Wednesday, August 31, 2011

30 Books in 30 Days

Tomorrow is September 1st. To me, September 1st is one of the best days of the year. Read my blog posting tomorrow and you will find out why. But let me issue a challenge for the month of September to all my readers here at "Folks Listen." I challenge you to read 30 books in the 30 days that are in September. That's right - 30 books in just 30 days.

I'm talking books of the Bible. There are exactly 30 books in the Bible that are 9 chapters or less in length. 27 of these books are 6 chapters or less. I have listed them below. Why don't you read one of these books in its entirety each day starting tomorrow, September 1st. Come September 30th you will have read 30 books of the Bible in 30 days. Are you up for the 30/30 challenge? Here are the books:

Song of Solomon
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making My $1,000,000.00 List

I just heard of a pastor who had an individual come up to him and ask him this question,

"If I gave $1,000,000.00 to your ministry today, how would you use it?"

Because the pastor had never really thought about it and didn't have an answer, the man never gave the $1,000,000.00. After that conversation, that same pastor always carried with him in his wallet an up to date list of how he would use $1,000,000.00 if someone gave it to his ministry. If he was ever asked the question again, he would have an immediate answer.

So today's posting is going to be brief because I need to go work on my $1,000,000.00 list...just in case!

Monday, August 29, 2011

90 + B > 100 - B

Math was never my favorite or best course in school. I just could never figure out what numbers had to do with math! Can't we just keep it at numbers only? But here is a spiritual math formula for you to consider...and it involves letters:

90 + B is greater than 100 - B

The formula deals with stewardship. We saw Sunday that there are 3 ways you can handle your money:

You can HURL it like the prodigal son did in Luke 15!

You can HOARD it like the foolish miser did in Luke 12!

You can HONOR God with it like we are taught in Proverbs 3:9-10 which says to "Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce."

If you don't understand the formula above, then when you think about giving 10% of your income to God through the local church your mind immediately goes to this formula:

90 is less than 100

You go, "Wait a minute! If I tithe 10% I only have 90% left. If I don't tithe 10% I have 100% left. 90% is less than 100% and I need that money so I won't tithe."

But you forget that God has promised to bless those stewards who faithfully tithe. Just read Malachi 3 and you will see what I mean. That brings me back to the original formula:

90 + B is greater than 100 - B

Yes, 90% is less than 100% but this formula says that 90% with God's Blessing (thus the letter "B" in the formula) is greater than 100% without God's Blessing! Seriously, what would you rather live on, 90% with God's Blessing or 100% without God's Blessing? So what formula describes your attitude toward stewardship?

90 is less than 100


90 + B is greater than 100 - B

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pastors - Working for the WEEKEND

This entire week I have been using my blog posts to give you a birds-eye look at a typical week in the life a pastor. Why? First, because most people probably have no idea what a pastor does all week, outside of preaching on Sunday. And second, it can allow those who attend the church where I pastor to know how to more specifically pray for me as their pastor day by day. Since I have already over-viewed my typical Monday through Thursday, let me wrap up this series of posts by giving you a quick look at my weekend.


This is my weekly day off and I guard it very closely. The reason I guard it is because this day is reserved totally for my wife. This is our day together away from church ministry and it is a very important part of my week.


Saturday I spend the majority of the day in the office. For most of this time I am usually the only person in the office. This allows me uninterrupted time to spend several hours finalizing my sermon for Sunday.

On the second Saturday of each month we have a Creative Team meeting from 7-9:30 in the morning which is led by our Worship Director, Joshua Rupp. At this meeting our creative team brainstorms creative elements that we can include in our upcoming worship services. We use this meeting to plan two months ahead. I send sermon overviews to this team in advance so that they have time to think and pray about these services.


Sunday, of course, is the big day. All pastors live for Sundays. I sure do. I am usually one of the first ones in the office, getting in by 7am (2.5 hours prior to the start of our worship service). I use this time to run through my message one more time and then spend time in prayer and worship as I prepare myself for the morning. I then meet with our worship director and music team behind stage for prayer prior to the start of our service. Following the service, my wife and I hang around in the church lobby as long as there are people who would like to speak for us. When the morning at church is complete we head out for some lunch and then home to crash for the rest of the day and night and prepare to start the week all over again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working One Day a Week - THURSDAY

What does a pastor do all week other than preach on Sunday? In my three previous posts I covered Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But what does a typical Thursday look like for a pastor? In general terms here is a typical look at my Thursdays as Lead Pastor of the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church.

