Listed - My Fav's for 2009

My 2nd annual end of the year list.

Top 3 books I read this year:

1. Mad Church Disease by Anne Jackson
2. Busted by Fred von Kamecke
3. The Fine Line by Kary Oberbrunner

I read a lot and many books could have made the list but these were the 3 I have referred people to the most this year.

Top 3 CD's I listened to this year:

1. While I'm Waiting by John Waller
2. 10 by Mercy Me
3. CompassionArt by Various Artists

Top 3 Favorite Bible Books this year:

1. Proverbs
2. John
3. Psalms

So there you have it.


Another Time, Another Place

Another Time, Another Place

I love science fiction. I grew up with Star Wars, the original trilogy, and have always enjoyed a good sci-fi film. One thing that has always fascinated me is the concept of time travel, going back or forward to a different place or time in history. What would it have been like if I was born in a different era? If I had the chance to make a decision over again would I do things differently? That is the question I hear people ask all the time. What if I had dated someone else? Moved when I had the chance? Taken that job when it was available?

Really, the fascination many have with time travel is that it would give us the chance to correct mistakes. The chance to right a wrong or to take the path that now looks better in hindsight. How many times have you heard someone say, "If I only knew then what I know now"? You might have said it yourself. I know I have. Many of us live a life of regrets because we are always looking backwards.

God the Father was a forward thinker. He had a plan in place even before He created the Heavens and the Earth. Notice how, when the fall happened, as recorded in Genesis 3, He immediately spoke "prophetic" words about Christ coming! (Gen. 3:14)

How about these words spoken in Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)

Look at this longer passage from Ephesians: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:3-12)

So, God was a forward thinker. He had a plan. His plan, as set forth in Genesis, was for Christ to come at another time and another place. A perfect time and place I might add. So it was that, a little over 2000 years ago, Christ was born in a manger. He came to fulfill God's plan. He gave up the throne room of God for a season, so that He could bring us into everlasting relationship with the Father. He restored what was lost in the fall.

This holiday season, and throughout the year, don't look back with regrets. Lay down the "what ifs" and think about the "what is". God is directing your life. He has a plan for you. He knows what He is doing. Trust Him.


Blog Swap - Thinking Out Loud

I love Paul Wilkinson's Blog Thinking Out Loud. It's an excellent read. Today Paul and I are doing a blog swap. You can read my post on his blog, Thinking Out Loud. In the mean time, enjoy what Paul has to say here:

While other Christ-followers are fretting over the substitution of the word "holiday" for "Christmas," I'm keeping busy trying to substitute "incarnation" for "Christmas" in my correspondence and everyday conversation; although, as in the phrase, 'Have yourself a very merry incarnation;' it doesn't always fit. It's not that I'm trying to sound more theologically sophisticated around other believers, but I'm hoping that it will simply become a habit as I engage people who are on the margins of faith, so that I can then explain what it means for God to enter into the human condition and be both 100% man and 100% divine at the same time.

But really, God has been "breaking in" for quite some time now:
  • Evening walkabouts with Adam and Eve at Eden. There's something in their pre-fallen state -- and something about that location -- that helps facilitate these visits, which so sadly, last only a short time.
  • The original "summit meeting" with Moses. Hey, I guess that's where we get that term. Contact with God's "brightness" leaves Moses severely tanned.
  • The Old Testament "Christophanies." Not everyone agrees on this, but many believe that when the Bible says, "An angel of the Lord appeared..." that it was actually the pre-incarnate Christ who showed up.
  • Relaying messages through the prophets. Think of the prophets as forwarding e-mails from God. "This just in..."
  • Then the incarnation. God the Son enters into the human state of his creation; going "the whole nine yards," so to speak, from conception to birth to childhood, to working a trade, to temptation, to a wedding celebration, to hunger, to paying taxes, to weeping for a friend, to betrayal, to false accusation, to death.
  • The filling. No, not a pie filling. Just as Jesus was 100% human yet was 100% divine, he leaves his followers with a teeny, tiny taste of what that might have been like by placing his Spirit in each of us. Enough of Himself to empower and strengthen us in difficult challenges, and give us the right words to say in all kinds of situations. But not, of course, the 100% that Christ experienced; such that sometimes I forget that His power is there waiting to be recognized, waiting to be called on; forgetting that "He lives within my heart."
  • One more thing; a short, quick, special intervention with a guy named Saul. He finds out why Moses got so tanned. Moses was on God's side. Saul -- at the time -- was fighting against God with all he had. Moral of the story for people like that: Don't look directly at the light. Not right away. Or something like that. Fortunately for most of us, the song Amazing Grace doesn't go, "Could see, but now I'm blind."
Hebrews 1:1 tells us that God has been going through a long succession of ways and means and people trying to get our attention. (That's a very loose paraphrase, but you can look it up.) The most recent e-mail forwards from the prophets indicate that this is how it's to remain until the next stage, which will kind of wrap up the present age of opportunity (my new theological term) and bring his children, his followers, back to the way things were at Eden; and then some.

That being the case, I'm looking forward to those evening walkabouts.

~Paul Wilkinson


Does Leviticus Still Belong in the Bible?

Leviticus. The 3rd book of the Bible! Apparently no longer applicable to the Christian life.

Recently I have seen a few posts, on this blog and elsewhere, where people seem to discount an opinion if Leviticus is quoted! Now I know that Leviticus is in the OT, the cleaner and crisper part of many Bibles, but does this mean that it is irrelevant?

Jesus quoted from the book of Leviticus. He quoted from the OT quite often. Yet many believers operate as if Christianity started in the NT! The entire Bible is one long story and transitions from book to book, with a steady thread of redemption, grace and mercy throughout.

