Thursday, January 31, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #26

Scripture: Acts 26:24
At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. "You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted."

Observation: When Paul stands before Agrippa and shares his testimony about what Christ had done in his life, King Agrippa declared, "Paul, you're crazy - you have lost your mind." King Agrippa could not come to terms with the radical change that occurred in Paul's life so he assumed that it was knowledge that drove him mad. In reality, it was love, not learning that was the catalyst for Paul's great change. Agrippa couldn't come to terms with how a one-time Pharisee and murderer of Christians was now the faith's most avid champion. Agrippa was left with only one logical conclusion: Paul had lost his mind.

I wonder what would happen if all the Christ followers in the world today were so radically changed by a personal encounter with the God of the universe that we were accused of losing our mind. What would our communities, cities, and country be like. Just imagine if we truly loved God with our WHOLE heart and were completely committed to loving other believers and those far from God - what would our church look like. If we gave of ourselves - even to the point of death - sacrificing not only our time, talent and treasure - but willingly face death for the cause of Christ - how would that impact our world today.

God, I pray that you would help me live my life everyday that others would literally say, "Dave, you have lost your mind." That I would love You, my wife and family, my church and my community with a reckless abandon ... sacrificing my time, money and energy to serve the poor and to heal the broken for your sake. Change me.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #25

Scripture: Acts 25:22
"I would like to hear this man myself."

Paul was standing trial before Festus. When Festus couldn't find anything wrong with Paul, he consulted King Agrippa for advice. After hearing the amazing story of Paul's spiritual transformation and teachings about a dead man walking, Agrippa declared, "I would like to hear this man myself."

Paul's preaching and his personal story of life change captured the hearts and imagination of even the biggest skeptics and cynics. They wanted to hear what he had to say and judge for themselves the contents and validity of his message. I want to be that kind of preacher that captures the heart and mind of my community - both ordinary men and influential leaders alike.

God thank you for giving me the opportunity to preach your message each week at PCC. You know that I feel completely unqualified every time I stand up to speak. I thank you that you use the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. I pray that you will continue to anoint my words and the hearts and minds of the listeners as I stand before them this weekend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #24

Scripture: Acts 24:16
So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.
Paul stood before his accusers and gave an account for his life, beliefs and actions. In his defense, he said, in essence, I stand before you with a clear conscience before God and man. He had nothing to hide and nothing to cover up. Paul's life was an open book - the good, the bad and all the in between. This gave him boldness to stand and tell the truth without any reservation or regret.
When I live a life of character and integrity it empowers me to stand up and speak boldly for God. A clear conscience means that I've dealt with my past sins and I am living a righteous life before God today. What freedom there is to walk in God's grace as we live forgiven and holy lives. Guilt-free living helps me make a stand for Christ.
Father, thank you for your forgiveness and grace. Thank you for helping me live and minister from a perspective of grace instead of guilt. Your grace and empowerment now enables me to live every day for you. Please give me the courage and strength to speak up for you today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tale of Two Brains

Journal Challenge Day #23

Scripture: Acts 23: 11
The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage!"

Paul had a rough time in Jerusalem. He was violently beaten, thrown in jail, mocked and almost killed. Why? For standing up for Jesus and telling others that he was raised from the dead and now calls everyone to follow him. Paul was placed in prison by the Roman guard to protect him from being murdered by the angry mob. During the night, Jesus came and stood near Paul and encouraged his heart.

Life and ministry can be grueling. I certainly haven't had to deal with the pain, betrayal and opposition that confronted Paul - but when life gets bad you need someone to come alongside you and pick you up. I thank God for my wife, family and friends who encourage in difficult times. But there is no greater comfort in the world to know that Jesus himself stands with you in the storms of life. He is a faithful friend who's got my back no matter what.

Jesus, thanks for standing with me while I stand for you. I pray you will continue to watch over me and guard my life. Thank you for the comfort and peace you bring and for never leaving me in my time of need.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #22

Scripture: Acts 22:10
What shall I do, Lord? I asked.

Paul asked Jesus perhaps the most powerful question anyone can ask God. After Jesus confronted him on the road to Damasucs, he fell to the ground off his horse and was dazed and confused. (Sometimes when we think we know best God has to knock us off our high horse. Hmmm.) Paul's only response, "What shall I do, Lord?"

When in doubt or in a time of decisions, I simply need to ask God, "What do you want me to do?" That tiny question acknowledges my insufficiency and inadequacy before an all-knowing and all-powerful God. To acknowledge your need for help and wisdom from God is the where true wisdom begins.

