Sunday, February 28, 2010


Christianity has a perception problem ... but it just isn't a perception problem. We seem to have fixated on sins of COMMISSION ... don't do this, don't do that and you're OK. But goodness isn't the absence of badness. You can do nothing wrong and still do nothing right.

But there are also sins of OMISSION - things we could have, should have, would have done for the cause of Christ, but failed to do.

What we're great at omitting is the GREAT COMMANDMENT ... Love God and love others. As followers of Jesus, we are to literally be defined by our love - our compassion - our grace.

The rallying cry of the last reformation was sola fide - 'by faith alone.' The rallying cry of the next reformation will be amo Dei - 'love God.'

And be blessed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


This is the 30th winter I have endured the frozen 'north.' As a born-and-bred Missouri boy, we got snow. As I remember, at least. But I didn't have to get out and shovel it much. Not that I remember. Spoiled, I know. But frankly, it was Missouri. So if you just waited a couple of days, the warmer weather would just take care of it, so it really wasn't any big deal. That I remember.

So right after getting married, God had this really weird idea about sending me and my Kentucky-born-southern bride North to do ministry. Crazy. Thirty years later, here we are - having spent our entire ministry in extreme Northern Illinois to begin - then nine years in Minnesota - and these past 17 years in Wisconsin. Go figure.

All this time, I have managed life without a snowblower. Thru all those ridiculous winters with snow up to 'here' (picture my hand at some horizontal level above my waist right now - I have a very tall waist). For integrity's sake, I should clarify that for a couple of winters I DID have what I fondly called a 'snow-cougher.' I saw it at an auction when Joelene and I used to be rabid for that kind of thing - buying everything we could to furnish our home cheaply, including buying random 'surprise boxes' for $1 and then eagerly looking inside to see what treasures we had snatched up. Typically inside were items such as old dried-up sponges, assorted rusty tools (the kind that give you tetanus if you puncture your skin using them), old toys, things that you couldn't figure out what they were, etc...

So at one of those estate/auction sales, I bought a snow-cougher. It was just a little guy that, if we got more than 2.5 inches of snow, it just kind of 'coughed' it to the side, as opposed to BLOWING it or THROWING it. Anything beyond that, and it would literally sit there and THINK about coughing it up. Nothing more. That I remember, at least.

Last winter, my neighbor - who has a 225 foot driveway - had a 4x4 with a plow attached. He's just a big kid at heart. So he came over and gladly shoved my snow out of the way for me every time I needed it. He got rid of the 4x4 this year though, so ...

Then, someone from my church offered a really really great price to come do it for me when it got above the number of inches I wasn't willing to shovel myself (number of inches to remain known only to me and him to avoid unwanton criticism). Last night when it snowed some inches that were more than I am willing to shovel myself, he told me he was busy and couldn't make it over, but he was so gracious to drop off his snowblower FOR me. Very kind.

It did the job - even though it still took me an hour - because the thing was TORTOISE slow. It wouldn't move beyond 2 mph no matter how hard I squeezed the self-propelled bar, and I was squeezing it very hard - that I remember. But it was still better than shoveling.

Thanks, Bill.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Yesterday afternoon I had the chance to go downtown to Kenosha’s Dayton Hotel (pictured at right) and scrape off the ol’ vocal chords and dust off the keyboard to play, sing and lead some choruses for the folks staying there. I used slides of our Israel trip to talk about the Gospel. Thanks to Ken and Darlene Rokusek for the invitation. They minister there regularly.

Monday, February 22, 2010


We had the opportunity to have Ted Haggard (at left) in our building today, hosted by David Nelson of Great Lakes Church.

Ted was the pastor of a very large church in Colorado Springs - and then three years ago - he found himself embroiled in a controversy involving accusations regarding issues of morality. Since that time, Ted has been on a journey of confession, accountability, counseling, healing and restoration. He spoke with us about ministry and the heart of the church in a question-answer forum.

I found the conversation stimulating, challenging and encouraging. Much of what he spoke about is what I want for KFA. I want us to be a place that is grace-filled, accepting people in whatever condition they are, reaching out with the love of Christ to people who are failures, hurting, ashamed, confused, searching - and yes, outright sinful.

