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Showing posts from July, 2006

Blogging Vacation

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Does this pastor need a vacation?

Good News -- My beautiful wife, Cathy and I are taking the kids to Door County for a week! A wonderful couple in the church has offered their condo to us for free! What a deal!

Ramblings of a Busy Pastor

It has been an unusually heavy season of ministry lately.

For instance, just yesterday, I dropped my nephew, Tom, off at the Minneapolis airport, and then drove the three hours home in time for lunch.

I had a chance to touch base with visiting friends from Iowa, before going to open up the church for an afternoon funeral.

I returned a phone call before the service -- and was gently rebuked for not "proclaiming the whole counsel of God." She suggested that I devote more attention to sermons on tithing. She's probably right -- but it was a bummer to deal with it before a big funeral.


The crowd of mourners was larger than any of us ever imagined -- hundreds of community people stopped by to pay their repects -- and their grief weighed heavier on my heart than I had expected.

As my departed friend was named Bob Burns, I dug out a couple of poems by Robert Burns, the Scottish bard. I was concerned that people would think that was corny -- but it went really well, and captured Bob&…

First Baptism!

We held the first baptism for our baby church in Minong last evening.

Around 50 people showed up at the beautiful home of Curt and Marilyn Witte. We had a fabulous picnic together -- and then, Pastor Ben and I baptized eight people!

We heard some powerful faith stories -- and, driving home, my heart was strangely warmed!

What Kind Are You?

Thanks to Todd Rhoads for the following joke:

I was walking across a bridge recently. I spied this fellow who looked like he was ready to jump off. So, I thought Id try to stall him until the authorities showed up. Dont jump! I said.

Why not? he said. Nobody loves me.
God loves you, I said. You believe in God, dont you?

Yes, I believe in God, he said.

Good, I said. Are you Christian or Jewish?
Christian, he said.

Me, too! I said. Protestant or Catholic?
Neither, he said.

What then? I said.
Baptist, he said.
Me, too! I said.

Independent Baptist or Southern Baptist?
Independent Baptist, he said.
Me, too! I said.

New Evangelical/Moderate Independent Baptist or Conservative Independent Baptist?
“Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said.

“Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Lose-Your-Salvation Armenian Conservative Independent Baptist?”

“Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said. “Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent…

Fantastic!

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My buddy, John Bray and his great staff baptized 89 people a couple of weeks ago!

Way to go John! That's better than Dunkin' Donuts!

Kudos! All heaven rejoices.

The only ones NOT rejoicing are the devil's minions, and jealous preachers.

Eye Witness

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A lot of people think they have to be "experts" in the Bible to share Jesus with others. That's not necessarily the case.

In a court of law, there are two kinds of witnesses:

1) Expert Witnesses and
2) Eye Witnesses

The Expert Witness has to know more than the average person in a particular area -- Medical examiners, forensics technicians, and legal authorities are often called for this type of testimony.

Eye Witnesses, on the other hand, don't have to be an authority at all. They just tell. . .
the truth,
the whole truth,
and nothing but the truth

about what they've personally seen or experienced.

Maybe you're not an "expert" witnesses for Jesus -- but how about being an "Eye Witnesses?" You can certainly do that!

Speaking of an Eye Witness -- Here's a funny phone conversation of a guy who witnessed an accident.

He'll never forget the experience!

Double Cleansing

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Special Feature
From
Real Live Preacher

A Double Cleansing!

Not the old campmeeting variety, mind you.
Not two trips down the sawdust trail


But a Double Cleansing nonetheless:

Of the Soul With Holy Grace
And Of the Body, Hands and Face. . .
With Aletha's Natural Homemade Soap

Remember, Momma always said, "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

And this is nothing new actually.
The 19th Century Missionary, Mary Riggs, also promoted the "Theology of Soap."

Ichabod

Isn't it staggering when you think that one sermon on the day of Pentecost produced 3000 Christian people? And we had some cities yesterday where 3000 sermons were preached and nobody was saved. And it doesn't even faze us.

-- Leonard Ravenhill

Sadly, 43% of all Wesleyan Churches did not receive a single member by profession of faith over an entire year.

What are we going to do about that?

Humbuggery

God has put Tom Correll into my life to mentor me in my spiritual walk. His primary concern for me is that my soul garden is well watered and nourished.

Tom recently retired to Hayward after serving as the Dean of Spiritual Formation at Bethel Seminary. From our many conversations, I'm convinced that he's more Wesleyan than the Wesleyans.

I meet with Tom every two or three weeks -- along with Art, who is a local Episcopal priest.

One time I told Tom I was preparing to fly to North Carolina teach a FLAME course in Church Leadership. At this, with a gleeful twinkle in his eye, he grabbed a book off his shelf and tossed it to me.

"Here's some good reading for you while you're on the plane!"

The book was Humbuggery and Manipulation: The Art of Leadership.
I did read it -- and it messed up a quarter of my lecture notes! I think I was humbuggered!

Give Me Your Hand

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I don't care what church you belong to,
Just as long as for Calvary you stand.
Just as long as your heart beats with my heart,
You're my brother, so give me your hand.

