God’s Good Gifts

This June marks two important anniversaries for me. First is the ten-year anniversary of my marriage to Emily. These ten years have been the most amazing time of my life. When I see this woman God has given me, I am overwhelmed in thankful praise at God’s good gift! She is far beyond what I deserve. She is a wonderful mother to our two children, often teaching me lessons about grace and service when she thought she was teaching them. When those precious girls are old enough to realize who their mother is, they will no doubt “rise to call her blessed.” Her husband already does.

Her influence has truly made me a better man than I would be without her by my side. Her love has demonstrated unconditional acceptance. Her support has given me confidence to pursue the big dreams God has placed in my heart. Her belief in me has encouraged me even when I have had my low points. God has used her to sanctify me! Believe me when I tell you she has had her hands full. For ten years of faithful and loving companionship, I thank God for Emily! She has been a helper more suitable for me than I could have ever hoped for.

The second anniversary is my three-year anniversary as senior pastor of The Capital Church. If you had asked me 20 years ago when I was a teenager listening to the mighty Roland Harrell preach if I would ever be the pastor of The Capital, I would have probably laughed. If you had asked me 10 years ago while I was pursuing higher education if I would live in the USA ever again, I would not at all have been certain. But, God has an interesting way of directing our steps. The Bible promises us that the steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord (Ps 37:23). Although I am not at all certain whether I can be classified as a “good man,” I can say with absolute certainty that God has been faithful to guide and direct me when I would have been hopelessly lost without him.

I have seen God do a great work in us in these past three years. Some of it may not be perceptible to the casual observer, but that’s often how a move of God begins. I am thankful for his patience with us, and I am thankful for your acceptance and support of me as your pastor. Some pastors have to deal with congregations and leaders who are opposed to what God is doing, but that is not the case with you. I believe our people have a genuine hunger for God’s Spirit and a genuine desire to obey his call upon us as a community. There are many other places where my family and I could be; but we know that God called us here, and we are very thankful for that.

So, thank you for your love for God! Thank you for a heart to love others and to demonstrate that love in ways the world can understand it. Thank you for your hunger for God’s word and your appreciation of the calling on my life to preach it faithfully. Thank you for your support for the direction and vision God has given me for this church. It is a direction and vision that is not just mine. It is ours, and I feel privileged to serve the Lord alongside people like you. May we continue to seek God’s best for this family of faith, and may our most powerful ministry still lie ahead of us!

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Advancing The Gospel in Turkey

As many of you already know I had the opportunity to accompany a group from the IPHC to Turkey last month.  The purpose of the trip was to visit the sites of the seven churches of Revelation.  Although this was a seedbed of early Christianity, most of the seven cities have no Christian presence at all.

Turkey is a country of 71 million people.  As far as we know, there are around 5000 evangelical believers in the entire nation. 99.8% of the population is Muslim.  In every neighborhood there is a mosque identifiable by the prayer towers from which the call to prayer sounds five times every day.  It is truly heartbreaking that there is so little Christian witness left in a place that once knew thriving communities of followers of Jesus. But, God is at work in Turkey!

One of the goals our denomination seeks to reach in the near future is to plant churches in each of the seven cities mentioned in the book of Revelation.  So far, we have seen the miraculous in terms of God raising up leaders and providing resources.  We are believing God for a mighty move of His Spirit to sweep through this historically Christian land.

In one of the cities, Christians inhabited the area continuously from the time of the early church until 1924 when political currents changed and Christians were deported.  Though there has been some missionary activity in this city over the past few decades, the workers there have not seen much success—that is, until now.  In the past few years God has raised up new leadership, and there is now a worshipping community that gathers in people’s homes.  We have already purchased land and a building that will accommodate a coffee house as well as a place of worship.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of real estate was acquired for $40,000.  The new church property is located within about 200 yards of where the last church existed in this city in 1924. Our brothers and sisters there are looking forward to moving into their new property so that they can be more visible to the people of their city.  This modern city has great potential including over 30,000 university students.  It has great promise for becoming a regional headquarters for church planting.

