. We must guard against attacking those without Christ -- they are not the enemy. Satan is our enemy! We need to defend those who are trapped in the life of defeat and train them in the way of survival!

3. Harmonious growth and improvement of life
We make no bones about this goal for all believers at Wyoming Baptist. The purpose of this local church is to fulfill the Great Commission. Therefore, all of our activities are to be done for the expressed purpose of “making disciples”. Discipleship is the life of harmonious growth and improvement. It is the life of taking up our cross daily, denying ourselves and following Christ, our ultimate teacher/trainer (Luke 14:27). We must count the cost of such a pursuit! We must be determined that the resulting growth and improvement is totally worth any effort along the way. We must be eagerly pursuing our pattern -- “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). If we do not, then Christianity becomes just another religious system bent on “moralizing” immoral people – no better than Taekwondo.

As your pastor, I am responsible for setting the pattern for others to follow. I am responsible for leading in life training that is more than just “good exercise”. Below is a list of some of those opportunities that I have led and been led through myself this past year:

· Worship design and leading
o AM and PM services
o Special services: Christmas Eve, National Day of Prayer, Easter Sunrise Service, Fire n Fellowships, multiple commissioning/reporting services
· Youth group
o Teaching
o Monthly leadership meetings
o Outings, activities, events
o Counseling
· Visiting/hospitality
· Preaching
o 2 Peter – “You Can Live Godly in an Ungodly World” (PM series)
o Joshua – “Experiencing Spiritual Victory” (AM series)
o Easter Sunday @ WyBC
o Prayer meeting devotionals
o VBS Training @ Cornerstone Baptist, Geneseo
o Pulpit Supply @ Henrietta Regular Baptist Church
o Graduation Speaker @ HRBCS
o Adult Dinner Speaker @ Faith Baptist, N. Chili

· VBS: Missions Director, money counter, Pastor Miguel (opening and closing MC)
· Sunday School teaching
o Decision Making God’s Way
o Reading the Bible for All Its Worth
o Psalm 119
· Summer Ministry Team training
· Word of Life Writing Team
· Judging preaching and media categories at Word of Life’s Talents for Christ
· Ministry Team Director, Jr. Sports Week
· Attended ESF conferences, monthly area pastors’ meetings
· Leadership Meetings with Dan Woodard
· Men’s Bible Study – “The eXodus-Men”
· Deacons’ and Trustees’ meetings
· Ministries Coordinator, AppleUmpkin
· Released Time Helper

We cannot be called “disciples” if we are not training our mind, body and spirit to reflect the glory of God. We must never be satisfied with our “spiritual achievement levels” (Phil. 3:12-14). We must spur one another on toward love and good deeds. This means not giving up our meeting together, but encouraging one another at every opportunity with great urgency. (Heb. 10:24-25) I would encourage you to take advantage of all of the training activities and opportunities available for your growth here at WyBC. My goal is that when we reach the end of our journey, we can all receive the everlasting black belt (2 Cor. 9:25) for excellence and progress!

Training to please the Master,

Pastor Mike Paris
Associate Pastor

Monday, October 02, 2006

Time Alone with God

Read this quote from John Ortberg, teaching pastor at Willow Creek:
"Spiritual formation is getting our lives in line with the direction of the Holy Spirit and understanding the work of the Holy Spirit so that we can feel close to him and comfortable in His presence. We are spiritually formed if when we do have failure, we don’t neglect him or think that He is neglecting us. We are secure and comfortable spending time with Him. Spiritual formation is more than doing devotions – it’s a relationship!"

This quote (actually it is my best attempt at capturing John's comments on a CD of a conversation on the topic that he had with HB London Jr.) was part of a day of refreshment that I experienced this past week. It seems that this topic is coming up more and more. Pastor Evans (Sr. Pastor/teammate) brought it up again in the series of messages that he is preaching, "Moving from Religion to Relationship". Practicing solitude is not something that I am especially good at; my life is crammed full to overflowing and I can tend to be driven by the "Tyranny of the Urgent". This discovery of my incredible need for margins started with the recent vacation that I took with my family. As I recuperated in that 8 day oasis, I realized that I had emptied my spiritual tank and was running on fumes.

I really need to be better at this type of reclamation of spiritual strength. God has gifted me with some abailities that make it "easy" to run on my own. I can do ministry without the Spirit's presence. But I shouldn't! The psalmist certainly nailed it when he said:
"Do good to your servant, and I will live;
I will obey your word.
Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times."
Psalm 119:17-20, NIV
Or as we studied in Sunday School this past week (another touch of the same thought), "GIMEL me!" That is to say, "Pour out your blessings, deal bountifully with me, and completely satisfy my needs so that I can be revived (survive?)and keep on obeying Your direct speeches." (Ps 119:17, expanded Parisphrase). That means that I have to pull into the gas station of the soul and ask for directions as well as get my tanks filled up! That takes time! That takes space! That means I am letting the phone ring as I type this post! :)
I have found that when it comes in bunches like this, God has raised my sensitivity in this area for a reason (by the way the CD about spiritual formation has been sitting buried on my desk for about 7-9 months). I believ that God is calling me to spiritual growth spurt in this area of my life. So, if I don't answer my phone, I might be spending time in solitude with God. I'll get back to you.
Desiring, craving soul refreshment,

Monday, September 25, 2006

My Loaded Weapon -- the Tongue

I am certain that James was right when he wrote these words about the tongue,
"Our tongues get out of control. They are restless and evil, and always spreading deadly poison." (3:8, CEV)
I have in my mouth a loaded weapon! A weapon of mass destruction! Yet my God has given me the power to captivate my tongue and bridle it for good. The tongue is both an asset and a liability at the same time.

