Friday, December 28, 2007


You can imagine that my thoughts often turn to what makes for good preaching.

I was recently coaching a young leader about preaching. I wrote to him that preaching is communicating God's truth to a specific group of people. Done correctly, it's a supernatural event that happens and lives are truly changed as people hear from God. That's why every preacher needs to be anointed, empowered, and filled by the Holy Spirit.

Pastors should think about the many, many lives that could be changed forever if the people will do what God through the preacher is calling them to do. A pastor should think about people in trouble and realize that what God has given him is a most important message. And a pastor should remember that he is the one God has chosen to deliver it. So, a pastor must speak fearlessly, with confidence and boldness.

I wrote to that young leader that powerful preaching consists of

1) Prayer: seeking God for what He wants the preacher to say to the congregation;

2) Preparation: working diligently to exegete the scriptures and put things together in a compelling, logical way;

3) Passion: communicating from the heart with clarity and applying the scriptures in a simple, relevant, focused way.

Then, a preacher has to watch God work. He does things that only He can do. He says,

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11-12 (ESV)
So, pray for preachers. And please, please, please pray for me.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


For the last several years, we've encouraged generosity at CVC through something we call "the giving tree." We put stars on the tree with suggested gifts written on the back that we wish to share with the poor and needy in our community and beyond.

Jackie Tuckerman, Verna Plagge, and members of their team deserve many thanks for thier efforts to encourage generosity at CVC.

The tree was a huge success. We put a record 580 stars on the tree this year. And we were able to bless many people!

41 needy families from CVC/707 received presents, gift cards and food.

Our food pantry is now filled with items we do not collect during the regular food drive ( paper products, shampoo, soaps, cleaning supplies and laundry detergent). All of these will be a blessing to add to the regular food boxes when a family is in need.

Care on the Square (a ministry where we feed homeless people twice a week in downtown Cleveland) received bags of hats and gloves for the homeless.

Lift up Jesus Bus ministry (another ministry feeding people in Cleveland's poorest neighborhoods) received industrial size vegetable cans and gas gift cards.

Love and Hope ( an orphanage in El Salvador) was able to buy every child in the orphanage Christmas presents.

Village Grace ( a church in Slavic Village) received hats gloves and supplies.

We shared the true meaning of Christmas with a little coal mining town in W.V. and were able to give a present to every child in this very depressed part of the country.

Boxes of eye glasses for needy people in El Salvador were donated.

We sent 55 presents to Brecksville for their annual Yultide program which benefits Brecksville, Broadview Heights, and Independence families in need.

And a CVC boy was able to realize his dream and will meet Joshua Cribbs Cleveland Brown's special team NFL Pro-Bowler) this week!

Not bad for one church's efforts! As a church family, we are realizing that we have more than we need to help people in need. God has blessed us and we are reaching out (sometimes way out) and blessing others.

So, thanks CVC. Thank you for all that each of you did to make this go so smoothly. Your generosity put a smile on lots of faces. And, most importantly, it pleased the Lord.

I pray you had a Merry Christmas. And grace and peace to all of you in the New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


We finished the last message in the 23 series today. Someone put together a series of words after each phrase that summarize the truths found in the chapter. I tweaked it a little. So, here it is. Maybe it will encourage you.

* * *

The Lord is my Shepherd – that’s Relationship.

I shall not want – that’s Supply.

He makes me lie down in green pastures – that’s Rest.

He leads me beside still waters – that’s Refreshment.

He restores my soul – that’s Healing.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness – that’s Guidance.

For His name sake – that’s Purpose.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil – that’s Protection.

For you are with me – that’s Faithfulness.

Your rod and your staff they comfort me – that’s Consolation.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies – that’s Hope.

You anoint my head with oil – that’s Consecration.

My cup runs over – that’s Abundance.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life – that’s Blessing.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – that’s Security.

Forever – that’s Eternity.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I have so much I'd like to say this weekend as we wrap up our 23 series. But I don't think I'll have the time. So, here is something that I don't think I'll use. But it summarizes David's life in light of this Psalm. It emphasizes trust, confidence, hope, peace, even joy in the midst of trying circumstances.

Peace and joy do not come because of the absence of our troubles but because of the presence of our Shepherd.

Imagine a conversation between you and David.

* * *

David: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

You: “That’s a nice thought when the sun is shining down on your life – when you’re anointed king and when you defeat the giant Goliath. But what do you say when King Saul hunts you like a wild animal in the wilderness?”