That's really you and me, isn't it? ALL HAVE SINNED ... ALL HAVE FALLEN SHORT ... IT'S ONLY BY GOD'S GRACE that any of us are still standing on two feet.

Ted talked about our fondness for saying, "We hate the sin, but love the sinner," and how that didn't wash for him because the sin is part of the sinner. The sinner can't separate himself from the sin. If we pound on a homosexual that he/she is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong in his/her sin, that person has a difficult time separating those words from "I am bad, I am bad, I am bad, I am bad," and that we have to find another way - the way of love - to help them come to a place of forgiveness thru the power of the Holy Spirit, not via our hammering them toward confession. And I agree. Good stuff.

Ted mentioned that when his fiasco broke in the news media, his huge church in Colorado Springs stepped up to deal with the situation in front of the congregation. Al Jazeera, the leading television station to the Muslim world, had their truck parked in the church parking lot prepared to send the entire 90 minute service broadcast to the watching Muslim world. What an opportunity to share the Gospel to nearly a billion Muslims ... an opportunity not had before or since, by the way. Instead, what the Muslim world heard all over the Middle East was American Christian church leaders saying, "We have purged the sin ... we have removed the sinner ... pound, pound, pound ... we had a wrong-doer in our midst and now he is gone ... he has disappeared ... hammer, hammer, hammer ... we are safe now ... etc. etc. etc."

Rather than hearing about God's grace and love, we responded the same way the Muslim world would have responded - with judgment and finality. Opportunity lost.

There was so much I was inspired by today. There were also some things I didn't completely understand - some things I have questions about - some things I wasn't on the same page with. It wasn't all 'roses' for me during today's conversation, but I'm going to keep those things to myself and keep asking God about them.

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


In every relationship there is a gap between what we expect and how other people actually behave. It happens in every relationship. I EXPECTED you to do THIS, but you did THAT.

You said you’d be here at 4:00; it’s 5:00 and you’re STILL not here.

You said from now on you’d take care of those responsibilities, but they’re STILL undone.

You promised you’d call to take care of that, but you haven’t.

You said you’d never do that again, and now you’re doing it again.

And particularly in MARRIAGES - there’s a GAP between what we expect --- what you said when you were DATING - what you repeated at your WEDDING VOWS – all the PROMISES -- and what the reality is.

And here’s the choice you make all the time. In every one of these gaps we either choose to believe the best or assume the worst. We put one of those in the gapevery time. I don’t have to go any further for you to know which your partner does but it’s way HARDER for you to see what you do.

Here's what it looks like to put BELIEVE THE BEST in the gap …

I know she’s LATE, but she’s had so much going on, I’m sure she’ll be here – there’s a very good reason for what is happening’believe the best.

OR‘She’s late again ... probably paying NO attention to the time – just like always. She’s probably on the phone with her sister.’ And it happens right there in the gapassume the worst.

And we start to develop an attitude – all based on WHICH one we fill the gap with. People who make VOWS to each other … when you find those people and they’re still crazy in love – you won’t find people with no gaps – you ALWAYS find gaps. But what you’ll find is - those people have - a majority of the time, learned to fill the gaps with believe the best. Which means, they are generous. They come up with GENEROUS explanations as to WHY there’s a gap and that’s a beautiful thing to watch and hear.

So - next time there is a gap between expectations and behavior, fill the gap with BELIEVE THE BEST. What do you have to lose?

And be blessed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


We finished up our staff and spouse retreat today. After breakfast, we launched into an exciting and vigorous conversation on 'Multi-Site church,' which we believe is part of the future vision God has given us for KFA.

Just twenty years ago, in 1990, there were only a handful of multi-site churches in our country. Just seven years later, there were 100. By 2004, there were 1,500 multi-site churches. It was exciting to launch our VIDEO VENUE service last fall and we feel God has more of that ahead for us in locations away from the main KFA campus.

As of 2007, 7 of the 10 fastest-growing churches in our country were multi-site. Nine of the 10 largest churches were multi-site. One out of 4 mega-churches (defined as churches over 2,000) were multi-site in 2007. By the end of this year, that number will be 50%.

The main reasons to go multi-site is a heart to reach more people -- not just to get larger, but recognizing a church's value for reproduction. What we need is a real shift in our values -- to understand that:
"LOST" is greater than "FOUND"
"GOING" is greater than "STAYING."

