Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Visit the new E-Free Web Page

Have you visited the web page of the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church lately? If not, I would encourage you to do just that at:

Our Media and Marketing Team here at Gaylord E-Free has worked for more than a year on this project and the end result shows what an amazing job they have done. I could take a lot of time to highlight why I am so excited about this new web page, but as the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So don't wait any longer! Go to our new church web page right now at:

Take some time to peruse all the pages. I'm sure that you will be as impressed with it as I am! Thanks, Media and Marketing Team! Awesome job!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Thoughts for the Modern Day Martha

Last Sunday we started our "Avoiding the Christmas Crash" message series by looking at the different ways that Mary and Martha responded to having Jesus in their home for dinner as seen in Luke 10. We found Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to His words. We found Martha distracted from Jesus by all of the preparations which resulted in her dip into self-pity.

We can easily compare this passage to Christmas today. Just as Jesus was the central guest of honor at the dinner in Mary and Martha's home, so He is also the central focus of Christmas. But how often do we blaze through the Christmas season so focused on all of the preparations and accomplishing our "to do" lists that we allow our busyness to distract us from the main focus which should be spending time listening to and worshipping Jesus.

This is such a vital lesson for us to learn that I have added a few more thoughts below in a "Q&A" format:

Is this story in Scripture teaching that preparations are unimportant? NO! With Jesus and His disciples coming over for dinner, someone still had to be concerned with the preparations. If not, there would not have been much of a meal. The problem in the passage is not that Martha was working on the preparations. The problem was that she allowed all of the preparations to distract her from the main focus - JESUS!

How do we know that Martha's focus on the preparations got out of balance? We know she had lost her focus when she dipped into a state of self-pity and scolded Mary for not helping her (when Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus). In fact, she even kind of scolded Jesus in the process with her words to Him, "Do you not care that my sister has left me alone to do all of the work?" When your focus on the preparations takes you into self-pity and causes you to scold others, chances are very good that your focus is out of balance.

Is this story showing Martha as a bad person? NO! Martha was preparing a meal for Jesus! That is hardly a bad thing. Martha is a great example in the Bible of someone who had a bent for hospitality. That's a good thing. Though I do not see hospitality as a spiritual gift in Scripture, the book of Romans and 3 John both teach the need for each of us to show hospitality to others. Again, what Martha was doing was a good thing. But as is the case with anything, too much of a focus on even that which is good can cause us to lose our focus on what the most important element is - JESUS!

How do we see that Martha grew in the process? In John 12:1-3, Jesus is again invited over to Mary and Martha's for dinner. This time Martha is again working in her love and strengths which is serving. However, there is a major difference this time. Her serving doesn't control her focus and plunge her into a state of self-pity as happened earlier. This time she serves but with the understanding of the importance of worshipping Jesus as well. Even in verse 3 when her sister, Mary, breaks open a full pound of expensive perfume and uses it to lavish her love on Jesus, Martha does not in any way complain (Judas does -but that is another story!).

Is there anything wrong with being a Martha? NO! God has wired a lot of people to be like Martha - servants who understand the importance of preparation and hospitality. That is a good thing! But if you are a "Martha" type - please be careful this holiday season that you don't become so focused on the preparations that you miss out on the most important part of the whole celebration - JESUS!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Christmas Chainsaw Massacre

Some 15 or more years ago was a Christmas that still sends shivers down my spine and causes me to break out in a cold sweat just to think about it. We decided that year that instead of buying a tree from the corner tree lot like usual, we would do things the old fashioned way - cut it down ourselves. So I borrowed a chainsaw from a friend, got a quick instruction on how to start it, and headed into the woods.

If you know me, you know that I am very challenged when it comes to fixing anything and the simplest of tools, let alone a chainsaw, is very dangerous for me to have in my hand. Fortunately, a handsaw did the trick in the woods and we tied our prize to the top of our car and headed back to our house.

I drug the tree inside and down the steps to the family room leaving a trail of pine needles and tree sap all along the way. I then hoisted up the tree and jammed it into the tree stand only to discover that it was way to tall for our drop ceiling. "No problem," I thought, "I have my friend's chainsaw." I could shorten it!

