In Remembrance

Pastor Mike, Spreading Light’s founder, passed away in August of 2018 and went home to be with the Lord following a battle with cancer that was not able to be won in this life. Shortly before his death, Mike asked me to take over his websites for the purposes of maintaining them and to take the burden of doing so from his wife.

This post should have been written a long time ago but it took me some time to come to grips with the loss of my closest friend and be able to approach continuing his work through this ministry. If he was known as Pastor Mike, I guess you could refer to me as Layman Tim.

As Spreading Light Ministries has moved to a new host and some of the related websites are being shuttered to be able to focus efforts more keenly on spreadinglight.com, some aspects of the ministry might look a little sparse for a time. At one point, Pastor Mike had over 20 domain names filled with theological content and all related to spreadinglight.com. That content from the periphery websites has not been lost and has been archived for now. Part of the reason for this contraction of web space is that the nature of the internet has changed quite a bit in the past 7 or 8 years. Mike saw this change and how devastating it could be to websites such as this first hand.

At it’s height, Spreading Light was reaching people in over 100 countries around the world. But Google changed its search algorithm and Pastor Mike saw traffic drop to a fraction of what it once had been, and consequently the income that supported Spreading Light Ministries also. Concurrently with Google changing search algorithms, the way people interact with the internet changed. Spreading Light was founded before social media and smartphones and as such was not built in a way to take advantage of that changing landscape of internet interactivity.

It is with all of that in mind, that I think about the future of Spreading Light Ministries. It will continue to be a repository of Mike’s life’s work. But the changing nature of the internet that I outlined in the previous paragraph also mean that for Spreading Light to continue to have an impact now and in the future and for people around the world to once again be able to find and have the opportunity to read Mike’s words of encouragement, that it has to become more than that.

I hope that you, dear reader, will come along for that journey. I would never claim to have the depth of theological understanding, educational background, or ability to write so extensively on biblical topics as Pastor Mike. I do hope though that I am able to build on that legacy in some small degree and in so doing, ensure that Spreading Light continues to be accessible to a new generation of web users.

– Layman Tim

Biblical Goal Setting

I am not a very structured person which is kind of ironic because most pastors (senior pastors that is) are very structured, strong type A personalities.  That being said, I recognize this as a weakness and I try to do what I can to accommodate this weakness.  For me, the computer helps me to organize things and I keep spreadsheets for virtually everything I do.  When it comes to real papers and such, I’m probably a lost cause however.

What’s the point of this story?  A few years back I had a graduate class on leadership.  The only thing I really remember from the class was a section on creating goals.  I recently ran across my notes from class and thought that this would make a good book.  So that’s what I did.  I wrote a short book on the subject of setting Biblical goals.

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For the most part, this book is like any other book that deals with setting goals.  What makes your goals Biblical has to do with your priorities as a Christian.  This doesn’t mean that all of your goals will be about “church stuff” but rather that you recognize what your priorities are supposed to be and that you rank the achievement of your goals accordingly.

While I had sort of incorporated the lessons from my class a few years ago, writing this book has caused me to redouble my efforts at scheduling my time and really being specific about about what I hope to accomplish and when.  So part of me wants to self congratulate and say that if I can do this, anyone can.  And I also want to say “I’m not also the writer, I’m also a client.”

Either way, I believe that the book is worth your investment in time and money – only $2.99! – regardless whether I wrote the book or not.  Because frankly these are not my ideas and I can’t claim to any genius plan, I just broke down good thoughts that other people had and put them into a book.

Currently the book is available on Kindle but it will also be released on Nook and through multiple other e-book distributors.  You can find out all about the book and how to purchase it at our new site Biblical Goal Setting.

Devotions for Life

devotions cover

So I wrote a book.  Actually this is my second book and technically the material has been written for some time, I just finally edited it.  This is a collection of a year’s worth of devotions in book format.  The paperback version is available for $11.99 (or less depending on Amazon sales) while the kindle version can be purchased for only $7.99.  There are two nice deals available along with the book purchase.  The first is that the book is available through Amazon Prime which means that shipping is free for members.  The second is that this book is enrolled in the kindle matchbook program.  That means if you buy a paperback (perhaps as a gift for a friend) you can download the kindle version for free.

