Faith + Hope + Love = Healthy Church

These three remind us Jesus is the center of the center. During my years in ministry, both as a pastor and a denominational leader, I’ve been exposed to a number of discipleship pathway slogans used to motivate and inspire us to healthy church. These include: Believe, Belong, Become; Inward, Outward, Upward; Cultivate, Plant, Reap; Win, Build, Equip. I am likely missing a couple. All of these pathways work in some cultures and ministry environments, while not working in other cultures and environments. Some come across as works-oriented; others as more faith based. We chose Faith, Hope and Love Avenues because they are scriptural and because they work in all cultures. Allow me to share some other reasons how Faith, Hope and Love lead... Read the article

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Focusing on Hope

Where do you turn when you are feeling hopeless? There have been a number of times in my life when I felt hopeless. The first time I remember was when I was 12 and two of my sisters were killed in a car accident. My family and I were in New York, miles from home, when this tragedy struck. I was shocked and confused and didn’t know where to turn. It wasn’t until we returned home and went back to church that I started healing as friends and church members surrounded our family with love and support. Over the years I’ve lost three other siblings and both parents—and some of those losses gave me a sense of hopelessness, angst, fear and even anger. Other members of my immediate family went through the same sense of grief, and I was... Read the article

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All About the Light

Keeping Jesus the center of the center. I never understood total darkness until I was in the middle of Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, way below the surface, no exit in sight, and they turned the power off. They only left if off for half a minute, but it was enough. In darkness, not only do you lose all sense of direction, but you lose all sense of presence. I did not know where I was in proximity to others. I knew two of my children were near because they were squeezing my hands, but I lost sense of where my wife and third child were. It was the eeriest feeling I recall having. It wasn’t until the lights were turned back on that I realized I had been holding my breath. It was a powerful demonstration of the glory of light. Without... Read the article

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The Three “Comings” of Jesus

Advent: Jesus then, Jesus now, Jesus in the future Want to know a secret? I used to think Advent was all about Christmas, and the four common themes of Advent—Hope, Peace, Joy and Love—were symbols reminding us what Jesus brought to this world. While there is truth to what I used to believe, I have come to see that the season of Advent is much more. Advent is derived from Latin and means “to come” or “the coming.” It is a time of waiting with expectation, anticipation, longing and preparation. It reminds us the world yearns for deliverance—a deliverance provided only by the Messiah. It is a time to celebrate that light has come into a darkened world, that hope has arrived in the form of a child, that peace is in our future. ... Read the article

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The Faith Venue

Living and sharing the gospel One of the most famous Christian misquotes is attributed to Francis of Assisi. In some variation it sounds like this: “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” At face value, this seems to make sense. We are to be lights in a darkened world—and lights are basically silent. We are to show ourselves to be a model of good works (Titus 2:7). We are to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1). We are to love as Jesus loved (John 13:34). And we are to be humble, not domineering, setting a right example, etc. While these are all good things, they don’t justify the quote. Let me suggest three major problem with this quote. Francis of Assisi didn’t say this. Francis of Assisi wouldn’t... Read the article

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Being Real

Pastors and leaders are growing too It had been a rough week and I was not in the best mood. It was one of those weeks full of challenges—personal and work-related— and I felt God wasn’t answering my prayers and giving me what I believed I needed. I started complaining to my wife about going to church and putting on my “church face.” You know the one I’m referring to—looking happy and giving the impression that everything is good, and my life was just wonderful. Further, I had to preach that day, meaning I felt I had to make God look good when I didn’t feel he was being so good to me at the time. Cheryl first told me I had to go to church because I was the pastor, and then she said, “Rick, just share your struggles... Read the article

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God Opened My Eyes to Worship

God used a tent full of teenagers to change my life. I used to believe my church was the only true church. (This is not a unique way of thinking; I have found this thinking is common in many denominations.) Because I was in the only true church, I questioned the Christianity of others who did not attend my church. And before you ask, yes, I have deeply repented of this way of thinking, but I needed to share this to tell the following story. I was invited to a youth conference sponsored by another denomination. I was invited to set up a booth, share some things I’d written, and be available to talk to the youth who were attending the conference. Though God had been working with me to see there were good Christians in other... Read the article

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Church = Hope

What is the first word that pops into your mind when you think of church? Fellowship? Potluck? Sermon? Worship? Communion? God? Hope? I’ve been blessed to travel to many countries around the world and meet people from several cultures. I’ve rubbed shoulders with the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh and Nepal, and with people of status and wealth in several countries. Like most of us, I’ve seen people in their highest highs and their lowest lows. I’ve been with several family members and friends as they have faced horrendous trials and losses. One common theme I’ve encountered all over the world is the need for people to have hope. Wherever you go, you see people without hope. The homeless population around the world is... Read the article

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Seeing Through God’s Eyes

Several years ago, I had two individuals in one of my congregations who monopolized my time. Every week they came up to me sharing their woes, asking for advice and just wanting to talk—about anything. There were several occasions when I missed other important conversations because one of these individuals was bending my ear. I’m ashamed to admit I got to the point where I tried to avoid these encounters. I even had others run interference for me. I’ll never forget the one Sunday I was driving home, and I told my wife it was a great day at church, I didn’t have to talk to either one of these individuals. She just looked at me and smiled—you know, one of those smiles that lets you know she’s about to say something you don’t... Read the article

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Love Is a Verb

A deeper look at Jesus’ New Command Most of us can recite John 13:35, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” I’ve spent most of my life wondering why Jesus referred to this as a “new command.” After all, it was very similar to the great commandment discussion Jesus had earlier in Matthew. “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40). So why did Jesus, on his last night... Read the article

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