The issue, as I see it, is when the Bible, Old or New Testament, contradicts our current worldly morality. I mean who wants to read a book that condemns drinking blood and witchcraft when both are popular in society today. Why read a book that condemns unhealthy and sinful sexual practices when society, and many believers, feel these practices are ok.

Sure there are some laws that aren't applicable anymore...like women being put outside the camp for an issue of blood. God was trying to teach the Israelites about purity. I am not saying we need to follow EVERY dot, comma and dash. I am saying God does not change his mind about sin. Drinking blood was considered a sin, witchcraft - sin, homosexuality - sin. Just because it's in Leviticus does not invalidate God's truth.

Why read the OT at all. Aren't we under grace now? I mean God couldn't have had a good reason for us to still pay attention to all that old stuff could He? I'm sure God is ok if we throw out the parts we don't like or that society considers archaic.

Or maybe he wants us to speak against sin while also showing His grace and love to the sinner!

What do you think?


Busted Day on Just A Thought!

FYI: This contest is now closed. Winners are being contacted as I write this.

Christmas is coming and what a better time to share your faith with those around you. However, apologetics has never been my strong suit. I can share the Gospel but when I am confronted by someone who has a huge myth or pre-conception about the faith I am sometimes momentarily taken aback.

I have tried a few apologetic books but frankly I find most of them to be dry and uninteresting. Which brings me to this book, just in time for Christmas - Busted by Fred von Kamecke.

413PXK5kfsL. SS500  BOOK GIVEAWAY: Busted by Fred von Kamecke Fred Von Kamecke is assistant pastor at The Chapel in Graslake, Illinois and an adjunct professor at Bethel College. He has also served as an adjunct at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) where he also received his PhD in New Testament theology and exegesis. He teaches in the area of New Testament studies.

Fred wrote an awesome book called Busted which researches misconceptions of the Christian faith. This is from the back cover:
Following a brief summary of a recurring myth or misconception about the Christian faith, Fred explains why the myth is false and provides biblical and historical evidence in his response. He masterfully weaves together serious discussion with a touch of humor in his responses, all the while keeping the focus on the Scriptures. He avoids making fun of the people who hold views which differ from his own, but the views themselves are fair game.
Fred and Zondervan Publishing generously provided me with 20 copies to give away to Just A Thought readers which has now happened. Winners were contacted via email.

Please feel free to leave a comment with a question, myth or pre-conception someone has thrown at you when you share the faith or share a question about the Christian faith you’ve always wondered about.


Don't be a Christian Butterfly - Just A Thought #37

"Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37)

Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned. I was raised by my Daddy that a man's word is his bond and a handshake is just as good. Even before I was a believer I heard that if you tell someone you'd be somewhere or do something you better follow through.

Sadly, I am not seeing that a lot today among some brothers and sisters in Christ. Too often, I see people being led "by the Spirit" in making their decisions. This would be okay if they stood by them. However one week someone will say they will be somewhere or do something, and the next they change their mind. If the Spirit is leading ,who changed their mind: you or the "Spirit"?

James 4:13-16, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet, you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil."

As believers we should be known for our integrity, not just before the world but amongst fellow believers as well. It is time for the flightiness and fidgeting among the body of Christ to cease and for people to commit where the Lord calls them. We should not be like butterflies, flitting from thing to thing (or experience to experience) looking for something more exciting. We should stay the course God has set us on unless He tells us to move.

If the Lord does call YOU to do something and you know it is your calling, then don't try to pass it off on someone else. Seek the wisdom of the Lord. Do what He tells you and follow through on your word!


Twilight and New Moon: Evil Abounds!

I am not a legalist. I have no problem going to movies, watching TV, etc as long as wisdom is used. However, we live in a world that is fascinated with evil. A few years back witches and witchcraft were all the rage. Everyone, including quite a few Christians, seemed to be into Harry Potter. Even though the Bible clearly speaks against witchcraft many soaked it up like baby pablum!

Now we have Twilight, New Moon and a fascination with evil. Vampires and werewolves are all the rage. Last night I saw over 100 teens lined up outside the theater waiting for the doors to open so they could flock to see New Moon.

Half the believers I talk seem to have no problem with this film even though it clearly is something Jesus would not endorse. Philippians 4:8 comes to mind!

I keep hearing about Team Jacob and Team Edward and I wish that Christians would start rallying around Team Jesus!

Let your eyes look straight ahead and your sight be focused in front of you. Carefully walk a straight path, and all your ways will be secure. Do not lean to the right or to the left. Walk away from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27)

Habakkuk 1:13 says, "Your eyes are too pure to look at evil. You can't watch wickedness. Why do you keep watching treacherous people?"

Don't despise what God has revealed. Instead, test everything. Hold on to what is good. Keep away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22)

I have heard people say this is a romance story. Really? Do you really think Jesus would endorse dating a vampire? A werewolf?

Give your head a shake and open the Word of God.


Real Love Has to Stretch

Some of you, those of a certain age who also grew up in N. America, may remember Stretch Armstrong. This was a toy in the 70's. The toy was of a muscular man whose arms and legs could be stretched long distances. I was thinking about this toy recently when reviewing this Scripture on love: "Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs. It isn't happy when injustice is done, but it is happy with the truth. Love never stops being patient, never stops believing, never stops hoping, never gives up. Love never comes to an end. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

So this verse got me to thinking about real love. When I read this description of love I realized one thing. Real love has to stretch. You can say you love someone but if you are not willing to stretch with them, it's not love. A stretching love is patient when the other person irritates us. It is kind to our enemies, walks with our friends and holds no account of rights and wrongs.

Ask any married couple of 50+ years and they will tell you they had to choose to love. They had to stretch.

Jesus did as well. When He loved us enough to stretch out His arms and die how can we love those around us any less?


Spark plugs and Faith!