This month is a great month to think about what God is doing around the world because on May 27th, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday.  Fifty days after the first Easter, Jesus anointed His followers with incredible power and boldness for witness.  Because of that anointing on the very first Pentecost, the Gospel began to spread throughout the known world. God’s truth continues to advance today as the Holy Spirit empowers and equips his people to fulfill the Great Commission.

Our prayer is that especially as we focus this month on a celebration of Pentecost, we would continue to see the advance of the gospel among the unreached peoples of the world both at home and abroad.


Easter: A celebration of new life and the hope of new beginnings.

Easter is one of my favorite times of the year.  The winter is over.  The weather is warmer.  The days are longer.  The changes in nature that accompany the spring remind us how the resurrection of Jesus changes everything.  As the trees bud and the flowers begin to bloom after the apparent death of winter subsides, we remember how the resurrection of Jesus broke the power of death itself and offers us new life.   As the days grow longer and warmer, we remember how the love of Christ enlightens and warms our hearts with his love-infused truth.  Listen to those birds singing and think of the song God put in your heart.  Hear the patter of spring showers and think of His blessings that rain down His mercies upon us.

Over the next several weeks we will be preparing our hearts for an amazing celebration of Easter at The Capital Church.  The week before Easter will be particularly exciting.  On Wednesday, April 4th, we will have a Messianic Seder.  The Seder is the traditional meal for celebrating Passover.  This would have been the meal Jesus and his disciples enjoyed together the night before he was crucified.  Come join us to experience the rich traditions celebrated during the Last Supper.

If you know kids, you won’t want them to miss out on the fun of the Easter Egg Hunt on the Saturday before Easter!  There will be games, prizes, food, bouncy castles, and lots of excitement.  Of course this event is for our own children, but we believe it is a wonderful opportunity to invite others.  This is a practical way to show the love of Jesus to this community.  It is a great chance to build relationships and to see how God might work to soften the hearts of those who may not know Him.

Easter Sunday itself will be a life-giving, Spirit-filled celebration of the resurrection.  We celebrate the resurrection every Sunday, but Easter Sunday will be a special focus on the new life and hope the resurrection brings.  Whom do you know who needs life and hope?   Why not invite them to church on Easter Sunday?

Over the next few weeks, I am going to be asking some of you who attend the second service to try coming to the first service.  The second service is filling up, and we need to make more room for guests in that service.  I would like to ask at least 50 people to consider making the first service their primary time of worship.  To make the transition a bit easier, we are moving the service times.  The new schedule will be Sunday services at 9am and 11am with Sunday School starting at 10:15am.  Beginning Easter Sunday, we are offering a full complement of children’s ministry at BOTH services.  This means we’ll need a lot more workers; but we are hoping that this, along with the new service times, might make it easier for some to commit to the first service.  Those who are not accustomed to coming to church will more likely attend the later service.  So, some of us who are more comfortable can help them by coming at the earlier time.

Please be in prayer that God would use this season of our church’s ministry to advance His kingdom in our community.  May this Easter be a real celebration of new life!


Let Your Gospel Enthusiasm Show: Cultivating a greater appreciation for the power of the resurrected Lord.

February was a great month for The Capital Church!  I want to thank you for your hard work in making last month’s outreach a success.  In particular, I want to thank you for bringing your friends to Friend Day on February 12th.  We had a powerful time of worship led by the Emmanuel Singers, and we talked about how the greatest act of friendship in history was when Jesus died for us on the cross.  God moved in many hearts that day.  One young girl was contemplating suicide, but Jesus intervened in her life and she has hope that was not present in her life before that encounter with the Lord.  Thank God for His Spirit’s work among us.  I pray we will continue to be a place where the hurting can find help and security.  Does that excite you?

