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Showing posts from 2007

What Does This Painting Say to You?

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Someone

There is someone I love, even though I don't approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, thought some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love most. That person is me! There are plenty of things I do that I don't like, but if I can love myself without approving of all I do, I can also love others without approving of all they do.

-- C. S. Lewis

Today

In keeping with Hayward Wesleyan tradition -- on this last Suday of the year, our worship services will consist of favorite hymns (we dust off the hymnals, and people get to choose), testimonies (expressing what God has done, giving thanks, bringing a helpful passage of Scripture, and sharing prayer concerns), and a condensed version of the John Wesley Covenant Service.

We'll finish the service with communion.

I'm looking forward to hearing from my church family.

Wide Awake

What a wonderful discovery for preachers!

I'll have the ushers administer a whif of this to everybody right before the sermon.

A Million Minutia

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I thought, if defeat came at all, It would be in a big, bold Definite joust With a cause or a name. And it came.
I had not thought the daily skirmish With a few details, worthwhile; And so I turned my back upon them Year on year; until one day A million minutia blanketed together Rose up and overwhelmed me. -- Author Unknown

Holy Turf Wars

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Seems like making mountains out of molehills to me -- of course, most church fights are turf wars of some sort.

Spirit of Humility

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Pour into me the whole spirit of humility; fill, I beseech thee, every part of my soul with it, and make it the constant ruling habit of my mind, that all other tempers may arise from it; that I may have no thoughts, no desires, no designs, but such as are the true fruit of a lowly spirit.
-- John Wesley

Faith is the Oil

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I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life -- faith is the oil.
-- Dr. E. Stanley Jones

What Lies Beneath

"What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Sometimes, we are tempted to let the hurts of the past direct our lives today. Certain moments have a way of defining us.

the accident
the death
the divorce
the argument
the illness
the failure

Painful experiences come in broken shards with jagged edges that cut deep and pierce the heart.

If we hold our hurts close, clutching them tightly in our grasp, we will never move beyond the pain. Sometimes, it's more "comfortable" to hang on to old hurts than to risk releasing them. Maybe doing so means letting go of our very identity.

But faith calls us to release the past -- to begin the long journey of healing.

Looking the other direction . . . towards the future . .trouble is a brewing! Every person has problems coming down the pike.

Why are we so surprised when trouble knocks at the door? It's normal! Hardship is just a part of the package of living!

Howe…

Christmas Eve Services

Over 700 people attended our three candlelight Christmas Eve Services last night. It was wonderful to have so many friends and neighbors join us as we celebrated our Savior's birth.

I concluded my "Christmas Prayers" series with "The Jesus Prayer". John 17 was my text -- the High Priestly Prayer. Here's what he prayed for his friends:

1. Protect (Keep) them by the power of your name. (v. 12)

2. Fill them with the full measure of joy. (v. 13)

3. Sanctify them by your truth (v. 17)

And this is His prayer for YOU!

Immanuel and Love in Galoshes

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The job of a pastor is to help people experience Immanuel -- God WITH us (bringing God to people.)
That's my prayer for tonight. Three Christmas Eve services this evening (4, 7 & 9 p.m.) -- and I know they will all be packed. This will be my 17th year of candlelight Christmas Eve services in Hayward. They are always beautiful and heartwarming.
My hope this year, however, is that hearts will not just be "warmed" -- but set ablaze with the Love of Christ -- That those who come merely out of family tradition, will truly experience the powerful presence of Jesus.
On another note, the church family rose to the "giving tree" (and Angel Tree) challenge. Over 250 needy children received Christmas gifts, because our people cared enough to make a difference. Now, that's love in galoshes.

Lotsa Snow

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It snowed like crazy last night -- with several more inches to come today. The good folks of Hayward Wesleyan have a good excuse to stay home from church today -- but those who brave it and come out will get the blessing. Today's theme -- The Shepherd's Prayer.

Christmas Church

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Our good friend, Lisa Johnson, made a cool gingerbread church for the Wilson gang this Christmas -- complete with a "There's a Place for You" sign over the front door! Thanks Lisa!

We took pictures -- oohed and ahhed -- and now, we're going to eat it!

Aged Pastor

Thy love, O God! from year to year,
Has watched thy faithful pastor here,
Till fifty years of toil have now
Engraved their tokens on his brow.


Fast have the seasons rolled away;
A moment in thy sight were they,
Yet while their rapid course was run,
What mighty works thy hand has done!


What empires rose, and, at thy frown,
In sudden weakness crumbled down!
What barriers, reared by earth and hell,
Against thy truth, gave way and fell!


Meanwhile, beneath thy gracious sight
This flock has dwelt in peace and light,
By living waters gently led,
And in perennial pastures fed.


Oh, when before thy judgment seat
The pastor and his flock shall meet,
May thy benignant voice attest
Their welcome to thine endless rest.