David: “My Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters.”
You: “OK. But what do you do when you commit adultery with Bathsheba and then have her husband killed to cover your sin? What happens when you’ve been thrown off your feet by your own sin?”

Daivd: “My Shepherd restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

You: “David, what do you do when your baby born to Bathsheba dies?”

David: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for My Shepherd is with me.”

You: “David, how do you handle it when the prophet, Nathan, comes to you and rebukes you for your sin?”

David: “My Shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me.”

You: “David, what do you do when your own son, Absalom, turns against you? What do you do when he rebels and tries to have you killed?”

David: “My Shepherd prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

You: “David, what do you do when this son whom you loved so much is finally killed against your orders? How do you bounce back, David?”

David: “My Shepherd anoints my head with oil. My cup runs over.”

You: “David, David, David. Your family is a mess. And you are an old man. Even a king must die. And you will be dead soon. David, tell us, what now?”

David: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of My Shepherd forever”

And so the curtain closes on David’s life on this earth. All the days of his life, his Shepherd pursued him with goodness and mercy. Now, his life with the Shepherd in heaven has just begun. And David is dwelling in the house of his Shepherd forever.

* * *

May that one day be true for you... and for me. Make it so, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Once again, I am amazed by the way God uses CVC to help people in need. Here's a letter we received this past week:

* * *

To CVC ministry leaders,

I sent a desperate email a few weeks ago. I was pleading for your prayers for my family. Not only were the prayers answered but in a way I did not know would even be possible.

I was afraid that it was too late and that there would be too much damage done to my relationship with my husband. I had no idea he was dealing with as much as he was dealing with all alone. He tries to leave me out of high stress issues for fear I will have seizures as I have in the past.

We had a daughter who passed away the day she was born; a son born @ 1.9 lbs. with medical expenses over 2 million dollars and many procedures were not covered by insurance); a son born with chronic asthma; and a daughter was born 9 weeks early. Two weeks after she was born, I suffered from seizures from a brain tumor that then resulted in brain surgery. I am telling you all of this not for pity or sympathy but to show the “valleys” we have been through.

Our finances plummeted and merciless collectors called only to hear my cries asking for more time. We had been misled into a deal that would have allowed us to get our children into a better school district by renting our home out and moving to another community. But the original organizer of the deal ran off with our renter’s money and forced a foreclosure threat.

A godly family trying to sell their home learned of our trials and offered us an opportunity to lease to own their home with an open end so that we can raise our children without the threat of being kicked out. But my husband learned that he would not have the security deposit that he thought he would have.

The service last week touched us in such an amazing way. My husband had the opportunity to pray [with someone] at the close of the service, and, he heard the words, “Please remember if you need anything, the church is here for you.” This week, he reluctantly asked.

We are not comfortable being on the receiving end, but I believe that is something God wants me to let go of. I cannot thank you enough, my wonderful church family, for allowing God to work through you to help. I don't have the words to properly explain my amazement and gratitude. I promise that I will remember this Great Gift from God and repeat this graciousness throughout my life.

* * *

May the Lord keep helping us to help people. We have more than we need to help people in need. When you give to the CVC operating budget, you support our staff as they interface with people in need and you support our benevolence as it is used to serve others.

In Galatians 6:6, 10 there seems to be a connection between supporting the staff of a church and meeting the needs of the hurting people at the church.

One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches... So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:6, 10, ESV).

May God give us at CVC a greater spirit of generosity and a greater urgency to help those in need.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Our son, Evan, loves basketball.

Last year he was with the Royal Redeemer Lutheran School team. There were only 5 boys in his class. So, making that team was pretty much a given. This year, he changed schools and tried out for the freshman team at North Royalton High School. He wasn't sure he'd make it because there are 430 people in his class and 28 boys tried out for the team. He made it. And he's playing pretty well.

So, I've been thinking more about basketball lately. And I remembered John Wooden. He is a legendary coach who was the UCLA Basketball Coach from 1948-1975. His teams won 10 NCAA titles in 12 years.

Lots of people don't know that Wooden professes Christ and is and has been a Bible reader. Jay Carty has written a book , Coach Wooden One on One, that explores Wooden's faith.

One thing that intrigues me is his Pyramid of Success. You can study it on the Official John Wooden Web Site. Check it out.

