Monday, March 31, 2014

I've had a few (regrets that is)

I have this little problem that has haunted me for years. It’s a problem that has gotten me into lots of trouble.

I used to think that it was just a problem of immaturity, you know when I grow up to that magical age of “whatever”, it will go away.

The older I get though, the more I realize that it’s not a matter of physical and emotional immaturity it’s more a matter of spiritual immaturity.

You see, my problem is that I often say the first thing that comes to my mind, and even though I can come off as witty and clever at times. 

There are other times where the statement forms right about at the top of my cranium, and like a bolt of lightning flashes down to the tip of my tongue, and if I’m not careful before I know what’s happening, boom…the statement is out there, flapping in the breeze!

Now, I’m not talking about vulgar language or curse words, no that’s never been an issue with me…I’m talking more about other kinds of statements that usually come from a situation that I’ve seen in my lifetime that seems to fit the current situation that I am experiencing.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Weaponless battle plan?

One day when I was reading my Bible and spending time with the Lord I came across a passage that has become very familiar to me over the last few years. It’s a passage that God used to help shape my outlook and perspective on how to handle overwhelming and sometimes alarming news when it breaks down my door and comes crashing in.

The passage I’m referring to is found in 2 Chronicles 20 and it’s a great example of how King Jehoshaphat handled the news that not one, not two but three enemy armies were on their way to make war on Him.

When was the last time you got earth shattering, soul rocking news that blindsided you in a way that you didn’t know what to do? Was it last month, last week or even this morning? Well, a careful look at the action steps that Jehoshaphat applied will give us some insights into how I believe God wants us to handle alarming news when it comes our way.

Notice what Jehoshaphat had to deal with and what he did first…

Friday, March 28, 2014

Keep it simple

It's hard to believe but we're coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the most incredible and most painful month of my 24 years of full time ministry. So, for those who haven't heard this story I once again would like to post it and encourage us all to keep it simple...Love God and Love People!

Ever since 2004 the month of May has been a bitter sweet month for me. On the one hand May 2004 was the most amazing month I have ever seen in my Youth Ministry career and at the same time one of the most difficult as well.

May 2004 began a series of reflections for me as a Youth Pastor, that have continued on to this day, especially as I pause and contemplate the whole idea of leaving a legacy that will continue to draw people to a relationship with Jesus.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Actions > Words

One day many years ago I got home from a busy day at church where I served as Student Ministries Pastor. My wife and I were privileged to have a little baby girl, and every day I would rush home to play with my little bundle of joy. 

On this particular day I came home and was greeted with a welcoming smile and a hearty scent of bone warming beef stew, so I was doubly excited!

It had been a long day, and unfortunately it was going to be a quick dinner because I had to be back at church for a meeting. Well, we sat down, prayed together and dug in to dinner, and as usual it was very, very good. In the back of my mind though I was thinking about all I had to do to get ready for the meeting, you know make copies, set up chairs, hand out pens and a few other “top priority” tasks that seemed to always take precedent in my life those days.

Looking back on it, it doesn’t seem that important now, especially when I think of how my little girl has gone from toddler to young lady right before my eyes.

DV8 and Gravitate

I'm so glad that God doesn't go by man's opinions and insights but rather He looks at the thoughts and intents of the heart. This consultant's report is a great example of how we need to trust His insights and leading and not the world's.

Are we ready to deviate from the "wisdom of the world" and gravitate toward the omniscient (all knowing) nature of God? 

Jesus, Son of Joseph

Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop, Nazareth 25433

Dear Sir:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. The profiles of all the tests are included and you will want to study each of them carefully.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Elusive or Attained?

I remember having a conversation with a former student of mine that reminded me again that it’s about perspective in life.

You see, the world says that in order to be happy, and experience success one needs to have a lot of stuff, you know…Money, Power & Fame.

The only problem with that is you can’t take any of that with you when you leave this earth.

The conversation I had was so encouraging to me as I realized that this student really understands that to experience God’s kind of blessing, we need to live counter culturally.

