The Churchyard Shuffle

imagePentecostal, Methodist, Congregationalist. . . It doesn’t matter what church you go to, you’ve dealt with the Church Yard Shuffle. It’s a particular dance that transcends all denominational lines and even reaches deep into independent churches.

This is how it works. A person gets upset with their church and shuffles off to another one. That new church considers this tremendous growth for the Kingdom’s sake. Hallelujah! Pass the mash potatoes! We’ve added to the Kingdom!!
Obviously there are REAL reasons to leave your church. For instance, If your church or pastor has stopped teaching or believing salvation through Christ and Christ alone, don’t shuffle, RUN! Seek a Bible believing congregation.
Frankly, I believe if your church or denomination has left sound biblical beliefs for more liberal or progressive notions (They now call sin, “life choices”), they’ve ceased being a Christian church. Stop supporting them. You’re feeding the enemy. RUN!
Also, someone may leave a church simply because of a disagreement over the ministry and direction of the church. In that case, if reconciliation cannot be found, go where your gifts and ministry can be better used.
Unfortunately, many shuffle off for less than admirable motives. They imageget upset with someone, either the pastor or another member, for one reason or another. Worship service ran 15 minutes late, someone sat in their pew, the pastor offended them, the church was painted the wrong color. It’s amazing the infinite list of reasons people leave a church for.
Being in the ministry for over 35 years, I’ve dealt with it. People have accused me of some of the most outrageous things as an excuse to shuffle off. Thin skin Christians who want a perfect church or pastor.
I’ve been on the other side of it, too. Several years ago, a group of “saints” wanted to leave a sister church and join mine. They complained that the Pastor had done evil things. To listen to them talk, imagehe spat out pea soup and his head spun around. Being young, I did a foolish thing. I let them join my church. HEY! It was church growth, wasn’t it? Unfortunately, a couple of these people never ceased to be a source of frustration to me. It didn’t take long to realize they themselves were the pea soup spitters.

One of my main concerns about the Church Yard Shuffle is this-

We call it “church growth”. It’s not.

True church growth is not plucking the discontent from other churches. It is bringing the lost to Jesus Christ. Through the Church Yard Shuffle, spiritual battles aren’t fought, souls aren’t won. People just shift around.
So, if you are tempted to do the Church Yard Shuffle, don’t. If you want to help your church grow, go to the lost. Share the Good News with them. Don’t shuffle! It does not proclaim the unity of the Body of Christ, nor does it teach on God’s forgiveness and love.




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When to Throw in the Towel

Ever been tempted to throw in the towel? You’re not alone. Who hasn’t been so disheartened they’ve said, “Forget it Lord! I’m gonna become a monk.”
If you can relate, I want you to consider George Edward Arcaro, otherwise known as Eddie Arcaro. He was probably the best jockey of all time. According to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame he won more American classic races than any other jockey in history and is the only rider to have won the U.S. Triple Crown twice. Here’s the million dollar question.  How many times did he lose, before winning one race?
Anyone want to guess ten or less? Would you give up if you lost ten races?
How about Thirty? Hey, if I lost thirty races, I’d stay in bed for a month, and be very embarrassed to even show my face at the track.
How about fifty? Nope.
Let’s end the suspense.  Eddie Acaro lost 250 races before winning. HOLY MOLEY, BATMAN! 250!!!
I don’t know about you, but I’d be tempted to change professions; become a circus clown or something where I could wear face makeup so no one would recognize me.
He didn’t, though. The rest is history.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

It’s easy to give up, and to justify our defeat. “Oh Lord, if this is your will, the road would be paved with roses and lemonade stands.”
It isn’t.
Victories aren’t won without adversity. Whatever you are attempting to achieve, PERSEVERE!
God has called the Christian, not to back down or give up, but to battle on! Keep going. For the one who does not lose heart, there is the promise- You’ll reap the reward. So if your plans have failed a couple of times . . . twenty times . . . thirty? Hey, remember Eddie. Keep going!