Because the devotional book is twelve months of devotions, it is broken down into twelve themes as well.  I have compiled each theme into its own short little book as well.  You can see the entire list at devotional books.

I’m not big on self promotion but I’m rather proud of this book and if you read devotions or have a friend who does, I highly recommend checking it out.  I’m hoping that there is at least a small amount of success with this book as a I have a few more planned for the future.  Next on the docket is a second edition of my first book on evangelism.  That was actually published in 2005 and the print version is no longer available.  I plan on updating the information a bit and doing some reformatting.

One nice thing about being a pastor is that I’m rarely out of material for books.  Depending on how things go, I have material written for sermons that will be reworked and reformatted to go into books on Genesis and Exodus.  Whatever I do next, I’ll be sure to update things here to let everyone know what is going on.  And of course I’ll continue to publish more sites and articles as well.  I have a couple of Bible studies that I hope to complete before the end of the year, so I’ll be pushing to get them done to reach my goal.

Shuffling chairs on the Titanic

There’s an expression – shuffling chairs on the Titanic – that is meant to express frustration and futility.  The idea is that the task is pointless because the ship is going down and it doesn’t matter what seat you’re sitting in.

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to use this expression to sum up my summer – really most of my year – but I do feel as if I’ve put a lot of effort into some futile tasks.  I’ve written some about my illness this summer (and one of those posts was lost in a server move – see below.)  The short version is that I was diagnosed with colon cancer this summer.  Two operations, almost a week in the hospital, and lots of bills for my insurance company to pay and I’m pleased to say that I’m cancer free.  Praise the Lord for this and for providing great doctors to take care of me!

The strange thing about this summer is that my struggle with cancer hasn’t been my frustration.  I didn’t enjoy surgery or all of the doctor’s appointments and I’m still physically recovery from losing 18 inches of my colon a month ago.  However, I always had complete faith that everything would be alright in that regard.

My frustration and sense of futility actually comes from my web ministry.  About two months ago I decided that I needed to upgrade my servers.  Spreading Light Ministries has become a network of sites totaling more than two dozen domains and each year I’ve been adding half a dozen more or so.  This meant that it was time to upgrade.  Unfortunately my upgrade was a disaster.  Things were sold to me as an easy switch from one system to another.  After they already had my money I discovered that things were not an easy switch and I never would have agreed to such an upgrade if I knew it required me to manually move my sites and reconfigure each one.  This required about three days of constant work.

To make matters worse, my upgrade was anything but an upgrade.  My new server just didn’t work right and my sites kept becoming inaccessible.  Tech support was good when I called them but things kept crashing about every other day and I didn’t feel as if I should be required to inform them of a problem that they should be monitoring.  In the end I just couldn’t stick with the service as it was far too unreliable.  I ended up switching to a new company that I had done business with before but not for servers.

My new server has been much more reliable and I’m feeling comfortable with where I am at.  However I am still not 100% back to where I was two months ago.  A few files were lost because I restored my backups from June and anything that I had written since then was inaccessible with the crummy server.  If it seems like I’m venting a bit of frustration, well I am.

Christians are not immune to frustration.  It doesn’t mean that we lack faith.  It doesn’t mean that we question God’s goodness.  It simply means that we are human and we live in a fallen world.  Last week I preached that God is still good and I really do believe that despite fighting cancer at a young age.  But we all get frustrated at times.

I have taken this new server move as an opportunity to update a few sites.  Some of it is a necessity and some is just practicality.  But the truth is that I’ve been doing a lot of work and I haven’t really been able to create anything new.  Two months have gone by and there is really nothing to show for it despite all of my work.  That is why I feel like I’m shuffling chairs on the Titanic.

Fortunately, I don’t believe that I’m on a sinking ship.  In the end, this will be more like changing the wall colors in a room that otherwise didn’t need to be painted.  Perhaps it was unnecessary but at least I’ll have a new, brightly colored room in the end.  At least that’s the goal.  Hopefully in a week or two and things move into fall, I’ll have some new great content to add once again.  And hopefully this will be the last digital move that I have to make in a long, long time.

