Sunday, November 30- No Room!

IMDb Week One

A honeymoon couple is in the Watergate Hotel in Washington.  The bride is concerned. “What if the place is still bugged?”  The groom says “I’ll look for a bug.” He looks behind the drapes, behind the pictures and under the rug. “AHA!” Under the rug was a disc with four screws. He gets his screwdriver, unscrews the screws, and throws the disc out the window.  The next morning, the hotel manager asks the newlyweds…”How was your room?”, “How was the service?”, “How was your stay at the Watergate Hotel?”  The groom says, “Why are you asking me all of these questions?”  The hotel manager says “Well, the room under you complained of the chandelier falling on them!”

Today, we begin our Sunday morning Advent sermon series- The IMDb Cast of Characters. In case you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “IMDb? What in the world is THAT? Some kind of military code?”, let me explain.

The Internet Movie Database (abbreviated IMDb) is an online database of information related to films, television programs, and video games, taking in actors, production crew, fictional characters, biographies, plot summaries, and trivia. Actors and crew can post their own resumé and upload photos of themselves for a yearly fee.

Taking a page from the IMDb website, we’re going to spend Sunday mornings during Advent looking at a few of the “featured players” in the Christmas story- their “past roles”, how they got the ole in which they are cast in THIS story and what lies ahead for them.

Today, we look at a character who consistently gets a bad rap in this story. He is vilified, reviled…and he isn’t even actually mentioned! The fact that e are talking about him this morning is based solely on inference gleaned from 10 words…TEN words…that imply his involvement. So, let’s consider the reality that a bit player, walk-on, “extra” kind of guy named Vinnie T. Innkeeper was cast as “the bad guy”.

Luke 2:6-7 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Jay, Tom and Paul were at a convention together sharing a large suite at the top of a 75-story hotel. After a long day of meetings, they were shocked to hear that the elevators in their hotel were broken, and they would have to climb 75 flights of stairs to get to their room. Jay said to Tom and Paul, “Let’s break the monotony of this unpleasant task by concentrating on something interesting. I’ll tell jokes for 25 flights, Tom can sing songs for the next 25 flights and Paul will tell sad stories for the rest of the way.” At the 26th floor, Jay stopped telling jokes and Jim began to sing. At the 51st floor, Tom stopped singing and Paul began to tell sad stories. “I will tell my saddest story first,” he said. “I left the room key in the car!”

So Vinnie T. Innkeeper was a struggling actor who just couldn’t seem to catch a break. His name and his “look” typecast him into certain roles. He was “the bad guy”. He had done walk-ons in shows like Breaking Bad, The Sopranos and Law and Order. He was always “the muscle” and he never had much to do- seldom even had any lines.

And now, his agent calls with the latest “opportunity”- the innkeeper in a story about a couple coming to Bethlehem and having a baby. In the original script, he had a couple of lines, culminating in, “”We don’t have any rooms available.” But in the end, it all ended up on the editing room floor- except for a  3-second clip of Vinnie shaking his head “no” and closing the door.

Consider this- we vilify the innkeeper for not letting Mary and Joseph in. In reality, we have NO idea what happened at the door of that inn. We can’t possibly know the conversation that took place between Joseph and the innkeeper. But we always imagine this gruff, rude, crude “goodfella” with a heart of stone who turned away the woman carrying the Savior of the world.

But I wonder, deep down in those places we don’t like to talk about at parties, would we have reacted any differently? If a couple showed up at your house…or MY house…looking for a place to rest, would we say anything to them other than, “Sorry- there’s no room in the inn.” It’s easy to see this story as a clear-cut example of how NOT to behave. Do you remember Goofus and Gallant from the Highlights magazine? The Highlights magazine was the only…the ONLY…reason I liked going to the doctor’s office! And Goofus and Gallant were…are…to boys who sow the opposite sides of a situation. Goofus always made the wrong choice when faced with a situation, while Gallant always made the right choice. For our money, Vinnie T. Innkeeper is CLEARLY the Goofus of the Nativity story.

