When it's all said and done....

Far more will be "said" than will ever be "done..."

I know people that complain about everything--and I do mean "everything."

One person particularly comes to mind. She doesn't like where the "group" goes to eat lunch after Sunday morning worship ends. We've tried everything, and she has literally whined and complained about every place we've been.

After awhile I just got fed up and told her to "stop it." And with all due haste to "stop it now."

She's not speaking to me now...that's her choice. But at least we don't have to hear her whining and complaining and bickering and faultfinding about every thing...and particularly after we've worshipped the Lord.

I guess you just can't please some people.

Happy Birthday, Matthew Reneau!

You got:

A college degree

A new wife

And a birthday all within 180 days...

Good for you!

Eighty Faithful Years! Happy Birthday, WMBI!

Eighty years ago yesterday (July 28, 1926) WMBI Radio signed on the airwaves of Chicago. This wonderful broadcast ministry of the Moody Bible Institute has remained on the airwaves through all these times of change, world wars, elections, economies, the rise and fall of Communism--for the most part, and many other historical happenings.

And for eighty faithful years, the mission has been the same: "Spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and showing His love."

The methods have often changes--as they should--but the message has remained unchanged:

Jesus Saves!

I attended the "Birthday Party" last night for WMBI. It was a marvelous concert, held at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows--a suburb of Chicago. The guests artists were world-renown, Grammy-award winning soloist Larnelle Harris, and the continually popular Manhattan Transfer-sounding FIRST CALL (Marty McCall, Bonnie Keen, and Melody Tunney).

It was fabulous. It was worshipful, energetic and so very, very encouraging.

You can check out WMBI here:


God bless the Moody Broadcasting Network and my friends at WMBI!


The United States is the wealthiest nation on the face of the planet, and also the wealthiest nation in the history of mankind.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON why a family who has at least one adult working full time every week should be below the poverty level. The Book of James, Chapter Five speaks very clearly to the tragedy of not "paying people a living wage."

This is not a liberal cause, and it is not a conservative cause. This is a human cause.

Now, I realize that some people have made some "poor choices" in their recent, and not-so-recent past--and now they are living with the dire consequences of those choices.

More than 30 million working Americans are living below the poverty level--and many of them have families they are attempting to support.

As much as I like TARGET and WALMART and HOME DEPOT, these companies must pay their workers a "living wage."

And so should every other business fortunate enough to operate in the United States of America.

And the CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST must speak up about this tragedy. We have no problem speaking up about "gay marriage" and "abortions" and other societal ills--and we should speak up about them.

But we must realize that allowing poverty-level living when we can do something about it, is also immoral. At least that is what the Scriptures tell me. We must speak up, and then we must be about doing something. The "least of these" teaching of Christ from Matthew 25 comes into play here.

God requires no less of us.

Another Cancer Victim...Pray for him.

Francis Cardinal George, who leades the Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church here in Chicago has been diagnosed with bladder cancer.

This announcement was made to the public last night, and according to the press conference--going on right now--has survived the surgery, which removed his entire bladder.

The Cardinal has been having bladder problems since June of this year, and at that time some suspicious cells (for cancer) were found.

The biopsies revealed a high grade tumor, yet superficial. A CAT-scan showed the right ureter was partially blocked as it entered the bladder, and a stint was placed to relieve the obstruction. Further tests showed cancer of the bladder.

The surgery today began at 8:15 a.m. and ended around 1:15 p.m. He will be transferred to the Intensive Care Surgical Recovery room at Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois.

Please pray for Cardinal George today.

This is what I would do....

If I were a pastor or someone in a position of "authority" in a local congregation (and in this order):

First, I would get to know the people in this church. This would take a while, but it would be worth more than "their weight in gold." I don't have to know everything about them, but I do want to know something about them. And I want to learn it from them--not just those around them.

Second, I would find out what they "do best." Example: Does Sister Joan encourage people with her words and actions--outside the context of a Sunday gathering? Would she be "fulfilled" in helping the local congregation stay in touch with one another, in the "ordinary" stuff that happens in people's lives--hospitalizations, baby births, etc? If the answer is "yes"--then let's encourage Sister Joan and help her minister to these people.

Third, I would empower people to be as creative as they could possible become. Of course, there are always parameters, and adults can accept and define parameters. Nothing would be "outside the box" would be off limits, as long as it doesn't violate Scriptural commands and admonitions.