Maintainence work

The Spreading Light network sites are undergoing maintenance work.  In short, we switched servers about a month ago and this ended up being a disaster so now we’re switching again.  If you expected to see a different site and instead ended up here, we hope to have all our other sites up and running as quickly as possible but in the meantime please check out our main site.

Setting Priorities

In Luke 14:28-30 Jesus says  “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,  saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”

One of the greatest difficulties in life is setting priorities and making a plan according to those priorities.  Personally, I can manage priorities for only about a week at a time.  Each week I know that there are certain things that need to be done and other things that I want to get done.  It’s a good week if I accomplish all of those things.  But to apply that same principle to a month or an entire year?  For me at least, it seems impossible to know how to pace myself.

There are some things in life that are relatively easy to plan for.  If your priority is to go to college, you know that you need to work in high school to have grades that are good enough to get into college.  If you want to go on vacation, you need to save for that vacation (or suffer the credit card debt after the fact.)

On the other hand, there are a lot of curveballs that life throws at us.  A friend of mine went to college to be an elementary school teacher, only to reach the end of the curriculum and have to do student teaching.  There she discovered that she didn’t enjoy the kids as much as she had anticipated.  Likewise, you may make a major purchase only to unexpectedly lose your job six months later.  Or have your house damaged in a storm.  Or deal with a serious illness.

The point is that there are some things that we can plan for and others that we can’t.  There are times that we encounter speed-bumps in life and we need to maintain the course and keep our priorities and goals ahead of us.  Other times we need to recognize when our goal is not reachable or at least currently detoured.

I’ve recently read some of my previous posts regarding goals for Spreading Light Ministries.  I’m quite proud of the things that I’ve accomplished with the site but there are times that my goals have been laughable.  I’ve made reference to pages and sites that I hoped to launch in a month and they haven’t been launched four years later.  There are a multitude of reasons why and ultimately they’re not that important.

In the past month I have completely re-evaluated my online ministry.  There are times when I got away from my priorities.  Other times I had a new priority only to discover that it wasn’t as important or as successful as I had hoped.  In the last month or so I have shut down six websites with plans to close another two.  For the most part I’m not doing away with the content of the sites, just rearranging things in a more logical order under and a smaller footprint.  It does little good to have a dozen sites with fifteen pages each if I can logically reduce them into three sites with sixty pages each.

In church and in our personal lives, we should periodically evaluate our priorities.  We often do this when things are going well but it’s just as important when things are going well.  What worked for us in the past may not be serving us well now.  And even more importantly, it may not serve us well in the future.

This week I got to spend time with my mentor.  He was saying how much he uses Powerpoint in his sermons and presentations and ten years ago he never would have thought about it.  This isn’t someone who is afraid of technology either.  This is someone who had a job offer from IBM in the early 1960’s but ended up being drafted instead.  The point is that times change and we must be willing to adapt with it.

We need to remember that as Christians and a part of the church our main priority never changes.  Jesus Christ is always the main priority.  The difference is how we pursue Him.  Water hasn’t changed since creation but we certainly don’t get it the same way that someone did even 150 years.  We need to constantly be asking ourselves if our priorities are still in line with the direction God wants us headed in.

Welcome to Spreading Light Ministries

Welcome to the new, and hopefully improved, Spreading Light Ministries website.  Aside from a new look and a design that is hopefully easier to maintain on our end, the website is clearly broken up into five distinct sections.  In addition to this main section, you’ll also find sections on Bible study, sermons, prophecy, and theology.  We have also branched out into an audio format with our own podcast.  You can listen to our podcast, Spright, on our website, on youtube, or through iTunes.

This new format is easily searchable – just use the box at the upper left corner.  In addition, you can see how articles have been tagged so you can quickly find something that focuses on a particular topic of interest.

This section houses some of our oldest articles regarding issues that the church often debates about but aren’t necessarily thought of as theology.  You’ll find them under the category heading “church issues.”  You’ll also find answers to some common Bible questions.  These were previously on another site and have been moved here.  Feel free to ask us any burning Bible questions that you may have by contacting us or by leaving a comment on any page.