But my gut tells me that we are all simply lucky that it wasn’t US in that same situation. I fear any one of us could easily be Vinie T. Innkeeper. Doing the right thing means doing it even when it’s a tough situation…perhaps ESPECIALLY then.

His name was Wallace Purling, but everybody called him Wally. Wally was nine years old and in 2nd grade…even though he should have been in 4th. Wally was big, awkward and slow…in both movement and mind. It was time for the annual Christmas pageant and Wally wanted nothing more than to be a shepherd. But his teacher, Miss Lumbard, assigned him a different role- the innkeeper. She figured that he wouldn’t have many lines to learn and his size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so, the day of the pageant arrived. Shepherd’s crooks, creches, fake beards, crowns and halos where the order of the day. And no one was more caught up in the magic of the event than Wally Purling. He stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t wander onstage to early. Then, the time came. Joseph tenderly guided Mary to the door of the inn and knocked hard on the wooden door. Wally was there, waiting. “What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open abruptly. “We seek lodging.” “Well, seek it elsewhere. The inn is full.” “Sir, we’ve asked everywhere- we’ve come a very long way and we’re very tired.”

“There is no room for you.” “Please, good innkeeper, my wife Mary is with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner.” For the first time, Wally relaxed his stiff stance a bit and looked down at Mary. And there was a long pause. The audience started to feel uncomfortable. From backstage, the prompter whispered, “No! Begone!” Wally snapped back to attention, “No! Begone!” he repeated automatically.

Joseph sadly put his arm around Mary and the two of them started to move away. Wally, however, didn’t turn and go back inside his in. Instead, he stood in the doorway, watching the downcast couple walk away. And his eyes began to fill with tears. And then, suddenly and inexplicably, the Christmas pageant took a sharp left turn. “Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And then Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have MY room.”

Some people in attendance thought the pageant had been ruined. But there were many, many others who considered it the most “Christmassy” of all the Christmas pageants they had ever seen.

Here’s the deal- a couple is going to show up at your door…your door…in about 3 ½ weeks. The woman will be “great with child”. And they will want to come into your home…into your heart. The child she carries is the Word made flesh, Emmanuel…God with us. He wants to be invited into your home- not just for a brief respite before going back out into the cold, harsh world…but forever. Whether He comes as a baby, seeking shelter or as an adult- “He stands at the door and knocks”- He will NOT force Himself into your home…into your heart. There is NO relationship unless you willingly invite Him in. Will you open your heart to Him this Christmas? Will you, instead of turning Him away, fling wide the door and say, “Don’t go, Jesus.You can have MY room!”

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Ring the Bell

Saturday, November 29- What is Advent?

advent_candlesTomorrow is a special day in the church year. Tomorrow is the first day of…Advent. “Advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus”, which means “arrival”. Advent is the period of waiting that starts on the 4th Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Day. It is the time that we set aside to prepare for the arrival of a baby in a manger Who came to save the world…and to save us.

So, if Advent means arrival, what arrival are YOU waiting for this Christmas? We all know the “right” answer…but is it the HONEST answer? You know what I mean. We are well aware that the answer to the question should be, “Of course we’re waiting for Jesus, Pastor!” But are you…REALLY?

Think about it- what are the things you look forward to at Christmas? Well, we look forward to hearing the great music. We look forward to all of the beautiful decorations. We look forward to the parties. We look forward to the school programs. We look forward to the shopping. We look forward to the good food. We look forward to decorating the tree. We look forward to family. We look forward to presents- the list goes on…and on…and on!

If you are a normal, red-blooded American with a special fondness for Christmas, you agreed with several points in that list. (Shoot- I didn’t agree with ALL of it…and I wrote it!) But did you notice something? There is NO mention, in that ENTIRE list, of the real reason we celebrate this holiday. The name of Jesus didn’t appear even ONCE! And yet, if we’re honest, my list could be seen as a relatively all-inclusive list…on the surface.