In his chapter on character, Joe Stowell ("Shepherding the Church") writes that the character of a leader is revealed by both speech and conduct. He them articulates a number of verbal sins that leaders (especially pastors) are susceptible to. In that list he shows gossip, slander, lying, deceit, beguilement, murmuring, criticismboasting, and exaggeration. These abuses of the mouth are "tattlers" on our hearts; they reveal the real me and divulge my real relationship with God. [p.158]

I will give you a piece of what Stowell is trying to get across with the example of one of the areas that I was convicted in personally -- slander. Slander is "sharing negative information with the intent to hurt" [p.160]. It is a form of verbal revenge for some other hurt done against me. Slander reveals a heart that "has not yet learned to give our enemies to God and permit Him to care for them. ... It reflects as well an unwillingness in our hearts to suffer when necessary with a patient spirit, trusting God to protect us, deal with our enemies, and work all things together for our good -- the good of His glory and gain." [ibid]

That is truth that cuts me to the quick. I am very good at verbal murder, naturally. But supernaturally, I can overcome this bad habit! I can learn the godly response! I will pass the test in these teachable moments when I will resist the desire to "roast" my opponent with my sympathetic friend. God has given me everything I need for faith and godliness.

And so, I have selected the next passage of Scripture for me to memorize: Matt 12:33-37. Ask me in the next week or so how it's coming. The word of God is the antidote, the cleansing agent for the way of the young man! (Ps. 119:9)

Desiring to have only fresh water coming out,

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Teachable Moment -- Day 1

Again, the location and the messenger do not have to be expected. You can learn some pretty great stuff in some weird places with some strange people. Basically, all you have to do is listen and process it.

On the first day of camp, the staff member (I can't even rememeber who she was) who was sharing devotions shared 1 Cor. 9:23:

23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

That phrase, for the sake of the gospel was the rally cry for day 1. Was I doinig everything that I could for the sake of the gospel? Was everything passing through the grid of "will this advance or retreat the cause of Christ on this campus today with this person?". That is a fine filter!

But with that in mind, I mentally added our team's own power pump, 2 Peter 1:3:

2PE 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Everything I need to accomplish life and godliness has already been supplied! This thing called ministry, in all of its exhaustion and frustration and stress was divinely powered and worth every minute!

For the cause of Christ, the gospel of Christ and the growth of believers,

Ministry Team Update

At our return to our "regularity" of life back in Wyoming, the memories of camp ministry were shared at a special reporting service on Sunday 8/20. I was excited to hear the young people share some really in depth stuff. Some shared their disappointments, some shared the change that had occurred in their plans, some shared a new challenge/task that they had performed. The two favorite episodes seem to be the demolition and the Afternoon Away with God.

I wish that there were some way to upload an mp3 of the service -- it was rewarding to hear young people going beyond this was a great time of fun.

My most teachable moment happened as I interacted with a kitchen crew member with something written on his arm. I asked him about it and he described the inscriptions. They formed a triad (a three partate formula for understanding the whole). They were God's love, God's wisdom and God's sovereignty. these three, he explained, kept him balanced in his thinking. God loved him too much to let hurtful/damaging things to happen to him; God was so wise as to never make any mistakes with his life; God was so sovereign that he was working all of these things together for his life. I haven't got the statements verabtim, but that was the gist. The only response I really had for him was, "Oh." He had blown me away with the depth of his concentration on serving in the kitchen instead of the cabins.

To all of you who are reading this blog and who work with youth, remember, you have no control over what they are thinking or even when they will respond. So, my advice, from my own philosophy of YM, keep pumping it in their heads and pray like mad that their heads don't explode! :)

For the renewing of our minds,

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tiger's Dad Understands "Community"

Remember that Quotable Golf book that I mentioned a few posts ago? I read some more while I "manned the store" (our garage sale) today. Here's one from Tiger Woods' Dad, Earl.

"Involving minorities in the game of golf has financial, political and social implications. But the bottom line is simple: the more people who play the game, the fewer problems we'll have in the world because the game itself teaches people so much about themselves and others."

What he is describing is really the dynamic of "golden rule communalism"; he desires golf to be the fertile ground wherein the world meets together and treats each other with decency and respect. The problem is that while he understands the standard or idyllic utopia, he is looking in the wrong place. Golf does not hold the secret to world peace. God and a relationship with him is the only thing that will bring a better world ... even one without golf!

I haven't sold my clubs,

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Who's Who of Mike Mentors

How have I become the leader that I am? It is only through the grace of God and the involvment of key leaders in my life. These leaders are my mentors. They have demonstrated what exactly the godly life should look like.

Maxwell defines a mentor this way:
"A mentor is a person who embodies the characteristics that you admire, and is willing to help you develop those characteristics in yourself, so you can achieve your goals and ambitions."

