Monday, July 24, 2006
Sunday, July 23, 2006
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's love for his precious wife, Nan. (My Luv's a Red, Red Rose. . .)
During the hour before the service, I received word that someone was asking for me at the hospital. A young man was involved in a tragic accident, which banged him up -- but seriously injured his passengers. He's carrying a huge load of guilt right now. I prayed with him, and tried to steer him towards Christ. He really needs to open his life up to God -- and thankfully, some good headway was made.
After the funeral service, I had a tense conversation with someone who was concerned about a couple of "issues" in the church (As long as you have people -- you're gonna have some "issues".) I thought he was making things bigger than they were -- and didn't really respond appropriately. I had to go back and apologize.
Then, after a quick change, I drove over to Minong for our picnic and baptism.
Returning at 9:30 p.m., I stopped back by the hospital to rejoice with a young couple over their newborn infant. I led the daddy to Jesus a while ago -- and I was delighted to hold the tiny one and pray a blessing over him. Now that daddy loves Jesus, the little guy is going to have a good head start!
This morning, it was up at five thirty and to the church by six -- which is my normal Sunday schedule. We had good services today. My message theme was Ecclesiastes -- but testimonies of the people took up most of the hour (and I didn't even get to preach at the middle service -- but that was ok. They were great testimonies, and we don't do that very often. I told them the testimonies were all a part of the sermon. It was great to hear our people put in a good word for God, and there were some pretty amazing faith stories.)
I also explained baptism and showed the video of last year's baptism. It was touching.
662 people attended our three services this morning.
After church, I prayed with several people, had a brief pre-marriage counseling session -- went home for a quick lunch and then, made it just in time to watch Hannah perform in Chequamegon Children's Theater's rendition of "The Wiz." She's an acting WIZ! It was a lot of fun!
After the play, I took Luke and Wes to a cemetery to look at a couple of interesting graves (much to their protest.)
We stopped by to see Sawyer, a young friend who had surgery a week or so ago, and gave him a gift (much to their joy.)
I don't know if this stuff is interesting to my blog visitors or not -- but it's all interesting to me, and it's my blog!
I'm reminded of the t-shirt that says, "Why Would I Want to Read Your Blog? You're Boring In Person."
I don't mind the busy seasons really. They make vactations even more delicious -- and we're going on vacation tomorrow!
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!
Saturday, July 22, 2006
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 Baptist or Historical Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said.
“Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or For Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said.
“Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Strict Separation of Church and State Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said.
“Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Anti-Disney Boycott Pro-Choice Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist,” he said.
“Me, too!” I said.
“KJV Only Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist or Modern Versions Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist?”
“MODERN VERSIONS Pro-Disney Boycott Pro-Life Unashamed Fundamentalist Against Women in Ministry Dispensational Premillennial Calvinistic Conservative Independent Baptist” he said.
“Auugghh!!! You heretic!” I said. And I pushed him over.
Friday, July 21, 2006
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 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!
Thursday, July 20, 2006
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."
-- 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?
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
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!
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Monday, July 17, 2006
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?
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.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
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.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
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
Friday, July 14, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
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!
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Monday, July 10, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
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 when I was a young pastor helped form my leadership qualities.
3) Dr. Wilson was one of my professors who had a great impact on my life.
4) Dr. H. C.Wilson who was one of my contemporaries.
5) Dr. Robert Schuller helped me to realize the need to keep the clarity of mission.
Did leadership come easy or did you have to work at it?
I was not a natural leader nor did I have the background. I maximized every opportunity that became available to me.
What did you do to improve your abilities?
I always found someone who was beyond me to get to know and spend time. I read books and attended seminars on leadership. I gravitated toward leaders who were motivated by God.
Did you ever have to change your style of leadership depending on your position?
Different people require different type of leaders. I am constantly changing in fact I lead the Penn-Jersey District differently now than I did 10 years ago.
Did you ever try something that didn’t work?
Yes, you have to be willing to take a risk and don’t fear failure. You can learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on the past always move on. If you can’t talk about your failures then your not after success but security. When your are seeking security you won’t take risks but without risks there can’t be success.
What do you think was the most important lesson you’ve learned?
The only life worth living is one that is 100% devoted.
How do you gain support for an idea?
I share the vision with the core group, then it flows to the leaders, then from the leaders to the followers and then to the community.
