Friday, December 26, 2008

The Great Door

1 Corinthians 16:5-9
After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you awhile, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.

These words have jumped off the page and have hit me square in the face.

Paul writes to the church in Corinth about coming to see them and staying a while. His destination is Corinth; however the Lord is clearly opening a "great door" in Ephesus for him now. He explains to them that if God permits he will be with them, but for now God has opened a great door to do effective work.

For years I have thought of "destiny" as the arrival part of life. I think we all have asked God, "what is my destiny in life", or "God show me my destiny you have for me." But I see in this scripture that Paul has learned something that we may not recognize; that there is a vast difference between "destiny" and "destination."

Here is the key insight: Destiny is the journey getting to your destination.

Think about yourself when you were a kid, or maybe even your own kids, on the way to grandma's house. Every 15 or 30 minutes that famous question pops up, "are we there yet?"
Why do they (we) do this? Because they (we're) so focused on the destination that they (we) forget how to enjoy the journey.

I'm looking forward to sharing some insights on this subject starting in 2009.
God has opened my eyes to a great door before me.
A door of destiny that He has opened for effective work.

God Bless and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Change of Plans

When I'm not traveling and speaking, or doing graphic design work for churches, I somehow find the time (that meaning I have plenty of time..ha) to exercises my creative hobby and do some video contest projects.
Last week I was contacted by Circuit City to let me know I'm a top 10 finalist and that voting would start next week and go until the middle of January.
Circuit City just called and said they are changing the voting period for their contest, which means, VOTING STARTS NOW (Monday, Dec.15th) and ends Sunday, Dec. 21st!!!

If you can send any votes and voters my way at it would be awesome.
You can vote once a day, everyday till the contest ends this Sunday....and as always, THANK YOU! so much for the support!!!
Merry Christmas,

Friday, December 12, 2008

Something Recognizable

Tonight we are having our second annual "Christmas Progressive Dinner" with our small group.
Last year it so much fun, I can't wait till tonight. I'm so looking forward to it.
A few days ago I told Lora that I felt like--before we exchange gifts--I would like to lead us all in taking communion together.
I'd like to share right now what I plan on sharing tonight.

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
(Matthew 26:26-28 NKJV)

We see in this scripture a habit that Jesus consistently practiced. Whenever Jesus meet with people and ate He would take, bless, break and give the food.
This practice is all throughout scripture. It's in both accounts of Matthew and Mark with the "Lord's Supper", as well as in all accounts of Jesus feeding the 5000 and again with the 4000.
With that in mind, looking at Luke 24:13-49

I'll paraphrase: After the crucifixion of Jesus, two of His followers are walking to Emmaus. Jesus meets up with them and they did not recognize Him (verse 15) they spend the entire evening talking about what just happened and how depressed they are. (verse 19) Again they don't know it's Jesus.
Jesus even talks to them about prophecy and all the things that had to happen. (verse 25)
Finally, it's late and the two were going to stop for the night, but Jesus was going to head on. (verse 28) They convinced Jesus to stay over with them and eat. Verses 30 and 31 says, "Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight."

Something recognizable happened.

Jesus is in the taking, blessing, breaking and giving business.
It's what He's known for.
It's what He does.
It's what He still does.

As followers of Christ we say "Yes, Lord! Take my life, it's yours." then we look and actively expect blessings, but we get a little hesitant about the breaking part. The truth is the breaking part is hard. None of us want that. It's why it's called "breaking."
But without the breaking part in our lives there can't be the giving away.
Isn't it amazing that it was the action that opened their eyes and not the countless scriptures and stories? I believe, much like this story, we should be known by our recognizable actions like Jesus was.

This process in our lives is much like a well-washed head of hair. "Wet, soap, lather, rinse...REPEAT.
I have grown up hearing the principle, "what God blesses you with, He breaks you with."
Honestly, I'm at a point in my life where I'm discovering it to be true. Hard truth, but liberating.

Tonight as we take communion--and it the next time you partake--ponder the process in your life. Where are you at in these stages? Let this be your prayer:

Lord, as a follower of you, I truly want you to take my life and use me.
I thank you and joyfully receive the blessings you've given me.
Lord, with those blessings, what would you have me to do?
I pray that as I can stay broken to the things that break your heart.
Thank you for breaking me with Your loving mercy and grace.
Let my life and all I have be given to others.
Lord, repeat often.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Right Fit

I've recently been doing some personal research behind the mentalities of Small Groups.

This is partly due to the fact that it has been the small group that Lora and I lead that has sustained us throughout this difficult time in our lives.
I've always been a small group guy. I grew up with them in my home church in Arkansas.
I started them at the church where we first youth pastored.
I ran ahead of them at the church where we most recently youth pastored.
It was our small group at Harvest Time that took care of us when our daughter tried to come three months early. It's been our small group here in Alabama that has held us up and given us strength.

