Monday, December 4, 2006

A White Rose

This past Sunday I met a lady who has been coming to New Covenant for a couple of months. She told me there was a white rose on the platform for her a few weeks ago. We put a white rose in a vase which is located on the platform when someone trusts Christ as their personal Savior. This was her way of telling me she recently became a Christian. The reason she came to talk to me was to ask what she should do next. She is coming regularly to the worship services and was ready to take the next step. I was delighted to tell her about Starting Point which meets every Sunday.

Isn’t that great! This is what it is all about – leading people into a personal, growing relationship with Jesus.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Real Battle

The real battle in life is a spiritual one not physical. The Bible puts it this way,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

This battle became very real to me yesterday afternoon (Friday, December 1). Last night was the first of four performances of our Christmas musical, Jesus Our Treasure. The good news about Jesus Christ is beautifully portrayed in this inspiring musical. I have the privilege of summarizing the message and giving an invitation to trust Christ.

Satan doesn’t want that to happen. So, I felt a real battle with satanic forces trying to discourage me before the musical. Satan knows when the Gospel is going to be shared and hearts will be open. He’ll do anything he can to distract those who are to boldly share the Good News. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling it yesterday.

I had an hour before the musical would start after dropping Leesa off at church. So, I went to St. Luke’s hospital to visit someone. But that person had been discharged. So I went to the chapel and sat and prayed. While praying God settled my heart, clarified what I was to share and gave me courage.

The musical went great. The choir, orchestra, and drama were wonderful! God used every person on the stage to present His message of love, sacrifice and hope. Please click on the above picture for more scenes.

At the end I gave the invitation with confidence and boldness. God is so good! Praise God for His power over the forces of darkness and for the privilege of sharing the Gospel.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Equiping Staff Extraordinaire

Several years ago my heart's desire was to serve in a local church with a team of pastors. My experience so far had been in a church with only one pastor – me. God graciously brought me to New Covenant Bible Church. Here I serve along side ten other pastors and ministry directors which we call our Equipping Staff. It is a privilege and joy to co-labor with them. It is more than I could have ever imagined! We are more than coworkers. We are friends who have fun together doing what God has called us to do – to equip God’s people for ministry. Please click on the picture above to see every Equipping Staff.

Thanksgiving Adventure

Thanksgiving was a relaxing, fun and adventurous time. The whole family was here Friday evening through Saturday. Friday afternoon Amy and I sat in the sun room with the dogs. Rather, I sat and read while Amy stretched out on the couch with her best bud, Pedro. Click on picture above to see more photos.

On Saturday we had our Thanksgiving meal. We tried something new this year. Instead of baking the turkey we deep fried it. We got a turkey fryer for Christmas. After consulting with friends who do this every year for words of wisdom, I ventured into new culinary territory hoping not to burn the house down. It is quite an experience to heat 20 quarts of peanut oil rapidly to 350 degrees. Then I lowered a 12 pound turkey into the pot with nothing between my hand and scalding oil but an oven mitt. After 35 minutes of watching the bubbling pot and carefully monitoring the temperature of the oil I pulled out a golden brown turkey. By this time the garage and I smelled like grease and cooked turkey. After I brought the turkey into the house I immediately change my clothes so I could eat with everyone else.

I must admit I was nervous about doing this. It was new and unfamiliar cooking territory for me. However, after my first bite of this moist, delicious, crispy bird I was glad I took the risk and went to the trouble of deep frying it.

Isn't this typical of any new venture in life? We become nervous and wonder if it is worth the trouble. We reluctantly step out of our comfort zones and venture into unchartered territory. But when we get our first taste of adventure and fulfillment we realize it was worth it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thankful for all of God's blessings

This morning Leesa and I delivered Thanksgiving meals to those who are less fortunate – aging, sick, or low income folks. The meals are provided by Aegon and Gentle Dental and coordinated by Aging Services of Cedar Rapids. As we picked up our meals to deliver we saw several people from New Covenant. This isn’t surprising since our church family has a big servant heart.

Delivering these meals is always a blessing, especially on Thanksgiving. What a great way to start off the day. Every person we take a meal to is grateful, and it is fun to bring smiles to their faces.

It also makes me very thankful for God’s many blessings. I am thankful for all the people in my life – my beautiful bride, my two daughters and son-in-law, my parents and, yes, even my parents-in-law, for other family members, close friends, and New Covenant church family. I am thankful for God’s gracious provision of health, food, employment, housing, transportation and clothing. Most of all, I am thankful that in eternity past God chose me to be His child and when I was nine years old I crossed the line of faith!

God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace. Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you. (Psalm 145:9-11a The Message)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Flying Wienie

This past Monday our architect, Tom Smith, was here. He came with master plan version #5 for us to examine. We took Tom to one of my favorite lunch spots. You guessed it, the Flying Wienie. I don't think Tom really believed a restaurant would have a yellow airplane on the roof, much less be named after a hot dog. By the way, we didn't take Tom there for the great architecture or to give him ideas for our new church facility. Tom got a gyro and fries. I got my usual "double play." Kim got Italian beef and John got ribs. And you thought they only had hot dogs! As usual, it was an enjoyable experience.

When the temperature is warm it is nice to sit outside and give someone the “full Cedar Rapids experience.” You know, the sound of trucks and trains, the smells of Quaker Oats, Cargil and Penford, and the sight of the river – almost! However, it was a little chilly for that. So, we settled on eating inside.

So, why did we take Tom to the Flying Wienie? The obvious would be the good food. However, I think the reason I like this haven for Chicago dog lovers so much is because it is unpretentious. It is a “What you see is what you get” type of place. Some would call it a “dive.” Others wouldn’t be so nice. There is nothing fancy only airplane paraphernalia. It is what it is.

If only we could be the same – authentic. The Apostle Paul put it this way, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

What about this blog?

Last week I was at a conference in Dallas with Kim Pagel, Gary Hoobler and John Maehl. We were eating supper at my favorite BBQ place, Sonny Bryan's. If you go to Dallas be sure to eat at Sonny Bryan's! There are several locations throughout the city, but I recommend going to the original location at 2202 Inwood Road for the full Dallas experience. I was about half way done eating mouthwatering brisket when I realized that the other three were done eating all of their food. I commented on how I am such a slow eater. Kim responded that they were "professional" eaters while I was a "social" eater. By that he meant that they eat food just to eat. When I eat food it is an experience to be enjoyed to the fullest. Eating a delicious meal is enjoyable not just for my palate but also for my soul.

This experience in Dallas is an illustration of what I want this blog to be. A place for me to share thoughts on two dimensions of life - the physical and the spiritual. I hope to share my experiences with food and restaurants. Also, I want to share food for the soul - lessons God is teaching me.