Sunday, April 30, 2006
This morning, I preached on Hezekiah, and a part of my sermon was devoted to Nehushtan -- the bronze serpent.
The children of Israel were griping, complaining and doubting (again) -- a poison in the soul. God responded by sending poisonous snakes!
God then instructed Moses to create a bronze serpent and lift it up on a pole. Whoever looked up and saw the bronze serpent was healed.
Jesus said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
Later, in II Kings 18, Hezekiah breaks the bronze serpent into little pieces, calling it "Nehushtan." Nehushtan is a Hebrew blend of "bronze serpent" and "wicked thing".
The children of Israel had forgotten their Healer, and had begun worshipping the snake!
Nehushtan: Anything that becomes too important and gets between us and God.
I then challenged the congregation: "What is your Nehushtan?
I gave a few examples:
* the past
* music preferences
* My own personal "Nehushtan" was my guitar -- and God took it away from me for a while.
What is your "Nehushtan"?
At the conclusion of the service, my good friend, Ron, came up to me with a protest:
"Why do you always pick on the stuff I like? How about it you went after the older ladies and preached about knitting or quilting?"
I smiled and replied, "I'll do that next week."
Gospel = loving the Lord Jesus for His substitutionary death and resurrection
Culture = loving your lost neighbors
Church = loving your Christian brothers and sisters
Gospel + Culture - Church = Parachurch
Culture + Church - Gospel = Liberalism
Church + Gospel - Culture = Fundamentalism
Gospel + Culture + Church = Missional Church
Saturday, April 29, 2006
By Lord Byron
The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
Friday, April 28, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The old gridiron soldier, Brett Favre, is coming back to the Pack for one last hurrah.
The Packer fans hope there are more "hurrah's" for him this year than last. (At 4 and 12, there wasn't much hurrah at Lambeau.)
This summer, I'll take my boys back to training camp so they can see him once more before the skipper goes the way of all old quarterbacks.
Old quarterbacks never die . . . they just pass away!
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Famous Dave comes to Hayward Wesleyan Church almost every Sunday.
Yes, it's the "Real" Famous Dave -- with the best BBQ chain in America.
Although his home is in the Twin Cities (three hours away), he finds his way to Hayward nearly every weekend -- and I'm blessed to see him in church.
Dave is one of the most inspiring people I've ever met. He stretches my vision.
Whenever I ask him how he's doing, he always responds, "Ribalicious!"
One night at about 11:00 p.m., I was awakened by a phone call. Dave was on the line. "Mark! Quick! Turn to the Food Network! You have the Food Network, don't you?"
I mumbled, "I don't think so" -- but after hanging up, I surfed the channels and found out we actually do!
Dave was being interviewed about his world class BBQ ribs, and he ended up turning the conversation around and talking about matters of life and faith. I was really proud of him.
I recall once giving Dave one of John Maxwell's Injoy Life tapes. He listened to it a dozen times, and then called Injoy and ordered almost all of the resources they carried! He had a whole garage full!
Later, he and John connected up personally -- John featured Dave in his outstanding book Failing Forward, and agreed to speak for Dave's management team in the Twin Cities. I'll never forget that wonderful day, as Dave introduced his leaders to John Maxwell, and John introduced them to Jesus.
Randy, an outstanding leader who lives in Hayward, opened his life to Christ that day -- and is now a faithful servant of the Lord.
One day, recently, Dave was asked to speak to a huge gathering of business leaders. Guess what he told them! "Get your kids into Sunday School!"
He had a brief stint last year as the Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (but Dave's a visionary leader, not a beueaucrat.)
Now, he's developing a Lifeskills program to shape and inspire young people to reach their potential (with a target on Native American kids.)
Now, that's Ribalicious!
He attended a seminar I gave for Methodist pastors in Atlanta a couple of years ago -- and was recently inspired to come north to glean insights.
Rod drove 13 hours yesterday in order to be at our pastoral staff meeting this morning at 8:00 a.m. He is hoping to learn a lot from us over the next several days -- sort of a "continuing education" experience.
I am impressed that he would go to such lengths to learn more about effective ministry -- and amazed that he chose US to be his teachers.
He's been taking a lot of notes.
Either he's really inspired, or he is actually an undercover "expose" reporter for 20/20.
Just in a few short hours together today, I've learned much from him! Learning is always a two way street.