Great conversation about this today.

We ended in a nice tight 'group hug circle' to pray together before grabbing a bite to eat at a Panera in Mequon.

I'm home now with a fulfilled and full sense in both my heart, mind and stomach. And excited about the future of all of us involved at KFA.

And be blessed.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Today was an amazing and wonderful day with our entire staff of pastors and their spouses. We've been in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin doing some community building and vision work for our church.

I love being with our group. They are gifted, smart, intense, passionate, spiritual people. They push me and challenge me -- and I try to do the same with them. I think I keep up pretty well.

We arrived last night and had a great dinner together and then they all hung out in our suite for a couple of hours before heading to bed.

All morning after breakfast, we had a great session together that focused on our church core values. We walked to lunch at a very trendy restaurant up the street then returned to the hotel suite for two sessions on - our view of ourselves - and keeping our church 'simple.'

Dinner was Pizza Hut with a great big salad made by Joelene. Then we hit the hotel pool and gym. Since we had some of the staff guys there to help out, I wanted to find out how much I could bench press. One of the guys on staff can do 200 pounds and I didn't really want him to show me up, even though he is half my age. It's a 'guy thing.' I had already worked out for 30 minutes, so I wasn't at my total best after that. But I managed to squeak out 190 pounds. Next time when I'm not tired, maybe I can press those extra 10 pounds. We'll see.

I'm in bed right now -- and I'm totally wasted. But I'll be ready for another great day with our team tomorrow.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


One of my challenges - the longer I do ministry - is not to do it from sheer memory. Here's what I did last Tuesday, so it's what I do this Tuesday. You tend to do what you used to do. What you used to do is safe, comfortable and convenient.

It's always a stretch to stay spiritually and creatively fresh. Someone calls it 'strategic disruptions.'

I know we can all be creatures of habit somewhat. Often life looks relatively similar day to day, week to week, year to year.

So - if you're at all like me that way - here are some suggestions:

- If you drive the same way to work every morning, take a different route.
- If you study the Bible the same way or always read the same books, try a different approach.
- If you listen to the same type of music, tune into something different. Listen out of your comfort zone even.
- If you order the same thing off the menu all the time, venture out and try something you've never had. I recommend eel.

Disrupt the rhythm. It might change your perspective about life some. At the same time, you could become more sensitive to hear something new from God.

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Today was a chance for both Joelene and me to share in the morning services as a team. Since it was Valentine's Day today - and since it was also the beginning of a brand new series - and since the series is called "THE VOW" and is all about relationships and marriage - we decided to go all out and 'dress' for the occasion. That's us today in the posted pictures.

All of us have stuff inside – and you don’t know what’s in you until you get bumped --- and most of us don’t get our first real big hard gut-wrenching bump until we get into a FULL TIME romantic relationship.

And this is why people who make the ultimate commitment to each other end up madder at each other than anyone else on the planet – and he is absolutely sure the reason he reacts is because she gets on his nerves and she keeps saying that thing and doing that thing and she knows full well how mad that makes me … but the truth is, the reason he reacts that way is because that response is already in him. And she is pretty sure if he would just stop and if he would just start and if he would just do more of and if he would just continue and if he would just do less of, then she wouldn't be reacting that way ... but the truth is, she responds that way because that's what is already in her.

We all have stuff in there. But most of us blame the person we’re most in love with for what comes out of us.

The writer of Proverbs gives us some help on this. This is the smartest guy on the planet, remember? He knows everything. He wrote Proverbs - and Ecclesiastes - and Song of Solomon - and he writes in Proverbs 4:23 - 'ABOVE ALL ELSE ... ' which means what I'm about to tell you is as important or maybe more important than everything else I've said so far - and that's quite a mouthful coming from Solomon, the wisest guy on earth. He says - more than anything else - THIS IS IT ...

And if you’ve read much of his work, you know this guy talks about everything ... MONEY – WORK ETHIC – FAMILY --- RELATIONSHIPS --- SEX --- GETTING OLD --- FUTILITY OF LIFE ---- and yet, HERE he says … "Above all else, guard your heart.' (Proverbs 4:23) Which means, give great attention to what is going on INSIDE you.