As with most days, I get into the office by about 7:30 in the morning for some personal time followed by a morning of administrative work in the office. To be honest, on many Thursday mornings when the weather allows, I join another man from the church for 90 minutes of golfing. You see, I have never golfed before in my life until I moved to Gaylord (putt-putt excluded). This gentleman has taken me out for 90 minutes on many a Thursdays which has been a very welcome break from the office.

On the first Thursday of every month I meet with several area pastors for some sharing and prayer from 8-9 in the morning. And each week, my Thursday morning ends with my weekly one-on-one time with Jack Dutton, our Director of Counseling here at E-Free.

My entire Thursday afternoon is then reserved for more study. This is the afternoon that I do my more in-depth study on upcoming Sundays.

I should also add that on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I also have 90 minutes each day in my schedule reserved for counseling and other appointments with people inside and outside of our church who have called asking to meet with me. One night a week I also lead one of our Small Groups here at E-Free that we call Life Groups.

I then spend the last hour of my Thursday wrapping up my work week as I take Fridays each week as my day off. In this closing hour I complete returning all emails and phone calls. I also send out two "end of the week" email updates - one to our church staff and one to our Elder Board and Church Chairman. I then straighten my desk and shut things down for the week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working One Day a Week - WEDNESDAY

So what does a pastor do when he's not preaching? Over the last 2 postings I shared with you in general terms what a typical Monday and a typical Tuesday is like for me as Lead Pastor of the Gaylord E-Free Church here in northern Michigan. Now it's time to look at Wednesday.

On Wednesday's I sleep in just a little bit longer than usual, and instead of being into the office by 7:30 like on Monday and Tuesday, I start my day driving to the radio studio of 101.5 FM - The Eagle. Wednesday's ministry than starts at 8:15 when I meet with Mike, the DJ and morning host at this classics station to talk about the topic for the morning's live show that begins about 8:20. Each week I simply give Mike a topic and the two of us discuss that topic with Mike basically interviewing me on the subject. It's a great and fun aspect of my ministry week.

When I arrive back at the church about 9am I am able to spend a couple more hours in study. On the first Wednesday of each month I use this time for a monthly meeting that I have with our head custodian who has the huge task of overseeing the large facility that God has blessed us with here at E-Free.

Wednesday morning ends with another of my weekly staff one-on-one meetings that I explained the purpose of in my posting yesterday. This one is with Pastor Joe, one of our Pastors here at E-Free. After lunch, the afternoon is pretty much taken up with two more one-on-one meetings. The first is with Pastor Newell who oversees our 9-12 grade program as well as our College and Career ministry. The day then ends with my one-on-one meeting with our Worship Director, Joshua Rupp. This meeting is scheduled to go longer than the other one-on-one meetings because we also use this time to work through the specifics to the direction and spiritual challenge of the upcoming Sunday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Working One Day a Week - TUESDAY

Yesterday I began to share with you a general look at a typical week in the life of a pastor. We know what pastors do on Sunday but what do we pastors do the rest of the week? Yesterday I shared what a typical Monday is like in my life as Lead Pastor of the E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan. But what about Tuesday?

Like on Monday I try to get in the office by 7:30am in order to have some personal time before the schedule kicks in to full gear. My first regular meeting on Tuesday is an 8:00 meeting with our Worship Design Group led by Joshua Rupp, our Director or Worship. This weekly 90-minute meeting is used to evaluate the previous Sunday's worship services so that we can know what went well and we can learn from the things that didn't go as well as we hoped. We then take the majority of the meeting to finalize the logistics for the upcoming Sunday and also look ahead to what we have planned for the Sunday after that.

I use the time after the Worship Design Group meeting to spend about 90 minutes in my office checking email and sending out a weekly update to the Staff, Elder Board and Leadership Team detailing all of the aspects of the services for the upcoming Sunday so everyone is on the same page as we move toward another Sunday at E-Free.

Tuesday morning ends with my weekly one-on-one time with Matt Jenkins, our K-8 grade director here at E-Free. I meet with each of our Ministry Staff one-on-one each week. This is primarily their time to share with me anything on their mind or heart. I also use this time to speak with them about pertinent areas to their ministry as well. After lunch on Tuesday, I then have my weekly one-on-one time with Debbie, our Office/Financial manager.