It’s so easy to lose track of Christmas. It’s so easy to get so caught up in the stress and the strain of the season that, by the time December 15th comes, all we can do is pray that it will all be over soon. And what a SHAME that reality is!

What will you focus on this Advent season? DON’T ignore or forget the music and decorations, the parties and the presents. Just put them in perspective. Focus on the fact that God chose…CHOSE…to put on our skin, come down among us and breathe our air…walk our sod. And let me tell you, my friend, it simply doesn’t get any better than that!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- A Life-Giving Christmas: Hope

Friday, November 28- The Runaway Train


Thanksgiving is over- let the games begin! I pray you had a great day yesterday. We had a great day! The 5 people who live in our house and our older son, who lives in Chicago, gathered for a nice, quiet, relaxing day. (Oh sure, we moved some furniture in the morning, but that doesn’t count!) We had a crock pot egg, cheese, hash brown and bacon casserole for breakfast- it was GOOD! And then, about 2:30PM, we had our Thanksgiving dinner. We had

a TWENTY pound turkey (the carcass is in the freezer, waiting to become a good pot of soup!), along with mashed potatoes, gravy, fresh green beans, cornbread and Craisin stuffing, corn, jello/pretzel salad and Hawaiian sweet rolls. Later, we had my wife’s world-famous, award-winning pumpkin cheesecake! (She made if for me! She LOVES me!!) But anyway you slice it- Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is a runaway train, barreling down the track…right for us!

The first official “Christmas” thing that I will do is that my family is going to ring the bell for the Salvation Army for an hour tomorrow at the local Walmart. And then, nearly every day between now and December 25th will have something to do with Christmas. As I said a few sentences ago- Christmas is a runaway train!

You know what I mean- between all of the church events, the office parties, the school concerts, the decorating, the shopping, the…well…you get the idea…it seems like a white-knuckle flight that, by the time you near the end, you simply can’t wait for it to get over.

And that, quite frankly, is a shame. This is Christmas we’re talking about. Without Christmas, there is no Jesus. Sure, there are a TON of Christmas traditions and events that we look forward to that don’t really have anything to do with the birth of Jesus. But at its core, this holiday celebrates the moment when God chose…CHOSE…to wrap our injured flesh around Him, breathe our air and walk our sod. At the moment of His birth, Jesus set into motion a plan that had been on the heavenly drawing board since before the dawn of time. And that plan culminates with your salvation and your eternity with Him. Now THAT’S god stuff.

This season, try…try…try as hard as you can…to find moments to slow down and take a big, deep breath. Make sure that the runaway train doesn’t get you so far afield that you lose track of the reason for this season. Keep your focus on Him. Keep the main thing…the main thing!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- What is Advent?

