Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jesus was Tribal


Going out of town for a couple of days to attend my first Wesleyan Native American Board Meeting in Rapid City, South Dakota.

So -- I won't be posting for the rest of the week.

Native American Ministry is really difficult, thanks to the mistakes of our white forefathers.

I believe our Native American friends would love Jesus a lot, if they saw him as he is, rather than dressed up as a clench-fisted redneck.

The historical Jesus was a lot more Native than White European:
1. He was tribal.
2. He told stories.
3. He lived close nature.
4. He understood fishing and harvesting.
5. He was from an oppressed people group.

But thus far, the outreach efforts have failed miserably, because we are judged by what we do rather than what we say.

It's easier to make a toxic mess than to clean one up.

In all relationships, you make a toxic mess by dishonesty, manipulation and demanding control.
You clean up a toxic mess by understanding, trust, perseverance, and love.

The Von Wilson Family Singers


Hey, I think the Wilson Family ought to do this!

We could take our show to Carnegie Hall, and then to Vegas!

Maybe they would let us sing at Sonshine Fest or Ichthus.

I'm almost inspired to break out my harmonica!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Three Sizes Too Small


In the year of Our Lord, 1682,
To ye aged and beloved Mr. John Higginson:

There is now a ship at sea called "The Welcome", which has on board 100 or more heretics called Quakers, with Penn, the chief scamp at the head. The General Court has given sacred orders to Master Huscroft of the Porpoise to waylay "The Welcome" slyly, and make captive the said Penn and his ungodly crew, so that the Lord may be glorified and not mocked with the heathen worship of these people. Much spoil can be made for selling the whole lot to Barbados, where the slaves fetch good prices in rum and suger, and we shall make great good for the Lord's ministers and people.

Yours in the bowels of Christ,
Cotton Mather

---

At sunrise, on June 5, 1637, Colonists and Indian allies, attacked a Pequot village near West Mystic, Connecticut, where they burned 600-700 Native Americans alive. (When researching this yesterday, I was horrified to discover that one of my ancestors, a volunteer in the Colonial Army, participated in this atrocity.)

Cotton Mather wrote that the colonists believed this to be a "sweet sacrifice. . . and gave praise thereof to God." Later that month, the colonists captured most of the remaining Pequots and sold them into slavery in Bermuda.

The author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, referred to Mather as an "old hearted pedantic bigot."

-----

O.K. I'm sure Cotton Mather had many good qualities that I'm failing to mention here. I realize that we have the benefit of history to review his troubling actions. Some folks even quote him as a hero.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that Rev. Cotton's head was a size too big, and his heart was about three sizes too small.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Archie Manning


I feel like Archie Manning.

My son, Adam, preached at the Gull Lake Wesleyan Church yesterday! He's home from his first year at Bethany Bible College, and is developing into an outstanding minister of the Gospel.

This week, he has been invited to Indiana Wesleyan for a Conference hosted by the Wesleyan College presidents. Leaders from across the denomination are gathering to dialogue about how to bring unchanging Truth to a rapidly changing culture.

That makes me a happy pappy.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Church Today

Most churches lose a lot of folks on Memorial Day weekend. Our attendance goes up! We had a full house in all three services this morning -- and visitors from:
- other cities in Wisconsin
- Minnesota
- Illinois
- Indiana
- Texas
- Michigan
- Arkansas
- Arizona
- Florida
- California

Hayward is not on the way to anywhere, but it sure is a destination point!

The services were inspiring.

We had an enthusiastic worship choir leading us in three "rockin'" praise songs. After that, in observance of Memorial Day, I read the names of 25 members of our church family who passed away in recent months. After I shared their names, I opened it up for the congregation to add names of others who have recently died. It was powerful to hear the many names spoken by grieving loved ones.

One young family came to church today, specifically because I had called them and told them I was going to mention their little daughter's name in church. She died a few months ago. They rarely attend services -- but made an extra effort to be there today. It was healing for them.

We had a moment of silent, prayerful reflection, and then broke out in a rendition of "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder", followed by a couple more old classics.

The ball was on the one inch line by the time I got up to preach -- so I just jumped over the goal line for the touchdown. (I recall the early years, when the ball was often on the one inch line on the opposite side of the field when I got up to preach!)

