August 29, 2007


Some of you may not be aware of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief work. I think these folks are modern day heroes! Take a look at this recently updated response to disasters all over our nation, and for a more personal view check out Idaho Paul's recent experience with the Utah Mine disaster. What a wonderful opportunity to offer a "cup of cold water" to those who are in need. It's good to see the church in action in positive, tangible ways.

Thank you to all of you folks in the yellow hats and t-shirts!

Hey, if you are in one of these affected areas why not make sure you local news media knows about this. It sure would be good for people to hear some good news about Southern Baptists!

RFD Church Forum

This is a free advertisement. No actors were paid and no commissions will be received as a result of this post.

If you know pastors in small churches - particularly those in communities reminiscent of Mayberry (i.e. rural) please let them know about a new forum created for just these kind of folks. It's called RFD Church and I think it offers a unique opportunity to talk about a unique ministry setting. So, if you know a pastor that fits this description let them know about it!

Thanks Sermonator for creating such a place for the backwater pastors making a splash in the kingdom of God.

August 28, 2007

A Shepherd's Tale - The Invitation

Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The drogh
te of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

From the Prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffery Chaucer

You're cordially invited to take a virtual pilgrimage with me. It will be an honor to have you accompany me along the way. The intent of this pilgrimage is to walk the path of my spiritual journey so far. There are places I would like to visit with you where God made Himself clearly known to me . I would also like to introduce you to some grace filled (and maybe even a few grace-less) people who have left an indelible mark on my life. There may be a side road or two we will travel for the simple joy of the view. With God's grace we will return safely to this place, the place where we begin, because this is where I am on my spiritual journey.

August 27, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Think and Love

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." Matthew 22:37

What do you love? That's a question easy enough for most of us to answer. Our thoughts immediately turn to that which is the object of our attention and adoration. Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said, "Where your treasure is there your heart will also be." (Matthew 6:21). You see, our thoughts drive our loves.

When I began dating My Beloved in college no one had to remind me to think about her. In fact, I often had to be snapped back to reality from thinking about her. I was often imagining the next time I would get to see her or remembering the sweet moments we had recently shared. I was always thinking about her. I can gladly say things haven't changed much in that department. I still think of her all the time! The point is, of course, that our thought lives drive our love lives.

Dallas Willard, in his book Renovation of the Heart, cogently states, "To bring the mind to dwell intelligently upon God as He is presented in His word will have the effect of causing us to love God passionately, and this love will in turn bring us to think of God steadily." Our problem is that we have become lazy lovers of God. We make bold professions of love and follow them with pitiable pursuits of that love.

Let me challenge you to fix your thoughts upon God this week. Make it a point to pursue Him through His word. Determine to call to mind throughout your day the goodness and glory of God. Allow Him to become that all consuming thought in your life. In so doing you will take significant strides toward loving Him with all your mind.

August 24, 2007

An Interview with Paul Abspoel

Five questions for John (The Shepherd’s Staff)
1. You are a pastor, a shepherd. Please tell us some things about this occupation. And let us know: who is shepherding you?

Tell you some things about this occupation, hmmm. The standing joke is that I only work on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s and then I work too long! (There seems to be no end to “long winded preacher” jokes.)

As a pastor I am called on to perform a wide variety of tasks. The most visible, of course, is the Sunday morning sermon. This is an opportunity for me to share the Word of God with the people of God and it is truly a humbling endeavor. When I stand in the pulpit and look across the congregation I see people who are rejoicing and people who are suffering; I can see those who have come to the end of their hope and I can see others who are moving from strength to strength; I know the woman who has just lost her husband and the couple who is celebrating their newborn child. I see all these people and their cares and know that they have come expecting to hear from God. Let me tell you, I am unequal to the task. Yet, miraculously, Sunday after Sunday God speaks to His people. Did I tell you this was humbling work?

As pastor I have the simple joy of holding newborn children, baptizing newborn believers, and blessing the union of newborn marriages. I also have the quiet and solemn task of burying the dead, consoling the sick, and listening to the suffering. There are lost sheep to find, ornery sheep to corral, and new sheep to welcome to the flock. Somewhere in the midst of this work there are committees to guide, staff to supervise, and sermons to prepare. It is a work that is never completed and it is a work that brings me great joy.

You ask, “Who shepherd’s you?” My “Paul” passed away this year and I am looking for another to help me grow upwards and onwards. My “Barnabas”(my encourager) is a fellow pastor in a neighboring city whom I talk with weekly. My “Epaphroditus”(my companion on the journey) is actually a group of men I meet with each Sunday morning. Sometimes we talk of deep spiritual matters, but most often we just share our lives with each other.