Thursday, November 27- Forever

forever    Today is the big day! For many, it’s the 2nd best holiday of the year! (After Christmas…of course!) It’s the day we gather with family and/or friends, we gorge ourselves on WAY too much food, and then we sit around and either A. talk, B. watch football or C. SLEEP! Ah…the holiday season in the good ‘ol US of A!
So, what are YOU doing for Thanksgiving? Our tradition is to spend it with family…family that we don’t get to see often enough throughout the year. I love white meat turkey, with homemade gravy and stuffing. I love my sister’s mashed potatoes, which sadly I won’t get to eat! I love sweet potatoes. I love my sister-in-law’s green bean casserole…which I ALSO won’t get to eat!  But nothing…let me say that again for special emphasis…NOTHING…beats my wife’s pumpkin cheesecake!
I remember SO many Thanksgivings past. I remember one year my aunt brought an exchange student from I believe it was Italy with her. All of us “backwoods farmer” types thought she was quite exotic, and I had a bit of a crush on her! (Hey, I was 10…give me a break!) I remember a bad snow storm on Thanksgiving day. I remember the year my mom tried to buck tradition and fix something OTHER than the traditional turkey and dressing for Thanksgiving. It was THE closest thing to a full-blown mutiny I had EVER seen!
One of my most enduring Thanksgiving memories is also one of the oddest. I was about 8 years old. Many family members came to eat with us. The house smelled WONDERFUL. The food looked great! And…I had a loose tooth. It NEEDED to come out, but I was being a big wuss (that is, by the way, a technical term!) and didn’t want to pull it. My mom, tired of hearing me whine about it while being completely unwilling to actually DO anything about it (a typical response for the 8-year old me!), said she was going to pull it FOR me at the end of the day if it wasn’t out. That didn’t sound good. Remember how your mom brushed your hair when she was mad at your dad? (Point to head) This is the result of that! I…don’t…think…so! Well, I fretted and stewed over that tooth all day, too big of a chicken to actually pull it. Then, we sat down to eat. Now, you know that, when you have a loose tooth, it is a challenge to eat. You try and work the food AROUND that tooth, without actually hitting it. So I sat down, excitedly  and expectantly filled my plate, waited impatiently for “grace” to be said (a once-a-year occurrence at my house growing up) and then…dug in! The first thing I took a bite of was the turkey. It looked and smelled SO good that I couldn’t contain myself. It got a big bite on my fork, quickly shoved it in my mouth, and bit down…forgetting all about the tooth! The turkey hit that tooth and POP…it came out. It hurt enough and surprised me enough that tears came to my eyes. And as I pulled the tooth out of my mouth, blinking back those tears, I held it up and said, “Now mom won’t have to pull it!” My day was made!
The Bible is FULL of Scripture that is appropriate for Thanksgiving. If you can’t find a Scripture reference about being thankful…you’re just not trying very hard! And while it is hard to choose just one to focus on, I turned to the Psalms for a bit of thankfulness on this Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Psalm 136:1-9 Give thanks to the LORD, because he is good. His faithful love continues forever. Give thanks to the greatest God of all. His faithful love continues forever. Give thanks to the most powerful Lord of all. His faithful love continues forever. Give thanks to the only one who can do great miracles. His faithful love continues forever. By his understanding he made the heavens. His faithful love continues forever. He spread out the earth on the waters. His faithful love continues forever. He made the great lights in the sky. His faithful love continues forever. He made the sun to rule over the day. His faithful love continues forever. He made the moon and stars to rule over the night. His faithful love continues forever.
I am a big fan of the Peanuts cartoons. I especially like the actual comic strips, but also like the TV specials…or at least SOME of the TV specials! The best one of all, of course, is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I mean, where else can you watch a great cartoon AND hear the Gospel of Luke account of Jesus’ birth recited? Gotta love it!
Another Peanuts TV special that’s good is the Thanksgiving special. Early in the show, Charlie Brown says, “We’ve got ANOTHER holiday to worry about. It seems Thanksgiving Day is upon us.” His sister Sally responds, “I haven’t even finished eating all of my Halloween candy!”
I connect with Sally’s sentiment all too well! It is so easy to get so caught up in the “busyness” of the holidays that we lose them entirely and end up saying things like, “Happy Hallowthanksmas!” Charlie Brown’s sister Sally captures that concept when she says, “Do you know what we have to do? We have to write an essay on Stanley Miles.” Charlie Brown responds, “You mean Miles Standish.” To which Sally says, “I can’t keep track of all those names!”
But later in the episode, resident philosopher and consistent voice of reason Linus sums up the true understanding of Thanksgiving, “In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.’” There’s a moment of silence, and then Peppermint Patty, who is usually the resident “bull in a china shop”, simply says, “Amen.”
