Friday, April 23, 2010

Fish Out of Water

Several month ago my children attended a birthday party for a girl in the church. This party was set up like a carnival, and we ended up with two fish. Amazingly, the fish are still alive. We keep them separated from each other since they are "betas" and supposedly won't play nicely together.

My daughter was feeding the fish the other day. I was across the room. She casually mentioned that one fish was no longer in it's tank. It had become so excited that it was being fed that it actually jumped out of the water to get the food out of her hand, but landed outside of the tank. Now before all of you PETA people and animal lovers get worried, I'll let you know that I quickly put the fish bank in the water and it is fine. What really surprised me though was that my daughter- who gets theatrical over the appearance of a bug in her room- was not in the least bit worried about her fish jumping out of the tank. Didn't she care that it could die? Why did she take her time to casually let me know about the problem? Here's why- it wasn't her fish!!!!! It was her brother's fish, so she just didn't care as much.

The excitement of the fish could have led to the death of the fish. On the other hand, the lack of excitement on the part of my daughter could also have lead to the death of the fish. It seems like there is a lesson there for us. We need to get excited about the right things and to the right degree. Our excitement (or excitability) over issues in society or issues in our lives might be a very good thing. Sometimes we do need to get riled up and take action. Sometimes we need to jump up and down and make some noise and let people know what is going on around us. But we also need to make sure that we make that noise in a way that doesn't marginalize what we have to say. If we completely "jump out of the tank" we could end up being of no use at all to the very thing that motivated us.

Let's remember that the thing that we should be most excited about is the gospel. God, in His grace and mercy, provided the solution to our problem of sin. Don't be so causal about that good news that you fail to let people know that they can also benefit. And don't jump off the Empire State building just so you will have people listen to you preach while you are falling. I hear that the landing is quite unpleasant, and you won't be able to preach again afterward.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


About 7,000 pastors gathered in Louisville last week for the Together for the Gospel conference. Although I did not attend, I have read some blog posts about the event and I have already watched one of the sessions on-line.

In the session that I viewed there was a great reminder from C. J. Mahaney that those of us who are ordinary pastors are called to be faithful in our proclamation of the gospel. He reminded me that even when we get discouraged, we should remember that God has already done much for us through the gospel. He also pointed out that those of us who preach regularly should be absolutely amazed that our congregation came back to hear us this Sunday after listening to us the Sunday before.

Mahaney also referenced Spurgeon in his message. He tells of a time that Spurgeon said that some preachers should be sentenced to listen to themselves preach and that it would be a fair punishment to them for the sermons that they inflict on others. He said that if those preachers were forced to listen to themselves, they would cry out with the words of Cain, "My punishment is greater than I can bear."

Mahaney's message is a great reminder of his text from 2 Timothy 4 that pastors are to faithfully preach the gospel. The fruit of ministry is up to God, but we are responsible to serve faithfully.

I want to say a special "Thank You" to the people of Cottrell Corners Community Church in Old Bridge, NJ who do me the amazing honor of coming back week after week and allowing me to preach the gospel to them.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How Churches Grow

I'm always interested in hearing about churches that grow. I enjoy hearing about God's blessing in particular locations. I also like to find out if those churches have any lessons to share with others. As I've continued to read about C.H. Spurgeon this year, I've discovered two reasons that he gave for the tremendous growth his church experienced. The first explanation is fervent prayer. Listen to his second explanation:

"We have used no carnal attractions to gather people together to worship here, we have procured nothing to please their taste by way of elaborate music, fine dresses, painted windows, processions, and the like; we have used the gospel of Jesus without any rhetorical embellishments, simply spoken as a man speaketh to his friend; and God has blessed it, and he will bless it still."

There it is- prayer and the gospel. Jesus promised to build His church. We have the privilege of being a part of that church and watching it grow. Let's do our part by praying fervently and sharing the truth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Yet Another Update on the Progress of the Building

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to keep people informed regarding the building program at Cottrell Corners Community Church. Our intention is to see a building raised which will be used for God's glory. We believe that the building will help us accomplish our core values of worship, discipleship, and evangelism.

The Building Committee met last night. It was reported that the power company does not currently have a program where they would supply solar panels to us. Other options will be investigate this month.

The engineer is still waiting on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection to investigate our property and say that there are no wetlands. Apparently the hard winter has put the NJDEP about a month behind. The engineer should be ready to apply for the permits we need soon after the NJDEP comes.

The Building Fund currently has a little under $50,000 in it. Plus, we have spent $7,000 on retainer fees for our engineer, architect, and lawyer. The pledges seem to be coming in appropriately. The time frame for our fund drive was scheduled to end in June.

We have been considering some back-up plans if we are not able to afford the building that we have proposed. Actually, it seems like we can afford the building. It is the parking lot and site work that might put the project out of reach. We will consider building a smaller building, but we are not going to make any plans for changing to the smaller building until after June. The engineer shared with me that if we built a smaller building we might not have to do a new parking lot. The builder told me that if we put an addition on our current building we could probably avoid most of the site work costs that appear prohibitive to us.

Many options are being considered by the Building Committee. We are still looking forward and moving forward. Please pray that God will grant wisdom. Please pray that God will provide the permits. Please pray that God will provide the money. And most of all, please pray that we will glorify God through this entire process of trying to build a building that will be used to serve Him.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Is the Young Kid Coming?

A lady in our church hosts a prayer meeting in her home on Thursday evenings. Her home is an apartment in a building for senior citizens. The other people in our congregation who attend this gathering are also retired, including a retired minister who leads the meeting. Because we have other meetings on Thursday nights, I only make it to this prayer meeting once or twice a month. Last night was one of those nights.

Some of the other people arrived at the building before I did. They told me that the security guard asked them if the young kid was coming. They didn't know what he meant. Then someone said, "do you mean the guy with the shaved head and goatee?" Yes, that was indeed the "young kid" he was talking about. They were happy to inform the guard that the young kid was married and had five kids of his own. I don't know if they told him that I also have the extreme privilege of being their pastor. At any rate, it's been a while since I was called young, so that felt good, even if it has to come from someone who works around octogenarians most of the time.