a fruitful season

We just completed 21 days of fasting at Maranatha Church. I am pretty impressed with the results.

We work very hard to see the vision that God gave us come to fulfillment. We are passionate about the mission that He has put into our hearts. Each week, hours and hours are invested in the exploration of how we express our ministry, how we carry out our responsibilities and how we accomplish the task of making disciples (Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20). We are creative in how we communicate our passions. We are diligent in keeping the vision in front of the people. And we are passionate about seeing positive results.

Our current expression of mission fulfillment looks like this:
God has called us to change lives by connecting people with Jesus Christ.
This is expressed by utilizing three strategic terms:
GROW: spiritual growth – getting closer to God, increasing our commitment to Christ, move toward Christlikeness.
CONNECT- increasing the number and quality of our relationships with others. Experiencing true unity in God’s Spirit.
SERVE: using our talents, gifts and abilities to minister to others and to honor God.
We feel that if people will make advancements in each of these three areas, we will all win. But much of the time, we feel as though we are not seeing the results that we would hope for. Sometimes it feels like we are spinning our wheels.

Over the last 21 days, some things have changed.

Rather than a bunch of meetings to strategize about ministry, instead of trying to talk people into committing to Christ and His church, we actually did some incredible ministry. Honestly, we were a little too busy getting the work done to spend too much time talking about it.

Here is basically what happened:
The earthquake in Haiti was like the sounding of a battle cry for the people of our church. They went to work, they gave, they volunteered, they prayed. While that was going on, we observed some amazing things: people were expressing spiritual growth – people were working side by side with others, meeting new friends and getting closer to old friends – and people were giving selflessly of their resources and time. You got it: GROW – CONNECT – SERVE! It looks like God utilized a crisis to mobilize us. And results are that we are seeing, first-hand, mission accomplishment!

In addition, our worship services have taken on a new level of intensity and purpose – pretty exciting!

I believe that the timing of the fast was crucial. We have been launched into a season of fruitfulness. The foundation of prayer and fasting prepared us for this season.

In the future, I have no intentions of working less or taking the ministry less seriously. I do, however, intend on keeping the focus of our church on seeking God first. That way the results are up to Him rather than me.

follow along

They say that a sign of a mature preacher/teacher is to not “over present”, or attempt to offer more in one lesson that can be received and digested by the average listener. If this is true, I guess I am just a “punk” preacher. I pretty much continually have more material on a Sunday than can possibly be presented or received.

So I will give you the basics of what I am teaching tomorrow, because I am pretty sure that I won’t get through it.

We are concluding our series, “A Batter Year“, tomorrow’s theme is “Better Destinations”.

3 leading questions:
-Where are you headed?
-What are you hoping for?
-How do you get there?

Series texts:
Hebrews 6:9b “We are confident that you are meant for better things…
I Peter 1: 3 “Now we live with great expectation.”

Today’s text:
John 6:16-21 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV)

1. What we can expect (in life)
John 6:18 “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.”

Life will be very challenging and sometimes difficult, but we hold on to hope.

G. K. Chesterton said, “There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow.”

Expectation is the operation of our faith!
Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

2. Jesus approaches
John 6:19 “they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.”

We should not be surprised:
-That He appeared: John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
-Or that He walked on the water: Job 9:8 “He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.”

3. Take him into the boat
John 6:20 “he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat.”

We may expect that the storm would now be over…
Lloyd John Ogilvie, “Sometimes the Lord rides out the storm with us and other times He calms the restless sea around us. Most of all, He calms the storm inside us in our deepest inner soul.”

3 reason why some won’t/don’t let Jesus into the boat:
They don’t know He wants to (no one ever told them).
They are self-sufficient.
They are angry about the storm.

My most compassionate answer: get over it and let Jesus steer your life!

4. Desired destination
John 6:21 “immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

Where do you want to go?
You realize that it won’t be easy getting there, right?
We desperately need Jesus on board if we are going to get where we want to go.
If we are going to ha A Better Year, He is the only way!