After he took a position teaching high school English at the age of 24, Wooden grew frustrated with the grading system he was required to use. He felt compelled to help his students better understand success as a result of effort. He thought of his father's advice, "Never try to be better than anyone else, but never stop trying to be the best you can be." And he remembered a verse of poetry he had recently read:

At God's footstool to confess,
A poor soul knelt and bowed his head.
"I failed," he cried. The Master said,
"Thou didst thy best, that is success."

Wooden defined success as a "peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

The definition satisfied Wooden for a short while, but he quickly realized it was insufficient. He needed something more concrete, more visual. So he spent the next 14 years identifying 25 behaviors he believed were necessary to achieve his idea of success. This search resulted in a simple but profound diagram Wooden called "The Pyramid of Success", which he completed in 1948.

I would prefer a more God-saturated, Christ-centered definition of success - maybe something based on Colossians 3:23: Success is seeking to please Christ by giving a wholehearted effort toward the task at hand and leaving the results of God.

For sure, God is interested in success.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:7-8

The word in this passsage is tsalach. It means to "advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable."

Anyway, over the next few weeks, I want to think through what success looks like biblically and think through Wooden's words for my own life... and for our basketball player at home.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Famous Bible prayers

One of the best ways to learn how to pray effectively is through the study of scriptural prayers. The entire book of Psalms is a prayer book. In addition to Psalms, the recorded prayers of men and women of the Bible are powerful examples for us.

Below is a list of some famous Bible prayers that will inspire, inform, and enrich your prayer life.

Abraham’s Prayer for Sodom, Genesis 18:16-33
Moses’ Prayer for Israel in the Wilderness, Exodus 32:9-14
Moses’ Prayer, Interceding For Israel Again, Exodus 32:31-32
Moses’ Prayer to See God’s Glory, Exodus 33:12-18
Hannah’s Prayer, I Samuel 2:1- 10
Elijah Asks God to Reveal Himself to the People, I Kings 18:36-37
The Prayer of Jabez, I Chronicles 4:10
David’s Prayer at the End of Life, I Chronicles 29:9-20
Solomon’s Prayer, II Chronicles 6:14-42
Jehoshaphat’s Prayer when Surrounded by Three Armies, II Chronicles 20:6-12
Ezra's Prayer, Identifying With The Sins Of His People, Ezra 9:6-15
Nehemiah's Prayer for Success, Nehemiah 1:5-11
Daniel’s Prayer of Praise, Daniel 2:20-23
Daniel’s Confession on Behalf of His People, Daniel 9:4-19
Jonah’s Prayer, Jonah 2:2-9
Micah’s Prayer, Micah 7: 18-19
Habakkuk’s Prayer, Habakkuk 3: 1-6, 17-19
Mary’s Song to God, Luke 1:46-55
Zechariah’s Song to God. Luke 1:68-75
Simeon’s prayer. Luke 2:29-32
The Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:9-15, Luke 11:1-3
Jesus Intercedes for His Followers, John 17:1-26
The Prayer of Peter and John, Acts 4:24-30
Paul's Prayer for the Ephesian Believers, Ephesians 1:15-23
Paul’s Second Prayer for the Ephesian Believers, Ephesians 3:14-21
Paul’s Prayer for the Philippians, Philippians 1:9-11
Paul’s Prayer for the Colossians, Colossians 1:9-17
Paul’s Prayer for the Thessalonians, II Thessalonians 1:11-12
Praise in Heaven, Revelation 4:8-11
More Praise in Heaven, Revelation 5:9-14

When you don’t know what to pray or how to pray, simply read some of these prayers. Then, in light of your own needs, repeat them back to God by rephrasing them in your own words.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Honoring Jesus Christ

From 1979 to 1983, I served on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Jacksonville, Florida. My predecessor in that position was a guy named Bob Tebow. After serving with FCA, Bob had become youth pastor at Southside Baptist Church there in Jacksonville. And Maryanne and I decided to join that church, too, and work alongside Bob as volunteers in the youth ministry.

Bob was very influential in my life. He was a mentor for me with FCA. He mentored me in the youth ministry at the church. I was in small group discipleship meetings with Bob and some of our FCA coaches. Bob introduced me to a reformed theology that is passionate about winning the lost. Bob helped me get an opportunity to preach my first sermon at the church and then encouraged me afterwards. Eventually, Bob left the staff of that church to plant a church. So, he planted the idea of church planting in me. God used Bob Tebow to inspire me to go to seminary. Thanks, Bob!

Bob and his wife, Pam, were examples to Maryanne and me when it came to marriage, parenting, discipleship, evangelism and missions. Thanks, Bob and Pam!