Because this is basketball country, I’m sure many of you are following the March Madness games.  I believe there will be 67 games set to determine the NCAA champions.  If you’ve ever been to a college basketball game, or any serious sporting competition, you can’t help but notice the passion and enthusiasm of the fans.  While there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with enjoying a good game, there is something we ought to be much more excited about as believers.  We ought to be excited about the work of the Spirit among us.  We ought to be as enthusiastic in praising the God of the universe as those who scream themselves hoarse and work themselves into a frenzy over athletic prowess.

I wonder what it would be like if people would get as excited about Jesus as they do about sports.  It’s okay to be demonstrative when your team is playing a rival.  It’s acceptable to jump with glee when your team makes a game-clinching three pointer with only seconds to go.  It’s normal to paint yourself blue or red (or whatever color) and wear funny hats and be exuberant in support of your team.  But, when it comes to worship, similar levels of emotional demonstration are often frowned upon as excessive and emotionalistic.

Now let me be clear.  I am NOT saying we should go wild in our services like they do in college basketball games.  The truth is, overly demonstrative worship can often distract us from the object of our worship.  The more we focus on what we do during our times of praise, the less authentic it becomes.  What I AM saying is that we should be as enthusiastic about the transforming power of the Gospel as we are about the outcome of a game that has absolutely no eternal value.

In our current sermon series, “Desperate Households,” we are taking a closer look at what the Bible has to say about the family.  My prayer is that we would get as passionate about helping desperate families and about reaching out to those who don’t know Jesus as we are about hoping our team performs well this month.

Life can be challenging; but we have hope that the world does not have.  It is a hope that is worth getting excited about.  It is a hope that is not based on our resources or our abilities.  It is a hope that is based on God’s love for us. It is a hope that transcends even the power of death itself.  That should cause us to want to celebrate.  Could it be that we don’t get too excited about that because we don’t appreciate the reality of it?  My prayer in the time between now and Easter, the annual acknowledgment of what we celebrate every Sunday, is that we will come to a new appreciation of the power of the resurrection and what it means for us.  If we get excited about that, we’ll know God has done a work in our hearts!


The Harvest is Ripe – Walk Expectantly!

When God’s people fast and pray, there is a difference in the atmosphere of their worship.  Our 21-day focus on prayer and fasting absolutely made a difference in our services last month.  More importantly, it made a difference in our lives.  Beginning the year by focusing on prayer and fasting as a community has paved the way for the work God wants to do among us in 2012.  We have prayed and asked God for a move of His Spirit.  We have asked Him for a harvest of souls.  We have asked Him for transformed lives.  Now, let us walk together in faithful expectation that God will honor His promises to us.

Our first major opportunity to see some of the fruit of this prayer and fasting will be coming up on Sunday, February 12th.  That is when we will celebrate Friend Day.  This special service would be a wonderful time to invite those people you have been meaning to invite to church.  Maybe you work with someone or maybe you go to school with someone that you know would benefit from hearing the gospel.  There is no greater gift you can give a friend than to be instrumental in leading them to Jesus.  You could do that by bringing them to church on February 12th.  The atmosphere will be exciting and uplifting as we welcome our friends and share the gospel of Jesus.

The Emmanuel Singers will be with us to provide the special music.  You will not want to miss the Spirit-filled worship and the powerful truth of God’s word that day.  Your unsaved friends and loved ones cannot afford to miss it!  That day could make an eternal difference in the lives of the people in attendance.

To help you make the process of inviting people easier, we are preparing boxes of candy for you to distribute.  The small box of chocolates will have a special invitation on the back.  This provides an easy way for you to demonstrate some kindness and to extend an invitation to people who might not otherwise be interested.  Please prayerfully consider the names of people you could bring to church on February 12th.  Let’s befriend people in the truest sense of that term.  Let’s ask God to make Friend Day 2012 at TCC a real demonstration of the love of Jesus.  The fields are ripe for harvesting. May God send us forth as His laborers!


A New Year: Time to reflect & reset!

Have you ever had a computer crash?  Maybe you were in the middle of some important work when without warning your computer just froze. When that happens, sometimes the only thing we can do is hit the reset button.  Maybe some rogue program is taking up all the computer’s power, or maybe it is just trying to accomplish too many tasks at once.  The reset button stops all those haywire processes and gets the machine back on line. We hit the reset button so that the computer can get itself back up to peak performance.

