Friday, February 28, 2014

Our Daily Bread - February 28, 2014

 In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a remarkable natural wonder—a pool about 40 feet deep and 300 feet across that Native Americans called “Kitch-iti-kipi,” or “the big cold water.” Today it is known as The Big Spring. It is fed by underground springs that push more than 10,000 gallons of water a minute through the rocks below and up to the surface. Additionally, the water keeps a constant temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that even in the brutally cold winters of the Upper Peninsula the pool never freezes. Tourists can enjoy viewing the waters of Big Spring during any season of the year.

When Jesus encountered a woman at Jacob’s well, He talked to her about another source of water that would always satisfy. But He did not speak of a fountain, spring, river, or lake. He said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Far greater than any natural spring is the refreshment we have been offered in Christ Himself. We can be satisfied, for Jesus alone, the Water of Life, can quench our thirst. Praise God, for Jesus is the source that never runs dry.

Father, it seems that I drink far too often from the

waters of the world that cannot satisfy. Forgive me,

and teach me to find in Christ the water than can

quench the thirst of my heart and draw me ever closer to You.

The only real thirst-quencher is Jesus— the living water.

NOTE:  Today marks a highlight on my blog as I post this devotional for today.  According to my posting information - today is number 1,000 posts since I began my blog! 

Also - the March, April and May 2014 edition of Our Daily Bread will be available free of charge at North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene on this Sunday - March 2, 2014.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A valuable lesson learned during sabbatical

During my time of sabbatical I have learned an important lesson. 
 God is great and I am not.

 Remember the things of long ago. For I am God, and there is no other. I am God, and there is no one like Me. Isaiah 46:9

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Power of a Praying Church!

I sometimes wish I could have been there.

The new church at Jerusalem was in its infancy. There was an unmistakable excitement and anticipation among the believers. They began to gather together as a body shortly after Peter preached his message at Pentecost. Luke describes their actions in succinct phrases: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42, HCSB).

I wish I could have been there to see it.

A Desire to Know

You see, I have this curiosity about how they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and, especially “to the prayers.”

What did the gathered church actually do to be so devoted to a ministry of prayer? What forms did it take? Just how did they come together as a group to pray?

I suppose we are not given those details in the Bible because the way they came together to pray is not as important as the mere fact that they did pray together. The early believers obviously did not just pray; they devoted themselves to prayer.

Where Have All the Praying Churches Gone?

In one of my early research projects on American churches, I discovered that the most evangelistic churches placed a strong emphasis on corporate prayer. Those churches did not simply depend on the latest evangelistic program to reach their communities; they prayed in earnest for the salvation of persons, as well as offering many other intercessory needs.

As my research continued through the years, I noted that same consistency: healthy churches emphasized prayer as a vital part of their corporate life. Like the early church at Jerusalem, they devoted themselves to prayer.

But I also noticed in my research that the decline in churches across America has been commensurate with the decline in corporate prayers. For many churches, a time of prayer is limited to one or two people voicing a public prayer in the worship services. There is no intent to involve all the people in prayers. Other churches have declared that they will have a prayer meeting one evening a week, with many churches choosing Wednesday evening as that time of corporate prayer. Sadly, most of those churches only have list of those with physical needs and perhaps the name of a few missionaries. The list is hurriedly prayed over so the small number of people at the meeting can get to “more important” activities.

Where have all the praying churches gone?

A Call to Devoted Prayer

As the role of corporate prayer has diminished in churches, so has the outward focus of those churches. The members began to care more about their own needs than those of the lost and hurting in the community. Some churches have major conflicts over music styles, times of worship, colors of carpet, and other issues because many of the members see the primary role of their church is to meet their needs.
When churches stop praying together, churches cease to be healthy.

Perhaps, you are like me, and you would like to know just how the early church came together to pray. If we knew their methodology, then we could replicate in our church.
But the Bible is silent on how to do corporate prayer.

Yet there is no doubt we are to pray when we gather. In fact, we are to devote ourselves to prayer.
I am often asked by church leaders for suggestions to help their churches become healthier, to reverse decline trends, or to get the church members focused on what really matters. I do not have a lot of the answers, but in this case I have one.

Call the people to pray together.
Call them to devote themselves to prayer.

Then, and perhaps only then, will God begin to do a great work among His people.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Church Growth - 5 must know essentials

As I sit in a hotel room today on sabbatical      I am very encouraged following a great conference in Atlanta Ga.  I have traveled to Clarksville TN. and this afternoon will be meeting with a pastor of a church featured in the book Shift: How nine churches experienced vibrant renewal.           I have been thinking about my view on church growth, church health and church renewal.  In my reading I especially was challenged by an article by Chad Hall.
I have had the privilege to serve as a coach to pastors for over 15 years, and I've noticed that it does not take long in the coaching relationship for the topic of church size to come up. I've also noticed that some pastors approach church growth with health and wholeness, while others struggle with (and because of) church size.