One of the great things about this new format is that it provides a place to learn what is going on in Spreading Light Ministries across its network of sites.  This is your first stop to find out what’s new.  Of course you can really stay on top of things by following our Facebook page.  This will have a post anytime there is something new to report.

What’s even better, at least in our opinion, is that this site is now a showcase for what was once a separate site in A Pastor’s Thoughts.  Now, right on our homepage, you’ll get updates from Pastor Mike regarding what is going on in his mind and what his take is on things.  You’ll get a view from the pulpit, hopefully without feeling like you’re being preached at.

Whatever your reason for stopping by today, we hope that you are blessed and that you come back and visit us again.  And if you are blessed, the best way that you can help us, aside from your prayer support, is by telling your friends to check out the site as well.  Go ahead and click one of the share buttons below.  It’s just like ringing the bell on your way out of the restaurant if you got great service. 🙂

Spreading Light through the years

On New Year’s Day 1999 I vaguely recall being on the computer, using an old dial up modem while staying at my grandmother’s house for reasons that now escape me.  I couldn’t begin to tell you why I remember any of this but I’m kind of glad I do because it marks the beginning of Spreading Light Ministries in my mind.  I distinctly remember working on the first Spreading Light website then although I can’t be certain if that was when I was still on geocities or if I had just purchased this domain.  Whatever the case, January 1, 1999 marks the unofficial beginning of the site and something that has grown far beyond my imagination.

I have long since lost count of how many page views I’ve had over the years.  I only know that it numbers in the millions now.  Honestly, I don’t even know how many domains I’m operating now without looking it up.  The only thing I am certain of is that my current plans call for about twenty more sites and I’m confident that I’ll have several more unplanned sites before all of those are finished.

I am currently in the process of the largest overhaul of Spreading Light since I moved it to its own server.  And back then, moving six pages can hardly be considered an overhaul.  Now I have over 300 on this domain alone that I have to manually update (which is why I’m making the change, so that hopefully I’ll have have to do this again.)  On top of the major overhaul of the main site, I am working on my biggest project, or technically set of projects, since launching in 1999.

So while I take a few minutes off from switching and updating files that I’ve been doing for the last eight hours or so – with no end in site – I decided to reminisce a bit and look at my old site designs.  Some look rather quaint, but do remember that computers and the internet were a different thing 14 years ago.  On the other hand, some I still like to this day and kind of miss.  So while I am greatly looking forward to the future and praying that God would take this ministry even further beyond my imagination in the next 14 years, here’s a look back at Spreading Light from years ago.

light This was the original logo from the site.  I have maintained the same tagline all of these years.  The name Spreading Light didn’t mean anything when I registered it.  I don’t remember what names I tried to register first but they weren’t available.  Spreading Light was the best sounding thing at the time.  Knowing what I now know about search engines I probably wouldn’t have ever picked Spreading Light and instead bought something like christiantheology.com but I don’t regret it.  Spreading Light has become a part of who I am now and I can’t imagine that it would be the same with a name chosen for other purposes.

test3This logo actually looked better with the rest of the site than it does by itself, I swear.  My file is dated as September 2000 which seems about right in my mind.  I really don’t know why I ever went with a brown color.  In all honesty, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen another brown site in my life.  By this point I had expanded beyond my original controversial issues into theology thanks to my Bible college training.  Theology continues to be one of the biggest areas on the site.

blackmovesigAt one point Spreading Light had a message board.  This was one of the signatures that I used.  I’m think that this had to be in 2001 or 2002 but I can’t be certain.

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This is my favorite of all of the site designs.  I really like the colors in this.  I’m not 100% certain why I moved away from this site design but I believe that it was because the pages were black with white lettering.  Either I realized that this was hard to read or I discovered through research that people didn’t like it.  Of course this was still better than my terrible yellow lettering on black background that I had.  Yes, you’re right that it was just as terrible as it sounds.  But the internet was an ugly thing in the early 2000’s I promise.