God, I ask you once again for your wisdom and direction. Guide my steps today. Lead me in my decision-making responsibilities. Give me your mind and let me see the events of today from your perspective. Help me honor you in every decision I make today.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #21

Scripture: Acts 21:1
After we had torn ourselves away from them ...

Before setting sail for Jerusalem, Luke says that Paul literally had to tear himself away from the church of Ephesus. The people loved Paul so much and Paul loved them dearly in return that this graphic parting of pastor and people is almost too much to bear. Obviously, they had formed a deep bond for each other and it just killed the church to have to say goodbye. Paul, as well, must have been torn between wanting to stay with the church he loved so much but also knowing his work for Christ called him to go on.

This picture of a pastor who was so tight with his people made me examine my love for the people of PCC. I can honestly say I love our church. Well, I love most of those in the body. I guess there are some members of the body that are like an appendix - they don't really do anything but you know they could just explode one day and kill you. Just kidding : ) I really do love our church. I know we're not perfect - but I love PCC warts and all.

Dear Lord, thank you for PCC. Thank for the opportunity to pastor a great church, which is full of my best friends for life. I pray you will draw us all closer to one another as we grow closer to you. Thanks for raising this church up. I pray that you will give me the honor of leading this one church for my entire life. Amen.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #20

Scripture: Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Paul's main goal in life was to complete God's purpose of preaching the gospel to all he met. It's almost like nothing else mattered to him. All else was not a matter of consequence. This simplistic, focused life gave Paul a great sense of direction and enabled him to do great things for the Kingdom of God.

I guess what I've learned about Paul's pattern in life that sometimes less is more. There are so many things that I can do with my time and gifts. But Paul narrowed his life down to just a couple things and because of that he was able to do so much. Most of all, Paul understood that his life wasn't about him. It's not about me either. It's about what God wants to do in and through me that matters most. It reminds me of the words of Jesus ... "if I want to find my life, I must be willing to lose it."

God, you've reminded me today that it's not about me. It's not about my hopes, dreams, desires or goals. It's all about you. Help me not to lose sight of this fact. Let me lose myself in you. I pray like John the Baptist, "That I may decrease so that you may increase."

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #19

Scripture: Acts 19:15
One day the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul's ministry. Supernatural signs and wonders accompanied him everywhere he went. Paul would pray for people and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in unknown languages. He would lay hands on the sick and they would recover. It says that even handkerchiefs that he had touched were laid on the sick and they were cured and delivered from evil spirits. Paul's ministry was well known, not only among men, but also among the evil underworld. One evil spirit even acknowledged that they were aware of Paul's ministry on behalf of Jesus.

Am I doing the kind of ministry that is talked about in hell? I mean, does the devil even have PCC and my life and ministry on his radar screen? A friend of mine says one of his goals is to make the name of his church undeniable among those in his community. After reading this chapter, perhaps we should add hell to that list as well. Think of it - to be used of God in such a powerful and supernatural way that you make a name for yourself in hell.

God, I pray that you use me and PCC to do great things. Make Your Name great through PCC to such a degree that it gets hell's attention too. Help us push back the darkness in our community and lead people to your grace, forgiveness, deliverance and freedom.


My daughter, Kate, turned 5 today. We celebrated her birthday with all things princess, including the homemade cake decorated by my mother-in-law (thanks Nana).

In honor of Kate's 5th birthday, I want to share 5 things that I love about my little girl. It's hard to narrow it down to only five, but I'll give it a try.

1. I love Kate's zest for life. She's got what my grandmother would call spizerinctum. Kate is so bright eyed and full of energy, passion and a genuine love for living everyday to the fullest. She wants to squeeze every last drop out of each day. She frequently says during our talks at night, "This was my best day ever." I love that.

2. I love Kate's compassionate spirit. She truly cares for others and notices when someone needs a little hug or word of encouragement. The other night during devotions she told me that when she starts school in the fall that she was going to look out for anybody who was not part of the group and make sure they felt included in the class. What a great way to live.

3. I love her independence and quest for adventure. Kate's been spending the night at her little girlfriends house since she was three. I recall my first sleep over at age 6 and I got so scared and homesick that my dad had to come and pick me up in the middle of the night. But not Kate. She wants to explore every opportunity and take risks at the drop of hat. For Kate, playing it safe is a bore.

4. I love her desire to learn. Kate is always asking me to read her books, work on "homework", play educational games, or lately - teach her how to tell time. The daily disciplines of learning something new is a recipe for a lifelong learner.