Like on Monday, the majority of the afternoon time for Tuesday is spent in study. The afternoon then ends with a 4:00 meeting with church leadership. Every other week at this time I (as leader of our Staff) meet with our Elder Chairman (who leads our Elder Board) and our Church Chairman (who leads our Leadership Team) for about 90 minutes. These three groups (Staff, Elder Board and Leadership Team) are like a three-legged stool that give our ministry a solid foundation. We use this time to make sure that all three groups are on the same page as we move forward. On the Tuesdays the three of us do not meet, I still meet just with our Elder Chairman. This allows me to share with him on a more personal level the thoughts that are on my heart.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Working One Day a Week - MONDAY

The age old joke about us pastors is that we only work one day a week - SUNDAY! I'm sure that none of you really believe that but I bet if I were to ask you what your pastor does any other day but Sunday you may not be real sure. So I thought I would take this week of blog postings and share with you a typical week in my life as the Lead Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan.

If you are not part of E-Free here in Gaylord, it may help you to understand a bit more what your pastor does day by day. If you do attend E-Free, hopefully it will give you a better idea of how to pray for me as your pastor on any given day. Obviously, these postings won't include everything as schedules can change instantly and without warning in church work. But it will give you a general idea. Let me begin with my typical Monday.

I try to get in the office on Monday mornings by 7:30am so that I can have my first 90 minutes of the week for some personal time with the Lord followed by getting caught up on emails and making my ministry "to do" list for the week.

Beginning at 9am the rest of the morning through early afternoon is reserved for staff time. We begin at 9am with a staff prayer time in which all of our ministry and support staff meet together. I start by sharing a quick thought from Scripture and then we share praises from the previous week and then we share prayer requests dealing with our own personal lives, our ministry and our church family. Following that our ministry staff meet at 10:30 for our weekly staff meeting. We use this 90 minutes to work through ministry logistics and I usually use part of this time for some training and vision casting with our staff. Then, at noon each Monday our entire staff spend the first hour of the afternoon eating lunch together.

Monday afternoon is reserved solely for study. I try my nest to stay ahead in my study so Monday afternoon's time is mainly used to finalize my preaching notes; the bulletin notes; the Power Point slides for the message; and the Digging Deeper questions that we put into the bulletin each week to encourage our church family to take Sunday's message further in their own study in the Word during the week.

Monday night is always a meeting night. The first Monday evening each week is our Elder Board meeting in which we conduct our business. The third Monday of each month the Elder Board meets again but this is reserved for an extended prayer time. The second and fourth Monday evenings I am part of our church Leadership Team meetings. The Elder Board is responsible for the vision and spiritual oversight of the church. The Leadership Team is responsible for the management of the church and its many ministry teams. I am part of both of these teams.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Liberty University...Keeping it in the Family!

Top Picture:
Me and my wife, Laura, standing atop of Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, VA overlooking the campus of Liberty University where we both graduated nearly 25 years ago (May 1987)!

Middle Picture:
Me and my daughter, Joy, standing atop of Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, VA overlooking the campus of Liberty University where she will graduate this coming May 2012!

Bottom Picture:
My son, Jonathan, with his girlfriend, standing atop of Candler's Mountain in Lynchburg, VA where they are both beginning their second year and look to graduate in May 2014!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life Ends at 11pm

Time flies, right? seems like just yesterday my kids got back home from college for the summer break and today they are both back at Liberty University. seems just like yesterday when they were little toddlers running around the house. Days fly by...weeks fly by...months fly by...seasons fly by...years fly by...decades fly flies by. The Bible attests to this fact in James 4:14 which says,

"Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."

Let me illustrate it this way. If you took 70 years of a life and condensed it down into one day that begins at 7am and ends at 11pm, here is what time it would be based on your age (remember life ends at 11pm!):

Age 10 = 9:17am
Age 15 = 10:25am
Age 18 = 11:05am
Age 20 = 11:34am
Age 30 = 1:51pm
Age 40 = 4:08pm ends at 11pm! Let's continue...

Age 50 = 6:25pm
Age 60 = 8:42pm
Age 65 = 9:47pm

It's true! Life flies by and if we are not careful we are going to get to the end of a day and find nothing but regrets. We will get to the end of a week and find nothing but regrets. We will get to the end of a month and find nothing but regrets. We will get to the end of a season and find nothing but regrets. We will get to the end of a year and find nothing but regrets. We will get to the end of a decade and find nothing but regrets. And ultimately we will get to the end of a life and find nothing but regrets.

Ephesians 5:16 exhorts us to, "Make the most of our time!" Now that's good advice for today because these 24 hours are going to fly by!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Empty Nesters...Again

Laura and I sure have enjoyed having both of our kids home from college for the summer. Joy is already back at Liberty University and now it is time for Jonathan to return to Lynchburg, VA as well.

It is a bit more of a challenge and a lot more expensive to get the kids back to college now that we live in northern Michigan. Where we lived in Pennsylvania it was only a 6 hour drive to Liberty. When I had to I could drive down and back all in the same day. Now it is more like a 15-16 hour drive one-way.