2. Are there any opportunities in life that you regret to have missed and are there any dreams of the future that you would like to see realized one day?

I am largely content with my life. As I look back, most of the opportunities I may regret having missed are largely due to the foolishness of youth. I regret that I didn’t learn more about gardening from my grandfather. I regret that I didn’t spend more time talking to my great-grandmother about her life. She lived to be 103 and was born in 1888. There are a few changes she saw first hand that I would love to have her perspective on now.

As for dreams, I am always dreaming new ones. It is an intrinsic part of my nature. Selfish dreams include: thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, working on a sailing vessel for 6 months, and completing a marathon. Dreams for my family include: all kinds of travel adventures (too many to list here), continued closeness in the coming years of change, and dinner tonight around our table. Dreams for my church include: to reach all kinds of people in all kinds of places, and a vision that is truly God-sized instead of being limited to the size or geographic location of our church.

3. Is there a part of Jesus’ message that you find hard to understand or obey? If so, please let us know which part and why.

Ah, Paul, the question is too big! The more I know the less I understand. The more I obey the more I realize the depth of my disobedience. If Jesus’ message was a simple issue of black and white/good and evil I could come to grips with it, but Jesus demands so much more than some standard of behavior, He demands my heart!

Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16 always cause me to pause in my pursuit of “God’s purposes” for my life. Peter has just confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God and has been affirmed by Jesus as being in tune with God. (v.17). In the next breath Jesus is rebuking Peter for “not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (v.23) He even calls Peter “Satan”. Pretty strong stuff. I’m amazed that Peter goes from getting right to getting it wrong in the blink of an eye. I wonder how many times I get something right but then begin to use it in a wrong way? I’m guilty.

As I said, my friend, I find this question too big to sink my teeth into here. The bottom line, is that we live in a bottom line driven age. It’s all got to be measured, quantified, codified, and cataloged, but living by Jesus’ standards is not conveniently measured. I am desperately tempted to live by the measures (both secular and spiritual) of this era when I know that Jesus is patently unimpressed with those standards. He is always looking to the heart.

4. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Please explain.

My children. I am increasingly convinced that the single greatest contribution I will make to this world will be the lives of my children. They are a joy to me and I see in them the ability to do more than I ever dreamed of doing. The Psalmist describes children as “arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Ps. 127:4). Arrows are to be released from the hand of the archer to reach a target that is beyond his reach. I clearly see my children doing just this sort of thing. They will have more influence, more ability, and more opportunity than I will ever achieve. What a marvelous opportunity I have to “aim” them in the right direction!

5. Please name your favourite a) actor / actress, b) author, c) musician / artist and d) sports hero. Of course we would all like to know what you admire so much in them and why.

First, a disclaimer: These kinds of questions are patently unfair to me. I don’t do “favorites” very well. I have an eclectic sensibility when it comes to these kinds of things. I enjoy all kinds...but, if I must…

Favorite actor/actress – John Wayne. There is not a more classic expression of the American spirit than John Wayne. Rugged individualism, determination, swagger all show up in this man. Of interest is the fact that one of my favorite movies starring Mr. Wayne is his comedic role in North to Alaska. I can remember as a kid trying to imitate his signature walk.

Favorite author – Ah, see, here I am unfairly cornered. Fiction, I love J.R.R. Tolkien. His imagery and adventure are spectacular, but it’s the underlying story that compels. The least of all make the greatest difference. Non-fiction, I enjoy Thomas Cahill and his “Hinges of History” series. A remarkable view of the broad sweep of history. For something to challenge me I enjoy Phillip Yancey. Yancey never fails to ask questions about spiritual matters that, I believe, many people ask but are afraid to voice. His fearless grappling with matters like prayer, miracles, and grace are always thought provoking. In the classic vein, I am a great fan of Andrew Murray. I could go on and on here.

Favorite musician/artist - Again, unfairly cornered. I think of Sherrill Richardson who plays banjo in a local bluegrass band. I’m not a big bluegrass fan, but I love to watch him play. I think of my grandmother sitting at a poorly tuned piano in her living room playing “The Old Rugged Cross” and the family singing in four part harmony. I also think of the music that has moved my soul, IONA’s music stirred the earthy echoes of a spiritual heritage from Ireland, Steve Camp’s lyrics stirred the needful response of action to God’s call upon a life, and Brahms Concerto No. 2 for piano stirs the joy of the ear to hear.

Favorite sports hero – At last an easy one! I grew up in the shadow of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Alabama football. His legacy of winning and character made an impression on my young life. His benevolent image smiles down on me even as I write these words. Historically he provided a troubled state a rallying point during a troubled era. It was before my day, but the legacy of Alabama football helped to transcend the racial upheaval of the 60’s. I clearly remember the racial rumblings that were silenced by this larger than life man when he started the first African-american quarterback in the University’s history.

