Reading Through Old Files

Through the years, when I have read an insightful or helpful article online, I have printed it off and put it in a file in the cabinet beside my desk. I know they say things last forever on the internet, but that is simply not true. People shut down their sites, purge their content and move on to other projects. 

This process of finding and printing has resulted in a couple of folders full and a stack about 5 inches high of paper. So recently, I decided to read back through all of them and throw out any material that is no longer useful. 

Two things amazed me as I read through articles from the past 22 years. 

First, I was amazed at the amount of material that was relevant but only for a limited time. Much of the content was written for a specific moment in history. Most of it was created before the popularity of texting, social media, and the impact of Covid. Each piece was helpful for a few months or years, and now I have thrown them in the trash as outdated and irrelevant.

The experience reminded me of a line of scripture, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever.” One reason to keep reading, memorizing, studying, and listening to the word of God is that it will sustain you over a lifetime. Periodic articles are helpful in the moment, but they will always be short-lived. Scripture will remain the same. 

There are continual changes in our culture, and the things written about it are many. But commit yourself to God’s word, and you will have something worth keeping. 

The Sunday I Forgot Communion

Our Church practices communion every week. It has been a part of my life since childhood, especially since I was baptized in 1980. Not only have I taken it each week, but since I entered the ministry in 1993, I have led others in taking it too.

Despite my forty-plus years of experience, I totally forgot it last Sunday as part of our morning worship. Yep, sixty-five people at our first program witnessed me miss one of the most significant parts of our worship gathering each week. And I know exactly why it happened.

I do not use any notes when I preach. One aspect of doing this is that I take mental pictures of each page of my notes while I practice it. So, for example, I know there is a scripture at the top of the second page followed by an explanation, and I finish the page with an illustration.

Well, as I was preaching, I suddenly felt like I was missing an illustration. I was very close to finishing, and my mind was racing over what I might possibly be missing. With my mind quickly running over all my notes in my head, I completed the sermon. Then I saw one of our elders come in the back door to have the closing announcements and prayer. I pointed for him to come forward, and he did his job of closing out the program. While he was talking, I looked over my printed notes that I keep by my seat in case of emergencies (I did need them once). He finished, and we asked everyone to be dismissed, and people said, “What about communion?”


I was so distracted that I forgot to lead us in communion. As a result, I missed focusing on Jesus and his work on the cross.

I share that story to remind everyone that I am a flawed mess like everyone else. I also wanted to remind you how easy it is to take your eyes off Jesus. One minor distraction made me forget an entire part of our worship focused on the cross of Christ. And one distraction can keep you from him too. Whenever something fills our mind, it has the capability of taking over and pushing out even the most important things.

Thankfully I am a part of a group of people who will not let me forget. They brought me back to faith and connected me with a Savior who loved us enough to have his body broken and blood shed for us.

For a moment, I forgot Jesus, but I am thankful to be a part of a community that helps me to keep Jesus at the center. And this is just one more reason that everyone should be a part of a Church.

Give Me Something to Work With

Being a pastor means the primary product of my work is life change for Jesus.

I teach, counsel, advise, blog, share, help, organize, lead, and coordinate everything possible to help people grow in their knowledge and faith in Jesus. Each Sunday, I stand up and explain a passage or topic of scripture with application points for every group of people. I continually give action steps to make change and growth achievable.

Yet, I know that many people will walk out of Church totally unchanged. Their lives will go on as usual, just like they were before attending.

A pastor’s one desire is that people give him something to work with each week.

Be teachable. Have an open heart and mind alongside a willingness to hear the instructions. Then take the opportunity to try one thing new in faith regularly. A desire to explore the possibilities of faith is irreplaceable in the heart of a believer.

I, and pastors like me, are trying to make a difference in this world for Jesus. But we can only do so much. The rest depends on the people who listen. If your heart is closed and nothing new will penetrate it, then we are wasting both of our time. But if you are at least willing to change, then the possibilities are endless.

I’m Not Crying; You’re Crying

It has been said, “Big boys don’t cry.”

Yet, the shortest verse in our English Bible is John 11:35. It simply says, “Jesus wept.” At the graveside of Jesus’ friend Lazarus, he is overwhelmed with grief and cries.

These two statements do not align. If Jesus was the ultimate example of what it means to be a human because he is perfect, then tears are a part of the human experience. That means it is definitely okay to cry, even for big boys.

I kept a printout of a quote hanging in my office for years. It was not just a reminder to me when I was overwhelmed with emotions, but also for everyone who sat in the chairs and talked with me. Whenever people would begin to well up with tears, I found that they would apologize. The quotation is from Washington Irving:

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

I do not know where you are emotionally today, but there are times when we all need a good cry. Maybe you need to know that it is more than okay; it is Christlike.

Volunteer Fireman

In our small town, about three blocks from my house, there is a fire station. It is a large metal building that houses a couple of firetrucks used during emergencies. These are for the use of a volunteer team who stand ready to help at a moment’s notice. When something happens, the alarm goes out, and a group of people will drop what they are doing and head to the fire station or directly to the fire, depending on the timing of the situation. 

