Challenge, Encouragement, Healing, Issues of the Day, Small Groups, Training

The Look

It transpired right after Peter’s denial as he disowned Jesus. Jesus was within sight of His disciple Peter and just after Peter’s final denial something really unnerving is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 22.

The rooster crowes and then this happens, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” There were no recorded words spoken, only a “look.” It was done, over, just as Jesus had said it would happen. Peter would deny Him in His presence. Can you imagine with me what Peter felt in that moment? His whole body must have become warm and filled with mixed emotions as blood flowed through his neck to his flush face. I can see him wanting to escape the trauma he felt, looking down, shaking, feeling embarrassment and, of course, shame. What thoughts were going through his mind as fear must have gripped his heart during and after “the look?”

Sometimes I ask a small group question that goes like this, “If you had the opportunity for one do-over in life, what would it be?” I know mine; do you know yours? I’ll bet everything I own that at that moment Peter would have wished for his one do-over.

However, Peter received His Lord’s forgiveness and went on to be the greatest soul winning preacher of the New Testament. He didn’t quit, he didn’t get depressed and he didn’t remain in shame. I believe he went to the cross and made it right. And for me, it is one of the greatest stories of redemption in the Bible.

Is there anything in your life that needs redeemed? There is One who from the cross said, “Shame off of you. Let’s work on a do-over.”

For Peter, the hours leading up to Jesus’ resurrection must have been pretty dark, but then came Sunday, where everything must have become full of light, life and hope!

Children, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Marriage, Parents, Singles, Small Groups

10 Reasons Why We Need a Local Church in Our Lives

I recently returned from serving a local church in Chicago, IL and was reminded in so many different ways of why we each need a local church in our lives and the lives of our family. To me it is imperative to be in close relationship with those persons who care about you and your family. It is essential to have that connection for not just receiving, but giving as well.

So, here are 10 reasons for being intentionally connected to a local church.


  1. Support – A local church connection provides support to family and/or us as individuals. It is a vehicle that God has chosen to provide spiritual and emotional support for personal growth. It is a spiritual family with fathers and mothers who will care about you and your future. (I Cor. 4:5; Heb. 12:9; I John 2:13, 14)
  2. Fellowship (koinonia) – The local church is a place of relational connection and belonging. It is a place of family with common life values. We are not alone in this world when we have a local church connection. We have people around us who personally care about our welfare. Wholesome and positive friendships can develop with our younger children, our teenagers and ourselves. An active, involved, dedicated and serious youth group can save a teen’s life. (Acts 2:42; I John 1:7)
  3. Service – The local church is a place where we can work toward and support a vision outside of ourselves. We all need something bigger than ourselves and a local church with vision can provide that. We can connect with the vision and find valuable ways to serve others. (Acts 12:24, 25)
  4. Gifts – It is a place for us to learn, practice and use our spiritual gifts. The body of Christ needs one another and the gifts that we each bring. Those gifts given us by God are not to be hidden, but made use of to serve others. The local church is the perfect place to use your teaching, serving, hospitality, prayer or mission gifts. (I Cor. 12: 12-27; I Peter 4:10)
  5. Resources – A local church is extremely important to a family. There are resources available at every age level to participate in. There are ongoing trainings and seminars for raising children, budgeting, marriage and the like. Often there are even counseling, coaching and mentoring resources. Families who attend church together have a clear advantage over those who do not – they have resources above and beyond themselves. There is far less isolation and far more family interaction with spiritual connections and challenges. (II Timothy 2:2)
  6. Outreach – A local church is often the vehicle for local community outreach. Local churches are involved with the homeless in their community, the after school tutoring and the missionaries serving overseas. Your family can have a direct effect and impact in the world by participating with these worthy causes. (II Timothy 4:5)
  7. Education – The local church is a place of education in the Bible and in practical Christian living. It is a place where our whole family can grow through sermons, Sunday school classes, seminars, video classes and so much more. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
  8. Groups – Small groups provide accountability and discipleship for each of our lives. The small group setting is a place of greater relational intimacy while it provides room for open discussion and opportunities for praying together. (Acts 5:42; 16:34; 20:20; Romans 16:5; I Cor. 16:19)
  9. Giving – The local church is the place to give our tithe and sow financial seed into something that we know and trust. We can give elsewhere to a lot of really good causes, but it’s difficult to know where our money is going. Not so with the local church and the built-in responsibility that is offered. (Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6: 3,4; Romans 12:8)
  10. Accountability – When we are part of a local church, there is a provision aspect of someone watching over our soul, someone(s) caring about our daily life and our future. There is the possibility of others who we can look up to that are inspiring models in integrity, marriage, spiritual gifts, etc. There are positive peer relationships that help us to keep moving forward in our faith, growing, being challenged and calling us to a higher level of faith. There are businesspersons and homemakers that can help us walk out our daily lives. (Psalm 119:26; Hebrews 13: 17)

I have experienced all of these and more in many local churches and I appreciate the body of Christ so much. God is not angry at His church as so many speak today, but rather, He loves His church, He died for His church and longs for His church to be with Him one day. Until then, be a vital part of a growing, Bible believing and faith-filled local church body. You and your family will grow and help to grow others.