5. I love her child-like faith. One of the favorite parts of my day is putting Kate to bed and sharing her quiet time with God. She loves to read Bible stories and praying to Jesus. Some nights when she prays it feels like we are going to have revival. She thanks God for everything she owns (literally everything) and prays for all her family (each one by name) and ask God to help her grow up and live for Him. Recently when our baby Henry was sick she walked into the living room where Bekah was holding the baby and she said, "Mommy, can I pray for Henry." And with that she placed her hand on his head and said the sweetest prayer for healing. You can't ask for anything more in a child.

If you've ever stood over your child and watched them as they sleep at night with tears of joy and thanks rolling down your cheecks for God's gift of life to you ... than you know exactly how I feel about my little girl.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #18

Scripture: Acts 18:5
When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.

Paul was working hard trying to build the church in the city of Corinth. He was slugging it out in the synagogues on the weekends trying to convince the Jews of Jesus as Messiah. But during the week he was swinging a hammer and cutting leather as he fashioned tents. That's right - Paul was a bi vocational minister. He worked a 9 to 5 job to support his ministry and missionary endeavors. Finally, some help showed up in the form of Silas and Timothy so Paul could then give 100% of his ministry efforts to preaching.

Ministry is grueling and tough. It's not for the faint of heart. It's even more difficult for bi vocational pastors. My heart goes out to my friends who have to work full or part-time jobs on top of trying to build a church. That's why we need people to come alongside their pastor to help. Paul had Silas and Timothy, as well as others. When they committed to help him, Paul was freed up to focus on his strengths - preaching. If we are going to be successful in ministry we have to lead from our strengths.

Father, thank you for those you've placed in my life to help me in ministry. Without each of them, my prayers would have gone unanswered. The are precious gifts to me from you and I thank you that their help has allowed me to focus on prayer, preaching preparation and leadership development. Help me continue to lead from my strengths as we build your church.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #17

Scripture: Acts 17:11
For they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

When Paul preached to the people of Berea (the Bereans) they were eager to not only listen, but to research and study the ancient Biblical texts to determine whether or not what Paul was teaching was true. It's not as if they were coming across as critics. Instead, it appears that they were just hungry and excited to learn of Jesus. It says they examined the Scriptures everyday. Their interest and commitment to the Word of God led to a great revival where many came to faith in their city.

I need to take a lesson from these "noble Bereans" and faithfully read, study and discuss God's Word everyday. It's great to have some friends in my life (my community group) where we can talk about God's Word and how it impacts our daily life. This is not only for my personal benefit. You see, if we all get fired up about God's Word and bring it into the context of our community and daily life - God can ignite a move of God right here in Pocono like he did in Berea.

God, create in me a hunger and desire to read your Word everyday. Thank you for this time where our entire church family can come together and read, discuss and apply your Word to our lives. Make us like the Bereans of great nobility. Encourage us and inspire us to apply your Word in the Poconos and give us revival today!

Just the black notes

Monday, January 21, 2008

Journal Challenge Day #16

Scripture: Acts 16:9
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Paul was on a journey for Jesus and wanted to go to Asia to spread the Good News. However, he encountered spiritual opposition and was unable to travel to that land. It's interesting how often times the devil tries to mess up our goals for God. That's not a problem for God! The Holy Spirit called an audible for Paul and redirected his path to Macedonia. One night Paul a vision of a man from Greece crying out to him and asking him to come to his country and tell them about Jesus.

It's so cool how the Holy Spirit works with those who truly desire to share Jesus with others. That I'm not out there on my own. God's very own Spirit is there guiding me and daily leading my steps. This verse also reminds me that the world is full of lost people who are desperate for the real God. They are crying out to us too saying, "Come tell me about Jesus in a language that I can understand."

I thank you God for the gift of your Spirit. Please continue to lead and guide me to people who want to know you and experience your love and grace in a real way. Help me be sensitive to the leading of your Spirit. When things to work out the way I want them to ... when my plans need a mid course correction ... help me not be disappointed. Instead, let me know that you are leading me and that you know what's best, not only for me, but for other you want to use me to reach. Orchestrate the events of my every day so that I may be used to share Jesus with someone else.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Day #15 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 15:19
We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

The church faced a huge crisis in its infancy. On the one hand, you had all these Jewish people that put their faith in Christ and were saved. They came into this faith with all their Jewish traditions, heritage and background. On the other hand, God poured out his Spirit on the Gentiles and they too came into the faith. But like the Jews, they had their spiritual pagan heritage, traditions, etc. The Jews tried to enforce the tradition of circumcision on the Gentile who did not practice this. Instead of making Christianity full of rules and traditions - the apostles and elders realized that it was by grace we are saved and not the outward works of our lives.

