Friday, September 30, 2005

God On a Sinner's Neck




God on the neck of a sinner! What a wonderful picture! Can you conceive it? I do not think you can; but if you cannot imagine it, I hope that you will realize it. When God’s arm is about our neck, and his lips are on our cheek, kissing much, then we understand more that preachers or books can ever tell us of his condescending love. -- Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Superpastor Revisited



Wait a minute! There IS a Superpastor!

Not me, of course. Not Bill Hybels, and not even Rick Warren (although it is super that this pastor made it on the Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday!)

No -- there is ONE Superpastor -- and his name is Jesus!

"May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenan brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
-- Hebrews 13:20-21

"The Lord is my Shepherd. . ." -- Psalm 23:1

I might be a pastor -- but I'm not The Shepherd (Superpastor). I'm just a sheep!

The job description for sheep: Stay close to the shepherd, follow his voice, and feed in his pastures.

Superpastor


Superpastor is Omnipresent, Omnicient, Almighty, The Great Creator, All Loving and always Full of Grace.
Superpastor lives on a pedestal. (But pedestal,dwellers discover there is only one direction go from there. Gravity mandates that!)

Superpastor, like Superman, is a mythological figment of someone's overactive imagination.

I am not Superpastor -- but he's tried to take me on a few times.

Rob Bell, in his excellent book, Velvet Elvis, says:

I had to kill Superpastor.
I had to take him out back and end his pathetic existence. . .
And the only way to not be killed by him is to shoot first!

During this struggle, Bell wrote in his journal, "Your job is the relentless pursuit of who God has made you to be. Anything else you do is a sin, and you need to repent of it."

'Amartia -- sin - -means missing the mark.

Good thing Superpastor is a bad shot!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

FEMA


FEMA hasn't had much positive press in recent weeks. A quick google news search of "FEMA" found 37,518 articles about the beleagured government organization -- almost all of it negative press.

Why has there been such ire against an agency that is supposed to help people? Because they were s...l...o...w... to respond to the great emergency -- and when they did respond, it was with wasteful haste. (i.e. the cruise ship debacle)

Pastors need to learn a lesson from FEMA. If a crisis erupts -- respond quickly but don't react irrationally!

A quick, informed, and thoughtful response to needs is imperative for effective ministry!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

On Wesleyan Doctrinal Distinctives

Recently, there has been some scuttle about the need to clarify the "Wesleyan" doctrinal distintives. A panel of distinguished Wesleyan scholars met a few months ago, for a Doctrinal Symposium to discuss what it means to be Wesleyan.

I applaud their efforts, and was impressed with their papers -- they are a fine group of godly thinkers, and I have good friends among them.

There is, however, one small issue that troubles me.

The quest for "Wesleyan doctrinal distinctives" may be more allusive than our search for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

Question: What do Wesleyan's believe?
Answer: Which Wesleyans? Indianapolis Wesleyans? Emergent Wesleyans? Brooksville Wesleyans? Wisconsin Wesleyans? Indiana South Wesleyans? California Wesleyans?

Who gets to call that shot?

One of the beautiful things about the Wesleyan Church is it's variety.

If we're the only ones holding to a particular doctrinal distinctive -- doesn't that make you wonder?

The Right Rev. Wesley himself said that he was not advocating a new doctrine -- but rather, practicing the old one!

I'd rather live near the center of the flower -- that's where the nectar is! Some folks dwell on the distinctive petals -- but there you find narrow mindedness, error and misguided zeal.

Out on the petals is where you will locate the hyper-pentecostals, the hyper-calvinists, the hyper-papists, and the hyper-wesleyans!

I think it would do our church well to live the sweet spot -- the center: loving God with all our hearts, and our neighbors as ourselves.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Wilbur


I saw today that my friend, Wilbur Williams, was recently honored as "A Friend of Israel."

"Mi Amigo, Su Amigo" Does that mean I'm a friend of Israel too?

I've had the opportunity to go to Israel a couple of times -- the second time with Dr. Williams. He is a delightful and inspiring guide -- a walking Bible encyclopedia!

An authority on the Old Testament and Biblical Archaeology, Dr. Williams teaches at my alma mater, Indiana Wesleyan University. He's been to Israel over 100 times.

I'm hoping to bring some people from our church and go with him next May.

A trip to the Holy Land is like a "fifth Gospel" -- it brings the Bible to life!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Beating Impure Thoughts

This weekend, the men of our congregation went on a retreat together. On Friday night, around a crackling campfire, we discussed "every man's battle": the struggle with lust.