Fourth, I would find out what the community surrounding our facilities is really like. What are the felt needs in this area? What are the real needs in this neighborhood? What are the demograhics here? What difference can our congregation make in this area?

Just some thoughts from one who has been "in the church" all my life.

Something to Think About...

I wrote, a few days ago, about my now-in-heaven friend Sara Western.

I went to the memorial service for her yesterday afternoon at Park Community Church here in Chicago.

It was a glorious celebration. I heard something there that has stuck with me:

"Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin."

And that is so very, very true. Sara's life here on earth was "full"--according to all of our finite, fallible, disposable definitions of what "full" means.

But as Pastor Ray Carter so ably said, "She's really alive now."

Heaven is so much sweeter because Sara is there!

You can visit her website:



My "brother" Kevin Moses and his wife, Monica are now the proud parents of son number two.

Caleb Ethan Moses was born shortly after midnight (this morning) and all seems to be well with the world.

Monica is the Children's Pastor at Cornerstone Church of God in Columbus, Georgia. Their first son, Micah, is now 2 1/2 years old, and is a charmer par excellent! I saw Micah and his wonderful dad two months ago when I was visiting my cousins in the Sylacauga, Alabama area.

WOW, now there is two!

Congratulations Kevin, Monica, and Micah!

I know that God has placed little Ethan in very capable and loving hands.

Those hands resemble His own.

I should know.

On the other side: Sarah Western, my friend

I was sitting in the Pritzker Pavilion of Millenium Park here in Chicago last night, waiting for the free concert to begin. I was reading through the Metro section of the Chicago Tribune, when I was stunned by what I saw.

There was a large picture of my friend Sarah Western (not sure of her married name, and I don't have the article with me here at the computer) in the Obituary section of the paper.

Sarah was a precious sister in Christ. She and I met when she started attending Chicago Tabernacle (my former home church) about four years ago. Her first time was on a Thursday night during the prayer meeting.

A few weeks later, Sarah let the congregation know that she had breast cancer, and this church prayed for her, regularly and continually.

I can remember Sarah coming to Sunday morning worship with her "head wrap" on because of the chemotherapy/radiation had taken her hair, and would always be one of the most loving and gracious people in the meeting.

I also remember how Sarah gave a brief testimony on New Year's Eve 2005 as to how the Lord was working in her life, and how the cancer was in remission at the time.

A few months later, this dreaded disease returned--this time to her liver and spleen.

The last time I actually had a chance to sit down and talk with Sarah was some ten months ago when she and I went to lunch after a Sunday morning service, with another friend of ours. Sarah was telling us how she had met this great guy, and how she was beginning to fall in love with him. We were thrilled for her. (And secretly I was jealous of the guy, because he was getting such a GREAT woman). I distinctly remember Sarah saying, "Phil, he dances with me, and that is such a dream come true. I've always wanted a man who will dance with me."

A few months later these two were married. This brave and gentle man married one of the most special people I've ever met. He also knew what he was getting into, and the Lord blest their brief, but profound marriage.

Now Sarah has gone on to be with the Lord Jesus who she loved and worshipped. I'm saddened. I feel a tremendous loss right now.

I'll attend the memorial service this Sunday afternoon for her.

She has seen "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." She is "really living" now.

Looking Around....

I was talking to a friend who lives in Somerset, Kentucky the other day. Actually I was calling to wish one of his family members a "Happy Birthday." This man is just a wonderful, gentle and gracious person in every sense of the word.

I wonder just what folks would say about "me" behind my back?

And I know that I am probably not alone, when I wonder such endless things.

What do you think others say about you behind your back?

A warning to some "neighbors."

As most of us have been watching the crisis in the Middle East (and then we ask, "when hasn't there been a crisis in the Middle East?"), it seems as though the tensions are just getting hotter and hotter.

The United States invasion and subsequent overthrow of Iraq, and our continuing presence there has caused more than one eyebrow to be raised--both here and there.

Now Hezbollah and Hamas have made the tragic mistake of capturing/kidnapping Israeli soldiers while they were performing their professional duties.

Bad mistake. Bad, bad mistake!

When Israel acts, it doesn't have to ask anyone's opinion--and usually doesn't want anyone's opinions. Just ask the Lebanonese.

