Friday, March 27, 2009

I am just not convinced it is God...

Yesterday I received an email from a CVC mom who is concerned about her son. Here is a part of her email to me:

"Remember when I had told you about my son who is not a believer? You had mentioned a book that he should read and I think he is more ready than ever to read something like this.

"He went from, 'There is nothing in control out there,' to, 'There has to be some force in control, I am just not convinced it is God.'

"God is working in Him and now is the time for me to go to war for Him.

"Can you please remind me of what the book was called?"

Don't you just love this mother's heart for her son? Here's a part of my response:

"I would recommend Reason for God: Belief in an age of skepticism to your son. It’s written by Manhattan pastor Tim Keller. The product description at CBD says: 'How could a loving God send people to hell? Why does he allow suffering? Can one religion be "right" and the others "wrong"? Responding to the questions of open skeptics and ardent believers, Keller draws from literature, philosophy, reason, and real-life conversations to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief.'"

I'm adding this young man to my prayer list at the back of my Loving God Journal. Would you pray for him, too? And who do you know that needs to read a book like this?
And by the way, some of the issues that Keller addresses in his book will be addressed in a new series at CVC. The series will be entitled "WHY>" More information on that series will be coming soon.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Guide for Prayer for Easter 2009

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Luke 24:5b-6 (ESV)

Please pray...

1. ...that CVCers would invest in the lives of people and invite them to our Easter services (John 1:40-42).

2. ...that God would be at work in the lives of people so that they respond to personal and/or media invitations to attend CVC (John 1:43-46).

3. ...that God would send to us on Easter Sunday many, many people who have been looking in places of death to find life (Luke 24:5b-6).

4. ..that God would especially anoint the music, the message, the prayers, the greeting, the ushering, the conversations, and every other aspect of the worship experience (Luke 2:18-19).

5. ...that God would give our pastor fresh insights into God’s Word as he prepares and as he preaches (Acts 2:37-38).

6. ...that God would enable people to repent of trying to find life in dead places (II Timothy 2:24-26).

7. ...that God would enable people to find true life in Jesus (John 14:6).

8. ...that effective follow-up and assimilation would take place so that “outsiders” to the Kingdom will become “insiders” (Acts 2:40-41).

9. ...that tangible displays of God’s presence and power would be felt at our Easter service, resulting in testimonies being shared that prove that God is among us (Acts 2:43).

10. ...that God’s Kingdom would advance long-term as a result of our Easter services (Matthew 6:10).

Monday, March 23, 2009

What about difficult marriages?

My friends, Mike and Chuck Misja, founders of the North Coast Family Foundation here in NE Ohio, have recently written a book called Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage. And they were recently interviewed for two days last week on Focus on the Family. (To listen to the interview, go to the Focus on the Family website and click on "Listen to the Daily Broadcast." Then look for the March 19 and 20 broadcasts: Finding Hope in a Difficult Marriage 1 and Finding Hope in a Difficult Marriage 2.

I am so happy for Mike and Chuck. The interviews on Focus on the Family were great and I believe that the book is really going to be very helpful to many, many people.

Mike gave me a copy of the new book last Monday and I finished it today. Wow. It's good. Real good. It's deep and profound. And it's unlike many marriage books that are on the market today. It's not simplistic. It's not filled with trite techniques and formulas. Instead, it gives the person who is in a difficult marriage a way to gain some wisdom so that thriving is possible even in a seemingly hopeless marriage.

The product description at says, "Is your marriage failing to meet your 'happily ever after' expectations? Is your spouse unresponsive to you, refusing to change? Offering hope and a unique perspective, the Misja brothers - both Christian psychologists - explain that God's standard for your marriage is primarily faithfulness, not happiness. Learn how to maintain meaning, purpose, godliness, endurance, and optimism for your not-so-perfect relationship."

Mike and Chuck wrote this book for people who find themselves in a marriage that has become a daily heartache. It was written for those who have reluctantly come to the conclusion that their spouse is unlikely to change. And it's for people who really need to face the probability that their marriage will likely not get any better.