-- old campmeeting song

Corporate Sponsor

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I mentioned the shortfall in our general fund yesterday at church.

This year, we've taken a couple of faith steps -- and our offerings haven't caught up yet. They will!

I reminded the congregation that God always honors steps of faithful obedience. He's never failed us yet -- and He's not going to fail us now!

"In fact," I said, "God told me that He has already provided all the money we need. Unfortunately, it's still in your pockets!"

I just read this morning that some Christian Ministries are now securing Corporate Sponsors.

First -- Marathons and other Sporting Events
Second -- Stadiums and Arenas
Now -- Christian Music Festivals
What's Next? Local Churches??

Now, that's an idea!! Just what we need for our budget deficit. I wonder who we could get to sponsor us?

How about "Wal Mart Wesleyan Church?" I wonder if the Trustees would go for that?

Hello Pastor

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Persecution of church leaders in the North American context does not come from outside the church. I have never yet had a church leader say to me, "I am quitting. The pagans are getting to me."

-- Reggie McNeal in The Present Future

Most pastors have been on the receiving end of calls like this.

Well, o.k. -- persecution is too strong of a word -- and we should be thankful. Our patience is being strengthened.

Externally Focused

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The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson is an excellent book. Todd posted a great review at Monday Morning Insight.

I know a pastor who always looks around at the other churches in town and criticizes everything they do. He's not doing much himself -- but he sure loves to holler.

I suppose you could say he's "externally focused" too.

Upbeat Cross?

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Many years later, I was on a program with a famous evangelist from California who had built a huge "Crystal Cathedral" designed by a famous architect. He said there had been a debate about whether the cathedral should have a cross.

Some people thought the cross an excessively gloomy symbol.

"I said that of course there will be a cross," declared the famous evangelist. "The cross is the sign of Christianity and we're a Christian Church.

"Then he paused and announced with a triumphant smile, "But I can tell you that there's nothing downbeat about the cross at the Crystal Cathedral."

An upbeat cross?

Back in Pembroke, a Wesleyan church visited by our elementary school class had in large letters above the communion table, "He is not here. He is risen."

Yes, I thought, he was not there.

--Richard John Neuhaus, Catholic Matters, p. 44

Augustine quote

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Let us not despair; one of the thieves was saved.
Let us not presume; one of the thieves was lost.
-- Augustine

A Glorious Strikeout

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Yesterday, Jim Eriotes, led off the Sioux Falls Canaries against the Saint Joe Blacksnakes,

One foul and three swooshes later, he walked back to the dugout -- a hero.

Eriotes, at age 83, became the oldest person to ever participate in a professional baseball game.

When the dust settles, nobody but Jim will even think about the strikeout. Everybody else will remember him as the codger who had enough spunk to get in the game!

Surprise Me

"Surprise me, Lord, as a seed surprises itself." -- George Herbert

Autosuggestion

I pick myself up by the hair, hold myself at arm's length, look myself in the eye, and bark orders at me.

As soon as I see that I am not looking, I ignore them.

-- Rev. Jess Moody

Smiles and Tears

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When you came into this world, you cried, and everybody smiled.
Live in such a way that when you leave this world,
You will smile as everybody cries.

-- I discovered this gem in the biography of Seth Cook Rees.

Harry Wood Interview

"If You're not overwhelmed, you not in deep enough!"

Gary Jarret, a student in my Church Leadership Class, interviewed Dr. Harry Wood , Wesleyan Superintendent from the Penn-Jersey District, for his post-course assignment.

Dr. Wood's insights are noteworthy, and so, I am passing them along to you.

How long have you been in leadership?
I was a local pastor for 16 years ( 6 years solo and 10 years as senior pastor). I was then District Superintendent for the Penn-Jersey District for 9 ½ years, followed being elected to General Superintendent . I then was an evangelist for 1 year, District Superintendent for the Chesapeake District for 2 ½ Years and finally back at Penn-Jersey for the last 6 years.

Was there someone who was an inspiration to you?
Yes, I can think of 5 important ones.
1) The pastor who led me to the Lord at age 12, him and I used to evangelize house to house. He also was a father figure to me because my father died when I was 5.
2) My 1st District Superintendent…

Tacos with Rick Warren

Over 15 years ago, I had the privilege of having lunch with Rick Warren. A couple of other guys and I met him at his office, and we walked to a little taco shop. I agreed to buy the tacos. They were 49 cents each -- and that was the best investment on a buck I've ever made!

I went to talk to him about how to grow a church -- instead, he turned it around and talked about growing disciples through small groups. He also enthusiastically promoted church planting -- the best way to reach new people is through new churches.

That conversation so long ago, still lives in me. I have seen the tremendous value of small groups in the spiritual formation of people -- and this year, like a time bomb, the "church planting" enthusiasm has exploded in my heart.

Now, once again I am inspired by his vision.

A warrior is measured by the size of his opponents.

Rick Warren is quite a warrior. He's attempting to take on some hefty opponents.

