Friday, February 27, 2009

40-Day Challenge

Today is the last day of the 40-Day Challenge. I have heard incredible stories from people about what God has been doing in them as our entire congregation reads the same chapter of the Bible each day. Yesterday I received an email from a man that called himself "an addict" on the drug of God's word. It doesn't get any better than that.

Tomorrow, we start again with another 40-Day Challenge. You can follow along on our blog that is dedicated to that challenge. You can post comments or merely be reminded of what chapter we are reading that day. The point is for all of us to be reading God's word together, thinking about what it means for our lives, and then putting it into action.

The journey has been good, let's keep going...

1 Peter 5

verses 2-3, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

I love my job. I am blown away that I have the awesome privilege to be one of the pastors of Charter Oak Church. I'm not perfect. I do things and say things that I wish I wouldn't have. There are times I wished I would have said something or done something that I didn't. That's part of life.

I want to live into these words from Peter to be a good example, to serve willingly, to do it all because it is God's call upon my life.

We have an incredible family at Charter Oak Church. I thank God for all of you.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

1 Peter 4

verse 8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins."

verse 11, "If anyone speaks, she should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If any one serves, he should do it with the strength God provides."

Love each other deeply. So simple, yet so profound. What would happen if we really lived into this? God loves us deeply. We are to love each other deeply. I want to make this my focus and intentionally love people right where they are, but not be satisfied with leaving it at the surface but to go so much deeper.

This will most likely begin with the words that I speak and the things I do - to speak as if speaking the very words of God and to serve with the strength of God. The things I do and say will demonstrate that deep love. Love is action.

As we have taken our first couple of steps in the journey to Jerusalem this Lenten season, this must be our ultimate purpose. The cross is Jesus demonstrating His great love for us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

Tonight we are having an Ash Wednesday worship service at 7:30pm. As we begin the Lenten season this is a great way to center your heart and thoughts on preparing for the walk to Jerusalem - the cross and the empty tomb. I hope you will join us.

1 Peter 3

verse 15, "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
I remember when I first starting sharing my story. I finally was able to get up the courage to talk about God's grace defining my life instead of the decisions and the actions of that part of my life.

I remember being scared to death to tell other followers of Jesus because I was afraid that people would judge me. But I also remember that when I shared my story with people who were not followers of Jesus I sensed a movement of God within me. I had more courage. I spoke more authentically. I shared my story as it was.

As I read Peter I sense he is talking about sharing our story with people who don't follow the way of Jesus. When we do that, God goes before us and He works through us. Our story is wrapped in Jesus' redemption story. I can tell my story because the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus has now become my story too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1 Peter 2

verse 12, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us."

My life matters. The things I do and the things I say are being noticed by people who are not followers of Jesus. They will make a determination of whether they will follow Jesus or not based on if they think I am living a life of integrity.

I want to live to glorify God, but it also has another point to it - living to draw people to God. If one of the biggest reasons people say they are not a Christian is because of the words and actions of Christians then we all need to heed these words from Peter.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pray for Him

This is Mark. He is leaving in a few hours to take over 100 students for a spiritual retreat. Many of the students don't know Jesus. Many of the students don't know the love of God. Mark is going to open up his heart and open up the Bible to these students.
Pray for him.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Great Post

Just read this from Craig Groeschel - blog.

My favorite line, "If you plan to reach the next generation for Christ, don’t ask them to believe what you believe, instead invite them to do what you do."

This will give you the opportunity to later have a conversation about what you believe, but it will be put into the context of being a follower of Jesus first.

This sounds so much like our reading today from James 2.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simple Wisdom Project

One of my favorite authors has started a new project called The Simple Wisdom Project. Patrick Lencioni is a follower of Jesus who writes business books. It is very obvious to me that his faith influences his writing. The first article he wrote is on love. You can follow Pat and this new project by subscribing to his monthly newsletter on the website. You should check it out.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Should the weekend worship gathering be exciting? Should it be creative? Should worship at Charter Oak Church be run of the mill? Creative - yes! Exciting - yes! Run of the mill - no!

We already begin with the premise that we are biblically based. Everything we do seeks to build on the revealed Word of God. So if that is our foundation, what liberty do we have to create worship that engages people right where they are so that they can know the fullness of God's love for them?

