Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Really, Really, Really Really, Really Astounding Message!

This Sunday, as we continue our "Angels Revealed" message series here at Gaylord E-Free, we will begin a special journey as we follow the role of the angels through the Christmas story.  The first angelic appearance of Christmas was not the one to Mary in Nazareth, but rather to an old man named Zacharias 6-months earlier in the temple in Jerusalem as Zacharias went in to complete his priestly duty of lighting the incense on the altar.  There, at the right of the altar, appeared Gabriel with the amazing news that Zacharias' wife, Elizabeth, would become pregnant.  This message was astounding for at least four reasons:

First, Zacharias and Elizabeth were advanced in years and beyond the normal physical age of being able to bear-children.  That makes this message really astounding!

Second, Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children due to her being barren.  That makes this message really, really astounding!

Third, this was not going to be just any baby.  This baby would be John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Messiah.  That makes this message really, really, really astounding!

Fourth, this was the first revelation from God to any human in 400 years.  That's right, once the pages of Malachi were closed, 400 years passed before the New Testament time-period began.  We call these 400 years the "Silent Years" because during this time man received no new information from God.  That makes this message really, really, really, really astounding!

Now with all of that in mind, take time to put yourself in Zacharias' sandals.  This is the greatest day of your priestly ministry.  It was such a huge honor to be selected from the 18,000 priests in Israel back in that day to light the incense in the temple which symbolized the prayers of the nations.  It is doubtful that Zacharias would ever get this opportunity again.  This was a once in a lifetime privilege for a priest.  His adrenalin must have already been pumping as he went alone into the temple with the incense.  And then, once inside, for the first time in 400 years, God chooses to speak to mankind and He does so by sending the angel, Gabriel, to communicate to this aged priest some really, really, really really, really astounding news!

Don't miss Sunday at Gaylord E-Free as we follow the angels through the Christmas story by examining all of the details to that angelic encounter that happened in the great temple in Jerusalem that special day.  It was this event that ushered in Christmas and so will we this Sunday at Gaylord E-Free!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do You Have a Guardian Angel?

George Bailey had one!  His name was Clarence - Angel Second Class (2nd Class because he had not earned his wings).  Of course I am speaking of the Holiday movie, It's A Wonderful Life.  Though it is a wonderful movie that I enjoy watching every year, there are some Biblical inaccuracies when it comes to angels.

First, in the movie Clarence was a human who died back in the 1800's and became an angel.  Sorry!  That's not where angels come from.  Angels are created beings, not humans who died (Colossians 1:15-17; Psalm 148:2, 5).

Second, Clarence is trying to earn his wings.  Sorry once again!  There is no question that at least some angels have wings (Cherubim are described in Ezekiel as having four wings each and Seraphim in Isaiah are described as having six wings each) but nowhere in Scripture are we taught that angels have to earn their wings.  This would also shoot holes in the movie idea that "Every time a bell rings an angel gets it wings."    

Third, Clarence was George Bailey's guardian angel.  Sorry one more time, folks!  Though the Bible teaches that angels are ministering spirits sent by God to be involved in the loves of believers and those who would become believers in Jesus (Hebrews 1:14), no place in Scripture do we see clear teaching that each of us have a guardian angel.

Many would point to Acts 12 as proof.  In this chapter Peter is on death row in prison and the church is praying for him in a home.  In response to these prayers, God sends an angel to deliver Peter from prison (I love the fact that when we pray prayers that are in the will of God, the Lord dispatches angels in response!  How awesome!).  Peter goes to the home where these believers are praying and knocks on the door.  A servant girl answers the door and is so excited she closes the door, leaving Peter in the street, and goes back in and tells everyone it is Peter at the door.  They do not believe her and say, "It is his angel!"  Many have taken that to be a reference to Peter's guardian angel.  Is it?

I don't think this is the case.  Jewish tradition (seen in the story of Tobit) taught that each person had an angel and that when you died that angel took on your human form and appeared to the people who loved you to tell them you had died.  The believers would have interpreted this servant girl seeing Peter's angel as evidence that Peter had been killed.  Of course, they found out different when they went to the door and saw that it was actually Peter.

Like the Jewish people back in Peter's day, we must be careful that we do not base our belief system regarding angels (or anything else for that matter) on tradition, superstition, experiences or even Hollywood.  We must base our beliefs on one thing - the Word of God.  Does the Bible clearly teach that we each have a specific guardian angel?  Not that I can see.  Does the Bible teach that angels collectively are involved in our lives including protecting us?  Absolutely.