These people hit the top of my list; they are not the only people to have had impact in my life, nor are the lists of investments complete. These three men represent a smattering/sampling of the influencers in my short life.
1. Dad --> faithfulness, service in local church, problem-solving, parenting, the "fix-it yourself for less" mentality

2. Jim Ellerson --> faithfulness, use of sense of humor in teaching, spiritual sensitivity, passion for young people

3. Dr. Howard Bixby --> leadership skills, revitalizing the declining church, holding people accountable to Biblical exhortation, the importance of connection in the SS class

So who are your mentors? Share your top three and the qualities that they shared/exhibited. Why not ask your kids to think through this question and send thank-you notes to the influencers in their lives. This project probably works best with 7th -12th graders. Tell me how it works out!

Mentoring youth for Christ in WNY because someone(s) mentored me,

Being a Successful People Developer

We have been working through the whole gamut of leadership issues here at WyBC. Thanks to a series of leadership seminars given in the nick of time by our missionary Dan Woodard, we have been talking with a new set of vocabulary. We have begun to discuss team roles, effectiveness, goals, and project ownership. We regularly confront each other on "fog" -- phrases, statements, words that cloud the real meaning of communication.

We are endeavoring to reknit our leadership teams and restore their level 5 (personhood) leadership in the eyes of the congregation. (the five levels from John Maxwell's, Developing the leader Within You: 1. position/rights; 2. permission/relationships; 3. production/results; 4. people development/reproduction; 5. personhood/respect) I have been realizing that in order to get the men up to level five, I need to be striving for level five! Level four means that I need to be helping to reproduce and mature the men. Here are some great statements about people on that level of leadership:

A successful people developer:
  1. Realizes that people are his most valuable asset. Not buildings, bucks, brooches or books!
  2. Places a priority on developing people. Not programs or documents!
  3. Becomes a model for others to follow. Not just in public or official life!
  4. Pours leadership into the top 20 percent of his people. Not waiting for them to come to me and ask for help!
  5. Exposes key leaders to growth opportunities. Not doing it, learning it, keeping it all to myself!
  6. Is able to attract other winners/producers to the common goal. Not allowing people to be consumers or dependent on me!
  7. Surrounds himself with an inner core that complements his leadership. Not just people who think and act like I do!

The list above is taken from Maxwell's book. I have added the italicized personalizations on the end. They are my weaknesses. These are the things that I tend to substitute for good ministry or people development. I believe that my "job" as a pastor is described quite well in Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

So, I continue to press on, trying to improve my leadership. Actually this blogsite is one of those ways taht I can share at level 5. Thanks for engaging in careful thought and reflection on the life of excellenec that God has called us to live! Thanks for sharpening my iron with yours. I appreciate you!

I would love to hear about your leadership growth. Everyone has both leadership and followership opportunities -- think beyond official positions. Will you share some key thoughts taht have helped you grow this week? Looking forward to hearing from you!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Going out in High Summer Style

Someone asked the question, why does it seem like the really hot weather hits during VBS week? Answer: so that we can play great water games outside! Heather (orange shirt) is waitiing her turn in the bucket brigade relay race. She is behind her leader, Jacquelyn. J'lyn is one of the teens going with us this summer to Lamoka. This will be her third season. She wants to be a missionary! :) Yes!
Here we are at the end of the week. Yes and still smiling. Sue made it through the week after having to threaten Jack -- " If you don't behave better tomorrow you will have to leave Silly Chilies (preschool goup) and go up with Daddy." Enough said; Jack made it through the rest of the week! The Faith Factor T-shirt os from last year's Youth Seminars. It generated some discussion with adults and kids alike. Most thought I had been on the TV show -- hah! My challenge would have been to lock me in a hot 4x4 cell with one of the trustees! :D Very scary stuff! Yet there is no place for fear in ministry, so push on!
Here is the parting shot of the Friday group. We averaged in the mid 50's, with high 30's of helpers and staff. I just talked with another sister church member in the area and she said that they had to cancel their VBS due to a lack of help. Praise God for all of the great workers that we have! Guide to the Paris people; Mike = upper left corner, Sue = kneeling, third row left side, Jack = fourth from left front row (striped shirt), Scott = just left of middle, 2nd row of standers, navy shirt, mouth open (yelling queso!), Heather = 6th in from right in first row of standers, orange shirt, Lauren = first on the right, front row of sitters, pink shirt.

We all survived and had a great time. We had an ice cream social to wrap the whole thing up on Friday night and invited parents and families. It went really well. We even got a jump start on the cleanup before we headed home. Saturday I even got to go golfing! (1st of the season)

Many thanks to all who helped and especially to my organized director, Ginny! I just got to do what I do best -- ham it up in the opening and closing! We had two salvation decisions that I know of for the week and both of them were followed by significant spiritual interest and questions. I see that interest as the first fruits of genuine decisions! Praise the Lord! (please pray for Kohl and Kara).

Serving in Summer,
Mike Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 14, 2006

Winding Down -- Day 4

The Silly Chilies (preschoolers) taking a break on Day 4 to review their lessons and talk with their leaders. Yes, that is Jack and Sue in the lower right hand corner. Sue has decided that she is much more comfortable playing the piano than teaching the pequitos (little ones).
Another shot of me leading the closing program for the day. Notice that I have shed that really neat, but really hot poncho! The kids are singing great -- sorry no audio on this post!
Another one of great groups. This one has 3:10 ratio, still really great! They look like their having fun! They range in ages from 1st grade to 5th grade. Ryan (front row right) lost his front tooth on Wednesday at VBS! How much more fiesta can we stand? One more day!