Some people try to make this about music style. Some try to make this about modern or post modern or something all together different. I think that is an adventure in missing the point. Some accuse that this is watering down the truth. If anyone spent five minutes in our worship service or in one of our small groups or spent time with us in mission, you would know that we go deep and ask for a huge commitment. We accept you right where you are, but we expect that you won't stay there.

Today our Senior Management Team will be looking at the next year's worth of weekends at Charter Oak Church. Creativity and obedience are the words of the day. Pray for us. We want to make clear to the people of this region what God wants to communicate to us. It's going to be a good day!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Learning Through Coaching

Investing in the future - investing in now. Yesterday I met with Kiersten. She is a student who is responding to her call into ministry. She will be speaking here on March 1. I am excited.

We were meeting for the second time yesterday to talk about what she would be speaking about that Sunday. I hope that she sees me as a coach trying to bring the best out in her. But here's something that I didn't expect - as we were talking my level of excitement was going up. As we talked about tweaking this paragraph or finding a clearer way to express a thought I realized that as I was coaching her, she was coaching me. I was learning too!

I fully believe in Kiersten. I believe in her call from God. I want to invest in her life so that she can completely live into that call. The interesting thing about this is, when I was in the exact same place that she is in life, someone from Charter Oak Church believed in me and saw something in me and asked me to speak. It was my first time. It gave me a glimpse of what God would some day do in me and through me. Now it is my chance to offer the same opportunity to Kiersten. I know God will speak through her. I know you will be blessed by her story.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Living into a Challenge

Charter Oak Church is in on day 17 of a 40-day challenge to read a chapter of scripture and journal about it each day. We are all reading the same chapter. We have set up a blog for people to leave comments about what they are reading.

I honestly didn't know how this challenge would be accepted. Would people push back? Would people ignore the idea? What would really happen?

I have been amazed by the number of people who have approached me about their journey through this challenge. One man bought his first Bible. One man is secretly writing in his journal - he doesn't want his wife to know. One woman has already asked me for 40 more days. One man stopped me three different times to thank me for what it is doing in his spiritual development.

I am encouraged by these stories. I am encouraged by the people who are going on the blog and leaving comments about their learning from the daily readings.

It is my personal experience that I grow when I am challenged. The bigger the challenge the harder I will work to meet it. I will read. I will study. I will seek the wisdom of others. I will do all of this because someone has challenged me. I also know that when God challenges me that is an indicator that He is about to move me into something bigger that I need to prepare for. He always equips before He sends.

One of the things we do around here is equip people to become more like Jesus. Reading, studying, writing in a journal, and praying over Scripture is a great way to be equipped. But as James 1:22 says, "Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." My hope and prayer is that through this 40-day challenge, not only will people read, study, and journal, but they will also do what God wants them to do.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Breaking Through

Those of you who know me know that I talk a great deal about the 33,000 people within a five mile radius of our church that do not have a church home and the 222,000 people who live in our county that don't have a church home. These people are on my heart and on my mind. They are in my prayers. I make decisions in my own life about what my part of Invest and Invite means.

I am not trying to sound self-righteous or ego driven, but I truly believe God has given Charter Oak Church a great deal of favor in this region. Lives are being changed for eternity here. I know it is happening in other churches around here. But as the leader of this congregation I feel an unbelievable burden to offer hope and love to the people of this region. I'm not saying we have a corner on that, I'm just saying that I believe God has positioned us in such a way that we can do that in a major way.

So this morning during my prayer time I asked God to equip the people of Charter Oak Church to break through our next growth barrier this year. If God has called us to offer hope and love to the people in this region (which I believe He has) and if there is such a high percentage of people looking for hope and love (which I believe there are), then to me that means God is going to use us in an incredible way this year. I want us to be equipped to be right in the middle of God's will.

I want to be willing to do what no one else is doing in order to reach those that no one else is reaching. One step further - I want to do it. I want to be obedient to God.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Making Technology Work for Me

Those of you who regularly return to this blog know that I have been blogging for a couple of years now. I don't get many comments, but I do watch Google Analytics and it tells me people are reading every day. And even though I didn't really post during January the number of people didn't really take that big of a hit. Thanks for sticking with me. Blog = Tech #1

Over Christmas break I jumped into Facebook. I thought it was only for high school and college aged people. Now that I am 40, I figured that I was past being able to have a legitimate reason for having an account. But it was a 60+ year old man who convinced me to join. In just a couple of weeks I now have over 170 friends and seem to get 3-5 more every day. I have no idea if that is good or not, but there are people who are asking to be my friend that I haven't seen in 20 years. Facebook = Tech #2

A friend of mine (Tom) suggested I download the book The Reason Your Church Must Twitter. I thought, do I really want to get a bunch of text messages from people throughout the day? But I really respect Tom, so I got it. Hey, it was only $5. Yesterday, I was half way through the book and decided to set up a Twitter account. I signed up to follow 5 leaders to give this thing a shot. So far it has been good. I have posted a few tweets myself.

