a few thoughts, prayers, reviews, and posts

5 Characteristics of Lame Small Groups | Vanderbloemen Search Group

5 Characteristics of Lame Small Groups | Vanderbloemen Search Group.

Take a peek at this blog post. Maybe you’ll recognize something from your group.


A sample Small Group Covenant

Men’s Group Covenant of Understanding

Relationship – We will be devoted to each other as men of God. We will seek the welfare of each other above the needs of ourselves. We intend to develop long-lasting friendships with each other that will draw us closer to each other, our families, and our Lord.

Availability – We are committed to the high priority of our meetings and to each other. We will share and update contact information with the group.

Accountability and Vulnerability – We give each other access to our thought life, our devotional life, our family life, our career life, and financial life in order that others can bring out the image of Christ in each of us. We will honestly and lovingly confront each other where areas of their life does not reflect Jesus Christ.

Confidentiality – We agree together that what we share with each other in the context of our meetings will not be shared outside our circle (unless permission to share is granted). This means that prayer requests will not be shared with friends and family.

Prayer – We will share with each other about the needs and issues directly relative to our personal lives. Our prayer requests may be limited in scope, but deep in our commitment to uphold each other in prayer, as the Holy Spirit leads us. We will faithfully and regularly pray for the members of our group and especially the needs of accountability partners.

Study – We will study the biblical passage(s) during the week in preparation for discussion on Fridays. When one of us knows that he will be absent, he will still prepare as though he would be present.

Group Growth – We want our group to be open to men within our spheres of influence. We will invite colleagues and friends whom we believe will appreciate and be helped by our group.

Personal Growth – We understand that we are all at different stages in our spiritual journeys. We will love each other where they are, but at the same time, encourage each other to move on in the Lord.

Church Affiliation – We are not a denominational group, nor a group from any one particular church. Any man who is interested in growing in Christ through study of the Word, and is willing to agree to the covenant of understanding is welcome.

We meet on Friday mornings at Dunn Bros. As much as possible we will stick to the following schedule:

7:00    Informal sharing

7:15    Study

7:45    Accountability and Prayer time

8:00    end

My Life Map

Before setting out on a journey it is valuable to determine where you want to go and the path that you will take. A life map is just what it sounds like. It is something to aim towards. It is a destination in the future. But it’s also very much about the path. By charting a course I am more able to define paths that I will and won’t take. Too much of life is prone to wander. (I know, “not all who wander are lost”), but my personality leans towards distraction. I can easily get off course.

That’s why I created a life map. It is an exercise that I use in my Self Awareness in Leadership course that I teach at Northwestern College. It comes from a book by the Brennflecks entitled Live Your Calling. By the end of next month I will have taken about 60 students through this process. I love the ways it shapes and directs my life.    

Life Verse:

“…I am written as a poem by the hand of Jesus Christ to live in unending discovery of him and his eternal plan to express his love with those around me.” (Ephesians 2:10 personal paraphrase)


Disciple/Learner: I will live to know Christ, delight in the love of the Father, and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Self: I will live curiously and contentedly in peace with myself and others.

Husband: I will live in devotion and intimacy with Moe as I love her as Christ loved the church.

Father: I will encourage wisdom in my adult children as I equip them to know and live in Christ.

Son and Brother: I will honor and bless my father and mother as I unite with my brothers and sister in loving care for one another.

Shepherd/Pastor: I will love, lead, and feed the flock under my care so that together we may build up the bride of Christ and share his love and message to our world.

Teacher/Professor: I will inspire a discipline of curiosity as I model and equip others in the practice of God’s knowledge and wisdom.

Neighbor/Friend: I will live as salt and light as I act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.

Daily Prayer:

Holy Father, Author of all things, I live and delight in your love this day. Allow me to walk humbly with you and to share your love with those around me.

Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, I want to know you this day and to learn from you as I follow you with my mind, my heart, my soul, and my strength.

Holy Spirit, Presence and Power of God, fill me with yourself and display your fruit in my life today: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Blessed Trinity, who binds all things together, bind me to yourself today so that I may live in your presence and peace.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Working with “That Guy”

Small Group Helps: Working with “That Guy”

“Excuse me! Mind if I sit next to you and tell you my whole life story?”

Some people like to talk more than others. Every group has one (or more)…and if you’re a group leader you are probably thinking of their name right now. The incessant talker, the know it all, the quiet one you can’t seem to bring out… These people have the potential to rob the group of spiritual growth, hinder connection, and cause frustration with group members. However, they are part of your group. God has placed you and them together so that together you can all grow in Christ.

As a group leader how do you lovingly deal with them? How do you keep the discussion moving around the rest of the circle? I’d like to offer a few suggestions from some of my recent reading.