And why are things unlikely to get better? Perhaps their spouse lacks insight. Maybe their spouse is uninterested or distracted. Perhaps the spouse is destructive. But let's face it. Some spouses don't have a heart to give or receive anything meaningful from their partner.

Many Christian books on marriage are written with the premise that there are some things one spouse can do to get the other spouse to change. But, Mike and Chuck have seen too many marriages where that is not likely to happen. What then?

Most of the time in our culture, divorce is seen as the only option for chronically difficult marriages. But Mike and Chuck are biblical counselors who do not advocate divorce. So, what's the alternative, then? Survival?

Mike and Chuck don't want to help people in a difficult marriage just survive, but thrive. They want the person in the difficult marriage to identify and then to step out of the destructive roles they themselves are perhaps unwittingly playing in the relationship. They want to help the person in the difficult marriage to be broken and repentant, to gain wisdom, to disengage from the damage caused by the difficult partner, and then to reengage the difficult spouse with courage and strength. In the book, Mike and Chuck lovingly help to answer the question, "How do I live in a difficult marriage in a way that keeps me alive toward God and toward my spouse?"
As I read the book, I found myself thinking that the book is going to be a very helpful tool even for people in good marriages who want insight on how to engage God and a spouse from a thriving heart.

So, I'm proud of my friends for giving the body of Christ a great tool. Their book fills a void in the Christian marriage book publishing industry. Where many books on marriage give some great advice and techniques to follow, their book encourages the reader to go deeper - all the way to the deepest parts of the heart. Mike and Chuck understand what we too often forget: The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. And they understand that while I can't change my spouse's heart, I can ask God to change mine. And when I do that, I can find myself with a thriving heart even in a difficult marriage to a spouse who may never, ever change.

Get the book and read it. Personally, I'm going to read it a second time soon.

Thanks, Mike and Chuck. I pray you sell lots of books. And I pray that the church takes the message you are sharing very, very seriously.
Hunger for God

This weekend I had a chance to talk with and pray for a young single woman who is having some relationship challenges. Ultimately, she would like to be married but isn't sure if the guy she has been seeing is the right guy for her or not. Her heart is hurting right now.

I encouraged her to buy John Piper's book, Hunger for God. It's a book about fasting.

What does this book have to do with dating? Well... nothing... and everything.

Piper is famous for saying, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

It's easier said than done, but we must strive to find our greatest satisfaction in God (the Giver) and not in His gifts (i.e., a spouse or a ministry or a good job). And fasting can help us.

As the Psalmist says, it's the nearness to God that is our good.

One big question that Jesus is constantly asking us is this: Am I not enough for you?

If He is not, then we have made an idol out of something or someone. And idols never can satisfy.
So, if we look to the gifts to give us life rather than to the Giver, we will always thirst for more and we will always be asking the gift for something it (or he or she) can never give.

So, we have to learn to go to Jesus to get our hunger filled. We have to go to Jesus to get our thirst quenched.

We must never deny our God-given longings for the gifts, but we must realize that these longings can never be truly, fully satisfied in this life. They have been given to us by God to show us that even if we get the gifts, they leave us empty. And that emptiness should make us long for the Giver, for the only One who can truly satisfy.

We must seek Him. All else will be like the Turkish Delight that Edmund ate in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The White Witch needed to know only one thing about Edmund to get him to betray his siblings. By asking a few simple questions, the witch learned that Edmund’s weakness was his love for the candy called Turkish Delight. The piece she gave to Edmund was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted. Soon Edmund could think only about “trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted.”

May God protect us from always eating but never being satisfied.

It's why we have to hunger for God. And God alone.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fear not

I'm excited about this weekend's services at CVC. Why? We're going to seek to address a real struggle with fear that many people are facing. My pastor's heart is beating fast. I want to see CVCers draw close to Jesus during these times when fear is running rampant.

So, please invite some friends who are tempted to be fearful during these tough economic times. I think they will be encrouaged. And you will want to find out what the picture in this post has to do with overcoming fear.