"To pray successfully is the first lesson the preacher must learn if he is to preach fruitfully; yet prayer is the hardest thing he will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act he will be tempted to do less frequently than any other."
-- A. W. Tozer
Monday, April 24, 2006
Spirit of the living God, be the Gardener of my soul.
For so long I have been waiting, silent and still —
experiencing a winter of the soul.
But now, in the strong name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:
Clear away the dead growth of the past,
Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,
Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge,
Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,
Cultivate and water and tend my heart,
Until new life buds and opens and flowers.
— Prayers From the Heart by Richard Foster
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Well, join the club! You're in good company.
Troubles are simply a part of living. It's a package deal. You have to accept the bad along with the good. The only way to be trouble free is to be dead!
Some folks think they deserve to be excused from problems. Whenever a difficulty arises, they whine and complain about how unfair life is to them. They don't realize that life isn't fair to anybody -- and thus, become swamped in the mire of self pity.
Instead of griping about a hard situation, wouldn't it be better to face it boldly -- committed to see things through? You can cry til the cows come home, and that won't fix the situation one bit. It takes courage to buckle down and face the truth.
I do not know why heavy hardships are a part of life's package. I don't have a pat answer for the difficult perplexities.
Yet, I do know that the struggle helps us grow, if we maintain the right attitude.
1. Trouble teaches wisdom. There is no such thing as a wise person who has not gone through the dark valley. Your problems are your teachers. John Maxwell says, "If you fall down, you might as well pick something up while you're down there!"
2. Troubles keep us humble. Just when you think you're the big cheese -- WHAMMO -- a hefty difficulty plops into your lap. It's hard to be puffed up when you're carrying a load of trouble. In bad times, we realize we can't control everything, and we have to trust God more.
3. Troubles bring patience. James 1:2-3 states, "Is your life fulled with difficulties and troubles? Then, be happy! It is only then that your patience will increase. So, let it grow, and don't try to squirm out of your problems."
4. Troubles turn us into helpers. We become more compassionate through suffering, Instead of nursing our sorrows, it is far better to encourage others in the same direction. There is nothing more comforting than a genuine friend who understands.
We can face our problems wiht greater courage when we realize that they are only opportunities in disguise.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Out of 105 church visits, less than 10% made any type of follow-up attempt whatsoever, and only five made a personal visit.
Following up on newcomers has become more complicated for us at Hayward Wesleyan Church, due to the growth and increased visitors of the church.
Still, we make every effort to contact our local guests at least a couple of times.
When I was just starting out, and the church was smaller, I made a personal follow-up call on every visitor to the church. I taped a note onto my desk, which read:
"If You Go, They Will Come."
In other words, if I go where they are during the week -- they will come and see me on Sunday mornings!
I have a team of staff members and small group leaders, and hospitality volunteers who do most of that work now. Heath Davis, the pastor in charge of Spiritual Formation, does an outstanding job welcoming our guests.
The principle remains the same however -- people want to be wanted and love to be loved!
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Since the days of Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics in the Middle Ages, theology has been done by sitting and reading, thinking and reasoning, seeing the logical connections between ideas, and drawing conclusions from them.
It was a very sedentary activity that took place not in the world of action but in a secluded academic womb, be it a monastery, a university or a seminary.
This style of theology produced volumes of books that could fill entire libraries, but very little of it touched the daily lives of people or had much effect on the world in which they lived.
-- The Wild Man's Journey p. 155 by Richard Rohr
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
My friend, Steve Gerich, recently shared this great thought from N.T. Wright's Simply Christian:
I use the word "church" here with a somewhat heavy heart. I know that for many of my readers that very word will carry the overtones of large, dark buildings, pompous religious pronouncements, false solemnity, and rank hypoocricy. But, there is no easy alternative. I, too, feel the weight of that negative image. I battle with it professionally all the time.
But there is another side to it, a side which shows all the signs of the wind and fire, of the bird brooding over the waters and bringing new life. For many, "church" means just the opposite of the negative image.