I spoke on Nehemiah

1. Look Around and See the Brokenness
2. Look Up and Say a Pray
3. Look Ahead and Seize the Opportunity.

We finished with communion and the Lord's Prayer. I walked away thinking, "What a wonderful Savior we have! And what a fantastic church!" I'm really glad to be their pastor.

Also -- Last night we had two services at our satellite campus in Minong (20 miles away)

We held a Spanish speaking service at 5:30, and then an English service at 7:00 p.m.

Barry, the usher, beamed as he said, "Just think, we haven't even been going four months yet and we've already added a second service!"

Altogether, between last night and this morning, Hayward Wesleyan Church touched 777 people.

Hit the Nail

Mark Batterson hit the nail on the head with this one.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What an Opportunity


Jamie posted this thought provoking photo at emergent voyageur. Sort of puts things in perspective.

Self Serve


This is a very old picture -- before the cost of gasoline went to an arm and a leg.

The other day, as I was filling up my car with $3.00 gasoline, I noticed the sign above the station: "Self Serve."

A lot of people have an inward focused, "self serve" mentality. Here's an example:

While celebrating their 25th anniversary, a husband asked his wife, "Honey, do you know why we've managed to stay together all these years?"

She sweetly replied, "I think it's because we're both in love with the same man!"

Friday, May 26, 2006

How??



How could a person go from being a rural pastor's kid -- to the top of the corporate world -- to convicted felon?

Bryan Gruley and Rebecca Smith have some suggestions in this 2002 article from The Wall Street Journal. They omit the fact that Ken Lay is the son of a Baptist Pastor -- but make some interesting observations:


To the many people who know and admire Kenneth Lay, the former chairman and chief executive of Enron Corp., he's a brilliant, hard-working, decent, God-fearing man who couldn't possibly have been responsible for one of the biggest corporate collapses in history.

To some of the same people, he's also an ambitious man who grew so enamored of the trappings of his extraordinary success that he neglected their source, Enron, and blithely allowed his trusted lieutenants to plunge the company into a mire of deception and possible fraud.

It's the enigma central to the collapse of Enron. The same attributes that underpinned Mr. Lay's success -- tireless ambition, stubborn optimism and sometimes easy trust -- helped bring about his downfall.

Prayer for Guidance


My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not meean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.


Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

-- Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A morbid but curious discovery

"When I found the skull in the woods, the first thing I did was call the police. But then I got curious about it. I picked it up, and started wondering who this person was, and why he had deer horns."
- Jack Handey

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Grandpa's Church

I don't really like the phrase "assimilation" when used in reference to congregations.

"Assimilation" means "making similar". I'm not interested in producing clones or zombies.
Our church is full of all kinds of people -- and we celebrate our differences.

Perhaps, that's just a small town thing -- but the church growth adage, "Focus on a Demographic Target" doesn't fit very well here in the northwoods.

As our city population is 2100 -- if you're breathing, you're a target!!

The slogan: "This isn't your Granfather's Church" doesn't fly in Hayward -- at least if you want to have a growing, thriving ministry.

A Better Slogan for Hayward: "A Church You AND Your Grandfather will Love!"

Or, "Bring Grandpa with you to Church!"

When we're jamming, Grandpa might want to bring his earplugs -- but he'll love it when we sing, "When the Roll is Called up Yonder."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Just Wondering


I'm just wondering why the Wesleyans don't merge together with the Nazarenes and/or the Free Methodists -- then throw out the welcome mat to the disenfranchised Methodists, and other confessional (fired-up-for Jesus) mainliners.

We have so much in common, and our differences are miniscule.

Together, we could accomplish much more than we're doing separately.

I think, perhaps, the biggest thing that keeps us from seriously pursuing such progressive action is fear.

Fear of not having control.
Fear of how to handle someone who sees things just a bit differently.
Fear of what to do with all the unemployed denominational and district executives.
Fear that we might lose a college or two.
Fear that our "competitor" will be our family.
Fear of losing influence.

So, we remain on our small, isolated islands, and replicate each other's work.

The sands are shifting, but sadly, our heads remain there.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Hey Pastor, How's Your Wife Doing?

Todd Rhoads, posted this great reminder at my favorite blog: Monday Morning Insight:

Hey Pastor, How's Your Wife Doing?

I received a gripping email from a pastor's wife this week. She asked not to be identified; but she was clearly tired and frustrated at all the responsibilities of being a 'pastors' wife'. In addition, she found that her husband was so involved in the ministry of the church and his job, that he had little time for her or their family.