The church continues to fight this battle even today. Sometimes we make it so hard for those that are far from God to come to faith. We have so many traditions and spiritual baggage that we try to heap on the shoulders of those who simply are looking for God's grace. It's not about the way you look, dress, talk ... whether you have piercings or tattoos or even if you drink or listen to secular music or even use the occasional superlative that is not typical of traditional Christian nomenclature. It's a matter of your heart.

God, today is Sunday. You know I've invited my barber to come to Church today. You know his heart and that he's far from you. Help me and PCC today to provide a welcoming environment for him and his family today. Let us make it easy for him to come back to you. Help us not put all kinds of rules and regulations on his heart today. Let him find your grace. Amen.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day #14 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 14:15
We are only men, human like you.

Paul and Barnabas were given great power by God's Spirit to perform miracles in order to form a beachhead for the Gospel in a very difficult place. After healing a man who had been cripple from birth, the people of the city assumed that Paul and Barnabas were two mythical god's come down in the form of men. However, Paul and Barnabas, upon hearing this news, made a great confession - we are not God - we are just humans like you.

There are two great confessions in the Bible. One was made by Peter in response to Jesus asking him, "Who do you say I am?" Peter said, in essence, "You are God." And the second great confession took place here in Acts 14 when Paul and Barnabas said, "We're not God." What a great reminder to me. God is God. And I am not. It's so easy in life to take matters into my own hands and pretend that I am God for the day. This scripture is just yet another reminder that I cannot do it all, know it all, be it all, have it all, etc. God is God. I am not.

You are God of the universe. Thank you for being you. Now help me be me. Just an ordinary guy who believes in an extraordinary God. Help me trust you more, stress less, and pray like I really know you hear and will respond.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Day #13 Jounral Challenge

Scripture: Acts 13:36
"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep."

King David served the purposes of God in his generation. The purposes of God are eternal. That means they never change. However, David served God's unchanging purposes in an ever changing culture. And then he died.

This is one of my life verses. I want to spend the rest of my life serving the eternal purposes of God in a contemporary, temporal culture. It's my goal to teaching the timeless truths of God in a timely fashion. You see, God's message never changes - he's the same yesterday, today and forever. But the method to communicate that message must change with ever generation. The church is in danger of losing an entire generation of young people because we are unwilling to mess with the method without changing the message. The mark of growing churches in the 21st century will be the ability to have spiritually mature people who can discern the difference between the eternal things of God and the current cultural expressions of worship.

God, help me serve your purposes in my generation. I know you want to reach all people and so many are so far from you because we have not taken the time, effort and the risk to reach them at their level of understanding. Help me lead PCC into the future and reach the next generation for you without compromising your message.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Henry's Home!

Just a quick update on my son Henry. After almost a week in the hospital, I brought him and Bekah home last night.

While the doctors are still somewhat uncertain about the exact cause of his problems, they are treating him for a viral infection with antibiotics and other medication. The pediatric neurologist and cardiologist said his heart, lungs and brain function all look good. He is on a sleep apnea machine 24/7 in case his heart stops beating or in the event that he stops breathing. Thank God he was able to get off the oxygen and breath on his own for the past two nights.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all for praying for him and Bekah this past week and for going and visiting him at the hospital. Friends of ours from all over the country were lifting us up in prayer and that means more to us than you will ever know. Please continue to pray for Henry and Bekah. Bekah is so exhausted. She hasn't had a good night sleep in weeks.

If all goes well these next couple of days, we are planning on dedicating Henry Russell unto the Lord this weekend at church. My family and Bekah's family will be with us as we give this little gift back to the Lord to be used for His purposes in the next generation. Hope to see you there.

Day #12 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 12:6-7
The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up.

Peter is arrested and put in prison for spreading the Gospel by perhaps the cruelest of all leaders during the early church - King Herod. This was one bad man. He was known for even killing members of his own family. Instead of cowering in fear as he is chained between two Roman guards - we see Peter sound asleep. That's crazy! You would think he would be filled with fear and at least praying. But no, he's just catching some serious Zs. In fact, he's sleeping so hard that the Angel, after whispering a couple times to rouse him (my embellishment), halls off and sucker punches him in the ribs to wake him up.