  • Take Initiative to Lead (This is some general advice for dealing with a few different types of difficult people. Sam has some valuable things to say about how to lead people who are different than you.)
  • Interrupt with Tact (Note that this comes from a secular source and reflects one-on-one conversation. But there are some interesting ways to redirect. Just don’t try all of these at your next meeting )
  • Include everyone. You may want to have quieter members read the passage or list the people mentioned. One reason to study as a group is to get input from the group—that is, everyone. Be sure everyone understands this. For those who are more talkative it sometimes helps to say, “Let’s hear from those who haven’t had a chance to say anything yet.” Establish eye contact with quieter members and look less often at the “talkers.” They will probably contribute regardless of your attention.
  • Give the Talker another Role: How can a Bible study group benefit from a talkative member? One idea is to have him/her serve as the group “summarizer.” Give him/her the opportunity several times during the course of a study session to summarize what has taken place up to that point. This responsibility will give him/her the opportunity to talk, while at the same time demanding that he/she develop good listening skills.

Those are some of my ideas. What has been working in your group?

John Stott’s Daily Prayer

This morning – over another cup of coffeee – I read the daily prayer of John Stott. I was impressed again with the simplicity of prayer and a life of seeking God. This prayer wouldn’t set the world on fire if prayed just once or twice. But imagine the impact on your life if this was your focus and passion that fueled you every day.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control

Holy, blessed and glorious trinity, three persons in one God, have mercy upon me.

Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.

Lord Jesus Christ, Savior and Lord of the World, I worship you.

Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now, and shall be forever, Amen.

The Church Fathers on Peacemaking

Today I spent a few hours working on some background research for my thesis and worked through what the Church Fathers said in regard to Matthew 5:9. What does “blessed” mean? “Who are the peacemakers?” “To what extent does peacemaking go?”

I came across a letter from St. Jerome written to Theophilus, the bishop of Alexandria in 399 A.D. Apparently, St. Jerome and John of Jerusalem were having a tiff over various theological and ecclesiastical matters (that I won’t get into here). What I want you to see is the beauty of Jerome’s language and the vivid pictures he creates with his words.

St. Jerome in his study

“You have quoted many passages from the sacred books in praise of peace, you have flitted like a bee over the flowery fields of scripture, you have culled with cunning eloquence all that is sweet and conducive to concord. I was already running after peace, but you have made me quicken my pace: my sails were set for the voyage but your exhortation has filled them with a stronger breeze. I drink in the sweet streams of peace not reluctantly and with aversion but eagerly and with open mouth.”

I wish that today’s peacemaking could carry that same spirit. Sadly, the history of mankind is less one of generosity and more of selfishness and defiance between each other. Cyprian gives us the character of a biblical peacemaker in his First Treatise on the Unity of the Church.

“If we are fellow-heirs with Christ, let us abide in the peace of Christ; if we are sons of God, we ought to be peacemakers. “Blessed,” says He, “are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the sons of God.” It behoves the sons of God to be peacemakers, gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, faithfully linked to one another in the bonds of unanimity.”

My wish for the church would be to take up the example of our church Fathers. Set your sails for peace. Be gentle in heart, simple in speech, agreeing in affection, and linked in the bonds of unity.

St. Patrick’s Day – more than just green beer.


“Daily I expect murder, fraud or captivity, but I fear none of these things because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God almighty who rules everywhere.”


Mythbusters would have a field day with St. Patrick’s Day legends.

  • Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. Busted
  • Patrick used the shamrock as a symbol to teach the Trinity. Plausible
  • Patrick was a humble missionary of enormous courage who regularly referred to himself as “a sinner”. Confirmed


Whether Patrick was the first missionary to Ireland or not, paganism was still dominant when he arrived. “I dwell among gentiles,” he wrote, “in the midst of pagan barbarians, worshipers of idols, and of unclean things.” His foes were real and their power substantial. However, he claimed the power of Christ and the resurrection and brought a message of hope and peace, forgiveness and joy to the people of the emerald isle.

“I am,” he says, “greatly a debtor to God, who has bestowed his grace so largely upon me, that multitudes were born again to God through me. The Irish, who never had the knowledge of God and worshipped only idols and unclean things, have lately become the people of the Lord, and are called sons of God.”

St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.