The question arose, "How do you deal with impure thoughts?"

A sparkly eyed senior citizen piped up, "Move to Wesleyan Retirement Village in Brooksville, Florida!"

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Elizabeths

On Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from my friend Elizabeth. She grew up in our church -- and is now a teacher in the Twin Cities.

She shared the heartbreaking story of a family who had lost everything but a few clothes and their car in Hurrican Katrina. They were relocated to Minneapolis, and their daughter is enrolled in Elizabeth's classroom.

After school, Wednesday, their car caught on fire in the school parking lot, and was destroyed completely.

Elizabeth wondered if our church could possibly be of help in this desperate situation. I promised to do whatever I could.

The next morning, I mentioned this to Pastor Ben, who is champion of congregational care at Hayward Wesleyan Church. "Is there anything we can do to help these people get a car?" I wondered.

His eyes widened, and with a big grin, he pulled a piece of paper from his "In Box" and handed it to me. It was the title for a car!

One of our parishoners, Elisabeth, had given it to him just minutes before I asked. "I'd like to help a hurricane victim somehow," she said as she donated it.

The name "Elizabeth" means "My God is Bountiful!"

He certainly proved it, using two Elizabeths (one spelled with a Z, the other with an S) as his angels of grace for a family in a desperate situation!

Too Small for Something Great?


You think your town is too small for something great to happen?

In 1734, Northampton, Massachusetts, a village of 200 homes, experienced a great move of God. Within six months, 300 people were converted to Christ.

Today, it is known as the epicenter of the Great Awakening in North America.

Here is the account of the revival from Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton

I'd say something great happened in a small place!

The Pledge


Deleting "Under God" from the Pledge does not remove him from the equation!

God is here -- and we have to deal with Him -- whether Mr. Newdow wants Him or not!

Of course, a lot of people lie when they say "under God" in the Pledge. Succumbing to the sin of Adam and Eve, they'd rather trade places with their Creator -- and become His advisors!

(Note: When Job started advising, God asked, "How many worlds have you created?)

Prayer isn't telling God what to do -- but rather, asking how you can join Him in what He's doing!

When I say "under God", I am placing myself under His loving protection and wise authority.

If our nation is not "under" loving protection and wise authority -- who should call the shots? What is our standard for morality and goodness?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cows and Beans





Remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk?

Jack and his poor mother were going in the hole. Maintaining the status quo wasn't working any longer -- and they realized that a change needed to take place.

So, Jack's mother sent him to town with the family cow and some specific instructions. "Sell Bessie and bring back as much cash as you can.

"Now, it was hard to give up old Bessie. She had been a good cow, and a great source for ice cream. But now, the ice cream days were over, the budget was tightening -- and Bessie was a gonner.

And then, miracle of miracles, as Jack was leading Bessie to the village market, he came upon a gentleman with a handful of beans -- not just your regular garden variety beans, mind you -- but magic beans! At least, that's what the man said.

Somehow, Jack left the realm of sensibilities, and traded Bessie for the beans. To him, although it was hard to explain, it seemed like a pretty good idea. Somehow, there was fresh, bold, new opportunity in those magic beans.

His poor mother, however, saw neither the opportunity nor the magic. Instead, she only saw hair-brained foolishness. How could her son be so stupid?? Their good cow for a handful of beans? In fury and snit, she threw the beans out the window.

Ah, but those "worthless" beans were indeed magic. They took root and grew overnight -- far, far into the sky, beyond the reach of human eyes -- beyond the level of comprehension or even possibility.

The next morning, Jack climbed to brand new heights and explored a fabulous world of dangerous delights! Giants! Talking harps! A Goose that laid golden eggs!

There was power in those beans!

And when he grew old, Jack lived in the retirement center. There, he entertained his friends with spellbinding tales of the beanstalk adventures. A few believed him, but most didn't -- because they were the type who would have kept the cow.

It really didn't matter to Jack, however, whether they believed him or not. The opinions of others don't matter so much after you've had some life-changing experiences.

Every day, he closed his eyes, smiled contentedly, and thought, "I'm sure glad I traded the cow for the beans.

"Moral of this story: You have to give up the cow if you want to climb the beanstalk.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hypocricy

Hypocricy is the homage that vice pays to virtue."

-- Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Monday, September 19, 2005

Moses and Sigurd



Thunderclaps, lightening flashes, and rain poundings woke me early this morning. Though it is my day off, instead of rolling over for more sleep, I meandered into the kitchen, ground some beans, brewed a pot of breakfast blend, and sat down with Moses and Sigurd Olson.

I have such diverse friends!

They both spoke to me this morning about the spiritual value of craftsmanship.

Bezalel and his helper, Oholiab, two unassuming artisans, built the Ark of the Covenant, as well as the other sacred tabernacle furniture. These men, today, are better known for their works rather than their names.

Sigurd Olson, in Reflections From the North Country, reflecting fondly about his two handmade canoes (better than anything produced by a factory), his Finnish knife, and the handbeaded moccasins hanging on his cabin wall, remarked:

It disturbs me to note the loss of the old traditions that came into being from the time of men made things with their hands. Tools were important, and pioneers often forged and tempered their own. There was more time to do work well, and craftsmanship was a matter of pride, and, often, survival.

A few weeks ago, when we built a simple tree fort in the woods behind our house, Luke and Wes, somehow, received an unspoken validation of their manhood.

It's better than the Taj Mahal -- because they built it with their own hands.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Smaller, Most Important Church


My congregation was surprised when I made the announcement: “I don’t know if you realize it or not, but I pastor another church besides this one.”

“My other church is not nearly as big as this congregation – in fact, it only has seven people on the membership rolls.”

A couple of board members raised their eyebrows and looked at each other in suprise as I continued.

“Although I love Hayward Wesleyan church a lot, I need to let you know I love my other church more – and I if I ever had to choose between the two, it’s a slam dunk decision. I’ll pick them!”

“One unique thing about my smaller church – all the members have the same last name: Wilson! My little, most important church is my family!”

The congregation cheered when I said that. They’re glad to see me cherish my family.

Unfortunately, many church workers are so preoccupied with the demands and pressures of ministry that they forget to take care of their most important church.

People tend to fall into two ditches when it comes to spiritual nurture at home.

1) Overcommitment: These folks love God and come to church every time the doors are open. Family often takes a back seat to ministry obligations and duties – several nights every week. Children and spouses are often left in the dust.

Overcommitted Christians mistakenly confuse the requests of men for the call of God, and the family pays the price.


2) Undercommitment: In reaction to overcommitment, these families have allowed worldliness to creep into their lives. The “Family first” approach easily leads to a lukewarm condition, as everything else takes priority over God. Spiritual life becomes secondary to sports, camping, social engagements, and television.

The Secret to Balance? Put the Spiritual Condition of your family first!


· Love God with all your heart. Focus more on your heart relationship with Him than your duties at church.
· Your family is your #1 ministry responsibility. Key questions: How is my family doing spiritually? What can do to make a difference?
· Declare war on anything that lessens the spiritual passion of your family. (Either overcommitment or undercommitment)

· Say “No” to all requests which jeopardize this mission.

Did the Baptism Take?

At church, when the pastor announced the upcoming baptism, a little girl leaned over to her mother, and in a loud whisper, asked,

"Have you been bab-tized, Momma?"

Impatiently, the mom said, "Of course I've been baptized!"

To this, the little one replied, "Too bad it didn't take."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Leadership


In the NFL these days, any team could beat any other team on any given Sunday.

In these days of parity, what is it that separates the champion from the rest of the pack?

According to John Maxwell, it's leadership. Read more about that here.

I'm not sure if EVERYTHING rises and falls on leadership -- but it sure is more important than most people realize.

We'll see what kind of leadership the Packers have this year.

Friday, September 16, 2005

My Dream Team



We have a great Pastoral Team at Hayward Wesleyan Church. Each staff member is unique and delightful!

Many of my senior pastor buddies have shared horror stories about staff conflicts, Absalom uprisings and turf battles.

I am, indeed, grateful that I'm surrounded by a healthy crew -- and that there's no "staff infection."

Question: How do you know King David was not a Senior Pastor?

Answer: His staff comforted him! (I'm just joking!!)

Seven Turkeys


Six wild turkeys wandered through our yard last evening with the intent, I suppose, of being overnight guests.

Early this morning, on my way to the church, they were bobbing and pecking around our front lawn looking for breakfast.

I sat for a few minutes of suspended silence, in hushed eternity, observing my six new friends.

They were so close to me, I hardly dared to breathe.

I was reminded of Sigurd Olson's musing, "Beauty never stands alone, is so fragile it can be destroyed by a sound or a foreign thought."