-- William Cullen Bryant

Funny

Inspiring Story

The Seven Ups

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Just a few days before she died, my friend, Leah emailed this inspiring little message to me.
"Happy Wednesday, Pastor Mark! I thought you might be able to use this sometime." (I used it at her funeral service Tuesday night, and several people requested a copy)
The Seven Ups
1. Wake Up! Decide to have a good day. "This is the day the Lord hath made;Let us rejoice and be glad in it."Psalms 118:24
2. Dress Up ! The best way to dress up is to put on a smile. A smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.Man looks at outward appearance,But the Lord looks at the heart." -- I Samuel 16:73.
3. Shush Up! Say nice things and learn to listen.God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must have meant for us to do twice as much listening as talking.
"He who guards his lips guards his soul."-- Proverbs 13:3

4. Stand Up! For what you believe in. Stand for something or you will fall for anything.
"Let us no…

Blue Jean Funeral

Bobo hated suits and ties. So, yesterday, at the family's request, I wore jeans as I conducted his funeral. Now, I've officiated a couple hundred funeral services over the years --and that was my first one in blue jeans.

Also, they put together a memorial slide presentation, with "Turdy Point Buck" as background music. That was a first, too.

Mark, our church custodian (and Bo Bo's brother in law), played the piano -- "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace." That was the first time he'd ever played for a funeral. He was nervous -- but did a fantastic job. Occasionally, Mark surprises everybody and plays a piano solo at church, but mostly he just tickles the ivories when nobody is listening -- late at night after he finishes cleaning the church.

The funeral procession was led by Bo Bo's buddies riding on ATV'S. A fitting send off, for a good man who loved the woods, worked with his hands, and had a heart of gold, especially for child…

Leah's Funeral

Going into it, I really dreaded Leah's funeral. I didn't know how we were going to make it through. What I discovered, though, was something I've experienced many times before. God gives strength right when you need it. (He doesn't give the strength BEFOREHAND -- only when you need it. That's where faith comes in.)

Half the town showed up, bringing their love with them. We all cried together (holy water.)

It ended up being a beautiful celebration of Leah's life. We had the whole worship team -- drums, bass, guitars, flute -- and sang her songs (There are two kinds of singing, I told them -- singing when you're happy, and singing when you're sad, which gives you comfort and strength.)

We sang "Reign in Me", "In Christ Alone", and "When Its All Been Said and Done".

Four pastors read passages of Scripture (John 14, Psalm 139, II Cor. 5, Rev. 21)

Several people shared beautiful thoughts and memories. We had a moving slide presentati…

Today's Prayer

Today, the staff will gather, along with our spouses for our annual Christmas gathering. It's not exactly a party this year -- because our hearts and thoughts will be with Leah Conner's family, and her memorial service, which is scheduled for this evening.

We're going to have a big crowd tonight. Our worship team is going to lead us in some of the songs Leah loved (new music) and we're going to also draw strength from a couple of old hymns.

My prayer is that God will give me a special anointing to bring a word of faith and encouragement as we grieve together -- and that tonight, we might point someone to Jesus.

Sadly, before the visitation this afternoon, I am meeting with another family who lost a loved one in the prime of life. Bobo, in his mid 40's, died suddenly on Saturday. Tomorrow, another precious family will be gathering at the church in need of a word of comfort and hope.

The Lord is our strength.

Inadequate

David Classen wrote an encouraging piece called, "Feeling Good about Feeling Inadequate"


“Christ is never strong in us until we are weak." wrote William Tyndale, "As our strength diminishes, the strength of Christ grows in us. When we are entirely emptied of our own strength, then we are full of Christ’s strength. As much as we retain of our own, we lack of Christ.”

Carolers

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Yesterday, in the lull between church services and caroling, (during the Packer game) there was a knock at our door. A group of dear friends had stopped by the Wilson home to carol to US!

Now, that was quite a surprise. Cathy and I sat on our stairs with warmed hearts.
We're always on the OTHER side of the carolings. What a joy to receive such a gesture of love and kindness.
I took their picture before they left. A fine crew, indeed!

The Prayer of the Magi

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Three kings bow before the infant in a manger. The heartwarming image touches our hearts as we open our Christmas cards.

Of course -- there's a lot to the story we don't know.

1. We don't know if they were kings. The Bible says they were "wise men" or "magi".

2. We don't know if there were three of them. Tradtion says so, but the only thing we know for sure is that they brought three gifts.

3. We don't know if they showed up at the manger. Again, the Christmas narrative tells us star appeared two years before. Some scholars say that Jesus, then, was two years old when the wise men showed up.