Bob took his family and moved to the Philippines for several years to do evangelistic mission work. He started the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association (BTEA). They stayed until their health began to deteriorate. But the passion to reach the Philippines stayed strong. The family now lives in Jacksonville. But Bob coordinates short term trips to the Philippines and leads the work for the Lord there. BTEA been serving in the Philippines since 1985 with five major priorities: Evangelism, Church Planting, Pastor Training, an Orphanage, and the Training of the Next Generation of Evangelists.

Bob and Pam have five children: Christy (31) married to Joey Allen with one daughter Claire (16 months), Katie (29) married to Gannon Shepherd with one daughter Abigail (8 months), Robby (26), Peter (23), and Timmy (20).

If you have been following college football, you probably know something about Tim Tebow. He is the QB for the Florida Gators. And he just won the Heisman Trophy, the award for the best college football player in the nation. He's the first sophpmore to win the award. He did something no one has ever done in the history of college football - rushed for at least 20 TDs and threw for at least 20 TDs. He completed 217-of-317 passes for 3,132 yards, 29 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 177.9 rating, the highest of any Heisman winner. On the ground, he rushed 194 times for 838 yards and 22 touchdowns.

What I like is the fact that he gave all the credit and honor to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I'm happy for my friends, Bob and Pam. Check out Tim's acceptance speech. Look for Bob and Pam and the tears of joy and pride (the good kind) in Bob's eyes. And listen to Tim give Jesus the glory.

God is using Bob and His family again to encourage me. I'm inspired to be a better child of God, a better husband and dad, a better Christian leader, a better missionary. To God alone be the glory!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Marking your Bible

My eyes are getting a little weaker so I am going to purchase a new ESV Bible with larger type. I'm looking at the ESV Single Column Reference Bible. The single column format reminds me of the Bible I used when I first became really serious about my walk with Christ when I was at Vanderbilt. It was a NASB Single Column Reference Bible.

The NASB is a good literal translation. But it reads a little awkwardly in some places. Since the ESV has been published, it has become the Bible of choice for me. We are using it at both CVC and 707. I switched to the ESV because it is a more literal translation than the Message, the NLT, and the NIV (sorry NIV users!). I want a Bible that is as close as I can get to the original and still feels accessible and natural and readable.

When we started CVC, I used the NASB. But it was a little tough for some people. We switched to the NIV for many years. But after looking at the orginal Greek I found that I would say sometimes in sermons and think oftentimes in my study, "The NIV gets it wrong here" or "There's an important nuance of the original text that the NIV is missing." When the ESV came out, I found something that is literal like the NASB and readable like the NIV.

Check out what John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minnesota says. Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle also has posted great reasons for using the ESV.

Anyway... in doing a little research about finding an ESV with larger print, I stumbled across some suggestions about the best writing utensils that won't bleed through Bible pages.

If you're someone who also marks in your Bible, maybe you've wondered if you are using the best tools.

Here's what I found. A blogger named Jesus Saenz writes, "There are three brands of archival quality pens. Staedtler Pigment Liner, Prismacolor Fine Line Marker and Sakura's Pigma Micron. All are high quality pens available with different sized writing nibs with the Prismacolor and Sakura available in different colors as well. With most publishers using lower and lower quality Bible paper using these pens will help in keeping your notes and markings looking neat." For more information than you probably want to know about writing implements for Bible marking, check out this post.

I let Maryanne know that the boys might want to get their dad a few of these pens for Christmas. I can't wait to start marking up a new Bible with a font size that is a little more accessible to these tired eyes.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I saw this tribute to Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre on Thanksgiving day. I found it to be truly inspiring. I love what it conveys about the value of just showing up day after day, game after game, time after time - even when people doubt you and no longer believe in you. I would like to be a leader who perseveres like this.

What would you like the Lord Jesus to say about you as He reflects on your life of service to Him? What would you like your family, your friends, your peers to say?

Ultimately, I would like to live a life as a husband, as a dad, as a leader, as a pastor who inspires others.

Even if you don't like football, you might like this.

Cups of cold water
Jesus told us to give away cups of cold water in His name. "And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward" (Matthew 10:42). A few weeks ago, I received an email that encouraged me to challenged our church to give even more "cups of cold water." I read it to our congregation at our services on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Andy Sikora, our 707 pastor, read it last Sunday night. Here are portions of it. I hope it encourages you to love and good deeds like it encouraged me (Hebrews 10:24-25).