I was thinking about my childhood recently and remembered that I was about 11 when it happened.

My 10 year old brother and I were out mowing the lawn and could not keep the lawnmower going. Every time we would start to push the machine the thing would die on us. My Dad was at work and so my brother and I decided we would try to solve the problem.

We looked high and low and fiddled with the mower for a bit to no avail. Finally I glanced down and noticed the spark plug and that the little attachment was off. I put the metal ring back on the plug and we started the mower for a few seconds before it popped off again and the mower died.

I came up with the, ahem, ingenious idea of holding the wire onto the spark plug while my brother started the lawnmower. Now, in my defense, I was not to mechanically inclined back then. So as I was hlding the spark plug my brother gave the string a pull and I was knocked on my backside by the electrical current! Not keying in on what happened I repeated the experiment again......and again.......and again.

Finally the light dawned and I realized what I was doing wrong. So I gave up and waited for my Dad to get home.

Same thing happens in my faith walk. I try to fix things on my own and make them worse. Sometimes I have to get knocked onto my backside a few times before I realize I am trying to do things in my own strength. I then have to willingly let the Father handle it.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5)


5 Questions with Fred von Kamecke

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guests is Fred von Kamecke. Fred is an assistant pastor at The Chapel of Lake County, Illinois. He served as assistant professor at North Park Seminary as well as adjunct professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he received his PhD (New Testament) He is the author of Busted which is published by Zondervan.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Fred,

Question 1: What one word would describe your current relationship with God?


Question 2: Your book, Busted, tackles the myths surrounding Christianity. Where did the idea for the book come from?

The idea came while I was watching Mythbusters. I recalled someone mentioning that you can't trust the Bible since it's been translated so many times (which wound up being chapter 2). I literally got up and started typing that very moment.

Question 3:
Was there a particularly hard myth to tackle?

Two chapters wound up being very difficult to write: 4, concerning science (since I'm not a scientist), and 5, since the topic of the canon is extremely complicated. They were the last chapters written.

Question 4:
In your opinion, why are there so many myths surrounding Christianity?

There are many factors: competing religious claims, incomplete knowledge of the issues involved, a willingness to believe everything’s OK (there really is no intrusive God actually calling me to live differently), intentional deception, malevolent people and spiritual forces opposed to the truth, just to name a few.

Question 5:
What do you hope people take away from your book?

My prayer is that Christians will be encouraged to seek out answers to the relentless attacks against the faith (and become better equipped), and that seekers of Christianity will find the Lord who inspires all truth. I also hope that all of the above will see that apologetics need not be mean and edgy to be effective.

Thanks you Fred for taking the time to answer these questions!

Thank you so much for your interest in Busted.

So there you go. I would HIGHLY recommend you go out and buy a copy of Busted today. For more info on this awesome book check out the Zondervan site today!

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.



I have never been a huge fan of apologetics books. The material is usually over the head of the average Christian (and therefore useless IMHO) or comes off as very confrontational. I don't think you should need a PhD to understand the Gospel and how to answer the challenges people present against God and His Word!

Enter Busted by Fred Von Kamecke and published by Zondervan.

This book had me jumping for joy as it seeks to expose popular myths about Christianity! If you have ever seen an episode of Mythbusters you will love this book! The style is breezy, informative, enlightening and entertaining. I found myself taking notes and looking forward to the next time someone wanted to challenge my faith.

I cannot say enough about this book. It has qualified as one of my favorite books of 2009! As much reading as I do, 36+ books a year, that is saying a lot!

No longer do you need to feel intimidated by those who challenge your faith. You don't have to wade through a dissertation on dispensationalism. Pick up Busted, grab a cup of coffee, relax and prepare to find your own faith deepened!

Busted is published by Zondervan and available on their website or at your local Christian bookstore!


Lord I Believe, Help My Unbelief! - Just A Thought #39

I believe God still does miracles today. I have seen Him heal the sick instantaneously. I remember well when God INSTANTLY healed my Mom of multiple sclerosis.

I have also seen God meet financial needs, miraculously provide food, etc.

What happens to our faith though when God stays His hand? I have been battling and slowly recovering from a nasty chest cold for about a month. I have prayed for God to relieve my pain and sickness for weeks. I have had others praying for me. Yet in all of this the Lord did not heal me. I have been on steroids, antibiotics and more cough syrup than I care to remember. At one point the pain was so bad I literally was asking God to heal me or take me home!

In all of this I can say God is good! For whatever reason the Lord did not heal me instantly. He obviously had other plans. He also, and my wife appreciates this with a baby on the way, did not take me home at my worst point!

All of this has caused me to pray harder, dig into the Word and to seek Him with my whole heart. I find myself praying for others, seeking His will and sharing Him more!

So maybe God did heal me after all.....maybe He healed my faith which was not as strong as it could have been! I remember clearly praying Mark 9:24. My belief has been helped, strengthened and stretched.

Thank You Lord for answering prayer!


Relationship vs. Religion

What is this blog about?

I get asked that question from time to time. This blog is about being passionately in love with Jesus Christ. It is about encouraging people to go deeper with God the Father and to embrace His gift of life through His Son's sacrifice on the cross. In a nutshell it's about relationship.

It is NOT about religion. Religion will suck you dry. It will drain you with a set of rules and regulations devoid of life! Jesus came to restore a relationship destroyed by sin. He loved us enough to die (and rise again Hallelujah!) so that we can have a life giving relationship with the Creator of the universe!

One of my colleagues, Pastor Stanley Groothof, has written an excellent piece on being religious over on his blog, 4th Point. You can read the whole piece here.