Pastor Miguel Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rain, Rain, ... Who Cares

Record rainfall amounts in Wyoming Cty, NY did not dampen spirits for day three of VBS Fiesta! A couple of scooters, a giant tactile ball and a dry gym was just what the game director ordered.
In the Hot Bible Adventures, Laurie (aka Levi) is looking for a few good fishermen to follow instructions. Each day the children are engaged in an interactive and exciting Bible story highlighting the Bible idea. Today's was "Jesus is our leader".
These kids are part of the preschool program. They make a group called Pablo's Silly Chilies. They are excited, no fired up about Jesus. Everyday as the teachers say the Bible idea, the kids respond with Viva! (Life!). Yes that is Jack's bottom in the left of the picture -- he didn't want to cooperate with the photographer!

Buenos Noche,
Hasta la manana,
Pastor Miguel Posted by Picasa

VBS Day 2 -- The Fiesta in Full Swing

Oh look an associate pastor in authentic mexican garb! Leading singing, challenging young people, acting a little loco on stage and trying to reach the lost with the gospel. The poncho is an original wool one from Madrid Spain -- compliments of my Dad who stopped there on a Med cruise with the Navy (30+ yrs ago). It is extremely warm -- good for picking coffee beans with Juan Valdez, bad for VBS opening sessions!
One of our groups -- called families. The four tall people in the back are leaders. On Tues, their family was 5 kids. 4:5 are great ratios! The lady at the left, Valerie, is the adult or team leader. Laura and Brad are teens involved in the VBS program. The young lady in the pink hoody is Shelby -- a sixth grader who has been put in a jr. ledaer postion. The remainder of the group is 1st through 5th graders all mixed together. The crossection of gender/age makes for good learning!
Our opening and closing sessions are held in the auditorium. The banners above are from a Spanish Cinco de Mayo celebration in a NC public school. Thank goodness that we don't take this separation of church and state rabidly! 57 kids on Day 2!

Adios ala manana,
Pastor Miguel Posted by Picasa

VBS Fiesta! at Wyoming Baptist

If you have been wondering where I have been, I have been partying -- mexican style! We are almost through the week of VBS at WyBC and I thought you might like to see what has been happening here -- north of the border! Abuela Kemp is our director for VBS. She and I have worked together for at leats three VBS's. She has taken the charge and has run all of the administration of this year's program. It has been good for me to delegate it away and keep my mitts off of it! :) It's a leadership trait that I need to work on. This pic was snapped up on day one on a status check-up during one of our "pathways cross" in the gym.
You can see that the theme is a mexican Fiesta! Our snacks coordinator/director is getting into the theme with a little authentic mexican garb. Everyone has had a blast throwing around all of our spanish vocab (mine learned over 20 years ago) and wearing some elaborate sombreros.
Kristen, one of our teens who is involved in the VBS, led this little girl to a decision for Christ on Wed. using her EvangeCube! It all begins with buidling a relationship of caring on Monday and Tuesday! This little one continued to ask questions during the closing session that day. The spiritual sensitivity is super encouraging.

We are using Fiesta! by Group Publishing. They have several unique features which we have found useful -- even though it is not exclusively Baptist. We have added a stronger gospel presentation emphasis and used the creativity resources in the Group Pub material.

Check out the next post for more,
Pastor Miguel Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Character Matters

Joe Stowell rightly observes that there is a societal bent away from leaders of strong (moral) character. There is, as he puts it, a societal bent towards disconnecting lifestyle and leadership. This is simply not true. Stowell spends a whole section (Part Two) of his book (Shepherding the Church) on personhood -- the being, rather than doing of leadership.

I thought that you might enjoy some of the quotes/statements made about character in ch.6 alone:

"Character is about what and who I am at the very core of my being." p. 148
"Character is the critical mass of ministry." p. 148
"Character-- either good or bad -- impacts the life and legacy of the church." p.151
"Character is infinitely more startegic to effectiveness than credentials." p. 151
"Character is a means to glorify Christ through our lives, since it is His character -- the expression of our belief in Him -- that is reflected in our lives. Character makes a point about Him." p.151
"Character is what we will be held accountable for." p. 151
"Character is only forged through a growing, sincere relationship with Christ." p. 151-2
"Character is deepened and developed in crises. Character has value in a crisis." p. 152

Well said Joe, well said.

My goal is that Christ be seen through me. I must admit or confess that this has not always been the case. My children may not want to be involved with Christ if my discipline techniques are anything like Christ's. My wife might not have a growth spurt spiritually if she has to rely on my direct and intentional leadership in this area. But my goal is to become stronger and grow myself! Then I can transfer that character to my children and my wife.