What an awesome picture of trust. When Peter is facing certain death by King Herod's sword - he is completely at peace as he sleeps in the Roman jail. I guess he learned the lesson after all when Jesus was on the boat with them one day and a major storm blew up on the lake. Peter and rest of the crew were freakin' out and thought they were going to die. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping in the back of the boat. Jesus rebuked the disciples for their little faith and then quieted the waters. Now the student has become the teacher as he sleeps in spite of the storm. What a picture. I need to relax and trust God in the face of opposition and attack from the enemy. God is in control.

God, teach me to trust you more today than I did yesterday. Help me to let go and give all my cares and problems to You. Remind me that you alone are God and nothing comes into my life without your permission. Give me the faith to catch some Zs in spite of the storms. Amen.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day #11 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 11::2-3
"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them."

Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, reached out to those not previously welcomed by the early church. They were Gentiles - outsiders who longed to know the grace of God. But those inside the church criticized Peter for his actions. Thankfully, after Peter explained the work of the Holy Spirit, the insiders had the spiritual maturity to change their opinions and this seemingly obscure decision is what truly made Christianity become an international spiritual movement.

Unfortunately, the church still has its share of critics. A retired Pastor in my congregation told me once that every church is like a washing machine - they have at least one agitator. People that criticize leadership, much like we saw in Acts 11, have the potential to destroy the work of God in the church.

Instead, seek to understand and the put the needs of others first. Peter understood through the Holy Spirit's leading that the church was not about who was on the inside (initially, the Jews). Instead, God was raising the church up to be inclusive - even of the Gentile outsiders. Here's the point: we have to put aside our traditions and our preferences and welcome the outsider. We need to appreciate and celebrate their differences in culture and tastes. The church is much richer when there is a diversity of people, preferences and personalities.

Father, I thank you for the unity and diversity we have at PCC. What a great big family full of different people from all walks of life. God, help me overcome the naysayers and critics. Don't let such a small number of people who are negative pull me down. I know our church isn't perfect. But we are doing all we can to build a balanced and healthy family for You. Help me continue to lead our church to maintain an outward focus. Remind me and our family that its not about us. It's about those who are yet to be part of your family. Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day #10 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 10:34-35
"I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but -accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right."

Peter admits that he held to the belief that God cared more about the Jewish people than any other people group. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to Peter in a dream announcing that God equally loves and accepts all people. What great news. There is no room for racism in the church. There is room in the Kingdom of God for all people regardless of the ethnic background.

Everyone is equally valuable and lovable and forgivable in the Kingdom of God. Honestly, it's so difficult to not see the outward differences in one another. It's human nature to categorize people by the way they look, dress and speak. But God doesn't evaluate us by our outward appearance. He looks at our heart.

God help me today to see the world through your lenses. As Dr. King prayed, help me evaluate others based on the contents of their character, not the color of their skin. Let our church be the kind of place were everyone is treated with love and respect. Let that vibe ignite a revolution of unity and oneness in this great community. Amen.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pray for Henry

As many of you know, my son Henry was born on Christmas Eve 2007. He's had some health challenges and has stopped breathing on several occasions the most recent being last Saturday.

He's in the hospital now and is receiving wonderful care. The doctors are still stumped and don't know exactly what's going on.

Please pray for Henry's complete recovery and for the wisdom for the doctors. Bekah could also use your prayers too. She has not had much sleep the past few nights and is very concerned for our little guy. We are believing God for a 100% healing.

Day #9 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 9:27
"But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles."

Saul was on a personal crusade to rid the world of Christianity. As a Rabbi, he was charged with the responsibility of squashing this uprising by persecuting the early believers with punishment of death in some instances. He was a bad dude. And everyone feared him.

But after a personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus, Paul left his murderous ways and devoted his life to telling others of Jesus. Of course, many didn't believe he had changed. They thought he was a fraud simply using Jesus to get to them so he could have them thrown in jail or even killed. Everyone but Barnabas. Barnabas believed in Paul. He saw the change was real. He stood up for Paul that act of courage changed the course of the church forever.

I can choose to believe the best in people or I can choose to believe the worst. I am of the persuasion that you can teach an old do new tricks. God does have the power to change lives, even the worst of all sinners. Everybody needs somebody who will believe in them and stand up for them. Paul had Barnabas. I thank God for the "Barnabas" in my life. But I'm reminded that I need to be a "Barnabas" for someone else as well.

Thank you for the Barnabas people you've put in my life. People that have believed in me and saw my potential and encouraged me to do great things for you Jesus. Most of all, thank you for seeing the best in me Jesus and for believing in me. Help me continue to see the best in others. Let me be an encouragement to someone today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day #8 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 8:30
"The Spirit told Phillip, 'Go to that chariot and stay near it.'"