Too many people take their cues from the news. And these days, the news feeds fear. What we hear from the media is more and more bad news about job losses, cuts in pay, stock market downturns. Sadly, God's people can conform to the world and allow fear to limit what God wants to do in, through, with and for them. But God is calling us to live in faith, not fear. In this series, we will learn more of what it means to obey the command "fear not" even in light of a shaky economy.

I want to give you a little preview from the message for this weekend...

We have to figure out ways to remind ourselves that our Shepherd, our Father, our King has promised to take care of us. And it can be the little things you do that can make a big difference when it comes to defeating your fear.

I have a friend who has gone through some challenging times with his career. He had a good job with a big pharmaceutical company. But cutbacks happened. And he had to ask the big question, “What am I going to do now?” So, he started his own business. And I’ve been doing some business with him lately.

On Monday, I wrote him a check. Later in the week, he said, “Hey, thanks for the scripture.” I’m sure I had a puzzled look on my face because I didn’t remember giving him a verse. He said, “I went home and looked it up and it was meaningful. Thanks.”

And then I remembered. I have developed a habit. For over 30 years, on the memo part of the check, I write, “Phil. 4:13.” It’s an abbreviation for Philippians 4:13.

I started doing that years and years ago because as we started our family I had a lot of job changes and a lot of entry level salaries. And I had to figure out how to fight fear. So, every time I paid a bill, I wanted to remind myself that I have a God who has promised to take care of me. The verse?

My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

I think I need to develop a new habit or start writing a different verse. I think it’s become vain repetition for me. I didn’t even remember writing it. But it reminded my friend who’s started this new business that God’s going to take care of him and his family.

How about you? How will you remind yourself that you have a Shepherd, a Father, a King who’s promised to take care of you?


By the way, this post about one family's goal to "never let the gospel get smaller" from John Piper is amazing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Easter 2009 is April 12

I am very excited about what we anticipate God will do during the Easter season at CVC and throughout NE Ohio. People are more open to the gospel during times of trouble, times of transition, and times of tension. And in light of the impact our current economy is having, many people are experiencing those kind of times right now. So, this Easter is a very strategic opportunity for us to share the gospel.

Think about it: Your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors might just be more open than ever. People are VERY likely to come to church IF invited. Many of our friends and family members might be just ONE INVITATION AWAY from coming to church and meeting Christ.

Remember: Heaven is real and so is hell. The stakes are high and the consequences are dire for our friends who don’t know Christ. We must regain a sense of urgency when it comes to reaching people for Christ.

So, I am asking you to join with us in expecting God to do abundantly beyond all we can ask or think this Easter.

1. Ask God for personal cleansing and repentance. Use the “Search Me, O God” Lenten guide to confession. You can pick a guide up at the Information Desk at CVC.
2. Sign up for a 30 minute segment of our 24 hour prayer vigil on Monday, April 6 as we beg God to use us to build His Kingdom.
3. Join our staff if you are able to do so for our 12:00 noon to 1:00 pm prayer Monday, April 6 - Saturday, April 11 as we ask God to display His glory and His grace at our Easter services. (Note: The prayer room will be open for personal prayer from 9-5 on April 6-11 if you cannot make it at noon.)
4. Ask God to give you a burden for at least 5 people to invite to our Easter service and then invite them!
5. Join with your Community Group to hang door-hanger invites in your CG neighborhood.
6. Make a commitment to attend either the 8:00am or 12:30am service unless you invite a guest who cannot come at those hours.
7. Come on Easter Sunday with an expectation to celebrate, worship, and grow!

We SERIOUSLY believe God is going to do awesome things this Easter. My message is going to be based on Luke 24:5-6, ”Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” I’ll be encouraging people to quit trying to find life in dead places. We know that life is truly found only in Jesus! Please pray for me as I prepare to preach on Easter.

For all you CVCers who read this blog, thanks for partnering with the elders and staff of CVC as we seek to share the gospel. These are exciting and challenging times to be alive. I’m grateful to be serving Jesus with you.

