Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jesus' Christmas Gift to You . . .

This is a basic outline from which I based my Christmas Sermon this year at Cornerstone.
Jesus' Christmas Gift to You . . .

Change: Jesus brings transformational change from the inside out.

Healing: Jesus brings spiritual, emotional, physical, and relational healing.

Relationship: Jesus brings reconciliation with our Creator and Father in heaven.

Insight: Jesus brings wisdom about who you are and what you were created for.

Satisfaction: Jesus brings contentment and peace to a stormy world.

Truth: Jesus is the very definition of truth and reality.

Motivation: Jesus brings the passion for our action.

Abilities: Jesus brings empowerment.

Salvation: Jesus brings the only way to survive this life and enter into the next.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A funny thing happened at AWANA...

One of our AWANA teachers was telling the story of the candy cane to a group of children tonight. She carefully explained the symbolism of the cane emphasizing that it represented Jesus. Candy canes were then given to each of the children. Coming across a broken candy cane, the teacher jumped on the opportunity to use the broken cane to stress Jesus' sacrifical death. "When we eat this broken one it will remind us that Jesus' body was broken for us", she said. One particularly observant girl raised her hand and replied, "At my church we use bread!"
One of our new AWANA workers shared this note with me: "I'm having fun with AWANA. Last week I got to teach a group of six year olds with no front teeth how to say Ecclesiastes and Thessalonians".

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Road We Travel: choice

You MUST read this article that Rick Thompson (IMB Trustee) has posted at his blog:

The Road We Travel: choice

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jesus look-a-like...

I occassionally meet people who, in my opinion, look a lot like Jesus. Such was the case yesterday. Our local ministerial association gets together once a month for lunch and yesterday was my day to host the meeting. My usual fare is Dominoe's Pizza and that's exactly what I served yesterday. It was a small group of 10 or so representing only 4-5 churches. I was surprised to see a new face among us--a large man (not fat-just big) who was introduced by his pastor as a member of his church who has a ministry at the local nursing home. I was amazed to hear, as he shared, of his heart for the nursing home community and the extent to which he and his church provide care. Under his direction, every resident at the nursing home will receive a personal Christmas present from the church (they've actually been asked what they would like this year for Christmas). He spoke of being led by the Holy Spirit to get involved and how his ministry at the nursing home has led him to pursue ministry in a larger way--perhaps even vocationally. As we were cleaning up at the end of our meeting--he asked what I was going to do with the left-over pizza. I imagined that it might be a good treat for his family and I readily suggested that he take it with him. He wasn't asking for himself, though. He said that he wanted to take it to the nursing home and share it with the residents who rarely get pizza. Here is a man who gives his life daily as a volunteer for the forgotten people in the nursing home. He visits them daily, he talks with them, he goes with them to the hospital, he goes to their funerals. This Baptist pastor is humbled by the example of this Catholic layman. He looks a lot like Jesus!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Video Stuff...

I am very excited about the many possibilities that exist through video blogging. I know that my first attempt was something less than good--but it was a beginning. (It's amazing how distracting the tv noise in the background can be.) Next time, I'll make sure that no one else is around to disturb the recording. And yes, I could have easily re-recorded it before I posted it but I was just too excited with actually having mastered the technology enough to get it online. I'll try again in a few days and see if I can improve the quality.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Picture...

I've replaced my picture on the blog with a new one that a photographer in our church has taken. Jerry Long has been working on an on-line directory for our church and has done a wonderful job in taking lots of pictures. Jerry does great work and I wanted to give him a little plug by encouraging you to go and take a look at his website You'll find an online store with some great prints including vintage photos of the Beatles that Jerry had the good fortune to take. There are also some beautiful wildlife shots. The picture above is the Samples family. Jerry is available to help your church with a directory if that is something that might be useful to you. He has done a wonderful job for us. You can see some other pictures of our staff at Cornerstone at our church website Just click on the staff link.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Difference Between True Spirituality and Religion...

I shared a message last Sunday from Acts 4:1-12 comparing and contrasting established religion with the true spirituality of Peter and John. These two disciples of Christ came into conflict with the weight of organized religion in their day. Notice the differences and evaluate your own religious experiences in light of the text. I have concluded that my particular denomination--The Southern Baptist Convention--looks a lot more like the religious leaders than it does Peter and John. I would give my church a much better evaluation though there have been times that we have fallen into simply maintaining religion.

Five Marks of Established Religion:

  1. Reliance on Human Power (v1) - The religious leaders utilyzed a military guard with which to maintain their religious dominance. Dissent is easily suppressed when you have military might at your disposal.

  2. The Need to Control (v2) - The leaders were angry that Peter and John were teaching the people. They weren't authorized. They didn't have permission. They hadn't been to the right schools.

  3. Insistance on Doctrinal Compliance (v2) - Peter and John were proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus Christ which contradicted the dearly held view of the Sadducees that there was no resurrection of the dead for anybody--especially Jesus.

  4. Ineffective Opposition (v3-4) - Peter and John are jailed (and silenced). The result is that thousands who have already heard the message are converted.

  5. Positional Authority (v5-6) - A "who's who" of religious and political leaders are assembled to determine the fate of Peter and John. Those with the authority, of course, must be right (smell the sarcasm). Peter and John are outnumbered and outclassed in almost every way.

Five Marks of True Spirituality:

  1. Reliance on Holy Spirit Power (v7-8) - What does an uneducated fisherman have that can silence the powerful elites? The Holy Spirit is enough!

  2. Miraculous Life-change (v9) - It's hard to argue when the recently healed are standing nearby. Peter and John may not have been to the right schools--but they have a stronger argument--miracles!

  3. Resurrection Power (v10) - Doctrinal conformity leads to legalism and death. Jesus rose again--what else matters?

  4. Biblical Confirmation (v11) - God was revealing His plans daily to the disciples through the inspired Scriptures. Nothing gives you more confidence than to know that God is working through you.

  5. Kingdom Authority (v12) - Jesus saves--not Caiaphas, not Annas, not the priests, not Peter, not John, not the Baptists, etc.

I recommend "The Apocalypse Code"

I am teaching through the book of Revelation on Tuesday nights at our church. I am not a big prophecy buff and I am quite sceptical of the definitive systems that appear to explain everything. I have found Revelation to be a very practical symbolic book of encouragement to the persecuted church. I read Revelation like I would read any other book of the Bible--it's a book about God that reveals a great deal about Him and His unique ways. I was strolling through a Christian bookstore a few weeks ago when I came upon Hank Hanegraaff's book, The Apocalypse Code. I picked it up because I was interested in what "The Bible Answer Man" might have to say about the subject of biblical prophecy. What I found was a primer on properly interpreting Biblical prophecy in light of proper hermeneutical principles. Hanegraaff takes aim at Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series of books and lands a crippling blow.

Paul Maier of Western Michigan University writes in the front flap, "Hank Hanegraaff argues that the book of Revelation is obscure to us because 'we have not sufficiently learned to read the Bible for all it's worth. When our interpretations are tethered to the hottest sensation rather than to the Holy Scripture, we are apt to grab at anything--and usually miss.' The Apocalypse Code is a guide to holding on to what is true in the book of Revelation as in the rest of Scripture. Throughout the history of the church, wrongheaded teachings have appeared that temporarily attracted a large following, only to become fading fads once the light of proper biblical interpretation illuminated their error. A current example is dispensational pretribulational rapture theology promoted by such prophecy pundits as Hal Lindsey, Tim LaHaye, John Hagee and others. For years now, I've been wondering what might convince such prophecy specialists to recognize that the eschatology they are foisting on the world is simply embarrassing to the church, and so prompt them to back out of their dispensational cul-de-sac."