And yet, the duties of the day compelled me to move on -- to drive past them. The sound of my engine startled them, and they rushed away. The spell was broken, and I was rather disappointed.

"There are not six turkeys here," I thought, "There are seven -- and the seventh is me."

The first time I ever preached, I was 16 years old. Trembling, I fumbled my way to the pulpit, cleared my throat several times. The booming Lloyd Oglivie voice I had imagined during my practice shrivelled to Mickey Mouse.

Then I looked down. Some kind friend had left an anonymous note for me on the pulpit. It said, "Loosen Up, Turkey!"

I don't know how it worked, but I was able to preach after that.

Afterwards, as I stood at the front door to shake hands with the parishoners, they seemed unusually elated and grateful.

They had survived my first sermon -- and we were all happy because it was only seven minutes long!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Rise Above



A view of Hayward Wesleyan Church from above! (Thanks to my pilot friend, Ralph Jacobson)

When you rise above a situation, you gain a different perspective!

Playing Past the Blisters


My son, Ryan, is learning how to play the guitar -- and I must admit, he's a faster learner than I was.

Only one in about 20 people who buy a guitar actually end up learning how to play it. Why? Because if you're going to learn to play the guitar, you have to play past the blisters!

Pushing bronze-wound strings with soft finger tips hurts! There's no way around it.

It takes commitment and determination to play through the blisters. That's why 95% of people start and quit. They play to the blisters and stop there.

"Ouch! This guitar playing is too hard for me!" The guitar goes to the closet, and the player moves on to another interest.

All it takes, however, is a couple of days playing with sore fingers, and then you start making beautiful music!

Life is a lot like guitar playing. Many times, people launch into something new-- a relationship, a job, a community, a faith journey. They begin with great enthusiasm -- and then comes the "blistering"!

"Oooch! That hurts! I think this is too hard for me!" Quickly, they back off -- shrinking into shells like turtles.

For some folks, life is just a series of blisters: one painful experience following another with interludes of hiding.

Do you want to thrive rather than merely survive?

Play past the blisters! Turn the pain into gain.

A Call to Meditation


Here is a thoughtful reflection from St. Anselm (AD 1033-1109)

Although written a thousand years ago, it speaks the language of my heart.

A Call to Meditation
Come now, little man
Turn aside for a while from
Your daily employements,
Escape for a moment from
The tumult of your thoughts.
Put aside your weighty cares,
Let your burdensome distractions wait,
Free yourself awhile for God
And rest awhile in Him.
Enter the inner chamber of your soul,
Shut out everything except God
And that which can help you in seeking Him.
Now, my whole heart, say to God,
"I will seek your face.
Lord, it is your face I seek."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fishing


A great quote from Brian McLaren in The Story We Find Ourselves In:

"The thrill of fishing is the pursuit of something that is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope."

My Hero

At Hayward Wesleyan Church, Loring Peterson is considered a hero.

Loring and Flossie had purchased an apple farm, and were just about ready to retire from their many years of pastoral service, when the Macedonian call came from Hayward: “Come over and help us!”

The Hayward Wesleyan Church was in a desperate condition: torn with conflict and shattered trust, the very survival of the small congregation was on the line.

Loring grew up in the Hayward Church, had served a brief stint as pastor in the 1950’s -- and now his services were needed again. Russell Buck, the District Superintendent, called him up and said, “We need you to come to Hayward and straighten out that little church.”

Instead of retiring to the apple farm, Loring re-enlisted for another tour of duty!

It wasn’t easy for Loring as he took the reigns of leadership: There was a big mess to clean up -- but Loring was a good soldier for Jesus – and he stood his ground with courage.

During Loring’s four year tenure, he laid a strong prayer foundation, developed young men into excellent leaders, and in faith, paved the way for the future growth of the church.

When I, a greenhorn from California, moved to Hayward to take my first pastorate, Loring told the people to get behind me and give me their full support. I appreciated that more than words can express. Since Loring prepared the hearts of the people ahead of time, and was such a positive force for faith and evangelism, I didn’t have to fight any major battles as the church began to grow.

Just a month before I moved to Hayward, my father passed away, and somehow, I felt like Loring was sent into my life by God to fill the gap.

I’d only been at the church three months, when Loring called me up on the phone and said he and Flossie were donating $2000 for our building fund.