After a long, hard day of work I love to retire to the refuge of my home. Not!
I love my home and my family, but there is usually a meal to make, mail to sort, dishes to clean, and so forth. Hardly a refuge. You know the drill. You change from one set of expectations to another. Different activities, but the same pace and relentless demands. It seems like the world doesn’t slow down. Only the scenery changes.
There is an antidote for this, you know. But it involves sacrifice and swimming upstream against the ubiquitous din of our culture. The answer is silence.
Silence is the white space that gives the text its meaning. We often think it is the words, but you would only be able to distinguish the shape of the letters when they are in contrast to the white space around them. Silence gives meaning to our thoughts and words.
Our world runs at a frantic pace in which one thing after another bombards us and call out for our immediate and full attention. Cell phones, text messages, billboards, radio ads, television programming, emails, letters and personal conversations demand that our senses be tuned to their urgent demands for attention.
Doesn’t that make you long for the leisure of thought and reflection?
The Biblical writers lived in a less complex world. Yet even they understood the value of silence. Job expressed it near the end of the book. This was after listening to the incessant babble of “wisdom” from his friends. Once Job encountered God and understood who God is he quit talking and started worshipping.
Then Job answered the Lord: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.” ” (Job 40:3–5)
When the Lord confronted Habakkuk over the grievous sin of the nation, he replied with silence.
But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” ” (Habakkuk 2:20)
At the end of the age, when God breaks open the seventh seal of judgment on the earth, the only appropriate response will be silence.
When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. ” (Revelation 8:1)
We underestimate the value of silence in our world today. Silence is an act of humility that speaks little and comprehends much. Listen to the words of Robert Webber, from his book, The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship.
In the presence of the mystery of the being of God, silence is an appropriate act of worship. Silence is the recognition that human utterance is often presumptuous in the face of the divine self-revelation. Before the Creator, the creature must confront his or her finitude. The worshiper is as nothing before him who is all. The biblical worshiper understands that to occupy oneself with verbal products of the human mentality is an act of pride, in effect a denial of God’s place as sovereign Lord (Ps. 131:1; Job 42:3).[1]

In music it’s easy to think that the notes are the most important part of the score. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the rests. No cacophany of empty phrases. No scripted soliloquies. Just me. And God. In silence. In worship. 

[1] Robert Webber, The Biblical Foundations of Christian Worship, 1st ed. (Nashville, Tenn.: Star Song Pub. Group, 1993), 290.

The Arlow Carey Underlined Bible

Arlow Carey, as my grandfather, was a fixture in my life for many years. When he passed away a couple years ago, the family entrusted me with his Bible, a treasured possession by both of us. This isn’t an ordinary Bible.

The specs: It is a Thompson New Chain-Reference Bible (third improved edition) that was purchased from Leroy Gager in 1936. On the back of the title page are these words, “I bought this Bible in 1936. It has the “third” new cover now in 1980’s”. What does that say about a man? I suppose first it says a lot about his love for the Word of God and its author. This Bible was carried for nearly 70 years – all through his adult life. It spent time in his recliner, in his lap during sermons, on the breakfast table with weak coffee and burnt toast, on a lectern as he taught adults and hundreds of other places. I’m sure that it went to Gideon meetings. It probably accompanied him to Africa. My own memories place this Bible in his hands as he read the Christmas story every year.

Frankly, the Bible shows the wear and tear. Though treasured and recovered, it’s a mess. I would have changed it out years ago. Stained by oily hands, it bears the marks of torn pages oft repaired by tape. Some entire sections (the Epistles) show lots of discoloration and marks over marks, and at times, underlining further enhanced by highlighting. It takes me back to a day when people didn’t just toss aside something because it was worn, but actually cared for it, recovered it, protected it, and milked it for all it was worth. Arlow owned and drove more than 100 cars in his lifetime (and he could tell you the price paid and received, miles driven, repairs, etc. on every single one of them.) But he only owned this Bible.

I think that says something about more than just Arlow. It speaks to me of the permanence of God’s Word. All of those cars are now forgotten. Sure, there are pictures (if you have one send it!), and somewhere there is a list. But there is still only one Bible. You and I will acquire mountains of stuff over our lifetimes, but some things remain forever.

This is the 400th year of the King James Bible. This is the Bible of my youth. I grew up memorizing these words. I rattled off words like perisheth and clave. Just this morning I smiled when I came across the word “clave” in the story of Abraham and Isaac. When was the last time you claved wood? See, made you smile.

I haven’t read the KJV in many years, but felt a call to revisit it. Yes, it’s old. No longer speaketh I the same. But it is part of my heritage and part of my history. I honor the men and women who died to put it into print 400 years ago. I have lots of Bibles. I have Bibles like Arlow had cars. I’m looking now fondly at my college Bible – a brown NASB, purchased as a freshman at Moody Bible Institute (who also published it) at a warehouse across the street. It had a defective cover with a small spot of glue that discolored it. I read it cover to cover and underlined and highlighted it. I took it everywhere. But somewhere I changed it out for another version, another printing, and another format. Always something new with me.

So in returning to this Bible I am doing something on several levels. I am asking God to speak to me fresh, but in 400 year old words. I am also connecting to something deeper – to generations and to history. The God of the past remains the God of the present.

I am also very, very curious to learn about my grandfather.

He did a lot of underlining (pencils and pens) and there was a phase of his life when he highlighted. I can’t tell the dates or occasions. On rare occasions he put a single word or phrase in the margin. Mostly he underlined. I don’t know whether a pastor said it or whether he simply heard it from the Lord on a winter’s morning and wanted to remember it. I know my grandpa’s life and I can read what he’s underlined, but I am at a loss to make a solid connection between them. I am going to read this text and pay close attention to what he’s underlined. In the days to come I hope to learn again from my grandfather. Too long have I paid attention to what is new, what is fresh, what is shiny and what is still under warranty. I am anxious to learn from a generation past and have these words speak to me of truth that does not change.

Post Navigation