His piece got me to thinking how much time and energy we waste practicing rules and regulations. Don't get me wrong, we need guidelines and boundaries. However, I believe the stuff God told us not to do was for our own good. I also believe if we focus more on Jesus Christ we will find we commit habitual sins less. I love that verse in Matthew that says Seek first the Kingdom of God! (Matthew 6:33)

Keep your eyes on Jesus Christ! Love, pray and worship Him and as you focus on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords watch your faith grow deeper than it ever has. Enjoy the ride!


You're My Shooting Star!

He determines the number of stars. He gives each one a name. Our Lord is great, and his power is great. There is no limit to his understanding. (Psalms 147:4-5)

There is no limit to His understanding. That is so true. The Lord knew I was feeling a bit discouraged and stressed. He also knows I love looking at the stars in the sky.

So, when I walked out my door at 4:30 am to warm my van up before heading off to work, it was with great excitement that I looked at the sky and saw a shooting star streak across the horizon.

My day was set. I immediately began to praise God from whom all blessings flow. I was reminded of His care and love. James 1:17 says every good and perfect gift comes from God....and that is what the shooting star felt like. A perfect gift that turned my mind to the Father!

We serve an awesome God.


Surveying the Land

Some people think morality is relative to our culture and time in history. Some feel truth is based on a universal standard (God's Standard) for all of us.

Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

Later Jesus has this little exchange with Pilate: Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world--to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice." Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" (John 18:37-38)

Would you take this informal survey?

1. Do you believe in absolute truth?


A Bible Burns on Halloween

So this week I came across another sad testament to insanity:

Bible Burning

Apparently a church in North Carolina has decided to celebrate Halloween by burning their Bibles. Now that alone is bad enough, but they also decided to burn Christian books which quote the Bible, followed up by a BBQ!

Confused? Apparently they are too. The only Bible safe from their insanity is the King James Version Bible and the books that quote this translation.

I am sure Satan and his demons will be squealing with delight as Christians light God's Word on fire.

I have never understood the KJV only movement. I love the beauty of the old English, but this goes too far. I have been in Christian bookstores where people said they wanted a 'real Bible', 'the only authorized version', etc... I guess the original scrolls, the Greek and Hebrew translations, etc... were 'un-authorized'. Apparently King James had more authority than God!

2 Tim. 3:16 says all Scripture is God-Breathed. It did not specify a translation. When Christians are burning God's Word they have clearly taken their eyes off of God!

Psalm 119:105 says, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path."

Embrace the Word of God. Choose a translation you can understand and keep your eyes on the King of Kings not King James!


End Child Labor!

Jesus loves children. He spoke about children in the New Testament. One such scripture is:

"Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 19:13-14)

What must Jesus think of child labor?

Did you know that one in six children under the age of 14 is involved in child labor in developing countries. In the least developed countries nearly 30% of all children are engaged in child labor!

One statistic that I find especially sickening is that 126 million children around the world work in hazardous conditions and endure beatings and sexual violence by their employers. Every year 1.2 million children are trafficked in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict and commercial sex work!

Enough is enough! It is time for God's children to take a stand!

What can we do? PRAY! Pray Hard, support those ministries that reach out to rescue these children and if you can do so, go yourself!

One such ministry is Compassion International! Would you consider sponsoring a child today? For $38 you can provide needed assistance to children in the hardest hit areas. Your sponsored child will have hope and help throughout their childhood!

I do not give these stats to just touch your heart. I believe in Compassion. Sarah and I have sponsored a young girl for nearly 8 years and have been blessed by her growth and knowing at least one child has a chance.

The choice is yours. Regardless of what you do, will you pray?

Sources: www.unicef.org, www.ilo.org, www.crin.org


Waking Up Is Hard To Do

Paul Wilkinson over on Thinking Out Loud asked me to be a guest blogger a few days ago. This is the piece I sent him. I am now putting it on my blog in case you missed it. I would encourage you to also check out Paul's blog if you haven't done so. He has some good stuff there.

I am not a morning person. Oh, once I'm awake I am good to go, but it takes me a bit to wake up. I would much rather pull the covers back over my head and sleep for another 30 minutes. When I do finally step out of bed I head right to the coffee pot. Only after I have a stiff cup of joe in my hand do I feel ready to tackle the day. Sometimes even then I want to go back to sleep.

It's kind of like how I use to be with church. I wanted to pull the cover back over my head. I wanted to sleep, fake an illness, anything to get out of attending the Sunday service. Sometimes I did this even when I was the Pastor!

I was becoming bored to death with the routine. There just seemed to be no life. I could close my eyes at most services and walk through the exact order. Opening prayer: check; worship: check; commercial break for the offering: check; message: check and done by lunch!

Where was the excitement? Did God mean for church to be boring? I believe He did not! Of course part of this goes to our concept of church. Sadly, too many today still feel like you have church when you attend a building with 4 walls and go through the motions of a service. I believe church is different. I believe we--the people--are the church. But somewhere we exchanged hillside walks with the Savior asking questions back and forth for sitting in pews and listening to someone else tell us how to do "religion".

I am not attacking the "traditional church". I pastor a congregation myself and we have our routines as well (admittedly few), but they are there. However, I truly believe Jesus came to give us life! I want a radical faith. I want relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship where we can express doubt, fear, concern and trust! A relationship where Jesus is our everything and our only thing. A relationship with highs and lows, good times and bad, where I know that through it all Jesus is still always there. Are you with me? Let's get radical for Christ. Let's toss aside our lethargic attempts at religion and embrace the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Let's get into the street and touch the sick, the needy and the downtrodden. Let's share a message and a life; ours and His!


5 Questions With Lauren and Leslie Reavely

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guests are Leslie and Lauren Reavely. After an intense and exciting week at a kids' missions camp, teenage sisters, Leslie and Lauren Reavely (r-l) co-founded the ministry Hope 2 Others. Along with their passion to help the poor, they enjoy playing music, speaking, and spending time with friends and family.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Lauren and Leslie,

Question 1: Hope 2 Others is a ministry reaching out to the homeless. What was the catalyst for this?

