Written by cycleguy on October 1st, 2014

Over the 40+ years I have been a pastor, I have seen a lot of new ideas introduced. In the wedding ceremony I have gone from the very traditional to the very different. Where most people used to use candles during their ceremony to illustrate their commitment to each other, the most recent has been using what is called a Sand Ceremony. But this weekend I am taking part in something I have never done before.

I am taking part in a Tree Ceremony.

Now…don’t get your undies all in a bunch thinking I am blessing trees (Sierra Club would love me in spite of my “pastor tag”).  The young couple were married a few weeks ago in Vegas and are having their reception this coming Saturday at her father’s house. They both come from broken homes and have in mind to “break the cycle.” The idea of the Tree Ceremony is much the same as the candles or the sand.

There is something more. A person may admire a tree’s color, leaves, fruit, shape, and size, but all of those are determined by its root system. The taller and thicker a tree gets the more essential it is that the roots go deeper and spread out wider. Very seldom though does anyone look at the roots. But there is no doubt how important they are.

I think it is easy to see the relationship to marriage. This couple wants to break the cycle. They will be having a tree in a pot. At the ceremony each parent will put dirt into the pot and then the couple will do the same. They will then take the tree and plant it on their own property. While it is true their parents’ marriages fell apart, it does not mean theirs will. Just as roots get intertwined with each other, so their lives will be as well-heart, soul, and mind.

That is a real positive. You can add to the positive by praying for David and Jannette.

Have you ever heard of this? What are some new ideas you have seen lately?



Written by cycleguy on September 30th, 2014

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Sometimes it is hard when the shoe is not on the other foot, but squarely on your own. Such is the case with this particular chapter in Matt Chandler’s book Creature of the Word, which I have been discussing the past few weeks.  Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

You do not really preach the gospel if you leave Christ out-if He is omitted, it is not the gospel! You may invite men to listen to your message, but you are only inviting them to gaze upon an empty table unless Christ is the very center and substance of all that you set before them!

It is very common these days to spend a lot of time on “How To” sermons. I confess I did it. Way too many Sundays telling people “How To Handle…” or “How to Have…” or “The Secret To…” Wrong approach.

I have spent 2014 in what I called “The Great Adventure”-a year long look into the Gospels. Currently I finished preaching from Matthew for the third time. I’m not too sure what has happened to the people, but I do know what has happened to me. I have become “richer” in my faith. My relationship with Jesus has become more solid. I think the preaching has become more consistent-in content-not in “good vs. bad.” :)  They know what is coming.

It has been because of the focus on Jesus.

I realize that is not every pastor’s cup of tea. Some prefer the topical approach…that’s fine. However, I have come to the conclusion I am not a counselor and have no business spouting off “help yourself” advice while standing before the church. Jesus once said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to myself.” If I lift up Jesus, lives will be changed…a lot sooner and a lot more effectively than preaching man-made schemes.

Do you hear gospel preaching?



Written by cycleguy on September 29th, 2014

If you read yesterday’s post, you read my thought “Way too often we are more known for what we are against than what we are for.”  I mentioned sharing another positive which took place within the past week or so. It is a lot more controversial but I hope you will read this post all the way through.

Our church’s mission statement is “To Win the HEART of Owen County.”

Our vision is taking H-E-A-R-T and telling how we hope to accomplish that:

H- Hear Truth

E- Exalt Christ

A- Accept the Imperfect

R- Restore Relationships

T- Teach Service

It is easy having a Mission and Vision Statement; it is a totally ‘nother ballgame living it. Here is what happened.

Every year our county has the Apple Butter Festival. It goes all day Saturday and Sunday. Our first year we did both days (opening the booth at 1:00) but the past two years we have just done Saturday. We give away free water and snacks and try to let the community know who we are. Other than the “thanks for the water” we haven’t really had any dialogue. That changed this year. Saturday morning Ryan, our youth pastor, was handing out water when a woman approached him with this loaded question:

“Do you welcome gays? My wife and I have been looking for a place to worship in Spencer and haven’t found one or have not been welcome. Would you allow us to come?’

Ryan’s answer: “Yes we would. Our Mission statement says ‘Accept the Imperfect’ which we try to do. We will probably define marriage differently than you-between a man and a woman-but you are welcome to worship with us.”

Was that not a great answer? No condemnation. No judgment. But they also know No Compromise of our beliefs.

Was it a test? Possibly. There are a few churches in town who are militantly against them. And Spencer PRIDE can be militant in their exchange. But then again, maybe it was the answer they needed to hear. Maybe some day (it has not happened yet) they will come through our doors and find “acceptance” and in the process even find Jesus.

Who knows?

I’m sure we will mess up along the way. I’m sure there will be those who will be offended by our stand on gays, sexual sin, and other hot button issues. But I am so proud of Ryan’s grace and wisdom in his answer.  His grace and answer allows us another chance to speak the truth of Jesus’ love into someone’s life.

How would you have answered?

Add on: thanks to Daniel’s comment I need to add something Ryan also said (I forgot it when I originally wrote this). When we he said, “Our Mission Statement says, ‘Accept the Imperfect” he also added, ‘We are all imperfect.'”