Monday, November 26, 2012

6 Months Before the First Christmas

If someone asked you to tell them the story of the very first Christmas, where would you start?  Most would start in the city of Nazareth when the angel, Gabriel, visited the young Mary to give her the amazing news that, though she was a virgin, she would give birth to a son who she was to name, Jesus.  But this Sunday as we begin our journey at Gaylord E-Free Church in following the angels through the Christmas story, we will start our story 6-months prior to that angelic visitation in Nazareth.  That's really where the story of the first Christmas begins as seen in the first chapter of Luke.

It was 6-months earlier when that same angel, Gabriel, visited a priest by the name of Zacharias while he was fulfilling his honored duty of lighting the incense in the temple in Jerusalem.  This angelic visit communicated the message to Zacharias that his wife, Elizabeth, would give birth to a son that there were to name "John."  This child would be "John the Baptist."  I can't wait to walk our church through this story as I have learned so much in studying it and meditating on it.  Between now and Sunday let me share with you just a few of the many insights you will see.  Let me start with this one:

According to the first chapter of Luke, Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children because she was barren.  And not only that, they were both well advanced in years - certainly beyond the years of child-bearing.  Yet, God chose them.  He could have picked a younger couple but He didn't.  What a great example of the fact that God is not done with those in the church who we might consider "advanced in years."  If you are reading this and you are in the "advanced in years" category (and willing to admit it), let me remind you that you can still be used by God.  And even though you might be "advanced in years" does not mean that you are done seeing God's blessing in your life!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25 - the New Christmas?

For any sports fan, there is nothing more exhilarating than watching your favorite team beat your arch-rival.  Sports is funny that way.  It is almost more enjoyable to watch your arch rival lose a game than it is to watch your team win one.  But when your team beats that arch rival - it's just sweet.  But when it happens twice in the same weekend - that's simply the best!

So this past weekend was one in a million for this sports fan.  On Saturday, November 24, my Ohio State Buckeyes defeated the Michigan Wolverines to complete a perfect season under first year coach Urban Meyer.  And if that wasn't sweet enough, today, Sunday, November 25, my Cleveland Browns defeated their arch rivals - the Pittsburgh Steelers.  

To be able to watch both my teams beat their arch rivals in the same weekend makes me feel like Christmas may just have come a full month early this year!

Friday, November 23, 2012

What do angels look like?

Is this what angels really look like?

Join us at Gaylord E-Free Church this Sunday (9:00am and 10:30am) to find out more about what angels look like and exactly what they do as we start a new 6-week message series we are calling "Angels Revealed." 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Angels Revealed

There is a lot of interest in angels, especially this time of the year.  Angels are a very popular Christmas symbol.  You see them in many of the Christmas decorations and in some of the most beloved Holiday movies and television shows.  In fact, take some time to hum through the Christmas Carols - angels are seen all through them:

"Hark the the herald ANGELS sing glory to the newborn King"

"ANGELS from the realms of glory wing your flights o'er all the earth"

"Come and adore Him, born the King of ANGELS, O come let us adore Him"

"While shepherds watch their flocks by night all seated on the ground, an ANGEL of the Lord came down and glory shown around"  

"The first Noel, the ANGEL did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay"

It is our hope with this series to capitalize on this popular aspect as we star a new holiday message series this week entitled, "Angels Revealed."  In order to draw people's attention to this new series we have a very attractive billboard up on M-32 in Gaylord (pictured above) and we have passed out hundreds of auto window clings all of which are promoting a special website that has been designed to tell people all about this special Christmas series (

This Sunday will be week #1 of this series and I am very excited about what we will be sharing.  We will use this first message to give an overview of what the Bible really teaches about angels.  So much of what we know about angels we have received from culture (like "Clarence" in the holiday movie, "It's a Wonderful Life").  But how do these concepts of angels match up to what Scripture teaches?  As we start this new series this Sunday, November 25, we will answer the following questions about angels from the Bible"

How do we know that angels really exist?  
Where did angels come from?  
What are angels like?  
Do angels wear wings and halos?  
How many angels are there?  
Do angels reproduce?  
Do angels die?  
Do we have guardian angels?  
What do angels actually do?  
How do angels serve mankind?  