Check out Hank Hanegraaff's website at the Christian Research Institute here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Jay Novacek

Taran posted a video tribute to the greatest tight-end ever to play the game of football. You can link to it here. His post was in response to a video clip that I had posted about the heroics of the current Dallas Cowboys Tight End. This is a picture of me and my autographed Jay Novacek card. The card is a 1993 "Action Packed 24 kt gold". Jay Novacek signed it personally for me in my presence in Granbury, Texas. Just thought you would like to see it . . .

Border Security? Two Words: Chuck Norris

Here is the first Mike Huckabee for President ad to be purchased in Iowa. A more serious issues-oriented ad is set to follow next week.

Monday, November 12, 2007

3 Former SBC Presidents Support Huckabee...

Baptist Press is reporting today that three former SBC presidents have announced their support for Governor Mike Huckabee for president. According to BP, "James (Jimmy) T. Draper Jr., Jack Graham and Jerry Vines all said they were supporting Huckabee, a fellow Southern Baptist and former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention." You can read the entire BP story here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Most Influential Southern Baptists...

Baptist Press reports that The Daily Telegraph of London has published its annual list of the most influential liberals and conservatives in American. Southern Baptists have made both lists.

On the Conservative side...

#4--former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

#9--Sen. John McCain, R.-Arizona

#35--former GOP House Majority Leader Tom Delay

#43--Sen. Tom Coburn, R.-Oklahoma

#65--Richard Land, the head of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

#71--actor Chuck Norris

#81--Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council

On the Liberal side...

#1--former President Bill Clinton

#50--House majority leader Steny Hoyer, D.-Maryland

#72--former President Jimmy Carter

You can read the Baptist Press article here.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

CBN Responds to My Question...

The following is the email response that I received from the Christian Broadcasting Network in reply to my email questioning Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudy Guiliani:

We appreciate this opportunity to respond to you on behalf of Pat Robertson. Because of the large amount of mail received daily at CBN, Pat is not able to reply to you personally. Pat Robertson as a private citizen has recently endorsed a candidate for political office. As a private citizen he has the right to participate in the political process, and is entitled to express his personal views. CBN, as a public charity, does not support or oppose any candidate for public office, and as a result cannot address or comment further on this matter. If we can serve you in any other way, please do not hesitate to let us know. Thank you and God bless you.

The Christian Broadcasting Network
Website - <> The 700 Club Prayer Counseling Center - 1-800-759-0700

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Robertson is Wrong...

The Washington Post is reporting this morning that Pat Robertson intends to endorse Rudy Giuliani for president. According to the Post, "Robertson's support was coveted by several of the leading Republican candidates and provides Giuliani with a major boost as the former New York City mayor seeks to convince social conservatives that, despite his positions on abortion and gay rights, he is an acceptable choice as the GOP nominee." You can read the story here. I can only speak for myself. This "social conservative" will not support or vote for any candidate who supports the status quo when it comes to abortion rights. Life is sacred and the most defenseless humans among us, the pre-born, must be protected.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Seeing Christianity for the First Time...

I want to encourage each of you to take a look at Rick Thompson's post The Road We Travel: seeing christianity for the first time. Rick has recently returned from a mission trip to India and confesses that perhaps he has seen Christianity for the first time. Rick has a entire series of posts from his trip to India that contain some gripping stories of how very different Christianity is in India. Those who are connected with my church understand that in these days we are being confronted with a deeper form of faith than what we have grown up with. We are studying the Acts church and have seen examples of deeper faith through the India Children's Choir and other living examples that have been placed before us. You can visit Rick Thompson's blogsite and read his entire series here.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Higher Grounds in Pagosa Springs...

After an article on "REST" it sees appropriate to take a little bit of rest. My family and I are in Pagosa Springs, Colorado for the next few days using a timeshare that my father has graciously provided. We are doing some family things but mainly just resting. I have big intentions to get in quite a bit of study and to get caught up on my reading. I am posting this morning from the Higher Grounds Coffee Shop in Pagosa. Check them out online here. I came in early and picked a table near a wall outlet and began my blog reading routine with a great cup of ALLEGRO coffee. Unknowingly, I chose the table normally belonging to "Rick" who came in and sat at a table normally belonging to "Caleb" who is sitting in the middle of the room occassionallly giving me "concerned" looks. I'll know better where to sit tomorrow morning. The picture is of downtown Pagosa Springs and was found here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Get some Rest...

God brought the subject of rest to my attention yesterday while I was in the Word. It may be that God is preparing me for some time away that I will get next week. God's plan is for each of us to receive a day of rest throughout the week. We each need to set apart a day of Sabbath rest for:

Remembering God's work of creation and God's work of spiritual re-creation (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:8-11; Acts 20:7).

Experiencing the worshipful rest that characterizes Heaven (Heb. 4:9-11).

Setting apart one day each week just for God's enjoyment (Col. 2:16-17).

Trusting that God will provide seven days benefit for six days labor (Jer. 17:21-22, 24-25, 27; Mk. 2:27).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Series Game One...

I'm normally not much of a baseball fan but I will be watching the game tonight. I'm a recovering Texas Rangers Fan who has jumped on the Rockies post-season bandwagon. I confess that I have, as recently as this season, made fun of the Rockies as no better than a minor league team. I do, hereby, repent and turn from my wicked ways. I became hooked when I watched the sudden-death playoff game which allowed the Rockies to enter post-season play. Each playoff game has endeared me more and more to the Rockies. And so, I will be watching the game tonight...Go Rockies!
UPDATE: The Rockies got pounded in game one but I am expecting a full recovery tonight in game two . . .

Monday, October 22, 2007

India Children's Choir...

We hosted the India Children's Choir in our church on Sunday evening. It was an amazing presentation by these talented children who are descendents of Indian headhunters. The songs were awesome and the service was emotionally charged as these young children shared their faith with great passion. The concert was just the beginning of the blessing. We have two 11-year-old boys staying in our home for a few days before the choir heads to Colorado Springs. I'm impressed by their manners and by their faith. These kids tell stories of their life in India that absolutely shames my American lifestyle. Their village has electricity for maybe two hours a day. The boys get two meals each day, neither of which is anything close to what we eat. I would encourage you to take a look at their website and consider inviting the choir to come to your church sometime in the future. These kids are away from home for almost a year touring the United States. You can visit the website here.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mike Huckabee at the Values Voters Debate

The crowd favorite among the 952 attendees who voted in person at the Value Voters Straw Poll turned out to be Huckabee by a mile. He got 51 percent of the in-person votes, compared to just 10 percent for Mitt Romney.

The Church as it was Meant to be...

The infant church as described in Acts 2:41-47 totally shames the "mature" church as found in most of our communities today. What's the difference? The biggest difference is the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We can debate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit all day long but the result of the Spirit's infilling of the early church cannot be questioned. Please note that what is revealed in Acts 2 is not the result of working harder. It is not the result of better doctrine or stronger leadership. It is ONLY the result of God's Holy Spirit saturating His church. We need to be begging God for the fullness of His Spirit so that the church might be empowered for Gospel effectiveness.
The Holy Spirit empowered the church to be . . .

