You can’t do the “one anothers” without one another!

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” — John 13:34-35

“About 20 years ago, a church member was considered active in the church if he or she attended three times a week. Today, a church member is considered active in the church if he or she attends three times a month.” —Thom S. Rainer

“Do not reduce church to listening to a podcast. It’s so much more than that. It’s community. It’s worshiping with others, praying for others, hurting with others, serving others, being involved in the lives of others.” — Craig Groeschel

There’s a downward trend in church attendance among Christian believers these days. Many point to the busyness of work schedules, children’s sports activities and other competing interests to explain the decline. Still others explain that it’s just easier to stay home and watch a sermon video podcast and put together your own favorite worship song playlist.

Many are asking, “Why do we even need to come to church worship services when we can just stay home, lay in bed and watch the sermon on our TV screens between our socked feet?”

They have a point. If church attendance is just about a passive hearing and watching of sermons and songs, why not stay at home and do it?

But what if coming together is about something more? What if it’s about something a lot more?

Remember Christ’s “new command?” He told his disciples that he had a new command for them, that they love one another just as he had loved them. But what was so “new” about this command? After all, the book of Leviticus already had the “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) command.

What was new about Christ’s new command? At least two things:

1. New focus. The original command called for love of neighbor, but the new command calls for us to love “one another.” That’s a new focus for loving because as believers, we’re invited into a new community, a new family, with Christ as its Head. We’re to have a special kind of love for other believers because we’re members of God’s family. Jesus said that “all people will know that you are my disciples” by this love for one another.

2. New quality. The former quality of love in the original command was to love your neighbor “as yourself.” But the new quality is to love one another as “Christ has loved us.” The command from Leviticus was based on obedience to God, “I am the Lord.” Now, the new command is based on Christ’s sacrificial love for us. We’re to love one another with Christ’s kind of love.

A survey of the New Testament shows that this new command from Jesus inspired a whole plethora of “one another” commands to help explain its implications. One Bible commentator counted 56 “one another” commands in the New Testament. What does it look like to love one another as Christ has loved us? Consider these other “one another” commands:

  • “Live in harmony with one another . . .” (Rom. 12:16).
  • “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you . . .” (Rom. 15:7).
  • “… comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace . . .” (2 Cor. 13:11).
  • “. . . through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
  • “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
  • “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up . . .” (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another . . .” (James 5:16).
  • “. . . love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).
  • “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9).

When we look at all the “one anothers” in the Bible, we have to admit that they can’t be done at home alone. Perhaps thats why the author of Hebrews wrote this “one another” command, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb. 10:24-25).

The Bible makes it clear that you can’t do the “one anothers” without coming together with one another.

See you this Sunday?

Three ways to experience relief for your anxiety

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. . . . Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.” — Psalm 91:1-5, 9 (KJV)

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Anonymous


Americans are anxious. According to some studies, we might actually be the most anxious people on planet Earth.

“The United States is now the most anxious nation in the world… Stress-related ailments cost the nation $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity, while our usage of sedative drugs keeps skyrocketing; just between 1997 and 2004, Americans more than doubled their spending on anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, from $900 million to $2.1 billion.” — Taylor Clark, “It’s Not the Job Market: The Three Real Reasons Why Americans Are More Anxious”

In fact, anxiety disorders are the “number one mental health problem among [American] women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” —Edmund J. Bourne, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook

Yet, perhaps even more concerning is that our children are suffering from anxiety at a higher rate than any previous generation. Sociologists are referring to this anxious generation following the Millennials, as “Generation Z.”

“Gen Z is nervous. They are experiencing more anxiety, depression and pressure than ever before. Studies show that today’s kids are 6 times more likely to have anxiety and depression than their grandparents did at their age.  Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among American children and continues to rise. The latest study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics shows that, in recent years, there has been a 20% increase in anxiety diagnoses for children ages 6 to 17.” — Dale Hudson, “Why Gen Z Is Nervous.”