* * *

I have to start off by saying that I love both CVC and SevenOSeven. Regarding this past Sunday night’s scripture and teachings, I never took the time to believe that God has a plan and gift for me that is so great and I just need to wait patiently until He is ready and knows I am ready to receive it. [I learend that] things aren’t painful due to punishment for my past. [And I learned that] the pain is well worth the gift I am waiting on.

I could share with you a bunch of stories and circumstances that led me to where I am currently at in my life, but I feel that I can be honest and just say…I am where Jesus wants me in my life. So regardless of the long train wreck that Jesus happily carried me through these past few months, bottom line is that I have been struggling financially.

My recent concern was how I could pay my utilities, rent, gasoline, etc with still being able to afford food for the month. I am the master of the $1 fast food menu... But even that wasn’t going to work out for me very much longer.

I was excited to learn that there is a nationwide program Angel Food Ministries that offers a box of food valued at approx $50 each month and I would just have to pay $25. Well, orders had to be in by the end of the day this past Monday and only one host site returned my call. Not great stats considering I called about 10 to 15 sites around the area and made at least 2 calls to each one over a weeks time. The one who returned my call would not be up and running till January. I was frustrated and maybe even bitter – but quickly switched it around by recalling Sunday’s service.

I laughed with my sister and told her about the service and how there was a better plan for me. Maybe I would be living in grocery store with a large oven in the near future. It was a joke because I truly believed God’s gift would keep me in awe but I couldn’t imagine how he would or could do it.

Tuesday I called CVC. I asked if they knew of someone in the area who offered the program. Needless to say they did not and were unfamiliar with the program. However, they asked me if I was in need of food…I think they could sense I was about to scream or cry or maybe even give up. Reluctantly, I answered with "I think so…I don’t know…well, yes." (Because ….really…how does someone know if they are in need? I always thought that you weren’t in need of anything until everything was gone from you.)

A CVC staffer named Verna made it comfortable to deal with my time of need and arranged for me to come over to CVC’s pantry. I started telling everyone about the scripture and how I believed it still when the Angel Food’s Ministries wasn’t working out and how God’s words were so true. I was so extremely happy and believed I was stopping by to grab a box of dry and canned food.

Well, I showed up tonight at CVC and I am still shaking over my experience. Shaking because I am so moved and grateful for my gift of food and so crazy over the fact that Jesus is really working in my life through others around me.

I did not receive a box of food. I received a shopping trip through the best cupboards and fridges anyone could ever imagine. While Verna was helping me shop and feel more comfortable accepting my gift, a gentleman [a custodian named Jim Ziebert] was busy carrying the bags out to my car. Then I got home and unpacked everything and I still can not believe my eyes. My cupboards, freezer and fridge or so filled. I even have a Trader Joe’s fresh blueberry pie and shampoo and toilet paper and bars of soap (I could just go on and on).

My children and I are going to have a special evening tomorrow with a nice warm home cooked meal. I am just soo soo grateful. I took pictures of my cupboards and fridge so that I will always remember how special and wonderful this experience has been.

Everyone at CVC and SevenOSeven has really just made me feel like the daughter of a King… The King. Thank you.

* * *

In my ecclesiology class in seminary, we learned what the scriptures teach - that churches exist to worship, evangelize, edify, love one another, and serve those in need. We don't always get all this done at CVC. We fail way too often. But in this case, we did some things well. Personally, I have been moved to worship the Lord who would use us in this way. Surely, this can be used by God to inspire us to evangelize - to point people to Jesus who made it possible to serve someone in need in this way. And this act of generosity certainly edified, loved and served this single mom who was in so much need.

So, thanks to our Lord for providing the food for us to give away. And thanks to our staff and volunteers who collect it from a grocery store each evening. And thanks to the members/attenders of our congregation who bring food each year to church to replenish our shelves (and the shelves of other needy organizations in the area). And thanks to our staff that made this single mom feel like the daughter of the King that she is. And thanks to our generous people at CVC who have stepped up to do even more for this single mom and others like her. And thanks to this mom who asked ofr help when she needed it.

We long to be truly a church on mission. During this holiday season, we have set up in our foyer what we call a "Giving Tree." People can take ornaments that describe a wide variety of needs ranging from helping children in the Love and Hope Orphanage in El Salvador to helping families in need in our own church. So, please help us serve people in need.

My prayer: Lord, let us do more of this! Use us to love people in need. Remind us that most of us have more than we need to help people in need.

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