Encouragement, Small Groups, Training

The Four P’s

images-5 Have you ever heard of the four P’s? If not, here they are:

People of risk; Places of risk; Possessions of risk; Processes of risk

Those who are in Christ are called a new creation (II Corinthians 5:17) and in order to fight the forces of our past, God will give us wisdom and insight into how to resist the pull of finding ourself off course.images-6

There once were people in our lives who helped us to sin. I call them people of risk. These were the ones who always knew where the party was. As we are learning to walk a different way, people of risk should be avoided. Further, quite often people of risk are found in places of risk. These are the places that you now realize are places of darkness. We, through the discernment of the Holy Spirit, need to steer clear of these places so as to not be tempted to re-enter our former life, at least until we are strong enough to handle the temptations of that former life style.

images-7Possessions of risk are those items that enabled us to disobey God or at the very least did not draw us toward our Savior. An example of one of those items might be inappropriate books. In the book of Acts, chapter nineteen, the new believers actually conducted a book burning. They burned their possessions of risk. In this case, they were books of sorcery.

The last one is processes of risk. This one is a bit difficult to define, but can you think of a time when God spoke to you and revealed that your present way of thinking was a part of your old mindset? The scriptures reveal that we have been given the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). So, a process of risk might be a return to anger or jealousy in order to get what you want. The Father wants to give you a new process in order to arrive at what He desires for you.images-2

There you have it, the four P’s. How can they help you walk differently today and when can you share them with another?

Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups

A Thirty Six Year Old Prophetic Word

images-3It was May 6, 1979 and I was 25 years old. A young man (who did not know me) left his drum set from the front of the auditorium – mid worship set – and headed to the back of the room where I was standing. He wiggled his way through the pew and came nose to nose to me, a visitor. He then began to speak in King James language, …”For yea I shall stir thee and move thee out. Yea a gift shall come upon thee. Thou shalt exhort with the word and bring forth a rich blessing to my people that thou knew not of. Yea I shall return unto thee a hundred fold, saith the Lord.” There were words before and more after these few statements, but in re-reading them the other day, while on a two-day prayer retreat, I was struck by the boldness and obedience of this young man and by the ways in which this “word” has come to pass.images-5

I loved God with all of my heart, but those words were a huge stretch for me at the time they were spoken. Only God could speak something so truth-filled and yet so far from the days of fulfillment. How could I possibly comprehend that one day I would have the opportunity to travel around the world depositing the “gift” of God’s word through teaching. And, amazingly, some of those words would turn into books.

imagesGive your life fully to God today so that He can grow you and use you to create a different world tomorrow. No one person can affect everyone, but each of us can do our part and reach the world with the truth of the gospel one by one.


Issues of the Day, Singles, Small Groups

A New Generation: Drinking and the Questions We Need to Ask

images-5Let’s face it—alcohol is back. No longer is alcohol demonized in Christian circles. We even find churches using beer as a gathering agent during Bible studies in local bars. Is that practice sacrilegious, going too far or taking hold of my liberty and tramping all over yours?

How much alcohol is too much and do we know our personal limits? Just where do we cross the line? Is getting a little drunk a little wrong or simply not a sin? The Bible, our source as believers, gives some very clear guidelines. I’d like to offer you a few more—if you’ll indulge me.

First, in taking a close look at God’s Word, it is absolutely wrong and sinful to be inebriated. Jesus Himself said, “Watch out! Don’t let me find you living in careless ease and drunkenness” (Luke 21:34).*

Apostle Paul warned believers not to participate in wild parties and get drunk (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21). Paul said drunkards would not share in the kingdom of God (I Corinthians 6:10). He told the Ephesian church—and therefore that includes you and me—not to be drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit of God (Ephesians 5:18). Peter stated in 1 Peter 4:3, “those who drink to drunkenness share in evil desires;” and such behavior is to be treated as a sin that we completely eliminate from our lives. He actually called those who participate in drunkenness “godless people.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want to find myself in eternity and discover that I have been involved in “godless” activity of any kind. I desire to live my life in a way that leads others to my Savior, an attractant, not a distraction from Christ. At this point, you might think that I am against any alcohol consumption by a believer. I am not. That is between you and our heavenly Father. So, the first question is to ask Him: “Father, is it okay with You that I consume alcoholic beverages?” It is important to know God’s will for you. Just because you are of legal age to drink does not mean that you have the liberty to partake. Has your heavenly Father given you permission or do you have some form of conviction in your heart that you are dismissing?