I DO thank God for my home and my food the safety in my land. I thank God for the opportunity for freedom and justice. But it is SO easy to take those things for granted, isn’t it? Later in the episode, Charlie Brown is feeling low and Marcie tells him, “Don’t feel bad, Chuck. Peppermint Patty didn’t mean all those things she said. Actually, she really likes you.” Charlie Brown replies, “I don’t feel bad for myself, I just feel bad because I’ve ruined everyone’s Thanksgiving.” Marcie says, “But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.”
We SHOULD be thankful for being together this…as the body of Christ. Not everyone has a biological family. And not everybody who DOES have one has a functional, healthy one. But we can ALL have a CHURCH family that will love us and support us- a family for which we can be thankful.
Maybe what I remember most about Thanksgiving is being with family. My wife and I have been together for…oh my GOSH…37 years! (We of course started dating when we were in Kindergarten!) So the majority of my life has been spent dividing Thanksgiving dinner between two, and sometimes more, places. And while that’s tough, the upside to that reality is that you get to spend time with more family! I genuinely look more forward to that aspect of the holiday than any other. hanging with people that I dearly love and yet don’t get to spend much time with is a true blessing! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good- His love endures forever.
What am I thankful for this Thanksgiving? I’m thankful that I get to spend time with my family. I’m thankful to serve such an awesome church. I’m thankful for a God Who loves me…regardless. And this year especially, I’m thankful for another day to be upright, breathing and about His business. This has been a whirlwind 18 months. May 28th of last year, a golf ball-sized tumor was found in my head, between the skull and the brain, just about and in front of my right ear. In June of last year, they took off my right ear, got a biopsy of the tumor and then put my ear back on! It turned out to be a type of tumor that is SO rare- I am only the 19th recorded case in history! A drug therapy taken as a nasal spray twice a day proved ineffective- the tumor continued to grow. Three months of a different drug therapy, delivered through a self-administered hypodermic needle three times a week, also proved ineffective- all if did was make me very sick! The tumor continued to grow. It destroyed the bones of my right inner ear- I am now completely deaf in that ear. And then, on Thursday, April 17th, the day before my 53rd birthday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, I spent 11 hours in the operating room! They cut out a portion of my skull, safely removed ALMOST all of the tumor, replaced the missing skull with titanium mesh and screws and then put the whole thing back together! I spent Good Friday, my 53rd birthday, in Intensive Care. I was moved to a regular room on Saturday, the day before Easter. And I was released from the hospital on Easter morning! Six weeks later…six WEEKS…I was back at church…drivin’ ’em all crazy! I have since found out that I have a nearly equally rare genetic mutation that is, at some level, the root of all this.
I’m not going to lie- I wish I never had this tumor. I would have just as soon NOT had the events of the past year and a half happen. And yet, in some odd, mystery, wonderful way..the whole thing has been a true blessing. That…THING…in my head has made me SO much more appreciative of…life. Things I took for granted before now matter. I no longer have time to hate. I no longer have time to worry or complain. I no longer have time to waste. Life is simply TOO short and TOO precious to NOT live it to the fullest.
Through it all, I am most thankful for my faith. I love my family more than life itself and would literally do anything for them. But without the underpinning of my faith, I don’t know if that would be true or not…or at least to the degree that it IS true! People say, “Pastor, how can I possibly serve God if I don’t first take care of my family?” My reply? “How can I possibly take care of my family if I don’t first serve God?” Give thanks to the Lord for He is good- His love endures forever.
Without my faith, I’m just a self-centered, selfish jerk who focuses on good ‘ol Numero Uno! Don’t me wrong- I’m NOT going to mistaken for a saint any time soon! But I AM a much more giving person now that I have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So…that is what I’m thankful for this year! What…about…you? This holiday season- give thanks, with a grateful heart! This holiday season- don’t waste a moment. Don’t take your days for granted. Don’t leave things undone. Don’t leave relationships unmended. Why? Because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. So make the most of today. As that great theologian from Kung Fu Panda, Master Oogway, says; “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Happy Thanksgiving! Give thanks to the Lord for He is good- His love endures forever.
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed Thanksgiving! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Runaway Train