It's something that I hear quite often; and it's an easy trap for pastors to fall into, especially if you tend to be a workaholic. Anyway... she passed on a poem that she wrote for her journal and gave me permission to share it here; hoping that "some husbands (like mine) could really use a reminder that their wife and children are important and should be placed in priority above the church."

So read this, and ask yourself honestly... could my wife have written this? If so, take some time off this afternoon and start anew...

I want a ticket to ride,
to ride to who-knows-where
A place where faith means more than self-sacrifice.
Where faith gives and doesn't just take.
A place where men-of-God are also men-of-their-families.
I want to go to a place, where I can be myself..
released from expectations and loads placed upon my chest, weighing me down, yet no one offers to lend a hand-


I want to breathe fresh air again.
Where is this place? Does it exist? Can I find it? If I try, will I only cause pain to those I love?
Why oh Why can it not, just be-
Why is life so lonely, so lonely.


I want a ticket to ride
to a place that is who-knows-where.
This place holds a hand, it reaches out to love
It joins in when times are tough and not just flowing smoothly. This hand does not offer judgment, and condemnation, nor is it condescending.
It is lovingly, kind-hearted and genuine. It sees past the heart-ache and loves anyway.

I want a ticket to ride
a ticket to who-knows-where
A place where needs are met by many
Where secrets are not so obvious
Where pain is, where pain is not
A place where mothers are also women of sound mind and emotion. Where moms/wives are known by their first name. Where a gifts and talents are not taken advantage of but respected, and enjoyed by others.
Where is this place who-knows-where? Can I find it?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Victorioso!


Something splendid happened Saturday night at our Baby Church in Minong.

Our Mission Committee brought in Luis Martinez, the tremendous Latin American evangelist for special church services this weekend. They had scheduled him for Friday and Sunday -- with Saturday as a "free day."

I recently learned that 25 families have recently moved from Mexico to Minong (Now THAT is a culture shift!) They are working for Link's Snack Foods, Minong's only industry. (They make the best beef jerky anywhere.)

Far from family, friends, and home, these precious men and women need an extra touch of God's peace and love.

So we did something "Outside the Box"! We held a church service "En Espanol!"

We distributed Spanish fliers, and miraculously God sent us a connection person, who assured us our friends from Mexico were coming.

At starting time, however, we had a bunch of Swedes and Norweigians -- but no Mexicans! "Uh oh," I fretted, "Now, what are we gonna do?"

All our plans En Espanol just didn't seem appropriate for a church full of gringos. Luis just smiled, and said, "Don't worry, they're coming!" And then, as we awaited their arrival, he proceeded to preach a sermon before the sermon.

At 7:15, Barry, the usher rushed into the sanctuary, beaming! "They're here! They're here!"

Our praise team hurried to the front, and began to sing Spanish worship songs (We sang along with a cd, so we could follow the leader!)

When it was all said and done, 89 people attended our service Saturday night, with 30 being our Mexican friends.

Luis preached his heart out, and Maira, a church member who hails from Costa Rica, translated the sermon into English for the rest of us "gringos."

At the conclusion of the service, 16 responded to the invitation!

Now, we have some work to do!

(One other interesting note -- three of these baby believers drove a half hour to be at our Hayward Church yesterday morning. Though they can't understand English, they wanted to show the devil whose side they're on! Fortunately, God sent an angel -- Rachel, to sit behind them and quietly translate everything into Spanish!)

----

We've sent two teams with Luis to Guatemala so far -- you can find a cool story about that here.
Another team is preparing to go in November.

Bullseye


This week, the treasurer reported that we hit our budget projection for 2005-06 on the head. It was over a half million dollars -- and we were within about $2000. (Our income was $2000 better than budget, and expenses were $2000 less! A $4000 difference!)

I said, "Wow, that's amazing. We really hit the target!"

To this, my friend Dennis replied, "No, God did!"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

T. D. Jakes and the Holy Spirit


The Christian Post reported today that "T.D. Jakes and the Holy Spirit are expected" to show up at the Azusa Street Celebration.

Wow -- I guess Time Magazine is right, when it listed T. D. as one of most influential Evangelicals in America. Why, he even gets the same billing as the Holy Spirit!

You know, with all that revival fervor going on, I'll be the devil is going to show up too -- but he didn't make the headlines.