Dear Father,
I have not caught all of the transfer of your character. I blow it often. You are the best example and mentor that a man could ever have, yet I have squandered much of the time that I should have been growing. Please forgive me for the times that you cringed ta the rot that I was spewing. I know that this saddens your heart. Help me to be more like you and demonstrate my faith and personal relationshipwith you. Make me the man that you want me to be. Help me to grow through the adversity instead of slump into my natural bents of self-preservation and self-protection.
I thank you,

Keep growing in character,

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

God Honors His Servants

"[Personal] exaltation is not grabbed. It is given by the Father, in His time and in His way."
Shepherding, p. 141

A Great Leadership Quote .. or Two

I tried to do something productive tonight as the Paris kids rotted their minds on more TV (at least it was a "wholesome" show -- Sue Thomas FBI). So I picked up Joe Stowell's book, Shepherding the Church. Actually I have/had already started it, but I needed to pick it up again. There are some amazing quotes that really related to the messages that I have been preaching lately from Ecclesiastes 1-2, 12.

"We are built for significance. ... A satisfying significance can never be gained in and of ourselves. It i sonly realized in our relationship to the One who is fully and suprememly significant, our Father in heaven. Our sense of significance is not a search, but something that is secured in our relationship to Him."
Shepherding, p.140

"...it is liberating to remember that all of this significance is not based on my performance but on the completed performance of Jesus Christ on the cross. I am not called to perform in order to gain significance; but rather, since my significance has been secured, I am called to gratefully serve the One who has made me fully significant in Him. "
Shepherding, p.142

Liberated! Free to be who God made me to be, free to live for Him everyday, free to say "no" to sin, free to ask forgiveness when I blow it! If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

Your freed friend,

Did I Forget to Mention It?

Hey thanks for waiting so patiently. Did I forget to hang up the BRB sign on the door? Did I move the little hands on the clock to give you a hint when I might arrive back here? Ooops, sorry! :)

The quick rundown is that we have had a vacation to OH, PA and back again. I have spoken at two places on Saturdays (Henrietta Regular and Cornerstone). I have "worked" every Wednesday and Saturday in between, even during vacation weeks. I strung three "11:30 pm to beds" together last week, including a deacons meeting interrupted by Pastor Evans leaving for the hospital with chest pains.

Mrs. P and I worked on yard work during our vacation (mowing, mulching, weeding), tried to patch the ceiling (not quite 100% yet), tried to fix the towel bar, cleaned the garage and messed it up again.

So dr., why do I feel so tired all of the time? Glad to be back to posting, glad to see that you all have been busy too. Just generally glad! :)

Hoping to post something more meaningful later,

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quotable Golf

Hey! Ever wonder what to get the golfer who won't get any better even if you bought him everything he ever wanted for his birthday? My sister-in-law found it. It is a book called, The Quotable Golfer. It contains a number of humorous quotes including this one by Mark Twain,

"Golf is a good walk spoiled."

Apparently nobody listened to Mr. Clemens' wisdom either -- they built him a golf course!
I am enjoying the book (a birthday present) and looking forward to a first round of golf (maybe next week??).

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the Home Stretch

It is hard to believe but we are nearing the end of this quarter's Sunday School experiment. I have totally enjoyed the weekly meetings and the challenge of molding and shaping my own worldview! We (Charles and I at least) have added a whole new dimension to our vocabulary!

This however is the last set of discussion questions. That is sad. But all good things must come to an end. Dig in and enjoy!

DQ’s for Chapter 11

  1. What is your current most pressing “What is God will for …?” question? Work this issue through the decision-making chart in chapter 3. Fine tune your answer in light of chapters 4-11!
  2. "There is no one answer for everyone about how we deal with singleness, adoption, models of parenting, educational choices, church selection, use of time and money, and many other issues.” p.200 Has Meadors included something in this list that he shouldn’t have? Has he left anything off? How can he make this statement?
  3. Who are we ultimately responsible to for our decisions? What role, then, do our Christian brothers and sisters have in the decision-making process? How should you then respond to a request for advice in these situations?
  4. How should prayer and reason (ability to think things through) work together? Are they in separate categories?
  5. Meadors destroys the romance in the thought “God has ordained one special person to be my life partner”. Do you agree or disagree with him? Why? (Remember to support your answer Biblically without prooftexting.)
  6. Discuss the good and the bad decisions that seemed to steer your life and personality to the point at which you find yourself today. How does this “life mapping” influence your relationship with God? Do you understand that “[you are] the person that [you are] today because of that journey.” p.212
  7. Discuss several good reasons for leaving a church family to go somewhere else. Where does loyalty fit in your answer? Do you hold this value as tightly as Meadors does? What is the most important value in church selection?
  8. T or F: “The Bible is sufficient for everything we need for life and godliness.” If true, discuss how this will change the way that we engage the “gray” areas. If false, what do we need in addition to the Word to make it through life successfully?
  9. What role does the church play in the decision-making process?
  10. What should you look for in a pastor of your church? How will you know if you have called the right one?

    Charles and I have already discussed continuing our morning visits into the next quarter. Perhaps even adding another younger mind to mold and shape! Look for more posts to come. Thanks for journeying through Meadors' book with us.

    Knowing and doing the will of God,

Prayer Changes Things ... or Does It?

Prayer is a great treat for the believer. It is an opprotunity to talk, converse, listen, communicate with our heavenly Father. It is the highpoint of our fellowship relationship with him through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. How does it affect our understanding or doing the will of the Father? Dig into these questions for the week from Meadors' book on the subject of finding and doing the will of God in daily decision-making.