Let's do this for the One who defeated death and gives us His life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Giants in the land

Here's an email I received today from a person with a passsion to pray for CVC. My response follows.


In our daily reading, we recently read how the Israelites were afraid to go up against the giants. So when [my friend] and I got together this week and prayed, we were praying against what we thought might be the giants that CVC is currently up against. But I’d love to know what giants you see so we could be sure that we are including them.


This could be a longer list, but here are 10 giants that come to my mind.

Fear. We do not trust God and His Word enough. We do not think He will provide.

Unbelief. We do not see heaven as real and hell as hot.

Apathy. We don’t care enough about the lost to win the lost to Jesus.

Self-focus. We don’t see the hurts in the lives of people around us.

Pride. We think we can fix our problems ourselves.

Lukewarmness. We are not on fire for God, His Word, and His kingdom.

Complacency. We do not let our troubles bring us to true repentance.

Prayerlessness. We strive in our own efforts with the filling of the Spirit.

Self-sufficiency. We do not abide in Christ for fruitfulness. We engage in dead works.

Critical spirit. We self-righteously judge the hearts, motives, and actions of others.


What are the giants your congregation is facing?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

He still speaks

Fred Winters was the pastor who was shot as he led his congregation this past Sunday. He pastored the First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois.

Fortunately, he left a clear and compelling message of salvation on You Tube. Check out his answer to the question "Why Do You Exist?"

Hebrews 11:4 says this about a biblical character named Abel: "And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks." This is true for Fred Winters, too.

Let's pray for his family and his church.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More data on how we have our work cut out for us

This from Ed Stetzer: "The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers -- or falling off the faith map completely. Denominations and denominationalism are in decline, the cultural influence of Christianity continues to slip, more people are describing themselves as non-religious (now at 15%) and minority religions are increasing in popularity (like Islam and Wicca)."

Check out Ed's blog: Research on the Decline of Religion in America.
We have our work cut out for us

Our culture is increasingly becoming a post-Christian culture.

The number of Americans who identify themselves as Christians has dropped significantly over the past 20 years — while 15 percent of U.S. residents now say they have “no” religion, a newly released survey reveals.

Sadly, President Obama fulfilled his campaign promise to reverse the ban on federally funded embryonic stem cell research established by President Bush. Check out the article "Stem cell reversal" in World Magazine. Aides to Obama told reporters in a phone conference Sunday that the new administration intends to be led by a “responsible practice of science and evidence instead of dogma.” But science—not dogma—is increasingly supporting the validity of adult stem cell research. This month separate scientific teams have announced improvements in the safety of induced pluripotent stem cells, which behave like embryonic stem cells and don’t require the death of an embryo. (For more on this, look here.)

A reality that exists in our culture has been exposed by the book "unChristian." A generation of young Americans, age 18-29, hold overwhelmingly negative views regarding Christianity. The book is about perceptions of Christianity. Young people see Christians as hypocritical, too much focused on "getting people saved" (and therefore inauthentic), anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. The authors of unChristian write, "We consistently find that the vast majority of teenagers nationwide will spend a significant amount of their teen years participating in a Christian congregation. Most teenagers enter adulthood considering themselves to be Christians and saying they have made a personal commitment to Christ. But within a decade most of these young people will have left the church and will have placed emotional connection to Christianity on the shelf. For most of them, their faith was merely skin deep. This leads to the sobering finding that the vast majority of outsiders in this country, particularly among young generations, are actually de-churched individuals." (p. 74)

In light of all the above, how do we live as "salt" and "light" in an incresingly "salt-less" and "light-less" culture?

We have our work cut out for us. Let's start by praying.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Somebody from the PD is reading my blog?

A church planting friend named Dan Ghramm sent me the following link and asked, "Can I have your autograph?" Of course, he's joking.

But evidently, someone from the PD read my blog posting from yesterday. And they included portions of it in an article called "What local bloggers are saying about... the economic crisis."