After Stephen was martyred for the faith, a great persecution broke out against the church as the Christ-followers were scattered throughout the entire ancient world. However, God used that event to help spread the Gospel. Philip was directed by the Holy Spirit in a specific physical direction to help a man find his was spiritually. It's interesting how the Holy Spirit was also working in the Ethiopian mans heart - creating a hunger for Christ - even before Philip meets him. Because Philip obeys the Spirits leading the man gives his heart to Christ.

God wants to partner with me to reach the lost. He will direct my steps every day and give me opportunities to share Christ with those he is already preparing in advance to receive Christ. Soul-winning is a partnership. But I have to my part. I have to go where God directs me and I have to be willing to "stay near" (vs. 30) the lost too. It's all about building relationships and friendships with those who don't know Jesus for the sake of eternity.

God, thank you for the gift of salvation. It's amazing how you loved me so much that you would send your son to die for me. Help me share this gift with others that are far from you. I don't want to keep the greatest news in the world to myself. Guide my steps today and prepare the hearts of those you would have me speak with about Christ. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day #7 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 7:49
"What kind of house will you build for me?"

As Stephen stands before the ruling Jewish Council for charges of blasphemy he is asked to give an account for his actions. In perhaps the greatest history lesson ever of the nation of Israel, Stephen tells the entire story of the Jewish people from the time of Abraham to Christ. When the people of Israel prepared to build a temple for worship under King David's leadership, the prophet reminded them that God cannot be contained to any one place - that he is far too big and too powerful to be reduced to a building made of brick or mortar.

As we prepare to build our first facility at PCC I am reminded today that we God is much bigger than any building. You can't contain him to a physical place where one minute you can be in his presence and then out of his presence the next minute. Sure, we need to build a building so we can be more effective at reaching people for Christ. But buildings are just tools. Besides, the Bible says that God's Spirit dwells inside of me the moment I accept Christ as my savior. After all, we are the "temple of the Holy Spirit." So, really, the question is, "What kind of life am I building every day where God's presence can dwell and accomplish his purpose through me?"

God, as I come to the close of another day I pray that you will help me build a life that is worthy of Your Spirit. I give you permission to clean house in my life. Give it a full sweep. Help me be all that you created me to be.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day #6 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 6:2
"It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables."

The early church had a major problem as it experienced rapid growth. As the church grew, so did the needs of its people. The apostles got so busy that they failed to equally distribute the benevolence fund resources among the widows and needy in the church. They made a critical decision that paid huge dividends. Instead of trying to meet all the needs by themselves, the apostles chose to stop doing certain things in the church and instead raise up other leaders to carry out those important tasks.

When you are leading a growing church, you can't do everything. It's a not an issue of setting the church up to run like a business. Instead, its' a leadership issue and a bandwith issue. There's just not enough time in the day to meet everyones needs.

In fact, it's not just a capacity issue, it's really a clarity issue. If I'm going to be an effective spiritual leader of PCC, I have to say "no" to good things in order to say "yes" to better things. For years I have always kept a "to do" list. Well, today I'm making a "to stop doing" list. Let me share the things I feel God saying to me that I must do here at PCC and all the other things will have to be led by other leaders who are empowered by God and full of his Spirit.

Here are the things that I will always do:
1. Pray and Study - I will give a major portion of my time from this day forward to prayer and to the study of God's Word.
2. Teach - I am the lead communicator at PCC and will give at least 40 percent of my time to preparing messages to help the church grow spiritually.
3. Evangelism - I am a soul winner. So, I will be intentional and strategic by spending time with the lost in our community.
4. Cast Vision - God has called and commanded me to plant PCC and it is my responsibility to hear from God and communicate the vision he has for PCC as we continue to grow.
5. Resource Development - If I cast the vision, it's my responsibility to lead the effort to underwrite and resource that vision.

That's a full plate. So, who's going to do all the weddings, funerals, counseling, administration, benevolence, and on and on and on. We need to continue to raise up leaders here at PCC and empower them to meet the needs of our growing congregation. It's my prayer that this Biblical model which is laid out in Acts 6 will also yeild the same results as the early church experienced. It said in verse 7, "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith."

God, give me clarity today. Help me develop a laser-like focus on the vision and how to carry out the vision you have for PCC. I recognized a long time ago that I can't do it all. Help me let it go and stop worrying about what others might think if I'm not the one at every event and involved in leading every ministry. Please surround me with great leaders who understand this spiritual principle and are willing to be extension of the vision that you have given me for this great church and community. Create a tidal wave of growth this year as we align our resources to share Christ with this community.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day #5 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 5:38-39
For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting God.