I've come to understand and accept that there is no one way to do small groups and with that I'd like to share the three structures in which small groups can operate . This is not an issue of "right or wrong" way to do small groups. It's an issue to "pick the structure that's right for your church."

Church with Small Groups
Church of Small Groups
Church is Small Groups

Church with Small Groups
The two churches where I served as youth pastor had the "church with small groups" structure. Small groups were in every part of the church. Special interest small groups. Youth group had small groups, ladies' and men's ministries were small groups. Doesn't sound too different from most of our understanding of small groups other than the one major factor that separates this group from the rest. Small groups are just another ministry the church has to offer. In other words, choir was a small group, too. So was every Sunday school class, even the elders. Children's ministry workers, and so on. Church life happens and small groups happen with it.

Church of Small Groups
The church I grew up mostly used this format. The major difference between this structure and the previous one is that a church of small groups is just that: they are a community of small groups that make up the bigger church. In other words, there is more of a specific process in place to get people to a final destination. Taking care of each other, building accountability, fostering spiritual growth happens in a small group. The focus is for everyone be in this type of atmosphere of community and then together make up the total church experience. The larger church is simply a community of small groups together.

Church is Small Groups
This past weekend I spoke at a church that is a "Cell Church." "Church" happens in the small groups because the small groups are the church. Everything happens in the small groups: pastoring, accountability, caring, follow-up, evangelism, serving, communion, etc. The purpose is to get everyone in a small group to build and create more small groups with that focus. A once-a-week combined worship service is held to bring everyone together to ensure all are on the same page for what's about to be launched in the upcoming week in small groups. That once-a-week service exists for the small groups as opposed to the first two structures where the small groups exists for the service.

Again, there is no wrong way to do those small groups in your church. The point is to choose what structure you as a church leader like and want and make it yours for your church. For me, I like one structure over the other two, so it goes to say I know what I like and don't like.
And knowing that now will help me to go far in the next step in life. Beforehand I didn't know why I was frustrated or confused. It was much like putting a square peg in a round hole.

Nothing wrong with the hole.
Nothing wrong with the peg.
Just not the right fit.

Monday, November 24, 2008


My friend, Song, posted several weeks ago song lyrics on her page that moved her.
My wife, Lora, posted song lyrics just a couple of days ago that expresses her.

So I thought I'd post lyrics to one of my favorite songs--mainly because looking back over the last couple of years of my life it has become the theme song of my journey. I have struggled to say properly how to do ministry, life, things in countless talks and conversations. I've always been quick to point out how not to do something, while not so quick to point out my support to the person. I feel the last couple of years of my life were just on big debate.
A nuisance. A heartache. A misunderstanding.

So here we are in this same old spot
Knowing something needs to happen but our mouths are locked
Tongue tied closed tight sealed shut...yup,
I tried hard but it just wouldn’t come up
It’s on the tip of my tongue it’s in the front of my mind
Yet the words were still so hard to find
Finally the reality of things to come pushed me to the edge
I jumped off the cliff into the abyss as I said

I’m not trying to be a nuisance, I just think we can do better than this
that was simply my two cents, you can.... you can, take it or leave it

The conversation lingered on and on and
Before I knew it night had turned to dawn and
Were we searching for the truth in all of it
Or are we debating just to win the argument
Cuz none of us want to hear about where we go wrong
This song could easily be from me to you or me to (Vince)
Cuz I have the potential to be the guiltiest
My greatest strength is also my strongest weakness

Let’s think about this path that we’re taking
Let’s think about this future we’re creating
Let’s think about this life that is fading
Think about it, come on think about it now
Let’s think about this time that we’re spending
Investing in monetary things that are ending
Let’s think about it and let’s think together
And let’s think about what we can do to make it better.....

I’m not trying to be a nuisance, I just think we can do better than this
that was simply my two cents, you can..... you can, take it or leave it.

(Artist: John Reuben, Album: The Boy VS The Cynic, Song: Nuisance)

Friday, November 21, 2008


What did you think of when you read the title?
The T.V. show?
Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant's hit song of the 80's?
Or that person in your life who sticks closer than a brother?

One of the many things I'm thankful for this holiday season.
The Bible talks much about the subject of friendship, so it seems this would be an area of life to spend some time making sure some extra attention is given.

While I don't want to blog about the issues of what to look for in a friend or what not to look for in a friend, I would like to share something that I have discovered to help in knowing what to expect from a friend and how to make the journey of friendship less bumpy. I want to show you three people from the Bible that can give us some insight on the subject of friends.