While I was in the military some decades ago, I observed a lot of alcoholism and other addictions. The military taught that alcohol is a drug—the most frequently abused drug in the world. In graduate school, I heard many drug and alcohol counselors say that alcoholism started with one drink, just like drug addiction starts with one joint or pill. Does everyone become addicted? No. Does everyone have the potential of addiction? Yes.

The second question to ask yourself might be, “Does alcoholism exist in my family history?” If it does, the potential of addiction is even greater. Why? That spirit of addiction is already introduced to your family line and may have been part of it for generations. Carefully look at your family history. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to break off any generational spirit of addiction in the name of Jesus.

images-4Third, who are you hanging out with? Are they encouraging you to drink and/or to drink too much? Did you know that Proverbs 23:19-21 admonishes, “My child, listen and be wise. Keep your heart on the right course. Do not carouse with drunkards and gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty.”

Speaking of poverty, how much money does it take to drink alcohol and can you actually afford it? Does the expense of alcohol limit your ability to purchase necessary items? Listen to Proverbs 21:17, “Those who love pleasure become poor; wine and luxury are not the way to riches.” Drinking too much can be a road to poverty, loss and brokenness.

Fourth, are you hurting a weaker brother or sister in the faith? If someone has recently become a Christian and their background was drinking to the point of drunkenness, then part of their freedom might require them to never drink again. Your freedom to drink might offend them; or worse, encourage them to drink again and bring destructive forces back into their lives. Apostle Paul said he would abstain from eating meat and drinking wine if eating or drinking would offend a weaker brother. “Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything if it makes another person stumble” (Romans 14:21).images-6

On occasion I have heard Christians boasting about their liberty to drink, freely admit that they drink too much at times but feel no conviction about it. For those who feel this way, please consider the wisdom of Isaiah 5:22, “Destruction is certain for those who are heroes when it comes to drinking, who boast about all the liquor they can hold.” Do not be led astray by these persons because, “Wine produces mockers, liquor leads to brawls. Whoever is led astray by drink cannot be wise” (Proverbs 20:1).

Someone told me that drinking alcohol or offering it to minors is no different than introducing them to coffee or being addicted to caffeine. I have never observed inebriation among coffee drinkers. Can we be addicted to caffeine? Yes. Is it comparable to alcohol addiction and what the Bible forbids in drunkenness? That, to me, is quite a stretch.

On almost every occasion that the subject of alcohol comes up for discussion, someone quickly retorts, “But didn’t Jesus Himself turn water into wine? Wasn’t He by His action an advocate of drinking?”

It’s true, Jesus turned water into wine. Focusing on the subject of the miracle rather than the miracle itself is less about why the story is in the Bible. However, take it a step further will you? Do you believe that Jesus turned the water into wine so that the attendees of the wedding could become drunk and unable to find their way home, commit adultery with another man’s wife, speak crudely or end up regurgitating all over the wedding feast?

We also know Paul told Timothy to have some wine for his stomach’s sake. Are you sick every Saturday night and does your stomach need a little wine? To be fair there is, however, a Proverb that actually encourages a drink for those who are “dying” and those who are in “deep depression” or anguish (Proverbs 31:6).

Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you personally think about alcohol consumption:


  • Has alcohol ever caused you any problems in life such as a DUI, being late for work, a broken relationship, an unclear mind, slower reaction time or influenced you in some way to make a wrong decision?
  • Do you feel the need to defend your actions concerning alcohol?
  • Do you know how much drinking is too much?
  • Have you set a consumption limit for yourself? Have you ever gone over the limit? If so, what have you now changed as a result?
  • Can you afford alcohol?
  • Do you turn to alcohol when you are stressed, worried or can’t sleep rather than turning to God?
  • Is alcohol an answer for anything in your life?
  • Does drinking alcohol (in your mind) help you to fit in, be more social, make you feel older, help you to be less inhibited or more popular?
  • Do you feel that you need to drink alcohol to relax?
  • Is alcohol an excuse in your life for anything?
  • Are you developing a tolerance to alcohol?
  • Does alcohol need to be a part of all of your social occasions? Can you say “no” to a drink when you are with friends and not sense any judgment from them about your choice?
  • How do you relate to/judge peers who have chosen not to drink alcohol?