As a sentimentalist, however, I'd like to think that there were three wise men and that the star appeared two years before his birth, so they actaully showed up at the manger on that special night along with the shepherds (can't prove it -- but then, nobody can disprove it either, and it sure helps with the logistics of our Christmas pageant)

There's …

Bell Ringer

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Just returned from ringing the Salvation Army bell for an hour at the Co-op.

Finally -- I got to be the one shaking that little bell that says, "Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, Guilty."

My schedule is really demanding right now, full of pastoral duties and obligations -- but it was a good exercise for me to take a little time out and be a soldier on the front lines.

After my ringing stint, I had the opportunity to help a poor fellow who had been in jail for a few weeks, due to an unpaid traffic violation. When he was released yesterday, he discovered that the people he lived with had moved away, without any forwarding address. They took all of his clothes with them!

It was 15 below zero this morning -- and the poor guy only had a t-shirt and shorts. I met him at Wal Mart, and (thanks to the kind folks who gave to our benevolence fund) helped him obtain a coat and some warm clothing.

This thought from Jesus rings a bell, "I was naked and you clothed me.&qu…

Yucky Stuff

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A little boy was telling his grandma how everything was going wrong -- problems at school, relational conflicts, unreasonable parents -- on and on he went.

As he poured out his litany of complaints, his grandmother busied herself, making a cake. "Would you like a snack, honey?" she asked.
"Of course!" he replied. (No kid ever turns down a snack!)
"Here, have a couple of raw eggs," she offered.
"What?? You've got be kidding, Grandma!"
"How about some cooking oil, then? Or maybe some flour? Perhaps some tasty baking soda?"
"You're nuts, Grandma! That's disgusting, yucky stuff! I wouldn't ever eat that!"
"Oh, but you do," the Grandmother replied. "When I put them all together into a cake, they're wonderful!"
When tempted to whine about our problems, we need to remember that God is able to mix them up, pop them in the oven, and turn them into good.
"All things work together for good for thos…

What a Ride!

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming, "WOW! WHAT A RIDE! (sent yesterday by a friend)

On Tough Conversations

Four great posts by Craig Groeschl on how to handle difficult conversations. Good stuff.:

Tough Conversations (1 of 4)
Tough Conversations (2 of 4)
Tough Conversations (3 of 4)
Tough Conversations (4 of 4)

Religion Incarnate

"Culture is nothing more than religion incarnate." -- interesting thought by Chuck Colson in a Rev Magazine Interview

Presidential Small Town Preacher

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How a Small Town Preacher Became a Rising White House Contender

There are four basic things to succeed in either politics or the pastorate,” said the former Baptist preacher, Mike Huckabee.

“You have to have a message. Secondly, you have to motivate volunteers. You have to be able to understand and work with all types of medium to get your message out,” he continued, “and you’ve got to raise money.”
(Of all the candidates right now, I like Huckabee -- and I said that back when he was getting only 2% in the polls. But I have to admit- It's kind of hard to imagine having a president named Huck.)

Holy Water

The chaplain at St. Mary's, observing our tears, remarked, "That's holy water."

Tragedy

Our precious young friend, Leah Conner, died yesterday afternoon from a brain aneurysm.

Leah was so full of life and vitality. Yesterday morning, she dropped her two little boys off at Grandma's, kissed them, said "I love you! Bye, Bye!", went out the door, and never returned.

She experienced a severe headache in the morning at work, which grew so painful that they decided to take her into the emergency room. A few minutes later, with her husband, Aaron, by her side, she slipped into unconsciousness.

The staff worked valiantly to save her, and then she was airlifted to Duluth. They pronounced her dead at 5:54 pm.

The family made the courageous decision to donate her organs to others who need them. This course of action prolongs everything -- but it was the good and right thing to do -- and they all agreed that Leah would have wanted it that way.

I am so happy Leah knew Jesus. She was a part of our church since she was a little girl in Sunday School. I recall those day…

With Malice Towards None

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Whenever you see a penny, remember the "Abraham Lincoln" attitude, and clear your heart of malice.

In 1864, there was, perhaps, not a more hated man in our nation that the gangly president. People on both sides of the Mason Dixon line blamed him for the deaths of their loved ones in the Civil War.

False friends betrayed him. Enemies assailed him. Throughout the course of his first presidential term, he had been misunderstood, condemned, despised and scorned.

On top of that, there were issues at home. In 1862, his son, Willie, died of typhoid fever, at the tender age of twelve. His wife, Mary, suffered from dark depressions, hysteric fits of rage, and mental illness. Poor Abe had his hands full -- both with a fractured nation and a dysfunctional household.

None was more surprised than Lincoln himself, when he re-elected for a second term. On March 4, 1865, he stood before a mighty throng of spectators and spoke these words at the inauguration:

"With malice toward none, with c…

Wedding Bells

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Last Friday night, our oldest son, Adam, and his lovely sweetheart, Allegra, were married in a small, intimate ceremony at the Tokyo Japanese Steakhouse in Waterloo, Iowa.