  1. Adding--" . . . That day there were added about 3000 souls" (v41).

  2. Learning--"They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching" (v42).

  3. Uniting--"They were continually devoting themselves . . . to fellowship" (v42).

  4. Remembering--"They were continually devoting themselves . . . to the breaking of bread" (v42).

  5. Praying--"They were continually devoting themselves . . . to prayer" (v42).

  6. Feeling--"Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe" (v43).

  7. Seeing--" . . . Many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles" (v43).

  8. Sharing--"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common" (v44-45).

  9. Worshipping--"Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple . . . " (v46).

  10. Eating--" . . . and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart" (v46).

  11. Praising--"Day by day . . . they were . . . praising God" (v47).

  12. Influencing--"and having favor with all the people" (v47).

  13. Growing--"And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (v47).

Each and everyone of us needs to take a good hard look at the churches to which we belong, compared with the church of Acts 2. If deficiencies are found (and they will be), then let us return to the upper room and pray for power. It appears that we may be filled with many things and yet lacking the Holy Spirit.

Friday, October 19, 2007

CBGC Executive Board

The biggest item of business at our state convention this year was the restructure of the Executive Board. I've had the honor of serving on a task force that has been studying the proposed restructure for almost two years. The change occurs in both philosophy and methodology. We have moved from a 1950's committee-based approach where the board primarily listens to reports to a much more functional and relational approach where the board interacts and discusses issues focused on the broad vision and "ends" of the convention. The size of the board has changed considerably downsizing from 42 board members to 18. A major change in the board structure now calls for the convention officers to serve as the executive board officers. In the past, the convention officers, have at times, been more symbolic than practical. Now the three elected officers will be setting the agenda for the EB. All sessions of the board will be plenary with no committees meeting. Prayer will be a major agenda item each time the board meets. It's exciting to see this new structure approved and put in place. I have a great sense of accomplishment having served on the CBGC Executive Board for the past five years and as it's chairman for the past two years.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Steamboat Springs...

Today was a very busy day. I bypassed my usual 4:00am wake-up since I wouldn't be preaching and slept in until almost 6:00. We were priviledged to have Dr. Charles Wade at Cornerstone this morning bringing the message. He was hilariously insightful in all three services with an extremely practical and relevant presentation. Following the final worship service, I accompanied Dr. Lowery and his wife to the town of Laporte where he spoke at the 50th anniversary celebration of our association--The Long's Peak Association. About 4:30 this afternoon following the associational gathering, I set out along with the assistant BSU director at CSU and the Long's Peak DOM for Steamboat. Coming across Cameron Pass, we encountered quite a bit of snow. It was the first glimpse of snow that I have seen since spring and it was absolutely beautiful. There was a caravan of about four vehicles that joined us in our journey to Steamboat--all pastors from Long's Peak. We finally arrived in Steamboat Springs about 8:00, ate dinner, and checked into the hotel. We're scheduled for golf at nine in the morning in Craig which is about an hour away. I'm a skeptic in terms of the weather tomorrow. I can't imagine that it is going to be warm enough to play. The forecast calls for a high of 55. The pastor's conference begins tomorrow afternoon here in the hotel. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of my pastor friends that I have not seen in some time.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Colorado Baptist Convention...

The annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist General Convention will be held in the early part of next week in Steamboat Springs. Our meetings will be held at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel pictured here. My church has graciously provided lodging for myself and the youth pastor at the hotel. I have subsequently invited the assistant BSU Director at Colorado State University to share my room with me so that he doesn't have to sleep outside. One of the really special things about our state convention is the sense of family that we feel here. The SBC church in Steamboat has even opened up homes to host anyone coming to the convention who needs a place to stay (don't tell my church). Keep in mind that half of our pastors in Colorado are bivocational. I will be traveling together with the Director of Missions for the association that our church belongs to. I'm hoping to get a free meal out of deal. We will travel into the mountains on Sunday afternoon and arrive in Steamboat sometime Sunday evening. First thing, Monday morning, we have a golf tournament and then the pastor's conference begins on Monday afternoon. My team always gets destroyed in the tournament but it's great fun and fellowship. My team this year includes my DOM, my youth pastor, and a counselor friend. All three are much better golfers than myself--I'm pretty much just along for the ride.
One of the key items to be discussed is the restructuring of our Executive Board. I have chaired a task force that has been working for almost two years to study a new and more effective approach to conducting the business of our convention in between annual meetings. I will be presenting a recommendation from the Executive Board to the convention that our EB be downsized from 40-something members to exactly eighteen. The CBGC Executive Board will be made up of the three convention officers, the Executive Director, one member from each of the eleven associations and 3 members-at-large. The smaller size will allow the board to more effectively discuss and provide oversight of the convention. One of the positives to the new structure is that our elected convention officers will now have genuine influence in the direction of the convention.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mike Huckabee...

I really am liking Mike Huckabee. Check out his stand on the issues here.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Dream Interpretation...

I shared with you yesterday a dream that I had. As you may know, pastors are often the recipients of criticism and complaint. For me, it's always painful! I'm encouraged that in my dream these painful words (arrows) were not able to cause any real harm to me. They just hurt for a bit. The large arrow represents the largest area of criticism ( I know all too well what it represents) but it does not have a point. It can no longer do any real harm to me. Though I cannot break it--I don't need to fear it! My call to 911 is my prayer to God for help and deliverance. The seven letters in my friend's name represent completion and closure. By walking away, I leave the arena where these specific attacks have occurred. They can no longer harm me.

With this dream fresh on my heart, I entered into a time of study in the Word. I began with Psalm 69 which happens to be a Psalm of deliverance. My Old Testament reading was in Isaiah 51 which begins with these words, "Listen to me, all who hope for deliverance--all who seek the Lord." Verse 7 says, "Do not be afraid of people's scorn or their slanderous talk". Verse 12 promises, "I, even I, am the one who comforts you. So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?" I was overcome with emotion as I considered verse 16, "I have put my words in your mouth and hidden you safely within my hand". I can't describe to you how comforted and accepted I felt as I pondered the Word of God to me.

As many of you know, I make it a habit to pray using a series of colored beads, each of which is a call to a different focus of prayer. The first bead that I randomly (God chooses) chose was the blue bead--representing the prayer of deliverance. Years ago, I assigned the color blue to the prayer of deliverance in large part because of Psalm 69:1-2, "Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck. Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can't find a foothold to stand on. I am in deep water, and the floods overwhelm me." Blue represents the deep waters from which we all need deliverance. My first prayer following the dream was a spiritual 911 call. Praise God for His leadership in my life!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Dream...

I dreamed last night that I was being shot at with arrows from a good friend. I don't recall how it all began--just that I was being relentlessly assaulted by these arrows that were being shot one right after another. I was struck by some but most missed as I would dodge forward or back to avoid being hit. Though painful, the arrows that hit me would bounce off without any significant injury. At one point, a very large arrow was fired at me. it missed and I was able to pick it up. I quickly found myself in a struggle with my friend as we both took hold of the arrow and tried to wrestle it from each other. I even tried to break the arrow but I could not. As we wrestled I got a real good look at the arrow. It had a large silver head about three inches long and about 1/4 of an inch thick. The unique thing about this arrow is that it did not have a traditional point--it was flat. It was more like a block "A" might be. Though the arrow would hurt if it hit me, it could do no real harm. It had no point! At some point in the dream, I picked up a phone and dialed 911 in order to get my friend to quit shooting at me. I was asked by the operator to spell his name which is most likely the only reason that I can remember it. I'll not tell you the name except to let you know that it had seven letters. Following the call to 911, I was able to walk away from my friend's house without further incident.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Multi-Cultural Ministry...