Wednesday, November 26- The Burning Heart

Burning Heart

Sunday, November 23The Burning Heart (Deuteronomy 6:3-6)

Women- does this ring true to you? “If love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was (and always will be) yours. If it never returns, then it was never yours. And if it just sits in the living room, messes up your stuff, eats all your food, uses your telephone, takes your money and never once behaves as if was even set free in the first place…then you probably either married it or gave birth to it”!
Tonight, we wrap up our current Sunday evening sermon series- Burning Heart: The Unmistakable Fire. This series has been aimed at reigniting our hearts. The 1st week, we talked about the Lost Heart. The 2nd week, it was the Turned Heart. Week three, we focused on the Disciplined Heart. Week four, it was the Giving Heart. And today, we finish things up with the Burning Heart. And all along this journey of the heart, I have asked where you find YOURSELF along the way?

Love is a “hot topic”. It is often in the midst of way or another. So…do you love God…with all your heart? Consider that question as you read these words-

Deuteronomy 6:3-6- “Hear, O Israel and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and you may increase greatly in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the God of your fathers promised you.  Hear, O Israel: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

There was a couple who was in the middle of a terrible fight and weren’t speaking to each other. At bedtime, the husband realized that he needed his wife to wake him up at  5AM so that he could catch a flight. He didn’t want to speak to her, however, and “lose the fight”, so he left her a note- “Please wake me up at 5AM.” The next morning, he woke up and it was…9AM! He had missed his flight! He was furious…that is, until he noticed the note on his bedside table, “It’s 5AM. Wake up!” Ah, such heart!
Word “heart” refers to the center of an object. In Hebrew, the word translates to “the kernel of the nut”. The heart has to do with the feelings, the will and the intellect. Did you know that more die from heart attacks than any other killer? The same is true spiritually.  God always begins with the heart and then works His way outward- but the heart comes 1st. The heart has to be guarded at all cost. And the reason there are so many spiritual casualties is that, all too often, the heart is ignored.

The heart should receive the greatest effort and the most attention. We protect our homes with security systems, deadbolts and motion detector lights. Yet we tend to ignore our hearts. Too many of us try to live a Christian life while making no effort. But life is a constant warfare and it requires great spiritual energy.

“OK, Pastor- that sounds great and it makes sense…but just how do you propose we DO that?” Here are 5 guidelines 5 things that we need to keep right:

  1. Keep your mouth right- what comes out your mouth has a profound bearing on what’s in your heart. Mean-spirited speech is an indicator of a mean-spirited heart. I love it when people cuss in front of me, get a horrified look on their face and say, “pardon my French, Reverend!” My response? “I had NO idea that was French?!”

There is a huge connection between our mouths and our hearts. Our mouths can do more heart damage than anything else is capable of. Keeping your heart right means keeping your mouth in check. The wrong mouth and the right heart simply can’t occupy the same body. Don’t let your let mouth overload your heart.

  1. Keep your eyes right- what your eyes see affects your heart. Keep your eyes straight ahead, or as we said in school…on your OWN paper! Much temptation is brought into our heart through our eyes- they are incredibly influential on our body. Most memories are formed by the eyes. Most of us remember more than 80% of what we see. But we only remember 11% of what we hear. What your eyes see…your heart wants. And when you allow your eyes to run freely without control, you risk a “heart attack”.
  2. Keep your feet right- where your feet go, your heart goes as well. Don’t turn your feet lose to simply go anywhere they want to go. Don’t make rash decisions. Be careful with whom you walk. Use wisdom in choosing the right path.
  1. Keep your ears right- your ears hear things that they should hear, to be sure. But there are times when we should plug our ears if we are going to serve God.

5. Keep your heart right- if you don’t keep your heart protected, then you face potentially serious spiritual injury.

Has your heart become sluggish in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you lost that personal connection? Or as those great theologians Hall and Oates would say, have you lost that lovin’ feeling?