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Tattoos and Heaven

So I overheard something at Barnes and Noble cafe that made me cringe. I couldn’t see who was speaking. She was on the other side of a partition.

“I can’t go to heaven because I have tattoos.”

Just to let you know, she wasn’t being serious, simply stating in a sarcastic way what someone told her. Then she said, “I don’t care anyways.”

Wow and Wow.

Got me thinking about the silly things some Christians are passing off as God’s word. Maybe the girl misunderstood. It’s possible. Or maybe she had a tattoo covering her whole face that said, I ‘heart’ satan. But even that shouldn’t matter.  To tell someone some ink on their body can keep them from God . . . Again- WOW!

I fear whenever we add anything to God’s grace.

You know what? I don’t drink alcohol. Nope. And guess what? I take criticism from both sides- Christians and non-Christians! “You’re being legalistic!” “You’re a kill-joy”. Truth of the matter- It’s a personal choice. Sufficient to say I’ve never told anyone, “If you drink you can’t go to Heaven!” I’d be adding to God’s Word.

GRACE! That’s the key. God shows His love to us, even when we don’t deserve it. Salvation IS NOT “I’ll change my ways and maybe I’ll please God and He’ll accept me”. NO! That would be you trying to get there on your own.


SALVATION IS “Jesus died for me! He loves me despite my weaknesses, my sins, my quirkiness and my idiosyncrasies.”

One other thing she said that made my liver quiver. “I don’t care anyways.”

Sad to say this is the way many people feel. But I believe she’s fooling herself. Deep down everyone  cares. That’s why self-help books are such a big seller. That’s why cults and false religions are so attractive to people. They have a deep-felt need that must be met.

News bulletin! Jesus is God’s answer (and ONLY ANSWER) to that need.

So share God’s love! People have an inner aching only He can take care of. Remember you’re sharing God’s Grace, not your views, opinions, or cultural beliefs. Don’t add to Grace.

And yes, people with tattoos can go to Heaven. And people who drink, and people who own cats, and tall people, and short people, and rich people, and poor people, and people who . . . You fill in the blank.

Not by our actions, but by God’s grace!

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.


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Strength from the Mountain

Every once in a while I find a verse that pops out and says WOW to me. The other day a verse did just that. I hope it speaks to you, too.

Psalm 125:2 “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.”

mountain-pasture_00450519Two points I want to make about this.

1. Mountains Offer Protection.

In ancient times, cities surrounded by mountains were less vulnerable to enemy attacks. Obviously the bad guys had to traverse the difficulties of mountains to get to the city; fight and struggle to get over the peaks and rocky terrain. God is like a mountain. The enemy has to battle Him to get to the Christian.

2. Castle_mountain_2003Christians Should Gain Spiritual Strength in the Knowledge that God Is There

One of my favorite vacation spots is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. There’s nothing like going to the top of one of the ranges and looking out over the beauty, majesty, and awesomeness. It’s inspiring.

Here’s a sure fact. In life difficulties will arise. Trials will come. Sometimes we can feel small in the midst of them. That’s when we need to look to our Mountain – Our God. He’s bigger than us and bigger than any of our troubles. We need to know He is before us, beside us, and ALL AROUND US! Don’t take your eyes off the mountain that is God.

Remember! Psalm 125:2 “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.

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imageHappy one year anniversary for the publication of my book, A Message to Deliver. There’s just a couple of days left to get your name in the drawing for a free copy. Five copies will be given away. Simply LIKE or comment on this and you’ll be added to the list of prospective winners.

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Divided We Fall

859269415Remember those cafeteria dinner plates? They were divided into sections– the bigger one for the main entree, the smaller ones for your dessert, veggies and potatoes.