Instead of dragging the tree back up the stairs and outdoors, I puled it into the utility room where the furnace and hot water heater were located and brought the chainsaw down to the tree. Next I primed the instrument as I had been instructed, put my foot (wearing only my house slippers) in the right location on the chain saw and right there in our utility room I began to pull the cord in an effort to start the cutting device.

To my utter frustration I could not get that chainsaw to start for anything. Today I realize how good of a thing it was that it did not start. Remember, I am in my utility room and my slipper clad foot is resting firmly on the chainsaw. Cuss words began to whip through my head with each failed attempt at the rip cord.

Finally, completely angry, I went out and turned on the TV to calm down (how ironic that the sitcom, "Home Improvements" was the show on at the time!). I then went back into the utility room to try again to start the chainsaw. Again, I was met with nothing but failure.

Outraged, I walked across the white carpet of our family room, up the white carpeted stairs, out into the garage and got the handsaw and followed my path back to the utility room via the same white carpet. Unknown to me, my slippers were now covered with small engine oil and my footprints were now all throughout our house on the white carpet.

I didn't realize what I had done to the carpet until I heard my wife YELL!!! Now my frustration and anger turned to rage. I marched back into the utility room, took the handsaw and cut a large piece out of our Christmas tree. I then walked across the white carpet (still wearing the oil laced house slippers) and stuck it into the tree stand only to discover that I had cut way too much off of the tree which now stood no more than 4 feet in height.

This, along with the soiled white carpet throughout the house, led to more "not so loving" words between my wife and I. Finally, about as angry as I have ever been in my entire life, I marched back upstairs (you guessed it...still wearing the oil covered slippers) where my small kids sat in wide-eyed wonder at the "Christmas spirit" wafting through our home and declared to them that "Christmas was cancelled this year!!!!"

I told that story the next Sunday at the church I was pastoring in Indiana and a couple who deeply desired that their pastor's marriage stay in tact, bought us an artificial tree. We have used an artificial tree every since...UNTIL NOW! Pictured above is my son and I with our first live Christmas Tree since that infamous Christmas so many years ago. However, it may be a little too tall for our living room...

Anyone got a chainsaw I can borrow?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Preparing for a "Mary" Christmas

Last Sunday here at E-Free church in Gaylord, Michigan, we kicked off a new holiday message series that we are calling "Avoiding the Christmas Crash." The goal of this series is to help each person to experience the most joyful and peaceful Christmas that they have ever had. Or to put it another way - this series is our way of wishing you a "Mary" Christmas!

We saw last Sunday from Luke 10 a story in the life of Jesus when two sisters, Mary and Martha (who had a brother names Lazarus that Jesus would later raise from the dead), invited Jesus and His disciples over to their house for dinner. Now how would you react if Jesus accepted a dinner invitation at your house? Mary and Martha responded differently.

Mary was a worshipper. While Jesus is at her house she spends her time sitting at His feet, listening to Him. Not Martha! Martha is in the kitchen. Jesus is sitting in her living room but she is zoned in on one thing - the PREPARATIONS!!! After all, much would need to be done if you had Jesus and 12 of His friends coming over to your house for dinner.

After a while, Martha goes out and in a huff asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her with all that needed to be done. I love Jesus' response. He begins by telling Martha that she is distracted by so many things. He goes on to say that Mary had chosen the good thing -spending time with Him.

The truth is that most of us are pretty much like Martha when it comes to Christmas. There is so much to do. It isn't just the "most wonderful" time of the year, it is also the "most busy" time of the year. Christmas is all about Jesus, but we get so distracted with all of the preparations that we miss "the good part" of Christmas - spending time with Jesus! Sunday I ended the message by encouraging you to take to heart 3 insights.

First, LOOSEN up! If all the decorations don't get put up - that's OK! If all the cookies don't get baked - that's OK. If there is only 24 side dishes for Christmas dinner rather than 25 side dishes - that's OK! If all the presents don't have hand made bows on them - that's OK!

Second, LIGHTEN up! Martha, due to her distraction with the preparations, attempted to draw Mary away from sitting at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes in our zeal to have the "perfect" Christmas we can rob others in our family of joy and peace. Let's not do that this year!