Da Vinci Code and Pastoral Reviews

Thursday night, the church board conducted my annual review. They sent me out of the room, and then took a loooooong time discussing. (I think maybe they all snuck out to Dairy Queen behind my back.)

It was a good evaluation, and I gained some very helpful insights about myself and the way I do ministry.

This morning, I saw reviews of another kind.

It's fascinating to me that the film critics are all over the map in their evaluation of the Da Vinci Code blockbuster.

Here's how they rated it:

The New York Post: A
The Seattle Post Intelligencer: B+
The Chicago Sun Times: B
The San Fransisco Chronicle:B-
Entertainment Weekly: C+
New York Times: C
Hollywood Reporter: C-
Rolling Stone: D

These guys all saw the same film -- but they walked away with vastly different opinions.

It reminds me that not everybody sees things the same way. One person might think I'm a C- pastor, and another will say I'm an "A."

We can't please everybody. Quality, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and, when all is said and done, there's only ONE Beholder who counts.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Battling Mosquitoes


I sat in the woods one day, with pen in hand, and open journal, pondering deep spiritual matters, and hoping for a burst of inspiration.

Instead, I got a mosquito.

The pesky little critter buzzed in my ears and bit me!

Frustrated, I sputtered, swatted and swang, but the illusive insect must have taken flying lessons from the Red Baron. He dodged me every time.

Arrrgh!!

My tranquility evaporated. How could I possibly contemplate life's deepest meanings, when bombarded by such nuisance?

About seven bites later, I finally triumphed. The weary warrior paused for a moment to catch his breath and rest his wings. Giant fighting is hard work, you know.

The unfortunate bug came in for a landing right on my open journal.

THWACKK!!

I slammed the pages together -- and the pesky mosquito was dispatched. I'm sure his relatives would be glad to know he didn't suffer. The little fellow didn't even know what hit him.

He started in my ears and ended in my journal!

Curious, I opened the notebook again, and found the bug squashed like a pancake and surrounded by a Type O positive red splotch.

I circled the carnage with my pen , and scrawled these words underneath:

"Contemplation is difficult when you're battling mosquitoes."

Blood Pressure


Spirituality may help lower blood pressure -- according to a recent study presented at the American Society of Hypertension.

However, being a pastor at budget time has a tendency to raise it!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not Theology?


"It's not theology," said Ron Howard, director of The DaVinci Code.

Not theology?? When I read the book, I saw a lot of theology in there -- lousy theology.

The blockbuster will create a great opportunity for theological discussions.

Jim Garlow has put together some helpful Da Vinci Code resources, and Willow Creek is doing something interesting with it.

At our church, my good friend, Steve Gerich, is teaching a class on it -- but we're not making it the "grand theme" for everything.

I've heard that bankers recognize counterfeit bills because they spend so much time with genuine ones. As we make the "Real Thing" our constant focus, the artificial will dim in comparison.

When I hear reports that this will be the greatest outreach tool the world has ever seen, I raise a skeptical eyebrow. I've heard that hype before. . . last year . . . and the year before that.

Nevertheless, this will open the door for some significant spiritual conversations with people who usually don't talk about such things -- and for that I am eager.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

10 Questions Growing Churches Should Ask

Tony Morgan, Administrative Pastor of Granger Community Church, wrote the following article.

I read an article in Fast Company magazine about a year ago that really challenged my thinking about the ministry of the local church. The brief article included a list of the ten make-or-break questions businesses needed to address in order to be successful in a competitive marketplace. As I read through the list, I began to ask myself: What are the questions growing churches should be asking to reach people for Jesus in today’s fast-paced culture? What are some of the key questions that churches need to address in order to build growing, innovative ministries that transform lives?

In addition to the foundations like Christ-centered teaching, prayer, and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I strongly believe that there are some strategic questions growing churches can address to more effectively impact the communities around them. It takes more than faith to grow a church. In fact James 2:17 confirms it suggesting, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” That’s not only a personal challenge but also a corporate challenge for the local church. Sometimes it’s not about the size of our faith as much as it is the barriers that need to removed in our ministries in order for us to be effective in our mission.

In my role at Granger, I help oversee WiredChurches.com, our ministry to resource other churches and leaders throughout the country. Through that ministry, I’ve come in contact with hundreds of local church ministries. Additionally, I’ve personally experienced the rapid growth that has happened at Granger in recent years jumping from about 1,400 to 5,000 people in attendance. Given that experience, I’ve seen some very strategic steps to help the church continue to experience growth not only in numbers put in the spiritual maturity of those who’ve committed their lives to Christ.