My good friend, Fernando Caballero, took Tina and me along with him today for a meeting at the Hope Center, an intercultural ministry in Denver. The purpose of the meeting was to plan an intercultural retreat that will take place in August. I was impressed to be sitting around a table with Russian, Hmong, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and others representing a small sampling of the nations that have come to Colorado. My wife is going to be leading a series of conferences on worship for these multi-cultural churches. I am wanting to continue to see Cornerstone become a multi-cultural gathering of believers. Already we have worshippers in our church from several ethnicities including Romanian, Australian, Polynisian, Hispanic, Vietnamese, and even Texican. Not unlike Pentecost, it appears that God is bringing the nations to us. We need only to speak the Gospel in their language.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bottom of the 13th...

The Colorado Rockies are in the playoffs for the first time since 1995. It was an amazing finish...

Monday, October 01, 2007

My Response

We hosted a "Love and Respect" marriage conference this past weekend at Cornerstone. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is a fantastic communicator with some fresh insights into marriage. Check out the clip and then stop by the Love and Respect website at By the way, he is really funny!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Navy Chaplain Corps...

I received an Honorable Discharge from the United States Navy on September 6th.
I was commissioned into the Navy's Chaplain Corps a little more than three years ago and overall it was a good experience. I joined just after my 40th birthday as a result of what I call a "Wild at Heart" experience. I had always wanted to have some connection with the military but it just never seemed to make sense for me. At the time that I joined, age 40 was the limit for chaplains. It was "now or never". My biggest difficulty with the Navy was adjusting to the inefficiency and the unending paperwork. I found that true ministry was fairly hard to create. The much spoken-of problem of praying in Jesus' name was never a problem for me. At no time, other than Chaplain School, was I ever instructed to avoid "Jesus". My experience with the Navy has really confirmed my calling as a pastor. I have much more that I would like to share at some point but for now I just wanted to let all my friends and family know that my time in the U.S. Navy has now concluded. I would be more than happy to answer questions that any of you may have about my experiences.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prince Caspian...

Coming May, 2008...

I loved reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a young high school student. I was going through a spiritually transformational period and I very much connected with the characters in the books.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was a wonderful cinematic beginning to this great series of stories that C.S. Lewis created. I was greatly pleased with the way that the first book came alive on the big screen.

May, 2008....I can't wait!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Dad's Wedding...

I recently made the trip to Texas to stand by my dad as he remarried. Here is a picture of my dad and his new bride, her two children, my sisters, my brother, and myself.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Wait for the Promise...

I have learned from my reading of Tom Eliff books of a an often quoted influence called, "Preacher Hallock". I actually found an old and worn copy of his book that I enjoyed while at Southwestern Seminary. Preacher Hallock was famous for asking the question, "Do you have a promise?" His point was that God gives us personal promises throughout scripture and before we act on our own, we should discover God's promise. Jesus told the disciples, "Don't leave Jerusalem but wait for the promise from the Father". We should never do anything without first hearing from God. Henry Blackaby puts it this way, "don't just do something, stand there!" It is extremely foolish to plow ahead unaware of the purposes of God. Before making any significant decisions, get alone with a copy of God's Word, and find a promise.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Don't leave Jerusalem...

I have seriously considered leaving my church more than once over the past year. I am drawn to resignation whenever my plans don't quite work out or perhaps when a critic doesn't fully appreciate my work. Thankfully, I didn't leave Jerusalem this past year. The disciples could have moved on with their lives, gotten jobs at the local funeral home or perhaps selling insurance. But they didn't! They stayed in Jerusalem. Hardship is rarely the voice of God telling us to move one. God doesn't seem to speak through discouragement. There are, of course, other voices telling us to quit. These are the voices that would keep us from fulfilling our purpose. Perhaps you need this word today as the disciples needed it in Acts 1:8 and as I have often needed it..."Don't leave Jerusalem!"

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

What to Do Before You Do Anything...

I have begun a new sermon series from the Book of Acts and I want to attempt to share some of what I am learning about the church and how Jesus designed it to function without "preaching" the sermons. I read somewhere that people don't want to read sermons on blogs. So, in order to spare both of my readers from discomfort, I'll try to simply pass along the teaching as more of a discussion.
To begin with--why Acts? Simply put, "Acts" records the birth of the church and the early days of this infant world-changer. The new-born church was simply amazing especially when compared to the contemporary coma-like organization we generally refer to as "the church". You would think that the fully grown mature church would dwarf the effectiveness of the baby version and yet we find just the opposite to be true. The church's greatest days appear to lie behind her in the pages of Acts. We have much to learn and rediscover from those who have gone before us and have effectively taken the Gospel around their known world.
Let me just key in on five things that Jesus said to the apostles on the day that he rocketed into space right in front of them. Read the story for yourself in Acts 1:1-8 and then note the five instructions from Christ.
1. Don't leave Jerusalem (v4).
2. Wait for the promise (v4).
3. You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (v5).
4. You will receive power (v8).
5. You will be my witnesses (v8).

(more tomorrow)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Biblically Defined Growth Barriers

One of the things that I appreciate about Ed Stetzer's newest book, Comeback Churches, is that he places an emphasis upon the spiritual as well as the methodological causes of church effectiveness. Included in the book is a list of 30 spiritual barriers to conversion growth within the church. I have found myself going through the list several times now looking for deficiencies in my church. I really think that Ed has hit upon a key to the ineffectiveness of the contemporary church in his list. Let me list just a few of his biblically-defined growth barriers. Consider whether any of these might be true of your church. These are just the ones that I am most concerned about in my church.

Churches aren't concerned about God's glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).

Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Phil. 2:21).

Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Mal. 1:6).

Sin is not dealt with, bringing weakness to the church (1 Cor. 5:5-7).

A lack of love for Christ devastates the church (1 cor. 16:22; Rev. 2:4).

A lack of unity brings division (John 17:23; Col. 3:12-15).

A lack of love within the body creates strained relationships (John 13:35).

Lukewarmness in the church becomes prevalent (Rev. 3:16).

Lack of true and earnest prayer in the church leaves people powerless (Matt. 6:9; 2 thess. 3:1).

Saints are not doing the work of service in the body (Eph. 4:12).

People are not growing spiritually (Eph. 4:12-16).

Pride in a church will always bring it down (1 Pet. 5:5; Prov. 6:17).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Hacienda

This is the amazing house that we are staying in, "The Hacienda". It's huge! There is a pond, complete with boats from which to fish, as well as a large game room. There are four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and everything that you might want to enjoy during a time of relaxation. It's awesome. Did I mention that it is "FREE" to pastors and missionaries?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

On Vacation...

My family and I are on vacation this week in beautiful Durango, Colorado. We are staying at the incredible "Hacienda" which is made available to pastors and their families free of charge by a ministry called Rocky Mountain Renewal. You can read more about this ministry and how you can participate at their website: I'll have plenty of pictures to share in the next few days.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ed Stetzer 2007 SBC Annual Meeting

Ed Stetzer gave one of the most exciting communications at the SBC Convention this year.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

USA Today on The Problem with Church...

USA Today reports, "Protestant churches are losing young adults in "sobering" numbers. Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 — both evangelical and mainline — who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23."
The recent study was done by LifeWay Research and is the latest offering by Ed Stetzer. The article notes that, "Dropouts were more than twice as likely than those who continued attending church to describe church members as judgmental (51% for dropouts, 24% for those who stayed), hypocritical (44% vs. 20%) or insincere (41% vs. 19%)."
Also of note, "The survey found that those who stayed with or returned to church grew up with both parents committed to the church, pastors whose sermons were relevant and engaging, and church members who invested in their spiritual development."