It's a place of welcome and laughter, of healing and hope, of friends and family and justice and new life. It's where the homeless drop in for a bowl of soup and the elderly stop by for a chat. It's where one group is working to help drug addicts and another is campaigning for global justice. It's where you'll find people learning to pray, coming to faith, struggling with temptation, finding new purpose, and getting in touch with a new power to carry that purpose out. It's where people bring their own small faith and discover, in getting together with others to worship the one true God, that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
No church is like this all the time. But a remarkable number of churches are parly like that for quite a lot of the time.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Although I deeply respect womanhood -- and realize that every human entered this earth through the birth canal, it is still hard for me to wrap my brain around the new Trinitarian concepts which are being proposed to the Presbyterians in June.
It's hard to picture the new version of the Doxology:
"Praise Mother, Child, and Wo-oooo-ooooomb, Aaaa-men."
Monday, April 17, 2006
He has a valid point, I believe -- at least that's my excuse. "Don't blame me if I act like a snapping turtle. It's just adrenaline letdown day."
We've had quite a week:
Easter Musicals Thursday and Friday night.
Saturday, I preached our first Easter Service at our new site in Minong (51 attended.)
Yesterday, 1124 people attended our four Easter Worship Services (7, 8:20, 9:40 and the Musical at 11.)
That's pretty amazing, considering that the population of Hayward is 2100.
88 people registered a commitment to Christ (11 first time, 77 recommitments.)
Thus, we had a fruitful Easter -- and now it's Adrenaline Letdown Day -- sort of.
This morning, we are holding the memorial services for Dale Hubbell, a pillar of our church and community. I expect that it will be the largest funeral for an older person we've ever had.
So, I need another boost of energy.
As thy days, so shall thy strength be.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Excerpt from The Easter Sermon by John Chrysostom
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It was in an uproar because it is mocked.
It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, o death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
for Christ having risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
Saturday, April 15, 2006
"Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked 'No Entrance' and left through a door marked 'No Exit.'"
- Peter Larson, Prism (Jan/Feb 2001)
Last Saturday morning, our family gathered in front of the tv set to watch Brett Favre's news conference. Will the aging warrior retire, or come back with the Pack for one last hurrah?
His announcment -- "I don't know."
Now that was disappointing for all of us. We were hyped up for something big -- and ended up with an "I don't know."
In some ways, his indecision was a bigger letdown than if he had just announced his farewell.
Sort of reminds me of the story about the pet turtle who died. The kids handcrafted a little turtle coffin, plucked a bouquet of wild flowers, wrote a beautiful eulogy, and dug a grave.
Then, as they were marching slowly in funeral procession, the turtle moved! He wasn't dead after all! He was alive!
"What do we do now?" the oldest child asked.
The youngest replied, "Kill the turtle!"
If we don't kill the turtle, and Favre comes back, at least he will have a chance to break a few records. For instance, only 25 more interceptions and he will pass George Blanda as the all time career leader.
Friday, April 14, 2006
Thursday, April 13, 2006
“You can do more than pray AFTER you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray UNTIL you have prayed . . . prayer is striking the winning blow . . . service is gathering up the results.”
-- S. D. Gordon
Once, a church board was facing a difficult issue.
"I think maybe we should pray about this," the pastor said.
One board member gasped and said, "Oh, pastor! Has it really come to THAT??"
"Pastor, come quickly. Dale has been injured in a terrible accident on the farm. It doesn't look good, and Joyce is going to need you."
I rushed to Dale and Joyce's house, to find a line of four police cars and an ambulance at their home. "How is he?" I asked. "He's gone", came the sad reply.
Dale's body was lying on the ground with a blanket covering hom.
Dale, in his upper seventies, was trying to pull a stump with his truck, and somehow as he was working on the chain, the truck slipped into reverse, and crushed him against the shed.
I spent the next four and a half hours with Joyce, as Dale was taken away and friends streamed in.
Joyce is an amazing saint of God. She is so full of faith and love, that it shines brightest in the darkness. I drove home praying, "Lord, help me to be more like Joyce."
"That's just the way Dale would have wanted to go," she remarked, "doing what he loved."
We're sure going to miss Dale. He was the best "behind the scenes" worker in the church -- always doing random acts of kindness. Every day, we would see him on some mission or another -- chopping wood, helping someone move, building a deck, relocating an organ, putting in a wood stove, helping with the blood drive -- you name it.
Dale was the mailman for many years. He knew the names (and histories) of almost everybody in town.
He also knew first whenever anybody in the community was seriously ill. On several occasions, he would come by the office and say something like, "Pastor, you don't know Bob, but he's only been given six months to live. He's in the hospital now, and I don't think he knows the Lord. Maybe it would do him some good if you paid him a visit."