I said, “We don’t have a building fund.”
He said, “You do now!”
I said, “What if the people don’t want to start a building fund?”
He said, “You can send back the money!”

At the next board meeting, we unanimously voted to start a building fund! There wasn’t one bit of argument. Nobody wanted to give the $2000 back!

Along with the building fund money, Loring and Flossie also donated a truckload of apples. He said, “I want you to sell the apples and put the profits into the building fund!”

The next Sunday, we had a foyer full of apples – and I preached on God’s Apple Farm (Anybody can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed!)

Afterwards, people could take apples home for a donation. Those apples went like hotcakes – and at the end of the day, we had another couple thousand for our building fund!

The next week, we had another board meeting, and I brought an apple pie made from Loring and Flossie’s Building Fund Apples. We all agreed that we had never had a pie that tasted so good!

As we made plans to build, Loring said, “You’re building too small! According to your faith it shall be done unto you! Build bigger!”

We built small anyway – and now, looking back on it, I wish we had listened to Loring’s suggestion.

Through the years, I sought Loring’s advice on many occasions. He talked me out of quitting two or three times (usually on Monday mornings.)

Whenever I was in a quandary and didn’t know what to do, I’d pick up the phone and call Loring. Somehow, he helped make sense out of everything. He would say, “Your ship was made to sail in a storm.”

One summer, a few years ago, our church went through some troubled waters. It was a Friday – sermon preparation day – and I just didn’t have any juice left in me. At my very lowest moment in ministry, I went to visit Loring and Flossie in their summer cabin. I will never forget the spiritual and emotional refreshment I received from them that day as they counseled and prayed for me. Also, Loring told me that he would preach for me, so I could get away to pray. His sermon that Sunday was just what I needed to get through that difficult time.

Sometimes, he gave me advice even when I didn’t ask for it.

Even when I didn’t follow his advice, he still gave me his unconditional love and support – and a few months later would follow up with a good hearted, “I told you so!” – because he was almost always right.

Whenever I have the opportunity to talk about the miracle in the northwoods of Wisconsin – and how a struggling little congregation became a thriving, soul-winning, disciple making church – I always say this:

“It all started with a special couple named Loring and Flossie Peterson.”

Brats or Broads?

Last evening, I was on the phone with Gary, my brother in law. I mentioned that Ryan and I are bachelors this week, as Cathy is on a field trip with the younger three.

"So what are you guys doing?"

"Well, right now we're getting ready to make some brats", I replied.

There was a long silence.

Then Gary said, "Brats? Did you say make some brats?"

"Yep."

"Phew!" came the reply, "At first I thought you said 'meet some broads!'

Laws of Nature


Wendell Berry, the Kentucky naturalist and poet, gave the commencement address at the College of the Atlantic a few years ago.

He ended his address with "10 Commands" which really are laws of nature.

The first one is especially pertinent, in light of the great natural disaster America recently experienced.

1. Beware the justice of nature.

2. Understand that there can be no successful human economy apart from nature or in defiance of it.

3. Understand that no amount of education can overcome the innate limits of human intelligence and responsibility. We are not smart enough or conscious enough or alert enough to work responsibly on a gigantic scale.

4. In making things always bigger and more centralized, we make them both more vulnerable in themselves and more dangerous to everything else. Learn, therefore, to prefer small-scale elegance and generosity to large-scale greed, crudity and glamour.

5. Make a home. Help to make a community. Be loyal to what you have made.

6. Put the interest of the community first.

7. Love your neighbors -- not the neighbors you pick out, but the ones you have.

8. Love this miraculous world that we did not make, that is a gift to us.

9. As far as you are able, make your lives dependent upon you local place, neighborhood, and household -- which thrive by care and generosity -- and independent of the industrial economy, which thrives by damage.

10. Find work, if you can, that does no damage. Enjoy your work. Work well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Sensational!


I didn't know I was this sensational!

Seriously, I am looking forward to spending a week with the sensational brothers and sisters in Christ at Pilgrim Wesleyan Church in Brooklyn, New York!

Pilgrim Wesleyan is a vibrant, thriving congregation that is really making a difference in Brooklyn and beyond!

Their senior pastor, Pierre Ferdinand, is an amazing man. He has pastored this congregation for over 30 years -- and still has the fire! I have much to learn from this godly leader while I'm there.

Really, I'm not too sensational -- but Jesus is! Good think He's coming with me!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sgt. Trustee Chairman



The officer pictured here is Kurt Barthel. He is in charge of the Sawyer County Jail and also the Board of Trustees at Hayward Wesleyan Church.