For further study:
Psalms 107:23-31

in defense of…

I have heard from one too many sources this week “concerns” over all the activity surrounding Haiti and the relief efforts going on there. Everything from “we have homeless people here, too”, to “we should help our country first”, to “why does it take a major disaster before people get involved?”


While I won’t defend what anyone else is doing, I will set the record straight on the activities of Maranatha Church.

We are headlong into earthquake relief – no apologies. God said we should do it and we are. But know that we also help people in America. In fact, a much larger percentage of our budget goes to work for people in the good ole’ USA than abroad. I’m not sure if this is good stewardship with God’s money. The truth is, we see much less return on the money invested in people in the States. By less return, I am talking about disciples made. The stats don’t even compare. It takes many more resources to win a person to Christ in the US than in third-world countries. But we continue to plant economic seeds in our home country, nonetheless.

I would like to know where we get the idea that we should help ourselves before we help others. Where is that written? A very misguided interpretation of Galatians 6:10 may be the culprit: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This verse is not referring to nations, it is referring to believers in Christ. So possibly, we should first assist those within our community of faith – no problems there. But the idea of putting Americans above others is not supported in Scripture. It is, however, arrogant and quite possibly racist.

For those who wish to find fault with people who are helping now, in this time of disaster, rather than helping at other times – well you won’t find an audience with me. The fact is, we have been helping all along. For many years. To the tune of thousands of dollars for decades. We are not bandwagon jumpers. We are not simply responding to CNN or Anderson Cooper. We have been, and will continue to minister “to the least of these…”, as Jesus instructs.

So if you would like to complain about our recent involvement with Haiti, my question is, what are you doing? What have you done for the homeless or the orphans or the widows or the needy in the US or anywhere else? How much are you giving to take care of others? What percentage of your income are you giving away? My guess is: not much. If you were, you wouldn’t have time to complain about others.

So go ahead and grouch about relief efforts. I am done listening to you. There are some earthquake victims that need my time.

Wow, that was therapeutic. Glad I got that off my chest!

rockin’ volunteers

I want to give a quick summary of the incredible volunteers who are serving during our help for Haiti project. We have had up to 100 different people be involved in one way or another in collecting and packing survival supplies. We are loading a 40 foot trailer which will be shipped to Port au Prince via World Harvest Mission. People have been working for nearly two weeks now. The progress is phenomenal. I would estimate that the trailer is 2/3 full at this point! We are hoping for more supplies, more donations of cash and more volunteers to wrap up this project within a week.

Specifically, last night, we had a diverse group working:
A young mom with a 22 month old baby – the baby also worked, putting cans in the boxes!
A 67 year old man and his wife who were on vacation from up North. They worked for hours and went straight to the airport from here to fly home.
Several member of Emerge Youth Group came and worked like crazy.
One woman and her little boy worked all day and most of the night, her husband joined them after working a ten hour shift at his job.
A professional baseball player worked.
A man with addiction issues helped.
A man with special needs helped.
People who have been at Maranatha Church their entire lives helped, people who have been at the church for a couple of weeks helped.
A grandmother worked most of the day, then in the evening she brought her young teen grandson by to work for “an hour”. Three hours later, after he had loaded hundreds of boxes on the trailer, they went home.

These are just a few examples of the kinds of people that are making a difference in Haiti. They have caught the vision and are running with it. God is using them.

If you are near Palm Beach Gardens and have some spare hours that you can give, we are on again for Wednesday, beginning around 1:00 and going until we are finished. If we don’t finish, Emerge has again committed to work that night, beginning at 7:00.

If you live out of the area, we could really use more financial contributions. You can check out all the details on wecanshareit.org (our outreach website).

Thanks so much! God bless you and God bless the people of Haiti!