So now I am asking myself - how can I make all of this technology work for me? I don't want to serve these new things I am a part of, I want them to work for me. I have read many times that Seth Godin believes that we should brand ourselves. I never really thought that I had a brand called me. But now there are more and more technologies that I am connecting into. Is that a brand? Should there be some kind of connection for me in all of these? I don't know, but I am going to look at people like Tony Morgan, Tim Stevens, Mark Waltz, and Seth Godin for direction.

Book #2 - Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands

Last month I read Nancy Ortberg's newest book Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands: Lessons in Non-Linear Leadership. Dang! This is one of those books that just drew me in as Nancy told story after story of her struggles as a leader and with leaders.

I think I should read the last chapter "Understatement of the Year" every morning after my prayer and Bible study time. She writes - stop being surprised that leadership is hard. I love that. It is hard, so let's lean in to the power of the Holy Spirit to get on board with what God wants to accomplish today. "A leader without courage, resilience, optimism, curiosity, and perseverance will simply not last."

This is a really, really good book.

Book #1 - Made to Stick

Last month I read Chip Heath and Dan Heath's book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.

Since the most important thing I do to reach the most amount of people is communicating, this book was a must read for me. I had so many people tell me to get this book. I finally read it and now I understand why so many people recommend it.

In the book they share six traits that make ideas sticker:
1. Simple
2. Unexpected
3. Concrete
4. Credible
5. Emotional
6. Story

I really do want the things I communicate to "stick" with people. These traits are so important. I am now thinking about these traits, not just from a weekend communicating mindset, but also in staff meetings, one on one conversations - pretty much every time I communicate.

I really learned a great deal from this book because it gives very practical ways that people can use to make our communication better - stickier.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lost in No Margin

Around fall of last year I shared with many people that I had run out of margin in my life. I was sprinting hard and not resting. My Sabbath practice was gone. I resolved to do something about it and I got margin back. I lost again in January. I was sprinting again. My schedule was out of control, or maybe I should say I was allowing it to be controlled by others. That's not good.

It is time for me to put margin back where it belongs. It is time for me to remember that there will be times of sprinting, but they must be followed by times of rest. My life is a marathon. I want to be in it for the long haul. I want to finish well. I want to bring glory to God through my life, even the way I order my schedule.

Change is on the horizon.

Guest Blogger - PM

Prayer Request
I'm asking anyone and everyone to help me cover this year's Winter Retreat with prayer. As I do every year around this time, I'm calling for an advance of prayer and petition that this weekend (Feb. 20th-22nd) would be all that it could be in Jesus' name. That it would be used mightily to turn young hearts unto Jesus. And this year is no different. I'm calling for prayer without ceasing between now and the conclusion of our retreat. Yet this year I'm feeling a special burden to pray for a certain group of students.

There is a certain group of students in our community that I desperately want to attend our retreat. They aren't a distinct group that you might see sitting in the doorway of Westmoreland Mall on a Friday night, though they very well might be there. They aren't currently affiliated with our Student Ministry in any way, though I know with all of my heart that God wants them to be. While you may not know the names of these students, you'd recognize them, even from far away. They are the students that no other church is willing to minister to. The goths, the gays, the punks, the pregnant, the drug users, the trouble makers, the forgotten...The students that, when you see coming toward you, you look away as to avoid eye contact. These are the students that hide in the shadows of our community. The students whom the church tends to be afraid of.

Jesus and I want those students to somehow, some way get to our retreat. I want them to come and be loved on by our staff. I want them to come and be introduced to the perfect love of Christ. I want them to come and find that Charter Oak Church believes that they matter to God.

I'm serious. In fact, I've never been more serious about asking for your help in a matter of prayer. Would you join me in asking God to scrape the gutters of this community and send whatever students He finds there to our retreat? They need to know that Charter Oak Church has a home for them; that Jesus has grace for them; and that our Student Ministry is ready to greet them with open arms.