Third, LISTEN up! Decide now that each day, now and all the way through December 25, you are going to carve out some time to sit at the feet of Jesus, talk to Him, sing to Him, and listen to Him through His Word.

I wish you a "Mary" Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Avoiding the Christmas Crash

It happens every year. Thanksgiving ushers in the start of the Holiday Season and we are determined to keep focused on what Christmas is all about. But as each day counts down to December 25, our good intentions get overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of "the most wonderful time of the year." Before we know it, Christmas has come and gone and we feel like we experienced another Christmas Crash.

Wouldn't it be nice if this Christmas was different? It can be! Beginning this Sunday we will be starting a new message series here at Gaylord E-Free Church that we are calling, "Avoiding the Christmas Crash!" It is our goal that every part of this series, right down to the carefully designed stage setting, will help each of us to experience the most peaceful Christmas we have ever had. This series will cover the following:

Nov 27: Avoiding the preparation crash!

Dec 4: Avoiding the gift-giving crash!

Dec 11: Avoiding the post-holiday crash!

Dec 18: Avoiding the family crash!

And then the actual Holidays will continue this focus on a peaceful Christmas through two Christmas Eve services (5pm and 7pm); one special Christmas Day service (10am); and one special New Year's Day service (10am). The themes for these special Holiday services will be:

Dec 24: Messy Christmas

Dec 25: Mega Joy

Jan 1: Keep on Celebrating

Don't miss any of these seven services in our "Avoiding the Christmas Crash" series as together we look at the Word of God and see how we can experience the most peaceful Christmas we have ever had! Invite someone you know to be join us at Gaylord E-Free. If you live outside of the Gaylord, Michigan area, be sure to listen to the audio of each message on line at our church website at:

Be sure to like Gaylord E-Free Church on Facebook as well!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It happened to Laura and I this past weekend. We came face to face with an F.B.O. The thing about an F.B.O. is that you never initially see it as a good thing. An F.B.O. typically begins with some level of anxiety that results in your mind racing a zillion different directions. When an F.B.O. first comes into your path it can be very scary.

An F.B.O. is an obstacle that comes into your life that seems to be much bigger than you can handle. When an F.B.O. does come into your life, and you try to deal with it on your own, you will most likely fall flat on your face. But in reality, though all of this is true, an F.B.O. is one of the best and most exciting times that can happen in your life. Why, because F.B.O. stands for:

Faith Building Opportunity!

Whenever we as followers of Jesus come up against an obstacle in life that is way too big for us to deal with and seems to have nothing but hardship that could result, it is an opportunity to watch God work which will result in your faith growing. But for this to happen, we have to be willing to lasso the anxiety and fear that comes with an F.B.O. and put our energy into three things:

Obeying God!

Trusting God!

Praying to God!

When we look our hardship and obstacles square in the eyes and choose to obey God in it; trust God in it; and pray to God often through it, our hardship and obstacle can result in an F.B.O. - a Faith Building Opportunity.

Are you facing an F.B.O. in your life? Remember, the obstacle you are facing is a Faith Building Opportunity!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bountiful Harvest

Last night I was able to be part of my first "Bountiful Harvest" through which 12 area churches here in Gaylord, Michigan partnered together to provide full Thanksgiving meals to over 650 families in our community. Each meal cost $35.00 and was paid for by donations from these area churches. And each meal was delivered last night in person by someone from one of these 12 churches.

My wife and kids and I were part of the hundreds of volunteers that were part of loading and delivering these meals last night. We had the thrill of delivering meals to 7 of these homes. In each home we were able to also give each family a booklet giving the plan salvation and a bookmark giving the names, address and service times of the 12 churches that participated. Best of all, we were able to personally pray for each family right there in their home. It was so cool!

What a thrill! The very first home we delivered to was a grandma who told us that her grandsons were disappointed that this Thanksgiving they were going to have chicken since they could not afford a turkey. Now, thanks to Bountiful Harvest, they will enjoy a Butterball Turkey for dinner this Thursday along with potatoes, gravy, vegetables, stuffing, rolls, milk and butter. We even provided each family with a disposable roasting pan as well.

I am thankful to know John and Jennifer Rakis, who organized this tremendous event. I am so proud to be part of a church that participated in such a big way this wonderful event. I am so proud to be living in a community like Gaylord, Michigan that cares for each other!