I believe that healthy friendships will consist of a mixture of these three types of relationships.
"The Paul."
"The Barnabas."
and "The Timothy."

The Paul is someone who has "been there and done that" and had some success in it. Usually this person is older than you, but not always. The Paul is someone you greatly respect and allow them to speak truthfully and honestly into your life. The Paul is just ahead of the race, leading the way.

The Barnabas is an encourager. The very name means exactly that: one who encourages. Life brings disappointments. Do you have someone who inspires you with courage? Someone who spurs your spirit and builds your confidence? I dare to say most friendships we have typically fit into this category, but it's important to make sure you have the Paul's and the Timothy's.
The Barnabas is in the race right beside you.

The Timothy. Think of what I wrote concerning The Paul.....are you that to someone? The Timothy is usually the person younger than you (but not always) where you have the ability to ask them hard questions. Where you can speak into their lives. The Timothy is running the race and he's following your lead.

I count my life truly blessed to have many friends that fit these various characteristics. Anything outside these are nice acquaintances. Enjoyable, nice but typically just surface relationships.

If you have some friends that fit into these characteristics, take this simple Holiday Friend Challenge:
Write a card or letter (facebook, IM, text, email doesn't count) and tell them why you're so thankful for having them in your life.

John 15:14 (The Message Bible) I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Break Free Recap

Last weekend I had the honor and privilege of speaking to First Assembly of God youth ministry, Elevate, at their fall retreat in Pickwick, TN.

This was such an awesome time with some quality teens whom I really enjoyed getting to spend the weekend with. I found it so easy to talk to them---mainly because of their open attitude towards this stranger. It was just so nice to be around teens who truly seem to enjoy being around an old guy like me (yes, I know I'm not really old, but to some teens 32 is old) who they have no relationship with.

I've been really thinking about this trip and asking God if I'm really done with youth ministry. Honestly, I've felt like my youth pastoring days were behind me, and maybe they are....maybe.

I thought I'd share just a few thoughts from the message I spoke. Again this is just a taste of the over-an-hour message I delievered Saturday night. It was an awesome night, truly God showed up and many teens lives were touched.

Break Free.

Life has a way of shuffling us all down the same path and moving us into the same pattern.

Patterns have a way of making us fit into a standard that God rather not have us conform to.

Romans 12:1-2 says, "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around-life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

Tucked in this scripture is the basic understanding that the "outcome" of our lives is produced by the "choices" we make, which are driven by the "beliefs" we trust.

Many times we don't like the outcome of our life so we think if we make a different choice then that will make us happy. Rarely do we go back to the foundation of what we think and "renovate" what we believe.

This type of pattern is what causes frustration in our lives. Whether it's an addiction, bad habit, relationship, job or church....breaking free from the issue at hand starts with an inside adjustment. It's true what is said, "wherever you go, there you are." Many times it's not the outside circumstances that need to be tweaked, it's the inside condition our hearts.

Paul said in Philippians 4:11-12, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."

Then Paul unlocks the key to being able to handle the outcomes of life, in verse 13, "I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

Breaking free happens when you spend time in building a relationship with Jesus, you transform your thoughts to think like Jesus and you renovate your beliefs to line up with God's beliefs.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shameless Plug

I just got word from one of the contest that I'm in that I'm inches away from being a finalist.
If you are able to vote today (Nov. 17) and tomorrow (Nov. 18) before midnight I would be so grateful.
(you'll need a youtube's easy and free to set one up)

Simply go to
Type LEADRUNNER in the search tab on their page
Click the "Thumbs Up" icon

That's it. Thank you so much for your support.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Life, The Root and Total Forgiveness

I've recently found a new TV favorite.
When I say favorite I mean, just knocked out the first season and got caught up on season two in three days. This show has quickly found a little home in my...well, in my life.


The show is about a detective named, Charlie Crews, who served twelve years of a life sentence for a triple homicide he did not commit. During that time, Charlie lost everything he had - his wife, his friends, and his fellow cops. Detective Crews, returns to the force, he brings his prison knowledge with him. He now knows the law from both sides, as cop and con. He also understands that his version of Zen applies to being a cop. Charlie believes everything is connected - victims, bystanders, witnesses, even his new partner, Dani Reese, who has a wall at which Charlie insists on picking away, not only out of curiosity, but also because it's fun. Regardless, she is his partner, and Charlie will back her up one hundred percent. But the badge and the new found wealth (somewhere around fifty million dollars) can't change what Charlie has been through. His world is a different one than the rest of us see, because his world lacks social pretense. And although there is darkness in Charlie's story, darkness in Charlie's job, Charlie will never stop trying to find the light.

Finding the light.