There are many reasons given for this increase of anxiousness in our society by the various studies. In his book, Goliath Must Fall, Louie Giglio offers “three causes” for our anxiety. He identifies fear and anxiety as one of the “giants that we battle.” He says anxiety is a symptom of three deeper “C” causes. The first is “Conditioning” (i.e., “You were born into a family of worriers.”). The second is “Concealing.” (i.e., “Any time we conceal something major under the hood of our lives, fear is allowed to flourish.”).  And the third is “Controlling.” (i.e., “Some people want to control everything. They soon realize that much of life can’t be controlled—particularly how other people act. So fear, stress, worry, and anxiety are born.”).”  — Louie Giglio, Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants

Whatever the root causes for anxiety, I believe that God’s Word offers a healing answer. I’ve noticed that the Psalms are a kind of balm for our troubled souls. When we pray the Psalms to the Lord, letting Him apply His Word to our hurts and fears, we experience relief from anxiety and peace in its place. We will alway face trouble and therefore anxiety in this world. But there is help in the Lord and His Word.

In Psalm 91, the Psalmist wrote that those experiencing fearful anxiety could find relief by abiding in the Lord. How? The text offers three ways. Look at Psalm 91:2 again,

I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” 

Notice the all caps in the word, “LORD?” In modern English translations, that’s how they translate the Hebrew covenantal name of God, “Yahweh.” This is the name of God, which means, “I AM,” that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Ez. 3:14). It has been observed that God’s covenantal name, “I AM,” speaks of His being eternally present and self-existent. His name is not, “I WAS,” nor “I WILL BE,” but “I AM.” He is the God of the present.

As we mentioned in the anonymous quote above, It has been observed that if you are depressed, you are living in the past and if you are anxious, you are living in the future. But if you are at peace, you are living in the present. Perhaps this saying is true because the only way to truly live in the present is to “abide in the LORD.”

Three ways to experience relief from anxiety by abiding in the LORD:

1. Look to the LORD as your refuge. When the psalmist was worried about tomorrow, he hid in the eternal “I AM as his refuge. A refuge is a place of retreat and rest. He said, “The LORD is my refuge!” We can look to the LORD as our refuge.

2. Look to the LORD as your fortress. When the psalmist felt under attack, either by real or imagined threats, he looked to the LORD as his “fortress.” When panic attacks swept over him like a flood, he called on the “Almighty” God (Hebrew: El Shaddai) as his “shield and buckler,” his mighty warrior and defender. The great “I AM” is always present to defend us. We can look to the LORD as our fortress, our place of safety.

3. Look to the LORD as your Creator. The psalmist called on the LORD saying, “He is my God; in him I will trust.” He had a personal relationship with God. Here he used the Hebrew word, “Elohim,” for “God.” This is the first name of God revealed in the Bible. In Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” The name “Elohim” is the name of the Creator-God. We can pray to the One who made us. He knows what makes us tick. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We can trust Him. Give God your worries and concerns. He is the Creator-God. He can do all things.

All three ways listed above begin as prayers. Turn your worries into prayers. Stop your self-talk, which only increases your anxiety. Start talking to God, which leads to peace. Give the Lord your past, trust Him with your future, and ask Him to be with you in the present.

As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

We can learn to abide in the “I AM” to find relief from our anxiety.



The sincere faith of my mother and grandmother

“I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5 NIV).

The church of my youth had annual revival services. We would often have an evangelist come and share how God had miraculously saved him from a life of sin. He would preach with fiery enthusiasm and through tears about how God had taken a former drunkard, (or addict, thief, murderer, etc.) and saved him.

These “Damascus Road” testimonies were amazing to me. I was envious of their certainty and passion. As a boy, I often doubted my salvation because I hadn’t had such an awesome conversion. I had no flash of light, no voice of God. At age eight, I had just decided to give my life to Jesus the way my mother and grandmother had taught me.

As I grew in my faith, I no longer doubted my salvation, but I still sometimes wished that my testimony was more exciting. Why couldn’t I have a testimony more like the apostle Paul’s?

Maybe that’s what Timothy was feeling when Paul wrote him that second letter. Paul was so fearless and certain when he testified of his faith, but Timothy was a little timid. When he compared himself to his mentor he just didn’t feel like he measured up.