In Bible times, the heart represented the seat of emotions – and Solomon says, “I want you to GUARD that part of you --- your EMOTIONS. I want you to pay ATTENTION to themcover what is valuable. I want you to PROTECT and DEFEND your heart.”

Now – if I were to suggest that each of you share your personal strategy for GUARDING YOUR HEART, most of you would say, “I’ve never THOUGHT much about that before.It almost sounds like psycho-babble – what does it even MEAN? So if we think that’s just some cute BIBLE SLOGAN, chances are we’re not really doing it – yet SOLOMON says it’s the most important thing you can do. Above all else, guard your heart. But let me tell you what we ARE really good at. We’re not that great at guarding our own hearts, but we’re really good at monitoring our partner’s behavior. We’re really good at examining what they do – what they don’t do – what they say – what they don’t say – we’re great at monitoring that.

In your relationship with that person you've made vows to – the one you love the MOST – you want to FEEL a certain way. We know our feelings are unreliable … they don’t always mirror the truth … they can’t be trusted. But here’s the REALITY about our FEELINGS. You DO want to feel loved – you want to feel accepted – you want to feel embraced. Ladies, you want to feel pretty ---- guys, you want to feel respected ---- you want to feel confident – you want to feel cherished and valued – you want to feel taken care of. And let’s FACE it ... we were drawn into these relationships in the FIRST PLACE primarily BECAUSE of emotion. We loved the way they made us FEEL. We loved it when someone said, “Hey, look who they’re with.” We were drawn in because of the EMOTION this person created inside us --- and it’s NORMAL to want to keep those emotions alive.

So, to PROTECT ourselves, we monitor the OTHER person’s behavior. We try to get them to stop doing certain things – stop saying certain things – start doing certain things – start saying certain things – because we don’t like the way some of those things make us FEEL – or we LIKE the way certain things make us feel. And it’s totally normal to want that. The PROBLEM is --- and this is why relationships are so DIFFICULT) ... we come to DEPEND on our partner to CREATE those feelings in us and for us.

I’m depending on YOU – almost SOLELY – to make me feel confident, cherished, accepted, loved, secure … and all of that goes on behind the scenes in every relationship – and when stuff comes out of us that we don’t like, the tendency is to blame the person who we think brought it out of us – and that is TYPICALLY the one we’re in the closest ROMANTIC relationship with – but REALLY, it was already IN us to begin with.

And HERE’S the part I think your experience will bear witness to … your tendency to feel certain things is determined by the CONDITION OF YOUR HEART – and how well you’ve GUARDED it. And NO AMOUNT OF COMMITMENT can compensate for this dynamic of the CONDITION OF YOUR HEART. You may stay together because you’re 1,000% against divorce no matter what --- “We’ll just put duct tape down the center of the room – the house – the bed – we’ll just co-habitate.” But it’s the condition of YOUR heart that’s as big a player in this as anything your partner brings to the table. It’s about your HEART.

So if your HEART is in bad shape, it will be almost IMPOSSIBLE to maintain a healthy relationship in your marriage. And here’s the bottom line … what’s in you is going to come out of you regardless of who’s with you.

So 'guard your heart - above all else - for out of it flows all the blessings of life.' (Proverbs 4:23)

And be blessed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


It's not original with me, but it was so good and so what I feel many days, that I couldn't resist posting it. From someone I often read named Tony Morgan:

"I miss being in ministry. Up until twelve years ago, I was engaged in a marketplace leadership role that looks very different from my role today. I used to interact with folks on a daily basis who were searching for hope and healing and purpose in their lives but didn’t know where to find it. I used to have influence in my marketplace role that allowed me to connect with sharp people outside the church. I used to be able to bring a Biblical influence to the real world. Then, one day, I walked away from ministry. I took a leadership role in the church, and my influence changed. Now, I no longer get to hangout with “normal” people. Most of my life is spent with people who think and believe like me. I no longer get to directly influence the lives of leaders outside the church. The title “pastor” shuts down conversations. I don’t get to do life with people outside the faith. For the most part, my life revolves around people who have already committed their lives to Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not second-guessing my calling. I wouldn’t go back. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. But let’s face it … this really isn’t ministry. I encourage God’s people to do ministry, but I’m not really in ministry. I challenge church leaders to embrace new methods of outreach, but I’m not directly engaged in outreach. I get tastes of it now and then, but it’s not the primary pattern of my life. I’m mainly with Christ-followers. That’s not real ministry. The vast majority of people in the church are still called to ministry. They’re not called to do what I do. I just wanted to admit that there are times when I’m jealous of those who are still in ministry."