He is a good man -- committed to God, his family and his church. He is one of my dearest friends.

Every time we have an Easter musical at the church, he gets the part of a Roman soldier.

His experience with inmates helps him handle renegade pastors, naughty junior highers, and ornery board members fairly well.

He speaks softly, and carries a big stick!

This picture accompanied national news articles about the Chai Vang trial.

I Made a Good Choice


Today, I was torn between two important requests for my time. I had to decide whether to attend a dinner for our Welcome Center staff or helping Cathy set up a campsite at Pattison State Park near Lake Superior.

Every September, as a part of our homeschooling, she spends a few days in the woods in "outdoor education". What a woman!

I chose to set up camp for Cathy.

Our Welcome Center staff are the most wonderful people you'll ever meet, and I sure hated to disappoint them.

Nevertheless, spending the day with Cathy was the better choice. She really needed my help -- and the fact that I'd skip the church meeting for her (without her asking) spoke deeply to her heart.

Cathy, Hannah, Wes, Luke and I created some special memories together. We set up camp in the rain, climbed Enger Tower, rang a Japanese peace bell, went to a lighthouse, explored the Maritime Visitor Center, and greeted the St. Clair, a large merchant ship sailing into the Duluth harbor from Lake Superior

It was a memorable day I'll never regret.

If I start feeling guilty later about missing the dinner -- I'll think of this:

When it comes to my last minute on earth, and I'm struggling for my final breath -- I'm fairly sure it won't be the Welcome Center staff surrounding my hospital bed and holding my hand.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Make Me A Captive

Make me a captive, Lord
And then, I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life's alarms
When by myself I stand
Imprison me within Thine arms
And strong shall be my hand

-- George Matheson

Chai Vang



Yesterday, the news media converged upon our small northwoods Wisconsin village to cover the trial of Chai Vang.

Last November, he shot six hunters in Sawyer County during an altercation.

He says it was self defense -- but that's hard to imagine as he fired 20 shots, and four of the victims where hit from the back.

The trial carries racial overtones, as Chai Vang is a Hmong immigrant.

Race, however, should not be a factor in the jury's deliberations. It's a matter of what he did not who he is.

In the aftermath of the shootings, I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Nha Long Yang, the Senior Pastor of the Hmong Alliance Church, in St. Paul, Minnesota, over the phone.

As we spoke, I felt a unity of heart with this outstanding man of God. Our lives are very similar. We are both senior pastors of larger congregations. We both are family men. We both have hearts for evangelism and discipleship.

We both deplored the brutal slayings and we also both deplore racism.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

10 Hard Questions Pastors Must Ask Themselves

10 Hard Questions Pastors Must Ask Themselves is an outstanding article.
Good food for thought.

Half Mast


All the flags in town are half mast today. It seems we've had more than our share of "half-mastings" recently.

The flags represent our hearts -- they're at half mast too.

As the flags go down, our prayers go up.

Free Hearts

I've been reading the Book of Common Prayer lately during my times of solitude.

Yesterday, I found this beautiful prayer, which brought strength and peace to me:

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness, keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the HOly Spirit, one God, now and forever. -- Amen

Anxiety

"Anxiety creates its own disaster." -- Gregory Bateson

Friday, September 09, 2005

Murphy's Symmetry Principle

Things go wrong all at once,
But things go right gradually

A Magnifying Glass



Hurricane Katrina has flooded more than the south coastal states. It has flooded our hearts; flooded the news; flooded our lives -- even here in the northwoods of Wisconsin.

Thus far, our church has collected three trailor loads of supplies for the victims, and we're working on the fouth. The outpouring from the congregation and the whole community has been overwhelming.

Character is not forged in crisis. Rather, it is displayed in times such as these.

Disaster is the great magnifying glass. It enlarges the substance of our hearts.

In the storms of life, good hearts become extremely good -- and bad hearts display extreme evil.

Easy Departure




There has been an "Adam-shaped" hole at our house since he's flown the coop to attend Bethany Bible College. My heart is a strange mix of joyful melancholy.

I suppose it's a good thing that I have some sadness in his absence, and I wasn't happy to see him go.

My friend, Bill, told me last night about his departure for college.

"Mom," he said, "I'm sure it must be really hard on you to see your youngest son leave home."