 

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In 2003 I was back to ugly brown colors.  Heartwarmers marked the first branching out of the ministry.  This collection of stories became christianlifestories.com.  In 2003 I also launched Spreading Light School.  This never became quite what I had hoped but it transformed into mychristianeducation.com

 

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This is one of my latest designs.  The picture of Jesus was taken from my home church.  This ran for probably 5 years from 2005 – 2010.  Even the current version isn’t changed much from this.  It still contains stained glass images from my home church and this if what I use as my facebook page profile.

In 2007 I started launching several sites a year.  Onlinebibledevotions.com was the first to start this but after that, there was a new site almost every month for a while.  In 2011 I was given over two dozen Bible studies by my mentor Bob Conway.  Currently only five of these have been made into their own sites.  I do have a good reason however: most of these Bible studies are over 100,000 words and the total word count is over 3 million.

In 2012 I started shutting down a few sites.  In short, I had spread some things out too far and there were too many sites to link to.  I’m still in the process of compiling the pages into new locations.  95% of the pages are remaining up, some will just be on a new site that better fits their themes.

2013 will be my 15th year doing websites and I hope to have some huge releases.  Keep an eye on this site and follow the facebook page for all of the latest updates as they come out in 2013.

Lots of Bible studies

I’ve had a good but very busy week this week.  I had meetings at the beginning and end of the week and decided to stay in PA in between rather than come back home.  So I thought I’d have a nice and relaxing couple of days off.  Nice, yes: relaxing, no.  I ran around all week and caught up with a few people I haven’t seen in a while.

Among my triumphs of the week was reconnecting with my former pastor and mentor.  On top of me being away he now spend 4 1/2 months of the year in Jamaica teaching at Jamaica Bible College.  Aside from catching up, he gave me a copy of his collection of Bible studies – very in depth studies that he’s written over the last 25 years or so.  He had them all formatted and together on one cd and was distributing them to pastors at our meeting.  And he gave me permission to reprint them online which is great for everyone.

Over the next several months I’ll be posting these Bible studies as I have the time.  There are 24 of them and they are 60 pages minumum with most being over 100 pages.  I’ll be setting up new websites and formatting them to work well with an online format.  I don’t know how long this will take but if my early estimate is correct I may need to create 2500 or more web pages.  Needless to say, this won’t be quick and easy but I think it is a very worthwhile addition and I believe that it will also be of interest to a number of people on the internet.  As always, I’ll include updates when I get the studies posted.

Embracing Facebook

I personally hate social networking.  I think that it is one of the biggest time wasters imaginable.  People who I want to stay in contact with I either see on a regular basis or email.  Beyond that I couldn’t care less that someone I know ate at Applebees and had a great time there.  I know that this is the kind of meaningless stuff that gets posted all of the time because my wife recently joined Facebook and she gets posts like this.  I honestly think that things like this weaken legitimate social interaction and because of it people are going to lose the ability to have intelligent conversations about important topics.  Actually, scratch that.  If you’ve ever read comments on any political or otherwise controversial topic, our society has already reached that point.  There’s one intelligent comment for every 20 personal attacks and pointless posts by someone who didn’t fully read the article before feeling the need to tell everyone their opinion.

This isn’t to sound like a bitter old man, just stating my dislike for the direction that things are heading.  Nevertheless I can see the way things are going and social media in its current form are going to be around for a while.  I have resisted joining before because I was certain that it was a fad that would go away sooner or later.  Kind of like Myspace or whatever was big before that.  I also had hopes of Google releasing something bigger and better than Facebook.  But none of this appears to be the case at least in the near future.

And so I have signed up for Facebook and created a page for Spreading Light Ministries.  While I have relied heavily on search engines and links from other sites to drive traffic to my own, I realize that Facebook has become a huge word of mouth traffic driver.  I still don’t particularly like it but I’m considering it a necessary evil in order to continue to expand the reach of my web ministry.  I’m really probably behind the times on this one but I’ve resisted long enough.

So, if you’d like to follow what is going on with Spreading Light Ministries and share it with all of your friends, then you can find our Facebook page at Spreading Light Ministries.  There is also a Twitter feed which will mainly just have updates about the Facebook page.  But you can follow us on Twitter @spreadinglightm or on the page spreadinglightm.