Written by cycleguy on September 28th, 2014

I’m sure you have probably heard the old adage:

The problem with many Christians and churches is we are known more for what we are against than what we are for.

I wish I could refute that but I can’t. It seems to have become commonplace for many churches to picket or individual Christians to picket in some form or another. I’m not saying it isn’t warranted from time to time. The old saying comes to mind “If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.”

The past week or so has seen some valuable “positives” come our way.

Thursday night the New Beginnings Pregnancy Resource Center (NBPRC), of which I am the newest board member, held its first ever fund-raising banquet. The theme was “Life is Beautiful.” What an excellent evening! As a board member I was/am pleased with the way everything came together, but was really excited to see how the young people helped serve. They were PHENOMENAL! They helped set up; served; kept our drinks filled; cleaned our tables when we were done; then helped put all the tables and chairs away. The leaders of those young and their parents can sure be proud of them.

Dr. Grant Clark, a former abortion doctor, was our guest speaker. He spoke on the realities of the battle we fight. I had the opportunity to introduce the members of the board. We heard an update on NBPRC which involved the work that has been done and the work we hope to accomplish. We shared some dreams and visions of the future. We raised over $3300 for the night plus some monthly pledges and some much needed volunteer help.

NBPRC is trying to positively reach Owen County with the message of life. We present life. We won’t compromise on abortion, but we prefer to present the positives of keeping the baby or even giving it for adoption.

We want to be known for what we are for. I like that.

Any thoughts? Do you have a center you can be involved in?

The next post I want to share another positive with you.



Written by cycleguy on September 25th, 2014

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying,

It is better to keep silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

I like that. Have you ever wondered why someone says what he does or thinks the way she thinks? When words fly out of the mouth and they turn and say, “I’m sorry. That’s not really me.” You want to look at them and say, “Oh yes you are!

Polluting the air is quite commonplace these days. And I’m not talking about the air pollution the EPA would be all up in arms about. We do a great job of polluting the air in other ways. I did some research for Sunday’s sermon on Covenant Eyes. Take a  gander at these statistics:

  • In America alone revenue for the sex-related industry is estimated at $13 billion.
  • Internet porn is a $3 billion a year business.
  • 50% of all Christian men and 205 of all Christian women say they are addicted to porn.

For more stats, go here.

The sad part of this is while our concern for cleaning up the air we breathe is a good thing, cleaning up the airwaves is not on many radars.

Anyway, all that to introduce Matthew 15:10-19 and Proverbs 4:23-27. Basically, Jesus is telling us what is in our hearts will come out of our mouths. Ugly hearts=ugly words. Live with hate=words of hate. Live with jealousy=words of jealousy.

Heart pollution. The subject for Sunday’s message. I would appreciate your prayers. Thanks.



Written by cycleguy on September 24th, 2014

If you read yesterday’s post, I touched briefly on culture. Not culture…as in world. But culture…as in church. The basic premise was every church has a culture. I’d like to expand on that a bit here and hopefully it won’t be seen as beating a dead horse.

A great example Matt gives in his book is the culture of Mother’s Day. What started out as a simple effort to express love and appreciation to her hero, Anna Marie Jarvis now hates what she started. MD has become, as many things tend to, a big business. Can anyone say Christmas? Easter? Despite the efforts of the minority, those two holidays have certainly lost their luster as being religious holidays to many people. Our culture has adapted and adopted that change.

Over the years we have seen a number of programs hit churches, with two of the most prominent being a Seeker-Driven and Purpose-Driven church. Those are only two, of course. And this is not mean to be disparaging of those. They both had some good points. But like many programs designed for church growth, it had as its main purpose either people or the growth of the church.

The focus wasn’t on Jesus as much as it was on a program or on people one is trying to reach.

A church without its focus being on Jesus is missing the boat. I hesitate to say it is not a church because that is awful judgmental and I don’t want to go there. However Jesus is not the center of our church culture…if He is not the One we promote…if He is not the One we glory in, sing about, preach about. If He isn’t then I believe our culture is skewed. I have said in the past that I was one who pursued church growth programs like fleas pursue an animal. And I watched them fail time after time. No make that I watched me fail time after time. The real truth is (and I agree with Matt here) is “we do not build His Church, nor did He promise to build our church.” It is His Church not mine/ours.

So what makes up a church culture? Three things:

  1. Theology- the church’s “thinking about God.”
  2. Philosophy-the church’s “thinking about ministry.”
  3. Practice- the church’s “thinking doing for God.”

There is so much more to say but my (self-imposed) space is winding down. I know not many of you can do much about your church culture since you are not in leadership. But then again you can. Evaluate. Question. Most importantly, PRAY. Pray that your leadership “gets it.”



Written by cycleguy on September 23rd, 2014

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 We will sometimes say of another person “they are sure self-centered.” Self-centered people are no fun to be around…unless it is about them.