In summer of 2005, we attended a Missions Camp put on at Camp Jonah in Trout Lake, WA, which focused on ministry to refugees. The first morning, smoke bombs exploded as the alarms rang and firemen ran up and down the halls shouting at us to grab our shoes and sleeping bag and run! So here we were, at 5:00 in the morning, e midst of around 50 campers, shivering out in the field located beside the camp. We were terrified, homesick, tired, and freezing. But God was at work. The fake fire and evacuation were just the start to a long day-and-a-half that we spent living like refugees. We scavenged for food, waited in the heat, and built and slept in shelters we made out of tarps and cardboard. At the end of that day, the camp staff handed out replicas of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, containing a water bottle, toothbrush, and bar of soap. We had never been so thankful to brush our teeth!

At the end of the week, we headed back to our warm bed, refrigerator full of food, and cozy house. But we couldn't forget how meaningful a box full of little everyday supplies, like a toothbrush, had been. God was stirring in our hearts, and it was a movement we couldn't ignore.

Another experience that motivated us to take action towards homelessness happened when we were grocery shopping with our mom one afternoon. We pulled out of the parking lot and saw a man and his dog on the side of the road, asking for help. Since the groceries were in the trunk, all we had to give him was a cantaloupe rolling around in the front of the car. We gave it to him, not even knowing how he'd open it. But it opened our eyes to see the need for something constructive and convenient to give panhandlers.

Question 2: What are H2O bags? What goes into a typical H2O bag?

H2O bags are white paper lunch sacks filled with socks, a Gospel tract, and non-perishable food items, such as tuna and crackers, granola bars, applesauce, water bottle, and so on. e make bags every couple months and then give them to people at our church, who keep them in their car for when they see a homeless person with their sign on the street corner. They're designed to meet two needs. They provide panhandlers with some physical and spiritual hope as well as give us drivers something constructive to give them.

Question 3:
How did this ministry spread throughout the US?

That's a good question. We can't really take any credit for this. God's provided so many people who have spread the word about H2O. The biggest way has been through Alex and Brett Harris' book "Do Hard Things: a teenage rebellion against low expectations." Towards the end of the book, they tell the story of how H2O got started and how others can get involved. Many teens have caught on to the vision of Hope2Others and have started it where they live.

Other than that, it's just been passed around
by word of mouth. For example, one girl from Florida, who heard about H2O through "Do Hard Things", started it in her community and told other people about it who told other people about it. As a result we now have seven H2O sites in Florida.

Question 4:
How can people start an H2O Ministry in their area?

Well, we've designed an H2O starter kit, which can be downloaded off our website. The starter kit includes our logo, a list of the supplies we put in the bags, steps to getting started, fliers, etc. This should be all you need to get started, but we'rys happy to answer any questions that come up along the way.

Question 5:
How can people support your work?

When people ask us how they can help out, our first answer is always "Start it!" But realistically, this isn't for everyone. So, find an H2O site near you by visiting our map and contact the starters of it to get involved with the work they're doing. Other ways to support H2O include handing out bags that others make, donating financially, and praying for the ministry.

Thanks you Lauren and Leslie for taking the time to answer these questions!

God bless, Lauren Reavely

So there you go. Two teens changing the world one bag of food at a time. I want to encourage you to check out the H2O website, join the team and pray for these girls and this ministry.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Hope 2 Others

I love seeing kids and teens get excited about God. When the excitement turns to action it's even better.

A few months back a local teen loaned me the book Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. One of the stories in the book was about 2 teen girls, Lauren and Leslie, who decided to do something about then homeless situation in their town.

The result has turned into H2O - Hope 2 Others

I would encourage everyone to check out this neat outreach. Their goal, according to the H2O website is to spread hope to others - One bag at a time.

The ministry has grown to 1 locale in the Philippines and 27 locations in 13 States in the US.

Check out the website and come back on the 6th as Lauren and Leslie Reavely discuss H2O!


5 More Questions With Tom Morrisey

Welcome to 5 More Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Tom Morrisey. Tom did an interview with me back in June and has returned to talk about his latest book, Pirate Hunter, which is in stores now.

His first novel, Yucatan Deep (Zondervan, 2002) was a finalist for the Christy award, and he is the author of five other novels: Turn Four (Zondervan 2004), Deep Blue (Zondervan 2004), Dark Fathom (Zondervan, 2005), In High Places (Bethany House Publishers, 2007) and Wind River (Bethany House Publishers, 2008); and two nonfiction books: 20 American Peaks & Crags (Contemporary Books, 1978) and Wild by Nature (Baker Books, 2001). He and his family live in Orlando, Florida.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Tom,

Question 1: In your previous interview on my site you mentioned that each of your novels is written to answer a spiritual or theological question. SO what is that question for Pirate Hunter?

Psalm 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." And Will Rogers once said, "Nobody ever forgets where they buried the hatchet." So there's the rub: God, who is omniscient, willingly forgets those sins that we lay at the cross, yet we willingly add them -- ours and those of our loved ones -- to the semi-load of baggage that we are hauling through life. Laying aside grievances is an essential part of forgiveness; if we do not do that, we are in essence saying it's okay to live outside God's will, and it becomes a beam-in-our-own-eye sort of situation. And the question of this novel is, "If God is willing to forgive all transgressions, why can't you?" Or, really, "Why can't I?"

Question 2: Forgiveness seems to be the overarching theme of Pirate Hunter. Yet the ending is not neat and tidy, sort of like real life. How do you "know" where to end your novels?