With that in mind, here’s where I’ve landed on the top ten questions I think churches need to address in order to maximize their ministry in today’s culture. Here are the questions:

1. Is your ministry strategy creating buzz in your community? If people aren’t talking about what’s happening at your church, they’re not inviting their friends. What are you doing to create dialogue and make people think “I need to check that out and see for myself”?

2. Do volunteers own the ministry of the church? You can’t hire enough staff to accomplish all the ministry that needs to be accomplished in a growing church. With that in mind, you need to create a culture where the volunteers expect to do it before staff.

3. Do you exceed the expectations of your first-time guests? Whether we like it or not, our guests are consumers before they’re convinced they should become learners or worshippers or servants. That means they’re walking into your doors for the first time expecting an experience that meets or exceeds what they’re getting at the theatre, the restaurant and the mall.

4. Are you attracting the very best talent to your team? This is about both staff and volunteer team development. Ministry success begins with gifted people who are committed to the vision. Are you getting and keeping the best?

5. Are people having fun? You have to give people hope, encouragement and the chance to laugh. We live in a fast-paced, stressful culture. If people can’t find health and balance in your church, they’ll find it someplace else.

6. Does your team know, embrace and champion the church's established vision and values? Leaders need vision. Resources will follow vision. Churches divide because of lack of vision. You have to figure out where you’re going to know if you’ll ever arrive.

7. Do people accept change as normal? Believe it or not, even churches can develop a culture where change is both expected and embraced. And change is certainly critical in a culture that is continually morphing.

8. Are you addressing the real issues of real lives? People are looking for more than a three-point message that exegetes the biblical text. They’re trying to parent their kids, save their marriages, deal with losses and illnesses and addictions. They’re trying to find purpose and fulfillment for their lives. Is your message relevant to their lives?

9. Are you as committed to developing effective systems as you are to innovation? As churches grow, they need to move from a purely entrepreneurial approach to one that also values the development of effective systems and strategies in area like structure, staffing, technology and finances. Through systems big churches remain small enough to personalize the experience for every attender.

10. Have you built a church of leaders? You can’t do it alone. It takes a team of empowered leaders to take ministry to the next level. What are you doing to multiply and release the leadership potential in your church? And, are you creating an environment where high-capacity leaders are welcomed?

These are the questions that have been challenging my thinking in recent years. I don’t know that our ministry has completely arrived in any of these areas, but I know these have been the issues we’ve tried to address along the way to continue the growth cycle we’ve experienced. Hopefully, they will challenge your thinking as well.

-------

Mark's note:

This is a great list -- but I have a few more to add:

1. Are people finding Jesus?
2. Are people growing in their faith?
3. Are people being sent into the world to make a difference?
4. Is God receiving Glory and Honor by what we're doing?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mors Et Vita

Into the soil a seed is sown,
Out of the soul a song is wrung,
Out of the shell a pearl is gone,
Out of the cage a bird is flown,

Out of the body, a soul.

Unto a tree the seed is grown,
Wide in the world the song is sung,
The pearl in a necklace gleams more fair,
The bird is flown to a sweeter air.

And death is half and life is half,
And the two make up the whole!

-- James Edwin Campbell

I share this poem in loving memory of my friend, Larry Geise. We conducted his memorial service yesterday.

Larry was the "comeback kid" -- but this time, he didn't come back -- he went -- to a fairer land and is experiencing the other half!

At Larry's request, I gave a gentle invitation for people to open their lives to Christ, and a dozen people responded!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Church Leadership Class

If you are here from FLAME Church Leadership Class -- you can find the Roberts Rules Test on My Church Leadership Blog (see links). Feel free to brouse around here at Revitalize Your Church!

If you are here from FLAME Evangelism Class, welcome!

For starters, what was your #1 take home point from the class?

Gold in the Pews

Monday Morning Insight recently posted this great article from Erwin McManus.

Thar's Gold in them there pews!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

It's Courage that Counts!


Bob Wieland, who lost both legs while serving in Viet Nam, believe that he could make a difference in his world. With courage that amazed America, he began a 3000 mile "walk" across the nation -- on his hands!