Whew! That was a harder assignment than I imagined. Thank you for the opportunity to share these things. Thanks also for some excellent questions!

If you would like to be interviewed follow the instructions below!

1. Leave me a comment saying “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

August 20, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Heart and Soul

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind." Mt. 22:37.

Continuing the series, LOVE GOD, LOVE ALL, a consideration of Heart and Soul leads to a look at our passions and our actions.

I remind you that our westernized ears hear the word 'heart' in a completely different way than the lawyer Jesus was addressing would have heard 'heart'. For us, 'heart' raises images of Valentine's Day greetings or of a four-chambered internal organ. For our lawyer friend heart indicated the seat of passions in his life. Literally his guts. You've had those moments when you got so fired up about something that your innards got involved. This is the very kind of thing Jesus is indicating should be our response to God. To love him with all of our heart.

I believe that we are victims of misplaced passions. We are more passionate about the music style in church than we are about the Master's status. We are more passionate about our comfort level than we are about our commitment level. We can get more passionate about carpet color in the church than we are about people of color in the church. We are more passionate about tradition than we are about transformation. In short I believe that our passions, those things we truly get fired up about, are out of place. Jesus points us back to the one thing we are to be passionate about - our love for God.

It's time we get our passions right. This is decidedly difficult in a culture that demands we be passionate about so many empty and temporal things. However, it is possible. I remind you that the commandment is an imperative statement, a direct order with the expectation of obedient response. Take stock of those things that you are passionate about and offer them all to the ONE we are to be passionate about.

August 15, 2007


My buddy at Frog comm's lilly pad has an outstanding and sobering article. You need to read me.

The Martyrs No One Cares About

Carol, over at Watch Me Paint, sent me this a few days ago. Thanks Carol, for uncovering this gem. I post it here for your consideration...

The Martyrs No One Cares About
By Michelle Malkin
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The blood of innocent Christian missionaries spills on Afghan sands. The world watches and yawns. The United Nations offers nothing more than a formal expression of "concern." Where is the global uproar over the human rights abuses unfolding before our eyes?

For two weeks, a group of South Korean Christians has been held hostage by Taliban thugs in Afghanistan. This is the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. What was their offense? Were they smuggling arms into the country? No. Inciting violence? No. They were peaceful believers in Christ on short-term medical and humanitarian missions. Seventeen of the 23 hostages are females. Most of them are nurses who provide social services and relief.

Over the past few days, the bloodthirsty jihadists have demanded that South Korea immediately withdraw troops from the Middle East, pay ransom and trade the civilian missionaries for imprisoned Taliban fighters. The Taliban leaders have made good on threats to kill the kidnapped Christians while Afghan officials plead fecklessly that their monstrous behavior is "un-Islamic."

Two men, 29-year-old Shim Sung-min and 42-year-old Pastor Bae Hyeong-gyu, have already been shot to death and dumped in the name of Allah. Bae was a married father with a 9-year-old daughter. According to Korean media, he was from a devout Christian family from the island province of Jeju. He helped found the Saemmul Church south of Seoul, which sent the volunteers to Afghanistan.

Across Asia, media coverage is 24/7. Strangers have held nightly prayer vigils. But the human rights crowd in America has been largely AWOL. And so has most of our mainstream media. Among some of the secular elite, no doubt, is a blame-the-victim apathy: The missionaries deserved what they got. What were they thinking bringing their message of faith to a war zone? Didn't they know they were sitting ducks for Muslim head-choppers whose idea of evangelism is "convert or die"?

I noted the media shoulder-shrugging about jihadist targeting of Christian missionaries five years ago during the kidnapping and murder of American Christian missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham in the Philippines. The silence is rooted in viewing committed Christians as alien others. At best, there is a collective callousness. At worst, there is outright contempt -- from Ted Turner's reference to Catholics as "Jesus freaks" to CBS producer Roxanne Russell's casual insult of former GOP presidential candidate Gary Bauer as "the little nut from the Christian group" to the mockery of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.

Curiously, those who argue that we need to "understand" Islamic terrorists demonstrate little effort to "understand" the Christian evangelical missionaries who risk their lives to spread the gospel -- not by sword, but through acts of compassion, healing and education. An estimated 16,000 Korean mission workers risk their lives across the globe -- from Africa to the Middle East, China and North Korea.

These are true practitioners of a religion of peace, not the hate-mongers with bombs and AK-47s strapped to their chests who slay instead of pray their way to martyrdom.

August 14, 2007

August 13, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Love God, Love All

We have a tendency to make following God some long, complicated process when in fact it is anything but complex. Jesus was always cutting through the religious red tape and getting to the heart of the matter. We could use some cutting on the religious red tape of our lives.