DQ’s for Chapter 10
  1. “Skilled and hardworking persons always have more opportunities than they can fulfill.” (p.187) Are “open doors” always indicators of God’s will?
  2. What is the role of prayer in the decision making process? What part do values play in prayer? What is the faith of our prayers in?
  3. Should we expect that God will reveal his will to us because of our prayers?
  4. Is the popular expression “prayer changes things” a truism to live by? If it is true, how will it affect your prayer life? What types of things will we pray for? If it is not true, how can it be rewritten to be true?
  5. Talk your way through 1 Thes. 5:16-18 in light of God’s will.
  6. “Prayer recognizes God’s sovereign will.” How then do we deal with God’s “no” answers to our prayers? How can we get excited about a “no” answer?
  7. If God cannot be manipulated by our prayers, why is it that we must pray? What does prayer reflect about our relationship with God? Discuss several times when God did and when He did not intervene in your life’s events as a result of your prayers. How should you process the days of disappointment with prayer’s power?

How should I pray for you? Drop me a note and keep me updated!

Striving to exercise fervent prayer that is effectual,


What's the point?

Warning! to those who are in youth ministry; your teenagers want to know "what's the point?" We had a lively discussion last night in YG that centered around this question in the debriefing session after a game involving multiple bodies (10) and a 4'x8' entryway carpet.

I spent an hour asking questions and chasing down bold statements of defiance and frustration. I jotted notables on the whiteboard and looked for ways to help the teens discover the answers rather than give them the answers. As a closing exercise, I gave them paper and asked them to evaluate the evening. "What was the point?", etc.

I was blown away by the responses. Most of them didn't get the answer(s). Most of them didn't like being stretched by the conversation and questions. This book has got to be one of the best spent $10 for this group.
(Experiential Youth Ministry Handbook, John Losey)

My initial temptation is to write a 101 things that you should have learned from this "pointless" activity. I have mellowed out some. I believe I will call it 101 things that I learned from this activity. :)

Still loving teens (even the ones that don't get it at first),

Breaking the Addictive Behavior Cycle

As I was dealing with the topic of sin in a youth group meeting a while ago, I said, without thinking, "Let's choose a sin that's easy to agree on -- smoking..." Bob (not his real name) spoke right up and said, "My Dad is a smoker is he a sinner?" Now I was in it up to my neck. :)

I tried a dodge at this point, "Bob, each of us is a sinner".

But my Dad can't stop, it wouldn't be healthy for him to quit. He's tried in the past."

I was sucking in water. I had no dodge, no safe non-answer, and no place to hide. "Bob, we each are addicted to our own sins," I replied calmly. "We need to weigh the costs of quitting sin against the costs of not quitting. The costs of not quitting sin is too high."

Now this is the right answer. I believe that Bob wanted to believe it too. There was no wiggle room with this statement. It was stark. It was definitive. I had forgotten that conversation until today. I read this quote in Every Man's Battle:

"Sexually speaking, you have a low-grade sexual fever. It doesn’t disable you, but you aren’t healthy either. You sort of function normally, but you can’t really push hard. Basically, you just get by. And if this fever doesn’t break, you’ll never fully function as a believer." p.87

and a few pages later, this one:
"Regarding sexual purity, God knows the provision He’s made for us. We aren’t short on power or authority, but what we lack is urgency." p. 91

We can easily replace the sexual language with any other language that describes your addiction to sin. Fill it in with lying or cheating. Fill it in with the word SIN! Then I recalled these great verses from 2Peter 1:3-4:

"His divine power has given us everything that we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that you may particpate in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world caused by evil desires."

We can win over sin. It is more unhealthy to stay ensnared in it than to break out of it! We have all of the resources that we need in Christ. We can win over sin! It has no more power over me!

Praising my God of very great and precious promises,

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Reading Report

Just wanted to blog a note and report that I resisted the urge to flop down and pop on the tube last night. I finished reading Dr. Meadors' book, Decision Making God's Way! He did a great job and gave me some very good thought provoking ideas about how I pursue "God's will" for my life. I especially apprecaited his discussion of marriage/mate selection! Not very romantic, but very practical.

I am also reading Every Man's Battle. It is an interesting read. The three co-authors have given me some great things to think about as well. It is a good book for in your face discussion of the issues of sexual purity. Here's just one of the quotes that I think is excellent from the first 50 pages.

"Sexual impurity has become rampant in the church because we’ve ignored the costly work of obedience to God’s standards as individuals, asking too often, ‘How far can I go and still be called a Christian?’" p. 58

So what are you reading? Send me a title, an author, and a quote! Remember to follow MLA footnote format. :)

Leaders are readers,

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Thirteenth Donut

Need a conversational donut to dunk with your coffee at Timmy Ho's this morning? Here's a quote to discuss from Dr. Meadors' book, Decision Making God's Way.

“The problem is that we do not have a means to detect when an internal conviction is from conscience, the Spirit, or our own desires. That is why we need an objective procedure to make decisions that are based on the validation of our understanding of the Bible and the worldview and values set we claim. This is not as comfortable or as safe as having a direct revelatory process, but it is a process that God has designed to develop us as persons created in his image.” p. 184

Dunkin' donuts like these,

Holy Spirit Led Searchers

Jesus' final comments to his discisples in John 14-17 include the description of the other comforter who was coming. This comforter was/is the Holy Spirit. Every believer (not just the original 12) has been given the same Spirit. But how does he direct us? Is there any new disclosure as he moves us along? Meadors' chapter 9 deals with the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer as he/she seeks to know and do the will of God.