What if your friend is at your home, your birthday party or your wedding reception and in celebration they drink too much, as you know they have a tendency to do at times. Your friend then hops into their vehicle to drive home. Due to too much alcohol, they have an accident and are killed or kill someone else. Can you control other people’s actions or decisions? Not really, but how responsible might you feel? We can supply an environment to either help or hinder them.

Consider the following if you choose to drink alcohol:


  • Set a limit on the number of drinks for yourself. Know your personal tolerance.
  • Set a limit on the frequency of times for partaking.
  • If you are driving and attending an event where alcohol is being served, consider not drinking.
  • If you have friends who drink too much and then get behind the wheel, never ride with them.
  • If you know that you have had too much alcohol and have become giddy or drunk, ask yourself if this is the person of Christ who you desire to represent.

Romans 12:1 clearly discusses how we are to use the body God has given us. We are told to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice” that is “holy” and “pleasing to the Lord, as an act of worship.” It is amazing to realize that how we treat our bodies, abuse our bodies or care for our bodies can either bring glory to God or be harmful to ourselves and to the cause of Christ. To offer ourselves as a living sacrifice is to worship God. In all environments and in all of our actions, we should desire to bring glory to our Savior.

Finally, consider Paul the Apostle’s advice that he gave to us as a very clear outline for our life and how to live it, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

*All scriptures taken from the New Living Translation, 1996, Tyndale Charitable Trust

Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups, Training, Uncategorized

Encountering Risky Business Through the Four P’s

images-6 (Note: I am sending this blog out early due to taking some vacation time next week.) Wanting to follow-up on last weeks post, I thought it appropriate to share four types of risk to steer clear of. I am unsure where some of these originated from, but I have used them for years in attempting to help others in their personal life. I have urged many to stay away from: people of risk; places of risk; possessions of risk; and processes of risk. What do I mean?

Often as a young believer, it is difficult to discern who to hang out with, old friends with bad habits or all new relationships. Initially, it might be advisable to stay away from those persons who are risky to your personal growth and change. Identifying persons of risk can eliminate being talked out of new life patterns. A place of risk is a pretty obvious one. In other words, for now stay clear of those establishments that allowed and promoted your former life-style of sin. Possessions of risk are a bit tougher to discern or even do away with. In Acts chapter 19, it was discovered that many new believers had been involved in sorcery. The new converts made a large bonfire and threw their sorcery scrolls into the fire. They eliminated many possessions of risk. Today this may include books/magazines, music CD’s or even computer games.

Lastly, it is important to consider processes of risk. Process is the connection to our thoughts. For example, prior to becoming a Christian our process of thought when being verbally attacked might have been inordinate anger or running away. Both became familiar and established life patterns, but both of these can be risky due to the fact that we might not be processing truthfully. As the word of God is received and acted upon, our responses will begin to change because our thought processes encounter truth and truth will set us free from former life patterns of risk. Which of the four P’s are you working on?

Encouragement, Small Groups

Grocery Store Lessons

Have you ever noticed the difference in your grocery bill when you go shopping for food hungry as compared to shopping right after you consumed a satisfying meal?  When you’re hungry, everything looks good followed by lots of extras thrown into your shopping cart.  When your gut is full and satisfied, nothing looks very special and rarely do items jump out at you.  Noticeably, you are not fooled by the colorful posters or the, “Buy three, get one free” offers.  “Three…I don’t even want one,” you tell yourself.  You have no appetite and so grocery shopping is simply a necessary exercise.  Without an appetite, your brain is not sending signals to your eyes which otherwise would be busy scanning to and fro for what might taste good immediately.  Your mind knows your stomach is full and satisfied and the need for sustenance is turned off.


Now let’s say your private sin issue is lust of the flesh and you find yourself in the middle of an adult bookstore.  Your eyes are taking in all of the skin exposed in magazines and movies and your brain is in overload recording all of the images.  It is a feeding frenzy of lust and your flesh is hungry for more.  You go deeper into the store where you find the “best of the best,” feeding your soul like it is starved to death…emaciated.  But back up.  If you were “full” rather than depleted would you even hunger for such filth?  Would you have sought out such a seedy, unclean and defiling place?  If your spirit was full of the spirit of Christ and you fully knew His love, approval and acceptance would your lust-filled hunger be satisfied and would this need be turned off?  You and I choose to fill these natural appetites with God or with ungodly, sin-filled desires.  Proverbs says an empty stomach drives us on (Proverbs 16:26b).  What drives you?  What are you passionately hungry for?