Paul would have none of that. He reminded Timothy of the spiritual legacy that his mother and grandmother had given him. Timothy had been spared the suffering and sorrow of Paul’s many mistakes before coming to Christ. Paul reminded Timothy that the “sincere faith” which had “lived” in his mother and grandmother, now “lived” in him.

As a grown man, I’m glad that I have a “Timothy testimony.” The two most influential people in my spiritual development were women. They were my grandmother Ettie and my mother Wilda. They didn’t have the same names as “Eunice and Lois”, but they did have the same “sincere faith” living in them.

Sincere faith. The kind that is more than religion, more than rules and ritual. These women loved and lived for their Lord in such a sincere way that what they passed on to me was more caught than taught.

My mother and her mother are with Jesus now, but their sincere faith still lives here in me.

Happy Mother’s Day.



Reprint from my blog on May 9, 2014.

For those that asked about my reading list for Daniel . . .

For those that asked about my reading list for Daniel . . .

. . . here it is. I’ve tried to list most of the books that I have read and quoted from during our twelve-week series through the book of Daniel.  I have also included a couple of the charts that I’ve made, as well as some maps and images, to help illustrate some of the more difficult to understand parts of Daniel. I pray that this reading list and other helps will encourage you as you continue your study of the amazing book of Daniel!


Akin, Dr. Daniel L.. Exalting Jesus in Daniel (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary). B&H Publishing Group, 2017.

Archer, Gleason Leonard, Jr. “Daniel.” In The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Vol. 7: Daniel-Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.

Archer, Gleason Leonard, Jr. (Translator) and St. Jerome (Author). Commentary On Daniel. Dalcassian Publishing Co. 2017.

Goldingay, John. “Daniel.” Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 30. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from Daniel: Foundations for Expository Sermons. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012.

Helm, David. Daniel for You. Purcellville, VA: The Good Book Company, 2015.

Jeremiah, David. The Handwriting On The Wall: Secrets From The Prophecies Of Daniel. Nashville: W Publishing Group. 1992.

Lewis, C. S. The Weight of Glory. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1949. Copyright renewed, 1976.

McGee, J. Vernon. “Daniel.” Thru the Bible, Vol. 3: Proverbs-Malachi.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson. 1983.

Miller, Stephen R. “Daniel.” The New American Commentary, Vol. 18. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994.

Walvoord, John F. The Prophecy Knowledge Handbook: All the Prophecies of Scripture Explained in One Volume. Victor Books. 1990.

Wiersbe, Warren. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. David C. Cook Publishing. 1993.






Division of Alexander’s Empire by his four generals:

4 ways you can help with phase one

“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ” — Philippians 1:3-6

This past Wednesday, we closed on the loan to begin phase one of our church’s building expansion! We also received word from our contractor that the engineering plans for phase one should be submitted for city approval by today or the beginning of next week. So, the Lord has given us great things to report to you today!

Hopefully, we will see the “good work begin and be carried on to completion” in time for KidzFest. At the very latest, we pray that the work will be completed in time for the opening of the school year for our partnership with Great Accomplishments Academy to continue thriving and growing.

So, how can you help with phase one?

1. Pray. Pray for the plans and approvals to move quickly and smoothly between us, our contractor and the city inspectors. Pray for the work to begin as soon as possible. Pray that the work will be done with excellence and be completed in time for Kidzfest and the beginning of the new school year.

2. Be flexible. We’re in a season of growth and change. You may have to park in a different space, or enter through a different door, or even sit in a different seat because of construction or because of growing attendance. Don’t complain. Be flexible. And don’t resist. Smile and be flexible to park, enter, or sit where our volunteer team of guest services asks you to do so.

3. Give. We didn’t do a capital giving campaign to raise money for phase one. We had the room in our equity to borrow the money. And with the increased rent we’ll receive from the expansion of the Academy, our total monthly mortgage payments for this year will actually end up being less than we budgeted. This means that the payment for phase one will be paid out of our general fund, which is funded by your regular tithes and offerings. So, if you want to give extra, there’s no need to designate it to a building fund. Just give as you normally do, and even more as the Lord directs.