I've been slowly digesting a book, Total Forgiveness by R.T.Kendall. I say slowly because when you've been wronged and hurt, reading a book like this is much like picking at a scab that is trying to heal. But as I was reading the other day, I came across something that wants to take root in my life, in all of our lives, when we've been wronged.


In the show Life there are plenty of people who still don't trust Charlie Crews and think he's out for revenge. The fact that he has somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty million dollars makes it all that much more suspicious.
In one of the shows he's asked by the chief, "why are you here? Why don't you just take your settlement money and go somewhere away from all of this?"
Crews responds, "Because I'm a good cop. Don't you need good cops?"

It's been quite amazing to see this detective have all the opportunities to take vengeance, but time and time again he does what's right. He really is a good cop.
Bitterness seems to have no root in his life.

Bitterness will manifest itself in many ways----losing your temper, high blood pressure, irritability, sleeplessness, obsession with getting even, depression, isolation, a constant negative perspective and generally feeling unwell.
The absence of bitterness allows the Holy Spirit to be Himself in us. This means that I will become like Jesus when I allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in me instead of acting like I want to when I've been hurt.
I can honestly say after months of working through the issue, I've been able to let go of the situation and forgive. The root of bitterness has shriveled up.
Bitterness is gone when there is no desire to get even or punish the ones who did us wrong.

Life in prison is what bitterness sentences us to when we don't forgive.
Life is what we get back when we don't allow bitterness to take root in us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Don't Cut Off Ears

The election is over and the results are in.
I've been very outspoken concerning who I was voting for and why. Like so many out there, my pick for President did not win. With that in mind, I'd like to share some thoughts in regards to how to respond.
One of the great things about America is the freedom of speech. It's why I can write this today. But just because we can say things, doesn't mean we always should.

I want to point to two stories from the Bible that were so fresh in my mind this morning as I was reflecting on how we as Christians should respond. They deal with the subject of the church.

King David had a desire to build God a house. However, God would not allow him to do so. In fact, the only thing that David was allowed to do was draw up the plans and to start stockpiling the materials. This "man after God's own heart" was not allowed to build God a house. Why? God explains to David that he was a man of war, and that he did not want hands that shed blood to build Him a place to dwell.
I know that as follower of Christ I can sometimes be militant in my efforts to do good. Much like a lot of Christians.

Now flash forward to the scene where Jesus is in the Garden with his disciples. (Matt. 26:40-53)

Jesus is about to go to the cross and he takes with him some disciples, one of which he had recently renamed Peter. Peter, the man he called "rock."
He asks them to stay with him and pray, but they fall asleep.
Judas and the soldiers come.
A kiss of betrayal.
Peter cuts off the ear of a solder.
Christ puts back the ear and heals the guard.
Look at the symbolism here.

The church was sleeping when it should have been praying, and when things didn't turn out the way they thought, it takes out a sword and cuts off the very thing that is used for hearing.

If we are cutting off ears with our swords (the Word of God in our mouth) then how will the world ever hear about this "loving God?" It's time for us as a church to wake up and start praying. Seeking repentance for what we've done wrong personally, not other people's sins, not even for our nations sins. Scripture says, "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This is a very personal prayer. The focus is on us, not others. However, others benefit when we are right with God. I've discovered when I "seek God's face" that I end up reflecting His values and ways of thinking. I believe God wants His house to be a house of prayer and His people to be lovers not sword-swingers.

It's time for Christians to honor the king, pray for our nation and put the sword in its sheath.

As for me and my house, we will not speak evil of Obama nor to others about Obama. He is our new President and has our support. (See Daniel 3:1-28 to answer all the "what if" questions)

God have mercy on the Farrell family.
God extend your grace on us as a nation.
Let our love for each other show others we are followers of you.
Your Kingdom come, your will be done.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bigger than Coffee

Did you know when you vote today, Starbucks will give you a free tall cup of coffee?
I saw their promotion for it a few days ago.
It's true, in fact if you haven't seen the promotion, go here and watch it.
Go ahead, I'll wait, it will only take 60 seconds.

Honestly, I'm not a "huge" coffee person. I blame it on my two years in the coffee business where drinking eight cups of coffee a day was the norm.
But something inside of me wanted to go today.
I can't tell you how excited I was to wake up today, go vote, and drive fifty minutes to get my free coffee.

Oh, wait. Fifty minutes to get to the nearest Starbucks?
I could. I want to. I don't mind the drive. Gas...hmmn.
Not going to be able to go.
Depression sets in.
But why?

As I updated my status on Facebook and watched the number of people who went to Starbucks climb, saw the video promotion be passed around, watching the video again for the third time.....I saw it.

I saw what it was that is "bigger than coffee."
I saw what it was inside me that got me all excited.
I saw what it was that caused thousands of people to want to flock together.