Read the USA Today article online here.

Read the entire LifeWay Study online here.
Read Ed Stetzer's Blog at

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Criteria of a Biblical Church...

Ed Stetzer writes in Comeback Churches that there are six biblical criteria for defining church. Each of his criteria can be found in the early church as described in the early part of Acts. I believe that the main problem with irrelevant and declining churches can be found in the deviation of the modern church from the biblical example found in the infant church of Acts chapter two.

Scriptural Authority--Everything of substance should be based on the biblical record. Methods borrowed from the world should be politely returned and Holy Spirit empowerment should be passionately begged for. What can you find in our churches that is foreign to the biblical record? What can you find that is drawn from the early church? Perhaps we should forget how smart we are and just do church as described in Acts 2. We spend way too much time talking about the Bible and not nearly enough time doing it!

Biblical Leadership--"It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up" (Ephesians 4:11-12). So let's get this straight...God says that we need all of these leaders in order to build up the body of Christ. So, if we leave some out (like maybe apostles and prophets), then we will get less than what God desires. what we have now! By the way, I would hold to the opinion that apostles (apostolos = sent ones) are missionaries and church planter types. You'll find plenty of examples of prophets (truth tellers with special insight) in the scriptures. I suspect that all of our churches could use a few.

Preaching and Teaching--The communication of the authoritative Word of God should be central. It's part of our marching orders (Great Commission, Mt. 28). If you want to have some fun--just start challenging structures and rules by asking for their biblical basis. Most of what we do isn't biblically based because most of our decision makers aren't spending time in the Word.

Ordinances--Try this little exercise--Imagine that you know nothing of baptism. Read every New Testament passage containing a reference to baptism and see if it looks like what happens in our churches. Do the same with the Lord's Supper and see what you come up with. What a novel idea it would be to base our ordinances on the biblical examples.

Covenant Community--We really miss the boat here! Acts 2 provides a startling contrast with the modern church. When is the last time that someone sold their stuff in order to provide for a needy family?

Mission--The mission of the church is to make disciples (Mt. 28). Any church that does not baptize at least one person in a year should disband, sell their property, and give the money to missions. It's the height of denial to call yourself a church when you don't do what churches are created to do.

Friday, August 03, 2007

We've Got Problem...

Across the Southern Baptist Convention we saw an increase in worship of more than 86,000 people while at the same time we baptized 7000 fewer people than the year before. It currently takes 45 Southern Baptists to baptize one person in a year. That's completely ridiculous! We may be growing slightly in numbers but our churches are more disfunctional than ever. Can you imagine a bakery that doesn't sell bread? Can you imagine a farm that doesn't grow crops? Can you imagine a church that doesn't make disciples? No need to imagine--just take a look around!

Read the LifeWay analysis of the 2006 Annual church Profile here.

A New Focus: Church Health...

Since my blogging debut, I have struggled with a lack of "blogging-focus". There are a great many issues and subjects that are of importance to me but I have failed to find my "blogging purpose". That is--until now! I am going to begin anew with a laser focus on the area of Church Health. This is without a doubt one of my key passions and a subject on which I believe that I have something to contribute. I am going to keep my current blog address so that I don't lose both of my readers. My goal will be to post something every-other-day of value to the discussion of Church Health. I currently pastor a "Comeback" Church and I have had good success encouraging comebacks in other previous ministries. Check back tomorrow for the first of many "Church Health" postings.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Worship Questionnaire - Part IV

Question #4: Listed below are a number of words that can describe the worship experience. Select the words that best indicate your understanding of a desired worship experience (choose all that apply):

Spiritual - 94%
Biblical - 69%
Emotional - 55%
Intimate - 53%
Celebrative - 53%
Humorous - 50%
Spontaneous - 46%
Casual - 34%
Practical - 30%
Reverent - 28%
Creative - 25%
Serious - 19%
Innovative - 12%
Solemn - 3%
Formal - 0%
Predictable - 0%
Liturgical - 0%

No surprises here!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Worship Questionnaire - Part III

Question #3: Do you believe that it would be better to continue having multiple services in our current facility or to bring everyone together in one larger service in another location?

Multiple Services - 60%
One Service - 29%
No Response Indicated - 11%

Our people clearly love the convenience of multiple services--I do as well! The thing that I do not like about multiple services is the way that it divides our church. We also lose the momentum of the larger unified service. The "No Response" response was not an option on the questionnaire but seemed significant enough to report.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Worship Questionnaire - Part II

Question #2: At present we have two worship services on Sunday morning--8:00am and 11:00am. In the past we have also held services on Sunday morning at 9:30am and on Saturday evening at 6:00pm. Please indicate your preferred worship time (choose only one):

Sun, 8:00am - 32.6%
Sun, 9:30am - 32.6%
Sun, 11:00am - 32.6%
Sat, 6:00pm - 02.2%

Three Sunday services win the day with Saturday being an "also ran". We definitely like the convenience of multiple Sunday morning services at Cornerstone.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Worship Questionnaire - Part 1

We recently asked for feedback on our worship services at Cornerstone through a simple questionnaire. I want to take the next few posts and share a summary of the questionnarie along with my thoughts on what it might mean if anything. To begin with, let me share that we had a very small response to the questionnaire. It was passed out individually to every person in attendance at both of our worship services with the instruction to place the completed questionnarie in the foyer on the way out after the service. The questionnaire was one page with eleven questions. Out of 232 worshippers, only 44 questionnaries were actually turned back in. That's only a 19% participation. So, the most significant question is perhaps the one that we didn't ask--"Why would only 19% bother to answer the questions?" My possible responses to that question would be: #1--I'm pretty happy with worship as it is and I don't want to go to the trouble of answering questions. #2--I needed more time to pray about my responses than what you provided. #3--I forgot to turn it in. Regardless of the reason, here is what 19% of our worshippers thought our worship service on July 1st. I do not believe that the response is large enough to draw any firm conclusions regarding our worship at Cornerstone except for the obvious conclusion that we do not like to fill out questionnaries.

Question #1: At present we do not provide a printed order of service. Do you consider a printed order to be (choose only one).

  • Essential - 2%
  • Important - 16%
  • Helpful - 25%
  • Unneccessary 57%

There doesn't appear to be a large outcry demanding a printed order of service in the worship folder each week. I'm a little surprised that some would view it as essential. What do you thinnk?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Light in the Darkness...

Allow me to share some inspiring quotes from a post written by Rick Thompson as his blog today:

By contrast to the cold dead religiosity of churches that now exist only as monuments, there is a church rising in the land of Promise.In the past 20 days, I have watched as an Arab Pastor boldly laid hands on and prayed for the healing of a committed Muslim and Islamic teacher who allowed him to pray in the name of Christ.I have observed as a former Muslim who is now a passionate believer in Christ excitedly tell all who will listen what it means to leave the darkness of Islam and to follow the teachings of Jesus.I watched as an Arab Christian teenager share the gospel to a room full of Muslim scholars in a country where it is strictly forbidden.I have watched as one of our missionaries wept over the condition of an abused Bedouin woman who has suffered such humility in a culture she cannot escape.I have prayed for and with missionaries who have given their lives to serve in one of the most difficult places on earth where spiritual darkness is deep and abiding, and yet their light shines bright and joyful.I have worshipped with Arab believers who could not understand English as I could not understand their language, and yet, in worship, we were in agreement and unity over our praise of Christ.I have laughed and joyfully walked with people from half way around the world I have never met before, but because we had Christ in common, felt the incredible bond of fellowship and Christian community.