Encouragement, Small Groups

Onions and Garlic – They Hate Me

images Yep, it’s true. These two smelly, pungent vegetables of the same family have officially announced war upon me and have combined forces to bring personal misery. It happened somewhere around the age of 40 or 45. For some unknown reason, like an allergy, I was done with them and they were done with me. We mutually agreed to stay away from one another. The belching and the indigestion finally caused me to concede and say, “No more, that’s it…I quit.” And I have to say; I do not miss either one of them. I have now officially developed distaste for these little, insignificant white bulbs and renounced their very loathsome existence. They’re no longer on our grocery list and I won’t give them a second look in the grocery store, shunning them, as any proper shopper should do with my condition. It’s fully their fault, they brought this on themselves and they deserve such disrespect.

This distaste that I have developed is similar to the distaste that each of us need to develop with wrongdoing. Like certain foods, what I personally react to may be different from what you react to. For some it’s pornography and for others it’s drinking too much alcohol. Maybe for you it’s gossip or overeating. Announce a full-on war. Combine forces in your soul, spirit and flesh to hate this thing that so easily besets you. Stand up and declare that you are finished with their repulsive hold and the mind-troubling thoughts. Agree to stay away from it, hate it and run in the opposite direction. You’ll find that you will not miss it or the effects it had on you. You will find certain freedom; you’ll deal with less guilt. Allow it to sicken you and shun it, not giving it a second thought or a second look. You will defeat it and overcome it with the power of Truth on your side. (Please read I John 3:6-10 and Colossians 2:20 & 21 today.)

Leadership, Small Groups, Training, Uncategorized

It’s a Good Time for the Plane to Break

It always intrigues me how people respond when they hear their flight is being delayed or canceled due to needed maintenance. First there is this huge sigh, then a buzz of talking (mostly to complete strangers about how badly run this particular airline is) and then they head for the gate agent to release their tension and anger. At that point, I really feel bad for the agent who has to take the customers’ entire wrath. My question of relief is, “Do you want the plane to break in the air or on the ground?” Yes, it’s inconvenient, time-consuming, and a huge bother but when that plane gets in the air I want it to stay there. There is actually very little you can do to change the situation, so…what are you telling yourself?images-4

Self-talk is constant, even while we sleep. But, what may not be constant is listening to our self-talk. Stop right now and ask yourself, “What am I thinking at this very moment even as I read this blog?” What we are telling ourselves (our self-talk) is what we will eventually react to. If we tell ourselves that a broken down plane, being late and missing our connection is anxiety producing it will be. But, if we tell ourselves it’s an opportunity to grab a bite to eat, it may even come as a relief. Listening is an acquired skill. People pay people $150.00 per hour to be listened to and quite often feel better. Why? Someone is listening in order to understand them. If you’ll take the time to listen to your self-talk, you’ll discover a lot about yourself. You’ll discover both lies and truths, the latter leading to right action and the other leading to wrong (re)actions. In the future, when a “plane” breaks in your life, stop and listen to your self-talk, you may discover something you didn’t know about yourself.

Encouragement, Leadership, Small Groups

You’re not Losing Your Hair, Your Head is Growing Bigger

A friend of mine recently told me that after asking his physician about his hair loss problem the doctor responded with, “You’re not losing your hair, you’re gaining weight and your head is bigger.”   My friend’s response was to laugh, but if that were me, I would have been upset with the doctor for putting it so, well…bluntly. I wondered about myself, do I want the truth or do I desire a sugar-coated, let-me-down-easy and convenient near truth? Perhaps a combination of the two would be preferable – you know, a speaking close to the truth in love, because you LOVE me.images

Someone else recently shared with me they are “telling it like it is” and that sometimes “the truth hurts.” My response was, “Yea, right, unless it’s you on the receiving end of that not so objective ‘truth.’ ” God bless you for desiring to be truthful, but are you capable of handling it when it comes your way? For me, when that truth comes, all too often, I am thinking of my defensive response rather than listening intently. I am then coming up with why this person is wrong in my mind or making a personal judgment of them in order to cancel out what they are saying. Still, at other times, my rebuttal is to sight all the times of operating in just the opposite way of what they are critiquing. Honestly, when you’re thinking about your response you stop listening.

 If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism, you will be honored. If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Valid criticism is as treasured by the one who heeds it… In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery. (Proverbs 13:18; 15;31 25;12; 28;23 NLT)