4. Share the good news. Why do we feel called to expand our facility? Because we want to reach more people with the gospel. Why did we start with the children’s classrooms in phase one? Because the Lord has been trusting us with young families. That’s what God is blessing. Young families with children is the fastest growing segment of our church. So, we want to lean into that, and do it all the more. How can you help? Share the gospel. Tell your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family the good news of what Christ has done. Share the good news. Invite them to attend church with you and see how God is at work. And how God wants to work in their families too.

As the apostle Paul thanked God for his gospel partnership with the church at Philippi, so we want to thank our God for the “partnership in the gospel” He has given us in Wilson. May the Lord carry it on to completion in us until the Day of Christ Jesus!

Behold, the empty tomb

“On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 1-6 ESV).

The word “behold” isn’t used very often in modern English. Yet, it’s the perfect word for the consideration of Christ’s empty tomb. In the Greek, the word translated “behold” means to “look upon with understanding, to see with the mind, to see with inward spiritual perception” (Strong’s Concordance). What do you see when you “behold the empty tomb?”

Church of the Holy Sepulcher

I’ve seen the empty tomb, or should I say, “tombs.” For there are two empty tomb sites in Jerusalem. I’ve visited both of the sites where Jesus’ body may have been laid. The first, is the traditional one found in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The church was commissioned to be built in 326 AD by Constantine under the urging of his mother, Helena, in order to preserve both the tomb and the site of Christ’s crucifixion.

The Aedicule

Unfortunately, in their effort to preserve they have actually obscured any sense of what the place may have looked like in the first century. Within the church, they built a shrine over the tomb called the “Aedicule” (Latin for “shrine”). While the ancient church building was amazing to visit, I didn’t find it in any way helpful to me in “beholding” the empty tomb. Too much of gold and glitter, incense and icons for my taste.

Gordon’s Calvary

However, I loved visiting the second site known as the Garden Tomb. It is located next to Gordon’s Calvary, so named because of British General Charles Gordon’s conviction that the skull-like cliff must have been the hill called “Golgatha,” which means “place of the skull,” where Jesus was crucified. It is difficult to see the face of the skull in the cliff face today because of erosion and because they have located a bus terminal on the ground in front of it. Although difficult to make out from the Garden tomb, I learned that you can still see the skull clearly in the rock face when looking from the top of the walls surrounding Jerusalem.

The Garden Tomb

While those who manage the Garden Tomb make no claim that it is the authentic location of Christ’s tomb, it is a tomb that closely resembles the biblical description in many key details. Because of these details and because it is preserved in such a natural fashion, it makes for an excellent site for meditative viewing. Our tour group spent considerable time there and I was even privileged to lead them in a communion service near the empty tomb.

The Garden Tomb has been maintained by a nondenominational charitable trust from the United Kingdom since 1894 named The Garden Tomb Association. It is near the Damascus Gate outside Old Jerusalem. In our 2013 visit, we stayed at a hotel only a 5-minute walk away from the Garden Tomb and enjoyed stopping by nearly everyday. The association does not charge for entry, but does accept donations and runs a small store for support. We loved having our morning quiet times there!

Seeing the two tombs in Jerusalem was a meaningful experience, especially visiting the Garden Tomb. But regardless, both tombs were empty. Jesus isn’t there. He is risen! That’s the message we can “behold” when we consider the empty tomb. Christ is risen. He has defeated sin, death and the grave. Christ lives! And as the lyrics to the hymn say:

“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives” (Words & music by Bill Gaither).

A reading plan for Passion Week

“And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer’” (Luke 22:15 ESV).

This coming Sunday begins what many Christians call Holy Week or Passion Week. It is called “Passion” week because of its connection to the Greek word πάσχω (pas’-kho) which is usually translated as “suffer” in the New Testament. This is the word that Jesus used to describe His crucifixion.

A wonderful way to remember Christ’s passion is to visit the Holy Land. I’ve had the privilege of visiting Israel several times. In the attached photo, I’m visiting The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which traditionally contains the empty tomb. Here, I’m touching the Stone of Anointing, a slab of reddish stone flanked by candlesticks and overhung by a row of eight lamps. It commemorates the place where the body of Jesus was laid, anointed, and prepared for burial.