Rick's post can be read in it's entirety at his blog The Road We Travel.

Friday, July 06, 2007

On Turning 15...

Tomorrow, on July 7th, 2007, my oldest son will turn 15. Our house is noisy with several of his good friends who are spending the night and eating my food. Jaren was born in the 7th year of my marriage on the 7th day of the 7th month. I have always felt that God was communicating grace and blessing through such a symbolic birth. We named him, "Jaren", which according to some baby book somewhere long ago discarded means, "to sing". Jaren's mom (my wife) absolutely loves music and is a gifted singer/songwriter. Music has been a big part of both of our families of origin and so the name seemed appropriate. Unfortunately (at least at this point), Jaren is not real big on singing. He is however an awesome guitarist as the picture illustrates. He can play "Jesus Freak" with the best of them, though my personal favorite is his version of the "King of the Hill" theme. Jaren has been blessed to be a native Texan by birth (Amarillo), which helps to give him a positive outlook on life. (You don't have to be born in Texas to be useful to God--but it doesn't hurt!) Jaren spent a week in Juarez, Mexico recently seeing how much of the rest of the world lives and sharing a bit of what Jesus has put in his heart. I am very encouraged to get reports of Jaren's involvement in Bible studies at church. He is a smart kid with many intelligent ideas (like his dad). Jaren recently taught a Bible study on "Bald Men of the Bible". We love to watch the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, and selected cartoons. Jaren's an awesome cook as well. I gave him my pack of "Southwestern Chili Mix" from the Southwestern Seminary Alumni Luncheon in San Antonio and he turned it into an amazing meal. I wouldn't be surprised if Jaren became a chef one day. He is a great cook! He has a gentle and peaceable heart. Jaren can quickly grow emotional when he sees someone hurting. I don't mean to imply that he is not capable of showing his age--he does often! I just mean that I see Jesus in his eyes a whole lot of the time. Tomorrow, my oldest son turns 15 and I couldn't be prouder! This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Liar! Liar!

Recent studies show that human beings begin deceptive practices at a very young age. The Psychology Department at the University of Portsmouth report that children begin lying as early as six months. According to the researchers, "Fake crying is one of the earliest forms of deception to emerge, and infants use it to get attention even though nothing is wrong. You can tell, as they will then pause while they wait to hear if their mother is responding, before crying again."

It appears that the Bible has gotten it right once again. David declares to God in Psalm 51:5, "For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me."

Read the entire article in the Telegraph here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We're a "Comeback" Church!

Quite some time back I was interviewed by phone for a research project on "Comeback" Churches. The interview lasted for more than an hour and included detailed questions about "how" and "why" our church had been able to recover from a plateaued state. I heard nothing further following the interview and concluded that my responses had somehow missed the mark for the study. Ironically, earlier this morning, I was having coffee at Starbucks with our Director of Missions and we were talking about the convention in San Antonio. Our conversation moved to Ed Stetzer and I shared that I had been interviewed in the "Comback" study but that we evidently didn't measure up as a "Comeback" church. This afternoon I found a package in the mail from B&H Publishers. I expected some type of promotional material or perhaps someone's pet project that I would be asked to promote within the church. Inside the package I found a copy of "Comeback Churches" with an attached letter. Here is a quote from the letter:

Thank you so much for opening your church and your heart to us as part of the Comeback Churches project. We surveyed 324 churches like yours--those that had experienced substantial growth after a protracted period of decline. We are grateful for the time that you invested in this project. Please consider this book a gift from the authors and B&H Publishers. We appreciate you and consider it a privilege to help tell your story.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


At 5:15 this morning I helped unload the truck for the food distribution that is held at my church once a month.

At 5:45 this morning my 14-year-old son left for Juarez, Mexico as part of our student mission team.

At 7:30 this morning, we will leave for the nearby community of Greeley where my 12-year-old son will participate in his league championship baseball tournament.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A True Southern Baptist Hero...

In his mid-thirties he surrendered to the ministry leaving behind a lucrative position with a prominant insurance company as a safety inspector. His first church was a small split from a almost as small Southern Baptist Church in Kimball, Nebraska. From the beginning, he was bivocational times 2 working as a garage mechanic by day and as a washer of milk cans at a local dairy by night. Witnesses still living recall a well-dressed young man with manicured nails heading off to do ministry. His first visit back literally brought tears to the eyes of one witness who would later share with me how those hands had become cracked, dirty, and broken indicating the drastic change in life circumstances. His entire ministry was spent among small congregations of no more than 75 members at the most. In fact, the majority of his churches were planted by himself with little help from anyone else except for a few churches in the South who would make the journey to the Northern Plains to help for a few weeks. At times a typical Sunday would include a 200 mile circuit holding services in three different communities. Most of these communities that he would serve were Native American with oppressive environments. He knew the joy of seeing a person come to Christ and he also knew the sorrow of absolutely no one showing up for Easter Sunday. He knew the thrill of beginning something new that had never existed before and he also knew the devastation of being dismissed by his own converts while away attending his son's college graduation. He never earned a seminary degree and he never formally graduated from high school. Even with no education that would qualify him, he would eventually receive appointment by the Home Mission Board because his work simply could not be ignored. He would later earn an associates degree from a local community college and attend classes at a university. There are a dozen or more congregations in existence that he faithfully founded under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Though I doubt that he will ever be formally recognized by any denominational entity--no statues will ever stand in his honor--I suspect that one day in Heaven's courts he will recognized as the hero that he is. It will by my great honor to accompany this seasoned man of God to the this year's Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. He is a messenger from the Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in Helena, Montana, and he is my dad--Pastor Ted Samples.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Seven Relational Remedies...

"I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel..." (Philippians 4:2-3).

Paul identifies a relational problem in Philippi and then sets out to provide a relational remedy in the verses that follow.

We would do well to practice these seven remedies in all of our relationships...
  1. "Rejoice in the Lord always!" (v4). It's very hard to be angry or bitter when your are busy praising God.
  2. "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men!" (v5). Gentle means humble and patient. I'm pretty sure that "gentle spirits" aren't divisive and venomous.
  3. "Be anxious for nothing!" (v6). Worry about nothing? That's right--nothing!
  4. Pray about everything! (v6). EVERYTHING! We're too busy to fight when we're praying.
  5. Guard your heart and mind with God's peace! (v7). Peace is the absence of conflict. When you feel conflict coming to God!
  6. Think positively! (v8). We naturally tend to focus on the negative. Paul lists the positives. Be optimistic!
  7. Practice being Jesus! (v9). We're really good at knowing stuff and really bad and doing what we know. Practice Jesus!
I will have these things in mind as I go to San Antonio this weekend for the Southern Baptist Convention.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Our Only Hope...

I am thrilled that SBC President Frank Page has planned to focus our meetings in San Antonio on prayer, revival, and spiritual awakening. Dr. Page has said, "The central focus for my presidency and therefore for this meeting is to seek from the Lord spiritual awakening--His Holy Spirit's revival, and that is always prefaced by and enabled by and empowered by prayer" (SBC Life, June/July 2007). I have begun praying for these meetings that something remarkable would happen--that we would forget about politics, resolutions, and position, and that we would become broken over our utter failure to penetrate lostness in our nation. May God break the messengers who show up in San Antonio over our pride and self-sufficiency. May He crush us and bring to our hearts a true recognition of how displeasing our power-sustaining political divisions are to the heart of God. Let me "Amen" Frank Page when he says, "I believe God wants us to have a broken heart. And so far, I've seen no broken hearts except on rare occasions" (SBC Life). Each of the SBC sessions will have a particular prayer focus. I want challenge all who will, to pray during these sessions, whether you're in San Antonio or not.
  • Tuesday morning: "Lord Transform Your Churches."