One thing that would help you repair and regain that connection is revival. Why? Because revival has one chief aim- to cleanse us of sin and purify us. Revival is God’s surgery for those who have grown spiritually hard of hearing. Revival creates in us a burning heart- it burns out complacency, discouragement and despair. Burning hearts are filled with the presence, power, purpose and protection of God.

So how do you turn up the flame on our heart? How do you regain that bright flame you once had? If you want your heart to burn brightly for God- you have to stoke it…feed it. Getting closer to Jesus sets hearts aflame. And the closer you get, the brighter and hotter your heart burns.

Ask Jesus to completely take over the leadership of your life. Give your life to the One who gave you life; the One Who gave His life for you. Rather than have a heart that is as cold as ice, wouldn’t you rather have a heart that is burning with passion for God? The choice is truly yours.

John Bisagno is the former Pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church. When he came to that church to interview for the job of pastor, he entered the sanctuary. It was dimly lit, with just a few people huddled together, singing an old, slow funeral song- it was depressing. Later, he took a walk through downtown Houston. He came upon a jewelry store that was having a grand opening. They had bright lights and a greeter at the door who welcomed everybody with a warm smile.

Inside, a celebration was going on- there were refreshments and people were  talking and laughing. He was welcomed and given a cup of punch. Later, after attending both the church and the jewelry store grand opening, he said, “If the jewelry store would have offered me a job, I would have joined them!”

United Methodist founder John Wesley said, “If I had 300 people who feared nothing but God, hated nothing but sin, and were determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ…I could set the world on fire!”

When you’re offered a job, you don’t just consider the salary- you also look at the benefits: insurance, vacation, pension, etc. And if you look at all the benefits of faith, I am  confident you will say, “God, I’ve looked over the whole benefits package You offer- I ACCEPT!” Here we are, each of us on our own road, heading somewhere. Jesus has one desire- to meet us on that road to somewhere and make something very clear- that He died and rose again to set OUR hearts on fire. Where is your heart today? Are you in the middle of a depressing spiritual walk? Do you have all the information, the head knowledge, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference? Is your heart on fire because of Jesus or has your “PILOT” light gone out? Life is short. And Jesus is here, ready to re-ignite you! Will meet Him on your road to somewhere? Do you love God with all your heart?

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Forever

Tuesday, November 25- My Doppelganger!


Are you familiar with the term “doppelganger”? According to, “doppelganger” is- “a ghostly double or counterpart of a living person”. Being a lifelong fan of Superman, I can tell you that he has a doppelganger- Bizarro. He is also sometimes called Bizarro Superman. His “back story” has been changed over the years, but he is always some sort of alternate Superman.

Now, that is an overview of the classic definition of the word. But in the “real world”, the term “doppelganger” applies to anyone who is a “twin” to someone else. And I, apparently, have a doppelganger in the congregation I currently serve!

I preached the Community Thanksgiving Service at a neighboring church on Sunday night. About 30 folks from the church I currently serve came to be a part of the event. After the service, the host church had a reception- cookies, cake and punch.

My wife and I sat with some of the folks from the church I serve- there were too many of us to sit at just one table! When we were done, we said our “goodbyes” and then headed to a couple of other tables to say goodbye to the rest of “our folks”.

As I neared one of the other tables, a gentleman from the church I serve caught my attention and motioned for me to come over to him. I went around the table, walked up to him and leaned in. (In a noisy setting, my deafness insists that I lean in to people if I want to have any hope of actually hearing them!) He smiled and said, “You got a compliment tonight.” I said, “I did?” “Yes- a lady walked up to me and said ‘you did a good job tonight’.” I replied, “That’s sweet of her to say.” He smiled bigger and said, “No- she said to ME, ‘YOU did a good job tonight’!”