If you are a pastor, church planter or key leader, you need a healthy and theologically sound attitude for dealing with church growth, size and numbers.

To help you develop such an attitude, here are five things to recognize when it comes to church size.

1. Growth is not the only good.

Some church leaders lack a biblical imagination that would allow them to envision a purpose for their church other than growth. Making growth (or big) synonymous with good is a recipe for disaster because it prevents good from being a higher value than growth.

Granted, big and good are not opposites, but there is much more about being a good church than being big.

Imagine if you gauged the goodness of your family on numbers—number of family members or size of bank account or some other metric. That would be silly and very unhealthy.

Certainly, there are numbers you need to look at in order to help your family thrive, but the numbers are not your goal. The same is true for a church—numbers are second and third level concerns, not primary goals with inherent goodness.

2. Evangelism may be a mask for egoism.

There are many poor reasons to focus on church growth (ego, consumerism, competition, greed, etc.) and only one good reason to give any attention at all to growth: evangelism.

The sad fact is that some pastors use evangelism as a cover for what is really nothing more than an ego trip—they say they care about souls saved, while in reality they want the church to grow in order to satisfy their own sense of worth.

To be fair, I think the ego-driven needs of pastors are often beneath the surface so that the pastor is not fully cognizant of why exactly they want the church to grow, and sometimes the motives are mixed. So be sure to reflect very deeply and very often on what is driving you to want church growth.

To help explore your deepest motivations, you might ask yourself, “If God capped the size of our church at where we are now, how would I practice evangelism?”

3. Pegging your sense of worth to attendance will drive you nuts.

Pastors who get up when numbers are up also get down when the numbers drop. If you feel more worthy, more loved, more hopeful and just generally better about yourself and the world when the sanctuary is full, then watch out.

Watch out because when the sanctuary is not so full, you likely will feel down, pessimistic, less hopeful and generally worse about yourself and life. If you let numbers dictate your mood, you will be on an emotional roller coaster that makes a teenage girl look like a stoic.

Numbers are a terrible thermometer, but an even worse thermostat.

4. Growth solves nothing.

If you think growth will solve some challenge your church is facing, you are wrong.

A leader who thinks that more people, more resources (money!) or more of anything will solve some problem they currently face is interpreting life through something other than a biblical lens.

Growth is not the solution, the gospel is.

If you think growth will solve your challenges, you are likely focusing on the wrong goals and/or you have a very poor strategy for being a church. There is no biblical evidence for needing more people in order to meet a congregational challenge.

5. The litmus test for truth is not growth.

I cannot tell you how many times (it’s a lot) I've heard a pastor respond to a questionable church practice with something along the lines of, “Yeah, but they must be doing something right.”

If we are not diligent, there is a subtle pragmatism that can seep into our ministry, leading us to do only that which works and discarding anything that does not work. The problem is that “works” is shorthand for “works to grow the church.”

You could very likely come up with a long list of very bad things that will “work” to increase attendance, so my encouragement is to cease using “does it work?” as a way to discern whether a style, strategy, practice or person is of God.

By the way, the flip side is equally true: Growth is not evidence of heresy. Evidence for heresy is heresy; evidence for truth is truth. If you’re in doubt about these, study the Bible, pray and read some church history.

My experience with wise church leaders is that they reluctantly embrace growth when it comes, but they do not chase it, they do not fixate on it and they do not use it as an indicator of anything in any short-term way. They do look at long-term trends to help identify obstacles to effective ministry, and they certainly celebrate the stories of people who experience gospel-centered transformation.

For the most part, wise church leaders focus on actual people and celebrate names way more than numbers.

What about you?

What have you learned about a healthy approach to church growth, numbers and church size?

Where have you seen it handled well? Not so well?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Fresh brewed ice tea ... Check this out for a little humor....

As I have enjoyed the time on my sabbatical, Sharron and I have travelled to a number of churches and I have interviewed several pastors about insights of ministry.  My favorite parts have been the times of relaxation, refreshment and renewal. 

Here is a picture I took while on the road which reminds me of times when decisions are not clearly made.

What do you think?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Reflection from the message today - February 23, 2014

Today Pastor Gary Narron returns to the pulpit to continued the teaching series by the sabbatical preaching team. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pastor John Kelley and his family following the death of his brother this past week.