The trip from California to Washington D. C. took 4,999,016 steps and lasted three and a half years. In the process, he raised $305,000 to feed the hungry.

The mission was difficult, but as he struggled along the way, he reminded himself of his favorite Bible verse: "With God, all things are possible." (Luke 1:37)

Wieland's walk proved to the rest of us that a person with courage and determination can do just about anything.

I believe that everyone has a mission in life. I have one. You do too! Your mission is soemthing that only you can fulfill, and if you depart from it, your life will be incomplete.

Fulfilling a mission takes courage. It requires us to move beyond the ordinary. It compels us to launch out and attempt thiings which may be scorned by others. It demands that we try our wings and fly with the eagles, when we would much rather stay in the chicken coop.

Extraordinary feats are accomplished when God plants a vision in the minds of ordinary people -- and they respond with courage.

I cannot define your particular mission. Mine is to be an encourager. Perhaps you are to be a person who fights injustice. Maybe you are chosen to inspire others with your artistry. Possibly, you possess the great gift of leadership.

Whatever your taks may be, you need to embrace it, and move ahead with courageous enthusiasm! Find your mission and fulfill with with all your might.

The poet, Edgar A. Guest, put it this way:

Courage isn't a brilliant dash,
A daring deed in a moment's flash;
It isn't an instantateous thing
Born of despair with a sudden spring,
But it's something deep within the soul of man
That is working always to serve some plan.

Arise, go forth, and conquer!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Out of Town

Leaving directly after our 11:00 service today -- to teach some ministerial training classes in Stroudsburg, PA. This is with FLAME, a Wesleyan training program for non-traditional students.

Believe me, these folks ARE non-traditional! Last year, in one of my classes, I had three former drug dealers! Now they're dealing in Eternal Life!

I'm teaching Evangelism/Church Health and Church Leadership/Management.

So -- don't count on any posts this week.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Grrrrrudge!


Grudge is an ugly word.

It starts with "Grrr. . ." and ends with ". . .udge." That doesn't sound pretty at all.

When we carry grudges against other people, the weight becomes almost unbearable. Resentment is a heavy burden to bear. Our souls weren't made to carry that kind of heaviness.

Momma used to say unforgiveness is like "drinking poison and hoping that the other person will die."

We do more harm to ourselves than anybody else when we refuse to let it go.

A physician friend once told me that resentment is at the root of many of the physical ailments he sees: tension headaches, ulcers, high blood pressure. Dis-ease of the spirit leads to disease of the body.

If someone offends you, there are really only two options:
A. forgive and let it go or
B. hold onto it and be bitter.

A heart wound will never get better by being bitter. Bitterness just rubs salt into it.

It's always best to let it go.

Jesus understood this well, and that is why he spoke so often about forgiving others, and modeled it so beautifully, even when dying on a cross. "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

We all get ego dings from time to time. People say and do things that are hurtful and wrong. We do not have to allow them to rob our peace and joy. Our response is our own decision.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Friday, May 05, 2006

Not Worth the Knot


Whatever you're stewing over isn't worth the stomach knot.

It's not worth the knot!

I've found, from personal experience, that worrying doesn't help matters one bit. It just makes the burden heavier.

We all know we shouldn't worry -- but circumstances beyond our control set us off. Anxiety is toxic waste oozing through our mind and body.

It's contagious too. You can get a whole room full of people to start fretting with just a few negative fearful words.

The crazy thing is -- most of the stuff we worry about never happens. And that's a fact.

The other day, I came across my worry file. Several years ago, as I was trying to quit the worry habit, I would write my worries down and place them in my file.

Now -- over a decade later, I've unearthed my pile of worries. Guess what. Of the dozen or so worries I had placed in the file, NOT ONE OF THEM happened!! I had spent restless nights, and hours of inner churning for nothing!!

One wise guy figured it out: "Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better! The things I worry about don't happen!"

Worry is the unhealthy child of fear and unbelief. It gives a small matter a big shadow.

Faith is the light which chases the shadow away.

Jochabed was really worried. Pharoah had decreed that all baby boys should be taken to the Nile River and drowned. What was she to do with her infant son?

In an act of courageous faith, she took him to the Nile River and, with a prayer, sent him off in a little basket. Her son was rescued by a princess, and later Moses became one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. The name "Moses", fittingly means, "drawn out."

Is there a burden that has been causing you stress and turmoil? How about using the Jochabed approach?