He told me about a trip that he had taken, where he had an opportunity to tour some pretty amazing places in Europe, and had a ton of pictures of things that most people would love to see in their lifetime.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Step off and Bound

The first time I went rappelling, I was absolutely scared out of my mind! Of course I couldn’t let anyone know it.

I mean after all I was the one that actually convinced the Parents of my students to sign the assumption of Death…I mean Risk form that even allowed them to come on the trip in the first place.

So I did what any self respecting, ministry minded, students first Youth Pastor would do…I volunteered to take pictures…for posterity!

Then as I was safely perched on my distant rock snapping away, the words that every Youth Pastor eventually hears as he is taking pictures and “allowing” his students to experience the elements that “they” need to take part in to overcome “their” fears and learn something about God came roaring into my space loud and clear. Those words were…”Pastor Brent aren’t you going to Rappel?

There they were, flapping in the breeze; the words I was hoping wouldn’t come, because they are words that demand an answer. An answer that better be to the liking of the speaker because your reputation, trust and honor are on the line.

Monday, March 24, 2014

No regrets

Before I became a Pastor I was a school teacher and a coach, and in many ways I’ve always viewed my ministry career as kind of a continuation of my coaching mindset, and I guess it never really has gotten out of my system.

One of the half-time speeches that I will never forget took place half way through a basketball game that my team was playing in name only, their bodies and spirits had failed to show up, and my coaches and I were getting more and more irked at their lack of effort as the first half minutes ticked away.

The team we were playing was one that we had beaten twice earlier in the season, and was one that we were clearly better than. As the buzzer rang, I was not happy, my coaches were not happy and every fan in the building was mad as well.

As we walked into the locker room I was headed off by one of my players, who in essence said to me and the other coaches, “don’t worry coach, I’ll take care of this half time speech, you and the other coach’s just stay out here.”

I looked at the rest of my team and we all nodded our heads in agreement, and said “ok, do your thing.”

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Popeye Moment

I remember when my daughter was younger, I was sitting on the couch watching one of my least favorite children's TV shows "Dora the Explorer" with her.

That particular day Dora came across this furry creature known as a “wizzle” that was lost and needed to be “wished” home. I sat there with my girl who was glued to the TV and tracking with every mission that Dora had to complete in order to “wish the wizzle home.”

Cross the crocodile lake, scale the magic mountain, pass over the troll guarded bridge all while trying to avoid swiper the fox and his fiendish ways.

During every mission Dora asks questions like “will you help us row our boat to get across Crocodile Lake?” Or “will you pull on this rope to help us scale magic mountain?” and many more annoying questions that just beg for a sarcastic answer like “no, row your own boat”, or “give me some gloves so my hands don’t get burned up holding this rope…I mean Benny the Bull is a load” and answers like that.

As I was sitting there that particular episode I found myself getting more and more tense as everything within me wanted to scream out in response to her absolutely redundant questions, but I knew that my daughter was really into it, and I didn’t want to set a poor example for her.

Well, about 15 minutes into the show I had had enough, the lake, the mountain, the bridge, swiper, the questions and then finally the incredibly deep, lyrically challenging song that the map sings when he makes his appearance pushed me over the edge. Here is his theme song…”I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map, I’M THE MAP!”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Old School

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime, I thought that I was safe, but apparently I was wrong.

Being born in the late 60's, living my childhood in the 70's, and being a teen in the 80's all before the age of instant everything (especially photography) I thought I was safe, but again, I was terribly wrong.

One day out of the blue, like a lightning bolt from the past I got a Facebook message that I needed to check out some old pictures from the camp I grew up attending as a child and spent every summer in my teen years on staff as well. Old School pics were now on the internet for all to see.

It was funny scrolling through the photos and laughing at the hairstyles and clothes and Miami Vice suit jackets...I was an absolute dork in those days, but the interesting thing is that I didn't see it that way at all.

Upon looking at the pics I immediately listed my Facebook status as "Brent is realizing all over again that I'm not cool anymore...and according to the camp pics that were posted, It's quite possible I never was."