Now I'm not so pro-Israel that I can't disagree with some of the military and political/economic decisions the ruling government has made over their 58-year history. But Israel has the absolute right to protect itself, period.

The Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians, and anyone else who would want to "destroy" Israel should be watching, and taking some careful notes.

You had better think twice before you mess with Prime Minister Ohlmert's military.

Make that three times. Or more.

Should Iran or Syria decide they want to attack Israel, I have no doubt in my mind that Ohlmert would waste precious few seconds making the world's largest parking lot out of either one or both nations. And no smart nation would get in their way either.

It's that serious. The Israeliss have practiced far more restraint than anyone in the "neighborhood" has any right to expect---for the last 58 years. When school buses are blown up by suicide bombers, people are executed because they are Jewish, and all sorts of other atrocities--many times over the last 58 years. These people have every right to national security, without the fear of some rogue nation wanting to wipe them off the face of the earth.

In the meantime, we really do need to "pray for the peace of Jerusalem."

And the rest of the Middle East.

She's my HERO...

My sister Cynthia (who now goes by "Cindy") Elmore. She's my hero. Here's why:

1) She grew up with a severe speech impediment, but through alot of hard work with a therapist and the healing hand of the Lord, she speaks as clear as a bell now.

2) She married a wonderful man (Scott Elmore) whom I knew when he was just a snotty-nosed kid running about our neighborhood. His older brother Danny was/is one of my best friends.

3) She has completely committed her life to the Lord Jesus Christ. This family are devoted members of their local church, and are committed to raising their two children (Chelsea and Caleb) in the fear of the Lord.

4) She is the mother of two wonderful children: my precious niece Chelsea, and my rambunctuous nephew Caleb. I love them both dearly.

Cynthia is a loving woman, and has been teaching school now for almost twenty years. She has overcome obstacles that would have crippled most people.

And she's done it with grace, dignity, class, and charm. I love her dearly. She continually tells me that I am her hero.

But really, if the truth be told:

She is my hero!

So what does it mean to be "a community of saints"?

Eight years ago (May 1998) I had the wonderful privilege of studying at the Nazarene Theological Seminary (www.nts.edu) in Kansas City for a short summer session. The professor for this class was then-Pastor of Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene (CA) Dr Stephen A Green. The course was entitled "Pastoral Implications of the Gospel Narratives." It was a marvelous class.

Pastor Green said so many "profound" things during that week, but something has stuck in my mind ever since. Actually several things have "stuck" in my mind, but this one in particular:

"Is your local church a collection of individuals, or a community of saints?"

Now some eight years later, that question is still as valid as when it was originally asked.

I've been marvelously blest to worship in some of the "finest" and "largest" congregations here in the United States, as well as some of the largest in the world. It is a blessing and privilege that I've not taken lightly. But looking back, I do have some questions about the "church" as we know it today.

First, "What does it mean to a congregation to be a 'community of believers' in their locale?"

Second, "Which is more important to those 'leading' the congregation: To be a leader, or to be a shepherd?"

Third, "How do we help people get involved in the lives of their fellow believers in the congregation?"

Finally, "What are the trademarks of your local church?"

So what say ye?

Some things never change....

I was just reading a post from my friend Travis Johnson (down in the Miami area) @ www.pastortrav.blogspot.com where he was talking about moving for the fifth time in four years.

I feel for you Trav...I really do!

But I was also meditating on those things that never really change:

1) God's love for us. Regardless of where we go, what we do, or how long we remain aloof, we can always know that GOD WILL LOVE US. He may not always condone what we are doing, but His love for us is unchanging. Even when we walk away from Him, and refuse to live in His reality. Even if we decide to spend eternity in hell--He still loves us.

2) Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father. Now here is where I will "part ways" with many of my friends. I believe and cling to the claims of Jesus Christ, when He said, "No man comes to the Father, except through Me." Jesus is both inclusive and exclusive. He is inclusive when He said, "He who comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out"--forgive my King James English please--and His word is true. He is exclusive, because we cannot get to His Father unless we come through Him.

3) Heaven is a real place for real people. Some people in some churches in some places never sing about Heaven anymore. They never preach about Heaven anymore, and they never even mention Heaven anymore. Why? Is it because "Heaven" really doesn't exist, or is it because we are so satisfied here that we aren't longing to go "there"? My Bible still tells me that Heaven is a real place for real people. Or as the old country Baptist preacher used to say, "Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people." Sorta hard to prepare for something you never hear about, isn't it? Heaven is real!