Community built around a common goal.

Making community, country and the world a better place. It is that thought that I want to rally behind. It's huge, it takes more than one person to achieve it, it takes a tribe, a group of people who want to make it happen. People are doing it.
Starbucks has always known they don't sell coffee, they create community.
I saw one time in one of their stores a "now hiring" card. The back of it read, "When you work at Starbucks, you can make a difference in someone's day by creating an environment where neighbors and friends can get together and reconnect while enjoying a great coffee experience."

They see themselves as a company that purposes itself to create meaningful environments where people connect with one another.

This excites me because in the church world, I'm a small-group-open-transparent-change-the-world type of guy. This is why small things never stay small. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Big vision attracts. Anything that starts small and has big vision will become big. The key is not throwing stones at 'big." The key is making sure "big" remembers what's its purpose.

Selling coffee or connecting people?
Holy huddle or connecting people to Jesus?
Talking or doing?
It's bigger than coffee.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How does Jesus think?

One of my favorite books is Think Like Jesus by George Barna.
If you like numbers and surveys, then you definitely want to pick this up.

You may remember some time ago the WWJD (what would Jesus do?) movement came out and hit the ground running. Every Christian I knew had either a shirt or a hat or a bracelet with those four magical letters on them.


Youth pastoring at the time I noticed something unbelievable. Teens would put on the WWJD gear and all the sudden start making really good choices, treating others in love, disciplining each other in the ways of God. "To good to be true," you say.....well ,yes, it was. None of that happened. In fact it was quickly replaced with the "Live Strong" Lance Armstrong movement.

But something did happen.

For a brief moment in time, WWJD did cause (at least the teens I saw) some to stop and pause for a second and sincerely ask, just for a second, what would Jesus do?

Being able to stop and hit pause is very important.

In his book, Think Like Jesus, George Barna points out the differences and similarities between three types of people. They are; The Christian with a Biblical Worldview, The Christian without a Biblical Worldview and The Lost (people who do not profess Jesus as Lord)
By definition, Biblical Worldview simply means looking at the Bible and living by the principles found in it. It's much like the "Benjamin Franklin glasses" in the movie "National Treasure"--you know, look through one series of lenses and see one thing, put another lens on and see something totally different while looking at the same thing.
Now hang with me, don't glaze over....I've got to explain so you know where I'm going.

Each group of people were asked a series of questions that reflected three areas. They were:
1.) Behavior-last 7 days. (things like; volunteer time to help the needy, smoked, viewed porn, prayed for the President)
2.) Religious activity-last 7 days. (things like; read the Bible, participated in a small group meeting, attended a church service, volunteering at church, etc.)
3.) Religious beliefs (things like, while on Earth Jesus didn't sin, the Bible is totally accurate, the Bible condemns homosexuality, the devil is real and not just a symbol of evil, etc)

Without going over every stat, let me give you the gist of the research.
Out of 30 questions between those three categories, Christians without a Biblical Worldview consistently (24 out of 30 questions) sided with the "Lost" person. In other words there was little difference in the way someone who didn't know Jesus as their Lord thought and someone who confessed Jesus as their Lord.

I bring this up because here in just a couple of days we will elect a new President. I've been shocked to find out how many people who are Christians are casting their support for someone who goes against so much of God's Word. I'm not at all questioning their salvation, that's not my point. I'm just sending out these thoughts to hopefully cause all of us to stop and hit pause for a moment.

Stop and hit pause.

What guides your view? TV? Talk radio? Internet? Gas prices? Economic issues? War?
We all have a worldview, a set of lenses that we look through and decide how to act or what to do. "What would Jesus do?" is a nice thought, but it doesn't address the issue of "why" he would do it. "How does Jesus think?" is best found out by looking at things through a Biblical lens.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No Scary Costumes?

First of all, let me say that I'm not advocating for scary costumes.
Secondly, let me say that I'm not on a "gripe fest."
Thirdly, let me say that I know with the subject of Halloween we are not all going to agree with each other concerning this issue. The important thing is to respect one another's convictions and let them operate within those boundaries they have established. God's Word says this..“Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.” (Romans 14:4 NLT)
The purpose of this blog is to hopefully cause helpful questionings of the reasons why we do what we do. All in a non-offensive way.

With that said, here are three things that I know to be true concerning the subject of Halloween.