Here are the questions for further discussion and study for this week:
  1. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life with regard to “will of God”? Has this always been the modus operandi for the Spirit with believers of all times?
  2. What was the role of the Holy Spirit in the creation of the Scriptures? What does 2 Peter 1:21 say about this role? What does it not say? Why is it important that this primary document be Spiritually crafted?
  3. Does God speak to believers today in the same way that he did to the prophets and the apostles? Discuss John 16:3 in immediate and larger contexts.
  4. In what three areas does the “conviction of the Holy Spirit” work today? Should we expect any convictions outside of these three realms?
  5. What is the common word used to describe the Spirit’s work in the life of a believer in connection with the Word of God? Why does Meadors balk at the use of this word? Is he right? What is actually happening in this Spiritual process? Can you think of a better term?
  6. Define “an anointing of the Holy Spirit” biblically. (ref. 1 John 2:18-27) Discuss the scope (what does this anointing cover) and limitations (what does this anointing not cover) of anointing. How does the Spirit affect epistemology?
  7. Are the Word of God and the Spirit ever in conflict? If so when?
  8. What do the terms “filled” and “led” mean? Are they biblical terms? According to Meadors, how can the Holy Spirit be robbed of the opportunity to convict believers?
  9. Describe the difference between the status and process of sanctification. What part does the Holy Spirit play in each of these areas?
  10. What are the three ingredients to interpret the subjective domain of life? What is the outcome if these three (any of them) are violated?
  11. How do I discover my spiritual gifts? What is the best context for determining giftedness? How is it connected to the will of God? According to Meadors, do we get spiritual giftedness before, during or after salvation?
  12. There are four major lists of spiritual giftedness (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10,12, 28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:7-11). Compare and contrast these lists. Why are these lists different?

Thanks for thinking through this [Charles] Baker's dozen of questions. The final piece (#13) is in the post above! :)

Spirit-led, Spirit-filled, and Spirit-anointed,


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Life-Draining Pursuits

This is the title block for a message that I am teaching to our ministry team. It will probably take two weeks to complete. The four pursuits that drain the life right out of life do the same to ministry. Solomon tried to pursue a negative quartet of things in life and recorded the draining conclusion in Ecclesiastes. Try your hand at guessing the four leaches (pursuits that drain the life out of ministry). This is open book, so go look in Ecclesaistes 1, 2. :)

Interested in getting the answers and/or the .ppt? Email me or post your guesses with a request and I'll send it to you!

Please pray for the training that will occur in the next 5 weeks (Wed's) as we prep for deploying two summer ministry teams; one in Springville, NY, and one in Tyrone, NY.

Heading on out of the comfort zone, pursuing vital ministry,
Mike Posted by Picasa

860 Kelly Hill Rd in Bloom

I can't even spell forsythia! This one in bloom in front of "the farm". Posted by Picasa

Marshmallow Madness

Extreme Madness as Pastor Ron and a teen from South Warsaw attempt the Marshmallow Swing game. We did not add chocolate syrup as a game modification... maybe next time! See/read the brief update in the comments section of the original post. Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12, 2006

Tonight's Anything Goes Game Night

Tonight, we will be holding our annual spring outreach event at WyBC. Please pray for teens that are inviting teens, for teens to accept the invitation to come and to respond and for the speaker, Daryn Duff. I will be working with Kyle to run the games. Posted by Picasa

DQ's for Chapter 8

This Sunday school class has opened up all sorts of conversations for Charles and for others in the class. It is great to hear them share during the prayer and share time on Sunday nights about the joy of being stretched by God's Word and Dr. Meadors. These testimonies are so much better than "Great Aunt Myrtle's bunion problems"! :)

Here is the next wave of questions to help you engage with us!
  1. Define conscience; think about its formation, development and role in a person’s life. Is your definition a psychological, philosophical or Biblical one? (ref. Meadors p. 155)
  2. Discuss the ramifications of Jiminy Cricket’s advice, “Always let your conscience be your guide.” What worldview does Walt Disney’s cartoon portray by using this character? Is it “just cartoons”?
  3. How reliable or limited is your conscience? What are its limitations? How can these limitations be overcome? What is the role of good or bad feelings to decision making? (c. Meadors, pp.157, 164)
  4. Read Romans 2:12-15. Who has the “advantage” with regard to conscience? What does an increased understanding do to their hearts? How then should this affect our reading of pharaoh’s response in Exodus 7-9?
  5. Why can our consciences not be trusted as the final judge for making decisions? Why do people try to silence their consciences?
  6. Consider the stronger/weaker brother conversation in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13. Why was the stronger brother strong? How could he be wrong too?
  7. “The function of conscience always lags behind [conviction], because a change of mind takes time.” (Meadors, p.161) Share a personal illustration of this principle from your own life.
  8. In the cartoons, how is the conversation of conscience depicted? Who are those little voices in our heads? How does the “conscience conversation” change when making decisions in areas of clear commandments, community standards, or personal standards?
  9. What is the secret to maximizing the helpfulness of the assistance given by conscience?