In fact, taking Joy back last week was quite an adventure. Laura rode down with Joy in her car and then we redeemed some airline miles to get her a one-way ticket back. She ended up arriving back in Traverse City 21 hours late from her original flight itinerary. Then, just 3 miles from the airport to pick Laura up, I was in a car accident. Lord willing, getting Jonathan back to Liberty will be a little less exciting.

Jonathan is ready to start his sophomore year as a Worship Arts Major. I sure have enjoyed his involvement here at the Gaylord E-Free Church in our Sunday morning worship ministry. Every time he sings a song he had part in writing or leads worship, I am one proud dad! I appreciate so much the way our Worship Director here at Gaylord E-Free, Joshua Rupp, allowed Jonathan to participate and invested into him over the summer. Thanks, Joshua!

So, it is time for Laura and I to experience the world of "empty nest" once least until Thanksgiving break!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Attending Church With Your Senses

What a great Sunday last week was here at Gaylord E-Free. I continue to hear wonderful stories of how God worked in and through our service. We are really being able to see the positive impact that our Creative Ideas Team is coming up with to help us really connect with the Scripture. Last Sunday we were able to utilize most all of the senses to allow folks to grasp the main principle of the passage we were studying. The main principle was that before God can give us in ministry, He often first will lead us through brokenness in our lives. Here were the senses that we utilized to communicate that truth:

We were able to HEAR the principle as I shared it in my message!

We were able to SPEAK the principle as I had everyone repeat the words, “He took the bread, He blessed the bread, He broke the bread, He gave the bread.” Everyone said those words together. Just the women said those words together. Just the men said those words together. We even had the balcony dwellers say these words together.

We were able to TOUCH the principle as we passed loaves of bread down each aisle and asked everyone to tear a piece from the loaf and hold it in their hand through the remainder of the service.

And through the cardboard testimonies we were able to SEE the principle as dozens of men, women, boys and girls walked across stage holding a piece of cardboard. On one side of the card there was a phrase that shared their story of brokenness. They then flipped the cardboard over and on the other side was another phrase showing the faithfulness of God during that time of brokenness in their lives. The whole time the band was playing and singing the song, “O How He Loves.”

A lot of work goes into planning our services here at E-Free. This planning actually starts 3-6 months in advance. In my blog posting on Monday of this week I shared the path that our services take. Yet, it’s Sundays like last week that make all of those meetings (even the 7am ones on Saturday mornings) so worth it! I am so thankful for the team I get to work with here at Gaylord E-Free!

If you have Facebook you can go to the Gaylord E-Free Facebook page where Joshua Rupp has put a very nice slide show together of all the cardboard testimonies from last Sunday. You can also see it on YouTube at:

If you would like to listen to the audio of the message from last Sunday (August 14) you can do so at our church web page:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Coming Sunday Attractions

In my blog posting yesterday I shared with you a quick synopsis as to how our worship services come to be here at Gaylord E-Free. Now let me share with you the upcoming message themes that are being planned for the remainder of 2011:

August 28-September 4: STEWARDSHIP 101 - This will be a 2 week series on the foundational principles of Biblical stewardship.

September 11-September 25: I LOVE MY CHURCH - This will be a study in Acts 2:41-47 as we see how the early church did life together. This series will challenge each of us to not just attend church but to connect with the church.

October 2-October 30: THE MANSION OF PRAYER - This series is designed to help each person find at least one way that they can add more energy to their prayer life. Each Sunday we will look at a different aspect of prayer as if prayer were a mansion to explore. Each week we will discover a key to open up that aspect of our prayer life.

November 6-November 20: JUST ADD WATER - This will be a 3-week series on what the Bible teaches about baptism in which all who have never followed the Lord in water baptism since trusting Christ to be their Lord and Savior, are encouraged to take that step of faith and obedience.

November 27-December 25: AVOIDING THE CHRISTMAS CRASH - This will be a 5-week series in which we see practical ways from Scripture that we can avoid crashing under the business and preparations of the Holiday season.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Making of a Worship Service

It is amazing how Sundays come around so regularly each and every 7 days! And with each Sunday comes another worship service here at the Gaylord E-Free Church. But how does a service come about? Here at the Gaylord E-Free Church it follows this path. Each step is done with great prayer:

First, I as the Lead Pastor seek God and prayerfully decide on a message series.

Second, I then spend time in sermon preparation putting together the main objectives for the series as well as rough drafts for each week's message in the series.