Picture this- I have a shaved head, a goatee, glasses and was wearing, at the time, a blue dress shirt. This man from my congregation who got the compliment intended for me has…a shaved head, a goatee, glasses and was wearing…a blue dress shirt! Apparently…wait for it…we all look alike! After I got my laughter under control, I leaned back in and said, “Tell me you looked her in the eye and said, ‘Thank you’!” He assured me that he did!

I’ll be honest- I know pastors who would find that whole story offensive. They would be mad that someone else got their accolades. But, good or bad, I am not like a lot of other pastors. I found it hysterical! Those things are fun. And part of the reason they’re fun is that I could easily see myself doing the EXACT same thing that woman did!

Life’s simply too short to not be able to laugh at yourself. If you are so serious that you can’t laugh at yourself…you are simply TOO serious! Lighten up. Take a big, deep breath, loosen your collar and have some fun! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a plan that is hatching! I am going to see if my doppelganger wants to have some REAL fun!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Burning Heart

Monday, November 24- Worlds Collide!


I am a fan of the TV show Seinfeld.While I admit that it is sometimes a bit…MUCH…for “general audiences”, it is a very funny show. There is an episode where Jerry’s best friend George is in a relationship that he grows more and more unhappy about. He feels that the woman he is dating is trying to change him. He is worried that he will no longer be able to be “himself”. He talks about worlds colliding. At one point in the episode, Jerry and George are talking. George says, “If Relationship George walks through that door…he will KILL Independent George!”

I had a “worlds collide” moment last Friday and Saturday! I wrote about the fact that the church I currently serve hosted what we call the Follow the Star Holiday Bazaar. I also mentioned that one of the “attractions” of that event is A Star is Born. We turn our choir loft into a photography studio and take pictures of individuals and families in Nativity-themed costumes.

If you remember, I worked in the photography industry for 8 years before entering the ministry. I spent 2 years doing school photography (which is akin to “combat pay”!) and then 6 years managing studios or regions for two different companies. I not only DID portrait photography but I TAUGHT portrait photography! I had 20 studios and 100 employees spread out over 4 states by the time I got out. And over those 8 years, including school pictures, senior pictures, family pictures, sports pictures and group pictures, I estimate that I have photographed about 250,000 people! (NO exaggeration!)

AS you might imagine, I haven’t had any great opportunity to use those skills since I went into the ministry. Oh sure, the “people skills” I developed over those years help. And the business management lessons I learned have been very helpful. But I haven’t shot a ton of portrait pictures since then! And then…along comes A Star is Born!

Over the run of the event- 3PM-7PM on Friday and 8AM-11AM Saturday- I got to turn back the clock and revisit my old career. Friday night, I got to photograph a family with a fairly young kid AND a couple with 2 dogs! I have photographed a TON of kids in my day, but I have NOT photographed very many animals. (They weren’t allowed in the studio where I worked…although I brought my OWN dog in after hours and got shots of him with my older son!)

Both the kid AND the dogs did a really good job! But I DID remember some tricks I learned over the years that I was able to put to good use on Saturday morning. Some of the regular tools that I always carried in my briefcase when I managed studios was A. a ball, B. a squeaky toy and C. a feather duster. (No foolin’!) With those three things, I could make ALMOST any kid smile and get almost ANY dog to pay attention!

I didn’t have a new, pristine feather duster available to me, but I DID get a ball and a noisy toy to use for Saturday. And they came in VERY handy! I had a group of three kids, with the youngest being pretty young. And he did NOT want to sit with his sisters and get photographed! BUT…this was NOT my first rodeo. So I got his mom to sit in a chair, put her foot on a stool and put him out on her knee. I then posed the two girls around him, used the ball to get him comfortable and smiley, got some great pictures…and then cropped Mom out of the shot! Mission accomplished!

I had fun doing doing that! Would I want to go back and do that for a living again? Not on your Nellie! I LOVE what I do! But I DID have fun getting in the DeLorean, getting it up to 88 MPH and going back in time 20 years for just a bit! Worlds collided…and it wasn’t bad at all!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- The Doppelganger