To this she smiled and replied, "Well, Billy, you made it much easier!"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Minnow Evacuation

Yesterday, Hannah and I went on a dad and daughter date, which included a hike down a dried out stream bed.

Due to the long summer drought, Smith Creek evaporated into a crusty maze of cracked soil, dry rocks, and broken tree branches. We walked right where the water used to be.

As we rounded a bend, Hannah pointed and shouted gleefully, "Look Daddy! Look! Minnows!"

Sure enough, there was a small mudpuddle, not more than three feet in diameter, and it seemed to bubble with life.

The last of the Smith Creek minnows flipped and flopped in their tiny, shrinking sanctuary.

"We've gotta do something, Daddy, or they're going to die!", Hannah declared, "Please??"

Thus, we dashed home and returned, armed with a small goldfish net, a large Hardee's soft drink cup, and bulldog determination. We were on a mission! Together, we scooped the little fish out of the puddle one at a time.

In a half hour of scooping we rescued 19 minnows. Then, it was time to evacuate!

I'm not sure if it's legal to transport minnows from one body of water to another -- but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Quickly, we sped to the Namekagon River, and then gently, Hannah released the the little fellows one at a time.

"We saved them all, Daddy!" Hannah beamed on our way home, "We saved them all!"

"I like this kind of fishing!"

Twinkies

If we're stuffed with worldly Twinkies, we won't be hungry for the spiritual steak dinner God has prepared for you.

Our minds are hungry and must be fed. The decision of what to feed them, however, is up to us.

If our diet consists of such junk food as television shows, video games, inane conversations, shallow reading, and computer chatter -- we will end up with flabby minds and lean souls.

I've been reading White Robes and Spiritual Feasts, by G.D. Watson. He's a bit narrow -- but believe me, it's not "twinkie food" !

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Mat. 5:6

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jerry Pence


Just received the news -- Jerry Pence was elected today to be our new General Superintendent. That's exciting for me. He's my good friend!

My prayer for Jerry:

Dear God, bless Jerry. Give him your vision, understanding, strength, and peace in extra measure.

As he provides leadership for the Wesleyan Church, supply him with patience, grace, and will power.

And please, dear Lord, spare him from nit-picky sidewalk superintendents and ruthless armchair quarterbacks.

Amen



How to Be Happy

"No one is so favorably situated for happiness as a clergyman in the country." -- W. W. Andrews

I Resign

1. I resign myself to complete abandonment to God.
2. I resign from my desire to "control" people and situations.
3. I resign from my need to please everybody.
4. I resign from activity that does not directly tie to my mission

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Success

A great, insightful quote from pollster, George Barna:

"Our studies consistantly show that churches base their sense of success on indicators such as attendance, congregant satisfaction, dollars raised, and built-out square footage. None of those factors relates to the kind of radical shift in thinking and behavior that Jesus Christ died on the cross to facilitate. As long as we measure success on the basis of popularity and efficiency, we will continue to see a nation filled with people who can recite Bible stories but fail to live according to Bible principles."

Blushing



"Human beings are the only animals that can blush -- and the only ones that need to."
-- Mark Twain

Stepping Up



John Ortberg challenged his people at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church to step up to the plate and "partner with God". Each person was given $100 to invest for the Kingdom of God over the next 90 days. The results were astounding -- and can be found here.

I think I'd like to try that sometime, but I'm a cheapskate.

Can you do this with nickels instead of dollars?

Monday, September 05, 2005

Careless Catholics?

One day, our family of seven was waiting at the entrance of a crowded restaurant to be seated. The staff was obviously annoyed by by the intrusion of such a large party, and they ignored us, hoping we would go away.

Grinning back at the didainful looks shot in our direction, I recalled a conversation with my friend Judy. She is the mother of a large tribe, and would often be focus of stares and wonderment.

One day, a stranger approached her and Al in front of their kids and asked, "What are you guys? Careless Catholics?"

To this she smiled and replied, "No. . . We're Passionate Protestants!"

Remembering Rev Cheek



As this is Labor Day, I would like to take a moment and remember the "John Henry" of the spiritual harvest -- Rev. J. J. Cheek.

In 1905, the elderly Baptist preacher heard reports of the tremendous revival Wales -- and his own heart re-ignited with evangelism fire!

"I will give myself to the salvation of souls!" he declared -- and he meant business.

In two short months, Rev. Cheek received 1000 new members into his congregation (First Baptist Church Paducah, Kentucky.)