Words optional

A few years ago my family and I traveled back to my home town to take part in the funeral service for my Grandfather who passed away.

It was a weekend filled with mixed emotions for me. On the one hand it was good to be home and see my mom and my brother and his family, but on the other hand it was too bad that we couldn't have been together on better circumstances.

 On the one hand I was very sad to see my grandfather pass away but on the other hand it's so comforting to know that He is with the Lord.

 On the one hand it was good to see family members that I haven't seen in a long time but on the other hand it was saddening to see that some of them still carry grudges and bitter feelings towards each other that go back many years.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Several years ago I had the opportunity to return to a former ministry where I had served to officiate a wedding for two students that "grew up" in my youth ministry.

Besides the privilege of leading someone to Jesus and baptizing my children, there is no greater joy for me as a Pastor than to officiate a wedding for a couple that I've had the opportunity to minister to through their formative years.

It was an awesome weekend as I was able to re-connect with lots of people that I had the honor of working with over the years.

It was very interesting as I rubbed shoulders with student after student and got caught up in the stories of mutual experiences we had together, that a common theme kept coming back to me. The theme was basically, that life is tough, life is full of choices, and if we choose to live our lives God's way we can avoid alot of pain.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Questions bring clarity

Lately I've been re-reading "Jesus the Pastor" by John W. Frye. The byline of the book says "Leading others in the power and character of Christ", and it's been such an encouraging and inspiring read to this point.

It's amazing to me to look at Jesus' ministry on the earth through the Pastoral lens, and it's caused me to think through why I'm here, who I am in Christ and why I do what I do, which are very pertinent concepts to ponder.

So here's where I'm at today regarding my "who, why, what and how" thought process for ministry...
  • I'm a believer in Jesus, so I'm a member of his family. Since I'm a member of His family I've been given gifts, abilities, a personality and unique experiences that have all worked together to shape me into the leader God wants me to be.
  • I've been called to full time ministry
  • I've been trained for Pastoral ministry, and have been given many opportunities over the years to serve Jesus in that role.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fullness Found

Colossians 2:8-15

8-10 Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. 

They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. 

Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. 

When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


The more I read my Bible and follow the steps of Jesus, the more I realize that His ministry was all about restoration and expansion. Everywhere He went He preached a similar message, a message of hope and repentance to restore us to a right relationship with Him.

I also see that He didn’t settle down in one spot. He moved around and left instructions for His followers to spread the message as well.

He was about building His Kingdom, but the only difference was that His Kingdom was meant to be in the hearts of His people, and His people are all around the world.

He truly had an innovative Kingdom mentality that was meant to be expanded, not focused on one people group, in one city, one country or even one continent. I also notice that Jesus used various means, and methods in His delivery, yet His message remained the same.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Meekness = Weakness?

Several years ago I had been thinking about God's definition of meekness, gentleness and humility as compared to the world's definition...weakness, weakness, and weakness. So, as I was thinking of examples that might be able to help me communicate what God's Word teaches on the subject my mind went back to a time when I was walking my new puppy named Bo…here’s how God showed me what humility feels like…

We had just gotten a puppy a few weeks prior to preparing for the gentleness message. After the Yankee game was over I took Bo outside in our yard to do his business, and like a good puppy he was right on time! I had some time to kill and wanted to walk off the bowl of ice cream I had just devoured, so I decided to take Bo for a walk around the block of my neighborhood.

I got about 10 minutes away from my house when Bo began to “circle the wagons” and prepare to unload…if you know what I mean. That was great and everything except for the fact that since he had just done the same thing ten minutes earlier in my yard, I didn’t think I needed to bring the “magic bag” to make it all disappear when he was done.

It was 10:30 at night, I didn’t have a bag, and Bo was doing his duty on someone’s yard. Many thoughts were going through mind…”should I leave it?” “Should I kick it in the road?” “Should I pick it up with my hands?” Uhhh what should I do?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kumbaya Camp? No Way!