I. Halloween culture can be traced back to the Druids, a Celtic culture in Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe. Roots lay in the feast of Samhain, which was annually on October 31st to honor the dead. Samhain signifies "summers end" or November. Samhain was a harvest festival with huge sacred bonfires, marking the end of the Celtic year and beginning of a new one. Many of the practices involved in this celebration were fed on superstition.
The Celts believed the souls of the dead roamed the streets and villages at night. Since not all spirits were thought to be friendly, gifts and treats were left out to pacify the evil and ensure next year's crops would be plentiful. This custom evolved into trick-or-treating.
Certainly, Christians should not participate in the "dark side" of Halloween–or in any way approve of the satanic or the focus on paganism, evil, death, etc.

II. The reality of Halloween participation for many, believers and unbelievers alike, is simply dressing up in costumes and having fun collecting candy around the neighborhood. To many, this is what Halloween is about, without any connection to occult or pagan practices. Because many parents, including myself, do not sit our children down and explain to them the origin of Halloween. That would be like sitting down a 1 year old and explaining quantum physics. People give Halloween their own meaning, regardless of its origins. Consequently, because people participate in Halloween, does not necessarily mean they are promoting or encouraging occult or pagan practices and beliefs. The same is true concerning Christmas. People give it its own meaning. We would never say that everyone who participates in Christmas is a follower of Christ or is honoring God.

III. The early church responded properly to the original origin of Halloween by creating a new day on which they focused on reaching the pagans for Christ. They called it "All Saint's Day" (Nov. 1st). I commend any church who provides a safe place for children to come and have a good time and get candy. I believe this is a proper response to a less than ideal holiday.

Some final thoughts:

The other day I had my three year old with me in store and we had to walk down the costume aisle to look for a piece of clothing. I tried to shield him from the really outrageous stuff, but didn't make a huge issue out of it. Then it happened: my three year old son (who loves spiders) saw the display of overgrown "scary spiders." He asked what those spiders were for and I told him some people like to put those out and scare people. His response was, "we don't want to scare people, that's not nice." I just became the proudest parent in the world! Why? Because through healthy boundaries set, he was able to echo our heart in the matter. I didn't spend my time covering his eyes, telling him he better not dress a certain way, or like those types of things. Simply creating a home of love caused him to respond properly.

If the current culture around Halloween is a time to dress up and get free candy, then who "celebrates" Halloween the most?
Churches do.

As I mentioned before, there's nothing wrong with that--in fact I'm glad they do. However, I do have one concern. I believe most church groups are making a good thing bad. I hear and see all over town the advertisement, "No Scary Costumes." Shouldn't it read, "Don't come to OUR event for OUR people." Or maybe, "You can come on one condition...." Or even, "Hey, sinners, go sin somewhere else."

Church Halloween alternatives should be an outreach to people in the community, and according to Jesus when he reached out to people, it's not all neatly packaged up. It doesn't look like you do or think like you do. Reaching out to people and children who don't know Christ takes doing things differently.
It's messy.
It's odd,
and it's even scary.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blew It. Big time.

Do you want to make a difference?
Do you want to make a BIG difference?
I do.

About six months ago, myself and three teens were in my car on our way to play disc golf, when we saw a car on the side of the road with the driver reaching in the trunk to grab a gas can. Thinking to myself that this would be a great time to help someone while teaching the teens...we picked him up and filled his $4.80 of gas can.
I felt good.

Just four months ago I was headed to the church for a college day out trip, when I noticed on the side of the road a lady with a flat tire. I had time to spare (no pun intended) so I changed her tire and got her back on her way.
I felt good.

Last Tuesday I went to the home improvement store to pick up some items to fix a leaky bath. (Lora mentions it in her blog) As soon as I pull in the parking spot, I saw an elderly lady pushing a cart with a couple of items in it while walking with a cane. As I shifted the gear stick into park, I thought to myself, "well she made it out this far, I'm sure she'll be okay."
Walking throughout the store, I did not feel good.

I seemed to classify making a BIG difference by doing BIG things. Changing tires, picking up people out of gas and paying for their gas sounds huge in comparison to asking a lady already at her car if she needs help getting the items that she clearly put in her cart, out of her cart and into her car. How wrong. How far from the truth.

Truth is, loving people should just be about loving people. No hidden agenda, no scale to weigh the impact helping someone makes. Everyday lending a hand to whoever needs it. Everyday helping others without looking for a reason to "share" God's love. It should be the very fact that I or we have God's love that causes us to help others and not the other way around.

That is the difference, and it's BIG.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things that make you go, "hmmm."

Do you have a favorite phrase that makes you go, "hmmm?"

Here are a couple I've heard, as well as, have pondered the deep meaning of.

We say an alarm clock is "going off", when really it's coming on.
We drive on a parkway, but we park on a driveway."
We say "we slept like a baby"....but a baby normally is up every 2 hours all night.
Deep questions.

These are things that when you think about it by itself in its entirety, it makes no sense. But because we are accustomed to it, it makes perfect sense.