My endings are often transitional moments, but that's what life is like, is it not? And I'll share a deep, dark secret; I almost always know how the novel ends before I begin writing. In fact, these day, I generally don't write a word until I have a fairly concise image of the ending. And while there are some very good "seat-of-the-pants" novelists who discover their endings as they wrote, I encourage my approach when I'm talking with budding novelists. The biggest concern publishers have when they are dealing with someone new is the novelist who can perform the takeoff, but cannot land it -- i.e., can start a novel but does not know how to finish it. To me, at least, it's easier to move rapidly when I know where I'm going. So I move toward an end that is already quite clear in my head.

Question 3:
Pirate Hunter made me examine where I am at with the issue of forgiveness. Have you received any feedback regarding this theme?

Most of the mail I've received on this book has been on technique -- the back-and-forth between the contemporary story and the historical. It hasn't received anything close to the avalanche of "confessional mail" I got when IN HIGH PLACES was published. Yet all the reviews note the forgiveness theme, so obviously it is getting through, and that's good, because while I write novels to entertain, I also write them to let other Christians and seekers know that we are all carrying baggage through life. Maybe forgiveness is just a quieter subject: one that people think about, but don't feel compelled to write back on.

Question 4:
The realism in your book is awesome. How much research went into this novel?

Wow. A couple of trips to the British Virgin Islands (including a visit with the leading historian there on 18th century piracy), more trips to the Keys than I can count, several trips to the Crystal Coast and Outer Banks of North Carolina (including a dive on Queen Anne's Revenge -- Blackbeard's pirate ship-- and some in-depth, one-on-one conversation with a leading Blackbeard historian), getting certified on the Dive Rite O2ptima Closed-Circuit Rebreather system, more scuba dives than I can count, lots of conversations with shipwreck preservationists, a very detailed tour of Mel Fisher's operation in Key West ... that's just sort of scratching the surface. I also did a lot of secondary research -- reading, History Channel and whatnot. But I should point out that I usually don't get up one morning, say, "I think I'll write a book on XYZ, so now I'll go spend a couple years researching it." It's the other way around. I take what I have been doing and what's fascinating me, and I craft a novel from it. And diving and shipwrecks and pirate history have always fascinated me.

Question 5:
How is God speaking to you right now?

At this moment? He's telling me to act more like a Christian. And by that I don't mean the "thou shalt nots," but rather the "thou shalls." Things like feeding the hungry, sheltering the roofless, ministering to the imprisoned and loving those whom society considers unlovable. Jesus stuff. Over the last few months, for instance, I have become acquainted with a guy who is a very capable MBA with a record of service to our nation, and I've become aware that he was downsized out of his job about 9 months ago and hasn't found a new position yet because the economy stinks. So I got off my duff and started networking and got this guy some contacts. We haven't landed him a job yet, so by the definition we all learned in high-school physics, no work has been performed. But we're moving forward, he's encouraged, and that peace that surpasses all understanding has been settling around me. Which reminds me that it had been missing for a while, and that's my fault. Complacency is not of the Lord; the only reason we are not Otis-elevatored straight to heaven when we convert is so we can be the hands and feet of Christ here on earth. In Matthew, Jesus tells us that the "yoke is light." But the point is, there's still a yoke, and we're obliged to carry it.

Thanks for coming back for seconds Tom!

There you have it. I would encourage you to read any (and all) of Tom Morrisey's previous books and to pick up a copy of Pirate Hunters from your local Christian bookstore today. You can also check out all the exciting resources on Tom's website.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Pirate Hunter

Rarely will a fiction book make me evaluate my relationship with Jesus Christ. Most fiction books I read are more like brain-candy I use to kill an afternoon.

This cannot be said about Tom Morrisey's latest book, Pirate Hunter. I have already reviewed Tom's writing once before. However, I find his latest book is firing on all cylinders from the opening paragraph until the last page.

The theme for this book is forgiveness. It is written in such a way that I had to step back and evaluate my own issues with forgiveness. I had to spend time actually working through this issue a bit and seeing if I had truly forgiven those who hurt me in the past. In at least one instance I realized I had not. I am currently working on that now.

That to me is a powerful fiction book. It drove me to the Word of God and into a season of prayer. Not only that, but it is an exceptionally well-written book that is actually 2 novels in one! An 18th Century pirate tale and a 21st Century treasure hunting story woven together into a mind blowing novel of romance and thrills.

If you are looking for a fiction story that is unique, exciting and challenging than pick up a copy of Pirate Hunter today. You will NOT be disappointed.


Comfortable? - Just A Thought #38

When I want to relax, I usually grab a good book, a cup of coffee and curl up on the couch. I like being comfortable.

I hate public speaking; ironic for a pastor, I know. I would rather take the easy way out than to make myself in any way uncomfortable. I would rather ease into a swimming pool than jump in with both feet.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
(2 Timothy 1:7)

Fear holds most of us back from stepping out of our comfort zone. Fear keeps us entangled and tells us we are not capable, qualified or spiritual enough. Fear sucks...the life out of us.

The Bible is filled with stories of men and women whom God stretched way beyond their comfort zone. Moses is a great example of this. He had excuse after excuse for why he could not be the one God should use in His plan to rescue the Jewish people from Egypt. God had other plans.

What is God calling you to do? Is He nudging you to step out of your comfort zone and to do what you would consider impossible? Step out in faith and see where God leads. Enjoy the adventure.


Guns Again!

I came across an as this week for Henry Repeating Rifles. The full ad is here but the image is one I find quite disturbing.

I find it disturbing because I know too many believers (in the US) who get the Bible and the Bill of Rights jumbled together. I know Canadians and Americans who cling to their guns and religion to the point that being a Christian means you are for the right to bear arms. I wrote about this type of thing once before.