The chapter began with a story about a couple in the church that tried to dupe God in their giving. Instead of giving the full tithe, they held some back. Also, they tried to deceive the church family which had been giving generously. Eventually, they paid for their sin - not with their money but with their own lives. The chapter ends with two apostles being thrown into prison for preaching about Jesus. As they faced their own certain death - God miraculously set them free and literally saved their lives.

Motivation of the heart is crucial in the Christian faith. It doesn't pay to be in something for yourself. When I am selfish and want to promote my own agenda - I will lose - just like the first couple in the chapter. On the other hand, when I put God and others first and exist to promote the agenda of Christ - like the apostles - I will win. Fighting God is a losing battle. I guess it comes down to this, "Do I want to fight God or would I rather have him fight my battles for me?" Today I chose to not fight God in my finances, my relationships, and my future. I chose to live for God's purposes and let him take care of the outcome.

God, thank you for a new day. It's a fresh start - a clean slate. The next 24 hours are a gift from you and I pray you help me use each of them to accomplish your purposes in my life and in the lives of those I touch today. I want to do your bidding today with selfless acts of kindness. At the end of today, I pray that my efforts on your behalf will not fail.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Day #4 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 4:29
"Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness."

Persecution led the early church to prayer. Those early followers of Christ had their lives threatened for sharing the message that Jesus Christ had truly risen from the dead. In spite of their fear, they prayed to God for courage to continue telling others about Jesus.

Prayer is born out of desperation. Persecution and difficulty, when seen through God's perspective, can create an amazing spirit of prayer which can lead to spiritual breakthrough in our lives. I need to consciously share my faith every day despite the cost. Sure, I may get some weird looks ... I may lose some friends ... I may even lose some face. But, I need to remember that God will be with me when I call upon his name to enable me to tell others about his great love.

God, you know my fears and my faults when it comes to sharing my faith. Help me make time to with my lost friends today and give me the power and spiritual boldness to tell them how you changed my life.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Day #3 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 3:6
"Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you."

When Peter and John were on their way to a prayer meeting God decided to perform a miracle on the church steps. It's interesting that when we commit to be part of corporate prayer that God creates opportunities to perform supernatural works. A handicapped beggar was looking for another donation but God had more in mind. Because of Peter and John's willingness to give Jesus (that is - their faith and belief in God's power to change peoples lives) the man's health was completely restored and he began to share this gift of Jesus with onlookers.

As an American, it's really hard to understand the phrase "silver and gold have I none." Compared to the rest of the world, Americans are so wealthy. However, as a Christ-follower, it's even more difficult for me to look at the needs I'm surrounded by every day and not be willing to share Jesus with those God brings into my path. As I commit to a lifestyle of prayer, God will give me divine appointments to share Jesus in practical ways. It may be through a smile, handshake, opening a door, or even giving to the poor and telling someone how God has changed my life through faith in Christ.

Heavenly Father, help me share Jesus with a lost and hurting world today. If I don't accomplish anything else today, let me be an extension of your healing touch to those in need. Help me be sensitive to your Holy Spirit as I anticipate opportunities to be your hands, your eyes, your ears and your feet today. I want to be used by you today to add value to another. And when the opportunity comes, give me the faith and course to release what you've given to me - whether that's money, time, or any other resource - so that it can be used to build your Kingdom.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Weekend Update

Simple Prayer Works
As many of you know, last week was tough for me physically. I was flat on my back all week with unrelenting neck, back and shoulder pain. I ended up in the emergency room twice with an allergic reaction to some muscle relaxers and pain killers. However, after much needed rest, chiropractic care and especially the prayers of our church, I woke up this morning feeling like a new man. Thanks so much for your prayers! They are working.

Go God!
Yesterday's service was phenomenal. We kicked off our brand new series, Simple Prayer: Talk to God. The staff told me that 60 people responded to opportunity to put their faith in Christ! That's awesome. Also, we set an attendance record in our kids ministry too! I want to thank the staff and team of volunteers for doing such a great job in ministry. There is a movement of momentum that we are already sensing in response to our time of prayer and fasting.

Journal Challenge
Already I've heard great responses from the prayer journal challenge which began yesterday. God honors the prayers of his people. Don't miss out on this opportunity. Begin reading, praying and fasting with us during the month of January.

Invest and Invite
This weekends service is going to be great. I sense God speaking to my spirit that something special will take place. Don't miss this weekend. Continue to pray and invite your friends to come and see what God is doing at PCC.