How about this one: You're at church. You're at the place where dozens, even hundreds of followers of Christ....people who love one another....people who have at least one thing in common...come together for an hour and a half....
Worship ends and the minister tells everyone something to the effect, "find someone around you and love on them."

Again, by itself, it really makes no sense. But in it's's followed out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying we shouldn't say this, it's just one of those funny things that we do.

Do we really need direction to love each other? Has our spiritual programming over the years caused us to be focused on what's happening in the very moment that we can't take it upon ourselves to love one another without hearing Pavlov's bell?

It had for me.
Doing church.
Playing church.
Participating in church.

Here's another. The way you follow the leader will be the way others follow you when you're the leader. For me, I want to be a better follower of Christ. Then maybe, just maybe, I can say what Paul said, "follow me as I follow Christ" and when I look back I will see people loving others not because of what I said or told them to do, but because of what I did.

By the way, if you throw a cat out of a car window, does that make it kitty liter?

(no cats were harmed in the writing of that sentence).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Listen Up

I went to church today.
A statement was made.
It has been bothering me all day.

The well-intended minister was speaking in regards to us as children of God and hearing God's purpose for our lives.

The statement(paraphrased): "You should be concerned with knowing what God is saying to you rather than feeling inadequate to hear Him."

The example: If your child is playing in the street, and a car is coming, are you going to quietly say, "John, please get out of the street" hoping he hears you? Or are you going to do everything you can to get his attention? Of course you'd be jumping and yelling.."Get out of the road!" That's how God is.

I see what he was trying to portray. I personally believe there's more under the surface that we all at one time or another have questioned when trying to listen to God.

As a parent, I want my children to hear my voice and respond instantly. This really stuck out to me this morning because this was a real life situation that happened to me when my son was two. We were outside in the front yard and before I knew it...he took off down the driveway headed towards the street. I instantly stood up and yelled, "Son, stop!" He did. A two year old. My child instantly heard and responded. Why? He knows my voice.
Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that my children instantly do this every time. If you're a parent then you know the joys of telling your children to do something and they look at you like your Vanilla Ice trying to explain the difference between his beat on "Ice Ice Baby" and David Bowie's beat "Under Pressure."

I distinctly remember one time being in a church with 2000 other people listening to a message with my wife, Lora. Then I heard a sneeze. I leaned over to Lora and said, "that sounds like my dad." Unknown to us, he was in the building, too. Turned out, it was him sneezing. How did I recognize him out of a room of 2000 people? I spent time with him. A lot of time.

Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)
Again, going back to personal experience, I have found that the times in my life where I have asked God to talk to me, give me direction and it seems that He's not talking.....the truth is He was talking, I just forgot what He sounded like. I hadn't spent time with Him like I once did.

If you're like me and have struggled lately to hear from God, the good news is He does speak and the key to hearing spending time with Him. I assure you when you do that you'll hear His heartbeat and know what He wants for you. And He didn't have to jump around and yell at you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm going to side with Job on this one.

Bad things happen.
Bad things happen to good people.
Bad things happen to good people for no reason.
Bad things happen to good people because of someones wrongdoing.

We've all been there. Maybe you're like me and you're still there. I'm in a place right now that I never thought I'd be in my life.

I'm in the ashes.

Looking back over the last 4 months, then the last 7 months and finally the last 2 years, I've come to quit asking the questions and decide to side with Job on this one. Job is the guy from the Bible who a lot of terrible stuff happened to him because, well, honestly....because God gambled. The devil asked him a quesiton. A question that we all must face at some time or another.
Was Job in love with God, or was Job in love with what God gave him?

The outcome, Job loved God. Period.

In searching for answers to my own situation I've found it really easy to blame others. I mean really easy. In fact, the worse someone acted the easier it was to blame them. The more the neglect, the easier it is to focus on their wrong doing. The more gossip, the more I cry out, "God take them out!"

All of the sudden it makes me, this "good person", as wrong as those who are doing the "bad things" towards me.

In his ashes, Job makes this statement, "He (speaking of God) gives and takes away." Job had this unnatural realization that God is in total control and anything that happens comes by God allowing it to happen. Joseph told the same idea to his brothers (the ones who sold him into slavery) he said, "this wasn't your doing, but God's purpose for my life."

I have found that pointing fingers at people who have "done me wrong" makes forgiveness extremely hard to achieve. However, when I realize that God, "did me wrong" all of the sudden it makes forgiving those who acted wrong towards me very easy, and it makes me understand the situation. Because God is good. He never does us wrong. He gives and takes away.

What He has taken away is the "love for what He gives" and has replaced it for Him.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We don't need another (season of) hero(es)

I'm done.
Finished with it.
Tired of the tolerance towards it.
Sick of the justification in watching it.