By the way, Dan is attending LAUNCH, our church planting school for NEO360. NEO360 is our local expression of an international church planting movement called Vision 360. LAUNCH is a school for church planters that we are hosting at CVC. Dan is planting a church called Gateway Church at Kamm's. Check out his blog here. And please pray for his church plant.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bad times are good times for the church


Here's some of what I said this past weekend as we talked about addressing the tough financial times that we are facing as a nation and as a church.


Everybody knows we're in the midst of difficult economic times. People are being laid off. Hours are being cut. Salaries are being reduced. Savings and retirement funds are being impacted. The stock market is dropping.

CVC is being impacted by all this. Some of you are facing these challenges. We care. If you need help, call out Care Team here at the church and ask for help. Now is not the time to let pride keep you from seeking help. Maybe we can’t do everything to help you out of a tough financial spot, but maybe we can do something. If you need help, ask. We have a fund specially designated to help you.

These tough financial challenges that are affecting our nation are also being reflected in contributions. Maybe you've seen on the back page of the Ministry Section of the weekly program that our Operating contributions have steadily been coming in around $10,000 below budget each week. This past week, we came in slightly above budget – the first week this year that we have come in around budget.

Year-to-date we are $78,135 below budget. That's 15% below budget. If things keep going this way all year long, we’re going to end up with a $500,000 shortfall. If you compare things to last year, we are about $70,000 or 13% behind where we were a year ago.

So, please pray. Our God is sovereign. He is in control. Psalm 46 was part of our One Year Bible reading plan for this week. (I hope you’re keeping up!) It says, "God is our refuge and strength". "We will not fear". "The Almighty is with us". "Be still and know that I am God". In a couple of weeks, we’re going to break away from a previously planned series of messages and do a “fear not” series. Regardless of what's going on in the economy, we have a God who is our refuge and strength – who is trustworthy. Therefore, we are still before Him and need not fear.

So, what are we doing in light of these challenging days. Proverbs 16:9 says, "We can make our plans but the Lord determines our steps". We’re going to seek to trust God and we are going to seek to be wise leaders of His church.

We are taking steps to reduce spending in 2009. We are in the process of cutting approximately $175,000 out of the Operating Budget. We are cutting 20% out of the ministry program budgets. We will not be filling any positions that open up. We're delaying our search for a co-teaching pastor until things get better financially for our congregation. And we’re evaluating and praying about other ways to cut the budget.

So why I am telling you this? Let’s be informed. Let’s join together in prayer for God's provision for CVC as well as for other churches in NE Ohio. Let’s be aware that people in this church have been impacted personally and that we need to rally around them. Let’s draw closer to God and not be fearful. Let’s not stop giving because we are fearful of the future. Let’s trust God to be our provider. Let’s keep tithing as an act of worship and obedience to God. If God has abundantly blessed, let’s pray about making extra gifts.

This is a unique time in our history. We know that this lost world is searching for hope more than ever. And we know hope. Hope is found in Jesus. So, we want to increase our efforts to love the world – to reach our community and the world. There's a lot to be done for Jesus and now is the time. Our light shines best in the darkest of times. If we are faithful in our giving and keep up the generosity in tough times, we’ll have the potential to impact more lives than ever before.

On behalf of the elders and staff of this church, thank you for allowing us to join with you to make a difference in the lives of literally thousands of people. Thanks for being a part of our mission – the mission of helping people come to know Christ and helping them grow to be passionate followers of Christ.


I ended the time praying for the people at CVC who have been impacted by this difficult economy. I said, "If you’ve lost a job or taken a cut in pay on in hours… or if someone in your family has lost a job or taken a cut in pay or in hours, would you stand up so we can pray for you?"