Third, three months in advance of the message series I send the main objectives of the series and the rough drafts of each message via email to our Creative Ideas Team. This is the team that helps to brainstorm what creative elements we can use Sunday to Sunday to help those who attend really connect with the truth of Scripture. This gives this team a month to read through the outlines, read the Scripture passages, and prayerfully begin to think through ideas of creative elements that would be effective for that message series.

Fourth, two months in advance our Creative Ideas Team meets early on a Saturday morning from 7-9am to brainstorm together the possible elements that could be used. This meeting ends with deciding on what appears to be the most effective ideas and assigning different team members to pursue the elements chosen.

Fifth, Our Worship Design Group meets each and every Tuesday morning. Though there is some overlap, this team is different than Creative Ideas team. The Worship Design Group is more logistical in nature. On these weekly meetings, this team looks at the upcoming 2 or 3 Sundays to finalize all plans and make sure that logistics are in place for effective services.

Sixth, Joshua Rupp, our Director of Worship here at E-Free, and myself meet five days prior to the service to nail down the service format and make any and all final decision that need to be made.

Seventh, the Sunday service takes place with full dependence on God.

Eighth, The Worship Design Group meets on the Tuesday following the service to evaluate what went well and what did not. We use this time to discuss how we could have been more effective so that each week our services improve.

So as you see, Sunday services don't just magically happen here at E-Free. There is a lot of hard work and preparation that goes into each one. Two principles are applied each step of the way. They are:

Proper preparation prepares for powerful performance!

Nothing of eternal importance happens apart from prayer!

Saturday, August 13, 2011


"Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He TOOK the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He BLESSED the food, and BREAKING the loaves He GAVE them to His disciples." (Matthew 14:19)

When Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000 men, how did He distribute the bread?

He TOOK the bread!
He BLESSED the bread!
He BROKE the bread!
He GAVE the bread!

"And He TOOK the seven loaves and the fish; and GIVING THANKS, He BROKE them and started GIVING them to the disciples." (Matthew 15:39)

When Jesus fed the multitude of 4,000 men, how did He distribute the bread?

He TOOK the bread!
He BLESSED the bread!
He BROKE the bread!
He GAVE the bread!

"While they ere eating, Jesus TOOK some bread, and after a BLESSING, He BROKE it and GAVE it to the disciples." (Matthew 26:26)

When Jesus established the ordinance of communion at the last Supper, how did He distribute the bread?

He TOOK the bread!
He BLESSED the bread!
He BROKE the bread!
He GAVE the bread!

Don's miss this Sunday (9:30am) at the E-Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan as we see how this pattern fits into our lives today!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Embracing Brokenness

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:17)

Those words were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by a man who knew a thing or town about "brokenness." David was a king who lost his baby son due to his own indiscretions. David was a king whose own grown son became his bitter enemy and sought to kill him. David was a king who had to hide from his enemies. God took David through times of brokenness and David saw the value in it. That is why he could say,

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit."

This Sunday here at Gaylord E-Free, as we wrap up our 3-week series on the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude with the 5 small barley loaves and 2 fish, we are going to see how "brokenness" fits into ministry today. We will look at the process that Jesus used to distribute the bread. We will see that this is the same process that Jesus used every time He passed out bread in the Bible (I will share more about this in my posting tomorrow). We will see how God used the same process with people in the Bible, people like Moses, Joseph, and even Jesus Himself.

I think God still uses the same process in the lives of people today. I've seen it in my own life. This Sunday we will see that before God gives us, He usually first needs to break us. This Sunday we will encourage you to "embrace" brokenness when God takes you through it. We will use two special aspects of our service to help you "embrace" this principle.

At one point in the message as we talk about this process, we will actually pass loaves of bread down the rows asking everyone to break off a small piece. This will allow you to use your sense of touch to grasp the principle that before God gives us, He often first must break us.

We will then end the service with some "cardboard testimonies" of several people in our church who have experienced brokenness in their life but have also found that David was correct in what he wrote,

"A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Trust Jesus For The Results




Those are the first 3 steps in a 4-step process we see in the miracle of Jesus' feeding the multitude which also is a demonstration of the same process we should use today to do ministry (to pass out the fish and the bread today). Now comes the fourth and final step:


The disciples took all that they had (5 loaves and 2 fish) and gave them to Jesus. They then did exactly what Jesus told them to do and sat the people in orderly groups. What happened next? Mark 6:42 says,

"They all ate and were satisfied!"

Note the word "all." We learn from verse 44 that this included 5,000 men plus women and children. So this crowd was at least 10,000 people strong, perhaps all the way up to 25,000 people depending on how many women and children were present. "All" of them ate from the 5 loaves and 2 fish.