With that said, I have to make a confession. I am prejudice. Wow! Wash my mouth out with soap and throw me in prison. But you know what? I believe everyone is prejudice in some way or another. Everyone pre-judges others by some worldly standard. White or black, rich or poor, male or female, young or old, Democrat or Republican, Patriot’s fan or evil Steelers fan (Whoops. How’d that slip in there?).

There are soooo many ways we categorize other people and draw conclusions about them.

Our country is being ripped apart by our prejudices. Look at the recent happenings in baltimore-riotBaltimore. How many people (ON BOTH SIDES) drew their conclusions on skin color, political party, or how a twisted media portrayed the situation, BUT NOT ON THE
FACTS? And look at the results- A city burned and people were hurt.

We are divided by our own prejudices. Rich people are all evil, poor people don’t want to work, hispanics are all illegal aliens . . . You know what? I could go on and on, but I hope you get the point. All ludicrous statements.

Our melting pot has become more like the cafeteria dinner plates. We classify people, delegating them to the main entree section, or one of the smaller areas. You stay in your area. I’ll stay in mine. Not only that, my area is better than yours. This is not good!

Christians Must Identify as Christians.       We are not black. We are not white. We are not rich or poor. We are Christians. This isn’t easy. I’ll admit, I make automatic assumptions about people based on what they are. But don’t go all high and mighty on me. I guarantee you toss people in their dinner plate section, too.

The wonderful truth of the matter is, JESUS is not Prejudiced.

Galatians 3:27-28 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

My dinner plate analogy breaks down in the following way. In the real dinner plate, the items you separate are truly different. Peas are different from hamburg or potatoes. They not only look different, but on the inside they ARE different. However, people are all the same. We may look different on the outside (skin color, language spoken, wealth, job skills, etc.) but on the inside we are the same– SINNERS IN NEED OF A SAVIOR.

Isn’t it wonderful that Jesus sees beyond everything else, and to our need?

Yes, our society is fractured. But Christians need to see with the eyes of Jesus. He is the answer to what ails us. Not laws or political parties. Not divisions by skin color or financial class. Not revolution to overthrow the bad people. Nope. True change will happen when Christians see only two divisions – Those who have Jesus, and those who need Him. Those who have Jesus we should treat as brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who need Jesus we should reach out to with love and the message of the gospel.

Plain and simple. Throw out the cafeteria plates.


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Lessons from Duct Tape

thDuring my son’s time in the Marines, one of his subordinates approached him. “Sir, I can’t find my rifle.” An odd thing, indeed, for a marine to say. On top of that, this particular individual had a history of misplacing his rifle.

So my son took him on a quest to find two things-

1. His rifle       and        2. A ROLL OF DUCT TAPE.

When both were located, he had the young man hold his rifle, parallel, against his chest. As the private slowly spun, my son wound him in duct tape, securely fastening the weapon to him. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, he then took the man around for everyone else to see, and instructed him to say, “This is my rifle. I won’t lose it again.”

When I was told that story, my mouth dropped. “Son, what a humiliating punishment. Wasn’t that a little harsh?”

He shook his head. “In battle, that weapon stands between life and death for that marine and for his comrades. Learn his lesson now, and stay alive when it matters!”

My son was right.

Have you ever felt like God is punishing you? Like your burden is too much? Have you ever wondered why God allows awful things to happen to you?

Maybe you should considered the notion that He’s trying to teach you a lesson.

Christians want the roses without having to deal with the thorns. It’s sometimes hard to accept, but God disciplines us, and discipline can hurt.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all our pain, suffering, and trials are a direct result of God’s discipline. There are also troubles this world throws at us. And sometimes our struggles are due to our own stupidity. Yet the Bible tells us God disciplines those He loves.

Hebrews 12:5-7 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?”

God is forging us, making us more Christ-like. Sometimes the process might hurt.   Change hurts!

So if you’re having an I’m-Wound-in-Duct-Tape kind of day, ask yourself, What’s the Lord trying to teach me?