Let’s pray…

Friday, March 06, 2009

Things to think about this weekend

I am pumped about this weekend's services. So, please do whatever it takes to get some of your family and friends who do not know Christ to CVC this weekend. We are going to be talking about the message of the cross in a way that will help explain the reason for all those animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. You may gain some new insights. We're going to do our best to present a clear and excellent presentation of the gospel… and then beg God to make it even more clear and compelling. I am looking forward to what God wants to do this weekend. (And then - just so you know! - when the day is over… I will be living in anticipation for the next weekend.) So, join me in asking God to show up and so something great. I think like Pastor Perry Noble, "I don’t think I’ve preached my best sermon yet… it is still yet to come, maybe this weekend!" And you wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

See you this weekend. Don't forget to "spring forward" by setting your clocks ahead one hour tonight, Saturday, March 7. Daylight savings time officially starts at 2 a.m.

When I served on jury duty this week, I ran into a wonderful CVCer, Margaret Mlocki. She posted a few thoughts on her blog about her experience. Check out her thoughts about jury duty. I must warn you, though. I think she's kind of unfairly hard on me for multi-tasking! What's up with that? Seriously, it was great to see Margaret. I will look forward to hearing how her week of jury duty went. Margaret is a faithful servant of Christ especially with our youth at CVC. Thanks, Margaret.

So, last week I served as a juror with 7 delightful people on civil case. I did I have an opportunity to talk with several fellow jurors about matters of faith. I'm hoping that my fellow jurors saw in me a follower of Christ who is serious about his faith and joyful about his life at the same time. Jesus is the One who makes us sober and who makes us smile... all at once. I love that about Jesus! The case that I was on was a civil case involving a car accident. The plaintiff had a back injury and was seeking compensation for past and future expenses along with a reward for pain and suffering from the defendant. (There's a big part of me that despises this kind of case. In my opinion, our nation is way too litigious.) But we followed the law and gave a monetary award to the plaintiff. One take away for me was simple: Be careful when you drive!

I don't know the new pastor, R. Mark Giuliano, of downtown Cleveland's Old Stone Church personally. But I do like what he says about why he left Florida to come to Cleveland.
"There is work to be done here, and that's what really brought me to Cleveland. The answer to the question, 'Why Cleveland?' is simple: Cleveland called to me. Better yet, God did. In fact, there were a hundred and one other possible places for me to live, but as my 21-year-old son reminded me as I wrestled with indecision, 'Dad, you'll be happiest if you go where you are needed.' And that's the one thing Cleveland has in spades: Need. I've come to Cleveland because I believe in a God who does his best stuff among those who are in need. If you want to see God in action, or if you want to know God on a daily basis, don't move to a city where everything is well in hand, go where there is godly work to be done. I'm a sucker for the underdog. I love to see God upend the powers and principalities who try to keep good folks and their good cities down. Years ago, through prophet Isaiah, God said, 'I do a new thing among you.' Maybe that new thing that God is doing today is calling out a collective faith among all Clevelanders, to lift up our heads and believe that God has not left the building, and to live with vision and hope for our city, its people, our neighbors once again." Read more here. I like the way this guy thinks. Welcome to Cleveland, Mark! You're on mission!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Patrick McCullough’s story

Patrick is in the Community Group that Maryanne and I are leading. Here's his story. God is changing lives at CVC. Thanks to everyone who gives time, talent, and treasure to make stories like this possible.


When I was young, I was focused on what I thought was most important: me. I competed in most sports and did very well in a few. My center of the universe began and ended where I was standing at the moment. In retrospect, I realize now that this was very self serving and naive. My focus conflicted with my ability to open my eyes and see the world as God’s gift. I didn’t engage in godly things and lost a good portion of my younger years focused on where I should not.

I attended a church sponsored grade school through eighth grade and considered my life to be typical. I attended church on Sunday’s with my family and didn’t really think of anything spiritually. After grade school, I attended a typical public high school in Pittsburgh.

When I reached high school, my church attendance became a special event appearance only. Christmas and Easter were the only times I attended church. The other elements of church (communion, confession, etc.) were also eliminated from the things I did or cared about. It wasn’t that I outwardly rebelled against Christ, I just didn’t think about Him.

During high school my focus was on football and girls. Once again, I thought this was normal as most of my peers’ attentions were in the same place. Eventually I was offered and accepted a scholarship to play football in college. Certainly this was just a pit stop on my way to the NFL!