We will then use each Sunday during the month of December to follow the angels through the Christmas story.  This is going to be a great series.  Invite everyone you know to come and be part of "Angels Revealed" at Gaylord E-Free Church every Sunday from November 25 through December 30.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Vision Fingerprints


I will post a full update tomorrow, but here are a few pictures of this morning at Gaylord E-Free as hundreds of people of all ages came forward and put their literal fingerprints on our 3-year vision plan as a church.  As I said this morning, this vision plan is not so northern Michigan will go, "WOW!  What a Church!"  The purpose of this vision plan is so that people in northern Michigan will see something so amazing that they will go, "WOW!  What an amazing God they must worship at E-Free!"  Jesus said it this way, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they will see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven!"  It was an amazing thing this morning to see a church get so excited about taking some serious steps of faith to meet as many people as possible right where they are at so that we can move them to where God wants them to be!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ingathering Sunday at Gaylord E-Free

This Sunday just may be the most exciting Lord’s Day of the year here at the Gaylord Evangelical Free Church in Gaylord, Michigan.  Being that it is the Sunday prior to Thanksgiving Day, it is Ingathering Sunday here at E-Free.  Instead of our three morning worship services, this Sunday we will have one combined service at 10:30 in the Gospel Center along with our KidzChurch and Nursery ministries.  It is going to be one special sermon including all of the following elements:

-There will be plenty of exciting worship led by Joshua Rupp and our Worship Team.

-We will be welcoming two new couples into our church membership.

-Seven of our students will be following the Lord in being baptized.

-We will be dedicating the hundreds of Operation Christmas Child boxes put together by our church family that will be going to children all over the world this Christmas.

-We will be watching another “E-Free Story” video testimony featuring Pearl Lake.

-We will be highlighting the promotional elements for our new message series which starts November 25 and runs through the end of the year that we are calling “Angels Revealed” in which we will overview what the Bible teaches about angels and follow the role of the angels through the Christmas story.  We are using a special website to promote this series and will be drawing attention to this website through two main means.  There is already a billboard on M-32 as you head west on the right side of the road just before you get to Little Caesars.  This Sunday we also will be passing out 1,000 window clings with this website on it that we are asking every person in our church to put on each of their vehicles.

-I will be preaching the final message in our “Greater Things” series as we focus on John 14:13-14.

-We will take our special Ingathering Offering with a goal of $75,000 that will all go toward our 3-Vision Plan’s Technology Update.

-We will be dedicating our Vision Plan by allowing people to literally put their fingerprints on it.  Up on the stage there will be two large banners that say “Meeting and Moving” on it and have the tree which is the logo of our church.  We will be asking people to personally be part of dedicating our 3-year vision plan by coming up on stage during the ending worship package and using ink pads to put their thumb prints as leaves on the tree and writing their initials below their print.

As you can see, it is going to be a special service this Sunday and afterwards our entire church family will be enjoying our Ingathering Dinner together with Thanksgiving turkey and all the trimmings.  If you live near Gaylord, Michigan, join us this Sunday here at E-Free.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moving from the 9 to the 1!

How serious do you see an attitude of ingratitude as being?  Jonathan Swift made his feelings on this known in his great literary work, Gulliver's Travels.  In that classic work we learn that in the land of the Lilliputians, ingratitude was considered a capitol offence.  Now that is serious - maybe too serious.  But, on the other hand, perhaps we should take ingratitude a whole lot more seriously than we do today in America.

In the Bible we read a story of Jesus meeting 10 lepers.  Leprosy was considered an incurable disease in Jesus' day and resulted in a life isolated from society.  Jesus told the 10 lepers to go show themselves to the priest at the Temple.  Back then, if you felt you had been healed of leprosy you had to go to the priest at the Temple to have your healing verified.  On their way to the Temple all 10 lepers were healed.  But here is where the story takes a drastic turn.  Only 1 of those 10 lepers returned to Jesus to say "Thank You!"  When he came to Jesus, the Savior asked, "Were there not 10 lepers who were healed?  Where are the other 9?"  You can almost hear the disappointment in Jesus' words as you read the story.