I wonder if people see the Church the same way as that fire station. The Church is a group of people who willingly offer their time to better their community as the Lord directs. We are not just a community of believers; we are an army of volunteer counselors, tutors, caregivers, grandparents, servants, and friends. 

Being a volunteer fireman requires hours of training and a willingness to serve whenever needed. The Church is also a place where people are trained in every arena of life so that they can help when the situation presents itself. 

We are not merely a Church; we are a place where volunteer servants meet each week. 

To the Best of Your Ability

When I was younger, I aspired to do great things. My life would be recognized for its selfless contributions that helped change the world as we know it. I would be admired by my peers, awarded by my community, and respected at my college. 

Yet, I have never had the opportunity to make a world-altering contribution throughout my lifetime. Instead, I spend my weeks writing sermons, teaching the Bible to a small group of people, and ministering in little communities.   

Slowly, I have realized that all I can do is my best with what the Lord gives me. Every sermon, lesson, conversation, blog, and meeting can be done with my maximum effort. Whatever the Lord gives me to do, I can apply myself completely to each task. 

One day each of us will stand before God to give an account of our lives. We will not be asked if we did great things; rather, what did we do with the opportunities given to us. Our lives will not be a failure as long as we do each project for God and to the best of our ability. 

Nothing Invested

The other night, my wife and I went to a local high school basketball game. It was amazing how calm and relaxed I felt. I enjoyed the game and watching the local boys have fun on the court. 

This was completely different than the last time I watched from the bleachers. The last one I attended had my son on the court. In fact, over the previous ten years, one of my sons had been out there playing during every game. I had nothing invested in this sporting event for the first time in years. There was no deep personal connection to the players, so I was in no way emotional about anything going on that night.

The same thing can happen at Church. People may attend, but they have nothing personally invested in anything happening there. They sit back and watch without a care in the world. They simply want some good religious entertainment and the ability to critique what they experienced. 

That is not what it means to be a member of a Church community. The difference between a member and a random attendee is a personal investment. When you are invested, you care about what happens. 


Some people over-spiritualize everything as they speak. 

It was not a trip to the store. It was a venture out into the world with the possibility of sharing the gospel of Jesus with everyone. They are not struggling in their marriage; God is teaching them through a series of trials. They are not having a good week; they are blessed with all the blessings of God.

Every conversation and interaction is portrayed as having deep spiritual significance. 

Do not get me wrong, I believe God is working, and we should be sharing our faith. But, what bothers me is the overly dramatic way that everything is stated. There is a place for seeing the impact of faith on our lives, and there is a time to talk about it. But, there is also a time to speak plainly and share your actions simply.

What bothers me as I talk to people like this is that they say all the right things. Their words make them sound spiritual and like their faith is an integral part of their life. And I hope it truly is that way. But most of the time, this is a smokescreen.

Our faith is not measured by the descriptive words we use but rather by our actions. People living their faith rarely have to tell you about the spiritual dimensions of their life.   

An over-spiritualized person can talk extensively about faith. However, authentic Christianity is seen in doing the things of faith. 

The First Pound

Over the past two years, I have been learning about weight loss. It started with a simple commitment to lose weight, and I was able to drop 75 pounds in 6 months. I remained steady for the following year. Then in the last six months, I have gained some of it back with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, vacation, and birthday.

Last week, I stepped on the scale, and I have put back on a little over 20 pounds. So I committed to losing it again. That was last Monday morning.

Over the last week, I have eaten better, walked, and tried to get into a routine again. Then I stepped on the scale yesterday to see I had lost 1.6 pounds. I admit I was a little disappointed as I was hoping for three.

As the day wore on, I began to think about it more deeply. The problem with weight loss of only a pound or two is that no one notices. I don’t look or feel different. My clothes are still tight, and the fat is still noticeable. My mind plays this trick on me and tells me that I am not making enough progress, so I should quit.

The truth is that this single pound represents more than just a slight weight loss. It is a sign of a lifestyle change from the past six months. I have stopped gaining and started going the right direction. It is a small physical demonstration of my life heading down a new and better path. If I keep doing the activities of the past week, I will achieve my goals in less than five months.

This reality is true of all habits, including spiritual ones. Many people want to read the Bible through the year, or they want to pray more, or they want to serve others selflessly. Then they make an attempt one week. They see only a tiny result or possibly none. They convince themselves it is not worth the time and energy, so they quit.

Small steps in the right direction add up. All weight loss starts with losing a single pound.

You Are Not Alone

Often, we feel all alone in our hurts and hang-ups. We think we are the only person who thinks like this, has struggled with this issue, or carry this burden.

The more we feel like this, the greater the darkness in our souls becomes.

I would suggest that you feel that way because you have not told people your thoughts and emotions.

In a small group at Church recently, a man came and shared the issues plaguing him. I could tell he was scared and felt alone. But the group responded by telling him how they either did feel the same way or had at one point. They were kind and compassionate toward him, and you can feel a change in his soul.

Most of us like to keep our personal struggles to ourselves. Then they begin to feel more significant while we suffer alone. One of the ways to reduce the emotional load you are carrying is by talking to God. Another way is by speaking with other people.

You are not alone, no matter what you think at this moment.