  • Tuesday afternoon: "Lord, Bring us to Confession and Repentance."

  • Tuesday evening: "Lord, Unite Us in A Cooperative Mission Task."

  • Wednesday morning: "Lord, Send Revival to Our Convention."

  • Wednesday evening: "Lord, Energize Our Evangelistic Efforts."

"If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Henry Blackaby on Leadership...

"Spiritual leadership is moving people on to God's agenda." --Henry Blackaby

My Deacons and I are reading through Henry and Richard Blackaby's book, Spiritual Leadership. The task of a spiritual leader is described in five statements.

  1. "The spiritual leader's task is to move people from where they are to where God wants them to be." Everyone has an agenda but only God has the power to guarantee that his will be accomplished. A true leader will lead people away from their agenda and onto God's agenda.

  2. "Spiritual leaders depend on the Holy Spirit." Only the Holy Spirit can change people. So, spend more time praying and less time complaining.

  3. "Spiritual leaders are accountable to God." God's opinion is the only one that really matters. We all need to get to the place where we don't care if we get fired.

  4. "Spiritual leaders can influence all people, not just God's people". God used all kinds of people to accomplish His purposes in the Bible--not just His people.

  5. "Spiritual leaders work from God's agenda". Blackaby says, "the greatest obstacle to effective spiritual leadership is people pursuing their own agendas rather than seeking God's will" (Spiritual Leadership, p23).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

10 Reasons to go to San Antonio...

I have not attended an SBC annual meeting since Salt Lake City. When was that....1998? I don't remember exactly when it was but I had a great time. Why haven't I gone back? Well, convention and conference money is always tight and I want to get the most "bang" for my church's "buck".

So...why I am going to San Antonio for the Southern Baptist Convention this year?

  1. I've been asked to serve on the Credentials Committee and it would reflect poorly upon me if I skipped.
  2. I'm really hoping that revival may in fact break out and I don't want to miss it.
  3. I am excited about change within our denomination and I want to support it.
  4. I'm taking my dad with me (he hasn't attended since St. Louis--1980?).
  5. I have, at times, been extremely proud of my denomination and hope to be so again in SA.
  6. I love San Antonio.
  7. I'm looking forward to meeting men that I know only through blogging.
  8. Casa Rio is a great meal at a great price. Check it out here.
  9. I want to get my free book from the Annuity Board (excuse me...Guidestone).
  10. I'm committed to doing my part to help make the SBC the best that it can be.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Four Chaplains...

Today for Memorial Day, let me share with you the courageous story of the The Four Chaplains.

On February 3rd, 1943, at 12:55 in the morning, the USAT Dorchester, carrying 902 servicemen took a torpedo mid-ship and began taking on water rapidly. Less than twenty minutes later the ship would sink beneath the icy waters of the Atlantic. Panic and chaos was rampant aboard the ship as men sought to save their lives pushing and shoving to find a place in one of the lifeboats. The four chaplains who were aboard ship spent the final twenty minutes of their lives handing out life vests, even giving their own vests up when the ships supply ran out. The chaplains went down with the Dorchester while continuing to shout prayers and words of encouragement to those who would die with them. As the ship went down, survivors in nearby rafts could see the four chaplains--arms linked and braced against the slanting deck.

The Distinguished Service Cross and Purple Heart were awarded posthumously December 19, 1944, to the next of kin.

The Four Chaplains are: Lt. George L. Fox, Methodist; Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.

You can read more at the The Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pre-Summer Cowboys Update...

I tend to ignore my favorite spectator sport, football, after the Superbowl and do not start to notice the NFL again until July. A friend asked me a question about my beloved Cowboys this morning and I was speechless. So...I've decided to do a little late May catch-up with the Cowboys. Here is what every good Cowboys fan should know at this point...

Wade Phillips was hired on February 8th as the head coach.

A New stadim is being built.

North Texas will host the 2011 NFL Superbowl!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I Will Not Be Voting for...

I'm not sure at this early date who my favorite presidential candidate will end up being. I have eliminated a few contenders, however.

I will not be supporting Hillary Clinton.

I will not be supporting Mitt Romney.

I will not be supporting Rudy Giuliani.

I will not be supporting John Edwards.

I will not be supporting John McCain.

I will not be supporting Ron Paul.

I will not be supporting Barack Obama.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Deacon Retreat...

Every year we take some time for our Deacons at Cornerstone to retreat for a time of personal recommitment and spiritual renewal. It's one of my favorite events each year and I feel like it sets the pace for where our church is going. For several years we would retreat to the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. We would rent a vacation home for the weekend and our times together were always wonderful experiences of fellowship and prayer. As our size has grown we have had to move into larger facilities to accomodate the additional deacons that we have been bringing along. For the second year in a row, we traveled to Larkspur to stay at our Colorado Baptist owned camp--The Ponderosa. It's not quite as nice as the digs that we enjoyed at the YMCA but it fits our budget much better.

This year's retreat was primarily a series of brief Bible studies focusing on the person and the work of a deacon. Much time was devoted to personal and corporate prayer and we attempted to prayerfully make application of what was being revealed from the Scriptures. Let me share a brief outline of what we experienced.

Friday Night: 7pm--Personal Prayer, 7:30pm--A Deacon's Character (1 Timothy 3), 8:00pm--A Deacon's Growth, 8:30pm--Personal Prayer, 9:00pm--A Deacon's Power (Acts 8:4-13), 9:30pm--A Deacon's Commitment (Acts 6:8-7:60). The commitment session was held around a camp fire where we received communion together. The idea was for each of us to embrace the courage and love of Stephen in becoming willing to die for our Lord and for the people that He has given us to serve. We finished up with a study on the Parable of the Talents that led us to begin viewing the people of Cornerstone as treasures (talents) that God has given us to care for and to grow.

Saturday: 8:30--Personal Prayer, 9:00--A Deacon's Message (Acts 8:25-40), 9:30--A Deacon's Koinonia, 10:00--A Deacon's CARE, 10:30--Selection of Family CARE Groups. This is the time when our Deacon's personally and prayerfully select the families that they will be caring for throughout the year. 1:00--A Deacon's Vision. We finished up at 2:00 clock by heading down to the 40 foot climbing tower where several made it up the cargo net and bravely came back down on the zip line.

We had some powerful experiences of prayer during the weekend and I think that we all came back with a passion to faithfully care for the families that God has brought to Cornerstone. Our Deacons are tasked with the responsibility of providing CARE for the families that they select. CARE is an acronym that stands for C-haplain, A-ccountability, R-esources, and E-ncouragement. These are the bottom-line services that our Deacons provide. We consider Deacons to be the primary guardians of the fellowship (unity) of our church. During the time that we provide for response in each of our worship services, I often have several of our Deacons join me at the front of the worship center to receive those who are making decisions and to pray for those who would come forward for prayer. Cornerstone has one of the best Deacon ministries of any church that I have ever been a part of. These men are truly my partners in ministry.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Easter Pictures...

These are a few pictures from our Easter Celebration at the Windsor High School. This first one is of the whole group--500 of us!

This one is of me in action...not sure what I'm saying...