What do you look for when searching for a leader?
2) devotion - commitment
4) track record
6) willingness to learn
How do you overcome opposition?
You don’t always. I use 2nd Timothy 2:24-26 as my basis for this. “The servant of the Lord must strive but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient. In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” You must always work from soul winning venture.
1) try to enlighten in a positive way to catch the vision- if they don’t understand, try to communicate and teach.
2) if they still won’t support you then tolerate them.
3) if they obstinately interfere then they must be excluded.
Unfortunately opposition is not always overcome.How do you stay sharp?I keep myself challenged, constantly growing.
Do you ever feel overwhelmed?
Yes, if I don’t feel overwhelmed then I’m not deep enough. When I’m in over my head then I have to depend on Christ and not myself. It’s again a question of security or success.
Is there any other advice you would like to share?
Yes, I like to share a story.
My daughter once dated a football player who was an exceptional athlete. In his junior year he played outstanding football and most certainly could receive a college scholarship.
Then in his senior year he flatlined, no one could understand why he didn’t continue to improve.
My daughter ask him what had happened. He said he had gotten so caught up in all the attention he had forgotten to play football.
Its not in being a leader its in the LEADING, it's not in the status it's in DOING the TASK.
Don’t forget to lead.
Also remember the journey is greater than the destination, its about what God does in you along the way.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
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 Around the World
He is also quite a visionary.
His answer to the global issues listed above -- the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.
1. Plant Churches
2. Equip Servant Leaders
3. Assist the Poor
4. Care for the Sick
5. Educate the Next Generation
Now, that's an inspiring objective!
Rick has his critics. of course -- and that's to be expected. It's the Law of the Whale:
When you rise to the surface and spout, you'll get harpooned.
It's a whole lot easier to criticize than to do something.
Blessings on you Rick! Go get 'em! And thanks for the taco lunch.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Thursday, July 06, 2006
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)
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
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!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
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 beautiful song of faith and hope.
At the conclusion of the service, our good brother, Charlie Howe sang June's favorite song, "The Impossible Dream", and then, I presented each of the children with flowers from June's own garden. It was really meaningful.
"May He support us all the day long, till the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in His mercy, may He give us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last."- John Henry Newman
(Thanks to Marcia for directing me to this beautiful quotation.)
Monday, July 03, 2006
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 emotional aftermath of September 11, the flags came back.
We held a prayer service. Just as the service was about to start, Eddie, a grizzled old Korean War Veteran, emerged with the American flag in his hand, almost spear-like. He marched, wild-eyed, and with set jaw, like a determined Marine going off to war, right up the middle aisle!
He sort of reminded me of Mel Gibson's Patriot.
Quickly he strode across the platform, and plopped it down, triumphantly, to the right of the pulpit.
What's a pastor to do? I didn't have the heart (nor the guts) to stop him. If I had tried, I think he would have speared me right on the spot!!
So, I quickly ran back to the library and grabbed the Christian flag, brought it up to the platform, and set it to the RIGHT of the American flag!
I don't think Eddie appreciated that too much, but at least he had his flag up front and we didn't have a war.
And now, five years later, they still stand -- unhindered -- except that the American flag has been nudged over to the left side of the platform. I figure, as long as World War Two and Korean Veterans are a part of our congregation, it'll stay that way.
Some battles are worth fighting -- and some aren't.
Our greatest longing is for belonging.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
. . . 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 and won't leave us when times get tough.
That's why Corrie Ten Boom said, "Don't wrestle, just nestle."
That's why John Wesley, on his deathbed could declare, "Best of all, the Lord is with us."
That's why Civilla Martin could pen, "His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."
The hidden secret of inner strength is faith -- realizing that God is with us, and trusting Him to keep us.
If you're facing some big problems, don't be afraid! God has never failed anybody yet, and He won't start failing with you!
Saturday, July 01, 2006
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 teenagers carried the mother-lode forward, to the triumphant whoopings of the boys, and dismayed sighings of the girls.
Next year, I predict the girls will win.
We're giving it all to Mercy Ships -- so they can help a few people have eye operations, and get their teeth fixed.
I wish the grown-ups in our church were as enthuiastic about the offering on Sunday mornings.
Right now, we're behind in our general church budget.
Maybe we should have a contest!