Pastor Gary focuses on Psalm 129 - 131.

Here are the big questions:

1. Where are you in your journey?

2. Have you had that initial experience with God?

3. Can you rejoice in your relationship with Jesus Christ?

4. Or, have you just putting in  time showing up?

5. What will He say when you meet Him face to face?

6. Which inasmuch will you hear?


in·as·much as

 conjunction \ˌi-nəz-ˈmə-chəz, -ˈməch-ˌaz\
—used to introduce a statement that explains, limits, or gives more specific information about what you have just said...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Preparing for Worship - The set list for last Sunday of February 2014

As we prepare for worship on the last Sunday of February the sabbatical preaching team continues in the series:

Tomorrow, Pastor Gary Narron returns to the pulpit as a member of the Sabbatical Preaching Team.  This is part 4 of 5 of this teaching series.  The message for tomorrow is titled: Up Close & Personal.  

Three times a year, Israelites from all over Israel journeyed to Jerusalem to observe the so-called pilgrimage feasts: Passover in the spring, Pentecost in early summer, and Tabernacles in the fall. At these feasts, all Israel gathered to worship the Lord together as his united people. Worshippers traveled together in groups for safety. As they drew near to Jerusalem, they sang songs together in anticipation of the celebration that was to take place. This collection of songs, known as the Songs of Ascent, we know as Psalms 120-134.

Here are the songs for worship we having planned for Sunday:

Friday, February 21, 2014

14 Sentences That Bring Joy to Pastors

I just received a letter from a delightful lady. She was a member of a church where I was ordained in the ministry. What I remember most about her was the way she offered encouragement to the pastors of that church.
The letter reminded me of so many good laypersons that served sacrificially in churches where I have been. With that in mind, I asked several pastors to recall something very positive said to them by church members. I asked them to try to summarize it in one sentence. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, each of the pastors did not hesitate to offer one “joyful sentence.”

Here are the 14 I’ve accumulated thus far. They are only in the order I received them and wrote them on my iPhone.

  • “I would like to babysit your kids so you can go on a date with your wife.”
  • “Pastor, let me tell you specifically what I learned from your sermon and how it helped me.”
  • “Your wife should have the freedom to be herself in the church.”
  • “I confronted your critic about those unfounded claims he made about you.”
  • “I’m setting aside five minutes every day to pray for you and your family.”
  • “I explained to the personnel committee how a package is not the same as your salary.”
  • “Your kids should be able to live a normal life.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “I want to help you recruit people to do ministry.”
  • “I am so thankful for the time you spend in sermon preparation.”
  • “We don’t expect you to attend every meeting or function.”
  • “Let me do that for you.”
  • “Tell me how I can most help your wife.”
  • “Here is a gift card to get you some books for your library.”

Yes, ministry is tough. Yes, we run into some difficult people more often than we like. But the reality is there are so many good people, so many good church members. These are but a few of the reminders of how pastors have been blessed by those church members.

What would you add to this list?

 By:  Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A step back in time - my reflection of the XII Olympic Winter Games in 1976

This past week on Facebook has been filled with surprises and memories.  Early in the week was a posting from a friend referencing a special time and event from 1976.  On February 13, I was moved by the number of people who wishes me a "Happy Birthday".  

Each night last week I was watching the TV coverage of the Winter Olympics. I thought it was time to reflect upon my time at the Olympics in 1976.

Innsbruck 1976
The 1976 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XII Olympic Winter Games, were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated February 4–15, 1976 in Innsbruck, Austria. It was the second time the Tyrolean city hosted the Games.

I was a junior in college and part of a youth evangelistic team from the Wesleyan Church that joined with groups from around the world to present the claims of Christ to the multi-cultural crowd gathering in Innsbruck.  Each day we would make our way to the train station and prepare for ministry throughout the day. We were part of a special team to the Olympics as displayed by our winter coats.  We were part of the International Christian Outreach Delegation.

 I have pulled my jacket out of the closet after many years:

We received the jackets after arriving in Austria.
On the sleeve of the coat was the symbol of the mascot for the Olympic Games:
The mascot of the 1976 Winter Olympics is a Tyrolean snowman called Schneemann and represents the Games of Simplicity.
The time of ministry was remarkable.  The memories of the Olympics remain in my heart and mind:

The significant victory at the Winter Olympics of 1976 was Dorothy Hamill:

At age 19 she won a triple crown, snagging both the U.S. and World Championships and winning the Gold Medal in the 1976 Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria. Her performance at the Olympics captivated an international audience, and hair stylists all over the United States were mobbed with customers seeking to emulate her distinctive hairstyle. She found herself continually in demand for commercial endorsements, to a degree unmatched by any figure skater before or since.