Note the word "satisfied." It actually is a word that would be used to describe livestock eating until they were full. In other words, these 10,000-25,000 people didn't just each have a bite. They ate from the 5 loaves and 2 fish until they were "satisfied" - until they were full. And verse 43 tells us that there were 12 baskets of food left over when everyone was done eating.

That's what happens when you trust Jesus for the results. Ephesians 3:20 tells us this about God,

"He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond anything we could ask or imagine according to the power that works within us."

So, how do you see God do "exceeding abundantly beyond anything your could ask or imagine" in your life? How do you see God do "exceeding abundantly beyond anything your could ask or imagine" in your family's lives? How do you see God do "exceeding abundantly beyond anything your could ask or imagine" in your church? Here is the answer:





Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Do What Jesus Tells You To Do

In the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men (plus women and children) with 5 small barley loaves of bread and two small pieces of fish, we see more than just the power of Jesus as God. We also see how we are to do ministry (how we are to pass out the fish and the bread) today. It is a 4-step process. In my last two postings we saw steps one and two:



Today we learn step three in the process which is:


Once the disciples gave the fish and the bread to Jesus, we learn that in Mark 6:39-40, Jesus commanded them to have the people sit down in orderly groups. I doubt this seemed to make much sense to those 12 guys who knew they only had 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed a crowd of perhaps up to 25,000 people. But often God asks us to do things that don't make sense in our own feeble, human minds.

I doubt it made much sense to Joshua and the people of Israel when God gave the battle plan to conquer the city of Jericho. They were to march around the city one time every day for 6 days and then do the same thing on day 7, only 7 times that day. But Joshua and the people did what God told them to do and the walls came tumbling down. The disciples did what Jesus told them to do that day on the hillside in Bethsaida and the food just kept multiplying.

Two postings ago I challenged you to make a list of everything that you have. In yesterday's posting I challenged you to one by one give each item on your list to Jesus. Today I challenge you to begin the ongoing process of taking each item on the list that you have now given to Jesus and ask Him this question:

"Jesus, what do you want me to do with this? How do you want me to use this for your glory?"


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Give What You Have To Jesus

In my posting yesterday I wrote about the first of a 4-step process seen in Jesus miracle of feeding the multitude as to how to pass out this fish and the bread - how to to ministry - today. Step one was to start with what you have. Today we see step 2 in this process for ministry effectiveness which is to GIVE WHAT YOU HAVE TO JESUS!

Yesterday we saw how the disciples went to Jesus and advised him to send the people (some 15,000 to 25,000 of them) away so they could find food. Jesus responded by saying, "We don't need to send them away - you guys feed them!" The disciples quickly countered with, "But all we have are 5 small barley loaves and a couple teeny-tiny fish!" Jesus next words as recorded n Matthew 14:18 stun me. He simply says,

"Bring them (the fish and loaves) here to me."

The part about that which stuns me is the fact that Jesus had to actually tell them to bring what they had to Him. Remember that by this time His disciples had been following Jesus for almost 2 years. They had seen Him perform a very minimum of 17 amazing miracles including turning water into wine; healing every sort of disease; catching a great number of fish; casting out demons; calming a storm; and even raising the dead! And yet, He had to tell them to bring what they had to Him. Wouldn't you think that they would have realized for themselves that the very best thing to do with whatever they had, no matter how small or insignificant it was, would be to give it to Jesus?

But WAIT! Aren't we just like them? Seriously! Yesterday I encouraged you to make a list of all that you had. Now go back and look at that list. Look at each item on the list. Here is my question. Have you given your list to Jesus? Have you given each item on the list to your Lord?

Have you given your spouse, kids and grand-kids to the Lord?
Have you given your job to the Lord?
Have you given your house, boat, cottage, camper to the Lord?
Have you given your money, investments, credit cards to the Lord?
Have you given your time, talents, hobbies to the Lord?

You see, if we are going to do effective ministry today we must start with what we have and then take what we have and give it to Jesus. As He said to the disciples, He is saying to us yet today:

"Bring them here to me!"

Monday, August 08, 2011

Start With What You Have

When Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the multitude with one boy's little lunch, I think He was doing much more than demonstrating His power. He was also showing His disciples (and you and I today as followers of Jesus) how they were to do ministry after He would ascend back into heaven. From this account we see 4 simple lessons on how to do ministry, how to pass out the fish and the bread today. Here is step one in the process.