I am not saying it is wrong to own a gun. I even think the Henry Repeating Rifles are really nice looking. Let's just keep religion out of it.

Remember the Word of God is "inspired by God and useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God's approval. It equips God's servants so that they are completely prepared to do good things." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Let's keep politics out of the church and focus on the King of Kings.


Bloom Where You Are Planted

1 Thessalonian 5:18 "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

I have seen way too many dissatisfied Christians over the years. These believers are not happy where God currently has them and sadly, they are missing some great opportunities. I've been there myself. When God moved us home from the mission field I wanted to go back. By focusing on where I wanted to be instead of where I was, I missed many opportunities to share Jesus with those around me.

1 Cor. 12:17-18, "If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it."

Where does God have you now? It doesn't matter if you are in full-time ministry or not. God has you right where He wants you. Focus on Him and see what He wants you to do with what He has given you. Let God satisfy you in the here and now. Your situation may change in the future but you need to show faithfulness in the present. I have seen flowers that bloom transplanted to new locales, where they grow to be just as hearty as they were before.

Focus on Him and let Him use you where you are. Relax. He holds the future.


Faith Comes By Hearing

OK I know I just featured this ministry yesterday but this is a ministry I am very excited about.

Illiteracy is a huge problem around the world. No where is it worse than in impoverished nations. I believe we, as believers, should reach this growing generation of people who are auditory learners. This is why I am excited about Faith Comes By Hearing which has received a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator. In the New Testament we find that Jesus taught with stories, parables, and dialogue. Today, just as it was 2,000 years ago, we live in a world where people communicate orally. Faith Comes By Hearing currently has 454 different recordings of Bible translations in over 388 languages. These languages are spoken by people in over 135 countries.

Faith Comes By Hearing has partnered with the American Bible Society, Campus Crusade, Wycliffe International and a host of other ministries to provide auditory Bibles around the world.

Check out this awesome ministry. You can even get a FREE audio Bible download.

Faith Comes By Hearing's website


Military BibleStick Outreach

This week I received a review copy of the Military BibleStick. This Bible Stick is about the size of a pack of chewing gum. It comes pre-loaded with the ENTIRE New Testament. To top it off the New Testament is dramatized with sound effects, music and multiple character voices.

It's very rugged and can be used in low-light situations. The sound is amazing.

15,000 of these have already been distributed to troops in Iraq, Kuwait, Kosovo and Afghanistan.

I do wish there was a clip you can use to attach it to your side or clothing but it does fit into a vest pocket very easily. The soldiers who have received them are very happy with them as well. You can read their BibleStick testimonies here.

You can contribute to this worthy cause and with each stick you purchase for a soldier their spouse will receive a free mp3 audio dramatized Bible. In addition their kids can receive a special Kidz version.

This is something I hope you will all check out.


Bringing the Love!

John 13: 34-35 says "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

My last post asked "Why the Hate?" This time it's all about the love.

There are many churches I know that have demonstrated the love of God to one another. I want to highlight 3 of those. (I have not mentioned our own church, Main Street Christian Fellowship, as I did not want to be self-serving.)

1. The Downtown Zagreb Church of Christ - Located in Zagreb, Croatia, this church has brought the love of Christ to many over the years. They open their doors to the needy and reach out in words and action, demonstrating the love of Christ. Their downtown locale has been a beacon and a haven to refugees, street people and missionaries, demonstrating hospitality and generosity to people of all walks of life. . Pastor Vlado Psenko has been a friend and an encouragement to many around the world including myself and their Christian Radio Ministry is a real blessing as well.

2. Parkway Church of God - Located in Sevierville, TN, is our home congregation in the US. When we first encountered this church I was blown away by the spiritual sensitivity demonstrated by the pastor. God used Pastor Philip Morris and the people of Parkway COG to encourage, bless and strengthen us in our faith. We made numerous friends and experienced the love this congregation demonstrates first hand. Our lives were forever impacted by the people of this congregation.

3. Telkwa CRC - Located in Telkwa, BC; This church and it's pastor have been a blessing to the community of Telkwa and Smithers. They have opened their doors to people of other denominations and have created numerous opportunities for people to go deeper with Christ. The love I have seen eminating from this congregation has blessed me personally. My colleague, Pastor Stanley Groothof, also has an awesome blog that I would encourage you to read. I consider him not only a colleague, but a friend.

1 Cor. 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Do you attend a church that models love? Feel free to give them a shoutout here!


Why the Hate?

God so loved the world that He sent His only Son! (John 3:16) Jesus loved us enough that He submitted His will to the Father and died for our sins!

So how is it that Christians are known more for what we are against than for our love? Ask a non-believer what a Christian stands for and you get a long list of what we are NOT for. We are not for abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. If you do hear what we are for, it falls more along the lines of: war, the death penalty, etc. ..

Why are we not known for our love? Shouldn't we be modeling Christ? Jesus spoke the truth, yet He spoke more to the thirst and the hunger people had. The woman at the well (John 4) is a prime example. Jesus did not endorse her sin, but He pointed out her need more than her sin. He spoke to her thirst. He addressed the reasons WHY she acted out this way.

I believe as Christians we should point people to Jesus instead of trying to play judge and jury. Only Christ can change lives. We can speak the truth but we should be known for our love. We should model love to one another and let the love of Christ pour out to those around us.


5 Questions with Heath Evans

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Heath Evans. Heath is the starting fullback for the New Orleans Saints of the NFL. Heath has also played for the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. He has played in 121 regular season games and has 157 carries for 561 yards and three touchdowns. As a receiver out of the backfield, he has 40 receptions for 328 yards with one score. Heath has only missed 3 games in his career in the NFL.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hi Heath,

Question 1: What one word would describe your current relationship with God?