The hard work actually killed him! I suppose you could say he died "with a hammer in his hand."

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Walking on Water

If you're going to walk on water you need to:

1. Have a LOT of faith. (like Peter -- temporarily)
2. Have patience and wait until winter. (Up north here, we can actually drive on water in January!)
3. Have wisdom -- and know where the rocks are!

In our leadership situations, we need all three, I think.

In a great leadership article called "Double Loop Learning", Dr. Kenneth Boa discusses learning where the rocks are. Good stuff.

Retribution?


Over the past week I have heard people suggest that Hurricane Katrina was sent as a divine retribution -- either for Mardi Gras, the floating casinos, global warming legislation, or homosexuality.

I think differently. It rains on the just and the unjust alike (Mat. 5:45)

There are more Baptists per capita in that part of the country than anywhere else in the world. I certainly don't believe God is pouring out wrath on the Baptists.

Perhaps this is a test of our Christian compassion. We say we love with our hearts.

Do we love with our wallets? Do we love with our feet?

-------------

World Hope is a great agency that is bridging the gulf between the resources and the urgent need.

The Summer Dance

A poem I wrote at the beginning of the summer -- and now, reposting, as the summer is making it's grand finale.

Summer danced upon the stage:
A slow ballet -- but halting.

The curtain, parting,
whispers hints of happy moments
this summertide may bring

A timid pause, then from the spring
on tip toe pirouetting --
Summer's here!

Magic gliding to the tune of
green grass, orange flowers, blue skies
A choreography that flows so gracefully from June into July.

Capturing our breath, our hearts, uniting
and soulful happy thoughts begetting
The shorter days of August sadly hinting
that the dance is almost at an end.

And hardly just begun -- the coda
our summer dance is over.
how quickly good times fly.

A graceful bow
A glorious end, and then
The lights are dimmed.

The curtain falls
Green fades to autumn tones.
The silent dancer
leaves the stage --
contented, but alone

While the audience rises and wiping an eye,
salutes the glorious coryphee
With grateful hearts, and thundering applause.

"Thank You! Well Done! Bravo!"

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Grindstone

If you put your nose to the grindstone rough
And keep it down there long enough,
You'll soon forget there are such things
As brooks that babble and birds that sing,
In time these three will your world compose:
Just you and the stone and your poor old nose.

-- Harry Hidgon

The Spindly Bush



He was just an unslightly, spindly bush who lived in front of the police station in Waveland, Mississippi--

neglected and unnoticed -- until a couple of weeks ago, when the annoyed chief gave the order:

"Cut this ugly thing down! It's blocking the view of the station."

And so, plans were made to remove the anemic, red tipped eyesore.

"What is my life worth?" the busy wondered. "Am I good for anything? Nobody loves me. Nobody appreciates me. They just want me out of the way."

But then a better thought took hold of him. "I don't care what others think. While I'm alive, I'll live! I may not be the prettiest bush on the block, but I'll do the best I can as long as I can with what I've got."

Thus, the spindly bush stood boldly right where he was planted in front of the Waveland Police Station--

and on August 29, 2005, he became a national hero.

The scraggly tree destined for destruction became the rescuer of 14 blue clad rescuers.

In Katrina's hurricane winds and floods, the officers clung to him for eight hours as their small town was demolished around them.

The spindy bush saved their lives and became a national treasure.

He's the only spindly bush in the world that made the news yesterday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

T.O. Compared to Jesus



The Christian Post reported recently that Terrell Owens, the controversial standout NFL wide receiver compared himself to Jesus during salary negotiations with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Though already in a $49 million contract, he feels as if he is neither paid nor appreciated enough.

In an interview with the Miami Herald, Owens said "I don't have to worry about what people think of me, whether they hate me or not. People hated on Jesus. They threw stones at him and tried to kill him, so how can I complain or worry about what people think?"

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on the Owens incident, remarked "Owens may or may not get more money, but he does not compare favorably with Jesus."

Katrina



I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

-- J.R.R. Tolkein in Fellowship of the Ring

We're Who You Hope We Are

In light of the theological worldview test (from last post), it's refreshing to see that the Wesleyans "are who we hope they are."

I think you'll like Keith Drury's thoughts on this.

Although, I must say that I've met plenty of Wesleyans who --
"are what I wish they weren't."

(But then, I recall Tony Campolo saying, "I not o.k., You're not o.k. -- but that's o.k. God loves us anyway.)