The most outstanding memories I have of this time are many.  I remember the privilege of meeting Corrie Ten Boom and interviewing her.  I remember the time spent in the hospital awaiting the scheduled surgery to have my appendix removed and how God intervened and I experienced the healing touch of God and still have my appendix. I remember the days of signing along the streets of Innsbruck as people gathered around us and we share Christ with them through a specially designed Four spiritual Laws packet.

I served in Innsbruck as a member of the YES Corps team - Youth Evangelistic Services of the Wesleyan Church. I prepared for the time in Innsbruck by memorizing Scriptures; developing a deepen prayer life; dedicating myself to service to the Lord; going through a month long time of spiritual preparation including fasting and exercising faith as I have never done before.  This was a life changing experience for a young man called to ministry.  

This time of ministry prepared me for the journey of ministry God has prepared for me.  I strive to walk in obedience to the call of God upon my life.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why is prayer so awkward?

Do you feel it?  The pit in your stomach when you’re in a group of people about to eat, or, maybe in a small group when it’s time to close, or, maybe just spontaneously around some friends that are talking about a prayer request?  Who’s gonna pray?  I would like to go the prayer time at church tonight but, do I have to pray out loud? I want to pray but it is hard. 

 Why’s it so awkward?

Why not take the risk and join with others in prayer this evening at
North Raleigh Church of the Nazarene at 6:30pm. 
It may change your prayer life....

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Live for the long haul

You were designed to live for the long haul! Life’s a long distance marathon, not a 50 yard dash. With that in mind, it's vital to keep the big picture in mind. Most of us get tangled in the minutia of the moment and forget to look beyond the current situation.

Most worries aren't really that important in light of the big picture – the long haul. The next time you find yourself “all worked up” about something, ask this question, "Will this really matter ten years from now?" That question puts it in perspective. I’ve discovered that most of my fretting of very little consequence.

Long haul living requires some long range thinking:

*  What are you willing to sacrifice today for a greater gain tomorrow?

*  What habits today will destroy your health and/or relationships tomorrow?

  *  If you continue in the same direction and at the same pace as you

are going today, where will that lead you tomorrow?

*  If your money management patterns today continue, what will your

financial picture be tomorrow?

*  What does your spiritual condition today say about your spiritual

destination tomorrow?


*  Are you content with where you are heading in your life? If not,

what changes need to be made?

Here's a wild idea: Think of something you really should be doing -- but you've just not gotten around to it.

Get up from reading this and go find a mirror. Look at yourself in that mirror and say, “Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! Do it now! I’m not going to delay another day. I’ve wanted to do this someday – and someday starts today. I’m going to do it now! “

Then, go out and do it!

This very instant is the first moment of the rest of your life. There’s no better time to get going than right now!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Snow in the south ... A reflection from the Raleigh snowfall of February 12-13, 2014

Remember the snow fall this past week? 
Here are some of my reflections about the snow fall in North Carolina:

This picture captured the attention around the world from Raleigh, NC. 
Raleigh, N.C. — Of the thousands of snow photos taken in North Carolina on Wednesday, one of the most talked about and shared shots came from a Raleigh woman who captured the chaos on Glenwood Avenue.
The photo, which shows a car on fire as vehicles struggle nearby to get up a snow-slicked hill on Glenwood Avenue, quickly spread across the Internet and was featured on several sites, including CNN, The Huffington Post, Gawker, Slate and Reddit.
“This morning, I turn on the news, and I’m watching CNN, and my photo came up, and I’m like, 'Oh my gosh!'" said Lindsay Webb, who shot the picture with her iPhone and says the photo is 100 percent authentic.
Webb, who works as a stylist at Blo salon at Brier Creek, says she had been in the car for three hours with a stranger who asked for a ride when she took the picture.
“As soon as we got on top of the hill, we could see the conditions. So many of the cars were off the road. People were trying to weave their way up the hill, people were getting out and pushing other people’s cars, or just walking around," she said.
“People were trying to push it, and the wheels were spinning. Then, smoke started to come from the hood. At first, you’re thinking, 'Well, that car’s not going anywhere.' But then the hood lit up, and it was no time before that car was on fire,” she added.
About that time, Webb says, her boss contacted her to see if she made it home safely. ….  Read more by clicking   HERE         Copyright 2014 by Capitol Broadcasting Company
Of course the above picture was "spoofed" within hours:
I always think snow in the south is a special event.  I fondly remember my driving days when I lived in Michigan. Driving in a North Carolina snow is extremely different than driving in Michigan snow.  Here's an example:
If you think that is funny - check this out:


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Reflections from the message today at NRN

Today at NRN,  Rev. Jenny Compton served as a pastor on the sabbatical team to bring the morning message in the current teaching series:

Jenny is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene.  She was ordained at the District Assembly on June 9, 2013.  In the picture with Todd and Jenny Compton are Dr. Mark Barnes (left) and Dr. Jess Mindendorf (right).                         
It is a joy to welcome Jenny, Todd and their family to NRN! 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sunday set list - Preparing for worship at NRN

As you prepare your heart and mind for worship tomorrow I encourage you to draw near to the Lord and pray to be in alignment with His will.  Be ready for worship.  It is good to go to the House of the Lord.