Be thankful for the place God has put you in society. Even if it's hard some days, know that HE has landed you there, perfectly positioned to reach people for Him right where you are ... in the ministry.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I heard an extremely successful leader of a very large congregation say something not long ago that really encouraged me --- I pass it along to you. If you're a leader of an organization, as I am, perhaps it will encourage you as well. If you're a member of an organization like ours, maybe it will challenge as well as help you ...

He said:
"Every few years, it seems like a small wave of our faithful people leave the church for other pastures. They often say something like:

- We just don't get time with you anymore.
- The church is getting too big.
- Things have changed.
- Church doesn't seem to be for me anymore - it's for someone else 'out there.'"

I wish I could lovingly express:
- I hoped your involvement in the ministry was based on far more than time spent with me.
- Aren't you excited God is using us to reach more people? Would you rather we don't reach people and stay small?
- Isn't it great things have changed? Would you rather freeze in time? If we aren't changing to make the Gospel accessible to people in this generation and culture without changing our message, then we're in sin, my friend.
- Bingo. Your time spent with God during the week should be filling you up so much that when you come as a tried-and-true Christ-follower on the weekend, you're ready to give out by serving to those who haven't yet come to faith.

I am sure that a lot of pastors fight to the end to keep all of those people. And o my, how I hate seeing people walk away for other places. It hurts. And sometimes our efforts with people work. Sometimes they stay. Sometimes not. While I try to express my genuine love, if they are continually and consistently disappointed in the direction of the church, I've found it might be better, with great grief on my part, to let them move on. I do not want to repeatedly disappoint people that way.

I always speak well of them. I try not to take it personally. I always endeavor to show Christ's love at that moment. And I try to continue moving the church forward in the way God has called us to.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

V. V.

Six months ago we created a VIDEO VENUE in our youth auditorium on Sunday mornings. In house, we lovingly call it "V. V." ( Two of our staff pastors handle the administration and leadership and give face time to it.

It's going well. Anywhere from 60 - 100 people are there week-to-week. Our goal for 2010 is that 200 people would be there. The auditorium seats over 700. We're not there to re-shuffle the deck, even though we have some people who have moved over there to help get it off the ground. Our vision is new people coming to faith who would be attracted by that kind of setting - informal, cafe-style, great live worship, casual, message on video.

Some people have asked why we're doing it, since we have another perfectly good service 500 feet away in the larger auditorium at the same time. What's our motivation?

Good question. Easy question.

We have a focus on the Great Commission. Our strongest drive is to see people come to faith in Christ. That likelihood is increased when there is another option for those who don't find our current offerings acceptable for some reason or another. The Great Commission - "GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES" - pushes us.

We desire our culture to become that of multiplication. Jesus shared the principle of the sower where the one who planted reaped 30, 60 or 100 times what had been sown. We have similar hearts for small groups in our church. Here's a small group. Does it ever add new people at healthy times in its life? At some point, does it need to multiply itself? Yes. Most agree with this principle. Few enjoy it. Fewer still do it. And even less churches have engrained multiplication into their culture, resisting the dividing rather than celebrating the adding. We're trying to get there.

We are willing to remove barriers to reach more people. Sometimes even larger churches hit growth barriers. This is just another way to continue growth. Some people just like the 'smaller church' setting, while at the same time getting the benefits of what 'large churches' can offer in terms of ministries and outreaches, not to mention ministry to their students and children.

We are willing to seize the opportunity. Some churches become multi-site or add services out of necessity. They've outgrown their space. Though we are growing - last year our congregation grew by 12% - the V.V. sprung up more out of opportunity than space issues. Carpe Diem.

If you're in the area and haven't tried out the Video Venue out, why not come experience it?

And be blessed.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


WE are placed as a church here in the city of Kenosha and the surrounding area. This is our CONTEXT. We love Kenosha. We’re not a church that is here to fight our city, but to serve the common good of our city. Our goal – our dream – our aspiration – our drive --- is not just to have a great church – not just to be great Christians – but to participate in the making of a great city. We weep over Kenosha as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. But to be the church God is calling us to be in our city, the Gospel must be contextualized.