Joyce told me that Dale didn't want a funeral. He's not the kind of guy who would want a fuss made over him.
So -- we're going to do a Celebration of His Life, instead! (I know, that sounds like a funeral, cleverly disguised -- but I'll take the risk of the haunting.)
Cathy said I should challenge the men attending the celebration to stand up and fill in the gap. There are some big shoes to fill! She figured it will take approximately 30 men to accomplish what Dale did regularly.
In our recent Bible readings, there was a passage about David's Mighty Men. Well, Dale Hubbell was one of Hayward Wesleyan's Mighty Men, and we are going to miss him terribly.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
One of my profs from Fuller, Dr. Ray Anderson saw this message scrawled with a marker on a bathroom mirror in San Fransisco.
Could the graffiti artist have been an undercover scholar with the National Geographic Society?
Last Saturday night, Cathy and I were watching the news together, when the report came on about the "breakthrough discovery" of the Gospel of Judas.
"I'll bet ___(name withheld)___ going to ask you about this tomorrow." Cathy predicted.
"Nah," I replied, "He's getting really grounded in his faith now. Even if he saw the news report, it's not going to phase him a bit."
As usual, my wife was right.
The next day after church, ___(name withheld)___ came up to me.
"Pastor! Pastor! Did you know they found the Gospel of Judas?? Isn't that amazing? We've been wrong all these years. Jesus and Judas were in cahoots on the whole deal!"
I murmered a few things about gnosticism and thought "Oh boy, we have some more grounding to do!"
Rod Pickett did a good job handling this on his blog. Al Mohler's perspective is helpful also.
You'd better not add a "Judas" insert to your Bible yet!
Although I denounce the Gospel OF Judas as just another gnostic heresy, Dr. Anderson's graffiti encouter reminds me that there is a Gospel FOR Judas!
The love and grace of our Lord Jesus extends to everyone -- and that even includes the betrayer.
On the cross, Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Forgiveness was freely offered -- but it was up to Judas to receive it. Sadly, there is no indication that he did so.
The old puritan writer, Thomas Watson, said, "The eye is made for seeing and weeping. Unless we see our sin and weep over it as Peter, we will weep as Judas."
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Ingrid, at Slice of Laodicea, reported yesterday about a pastor who kissed a goat .
Rev. John Weber, pastor of Solid Rock Assembly of God, laid out a challenge to the kids in his congregation. Raise $500 for missions, and I'll kiss a goat!
They raised $1270, and last Sunday morning, Pastor Weber puckered up!
It reminded me of a couple of goofy thingsI did a few years back.
My birthday was on a Sunday, and I told the congregation if we had 400 for church, I'd eat my cake on the roof. We had the 400 and I had the rooftop cake. A reporter from the newspaper showed up and snap my picture, and the next issue of the Sawyer County Record, showed me perched like Simon Stylites in an unflattering position.
My foray into zany gimmicks ended a year or so later, when I announced I'd kiss a pig if we had 300 in Sunday School.
"What on earth were you thinking?" Cathy wondered when we arrived home.
"If you end up kissing that pig, it will be a while before you kiss me again!" Apparently, the very idea of smooching a slobbery pig-breathed preacher didn't set too well with her.
The kids worked really hard during the attendance campaign -- but fortunately, not quite hard enough. It worked out pretty well. We had 299 for Sunday School, and I didn't have to kiss the pig!
I've retired from stuff like that. I see things differently now. Maybe I've grown up a little bit. It seems to me, the best way to fill a church is not to climb ladders or kiss pigs -- but rather, to preach the Gospel, win lost souls to Christ, and equip believers for ministry.
The good news is, my wife still kisses me after I've done that!
Monday, April 10, 2006
Last evening, our small group held a Passover Seder meal together -- at least the closest thing to it in Hayward.
Jeff and Roberta brought the paschal lamb.
Dennis and Mary Pat brought the charoset.
Charlie and Julie brought the sparkling grape juice and boiled eggs.
Cathy and I brought the horseradish, and the Norwegian Crispbread (cleverly disguised as Matzah.)
Nobody sells Matzah in Hayward, so we have to "make do."
A couple of minutes before the meal, I was horrified to read the "ingredients" on the Crispbread wrapping. Hidden away, in fine print, was the evil word: "yeast"!