The show, that in season one, really had potential. It captivated me and millions of others by the thought that everyday ordinary people could posses superhuman abilities.

The only thing about the show that seemed to be out of whack, up to that point, was the name. (they should have named it what it really was.......X-Men)

Regardless of the name, it was the concept that many of us could grab hold of and lock onto. Everyday we sit in offices, we sift through activities, we wonder through life but there is something deep down inside of us that says, "there must be more." That more, I believe, is our soul crying out to be all that God has created us to be. It's the very nature of why we are here.

To be someones hero.

But alas, the show has become nothing more than a series of predictable plots and twisted turns as the villains of the show are easily made into heroes, and the heroes of the show are slowly turning into villains. I'm sorry, but I read the news. I'm current with today's real life issues. There are people and children dying of AIDS, starving, beaten, sold into the sexual slave market, dying without hope. I don't need another show to compete for my attention.

That's real.

You may be reading this and thinking, "wow, Vince, it's just a show---chill out." Yes, it is just a show. Just an hour each week that I've found myself losing that I will never get back. While at the same time finding myself telling people excuses for not calling or checking up to see how they're doing.

Real people with real issues who need more than a quick, "I'm praying for you," or a casual, "God bless you." What if we all spent a little more time in front of real issues instead of in front of our favorite show?

I think we'd all become a better hero.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Connecting the Dots

As a minister, I've spent my years in ministry with a deep passion to make followers of Jesus Christ. That's what Jesus himself told us to do, "go and make disciples." However, how do I really know if that's being done? What I'm getting at is this: I've had the same thinking that countless other church leaders did--and for the most part still do--concerning ministry.
That's the problem. We all know what the mission is: Make Followers of Jesus Christ.
But the way we gauge if we're successful doesn't work. It's the easier way, in fact, it's the only way that is tangible. It's called "counting heads."

If you've been in ministry on any level, full-time, part-time, volunteer or just sat in a service, then you've heard the phrase, "how many did we have?" I've sat in staff meetings where we gauged our success by that phrase. I've asked that same question to my own staff or other people to gauge the success of their mission. Why? Because of the belief that if people are coming to our life-changing services or meaningful classes or purposeful events, then there must be some productivity coming out of it. Lives must be being changed. So we count heads.

Unfortunately, the head is not where life change happens. It happens in the heart. When asked by the religious leaders of His day what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:36-39) There's the problem. Jesus gives us a way to gauge our spiritual growth that many of us, myself included, have not been using.

The way we know if we are truly making followers of Jesus Christ, or should I say, if WE are truly followers of Jesus, is by the way we/they love God and love others. The separation of the two cannot exist, at least not in the sense of truthfulness. Unfortunately, the condition of the heart is a hard aspect to see. I mean, we don't have at the entrances of all of our churches a "Dr. Seuss Heart Detector" (you know, like what was used to see the Grinch's heart two sizes too small).

However, I offer this thought. Is it possible to see our churches filled with people who openly worship God in song and dance, yet truly are not in a growing, maturing relationship to become more and more like Jesus? I think so.

I'm not discrediting that we're not passionate about worshiping God. I just think there's more--the loving-other-people-like-you-love-yourself part just seems to be missing.
Maybe not missing, just not highly visible because I truly believe that people want to love one another and given the right opportunity, they do. I also believe that this type of atmosphere has to be created and maintained by the group's leadership to continually foster that type of attitude.

Be forewarned though, a church or organization that does strive to make these types of followers of Christ will have a hard time keeping the unchurched, the lost, the hurt, the masses away. People want to be loved and to find a church that truly does that and loves God,.....well, sign me up too!

Monday, October 13, 2008


In his book, Seth Godin, goes into detail describing how we are all part of a tribe.

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea.

So the question that stands out is, "who will lead these tribes?" the Web can do amazing things but it can't provide leadership. That still has to be done by individuals---people like me and you. God has put inside of all of us a "ticker." You know, what is it in you that gets you going? What makes you tick? What is your passion?

Anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at their fingertips. Youtube, iMac, Facebook, Myspace....they all are just some examples of Tribes. They're Tribes because they all have one thing in common, followers---people connected to an idea, a common interest, a way of thinking. To be a leader, you need people who will follow you and the fact you have people who will follow you makes you a leader. You may not consider yourself a leader, but you must. We need, more than ever, you to step up to the plate and lead.

Ephesians 4:11 tells us that God gave every single one of us a gift, a gift that is supposed to bring out the best in others.

So if you're a leader of a blog tribe, leader of your own family tribe, leader of favorite football team tribe the key is to do that, lead. Lead with excellence. Lead with passion. Lead others to be what they were created to be, part of something bigger than themselves.