The gifts of the Spirit

The recent operation of God’s Spirit among the people of Maranatha has been remarkable. Various people have been utilized by God in various ways. The movement and expression has been tender and deep. Many messages from God have come through the words spoken and actions taken. What is taking place is Biblically accurate and as the Spirit directs. It is pretty exciting!

I believe that this activity is the result of our sincere seeking of God as we progress through our 21 day fast.

Just in the past few weeks, I have personally witnessed the gift of prophecy in a worship service, the gift of mercy in our Haiti outreach efforts, a word of knowledge shared by one man with another, the gift of faith (regarding a financial miracle that took place at our church – probably the gift of generosity at work!), and words of wisdom that God gave through me while preaching. This is just the stuff that I have seen! This activity is ongoing and appears to be increasing.

What I love most about this experience – no one among us is receiving any credit. The gifts are operating through people who are humble and not seeking acclaim. We are not making a show of it and these gifts are being offered and exercised in simplicity and purity. God is being honored and the church is being built up. Fruit is being born (which is a churchy way of saying that we have proof that God is working among us), lives are being changed and God is receiving the glory.

What I dislike most about this: Because there is not as much drama and theatrics as some may prefer, a few people are missing the movement of the Spirit. Due to the common opinion that the Holy Spirit is flashy and loud and boisterous, there are a few people who think the Spirit is nowhere near us. They are waiting for some arrogant display of super-spirituality, and when it doesn’t happen, they think the Spirit is missing. Some demand that God behave in ways that they have seen on television or at other worship services. Therefore, when He speaks in a way that they are not accustomed to, or in a way that is different from what they can predict, they attribute the movement to some other source. Or they miss what the Spirit is doing altogether.

The Spirit of God is not about hype. He is not limited to our preconceived ideas. If we have spiritual tunnel vision, we will miss Him.

People of Maranatha: don’t be looking for a superstar prophet to come and declare some grandiose Word from God. Instead, open your spiritual ears and hear what God is saying to us – on a regular basis – about His desires for us. Don’t expect God to move among us the way that you have seen in the past. Instead, look to scripture. Our worship style will not be patterned after other churches or denominations. We are patterned after the Bible. We are committed to understand what the Bible teaches about the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and are humbly pursuing the fulfillment of that in our church. The Spirit of God is free to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants.

If you would like to take a closer look at scripture as it addressed the work of the Spirit in people, check out I Corinthians 12, 13 and 14, as well as various additional New Testament writings.

God is good

This is a picture I took last summer while on a day trip to Hutchinson Island. I was doing a little surf fishing and photog.

I recall that day as an especially peace-filled day when I was keenly aware of God’s love. Not sure why that day was different than most but it was. God was good that day.

God is good.
This statement is unaffected by any changes that come.
This truth has always been true and it remains true forever.
No matter the crisis, the surprises, the changes, God remains good.
When I feel it (God’s goodness) He is good and when I don’t feel it, He is good.
His love to us is not impacted by our emotions or feelings or moods.
It is also not affected by our failures and sin and tendency toward evil.
Even when things are very bad in the world, and they are, God is very good.
God is good – all the time.

“You are good and do only good.” Psalms 119:68 (NLT)

kingdom of comfort

I am reminded this week of the haunting lyrics of Delirious on their CD, Kingdom of Comfort. Especially appropriate in our response to Haiti. Check it out:

Save me save me
From the kingdom of comfort where I am king
From my unhealthy lust of material things

I built myself a happy home
In my palace on my own
My castle falling in the sand
Pull me out, please grab my hand
I just forgot where I came from

Save me save me
From the kingdom of comfort where I am king
From my unhealthy lust of material things

I rob myself of innocence
With the poison of indifference
I buy my stuff at any cost
A couple of clicks and I pay the price
Coz what I gain is someone else’s loss

Save me save me
From the kingdom of comfort where I am king
From my unhealthy lust of material things

Save me save me
From the kingdom of comfort where I am king
To this kingdom of heaven where you are king