Now, what was I to do?
We called it Norwegian Matzah and served it anyway!
I guess you can call me a pragmatist.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
Saturday, April 08, 2006
One Sunday morning a couple of years ago, I preached a sermon on Psalm 147:3:
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."
The theme for the morning was how God puts the broken pieces of our lives back together again -- and the new creation is even more beautiful than the first!
To illustrate, as I spoke of "brokenness" I took a hammer and smashed several ceramic floor tiles into pieces.
We are broken by disappointment -- wham!
We are broken by grief -- wham!
We are broken by rejection -- wham!
We are broken by suffering -- wham! wham! wham!
Then, I took the shattered fragments, and handed them to Joan Jacobowski, who had come onto the platform behind me.
Joan is an outstanding artist -- and while I finished preaching about the beauty God brings from brokenness, she began to create a mosaic.
In the hands of a master, the broken pieces became a beautiful work of art!
Since we have three Sunday morning worship services, Joan created three mosaics. At then end of each service, she showed us what she had accomplished -- and we cheered with tears.
The three mosaics now hang behind our new welcome center. The public is invited to stop in anytime to view them.
The center mosaic shows the cross, with the powerful, healing love of Christ bursting forth!
The side mosaics represent the world, and if you look, you will see Christ's love embracing it.
It reminds me of the old Gaither song:
All my confusion, He understood.
All I had to offer him was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.
. . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:3
Friday, April 07, 2006
Researching "the anointing" for last Sunday's sermon, I came across this interesting quote by Rodney Howard Browne, the holy laughter evangelist:
“When you get the anointing of God you become the worst nightmare to the Devil. I tell you God's going to raise up holy Ghost Rambo's in these last days. To boldly go where no man's gone before.”
Now, is that the Stallone Rambo or the Dottie Rambo variety?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Second Sunday Poetry Reading
Celebrating National Poetry Month
Sunday, April 9, 2006 - 2 PM
at Drummond Public Libraryand Historical Museum
14990 Superior StreetDrummond, Wisconsin
a poet who resides in Hayward, WI
reading from her unpublished collection of poems titled "Simple Matters"
Prior to the featured poet, audience members will be invited to read one or two pages of poetry. Refreshments will be served.
This event is sponsored by Drummond Public Library, CHARAC (Cable Hayward Area Arts Council) and WFOP (Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets).
For more information or to be included on our mailing list please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pass this invitation along to anyone you know who may be interested in attending.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Today, my son Ryan and I are visiting my alma mater -- Indiana Wesleyan University.
What an amazing place! I have not been back in over 20 years, and feel much like Rip Van Winkle. Everything's changed.
Williams Hall is gone. So is the campus house I shared with a half dozen other guys.
In their place stand bigger and better things.
Great growth equals great change. If we're not willing to endure the change, we won't experience the growth.
I'm glad IWU chose the growth option.
Still -- it was nice to see some familiar old sites: the cottage Cathy and I rented from Keith Drury, the second floor window at Shatford Hall, where I proposed to Cathy, and Eastview Church, where I served as a youth pastor in my student days.
Change is good -- but it's nice to have it blended with the familiar.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Sunday, April 02, 2006
It's Time Change Sunday -- Time for a Change!
I need an attitude adjustment.
I admit, I've always hated the spring time change.
Every spring, on the first Sunday of April, our worship attendance plummets by about a third -- it's almost always one of the four lowest of the year.
I groaned as I crawled out of bed this morning. It felt like 4:30 a.m., and I thought, who in the world thought of this crazy idea??
But now, an hour or so later, I've opened up the church, prayed through the sanctuary and all the classrooms, and my energy tank is filling up!
God is reminding me that Time Change Sunday doesn't bother Him one bit -- He can operate just fine with it!
So -- it's Time Change alright -- time for a change in my attitude.
No matter what time it is -- it's time to Praise the Lord!
I believe God is going to do something special this morning!
Saturday, April 01, 2006
So far today, I . . .
-- stepped into the bathtub, to find the water ice cold (they turned it to cold when I wasn't looking.)
-- tasted a piece of pineapple upside down cake, laced with tabasco sauce.
-- was blasted by a "rigged" dishwashing nozzle (Twice!!)
Glancing nervously over my shoulder, I've been on full alert for the next assault!
It sort of gives me an idea of what it's like to live in Baghdad.