Only eternity will tell what impact took place tonight as we were able to show the love of Jesus in a tangible way! Thank you, Lord! Thank you!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

One Morning at E-Free

Some Sunday mornings will stay in my memory and in my heart my whole life. This Sunday was one one of those Sundays. It is amazing what all happened on one Sunday morning at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church here in Gaylord, Michigan. To say that my heart is overflowing is an understatement. Here are some highlights:

We had an attendance this morning of 782! Our church is growing and for that we are very thankful and excited! Praise the Lord!

We saw 47 people follow the Lord in water baptism! It was such a joy to see so many of all ages taking this step of faith. 7 different staff members/elders did all of the baptizing in two different tanks. Praise the Lord!

We saw many people pray to receive Christ as their personal Savior! At the end of the day that is what it is all about! Praise the Lord!

We all enjoyed a home made Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings and got over 500 people through the serving lines in 20 minutes flat! In fact, you can see above the before and after pictures of this meal in our church gymnasium! Praise the Lord!

The stories I heard afterwards were amazing. I don't have the space to tell them all, but one comment I saw afterwards on Facebook summed it up well. It said:

Some very amazing things are happening at my church, E-Free. Today, I witnessed as 47 people were baptized. Some people gave their lives to the Lord for the first time, and some people recommitted their lives to Christ. Afterward, we ate Thanksgiving dinner with our church family (which just keeps on growing). God is working through the lives of people in Gaylord! I have never felt closer to God in my whole life, and it is the most beautiful feeling I have ever experienced.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Today I feel like Orphan Annie!

Today's Saturday. Let's see...that makes tomorrow Sunday! I feel like little Orphan Annie right now as I think about that fact. "Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love You, Tomorrow! You're only a day away! That makes tonight the equivalent of Christmas Eve! It has that kind of anticipation for me.
Why am I so excited about tomorrow? I am excited because tomorrow is what we call Ingathering Sunday here at the Evangelical Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan. It is going to be a very special service with four major elements:

WORSHIP! As we do each Sunday, we will spend time Sunday, just days before Thanksgiving, singing our praises to God. We won't have our Traditional Service this Sunday. Instead we will all be together starting at 9:30 in the Gospel Center!

BAPTISM! We will have the amazing thrill of seeing over 40 people following the Lord in water baptism this Sunday. These are men, women, teens and kids who have trusted Jesus to be their Savior and are now ready to take that step of faith and obedience in publicly identifying with Christ!

OFFERING! Along with our regular offering, this Sunday we will also take our annual Ingathering offering with a goal of $50,000. The first $30,000 of these monies will go to our Elder Fund that is used to help meet the needs of hurting people primarily in our church as well as in our community including our monthly Food Truck ministry. The remaining monies will be used for some needed upkeep in our facility in the areas of painting and floor coverings.

DINNER! After the service is over our entire church family will move down to the gymnasium and Youth Room for a full blown Thanksgiving Dinner together. What a great ending to a wonderful day.

DECORATING! After dinner, the Creative Ideas Group will start the decorating in the Gospel Center for our new Holiday series that will start the next Sunday that we are calling "Avoiding the Christmas Crash." It is our prayer that even the stage set in the auditorium will help us to experience the most peaceful Christmas this year that we have ever had!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love you, Tomorrow! You're only a day away!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Windshield Time

I had a meeting yesterday down in Lansing which resulted in over 6 hours of time on the road looking through the windshield. I wouldn't want to do that too often, but once in a while, I enjoy extended windshield time by myself. Although yesterday morning I discovered that it doesn't take much snow, ice and wind to make I-75 between Gaylord and Grayling a bit treacherous, especially when your in a little 4-cylinder car with no snow tires. And if the weather conditions were not bad enough, I also had to dodge 5 different deer darting across the Interstate.

But still, I enjoyed a day that was spent mainly in some alone time looking out the windshield. I used this time to:

Listen to some good Christmas Music while looking at the snow falling in front of my headlights!

Call and talk to two very good friends from back in Pennsylvania that I really miss!

Listen to a few sermons on CD that brought I along for some inspiration!