Why not start a conversation of your own today about conscience, worldviews, or values sets? I look forward to hearing how it turns out!

Molding and shaping young people into a focused worldview,


Monday, May 08, 2006

Your Favorite Biblical Passage/Book

What would it take to get you to have a favorite book of the Bible? I know that we are not supposed to have favorites, but humor me on this one. Do you have a favorite book? Your favorite one is the one that you are always running the events of the day through. Your favorite one may be the one that always pops into your mind when you are talking with a friend. You may even have given your children or pets the names of your favorite book's character(s). What is your favorite book?

Sixty six choices-- each one of them a best seller -- and so hard to choose just one. I realized yesterday at church that the ones that are my favorites are the ones that I have spent a lot of time with. Here are the ones in the running for me.

1&2 Samuel -- Before you claim foul for choosing two books here. This was originally part of a larger corpus that included Kings. I am narrowing it to the Samuel volumes of the set. Because there was no study guide available for 2 Samuel, I wrote my own discussion q's. I had to process each piece carefully myself before asking someone else to dive in. The story of David's rise to positional power is fascinating! The story of sin's sapping his energies post 2 Samuel 11 is hard stuff.

Job -- I know not the most happy, joyful, abundant life sort of Monday reading. But I was really stretched in my thinking about Job through a Sunday School class that a friend of mine taught. The commentary book by Mike Mason did not hit the nail on the head in all cases. BUT it did jar some thought provoking ideas about the book of Job. I love the premise for the Mason's book too -- he read, journalled, edited, compiled reflections on the text -- all while going through some difficult times in his life. He said that there were times that he got up in the night to jot an idea down on whatever he could find. That is immersion study!

Mark -- Again, I know that you are not supposed to have favorites, but this is my favorite of the four gospels. Somewhere along the way, I latched on to this shortest of the gospel with its short matter of fact, in your face speech. Probably the influence of Peter the impulsive fisherman.

1 John -- fellowship! This is my favorite topic. It is something that I have a high value for and that I think that our world desires. Pastor Evans gave a great communion message on fellowship with God this past weekend. It is actually what got me thinking about my favorite books. 1 John was my first full NT book series that I preached. The firsts also have a special place in your heart.

Psalm 119 -- I know, technically that this is not a book. But it is long enough to qualify! :) So many intricately crafted, well worded pictures into the beauty of God's Word. 23 windows into the text! I believe that if I ever write a book it will be one on Psalm 119. (again, this pledge came up this week in "normal" conversation)

But the winner is really.....
James -- The reason why I love this book is that I memorized the first chapter as a very young believer. It's words are very familiar. Its words come to mind often. It is easy to apply this little book of NT wisdom literature. Well easy to see the application anyway. I love to share its truths and meditate further on its relevance to my life. Wisdom literature is my favorite type of Biblical literature. I love Proverbs too, especially the My Son speeches in the early chapters (1-7). Pastor Evans brought up the double-minded man image this weekend in his message on Sunday and I thought immediately of James' description of driven with the wind (horizontal) and tossed (vertical).

So what is yours? Post a comment and nominate your favorite. By the way, there is no wrong answer! Its all good. Thanks for being both a hearer/reader and a doer of the word today; remember what manner of man that you are and CHANGE!

Desiring to be a man of the book not just a man of the cloth,

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Chocolate Milk Goggles

Two of my kids with their chocolate milk goggles on! :) Very effective with the bright lights of fame at the AWANA awards dinner. Both kids finished their books! :) They musta got their smarts from their momma! I wonder what she looks like in goggles??

Proud Poppa,
Mike Posted by Picasa

Huh? Teen Stunned by Light Flash

Although you may not be able to tell from this picture, Kyle is on target as a teen. Any guy who can find plaid skater pants and a Tony Hawk T-shirt for $3 ea. is at least a good shopper! By the way, I don't think he even owns a stick!
Kyle has recently joined the YG (by graduation) and is beginning to show some signs of leadership. Being a 9th grader means that you have to find your place in the group. With an older brother in the group too, the place is probably off in a corner somewhere. But Kyle has recently taken on an important role. He will be helping me with games for Marshmallow Madness (May 12). It is not that I can't handle it myself, nor is it that Kyle is not competitive, ... he is in training. He will be helping run the games at VBS and probably at the summer missions trip to Springville, NY. I hope to help him develop his gaming skills to the point that he will run the games for youth group as well. The problem now is that he has no creativity; everything ends up being hockey or football with him. Have a little imagination Kyle, and remember to smile! :)

I do like hockey and football,
Mike Posted by Picasa

AWANA Awards Night

Last night we had our closing program for the AWANA groups. Pictured here with me is one of the most fun, well-adjusted pre-teens that I have ever seen! Steph has three rough and tumble older brothers. She is a 6 yrs younger than her next oldest brother. Steph's family is one of our farm families here in Wyoming. Yet I may never get to have her in sr hi youth group -- her parents are talking about selling their farm in Wyoming Cty and moving! Uggggh. It seems a lot of that has been going around here lately! We had a great time celebrating with the kids last night. Steph won some awards too. I think she finished her final AWANA TnT book!
Good job Steph! :) I think she has a piece of Mike-n-Ike candy in her mouth!

Loving youth, even the ones that are slipping away,
Mike Posted by Picasa