Rev. Jenny Compton will bring the message tomorrow as the sabbatical preaching team continues in the teaching series:

Lift your voice in praise and adoration to our great God!

God longs for us to not only lift our voices in songs and words of worship but also to quiet our hearts before Him and speak to Him in prayer.  Prayer is a means of grace that God uses to sanctify His church. A praying church becomes a different church. Through prayer we become more like Jesus, we take on God's values, and we come to see that God really does reward "those who earnestly seek Him." ( Hebrews 11:6).  The less we pray, the more disconnected from God we become. The more seriously we pray, the greater our chance to become what we were called to be: the body of Christ!

Hear the Word of the Lord!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine Freebies for 2014 ...

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Friday in 2014, I imagine that more couples than ever will be celebrating. Maybe that’s why the National Retail Federation is estimating that Americans will spend, on average, about $134 on candy, cards, gifts, dinner, and more, up slightly from about $131 last year. Total Valentine’s Day spending is expected to reach $17.3 billion.

“Valentine’s Day will continue to be a popular gift-giving event, even when consumers are frugal with their budgets. This is the one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Even so, I’ve tracked down some freebies in our local area that you can enjoy today:

Free Doughnuts at Krispy Kreme

Purchase 12 doughnuts and get a dozen Valentine Cards each good for a FREE doughnut of any variety. Offer ends February 14. Limit two per customer at participating locations, and while supplies last.

Free Lindt Chocolate Treat

Through Feb. 14, visit any Lindt Chocolate Shop to receive a free Lindt Hello Strawberry Cheesecake chocolate stick. Online orders will include this free gift, too.
Kiss for Free Food

Qdoba is offering a love-filled offer that is quite appropriate for Valentine's Day. Couples who kiss when they place their order for a queso entree will get one of their entrees for free.


Free Lobster Tail

On Feb. 13 and 14, Whole Foods Market will be having a surf and turf special to help your date night sizzle! When you buy a dry-aged steak, you will get a lobster tail free—a $10 value.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Celebrating the anniversary of my birth

Today I celebrate the anniversary of my birth.
As Sharron and I re-connected with close friends this week we first saw Pat who asked: "How old are you?"  and then welcomed by Jay who asked "How old are you?" 
Here is a hint.  I was born on a Sunday morning - February 13th.  These are some important events and facts about the year I was born:
In this year -  consumerism takes off in a big way with the sale of some 7.9 million cars in the US with 7 out of 10 families now owning a motor car, and new laws were put in place requiring seat belts to be installed on all new cars.  
Ø The first McDonalds was erected this year and more fast foods and TV dinners are appearing including fish fingers.
Ø The first cans of Coca-Cola are sold up till then it had only been sold in bottles.
Ø Rock and Roll music continues to grow in popularity with more idols including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and The Platters, and young men's fashion matches the times with pink shirts and charcoal grey suits.
Ø Disneyland opens in California.
Ø "The Mickey Mouse Club" debuts on ABC
Ø 'In God We Trust' is added to all US paper currency
Ø Rosa Parks arrest in Montgomery Alabama sets the American Civil Rights Movement in Motion.
Ø Average Cost of new house:  $10.950.00 
Ø Average Monthly Rent:  $87.00

Ø Average Yearly Wages:  $4.130.00
Ø Minimum Hourly Rate:  $1.00 
Here are some early pictures from the Polaroid camera:

OKAY:           The year of my physical birth was 1955.

Born between Abraham Lincoln's birthday and Valentine's Day has always been a day of fun!  Sharron is the love of my life.  My children and their families are the joys on my heart.    I am a blessed man.  The greatest gift ever given to me was the gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ my Lord!  I pray every day to bring my life into alignment with God's will and purpose for me. Jesus has made all things new! 

This has been a wonderful day as over 120 people have wished me a Happy Birthday via Facebook!  Wow!   Here is my favorite pictures of the day:


Today I begin the first day of my journey through age 59.