Put your burden in basket, and send it down the river!

Trust God to take care of it. He can "draw out" the best possible solution.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Added to the Number Daily


As I was gathing information for the "end of the year" reports, I was amazed to discover that through our church ministries, we have record of 192 people who received Christ as their Savior over the past twelve months -- and another 147 recommitments! That's 339 people!

Last summer, at our picnic, we baptized 65 people -- which, I believe is the most people ever baptized at one time in the history of the northwoods. (We also dunked another eight a few weeks.)

We started a baby church 20 miles away, supported 24 missionaries around the world, and sent 104 people on short term mission trips.

God is so amazing -- and His grace reaches far enough. . . even to the end of the world! (Hayward is not quite the end of the world, but you can see if from here!)

This is absolutely mind boggling for me -- and I am so thankful to be a part of such a thriving and vibrant congregation.

I am reminded of Acts 2:47: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

By the way, Spurgeon preached a great sermon on this text, which is fitting for us in 2006!

My prayer is that the upcoming year will be better yet!

Please Lord, use us to make a difference for eternity.

National Day of Prayer


Tonight, at our Community National Day of Prayer Gathering, I am planning to lead the congregation in the following prayer by Henry Blackaby:

Oh Heavenly Father, You have made Yourself known to us as a nation by Your mighy works throughout our history. From the beginning, You have been with us through many wars and conflicts;
Your right arm has saved us.
We have been amazingly and graciously blessed.
Today, we confess our sin of not responding to Your right to rule in our lives and our nation.
Too often, we have despised and rejected Your will while imposing our own,
and we are now facing the consequences of our disobedience.
Draw us back to Yourself,
that we may return to Yoru ways once again.
Without You we can do nothing.
You have promised that if we honor You,
You will once again honor this great nation.
That is our fervent prayer.
For Your honor and glory we pray,
Amen

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

SPAM


SMALL
PLACES
ARE
MAGNIFICENT!

-- Until today SPAM has been a bad word to me. Not anymore.

A brainstorm this morning changed that.

I still hate canned meat (even if it warrants a museum), and unsolicited e-mails.

However. . .


SMALL-TOWN PASTORS ARE MIGHTY.
SMALL-TOWN PARISHONERS ARE MOBILIZED.
SMALL-TOWN PARTNERSHIPS ARE MISSIONAL.
SMALL PLACE AS MISSION!
SMALL PLACES ARE MARVELOUS!

I LOVE than kind of SPAM!

Mapping Religion in Ameica

Here's a great link denoting the religious demographics of America.

No surprise that our territory (northern Wisconsin & Minnesota) is primarily Catholic and Lutheran.

It verifies Garrison Keillor's adage that in Lake Wobegon, you're either Catholic, Lutheran, or weird.

We're the weird ones!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Billion Words


It's official. The "one billionth word" was just added to the English language.

A billion words -- and yet, there are times when my mind goes blank, and I can't come up even one that seems appropriate.

On the other hand, I declare, there are some folks can get through the whole billion in twenty minutes over the telephone!!

I've been on the receiving end of that!

On several occasions, I've found myself murmering mindlessly:
"Uh Huh."
"You don't say."
"Is that right."
Mmmmhmmmm."
"I believe so."
"I don't know."

You do have to be careful in selecting these responses though. My Mother found that out the hard way. In one of those long, taxing conversations, she said, "Mmmhhhh", and then "I don't know."

The other person stopped abruptly. "You don't know?????"

Mom said, "What was that you asked me again?"

"I asked how many children you have!"

Monday, May 01, 2006

Reading

Here's what I've been reading lately.

A Big Flop?

Last Saturday night, at our new satellite campus in Minong, I led the music.

Pastor Loretta delivered the sermon, and was going to have help from the Youth Group Praise Team. Saturday was the Prom, however, and thus, hardly any of the young people were available -- I ended up volunteering to take their place.

A few days before the service, I visited our Minong small group, and told them: "This week is really going to be different. Loretta is going to preach, and I am going to lead the music."

Lori's reponse was really funny. She meant to say, "That will be a flip-flop!"

Instead, it came out this way:

"That will be a BIG FLOP!"

It's gonna take her a long time to live that one down!

Actually, everything went really well. The Minong service was really inspiring, and a tremendous help to the 40-some people who attended.

Reminds me of the Ethel Waters' quote: "God don't sponsor no flops!"