Monday, November 30, 2015

John Wesley on Social Media

 "Let us not then trouble and embroil ourselves and our neighbors with unprofitable disputations, but all agree to spread, to the uttermost of our power, the quiet and peaceable gospel of Christ."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

I Am Thankful for These Five Things

Reflecting on the old Thanksgiving hymn, For The Beauty of the Earth, I am truly grateful. . . 

1) For the Beauty of the Earth
  Those of us who live in the northwoods, have a front row seat to enjoy the grandeur of creation.  What a  beautiful place -- with splendid seasons -- each one proclaiming God's praise. 

2) For the Wonder of Each Hour
  Time is fleeting, but I’m thankful for the moments – the special moments we pause to treasure, sitting in  the Thanksgiving Chair.

3) For Thy Church
 In worship (holy hands above) and service (pure sacrifice of love).
 I am so thankful for our church, and the outstanding leaders who serve with me.

4) For the Joy of Human Love 
 Brother, sister, parent, child.  I am thankful for my beautiful family, and am looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with them. We will miss Adam, Luke and Emily dearly – but are thankful for Skype!

5) For Thyself – Best Gift Divine.
 God has been my source of strength and comfort. I find that fellowship with Him is sweeter as the years go by. In my daily quiet time, He gives me the spiritual motivation and strength to face whatever comes throughout the day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Be Thankful

Be thankful for the pile of dishes in the sink, because it means you had plenty to eat.

Be thankful for the dog hair on the carpet, because it means you have a loyal friend who shows unconditional love.

 Be thankful for the messes, because it means some living is happening in your home.

 Be thankful for the difficult conversations you have with your spouse, because they mean  you have a partner who cares.

 Be thankful for the annoyances at work, because they mean you have a job.

 Be thankful for paperwork, because it means you have been trusted with responsibility.

 Be thankful for the light bulb that needs replacing, because it means you have electricity.

 Be thankful for the leaves that need raking, because it means you have beautiful trees.

 Be thankful for clutter in the living room, because it means you have a family.

 Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, because it means you have yard.

 Be thankful for your lumpy mattress, because it means you have a bed to sleep in.

 Be thankful for the annoying talking heads on television, because they mean you have freedom of speech.

 Be thankful for an empty gas tank, because it means you’ve been privileged to travel far.

 Be thankful for tires that need replacing, because they mean you don’t have to travel by foot.

 Be thankful for house repairs, because it means you have a home.

 Be thankful for college bills, because it means your children are getting an education.
 Be thankful for the extra six cents you pay on the dollar for sales tax, because it provides smooth highways  and other needed services.

 Be thankful for a busy, stressful day, because it means you have something important to do.

 Be thankful for your health challenges, because they mean you’re still alive.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Loving' Jesus from a Deer Stand

Through 25 years of living in the north country, I’ve come to recognize that, by default, deer hunting season is Wisconsin’s other “holy week.”

It took me a while to figure this out. Year after year, I stood behind the pulpit on the third Sunday of November, and looked with dismay upon an empty sanctuary.  In Hayward, most of the men, and half the ladies vanish into the woods on deer opener, and they normally don’t re-appear for church on Sunday morning.

Of course, there are always a few devoted members of the flock who endure the annual Thanksgiving sermon, anxiously awaiting the concluding “amen” so then can hurry up and get out there. I’m happy to report that my Thanksgiving sermon usually has the intended effect. When it’s over, there’s a collective “Whew, Thank God!” then a mad scramble for the doors.

I regretfully admit that in my foolish, early years past, I attempted to heap guilt and shame on the poor hunters of the congregation in the weeks leading up to “the great departure.” They hung their heads, as I poured it on. “Surely, you can give your Creator ONE hour of your precious hunting time. Where is your commitment? Where is your sacrifice? Where is your priority?” I even made a vague suggestion that if they agreed to sit in church for an hour, that heaven would take note of such devotion, and perhaps reward them with a trophy buck.

They didn’t buy it.

Several years ago, in mid-November, I went for the nuclear option. “People, if you truly love Jesus, then you’re going to prove it by coming HERE next Sunday morning, rather than traipsing out into the woods before dawn!”

They didn’t buy that either.

The good folks of Hayward instinctively know the odds of bagging big buck are much greater from a deer stand than a church pew.

One older fellow shook my hand afterwards, and gave me a Norwegian rebuke,  “Pastor, thank you for sharing your perspective.  But next Sunday, I’ll be lovin’ Jesus from my tree stand.”

That day, I learned a valuable lesson. My job, as a northwoods pastor, is to bless the dear deer hunters, and not try to force them into being something they're not.

Besides, what other season affords such opportunity for solitude and reflection? What occasion brings a better place for prayer? In the normal course of life, most folks don’t carve out enough time to be quiet and listen to God’s voice.

One can certainly worship in the woods. In fact, there is no greater cathedral. The splendor of creation inspires the soul to greater heights.

Hunting season imposes “Sabbath” on us. The entire town slows down, and it’s hard to find a mechanic, a repairman, or a barber. Slowing is good medicine for the soul.

Wisconsin’s deer hunting season includes Thanksgiving – and that certainly is appropriate for such a holy week.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Andrew Murray's Favorite Hymn: Moment By Moment

This beautiful hymn,  Moment By Moment, was the great devotional author Andrew Murray's favorite hymn. I understand why.

 Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
 Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

 Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
 Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

 Never a trial that He is not there,
 Never a burden that He doth not bear,
 Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
 Moment by moment, I’m under His care.

 Never a heartache, and never a groan,
 Never a teardrop and never a moan;
 Never a danger but there on the throne,
 Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

 Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
 Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
 Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
 Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How a Minister Finds the Freshness and Fullness of God's Power

"We need a generation of preachers who seek God and seek Him early, who give the freshness and dew of effort to God, and secure in return the freshness and fullness of His power that He may be as the dew to them, full of gladness and strength, through all the heat and labor of the day."
 --  E. M. Bounds (Preacher and Prayer)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Ugly Old Man

A few years ago, I took my daughter, Hannah, to Perkins Restaurant for a daddy-daughter date.

As we finished the last of our french fries, I waved down the waitress and asked for the bill. She smiled and said, "I have good news! Somebody else in the room paid it for you this evening."

"Who?" I wondered.

"Well, he said if you insisted on knowing, blame it on the old ugly man sitting across the dining room."

"Sitting where?" I asked.

She furtively nodded in the general direction. I glanced around the restaurant, and right away, I spotted Don, one of my parishioners, having dinner with his wife.

I strode across the dining room, and greeted Don cheerfully: "Thanks a million, you ugly old man, you!"

The startled expressions on their faces immediately informed me that I had made a big mistake! I'd picked the wrong ugly old man to thank!

"I beg your pardon?"

"Er. . . but. . . the waitress said. . ." I tried to explain with a red face, but the hole kept getting deeper. Finally, I quit digging. There was no graceful way out of this one.

Tom, another parishioner, sitting in a booth two tables away, roared with laughter, while his wife, Joan, rolled her eyes with a grin.

"That was the best entertainment I've had in years!" he hooted and slapped his knee. "Definitely worth the cost of a dinner!"

I made a hasty exit.

A few days later, Don's wife came by the church office.

"I really don't think your husband is an ugly old man. . . honest."

She just grinned.