Question 2: Your ministry, the Heath Evans Foundation, seeks to help victims of sexual abuse. What was the catalyst for this type of ministry?

My lovely wife of 9 years was sexually abused as a child by a schoolmate for an entire year of her life. The shame and guilt and pain she experienced had an impact on our lives as a young married couple, because no one had ever helped her address the issue. When we finally found a Christian counselor with experience in sexual abuse counseling, her life was turned around by the love of Christ – the Great Physician who heals all wounds. That pain is now the impetus for our desire to help others who have walked through this specific type of abuse. We now provide counseling for victims of childhood sexual abuse, fostering hope and healing in their lives through Christ. In addition, we host activities and media spots that raise awareness for the epidemic of childhood sexual abuse.

Question 3: How prevalent is childhood sexual abuse?

What is so amazing is that national statistics make clear that one in four young girls and one in six young boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18! In our home of Palm Beach County, Florida, the statistics are even more shocking: one in three girls and one in five boys. Those are statistics that can be Googled and backed up – not just something we inflate to make it seem like an epidemic. It is such a problem. If those numbers of kids got cancer or some other disease that ate away at the body the way sexual abuse eats away at the soul, there would be public outcry like you would not believe. But this is a quiet epidemic – one that we want to bring out in the open and combat!

Question 4: What can Christians do to help in this area?

First of all: Pray! There is only one true cure for this problem – both the abusing and the effects of the abuse. Christ is the only answer to sin, and abuse is rooted in sin. In addition, Christians can bring attention to the Heath Evans Foundation. There are so few organizations focused on this problem that we need exposure and financial gifts. My wife and I give as much as needed, but we are still limited by financial needs. If we can get an army of believers praying and supporting financially, we can grow this ministry on a national level. Even in a tough economy, 1,000 people giving $10 or $20 each month can make a huge impact. The counseling we provide costs appx $500 each month per victim, and there is an almost endless need at this point.

Question 5: How hard is it to be a Christian witness in competitive sports?

It is no harder than men or women who work a normal 9:00 - 5:00. Children of God will act like children of God!! Those who are just playing church will just keep playing church and have no impact where they are. I'm not saying that real men of God will not have bad days or momentary struggles, but at the end of the day, men of God are going to act like Christ consistently. I think the problem with most people who claim to be Christians is that they don't know enough about Christ to even begin acting like Him. Hosea 4:6 says, "My people are destroyed because of their lack of knowledge." What does this mean? It literally means that every day people are losing their lives for all eternity because they do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I believe it also means Christians are daily losing battles here on earth that have no eternal consequences to them but do drastically affect the lives of themselves and others around them. The Bible says that the children of God are to be a peculiar people. That doesn't mean that we are supposed to be weird, but it does mean that people should see a difference in our daily lives......and it should be a good different!! They need to want what we have!!

Thanks you very much Heath.

So there you have it. I would encourage you to check out Heath's website and if you would like to help contribute financially to the work among the sexually abused click here.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Facebook and Myspace and Twitter - Oh My!

"Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!" (Psalms 37:7)

Over the last 30 years our society has become more advanced, more technologically savvy, than any generation in history. Every year sees an increase in time saving devices. So why are we so busy?

Cell phones, Email, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and laptops mean that we never have to be out of touch for one moment of our day. Yet with all the ability to communicate we know each other, truly know each other, less than ever. Not to mention the distractions these devices bring us in our daily life. On the job, in the car, at the movies, our cellphones have become extensions of our hands as we text every minute detail of our existence to people around the world.

Can we not be still one minute? One hour? One day?

"Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalms 46:10)

If God truly comes in a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12) than we are in danger of missing Him due to all the hustle and bustle around us. Don't me wrong. I love and USE tech myself. Yet I realize I spend more time teching out with others than chilling out with God!

SO I want to challenge you. Take a day of rest. Set aside 1 day and leave the technology alone. Stay off the cell phone, the computer, etc and re-connect with God. Spend time LISTENING for Him. I am going to give Sundays a try.

Anyone up for the challenge?


The Story of a Killer Sermon

Have you ever felt that your pastor was so long winded you could not stay awake in church? I know when I was co-pastor of a church in TN, many years ago, we had a man who would come to church, sit near a window and fall asleep. EVERY WEEK! He claimed he felt so relaxed when he came to church.

How many people feel bored to death?

Well this week I was reminded of a Scripture where Paul is teaching and a guy falls asleep and dies!

"After the Festival of Unleavened Bread, we boarded a ship at Philippi. Five days later we joined them in Troas and stayed there for seven days. On Sunday we met to break bread. Paul was discussing Scripture with the people. Since he intended to leave the next day, he kept talking until midnight. (Many lamps were lit in the upstairs room where we were meeting.) A young man named Eutychus was sitting in a window. As Paul was talking on and on, Eutychus was gradually falling asleep. Finally, overcome by sleep, he fell from the third story and was dead when they picked him up. Paul went to him, took him into his arms, and said, "Don't worry! He's alive!" Then Eutychus went upstairs again, broke the bread, and ate. Paul talked with the people for a long time, until sunrise, and then left. The people took the boy home. They were greatly relieved that he was alive." (Acts 20:6-12)

No one forced these people to hear the Word and no one forced them to stay! Their hunger for God was such that they stayed all night. Even the guy who died! He ate and resumed listening to Paul talk.

In Russia, years ago, I remember being at a church service that started at 8 am and by 1 pm they had to force people to leave. People were hungry for God's Word. In N. America people have a hard time being ON TIME for a 1 - 2 hour service!

Psalm 84:2 talks about our heart and flesh crying out for the living God! Do you feel the hunger? A hunger for the Word, for prayer, for fellowship. Seek the Lord. Pursue Him!

Get an appetite for God.