Call and talk to my mom!

Talk through an upcoming sermon!

Do some thinking and praying!

A day in the church office is always valuable. But every once in a while it is equally valuable when a day in the office takes place looking through the windshield watching it snow while dodging deer!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Starting Christmas Early

I don't know about you, but I am already in the Christmas mood. I know that we are still a week away from Thanksgiving, but I can't help myself. I love Christmas. I have Christmas music playing on my radio and the decorations start going up around the house this week. Two nights ago I watched the cartoon version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" on television followed by the Holiday comedy movie, "Fred Clause." In fact, it is my goal to watch as many Christmas specials on TV this year as possible.

I've always loved Christmas, but ever since I have had the chance to visit Bethlehem (Israel, not Pennsylvania!), my longing for Christmas is enormous. Once you have stood at the site where Mary gave birth to the Christ-child and walked out in the fields where the angels visited the Shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus, Christmas takes on a whole new intensity. At least it has for me.

And to add white icing to the holiday cake, this year I will most likely get to experience a "White Christmas" now that I live up here in northern Michigan. So let's start Christmas early!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Can't Wait for Sunday

Today is Tuesday. If my math is correct, that means Sunday is just 5 days away! I can't wait! This Sunday is what we call Ingathering Sunday here at the Gaylord E-Free Church. It will be a very special Sunday for several reasons.

First, this Sunday is the final week in our "Just Add Water" message series. Over the last 2 Sundays we have preached on the topic of baptism, encouraging all those who are attending our church and who have put their faith in Christ but have yet to be baptized since they made that decision, to take that step of faith. We have so many people getting baptized this Sunday that there will be no time for me to preach. Now understand, I live to preach but I will gladly give up my sermon time this Sunday to see so many people taking this exciting step of faith. I can't wait!

Second, this Sunday we will take our Ingathering offering. Our goal is to raise $50,000 in this special offering. The first $30,000 will go to our Elder Fund that is used to help people in our church and in our community who are hurting and to pay the cost for our Food Truck ministry that brings a semi-truck of food to our church each month to give out free of charge to people in need. The remaining $20,000 in our goal will be used for some building improvements in the older wing of our facility. I can't wait!

Third, after the service is over Sunday we will cancel all 2nd hour kids and adult classes and we will all head down to the gymnasium and youth center in order to enjoy a full-blown Thanksgiving Dinner together as a church family! Our staff had our own Thanksgiving Dinner yesterday for lunch. This Sunday we get to do it all over again with our entire church family! I can't wait!

5-days to Ingathering Sunday! I can't wait!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Missions Conference at Community Church (part 2)

The best part of the past week is that between speaking 5 times at the Community Church's Missions Conference in West Milton, OH, as well as preaching this past Sunday morning back here at Gaylord E-Free, as well as sharing again Sunday night at the E-Free Annual Meeting, I got to speak 7 times in the past 8 days. Now that is what I call a great week!

Below are some pics of me preaching at the Missions Conference in Ohio. I even showed off my new golf swing that I have acquired since moving to Gaylord, Michigan. Some of these may make for a good caption contest (especially the last one!)!

Missions Conference at Community Church (part 1)

Last week I had the thrill of being the keynote speaker at the annual Missions Conference at Community Church in West Milton, Ohio (the church where I first started in ministry as Youth Pastor many years ago). Below are some pictures from the week:

Woody Curtis, Missions Director at Community Church, prays for Laura and I at the end of the Missions Conference!

Adult Sunday School Teachers pray for the missionaries at the end of the conference!

My new friend, Nard (a missionary pilot) shares about his ministry!

BJ Bechtel, who once was in my youth group, shares about his ministry in Chicago with Inner City Impact!

My mentor, Steve Peters (Sr Pastor of Community Church) shares a laugh with Nard!

Stuart Peters, Youth Pastor at Community Church, leads worship!

More prayer for the missionaries!

Worshipping the Lord at Missions Conference!

The children help the Worship Team lead in the conference theme song!

Old friends of ours, Mark and Janice Hilt, play the role of Harry and Mary in this skit on the opening night of Missions Conference!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How do you spell baptism?

How do you spell relief?