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Fun With Snow

I surrender! I give in to the great white fluff, pressing on my brain. Last night, as I gazed from my window at the snowy white landscape, which looked more like an image of the moon than my front yard, I feverishly worked to create things to do with the snow. Not normal things. Oh no. We need fun things . . . Wild things . . . Things that bubble the brain and excite the imagination! Things that match my snow madness.

Here are my top three.

TinySnowman1. THE MYSTERIOUS SNOWMAN   Sneak over to your neighbor’s front door at two o’clock in the morning, and build a snowman. Make sure it’s so close to his door, he can’t get out without running into it. Make it as ominous looking as you can. Perhaps place a sign in its hands which reads, “The End is Near” or “Have You Hugged a Snowman Today?” or “We’re Watching You”. Then ring the bell and run! If you have a neighbor who’s been bugging you in some way (loud music, a dirty yard, etc.), it’s even more fun.

2. THE DISNEY DANCE        Reenact “Let it Go” from Frozen. Put on a gown and dance around your yard, while you build a giant ice castle. With a fist raised to the sky, scream out, “The cold never bothered me, anyway.” I did this and surprisingly the neighbor called the police. FYI- It was the same neighbor who’d found a mysterious snowman on their porch at 2 AM. Will wonders never cease.

3. THE AMAZING, GIANT DOG (with a bladder problem)    Get a fifty gallon jug of yellow food coloring. Where can you find this? I’m not sure. Probably one of the big box stores. Once you’ve acquired the goods, you have two options. Either soak your neighbor’s yard or soak your own yard with the stuff. If you choose your neighbor, it will be revenge fork9962351 him calling the police on you, simply because he’s not a fan of Disney songs. If you soak your own, you can call the police yourself. When they show up, you should have this amazed, mortified, the-martians-are-landing kind of look on your face, as you proclaim, “You should have seen the size of the beast that left this.”

That’s all I have. If you think of more creative uses for snow, let me know.

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Fear versus Trust

Have you ever felt like your life’s tailspinning out of control? That you’re swirling down into a deep, dark hole, with no way out? That’s me the last few months. Between health issues, financial difficulties, job concerns, and other things.
Don’t get out the tiny violins. I’m not looking for sympathy. Read on. I’ve a point to make.
To top everything off . . .over eighty inches of snow in less than three and a half weeks. Sure. It’s good for skiers, snowboarders, and penguins. I’m none of these. I’m one of the millions who have run out of places to put the snow. I’m the man with water dripping in his kitchen from the ice build up on his roof.
Wonderful! More financial concerns.
A couple of nights ago, as I was stewing over my problems, the phone rang.
“Hi dad.” It was my son, Jerry. Something was off in his voice. “I’ve had an accident.”
It seems his car hit black ice. It spun out of control, hit and sailed over a five foot tall snow embankment, then flipped over and slammed into the ground. The roof crunched against his head. All the airbags deployed.
During this, the car’s contents flew through its cabin- Glass bottles, ten pound weights, his gun safe, his German Shepherd, amongst other items.
He then had to kick the door open to get out.
My heart sank. I pictured him lying in a hospital bed, his arms and legs in traction. “Are you OK?”
“I’m OK.”
“Broken bones? Cuts? Bruises?”
“None. The car is totaled, but I’m OK.”
All of a sudden, the black hole that had been consuming me disappeared.
My son Josiah, a paramedic, told Jerry these are the types of accidents he pulls dead bodies out of.
Even while I’m typing this, I’m tearing up. Not because of the ice on the roof, or water in the attic, or financial troubles. They seem so trivial now.
It puts things in perspective for me.
Are you sinking in a black hole of despair, because of life’s situations? Consider this verse.

Psalm 56:3-4 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?

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Jonathan Edwards Set the Bar High

Each New Years, people make resolutions. Check these out.
Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humble entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved, To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

Resolved, Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved, Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

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