1. Spiritual Darkness
2. Lack of Servant Leaders Aroun…

Just What We Need

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Hey now, we need one of these in front of our church!

I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't mind.The 72 foot foam and fiberglass structure only costs $260,000.

Out of the Deep

I've been reading an old book entitled, Out of the Deep, which as collection of thoughts from the great 18th Century novelist and pastor, Charles Kingsley.

Kingsley's wife, Fanny, compiled these insights five years after his death, and the dedication of the book reads: "To all troubled souls and to the dear memory of one who passed through the deep into eternal rest."

I found the following excerpt to be especially inspiring:

. . . You are disappointed. Do remember if you lose heart about your work, that none of it is lost. That the good of every deed remains, and breeds, and works on forever; and that all that fails and is lost is the outside shell of the thing, which perhaps might have been better done, but better or worse, has nothing to do with the real spiritual good which you have done to men's hearts, for which God will surely repay you in His own way and time. (p. 100)

Small World!

The other day, I received this amazing e-mail from my friend, John Freed

Brother Mark, if I remember correctly your church sent a team to Guatemala...well tonight I write to you from Guatemala and I saw a little boy today on the street with a Hayward Wisconsin hat on...I was so impressed...keep sending your church around the world...may it have a ripple effect!!

It's a small world after all!

Foxe's Book of American Martyrs

Newly revised and updated to accomodate American Christians!
Foxe's Book of Martyrs: American Edition

In this version, nobody dies -- but their feelings were hurt a lot.

June's Gardens

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Last evening, we held the funeral service for June, a precious 75 year old lady, who finally succombed after a long battle with cancer. She was born in June and died in June -- and almost every June in between, she worked her garden.

Thus, we used "Gardens" for the theme of the service.

As the funeral started, our keyboardist played, "In the Garden"
I began by suggesting that June was like a rose in full bloom, plucked by the Master Gardener.

I shared briefly about three gardens from Scripture:
The Garden of Eden -- The place of beginnings, of joy, happy memories,The Garden of Gethsemane -- The place of sorrow, loss and heaviness. "Nevertheless"The Garden of The Empty Tomb -- The place of resurrection! Life! Eternity!Friends shared how June became more lovely as she grew older. Even in her final days when she had lost her hair to chemo, she was never more beautiful.Dennis put together a touching slideshow of her life, which was presented as Deb sang a beautifu…

Flags in Church

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I know some global, emergents will probably shriek about this, but we have an American flag in the front of our church. She stands, discreetly, behind the keyboards.

We also display a Christian flag -- which is strategically placed on the platform, to the speaker's right. (This is the place of dominance. I learned that from Keith Drury.)

Actually, I took a few hits for placing the Christian flag in that spot.

"Anybody who knows anything knows that the the American flag is supposed to be on the speaker's right!" growled one veteran, "Just check the flag code!" (I did -- Par. 174:K -- and he's right, but the code's wrong, and I'm willing to risk the censure.)

One guy actually left our church because I disrespected the flag, but putting it in the wrong place.

For a while, we quietly "put the flags away", stashing them in the back corner of the church library. Nobody seemed to notice. . . at least that's what I thought.

Then, in the emotiona…

Longing for Belonging

More and more people are alone. Is it not essential, then, to encourage the creation and growth of places of belonging? If these intermediaries between people and society, these schools of the heart, do not exist, people will find it more and more difficult to achieve maturity. -- Jean Vanier (Founder of L'Arche)

Our greatest longing is for belonging.

Livingstone's Secret

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. . . I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Joshua 1:5)

Last year, after attending Evensong at London's Westminster Abby, I had the special privilege of paying my respects to the great missionary, David Livingstone. He is buried under a slab of marble in that massive cathedral.

Once, before a large audience, Livingstone asked, "Wouldn't you men and women like to know what has sustained me in Africa?"

Everyone was curious. They knew how he had sacrificed. They had heard about his many hardships, including the death of his precious wife, Mary. What was it that gave David Livingstone his inner strength?

Livingstone opened up a small, tattered New Testament and read the words of Jesus, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (Mat. 28:20)

Then, the great missionary closed his Bible and said, "And THAT is what has sustained me!"

God promises to go with us through every situation in life. He will never forsake his children. He loves us a…

Vacation Bible School

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Last night, we finished a splendid Vacation Bible School, under the fine direction of our Children's Pastor, Jeremy Mavis.

My job, as usual. was being the Offering Guy.

The V.B.S. offering is always a BIG contest between the boys and the girls. The winners taking home bragging rights for the whole year.

Each night, they rush forward, dropping their coins in buckets at the front of the church.
We measure it by weight -- so a penny is worth way more than a dollar.

Those kids dumped a LOT of pennies in the buckets this week! For a few days, there was a penny shortage in the Hayward banks, as frazzled parents lined up at the drive through windows, "I'd like ten dollars in pennies please!" Dairy Queen clerks were baffled when the kids handed over a five for an ice cream cone saying, "I'd like my change in pennies, please!"

The boys, in a miraculous comeback, won the contest -- thanks to Aaron, who literally depleted one bank's supply of pennies. Two big teen…