These are the vocalists with the worship choir standing behind them on the risers. If you look really close you can see Tina sitting at the keyboard on the far side of the stage

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Children as God's Greatest...

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matthew 19:14). The Kingdom may belong to the children but do they have the right to vote in a church business session?
I would expect that if children have very little to contribute to the church because of their underdeveloped intellect and their lack of experience with the world's ways, that God would pass them by in order to find more qualified candidates for service. I would expect that there would be few if any examples of God using these "weak" ones.
Allow me to share with you seven biblical examples of God speaking to and working through children:
  • Mary who conceived by the Holy Spirit and brought Jesus into the world (Luke 1:26-38).

  • King Josiah who took the throne of Israel at age 8 (2 Kings 22:1-2).

  • David who through the power of God slew a giant (1 Samuel 16:7-13; 17:33, 42, 55-56).

  • Joseph who received prophetic dreams (Genesis 37:1-11).

  • Samuel who heard the voice of God (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1-19).

  • John the Baptist who recognized Jesus in the womb while in the womb himself (Luke 1:41-45).

  • Jesus who taught the teachers at age 12 (Luke 2:40-52).

So, if God has used children in the past--why couldn't he also use children in the present and in the future? Is it possible that a church could cut itself off from the influence of these "kingdom owners" by denying them the ability to fully participate in church decisions? Isn't the "eye" guilty of saying to the "hand", "I don't need you" by closing our ears to the voices of our children? (1 Corinthians 12:21).
"I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me" (Matthew 18:1-5).

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Children as Spirituals...

The question is, "Should children under 18 be allowed to vote in church business sessions?" I believe that the answer to the question has more to do with the Holy Spirit's indwelling power than anything else. Adults will logically come to different conclusions on any given subject including this one. That explains why such a thing as a "church fight" exists. Minds will often differ and and as a result will produce division . . . but the Holy Spirit will always be united!

Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that though there is diversity in the Body of Christ, there is "the same Spirit" (v4), "the same Lord" (v5), and "the same God" (v6). "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Note that all Christians are baptized into the same body through the same Spirit regardless of race or heritage. All Christians are indwelt with the same Holy Spirit of God regardless of anything else including age. In fact, Jesus went so far as to say that the greatest occupants of Heaven are the children! (Matthew 18:1-5). Look at what Paul says in verse 24 of 1 Corinthians 12, "But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked (honor)". The children who appear to be the weakest members of the Body of Christ are in fact the greatest members and therefore are worthy of the greater honor! Are believers who happen to be children indwelt with the same Holy Spirit that lives in adult believers? Absolutely Yes! Are children then, under the Holy Spirit's leadership, able to make spiritual decisions along with the rest of the Body? Again, absolutely yes!
"When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happend to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy" (Luke 1:41-44). Is it possible that John the Baptist while in the womb recognized the Lord Jesus while he also was in the womb? Apparently, yes! Now tell me, if a yet-to-be-born baby can recognize the work of God--why couldn't a young adult believer who is 17? or 16? or 6? It's not about mental ability . . . it is about Spirit-ability!

Children as Church...

We are in the process of reworking our Constitution and Bylaws at Cornerstone and have bumped into a previously held rule that prohibits children under the age of 18 from voting in congregational business sessions. I have not previously seen this prohibition in any Southern Baptist Church of which I have been associated.

The rationale for not allowing children to vote seems to run in two primary streams of argument:
  • #1--Children do not have the mental development or maturity to cast a vote.

  • #2--Large families would have increased influence in church decisions through their children.

I can appreciate both of these arguments as rational and reasonable. However, we must ask some other questions in order to make a sound spiritual decision based upon the biblical record.

Question #1--Does the Holy Spirit indwell all believers including children?

Question #2--Are there biblical examples of God speaking to and through children?

Question #3--Should we be concerned with mental development or spiritual development?

Question #4--What would Jesus do?

I'll be posting over the next several days the answers that I am finding to these important questions.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Baseball has been very very good to me...

Lately, I have found myself retreating to the sanctuary of my 12-year-old son's baseball games. It's a great two-hour escape! "Let's see...constitution and by-laws committee meeting?...or baseball? Hmmmmm....BASEBALL!!!" I'm not much of a "meeting-kind-of-guy". I'm not intellectually challenged by debating how old one should be before being allowed to vote in a church business meeting. I weary of debating the intricate nuances of joining the church by letter versus by statement. I would rather watch my son steal second! I am "honored" to chair our state convention's executive board. The title comes with its fair share of meetings. How easy it is to let my mind wander out into the green pastures of left field as we discuss disengaging pastors and their disengaged churches. Tomorrow I will meet for lunch with other pastors in our association. In the midst of our meeting, I'm sure that I will find a way to share of the pounding that my son's team gave to the Johnstown Riders tonight. I will passionately share of his 4 for 4 night at the plate while trying to show interest in the stories that others will tell of stewardship campaigns and parish politics. Even now the smile on my face has turned to despair as I have realized that I have unintentionally allowed a wedding to be scheduled in the midst of the Longmont Tournament this weekend. Perhaps, I'll phone my wife at the baseball field during the wedding's musical interludes in order to keep up with the game's highlights. Yep, I'll be able to make it for the second game if I don't take the time to change first. I'll be the one in the stands in a black suit sporting a lovely red carnation on my jacket's left lapel. Yes is a wonderful escape! Earlier today, I met with one of our college students from Hawaii who was led to Christ in a campus Bible study by another one of our college students. We talked about the life-changing salvation that Jesus has brought, about the symbol of baptism, and how this student should invite as many friends as possible to come witness the baptism that will take place on Sunday morning. The college student who led this person to Christ will have the honor of conducting the baptism. Funny thing is....I didn't think of baseball even once...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Fellowships' Five Facts...

Dr. Ken Hemphill keyed in on "Nurturing Biblical Fellowship" in April's SBC Life. You can access the entire article here.

I had the priviledge of attending Southwestern Seminary during Dr. Hemphill's tenure as president and studied the book of 1 Corinthians under his teaching. He is an excellent communicator with a depth of knowledge in the area of spiritual gifts.

I've come to the conclusion after 20+ years of church-related ministry that the church's fellowship is one of the most critical aspects of church health. Unity within in a local body is absolutely essential in order to see Holy Spirit empowerment. With that in mind, Dr. Hemphill's thoughts on biblical fellowship are very timely for our denomination and our individual churches.

Dr. Hemphill identifies five undeniable truths of fellowship within the church:

  • Truth #1: Fellowship is not optional to biblical Christianity! Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34, 15:12, 17). Dr. Hemphill says, "It is an inescapable truth--we cannot belong to Christ without belonging to a community of believers".
  • Truth #2: Fellowship with other believers is essential to personal spiritual growth! "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge" (Ephesians 3:17-19). The love of Christ surpasses knowledge! Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, "But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church.".
  • Truth #3: Fellowship is essential to ministry since the unified body is the platform for the proper functioning of the spiritual gifts! According to Ken Hemphill, "In every passage where spiritual gifts are mentioned the issue of unity of the body and the common good are always preeminent".
  • Truth #4: Authentic fellowship can only be found in Christ! Dr Hemphill stresses, "For the early church koinonia was a group of believers who were bound together by their common loyalty to Christ. Our fellowship crosses racial, cultural, gender, and other artificial boundaries to find its basis in Christ alone."
  • Truth #5: Fellowship is essential to Kingdom expansion! According to Hemphill, "The church that practices biblical fellowship will function like a magnet to the fellowship-hungry world".