The first time I took my youth group to Adventure Camp in West Virginia was an amazing experience. In fact, it was a miracle that we were even allowed to go in the first place especially after the parents meeting I had in order to explain and convince them that it was going to be all right to take their kids rafting, rappelling, and Mountain Biking for a week in the New River Gorge of WV.

I think it was probably the “Assumption of Risk” form that they had to sign that made them a little edgy. The form said “All of the activities at Adventure Camp have an element of risk involved. You are assuming the risk for your child…If they get hurt or die you are releasing the camp, and won’t sue!”

Yeah that was an interesting meeting, but the bottom line was that I knew that if we could get our kids out of their comfort zone and challenge them with some things they would probably never get do, we would start to see some qualities like, faith, teamwork, unity and trust begin to emerge.

Well, they bought it, and we loaded up the van and headed south to Wild, Wonderful West Virginia for a week of fun and challenge through extremely risky adventures like rafting, rappelling and mountain biking.

Everything was going great; we were ready to tackle our first challenge of the week, whitewater rafting the class 3-5 rapids of the lower New River. We got our life jackets, oars and helmets on and proceeded to the waiting area where the guides were assembled to go over the rules and expectations for the day. We were really excited and full of anticipation; there were smiles galore, as we thought about how awesome this day was going to be.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Smoking through Romans

 For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about God’s power and His standards lately.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading through Romans, and in chapter 3 Paul makes it clear that there is a standard we need to meet and without Christ’s power we fall way short.

As I was reading through Romans, I was reminded of one of my favorite illustrations of God’s power. You see if you’re like me you sometimes get caught with this idea that God can only work in people’s lives in certain ways, and under certain circumstances.

I sometimes have this mentality that because God worked like…this before, He must always work like…this in every situation. God however doesn’t play that way. He plays by His own rules, and His own standards.

He works in people’s lives however He pleases. This truth came to me in a crystal clear fashion, when several years ago I heard a prison chaplain share about how God had radically changed the life of one of the prisoners he ministered to each week.

He basically said that every week he would go into the prison to meet with prisoners and talk about faith, God’s Word, their lives and all kinds of things. Each week he would take in Bibles to give out to any inmate that didn’t have one. It struck the chaplain odd that one of the inmates took a Bible back to his cell every week.

This had been going on for several months, and the chaplain was getting curious about it, but didn’t mention anything to the inmate, he just prayed that God would use His Word to touch the inmate’s heart.

Well, as God would have it, He did use His Word to touch the inmate’s heart, especially when he got to Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

God used that verse and several of the other powerfully clear challenges to help the inmate see that He needed Jesus to save him, and change him. His own power wasn’t going to cut it, because God’s standard is perfection, and our sin disqualifies us.

That particular night God touched this guy’s heart and in his cell by Himself he put his faith and trust in Christ alone!

The next day when the chaplain showed up for Bible study the inmate came running up to him with a definite glow on his face and a new spring in his step! He couldn’t wait to tell the chaplain what had happened. The chaplain was so happy to hear what God had done in this inmate’s life and how now he is a new creation.

As the chaplain was listening and rejoicing with the inmate, he finally asked him the question that had been lingering in his mind for months.

“Why did you take a Bible back to your cell every week?”

Upon being asked the question, the inmate dropped his head and with an ashamed look on his face said, “I took a Bible every week so I could rip out the pages to use to roll my cigarettes and smoke them!”

What! The chaplain couldn’t believe what he was hearing, but before he could interject anything to the conversation, the inmate continued with “it was last night as I was SMOKING THROUGH ROMANS, that God hit me with the weight of my sin, and the fact that because of them I deserve death, but He made a way for me through His son Jesus!”

As you can imagine, the chaplain was blown away, as he realized that when it’s all said and done, it’s all about God doing His work in the lives of people, in His time and in His way!

That chaplain learned an incredible lesson that day, and it is my prayer that I wouldn’t get stuck in a “God has to do it this way, because He has always done it this way, RUT,” but would be continually praying for Him to do His thing in the lives of people I work with, and if He so chooses, allow me to catch a glimpse of His amazing power along the way!