Jesus was asked in Matthew 22, "What is the greatest commandment?" His reply, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and will all you soul, and all your mind...the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." It all boils down to loving God and loving your neighbor. Here's a simple secret, if you are loving God you will invariably begin loving your neighbor.

A few words about loving God. It is to be a passionate pursuit that moves us. The Hebrew concept of heart is nothing like a Valentine's day card. Literally it had to do with the guts. To love God with all your heart is to love Him with your guts. To love Him in such a way that it grips your innards and moves you. We've all had experiences like this (births, deaths, unexpected news, etc.) that have gripped our guts. Our love for God is to be that kind of love.

This love is also to engage every aspect of who we are. The concept of soul has very little to do with some ethereal entity that we equate with our soul. Soul for the Hebrew meant the totality of what made an individual uniquely them. To love God with all our soul means to love Him with everything we are.

Finally this love is to involve our mind. Love is, at its foundation, an act of the will. Love is a decision we make. Time and again in scripture we are called/invited to choose. Loving God is a matter of the will as we recognize that He is what we are really looking for and to look elsewhere would be foolish.

The second command, to love our neighbor as ourselves will invariably be a reflection of the love we have for God. The story of the Good Samaritan is well known but the point may easily be missed. In Luke 10 an expert in the law asks Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?". Jesus then tells the story of the Good Samaritan and asks the man "Who was the neighbor to the man?". The expert replies, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus' instructive reply is, "Go and do likewise." It's not who or who isn't a neighbor. It's not about labeling/judging/identifying people as neighbors or not neighbors. Jesus' clearly points to the man who asked the question and effectually says, "You be a neighbor."

Are you loving God heart, soul, and mind? Better yet, are you being a neighbor?

August 7, 2007

Monday Morning Message - Loose Connections?

Yes, it's Tuesday. Early start on Monday that ended late prevented me from getting here and posting. I apologize for any inconvenience caused by my delay. On to the message...

We have a problem at our house. The lights in the foyer, hall, and Dear Daughter's room are not working correctly. Sometimes we flip the switch and we have lights. Sometimes we flip the switch and we have no lights. Sometimes we flip the switch and we have lights and after a few minutes we have no lights. I'm smart enough to know there's a short somewhere so I pulled all the fixtures looking for exposed wire. Finding none I made a foray into the inferno that is our summertime attic to check for damage to wiring there. Again, none to be found. Time to call my electrician friend. After a discourse on the technical minutiae of circuitry that numbed my brain, I asked him, "So what do I need to do?". His reply was simple enough for a simpleton like me, "Check all of your connections."

In Isaiah 58 and 59 the people of Israel are essentially told to "Check your connections". It is interesting to note that the people this is addressed to are a religiously minded people (see Isa. 58:2-3) who seem to be doing all the right things. But something is wrong. God is not answering when they call. God is not responding to their need. They seem to be missing something, but what?

As always, God gets down to the heart of the matter with His people. Their motive (i.e. their heart) was wrong. They were doing all the things they were "supposed" to do but they were doing it for themselves. The telling refrain of Isa. 58:3 is, "Look, you serve you own interest on your fast day...". Mere observance of religious rites can never fulfill God's purposes for your life and can never bring you the satisfaction of God's promises. The transformation God brings about in your life must begin to transform the lives around you. Only then do you find the satisfaction you are seeking.

Last week I asked you to fill in the blank, "My soul thirsts for _____". Are you not experiencing the joy of God's salvation? Are your prayers seeming to go unheard? Are you dissatisfied with your spiritual life? Let me encourage you to spiritually do what I must physically do this week at my house, check all the connections.

August 2, 2007

Addicted to Blogging

67%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Maybe I need to "fast" from blogging?

Exploring New Avenues

My web guru (who shall remain nameless as she's not ready to go into business for herself) answered a few questions for me about blog feeds so I thought I'd wade out into the shallow end of the pool.

I'm now registered on Technorati. What that really means I don't know. But here it goes anyway.

Technorati Profile

Oh yeah, I also added the cool widget "Blogoversary" I have 232 days to my 1st blogoversary! Let's all celebrate together! WOO-HOO!

August 1, 2007

Other Pictures That Speak to Me

Truly a picture is worth a thousand words. I haven't done a count, but my posting of Van Gogh's The Church at Auvers generated at least 1000 words. More discussion than I imagined. It is a powerful image that demands a response.

I promised Idaho Paul I would post a few more pictures that speak to me. I'd love to hear your response to these.

"So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come." (Psalm 71:18)

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you" (Jeremiah 1:5)

"Save me O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God." (Psalm 69:1-3)