Day #2 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 2:42
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the breaking of bread and to prayer."

The early church was devoted to three things: God's Word, community-building and prayer. This spiritual trifecta truly defined what Biblical community was all about in the first century. As a result the church experienced miraculous happenings, extravagant generosity, rock-solid friendships and most of all - the winning of souls.

God is looking for people of devotion. People that are defined by a singular purpose in life. Tunnel vision. Devotion isn't a word we hear a lot about lately. In our consumer driven society, there isn't much brand loyalty anymore. Loyalty goes out the window when I can save a buck or experience less hastle. When God's people make an irrevocable commitment and single-minded decision to read and study the Bible, foster friendships and take care of one another's needs - God shows up.

God help me grow in my devotion to you and your Word. Give me a new zeal for the others and especially for the lost. I want to be part of a revolution here in the Pocono Mountains that is crazy about You and crazy about this community. Help me weed out all the distractions and non-essentials in my life - the things that steer me off course and slow me down. I want nothing more than to give you my best today. Amen.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Day #1 Journal Challenge

Scripture: Acts 1:14
"They all joined together constantly in prayer ..."

Corporate prayer is part of God's plan for the church. In fact, the early church recognized this almost instinctively when they went immediately to prayer upon arriving in Jerusalem as they waited for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

God wants his people to pray together. Something special happens when a church family makes a corporate decision to join together and seek God with all their hearts. The early church was born out of an extended prayer meeting. It wasn't about marketing techniques or slick advertising flyers. Just impassioned, unified prayer.

What would happen if PCC fully grasped the importance of corporate prayer? What would God do in response to everyone being together for one reason - just to pray? What would God do in our pastoral staff if we prayed more together? What would God do in my family if we prayed more together?

God, thank you for the gift of prayer. Help me lead your church to become a church of prayer. I desire to experience your power and presence in this community like never before. As we join together in prayer, please pour out your Holy Spirit on this mountain and bring your help and healing to all who need. Create a desire in our hearts for corporate prayer and cultivate a lifestyle of expectancy as we wait on You.

The Journal Challenge

For the next 28 days, PCC will be reading one chapter of the book of Acts each day and recording our observations from the Scripture reading and writing out our prayers in a daily journal.

We are going to do this for a few reasons:

1) To deepen our walk with God in 2008 by spending time with Him each day.

2) To develop good spiritual habits and take personal responsibility to read the Bible, pray and keep a prayer journal. (They say that if you can do something at least 20 times in a row that it forms a habit.)

3) To strengthen the unity of our church family by all focusing on the same Scripture and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us as a collective community of faith.

Here's how to keep a prayer journal. Each day you read a chapter of Acts and choose one verse that really stuck out to you and write it down. Next, write down what the main chapter or particular passage means to you. Then apply to your life by writing down what you think God wants you to do in response to what you just read. Last of all, write out a simple prayer for the day.

I've decided to post my prayer journal online to help those who've never practiced this spiritual discipline see what it looks like and to also let you know what God is speaking to my heart during this month of focused prayer and fasting.

I'm totally excited about what these next 28 days are going to do for our church family and for what God is going to do in your life. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

If you would like to receive a journal, please email my assistant Erin at and request one ASAP.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year's Questions

Questions. We've all got'em. I've had a lot of time to think about things the past week since my neck, shoulder and back seized up on me Sunday morning prior to speaking.

Sometimes God has a way of making you slow down long enough to get your attention.

In the meantime, here are some of the questions I've been asking myself. Perhaps they will also help you reevaluate your life as we begin 2008 together.

1. How's my walk with God? On a scale of 1 to 10, where am I in my prayer life, bible study and spending time with the lost? If it's not where it should be, what am I going to do to change that in 2008?

2. How's my marriage? On a scale of 1 to 10? Now, maybe I should ask my spouse over a nice quiet dinner and see what they think. If it's not where it could or should be, what steps will we take to strengthen our marriage?

3. What caused me the most stress in 2007? What am I going to do to fix that in 08?

4. How's my health? Am I getting enough exercise? When was the last time I had a physical? What can I do to improve my health? More fiber : (

5. Is there anyone's forgiveness I need to seek? Is there anyone I need to forgive?

6. Are my finances in order? How did I do in my giving and saving and earning last year? What do I need to change in 08?

7. What's my personal growth plan for 2008 look like? What books am I planning on reading? What seminars will I attend? What vacations will I take? What books of the Bible will I study? What do I want to see God do in my life next year?