Remember that commercial? It was a great marketing strategy for Rolaids heartburn and indigestion medicine. Even Major League Baseball got in the act as Rolaids became the sponsor for the "relief pitcher" of the year. Every person in America who watched any amount of TV could answer that question. How do you spell relief?


This Sunday here at E-Free, I would like to spend the morning asking a similar style question. This Sunday's questions is,

"How do you spell baptism?"

I actually have been baptized 3 times since I trusted Jesus to be my Savior. The first time was at the age of 8 at the Goodyear Heights Community Church in Akron, Ohio. The second time was when Laura and I began in ministry at Community Grace Brethren Church in West Milton, OH. The final time was in 2006 when on my first trip to Israel I had the thrill of publicly identifying with Christ in the Jordan River, the very river where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.

This Sunday I will share what the Bible teaches about "baptism" by spelling the word out: B-A-P-T-I-S-M! I will be taking each letter in the word "baptism" and using it to stand for a phrase that will help all of us to better understand what baptism is all about. So join us this Sunday as we answer the question,

"How do you spell baptism?"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Birthday to the Pastor's Wife

I love being a pastor. Ever since I was in Junior High School it is what I wanted to do. I remember a mentor of mine in High School saying, “Scott, if there is anything else you would rather do, do that instead.” That was his way of saying, “Be sure that this is what God has really called you to do because it isn’t easy.”

Still today, it is the only thing I want to do. Admittedly, there remains a desire deep inside of me to be a play-by-play announcer for a Major League Baseball team. In fact, even now at age 46, if there is a game on the television and no one is home but me, I will mute the sound and pretend that I am announcing the game. But yet, I would still rather be a pastor than anything else.

The same is true with my wife. Since Laura was a girl, all she ever wanted to be was a pastor’s wife. That is why she went to college – to find a “preacher boy” to marry. And she did – ME! And for that I am very thankful.

In just the short time we have been here at Gaylord E-Free, I am sure you have seen what a wonderful and valuable pastor’s wife Laura is. I simply see no way that I would be able to do what I do without her support and without her by my side. When it comes to ministry, we are a packaged deal. I say all that because today, November 11, is my wife’s birthday!

So, please allow me to take advantage of this e-mail communication to wish a very “Happy Birthday” to my favorite church member here at E-Free, my lovely wife, Laura!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

BANG! Is this a mid-life crisis?

I am 46 years old and wondering if I am entering my "mid-life crisis" or am just being influenced by my now living in northern, Michigan. I had never golfed (other than putt-putt) until now. But at the age of 46 I have now found myself out on the fairway. I have even golfed in church this year on a Sunday morning at our church in Michigan and just last night at the closing night of Mission Conference in West Milton, Ohio.

But now I have added another "first," again at age 46. Let me set up the story. Last week I attended my very first Wild Game Dinner up in Michigan. I ate wild boar (another first for me) among other wild game. But at the end of the night I walked away with the door price - a 12-gauge shotgun! Imagine me with a shotgun!!! If you know me you know that me winning a shotgun is the epitome of ironic! But now, at the age of 46, I am the proud owner of a 12-gauge shotgun.

Now here is where the next first comes in. Woody, who is the Mission Director at the church I have been speaking at this past week, heard that I now own a shotgun and that I know nothing about guns. Actually, I shot a gun one time out of a farmer's window at a youth event when I was a youth pastor (not smart, I know) and got me a ground hog right in the head! Anyway, Woody took Laura and I out to the shooting range today - another first for me at age 46. BANG! That was fun! My wife out shot me (but she grew up shooting a gun out in Colorado). However, I was the only one that got the bulls-eye! I think I might be hooked!

I'm age 46 and finding myself on the golf course and at the firing range! Is this a mid-life crisis? Either way - I wonder what might be my next first!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

We broke curfew this week!!

Laura and I have had the thrill this past week of being back at Community Church in West Milton, Ohio where we first started in ministry years ago. I have been able this week to have the joy of being the keynote speaker at their annual Missions Conference. Few things are better than returning to a former ministry and being able to pick up with so many old friends like we have never been gone.