The Gospel is always under attack by false teachers and those who want to do it evil, so the Gospel MUST be contended for or we lose the message of it. It must be earnestly disputed for ... debated in favor of ... passionately wrestled with and argued for. And Paul contends for the faith repeatedly in his writings.

We see it in the opening chapters of I Corinthians. Paul speaks of the blood Jesus spilled for our sins by dying on a cross for us … he HAMMERS on that topic. And then near the END of I Corinthians, he speaks in great detail about the resurrection of Jesus. He BOOKENDS his gospel with these truths that we believe today with such great FORCE.

And all the issues scattered throughout I Corinthians … sex, power, money, gender … how you deal with fame and lawsuits and sickness – issues that are the SUM TOTAL of human life on earth … Paul’s answer CONTINUALLY is the death, burial and resurrection of JESUS. It is the answer to every QUESTION. It is the hope to every LONGING. It is the ONLY solution to the problem of human disobedience – and Paul defends it and argues about it and contends for it in his Gospel.

And some of you – like MELOVE that ... because you LOVE to defend the Gospel up one side and down the other. If you hear about a false teacher or read a bad theological book that leads people down wrong paths – you’re ON it. You’re READY. And this is what the CHURCH becomes sometimes. It’s like your house - if you love your FAMILY and want to PROTECT them, what do you buy as a pet? Not a CAT … a DOG. And you put the DOG on the front porch. Let’s say a burglar comes. The CAT will totally IGNORE the burglar. But if the DOG sees someone walk by who seeks to do harm or hurt the kids, the DOG gets ferocious. We love the dog.

And there are certain Christians who, contending for the Gospel, are LIKE that. They have to DEFEND GOD and the KINGDOM and the GOSPEL and protect the TRUTH and the FAMILY of God --- and they’re out on the PORCH growling at everybody. But SOMETIMES they start GROWLING at the babysitter. The ice cream truck rolls by and they’re out there running after it, nipping at the tires. They want to flip the rig over and eat the ice cream man. And some Christians just get mean and start looking for something or someone to CHEW on.

Some churches become that. They’re all about contending for the faith. So they preach the Word, but nobody ever comes and STAYS because they’re just MEAN about it. Maybe they’re known for how deep they are, but it’s ‘growl and bite’ all the time.

At the same TIME, they’re saying, ‘We wish more people who don’t know Christ would come to our church,’ but they’re never GOING to – because it’s a conflicting message. The sign out front says, “JESUS LOVES YOU,” but it’s the same reason the family with the PIT BULL doesn’t have anybody coming over.

It’s important to contend for the Gospel, but we always remember that God doesn’t send us into the world to BITE unbelievers, but to BEFRIEND them … to answer their questions … to let them see JESUS in our words and actions. We’re sent to a city we love. We’re not PERSECUTORS ... we’re AMBASSADORS for Jesus ... and there is a specific culture God has sent us to.

So, once we have a clear Gospel and we’ve protected it and defended it, HOW and WHAT do we do with it? We ask God to help us understand how to make it accessible to a culture that no longer readily receives this TRUTH the same way some of US did years ago.

Most of us wouldn’t have a problem if we heard missionaries were headed to CHINA and they were going to have to learn a different language – listen to different music – eat different food – maybe DRESS a little differently – learn all about the new culture. YOU’D say, ‘Sure … they’re going to CHINA.’ But it’s the same if we send people to inner city Kenosha – or to hip hop culture – or even suburban culture. You have to find a way to contextualize the Gospel in a way that is appropriate for the people you’re trying to reach with the GOSPEL … because all cultures are different. Ministry to the inner city of Kenosha would be far DIFFERENT than ministry to people down the road living in the wealthy subdivision. Language is different. Approach is different. There are different struggles … different things are important to each … except ... they all need GOD.

So Paul says in I Corinthians 9:19 – “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He's talking about contextualizing the Gospel. When I walk into a culture, I serve people … I become familiar with what they WATCH ... I listen to their BANDS … I find out what they’re TALKING about and what they’re INTERESTED in ... I figure out who they ARE so I can find a way to tell them about Jesus. Why? To win as many as possible.