I’m so glad He is still in the prisoner freeing business!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

They’re Just…Gone

On one of my trips to Ukraine, I had a little free time on my hands, so I asked my friend if we could go to downtown Kiev and visit some of the historical sites that are everywhere. He said “sure, that would be fun, where do you want to go?”

This was my fifth trip to Ukraine, and every time I’ve come I’ve wanted to visit Chernobyl, to see what has become of it some 20+ years after the explosion.

Here is an excerpt from an article I read recently from, that puts the whole thing in perspective for me…

Pripyat, Ukraine, was a bustling Soviet city and cultural center with a population of 50,000 when it became the site of the world's worst nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the first days after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

Pripyat, the home of the Chernobyl station, is located about 65 miles north of Kiev in the Ukraine. Built in the late 1970s on the banks of the Pripyat River, Chernobyl had four reactors, each capable of producing 1,000 megawatts of electric power. On the evening of April 25, 1986, a group of engineers began an electrical-engineering experiment on the Number 4 reactor. The engineers, who had little knowledge of reactor physics, wanted to see if the reactor's turbine could run emergency water pumps on inertial power.

On April 27, Soviet authorities began an evacuation of the 30,000 inhabitants of Pripyat. A cover-up was attempted, but on April 28 Swedish radiation monitoring stations, more than 800 miles to the northwest of Chernobyl, reported radiation levels 40 percent higher than normal. Later that day, the Soviet news agency acknowledged that a major nuclear accident had occurred at Chernobyl.

In the opening days of the crisis, 32 people died at Chernobyl and dozens more suffered radiation burns. The radiation that escaped into the atmosphere, more than that produced by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was spread by the wind over Northern and Eastern Europe, contaminating millions of acres of forest and farmland. An estimated 5,000 Soviet citizens eventually died from cancer and other radiation-induced illnesses caused by their exposure to the Chernobyl radiation, and millions more had their health adversely affected.

In 2000, the last working reactors at Chernobyl were shut down and the plant was officially closed.

The town of Pripyat was abandoned after the accident and has since become a ghost town.

So, with that context in mind I asked if we could take a drive (about 65 miles north from Kiev) to see what is there today. My friend looked at me as if to say “are you serious? There’s nothing there, it’s a ghost town.” He then said “I’ll take you to the Chernobyl museum instead”, and we were off.

As soon as we walked in I saw what looked like road signs that you would see when entering a town, to tell you where you are. That’s exactly what they were. My friend explained that the museum was set up with this basic fact…”These towns used to be here, they used to be alive and full of hope and optimism, and now they’re…just gone!”

As we walked up the stairs there were over 120 road signs symbolizing existence and life. Then we entered a room that had the feel of just the opposite. I saw pictures of the explosion, I saw pictures of men who were killed in the explosion, and their families that were left behind, left to find a new place to live, and now because of a nuclear reactor explosion have to live the rest of their lives with disease.

The whole tour was very surreal for me, as I realized that because of human error a whole region, country, and population even other continents were exposed to deadly poison.

We spent a couple hours in the museum, and when it was time to leave we exited the same stair case that we entered and the road signs that we saw as we entered had an eerie line through them as we left. My friend simply looked at me and said “Now…they’re gone.”

I knew exactly what he meant.

The remaining tour of the city and its historical sites was a lot of fun and very interesting, but I must admit that my visit to the Chernobyl museum left a huge impression on me.

I kept thinking that this is what it’s like spiritually for people who don’t know Christ. They are alive physically but dead spiritually.

If Jesus had not come to earth, if God had not sent His only Son to save us from the toxicity that exists in our sin…then just like Pripyat and all of the surrounding villages after the Chernobyl explosion, we would have no hope.

I am so thankful for God’s provision, because of His son Jesus; hopeless, depressing, dismal statements like “they’re just…gone” are replaced with “I have come to give life in all it’s fullness”

My prayer is that I would live my life in a way that represents, hope, truth, life, goodness, mercy and grace telling others that “even though there are Chernobyl’s every day in our world, your life doesn’t have to have a line through it…you can have life in it’s fullness through Jesus.”