Now I have no data to prove this but I seriously doubt if the percentage has changed much in our day and age.  Chances are very good that 90% of us fail to show an attitude of gratitude to God.  Why is this so?  For one thing, we are all busy which, unfortunately, causes us to not take the time to be thankful.  Second, we tend to focus more on what we don't have rather than what we do have.  We wish we had a better job so we don't take time to thank God for the job we do have.  We wish we had a nicer car or house so we don't thank God for the car and house we do have.  We wish we had more money so we don't thank God for the money we do have.  But the main reason for our ingratitude I believe is that we are born ungrateful.  Gratitude does not come naturally to us.  Think about it.  After "Dada" and "Mama" what is one of the first words children learn to say?  "MINE!"  We are born selfish.  For these reasons we tend to be part of the 90% who show an attitude of ingratitude rather than the 10% who pause to say "thanks."  

One week from tomorrow (Thursday) is Thanksgiving Day.  It's earlier this year than usual.  As a result, chances are really good that most of us will breeze through the next week and, before you know it, Thanksgiving will be over.  And when that happens, chances are real good that 90% of us will have not stopped once to pray and say "Thank You" to God for any of His many blessings.  And Jesus will be as disappointed with us as He was those 9 lepers so long ago.

So let me issue a challenge that, if you will take to heart, could make Thanksgiving 2012 the most memorable and meaningful Thanksgiving you have ever had.  There are 9 days beginning today (Wednesday) through Thanksgiving Day.  I challenge you to allow those 9 days to remind you of the 9 lepers who had an attitude of ingratitude and motivate you to not be like them.  In order to move from the 90% this Thanksgiving to the 10%, I challenge you to, starting today, take 2 minutes every day for the next 9 days (the ninth day will be Thanksgiving Day) to pause and pray, thanking God for one of His man blessings in your life.  That's 2 minutes each day for the next 9 days or a total of just 18 minutes between now and Thanksgiving Day.  How hard can that be?  Do it and I am convinced that this Thanksgiving will be the best you have ever had.

This Thanksgiving move from an attitude of ingratitude to an attitude of gratitude.  This Thanksgiving move from the 90% to the 10%.  This Thanksgiving be that one person in your family, that one person in your school; that one person where you work, that one person among your group of friends, that takes the time to come to Jesus like that leper did so long ago and say, "THANKS!"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The 3-Year Vision Plan of Gaylord E-Free - It's BIG!

D.L. Moody once said, "If God is your partner, make your plans large!"  I love that quote and I believe it should be the attitude of every church.  After all, we serve a God who can do immeasurably more than anything we could ever ask for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

It is with this thought in mind that our church here in Gaylord, Michigan is embarking on a very aggressive 3-year Vision Plan.  It's big and it's all based on one foundational question - "How can we as a church meet as many people as possible right where they are over the next 3 years and help move them to where God wants them to be?"  Here are the main aspects of our 3-year vision plan:

We want to see our Classic Service enhanced by providing the technology to broadcast a video feed of the weekly sermon from our Gospel Center down to the Chapel.  Currently we have two Contemporary Worship Services each Sunday (9am and 10:30am) in our Gospel Center.  At 9am, we also have a Classic Service taking place down in the Chapel.  Currently, the Classic service has their time of worship and then they all walk down to the Gospel Center for the message.  We feel it would greatly enhance our Classic Service if they did not have this planned "intermission" and instead could watch a video of the sermon while they remain in the chapel.

We also feel it would greatly enhance our Classic Service if we hired a quality and talented worship leader who can lead this service each and every Sunday.  Currently we have a different volunteer leading the worship each week (I even do this once a month).  Having the right personality who is gifted in this area and who could lead the worship each and every Sunday would greatly enhance the quality and effectiveness of our Classic Service.

We also desire to saturate our community, our county, and all of Northern Michigan by using technology to expand our impact by taking our Contemporary Service to the airwaves through the internet, through radio, through television and through multi-site campuses.  It is our prayer and goal that in the next three years we will see all of these avenues being used here at Gaylord E-Free to effectively reach all of Northern Michigan.

For us to be able to properly produce the technology for these ministries, our 3-year vision plan also includes the hiring of a technology director.  This would be a person who is in charge of utilizing all of our equipment and editing video and putting together quality programs of our services that we can use in broadcast.

We also desire to enhance our children's ministry through the hiring of a qualified Children's Director who can oversee all of our Nursery through grade 4 ministries.  Our children's program is on the move and we are seeing record attendances both on Sunday mornings and in our Wednesday Night Kids' Ministries.  With a staff member dedicated fully to this age group, we feel we can see even a greater impact take place.