Sometimes people need to reset! The busyness of life can sometimes overwhelm us.  Maybe we are trying to do too many things at once, or maybe something is taking up too much of our time and energy.  Our internal operating system can go haywire trying to keep up with everything.  When that happens, we need to do what we do with our computers. We need to reset and get ourselves back on line.

Of course, people don’t have a button we can push to bring ourselves back to peak performance. For us to do a spiritual reset, we have to take a step back from everything that is going on in our lives and breathe. We need some time to refocus on God and recommit ourselves to the kind of life that pleases Him.

The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to do that. I want to encourage you to take some time this month to reflect on all that God did for us in 2011. I know we faced some hard times, but let’s not forget God’s mercy and love towards us even in the midst of our difficulties. God was good in 2011, and He will be good in 2012!

I would like to encourage you to spend some serious time in prayer and fasting to begin 2012 in a way that pleases the Lord.  I invite you to join me and the other leaders of this church in 21 days of prayer and fasting for the purpose of hitting reset as individuals and as a church body.  We will begin our fast on January 9th, and we will end it on January 29th in a special service of prayer and worship.  If you have never fasted before, you will not want to miss this special time of focusing our hearts on God.

We will be telling you more about the fast as the time approaches.  We plan to have a devotional guide that you can pick up from the information booth in the narthex.  The guide will tell you more about different ways of fasting and give you some scriptural reflections to direct our thoughts during this important time.

I am convinced that the battles we need to win as a church can only be won through our prayer and fasting.  We need a spiritual reset.  Please join me in seeking God for an unprecedented move of His Spirit in our midst in 21 days of focus on prayer and fasting.  If we do this together, God will work among us in ways we cannot even begin to imagine!


The Goodness of the Lord: Everything we have belongs to God!

The scripture tells us to “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 107:1).” We have a lot to be thankful for! I know that we are facing difficult times, but God has been good to us. Notice that the Psalmist did not say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has made us comfortable.” Neither did he say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has given us everything we want.” He didn’t even say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he has supplied our needs.” Of course, the Lord does supply our needs; but this verse isn’t just about praising God for what he has done. We should praise God for what he does for us, but we also praise him simply for who he is! God is good. He is worth praising. Just thinking about his goodness will warm your heart and give joy to your soul. God has done great things for us. God is great. God is good. He deserves our thanks.

We will celebrate Thanksgiving this month, and that provides us a wonderful opportunity as a church to focus on the goodness of God towards us. We will reflect on how God has been good to us this year, and we will give thanks both for his acts and his person. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, we will have a special evening service where we will celebrate communion in remembrance of some of God’s greatest blessings to us. You won’t want to miss that time of worship as the family of God gathers in thankful remembrance of his goodness.

This is also a good time of year to think about stewardship. When you think about the origins of our Thanksgiving celebration, you might remember stories about how the early American settlers nearly starved before they were provided food by the indigenous peoples of North America. The cornucopia is a common decorative theme. It symbolizes plenty and abundance. But, we all know that resources do not always come in cornucopias! Sometimes there are seasons of dearth. The Native Americans could provide for the settlers because they had learned how to manage the land. They had learned how to take care of the resources at their disposal. That is what stewardship is all about. The truth is, everything we have belongs to God. He has placed it in our care for a short season. The question is: what will we do with it? For the first three weeks of November, we will focus on that question.

The final Sunday of November is the beginning of Advent. Beginning November 27 we will prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas. Retailers start early with their celebrations of Christmas because they want to make more money. We begin early because we want to honor the reason for the season.

Let me encourage you to take this month to remember the faithfulness and kindness of God towards us. Let’s focus on his goodness and his mercy. Let’s remember in the midst of all the troubling circumstances in the world around us that God is good! Let’s be thankful and let’s prepare to celebrate his coming! I look forward to worshipping with you!