There have been many highlights, but last Sunday night was by far the apex of our being blessed. One of the couples held an open house style event inviting through Facebook anyone who had been part of our youth ministry during the years that I served at the church as their Youth Pastor. How very cool it was to see so many of those who were on our youth staff and to spend time catching up with those who were teenagers in our youth ministry, many of whom who now have teenagers of their own.

In fact, we had such a great time that we didn't get back to our host family's home until 2am. I can't tell you the last time we were out until 2am (actually, it may have been way back when we were in youth ministry). We felt like teenagers sneaking back into our house after breaking curfew, trying not to wake up mom and dad. But this was one of those nights when you leave going, "I am so blessed...Thank you Lord!"

One of the guys who was a teenager who found Christ in our youth ministry brought his son up to meet me. He told his son something along these lines, "This is Pastor Scott. He is the one who told me about Jesus. It is because he told me about Jesus that you are able to grow up in a Christian home!" To say I was "blown away" was an understatement.

Later in the night all of the other adults who had been on our youth staff had left and it was just us and a group of those who had been in our youth group. As the party was coming to an end, one of them gathered everyone together and they prayed for us, thanking God for the ministry we had so long ago in their lives and asking God to continue to bless our lives and our ministry. Even as I type this, tears flow down my face just thinking about that moment.

We broke curfew Sunday night...but it sure was worth it! Thank you, Lord! And thank you, alumni of Community Church's Youth Group from 1987-1994! We love all of you!

Monday, November 07, 2011

An Exercise for Worry

Here is an exercise that each of you needs to do. You will be glad you did!

Step 1: Take out a piece of paper and a pen

Step 2: At the top of the paper write the two words "Worry List"

Step 3: List the top 10 things in your life that you are worried specific

Step 4: Go back to the top of the page and mark an "X" through the word "Worry"

Step 5: Above the "X'd" out word "Worry," write the word "Prayer"

In 5 easy steps you just turned your "Worry List" into your "Prayer List." That is exactly what Philippians 4:6 teaches - "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." To paraphrase it simply, "Worry about nothing...Pray about everything!"

Imagine what would happen if you took all the time you normally spent worrying about something and instead you spend that time praying about that same area! Imagine what would happen if you took the same amount of energy that you put into worrying, and instead you put that same amount of energy into praying about that area! According to the very next verse in Philippians 4:7, you would experience the peace of God that passes all understanding and that peace will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus!

After all, in Matthew 6:27 Jesus asked this questions about the whole issue of worry, "Which of you by worrying can add one hour to your life?" The answer is "none of you can add an hour to your life by worrying!" In other words, worry has no value whatsoever. Someone who heard me preach on this recently left this quote on a sticky note on my computer, "Worry is like a rocking chair - it gives you something to do but doesn't get you anywhere."

Worry has no earthly value. Prayer has eternal value. So I challenge you to do the exercise above. Turn your "Worry List" into your "Prayer List."

Friday, November 04, 2011

Just Add Water

I’ll never forget the first baptism I ever performed. I was a Youth Pastor in Ohio and had led a Jr. Higher to the Lord by the name of Beau. Shortly after that, this young man was ready to be baptized. I was very excited, but also pretty nervous. After all, we had never practiced “how to baptize people” in Bible College. In the church I pastored, we baptized people going forward (rather than backward). It never dawned on me to be sure that Beau was kneeling far enough in the back of the baptistery so that there was enough clearance for his head.

In my nervous enthusiasm, I brought Beau forward determined to use enough muscle to be sure he made it all the way under the water. Unfortunately, Beau was too close to the front of the baptistery and when I brought him down he hit his head on the edge, resulting in a nice gash. Not to be outdone by Moses, I had turned the water into blood. Beau forgave me and over the years I got much better at baptizing people without causing them physical injury.

I also remember my own baptism. I had trusted Christ to be my Savior at the age of 5 while attending a Child Evangelism Fellowship good News Club taught by my aunt. When I was 8 years old, Pastor Bruce Black baptized me at the Goodyear Heights Community Church in Akron, Ohio. Though that was 38 years ago, I still remember that day as if it were juts yesterday. I also remember being baptized again in the Jordan River on my first trip to Israel. How special it was to publicly identify with Christ in the very river where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Along those lines, I am excited that this Sunday here at E-Free we will start a brand new mini-series that we are calling “Just Add Water” as we look together in Scripture and see what the Bible says about baptism. What is baptism? Why do we do baptism? How do we do baptism? Who should be baptized? When should they be baptized? Over this series we will answer these questions and much more. So don’t miss this Sunday @ 9:30 here at E-Free as we start this series.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I'm Still Her Hero!