First, START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE. In Matthew's account, the disciples advise Jesus to send the crowds away because it's late and the place is desolate and they need to eat. Jesus says, "We don't need to send them away! You feed them!" Wouldn't you have loved to have seen the expressions on their face? There is somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 people present and Jesus says, "You feed them."

Let me put it in a more modern setting. Let's say that I am preaching one Sunday and I just keep going on and on and on. Time is passing by but people are so into the sermon that nobody is leaving (that would no doubt be a miracle on the same par as the feeding of the multitude). Noon passes...1:00 passes; 2:00 passes; 3:00 passes. Finally, my wife walks up on stage and whispers in my ear, "Honey, it's getting late and the people are hungry. Why don't you dismiss the service so they can go home and eat?" Now imagine the look that would cross my wife's face if I looked out over the 600-700 people in the auditorium and responded, "Laura, we don't need to send the crowd away. You feed them!" That's an expression I'm sure that I would not soon forget!

What was the response of the disciples? They said, "Jesus, we only have five loaves and two fish." The disciples didn't think they had enough to do anything worthwhile. But the truth is that the first step to doing anything worthwhile for God is to START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE - no matter how little or insignificant it may seem. So often we think, "If I only...then I would do something worthwhile for God!" We have really good intentions. I'm just not sure that God is all that interested in our good intentions.

So to do ministry today - to pass out the fish and the bread today - we have to start with what we have, no matter how little or insignificant it may seem. So, what do you have? Think about it. In fact, go one better. Make a list. What do you have?

A spouse?
A job?
A paycheck?
A checking account?
A savings account?
A money market account?
Stocks, bonds or other investments?
Credit Cards?
A house?
Golf clubs?
A boat?
A cottage?
A camper/RV?

Be thorough! Include everything. Why? because ministry starts with what you have!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

PICNIC with a PURPOSE (Part 2)

This Sunday at the Gaylord E-Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan we will continue in our new series through the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospel accounts - the feeding of the 5,000 men plus women and children with a boy's lunch consisting of 5 little barley loaves and 2 small fish. If you live anywhere near Gaylord, Michigan you do not want to miss this Sunday morning beginning at 9:30. Here are the highlights:

Great music and worship led by our Worship Director, Joshua Rupp!

Celebration of the ministry of Christ through communion!

Two minute Mission video highlighting our recent trip to Nicaragua!

Part 2 of the message series, "A Picnic with a Purpose"!

Humorous skit showing what the "Feeding of the 5,000" might have looked like if Reality TV had existed back at that time!

Closing special music featuring an original song written by Joshua Rupp and my son, Jonathan, that was written specifically for this week's message!

Our own Church-wide "Picnic with a Purpose" outside after the service - see my posting for yesterday for all the details!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Picnic this Sunday

This Sunday will be week two here at Gaylord E-Free in our study through the miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude that we are calling a "Picnic with a Purpose." Last Sunday we saw the first of 8 principles that we can learn from this miracle as to how we can do ministry, how we can pass out the fish and the bread today. This Sunday we continue our series as we look at 5 more principles.

But to make this study even more real, this Sunday we are also having a Church-Wide Picnic. We are cancelling all 2nd hour adult and kid classes and instead we will have our own church picnic right outside on our front lawn. Here are the details:

Come to church dressed in picnic clothes - I WILL BE PREACHING IN SHORTS!

Meat, Ice Cram and Beverages will be provided!

Bring your own lawn chairs and table settings for your family!

If your last names begins with A-M bring a COLD salad to serve 12!

If your last name begins with N-Z bring a DESSERT to serve 12!

Bring your friends and family with you as this is a great way to invite someone to come to church. There will be no program during the picnic. We simply want you to come, eat, enjoy and get to know some folks that attend E-Free that you may have never met previously. There will be some formal games and a fun house for kids so plan to stay after church and enjoy our very own "Picnic with a Purpose."

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Senior Year - Is It Possible?

Today is the last day of summer - at least that is the case for my daughter, Joy. Today we pack her things back up and tomorrow she will be on her way back to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia for her fourth and final year of undergraduate studies. That's right. My little girl is ready to start her senior year in college. Is that even possible?

It's been great having Joy with us this summer here in our new home in Northern Michigan. Liberty University sure seems like a long way from Gaylord, Michigan (that's because it is a long way from Gaylord, Michigan). Joy only has one more semester of classes left and then it is student teaching time. Classes actually don't begin until August 22 but Joy is a Resident Assistant so she has to be back by Aug 7 for leadership training before the incoming freshmen invade campus.