But you don’t have to go to Israel to remember Christ’s suffering and resurrection. In fact, all the church buildings, slabs and memorials added through the ages by well-meaning church folk can be a distraction. I’ve found that reading the Scriptures that describe the Lord’s final week leading up to the Cross, the Tomb and the Resurrection to be just as moving and beneficial to my spiritual life. With this in mind, I offer this daily reading plan for Passion Week for your edification.

  • Palm Sunday – The Triumphal Entry. Read Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:28-44, or John 12:12-19.
  • Monday – Clearing the Temple. Read Matthew 21:10-17; Mark 11:15-18, or Luke 19:45-48.
  • Tuesday – Teaching in the Temple. Read Matthew 21:23-24:51; Mark 11:27-13:37, or Luke 20:1-21:36.
  • Wednesday – Anointed in Bethany. Read Mark 14:1-11.
  • Maundy Thursday – Last Supper & Garden of Gethsemane. Read Matthew 26:17-30; Mark 14:12-26, Luke 22:7-23, or John 13:1-30.
  • Good Friday – Crucifixion and Death. Matthew 27:1-56; Mark 15:1-41, Luke 22:66-23:50, or John 18:28-19:37.
  • Saturday – In the Tomb. Read Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, or John 19:38-42.
  • Easter Sunday – The Resurrection. Read Matthew 28:1-13; Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-49, or John 20:1-31.

There are two weeks in the Bible that the Lord inspired its writers to make daily diary entries. They are the seven days of creation and Passion Week. In the first week, He made the world, and in the second, He brought its redemption. God must have thought these two weeks important enough to keep a journal…

… And one worth reading and meditation.



This is an edited version of an earlier post I wrote on April 10, 2014.

4 ways to be intentional about relationship building

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

We want to be a church that is intentional about relationship building. It is one of the three major focuses of our purpose statement, which states that we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who have a growing heart for God, heart for each other and heart for our world. But how are we going to grow in our “heart for each other,” if we aren’t intentional about building relationships?

The truth is, we are like Legos when it comes to relationships. We have a limited number of spots on our “relational blocks” to connect to others and when our block is full, we stop trying to connect. This makes our church look cliquish when guests visit our church. Sure, it is human nature to want to be with our usual connections, but the result is true nonetheless, guests don’t feel welcome.

How can we become more intentional about relationship building, while at the same time being aware of the “Lego Theory” of human nature? I recently read a blog post about how Pastor Karl Vaters teaches his church to leverage their relational value. He uses the acronym “GIFT” to encourage his members to be intentional about relationship building. I think these four steps would be helpful to our church too.

G — Greet someone you’ve never met.

I — Introduce somebody to someone they’ve never met.

F — Follow-up on someone you’ve met recently.

T — Thank someone for a job well done. 

What do you think would happen if everyone in our church started giving out a GIFT every week at church? I think our guests would feel more than welcome. They would soon feel like family. And the beautiful thing about following GIFT is that it takes into account the “Lego Theory” of human nature. Your relational block may be fully connected, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help new people connect to each other. “Greet” them and then “introduce” them to someone else who is relatively new too. Help them get connected.

Let’s start giving out GIFTs this Sunday. I believe it will cause relationship building to be a mark of our church.

Do you have a favorite fishing hole?

‘And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”‘ — Matthew 4:19 (ESV)

Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave their nets and follow Him, promising that  He would make them “fishers of men.”  Jesus is still calling people to follow Him that He might make them fishers of men. With this call of Christ in mind, we have cast a vision for our church that we desire to make disciples who have a heart for our world marked by being intentionally evangelistic. We also desire to see our church grow a more invitational culture, so that its members are always inviting people to Jesus and into His church. We have given everyone a challenge that they invite at least one person to church by Easter weekend.

We’re constantly working to train our members on how to share their faith and how to invite people to church. The truth is, no matter how we spend on social media and advertising, over 80% of our first-time guests still indicate that they were invited personally by a friend or relative. I don’t think this will ever change. Jesus invited His disciples personally and so must we.