Over 25 years ago I met my wife at a Flea Market in Lynchburg, VA. Tuesday night I had the thrill of being reminded that I am still her hero. We had an Israel Information Trip meeting at the church for those who are considering going to the Holy land with us in October 2012. I am simply way behind at work so she went home after the meeting and I was planning to stay at the church until about 11pm and get some items on my "To Do" list accomplished.

A few minutes before 10:00pm I get a text from my wife reading, "I think we have a critter in the house - like a squirrel or a chipmunk." Now, the text did not say, "Please come home!" But being the sensitive husband that I am, I was able to decipher that the message was code for, "Please come home!' I knew I had hit the bulls-eye when I texted back saying I was on my way and got a very quick one word reply..."hurry!"

So I got home and I grabbed a broom and headed in the door to rescue my fair maiden in distress. I knew the situation was serious when I found her in the kitchen, standing on a chair, clutching her cell phone. She told me that whatever the intruder was, it was in the laundry room where something had knocked over the laundry basket of clothes...twice. So I started pulling items out of the laundry room one by one wandering what was going to jump out at me without warning. At the end of the search, I found nothing.

I'm not sure what made the basket of clothes fall...twice, but I never did find a squirrel or a chipmunk. I did, however, go to bed that night with the deep satisfaction of knowing that after 25 years, I am still my wife's hero who she calls when she is in distress! So, though it is three days past Halloween, I think I will wear my Superman suit all day today!

Up, up and away!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Food Truck

I am so proud of our church here at Gaylord E-Free. This part of northern Michigan has really felt the effects of the economic problems in our country. Many people are out of work and hundreds of people are struggling to make ends meet. It is our desire as a church to be the "hands and feet" of Jesus to this community. As a result, each month we have what we call the "Food Truck Ministry" in which we purchase a semi truck full of food from the Michigan Food Bank and we distribute it free of charge to families within our county that could really use the help. Last Thursday over 160 families from our community came to our church to receive free food.

This is why on Sunday, November 20, we will be taking a special offering here at E-Free. We call the Sunday before Thanksgiving "Ingathering Sunday." It is going to be a great day. There will be a special combined service @ 9:30am with a lot of worship, celebration and many people following the Lord in water baptism. Then we will all go down to the gym for a full-blown luncheon together as a church family. But on that Sunday we will also take a second offering, an Ingathering offering. Our goal is to see God use His people here at E-Free to see $50,000 come in for that special offering that morning. The first $30,000 of this special offering will go to our Elder Fund that is used specifically to help hurting people in our church and in our community. It is from this fund that we will also be able to fund the Food Truck Ministry for another year.

So thank you Gaylord E-Free for being a church that cares...a church that loves...a church that prays...and a church that gives!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Music of Keith Green

Yesterday I mentioned the late singer/song-writer, Keith Green. When I was a teenager one of the greatest things that God used to keep my heart on the Lord was the music of singer/song-writer Keith Green. I loved his music and the way he conducted his ministry. I was in High School when Keith Green was killed in an airplane crash in Texas where he lived. His music is one of the few that have transcended time in still impacting my life today. I will often pull out my CD collections of all of his songs and play them as I worship and reflect on the Lord. But no song of his touches me like this one. If you know it, why don’t you sing it with me right now at your computer.

There is a Redeemer

Jesus God's own Son

Precious Lamb of God


Holy One

Thank You Oh my Father

For giving us Your Son

And leaving Your Spirit

'Til the work on earth is done

Jesus, my Redeemer

Name above all names

Precious Lamb of God


Hope for sinners slain

Thank You Oh my Father

For giving us Your Son

And leaving Your Spirit

'Til the work on earth is done

When I stand in glory

I will see His face

There I'll serve my King forever

In that holy place

Thank You Oh my Father

For giving us Your Son

And leaving Your Spirit

'Til the work on earth is done