THIS IS IT ... because people in Kenosha need Jesus … and our goal is to win as many people as possible ... not as many as we can MANAGE or as many as we HOPE … but as many as we CAN. THAT’S why we have to contextualize the Gospel to our culture.

I have a ‘MISSIONAL’ suggestion for you. Drive the city. Drive it slowly and really LOOK at them. See their sins FORGIVEN … see them FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT … see them with a NEW and POWERFUL LIFE ... see them turning to GOD rather than to pills or a bottle when they need an ANSWER ... see them joining us to make this a great city for GOD.

Paul goes on – “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” Was that fun? No. Try getting a ham sandwich with that approach. Paul went into Jewish culture which had a lot of rules and regulations and customs – and he said, ‘I’ll do whatever I need to do to WIN them – and I’m hoping they’ll walk away from some of that tradition and rule-keeping once they get to know Christ ... but for NOW ... ‘To those under the law I became as those under the law ... so as to win those under the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.’ (I Corinthians 9:20b-22)

If Paul was alive today, he’d say to the hip-hoppers, ‘I did hip-hop’ … he’d say to FAMILIES, I talked about marriage and parenting … to the ARTSY, I did drama and music ... to the BOOKWORMS, I had a BLOG. I did it as many ways as I possibly could to as many people as I possibly could so as many people as possible could know Jesus. That’s the BEST THING IN THE WORLD we’ll ever do.

But I’ll tell you what gets in the waytradition. Churches continually choose their past over their own future generations because they don’t want to change. And that’s a SIN. We THINK we’re preserving our children with that approach, but we’re LOSING them. And we will NEVER change the message – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. But the methods must change for the sake of that same Gospel. If in ten years we’re still singing all the same songs and doing the same things the same ways, then we’re in SIN … because we have not done everything we could to make the Gospel as ACCESSIBLE as possible ... to make it EASY for people to find and experience God.

So we’re in the process of redeeming so much of culture ... and we are called to contextualize it so AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE HEAR about Jesus, MEET Him, and fall in LOVE with Him … and ultimately experience the great FORGIVENESS OF GOD and then become agents of transformation themselves. THIS IS OUR MISSION.

P.S. - Happy 26th birthday to our eldest daughter, Whitney, TODAY!

And be blessed.

Friday, February 5, 2010


Final day in Israel. What a time it’s been. Life-changing. They say when you come, “You’ll never be the same.” So true.

We spent the final two nights back where we began, in Tel Aviv. This time our hotel was right on the Mediterranean Sea, and it was breathtakingly beautiful.

On the drive east from there we saw Mt. Tabor - or - the Mount of Transfiguration. It is a perfectly rounded mountain. To think about what happened there - Jesus, Moses, Elijah - amazing.

To me, one of the most spectacular vistas of the trip (pictured above left) - and something that far exceeded my expectations, was the visit to Caeserea where we saw the remains of yet another of Herod’s palaces. This palace, hippodrome and ancient community sat right on the edge of the Mediterranean. You could almost envision the decadent luxury that used to be here - the marble bath houses - the splendor - parts of which still remain. I am planning on showing some video in church on Sunday of this location because of the tie-in to the I Corinthians 9 passage I'm speaking from then.

Next, a stop at Nazareth Village, a replica of the Nazareth of Jesus’ day, where He would have spent his boyhood years. Our guide, Rani, was a native of Nazareth and a current student at the Evangelical Seminary located there. His passion for the Gospel was contagious and his insight into scripture was enlightening. I learned from him. We laid hands on him and prayed before we left.

Our next stop was the Valley of Jezreel and Megiddo (pictured above right), where the final battle - ARMAGEDDON - will, in part, take place. This was a sobering moment for me as I stood on that mountain overlooking the huge valley and imagined what it might be like. The valley is expansive, green and lush. It doesn’t know what awaits it.

Finally, Mt. Carmel - where Elijah challenged and defeated the prophets of Baal. I got a rock from this mountain and brought it home. Don’t worry. Our guide said it was allowed. Scripture says the prophets of Baal were thrown headlong off this mountain. When you’re standing there and see how and where that probably happened, it sends chills up your spine. The spot we were standing in really does have a very steep drop-off. We had a final devotional here at this site and it was another unforgettable moment (Thanks, Mark).

And be blessed.


Well, ironic or not, today is my 500th post since I began the blog in 2008.