We also desire to expand our nurseries.  The majority of our growth as a church is in the area of young families.  Right now our 3-year old and under ministry takes place in two separate areas of our facility.  This expansion would allow us to bring these areas all into the same part of our facility and allow for continued growth.

We also desire to build a state of the art Youth Center on our campus that would be open evenings, weekends and during the summer.  This would give students all throughout our county a place to come, hang-out and find Jesus.  It would also allow us to take our current youth wing of our facility and change it into a more effective area for children's ministry.

We are also serious about seeing people connect.  We don't just want to draw a crowd, we want to see all who attend E-Free also become connected where they will experience spiritual growth.  It is our goal within 3 years to see 80% of the adults who attend E-Free connected through one of our Equip-U Classes or one of our Life Groups.

Speaking of connection, our 3-year vision plan also includes installing a cafe into our facility.  This will allow a place right within our facility where people can gather to connect.  With multiple styles and times of services each Sunday we often just pass each other in the hallway.  A Connection Cafe would allow people to do more than just routinely say "hello" while passing each other in the foyer.  This would produce a place designed for personal connection to take place.

At E-Free we believe that evangelism must be the engine that drives the church.  We have a very strong outreach and mission program that touches our community and our world in amazing and numerous ways.  We want to see that grow in intensity.  It is our goal within 3 years to see 20% of our annual church budget go to outreach and missions.  In 2012, 12% of our budget went to outreach and missions.  In 2013 we are upping that to 14.5% on our way to 20% within 3 years.

We are blessed at E-Free to have an effective counseling ministry with a full-time licensed counselor on staff.  We desire to see this ministry expanded with the hiring of a female counselor as well to help with counseling women and children.

We have a large and wonderful facility here at E-Free that is always in use.  Our Vision Plan also calls for us to hire a full-time facility director who can oversee the custodial and maintenance of our church as well as overseeing the security and scheduling of our facility.

Over the years there have been many areas of our facility that have needed repaired or updated that have been delayed over and over again.  It is our desire within the next three years to see our facility brought completely up to date.  In order to accomplish this and the other areas of our 3-year vision plan, we are looking to have a 3-year Capitol Campaign in order to finance these exciting and needed areas.

This is an aggressive plan for a 3-year time period but I believe that D.L. Moody was correct!  God is our partner!  So let's make our plans BIG!  I can't wait to see what God does!

Thursday, November 01, 2012


Today is the first day of November.  To me, November is all about freedom!  Find out why by reading the article I wrote below that was published in the "Pastor's Perspective" section of today's "Weekly Choice Newspaper":


Typically it is during the month of July that we celebrate our freedom here in America.  But living in Northern Michigan, I actually think that November is the perfect picture of freedom.  November here in Northern Michigan is all about three very significant freedoms.

First, November in Northern Michigan is hunting season.  This is all about the freedom we have to bear arms as seen in the 2nd amendment of our Constitution.  I have to admit that as a transplant to this area, I did not grow up a hunter.  In fact, I have never officially hunted a day in my life.  I did, however, shoot a groundhog once at a friend’s house who was a farmer.  I wanted to get that groundhog stuffed for our mantle but my wife wouldn’t let me.  But now that I live here in northern Michigan, I actually own a gun for the first time in my life.  

Second, November in Northern Michigan is Election Day.  This is about the freedom we have to vote and to be part of electing our leaders as seen in the 15th, 19th and 26th amendments of the Constitution.  The Bible is clear that it is God who sets up and removes leaders (Romans 13:1), but He often does this through the election process.  That’s why it is so important for everyone to vote.  It’s not just a right we have – it’s a responsibility.  Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or part of any other political persuasion, I want to strongly encourage you to celebrate your freedom this month by making voting in this year’s election a priority.

Third, along with the freedom to bear arms and the freedom to vote, we also have the freedom to pray.  This is all about the freedom of religion as seen in the 1st amendment of the Constitution.  In my mind, this just may be the greatest freedom of them all.  Jesus said it this way in John 8:36, “So if the Son (Jesus) makes you free, you will be free indeed!”  

It’s November!  And here in Northern Michigan November is a month to celebrate our freedoms.  This is the month to hunt!  This is the month to vote!  And most importantly, this is the month pray!