Well, things didn’t work out the way I planned. Lack of talent, injuries, lack of focus and most importantly, the lack of faith in my heart lead me to be lost for most of my college tenure. I played hard, partied hard, and didn’t think about the future until I met my wife to be, Jill.

Jill and I were engaged while I was still in school. There was a lot of catching up to do academically. Football was over for me. My knees gave out. But I had finally replaced my love for the spot light with my love for Jill.

We were married in 1988. One of the earliest memories I have of our life together was when Jill asked me to attend church with her. We had just moved to Cleveland and we started attending regular Sunday services together. A few children later, we both believed that the church we attended was leaving us empty, so we started attending another church. Once again, the change of venue didn’t do much for the spirit, but with young, impressionable children, we attended regularly and portrayed the image of a young Christian Family.

In 2005 we made another change of churches. We attended our current church for the first time on a Saturday evening in May. The message that day was focused on the “Da Vinci Code” as it had just been released on the big screen. I had read the book, thought it was good fiction, but didn’t think about the moral crisis it could cause in someone who actually understood the implication of some of the claims. The message went straight to my heart. I felt the pastor was talking to me, even though we had never met. My heart for the first time starting realizing that there was more to this “Christian Thing” then just showing up on Sundays and throwing a few bucks in the offering. We attended regularly after that.

My faith began to become very personal for me. I looked forward to Sunday services, but felt there had to be more. I began to know the pastor socially as our children play basketball together. Every encounter I had with the pastor and his wife made me feel closer and closer to Christ.

In the fall of 2007, I joined Men’s Fraternity. The interaction with other men who had the same thoughts, fears, and search for knowledge drew me even closer to Christ. My small group openly discussed what it was like to have a personal relationship with Christ and how wonderful they each felt once they had received Christ in their heart.

It took the Lord 43 years, but in December of 2007, I admitted my need for Jesus and his forgiveness for all my sins. I understood the meaning of His death on the cross for me and received Him as my personal Lord and Savior. Jesus welcomed me to His table and filled my heart with His joy!

Immediately after being accepted as a member of Christ’s army, things began to change. There was more love in my family life. I was more patient with my children. I started reading the Bible daily and felt for the first time, that the center of the universe wasn’t where I was standing, but where the Lord dwelled.

A little over a year later, the Lord continues to grow in me. I have never been so content and loving of my family, faith, and friends. I can honestly sit back and enjoy knowing that the time spent on earth is a short prelude to the Kingdom we seek. I openly discuss faith with co-workers, believers and non believers alike. I hope to continue my journey, growing and honoring Jesus.

My focus has changed since youth. Jesus is the center of my world. I have been blessed with a great wife, three unbelievable children and faith in my heart. I want for nothing else.

Thank you Jesus.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Jury Duty

This week I have been called to jury duty for Cuyahoga County.

It's taking me away from some church ministry responsibilites. And I'm going to be behind on some work when I get back into the office. So, initially, I wasn't all that excited about serving. It was jsut a duty. But by God's grace, I'm choosing to see this jury duty as a Divine appointment.

God is sovereign over all our days. "My times are in [His] hand" (Psalm 31:15). I may have had other plans for this week, but God's plan is best. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). God's purposes, even the purpose of serving on jury duty, are better than my purposes. "[The Lord] declares the end from the beginning . . . saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:10). And it is a privilege to be a part of our American judicial process to help restrain evil and promote good. "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good" (I Peter 2:13-14).

So, pray for me.

Pray that I might have opportunity to do my duty to my country... and to see myself as a missionary for Jesus cleverly disguised as a juror... and that God would use me to share His story with someone who will respond.

Then, the duty of serving on a jury will become the delight of serving on a jury.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Prayer from the Valley of Vision

If you need encouragement in how to pray effectively, get The Valley of Vision. I'm using it to help me pray.

Here's part of the prayer I prayed through today:

May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one,
If my life should end today,
let this be my best day.

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