So tomorrow morning Laura will drive down with Joy and help her get settled into her dorm (Laura will then fly back home on Sunday). Before you know, it will be May 2012 and we will be heading down to Liberty for graduation - exactly 25 years (a quarter century) after I graduated from the same campus back in 1987. Time marches on, doesn't it?

Have a great senior year, Sweetheart! I love you and am so very proud of you!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Praying for a Hurting Pastor

This past week I had two different people contact me through Facebook and ask me to pray for their pastors who were going through a tough ministry trial. I have a special place in my heart for hurting pastors and I love to pray for these pastors very specifically. Below are eight specific ways that you can pray for a pastor you may know who is hurting.

Pray that when their trial is over, no matter when that is or what that looks like, that they will be more in love with Jesus, more in love with their wife, more in love with their calling, and more in love with the local church.

Pray that God would protect their children and that the challenge they are facing would result in their kids growing closer to the Lord and not becoming bitter toward the Lord or the church.

Pray that they would sleep well.

Pray that even if others treat then unfairly that they will always respond with grace and integrity.

Pray that they will daily see the fingerprints of God - little reminders that God is still in control and taking care of them.

Pray that others would come along side of them and encourage and care for them.

Pray that they would be consistent in spending time with God daily and that God would speak to them daily through His Word.

Pray that in spite of their difficulty that they would be faithful to minister to the people God has entrusted to them and that they would see fruit from their service to the Lord.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Compassion and Coffee

Before we can do ministry effectively today we must first develop a heart of compassion. That was the first of eight principles we saw Sunday in our new study on the feeding of the 5,000. In my blog posting yesterday we defined compassion. Compassion is more than sympathy. Compassion is seeing a need and being so stirred in your inner being that you have to sacrifice to help meet that need.

The disciples didn't get it. In Matthew 14, their response to the multitude of people as night began to settle in and food was scarce, was to advise Jesus to, "Send them away!" How's that for compassion? Even after this miracle was over, they still didn't get it. In chapter 15, a Canaanite woman kept yelling at Jesus asking Him to help her daughter who was possessed by a demon. Jesus didn't respond to her constant yelling in order to see how His disciples would respond. How did they reply? "Jesus, send her away! She keeps shouting at us!" Again, no real compassion. This woman was getting on their last nerve so forget her need, just send her away...please!

So let me ask you this we get it? Do we at the Gaylord E-Free church really get it? Are we willing to show compassion...real compassion...even to those in our community, in our families, where we work, and in our school who are getting on our last nerve? Listen, Gaylord E-Free, we will never really be able to pass out the fish and the bread until we develop a heart of compassion.

So last Sunday we equipped you with a first step. In the bulletin last Sunday was a "Buy 1 Get 1 Free" coffee coupon at BJ's restaurant. The challenge is this. Ask God to lay on your heart or bring across your path someone who is hurting. Sacrifice an hour and reach out to them. Invite them out for a cup of coffee. Listen to their story. Pray for them right across the table. Don't just "send them away," even if they are the one getting on your last nerve.

Coffee and Compassion...that's a powerful duo!

Monday, August 01, 2011

Everyone Needs Compassion

One of my favorite worship songs is, "Mighty to Save." In fact, we sang it at the closing of our service yesterday here at Gaylord E-Free. The opening words to the song are, "Everyone needs compassion..." How true that is.

We saw yesterday in our opening message in our 3-week series on the feeding of the 5,000 that before we can every really pass out the fish and the bread, before we can truly do ministry today, we must first develop a heart of compassion. Matthew 14 teaches us that Jesus, after hearing about the gruesome murder of John the Baptist, wanted some alone time. Instead, when He arrived at the location where His intention was to be alone, there was a crowd of hurting people waiting for Him. While I may have felt "irritation" toward the crowd, Jesus felt "compassion" for them.

But what is compassion. Most people say it is "love" or "sympathy" but compassion is far more than "love" or "sympathy." The word literally means to be "moved in one's bowels." Now remember that in the middle eastern culture the organ that symbolized the seat of one's emotions were the bowels. In our culture it is the heart. Compassion, then, is to be stirred in one's inner meaning, The Latin root would suggest a more intense feeling meaning to "suffer compassion."

You see, compassion is not just feeling sorry for someone who is hurting, it is being moved in such an intense way deep inside that you have to do something. That's compassion. Jesus gave up His "alone time" in order to help meet the needs of hurting people. And He did it out of a heart of compassion. 8 times in the Gospels this words is used to describe Jesus' reaction to people who had physical needs, daily needs, and spiritual needs.

Before we can pass out the fish and the bread today, we must first develop a heart of compassion. Everyone needs compassion!