And ... the places we visited on THIS day definitely made THIS my favorite day of the Israel tour. Here were my personal highlights:

We began with a visit to Herodyon, the mountain which Herod the Great set his magnificent palace on, not far from Bethlehem. He artificially made this hill into a huge volcanic-shaped mountain by adding dirt and rocks and the like and then placing his huge castle on top. To be able to look down from this huge mountain and see Bethlehem not at all far away made the story of Herod demanding all the first born boys be killed so vivid. There lay Jesus, practically within stone-throwing distance of this mountain and palace. Very moving and powerful moment.

Next we re-visited Old Jerusalem and went to the famous Western (or Wailing) Wall. We had a chance to stand and watch and listen for many minutes while people stood there praying -- rocking -- reading the Torah. Little boys were being trained in their religion at this wall as well.

After lunch, we went to St. Anne's Church, which is next to the ancient Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had been ill for 38 years. It was my privilege and pleasure to share a devotional at this site for the group (pictured above with the Pool of Bethesda behind me).

We had a whirlwind afternoon, practically racing thru various Stations of the Cross, including a visit to the Church of the Agony, where Jesus was beaten by Roman soldiers and where He likely received the cross to carry. From there, we walked up the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried the cross on the way to Golgotha. An extremely narrow, ascending street, it features shopping on both sides - very possibly the same kind of commercial street as in Jesus' day.

Appropriately, this day ended in the Garden Tomb, located just next to the likely hill where Jesus and the two thieves were crucified. We had a time of communion together at this spot, and it was a fitting finish to a packed, emotional, meaningful day.

THIS IS THE EVENT that our faith is about. It's not about Jesus' teaching so much - not His doctrine - not what He did ---- more than anything, it is about THIS ONE EVENT that changed history and your life and mine.

And be blessed.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Yesterday was a very, very long day. Good, but long. I would have posted here to follow up the previous blog (as promised), but my legs wouldn’t let me get down to the Hotel Business Center to do it. It’s about 6 in the morning here now as I’m posting yesterday’s events, so you have to give me that. It is difficult to know what to talk about each day because every day is packed full of fascinating and powerful images.

We began yesterday with a powerful one - St. Peter in Gallicantum Church. It is built over the site of Caiaphas’ house. Beneath is a small cramped enclosed place where it is believed Jesus was taken to be questioned and beaten. It is a cold, stone-like dungeon where prisoners are let down thru a small hole far up above. Here was a powerful devotional moment presented by one of the trip pastors. We sang several choruses inside this small space and it was a moving moment.

Just outside the present day church is the area believed to be where Peter denied Jesus. Curiously enough, as we exited the church, a rooster not far away crowed.

From there we toured to the Room of the Last Supper, which is also the Upper Room, where Jesus’ followers gathered after His ascension. This is a momentous place for those of us in the faith who are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is here that tongues of fire rested on each head.

Underneath this place, now a church, was the tomb of King David. To view the tomb area, men had to be separated from women by a curtain. Each man also had to wear a kipa (yarmulke) to enter this space.

Next, we entered the Old City of Jerusalem via the Zion Gate. We visited various sites within a portion of the Old City. The city is divided into four quarters: the Armenian quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Christian quarter and the Herodian quarter. That's us above Old Jerusalem.

One other highlight of the day was a visit to the City of David. This was the city as it was 3,000 years ago, during the time of David. Situated just away from Old Jerusalem just a few hundred feet on a downward, sloping hill, you could easily imagine David spying Bathsheba from his position up high in his palace.

The daytime hours ended with a walk thru Hezekiah’s tunnel. Here had been a water passageway carrying water into the City of David from an outside source, hidden by King David so approaching armies would not be able to cut off their water supply. We only travelled about 5 minutes thru this tunnel and it was extremely tight and narrow (and low in places), but it was a great, fun adventure.

After a short break, we spent the night hours at The Citadel - a former fortress - where we saw a beautiful light display covering the entire huge wall of this enormous space. It depicted the history of Israel in a magnificent and one-of-a-kind light show. Following that, we walked down the street to the Eucalyptus Restaurant in the Artist’s Colony area, where we sampled “Biblical Israeli food” for a late dinner.

I can’t wait to see what today holds.

And be blessed.