Another saint on the other side...

Luther Neeley isn't a household name.

Unless you are his child or grandchild. Or in my case, his step-grandson.

Papa (as he was affectionately called by many of us) was a gentle soul. Always full of laughter, a good word for everybody, and just a good man.

His daughter Marie is my stepmom...and I affectionately call her "mom" for many reasons.

The last time I saw Papa Neeley was three months ago, and he was lying in a hospital bed in Huntsville, Alabama. He wasn't able to be funny, or to speak. I'm not even sure he knew I was there.

Monday night, Papa Neeley crossed over to the "glory world."

That same Christ whom he loved and served for most of his life--he is now worshipping eternally.

He is free, whole, and eternally secured in the presence of our Lord Jesus.

He will be missed. But we wouldn't want to bring him back.

And he wouldn't want to come back.

More from the "I've learned" Department.....

I've learned that even the happiest people have down days.

I've learned that whenever I'm in a big hurry, the person in front of me usually isn't.

I've learned that you should never confuse "success" with "usefulness."

I've learned that good manners can open more doors than strong arms.

I've learned that no one can make homemade biscuits like my Grandmother Hoover could.

I've learned that whatever I love to do, I do well.

I've learned that God is good--even when I'm not sure about some of His actions.

A few people in life....

make such an impression on you that you don't ever want to lose track of them.

But actually in my life, those "few" have become quite a few.

Actually--a lot of people are now in that category.

I have "reconnected" with one such person today.

Matthew Foster--my friend in Indiana.

Matt and I became pals more than 20 years ago in college in southeatern Tennessee. He is originally from the Midwest, and me....I'm just a genteel southern boy.

Or at least I used to be.

I've not heard from Matt now for almost four years--and have often prayed for him, his wife Deb, and their two children--even though I had no idea where they were.

Well, I got a "funny email" from Matthew today. I called him immediately, and we laughed until I almost cried. He had sent the email less than 5 minutes before I picked up the phone and called him.

Matt Foster is one of a kind. He has always opened his hand, his home, and his heart to me. I've always felt that I was part of the family. He's the kind of brother that I always wanted---well on some days at least.

Precious memories do indeed flood my mind when I think about some of those great, great friends that I've been blest of the Lord to have in my life.

Matt is just one among many. But he is a very special "one" to me.

And since I know he is reading this, I can say: It's my blog, and I'll write about whomever I want to write about, okay?

Go ahead, sue me.

Eight months ago today...

I resigned my membership at Chicago Tabernacle, where I had worshipped (in many ways) God for more than three years. When I say "in many ways"--I mean more than just "lifting my hands and singing a chorus"--because worshipping God is so much more than just that.

I resigned my membership in a congregation that I dearly loved for several reasons:

1) I was betrayed by the senior leadership of the congregation--namely the Senior Pastor. Whether the betrayal was intentional or not, it was nonetheless a betrayal.

2) I was falsely accused of things that I had not done or intended to do--and the accusers were then, and are to this day anonymous to me. I still don't know their identities.

3) I was being treated as though I had "no value" unless of course I was doing some type of "busy work at the church." The only time I had "value" in the opinion of the leadership was when I was performing some type of "activity" at the church.

I'm still recovering from those three years. I loved the congregation, and loved the leadership of the congregation. I deeply and sincerely felt that God had led me there when it was still a smaller congregation--and still feel that He wanted me there.

But how much neglect and abuse does a believer have to endure before they say "enough"? I'm not a "high maintenance" member--not by a long shot, but I also know when I am being "abused by neglect."

And then, when I submitted my resignation to the Senior Pastor, I was eventually contacted (two days later) and called some very unkind names, such as "coward" "flake" "harrasser" "manipulator" just to mention a few.

None of which, if you ask those people close to me, have ever been true. Of course when the same person who calls the names claims to "not know anything about you" on more than occasion (in conversation with him) then you wonder about their integrity.

And now, eight months to the day, I've still not heard from the pastor of the church--and he's seen me at least three times since then. He's had the chance to speak to me, but hasn't done so.

So I wonder how much I "really meant" to the church after all?