Matt began this chapter telling about a man named David Sharp, a mountain climber who lay dying in a cave on Mt Everest, watched as a group of 40 climbers marched right by him and paid absolutely no attention to him or the fact he was dying. They left him to die! Why? It is easy to say “Well they were on a mission” and that would be correct. One can say, “Well, they were not guaranteed Mr. Sharp would live.” And that might be correct. But to walk right past someone who was in trouble?

Sounds like a story Jesus told about two religious leaders and a Samaritan as they passed a man who had been robbed and beaten.

Every church has a culture. It can be a culture of self-centeredness. It can be a culture of programs. While every church has a culture (just like a team), not every church has a healthy culture. If a church is self-centered its focus will be upon that which benefits them. If a church is Jesus-centered, it will find its focus outward and making an effort to impact the community.

What kind of culture would you say your church has? Do you find yourself “buying into” that culture or kicking against it? Are you doing anything to try to change the culture?



Written by cycleguy on September 22nd, 2014

Just about a year ago I wrote this post about my eyes.

I returned today for my yearly bludgeoning visit. Doggone it! That Dr. DeWar was not nicer this time than he was a year ago. Let me rephrase that: he is a super nice guy and the ladies who work in his office are a blast! But he was no nicer. No…in fact…he was worse. As my oldest daughter, Tami, told me earlier this year (I think): she I have special eyes.

Oh yeah! My eyes have gotten worse over the past year. The astigmatism in my left eye has worsened. My right eye has now developed it. Not only that I have started developing cataracts!! The only good thing about that is when they replace the lenses I could go without glasses. And that would be totally fantastic!

What about Lasik? Too old. Cut off age is 60. So glasses it is.

But it is better than being blind. And for that I am grateful.

When I was younger people used to talk about seeing life through rose-colored glasses. I know what the meant. Truth is: life can tear me/you down and cause us to see it as jaded. We see every little thing which goes wrong as piling in on us. We can’t/have trouble with  trust. We live life wondering when the next shoe will drop.

THAT AIN’T NO WAY TO LIVE! (‘scuze the poor grammar)

Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. (Here is where I could pipe in all the optimistic trite phrase and one-liners but I won’t). Don’t let a poor attitude cloud your vision.


How about you?

Meanwhile…I can’t wait for this stoned look dilation to wear off.



Written by cycleguy on September 21st, 2014

Isn’t it crazy how some things get to you and others don’t.

Isn’t it crazy how some things bother you one moment and then don’t bother you another?

Case in point: today.

I wrote here about an event which happened over 5 years ago. The exact date is July 11, 2009 when the event happened.  I posted an update here. Ever since then I have had this love/hate relationship with the animals. I will confess to daydreams of some of them coming out onto the road and some not so nice things happening to them (not me…them).

But I never wanted to see what I saw today. I decided to ride this afternoon (Sunday). I took a different route, largely due to some road resurfacing which made one of the roads I used to ride an absolute dream. Even if it was a hill. :) Due to time constraint, I chose to go home a different way, one I have not ridden for quite awhile. I had been by this farm often in the past and they had some sheep dogs which came to the fence but stopped. They were actually Grand Pyrenees. Today I was riding past this same farm and one of them came out into the road after me and a car coming the opposite direction hit it full on. I heard it whimper one time when I turned around and when I went to him he was gone.

I wish I could say I was thrilled…that my evil twin  was satisfied. All I felt was sad. I know the man who owns the dog and I could see the pain on his face. I stayed until the sheriff came then he said I could leave. I wish I could say I rode away with a lighter feeling in my gut.

I can’t.

Dogs will act like dogs. Cats act like cats (I don’t like them at all-Sorry Zee-but they seem to gravitate toward me. Why is that?) :) Dogs will chase bikes, cars, and anything which moves.

I was sad. Am I that sad about those who pursue empty pursuits in their quest for meaning? Do I walk away from people who turn away from Jesus that sad…sick in the gut over their latest rejection (not of me but of Jesus)?

Again…I wish I could say Yes. But I can’t. Least not every time. But I pray for a heart like Jesus. I pray for a heart which breaks for each and every person. I pray for it to be true of me what Bob Pearce once said, “May my heart break with the things which break the heart of God.”

And you?



Written by cycleguy on September 18th, 2014

Hear or use the word “investment” and our thoughts will immediately turn to finances. But there are other kinds of investments.

I his poem Maud Miller, John Greenleaf Whittier wrote:

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’

I suspect all of us have had moments when we have taken the time to look back and wondered what might have been if I had chosen differently or more wisely.

The Bible talks about taking advantage of opportunities which present themselves. “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days…In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1,6)

In Ephesians 5:16 we are told “to make the best use of your time for the days are evil.”

“What might have been” is a sad refrain to hear or say. Unfortunately, the way we live our lives often lends itself to that phrase more often than not.

The parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30 is one we are pretty familiar with. In this parable, a talent, in the narrow sense, is dealing with money. But in the broader sense it is referring to all which has been placed in our hands-time, talent, treasure- life in other words.

The real question, the real issue is simply “what are you doing with what you have been given?”

That really is a question each one of us must answer. That is the challenge I will be giving this Sunday.