We have several tools that you might use to invite people to church., but recently we’ve been offering a unique invite card for every new sermon series. These business-size cards are easy to carry and easy to use. We’re encouraging every church member to keep a supply in your wallet, purse, and in your car. We even have postcard sized generic invite cards at our Guest Services table that you can pick up and keep with you to invite people to church.

As a pastor, I spend most of my days around church people, working to help them follow Jesus more fully. As a result, I have to be intentional about “fishing” for people that don’t follow Jesus. That’s why I’ve developed a habit of eating at the same restaurants, shopping at the same stores, getting a haircut at the same barbershop. Not just because I like the food or the haircut (I do), but because I want to build relationships with the waitresses, cooks, clerks, owners and barbers. I call these places my “fishing holes.” They are my favorite places to go where I learn all the employees and owners names, I learn about their families, and I discover their needs, so I can pray for them and perhaps lead them to Jesus and into His church.

I keep a stack of invite cards in my truck, my backpack and in my wallet. I carry a stack with me and place them at the checkout of my favorite fishing holes. I no longer even have to ask permission because of my ongoing relationship with most of them.

I usually just say, “Hey _____ (I call them by name), I’m putting some new invite cards at your checkout. I hope you’ll come visit and tell your customers about it too.”

They usually smile and say, “Thank you Pastor Gary.”

I’ve even had some of them, like my Muslim friend, Rafael, dump out his own business cards from a special holder on his counter and put my invite cards in their place.

“You don’t have to do that, my friend.” I said.

“Yes I do. You’re doing good work in our city.” He replied.

Last week, at one of my favorite restaurant fishing holes, I recognized my waitress as one that had been there a few years ago, but had not been working there for some time.

“Where have you been?” I asked. “I remember you used to work here. What was your name again?”

“Jessica.” She replied with a smile. “I took off because I had a baby. But now she’s old enough for me to return part-time.”

“How is your baby and what’s her name? I’d love to see a photo of her.” I said.

She told me her name, but then her lower lip started trembling. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“She’s just getting over an earache, and earlier today I had to take her to get shots, so now she’s really fussy…”

“And now, Mommy is at work worrying about her baby?” I interrupted.

“Yes.” She whispered with a tear in her eye.

“Let’s pray for her right now.” I said, while she stood at my table bowing her head with me.

“Thank you.” She said when I had finished praying.

A week later, I took my wife, Robin, out to eat at the same restaurant. I scanned the dining area looking to see if Jessica was there. She was. I introduced my wife to her and asked, “How’s your daughter? Is she doing better after the shots?”

“Oh yes. Thanks for praying for her.” She answered with a big smile. “But would you keep praying for her and for me. I think she’s teething now.”

Both Robin and I agreed to pray for her and the baby. And of course, we had to offer a few tips on teething babies.

I love fishing in my favorite fishing holes. Do you have one?

So, don’t forget the invite challenge: Every member invite one person to church by Easter weekend.


Why we’re changing our service time

“Christ makes the whole body grow as God wants it to, through support and unity” – Colossians 2:19 GW

Beginning Palm Sunday, March 25th, we will be changing our first worship service time to 9:15 AM. Our second service time will remain 11:00 AM.

Why are we changing our first service time?

First, we’re growing. Have you noticed how crowded it is between the first and second services? We need to have a little more time between services to let the first service exit, pick up their children, and leave the campus before the second service attenders start arriving. This will become especially important in the coming days as we add capacity to our children’s space with the completion of phase one in our master building plan. This additional children’s space will put more pressure on our adult worship space for seating. By adding an additional 15 minutes between services, it will give us time to seat the second service more efficiently. Because we’re going to need people to sit in every seat in the house as we grow and as we wait for further expansion of our building.

Second, we want to have more flexibility in our worship services. Currently, there is no flex time in our service to add a song, or a feature, or to go a little long in the sermon. We need a little more breathing room in our services. The additional 15 minutes will give us that room.

So, those are the two major reasons we’re changing the first service time. In the coming days, ministry teams should be hearing from their respective leaders to let them know how this service time change will affect them. Thank you in advance for understanding our need to flex as we grow and for your support and unity as we make such changes.