I guess I've just seen how toxic the situation really was--and now I'm detoxing from it all. There's alot more that can be said, but I'm not sure that it would benefit anyone or anything.

Hopefully I've learned from this very painful experience.

May God have mercy on us all.

From "Bonds of Iron"

A key element to friendships is being vulnerable. Most men, however, are afraid to draw near to others and be vulnerable. Ironically, we don't realize our fears nor our distance. Our communication is shallow: all the while we believe that it is deep and meaningful. We go through the motions with other people. We repeat our stock answers:

'How are you?'
'Not bad. How 'bout yourself?'
'That's great. Anything new?'

Psychologist Joel Block questioned eight hundred men about friendships and discovered that men are frightened of one another. We fear most the harsh judgments of our brothers in Christ. Being competent has been drilled into us. As a result, it is extremely difficult for us to reach out to one another, to be vulnerable, to ask for help. And yet, the true friend is one with whom you can be vulnerable. Many men say they don't feel 'safe.'

But if we are truly friends, we are safe. We're safe because the promise we make to each other as friends, and the faithfulness and loyalty we use to maintain that promise keeps us safe. And yet people are anxious about being honest and revealing what really is going on inside.

We are vulnerable to the degree that we feel safe. And we feel safe to the degree to which people through time have kept their promises to us. Those who have been severely abused as children or who have had trusts betrayed (adults or children) in the past will find it very difficult to be vulnerable. Yet all men have some fear of being vulnerable. Finding safety in godly relationships is essential for friendships."

--From Bonds of Iron: Forging Lasting Male Relationships James Osterhaus, Ph.D
(Chicago, Moody Press 1994,) pg 60-1, "How Friendships Work."

Angry Immigrants....

The July 4, 2006 edition of the Chicago Tribune had a front page story about "immigrants" in the city who are anxious, fearful, and some even angry about the recent backlash towards "immigrants" in this country. Many of the people who were mentioned are now learning to speak English, taking citizenship classes, and "becoming Americans" in every sense of the word.

Here's the letter that I sent to the Tribune's editor a few minutes ago:

I read, with great interest, your FRONT page story (July 4) about all the immigrants who have decided that it's time to become citizens of this nation and to learn to speak English. What a novel idea! Good for them, and it's about time.

I have zero-sympathy for anyone who comes to this country--for a better way of life--and then refuses to learn the prevailing language (that would be English, for now), and to become a citizen of this nation. If you do not want to become a citizen of this country, or better yet, learn English and make a better way of life for yourself, I only have one question: Why did you come to the United States in the first place?

I know many people who have come to this nation--and Chicago in particular--who have learned the language (and insisted their children also learn English), and have become hardworking, taxpaying citizens of this great nation--in record time. If they can do it, so can all the "others." Spend more time learning the language and preparing for citizenship, instead of marching in the streets and complaining about how "unfair" America is. If we are so "unfair" why do you stay here?

The only person in your story that might garner any sympathy from me was the elderly Asian woman in her late 70s who is worried about medical benefits. But then again, how long has she lived here in the USA?

Yes, we are a nation of "immigrants"--but we are also a nation of immigrants who have learned the prevailing language, and have become tax-paying, voting citizens of this great country.

If you do not want to become an American, please don't take up permanent space in this nation.

What say ye?

So what is REALLY important to.....?

Saturday, July 1st, I had the "day off." And when I say the "day off"--I had nothing planned that "had to be done."

Other than the normal stuff to be done at home, I really had the day to myself and was looking forward to it very much.

I did some basic household chores, some launddry, and some grocery shopping.

Later on Saturday evening, I was reading my Bible, and just relaxing some before I prepared for Sunday's activities, and then off to sleep.

It seemed as though I heard the Holy Spirit inquire within my heart: "Phil, what is really important to you?"

What an odd question---or so I thought at the time. What is "really important" to me is alot of "stuff." And therein lies the problem.

It's all "stuff."

My job, my home, my finances, my activities.....it's all stuff.

None of this is really "eternal." It's just stuff.

But yet, the God of all creation wanted to ask me personally, "What's is really important to you?"

And I'm still trying to discover what my answer really is to Him.

I could say alot of things, but I really want to know what is truth. What is "important" to me?

I'm still thinking on this one. I"m sure that I will be for a long time.