Our son, Ryan, drove in from Indiana to meet us there for the beautiful occasion. (Going home Saturday, he was stranded in an ice storm -- but that's another story.) Cathy and I love and bless Adam and Allegra with all our hearts. We are certainly proud of them, and wish them much happiness as they travel the years together.

Prayers

Our heart-felt prayers go out on behalf of YWAM, New Life Church, and everyone impacted by the senseless shootings in Colorado.

Joseph's Prayer

Joseph's Silent Prayers:

1. Your Will Be Done
2. Thank You

Actually, there was ONE word in the Bible that Joseph spoke -- sort of. He named the baby "Jesus." That's the answer to his prayers.

Joseph's Prayer

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I'm preaching a sermon series on the Prayers of Christmas. Last week, I spoke on Mary's prayer -- the Magnificat.
This Sunday, I'm speaking on Joseph's prayer. Now, here's a challenge for you -- what was Joseph's prayer?
Hint: You'll have to guess at his prayer, because he didn't speak it. There aren't ANY recorded words spoken by Joseph. Still -- I can guarantee you, he prayed! His was a silent, deep down prayer. I'll say what I think on Sunday morning -- and it's very similiar to the prayer I have in my own heart right now.

Smudge

Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults -- unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly smear on your own.

--Luke 7:1-3 (The Message)

Favre and Ministry

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We're thrilled to hear that Packer great, Brett Favre, was selected this week as Sports Illustrated 2007 Sportsman of the Year.
In response to this honor, Favre said, "You do that by setting an example, by doing things the right way. I've always shown up, I've always been prepared, I practice every day." "I practice hard. I study. No matter what happens on the field, I never point blame at anybody else. Everything I do comes back to leadership, the example I want to set."
So. . . how does that perspective apply to pastoral ministry?

Megachurch Protests and Deer Hunting

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And speaking of mega-churches . . . this should not come as any surprise. Up here in the northwoods, everybody knows that all the hunters are looking to shoot the big buck. (Just watch how these churches respond. They won't fight back. I'm predicting they will demonstrate grace and love -- like Jesus would do.)

Megachurch Map

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There are just over 1,300 megachurches in the United States, according to the most recent survey by Prof. Scott Thumma at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. These are churches that average at least 2,000 in weekly attendance. This is where they're located. Here's the link to see it better (New York Times.) Also, a fascinating article accompanying the map

15 Measures of Love

The Bible clearly tells us that God is love. If He is at the center of my life -- If He is everything to me -- then I should "BE LOVE" too. It's a lot easier to say, "I'm a loving person" than to really be one. Love goes beyond feeling or intent -- it is character and action.

Here's the filter. What's your LQ (Love Quotient)? What would those around you say about you in these areas?

Patient
Kind
Does Not Envy
Does Not Boast
Not Proud
Not Rude
Not Self Seeking
Not Easily Angered
Keeps No Record of Wrongs
Does Not Delight in Evil
Rejoices With Truth
Protects
Trusts
Hopes
Perseveres

The More Excellent Way

Love is not self-seeking. That's what the Bible says. Popular culture, on the other hand, says something different.

Movies, television shows, and top 40 songs on the radio give us a different message. According to them, love is more like the old Toyota commercial: "I love what you do for ME."

Self seeking love approaches the relationship with a set of expectations: "You are here to meet my needs."
Self sacrificing love comes from opposite perspective: "I am here to meet YOUR needs."

Self seeking love is based on a feeling.
Self sacrificing love is based on a commitment.

Self seeking love is about getting.
Self sacrificing love is about giving.

Self seeking love insists on its own way and demands to be understood.
Self sacrificing love is willing to consider another opinion, and desires to understand.

Self seeking love tries to change the other person.
Self sacrificing love accepts the other person.

Self seeking love attacks.
Self sacrificing love attracts.

Self see…

From Every Stormy Wind

Troubled in spirit this week, I happened upon this beautiful hymn in the old Methodist Hymnal. It was written by a rural pastor, Hugh Stowell, and published in The Winter's Wreath (1828)

From every stormy wind that blows,
From every swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm, a sure retreat:
Tis found beneath the mercy seat.


There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads;
A place than all beside more sweet;
It is the blood bought mercy seat.


There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Tho' sundered far, by faith they meet
Around one common mercy seat.

Christmas Films

Outback Steakhouse Church

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Some time ago, Keith Drury asked, "What would church planting look like if done the Outback Steakhouse Method. Good FOOD for thought -- and makes me steak hungry!

Evel Knievel's Testimony

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I was saddened today, to hear that the legendary daredevil, Evel Knievel has passed away. I am so happy that he had made his peace with God.
Just a few months ago, on Palm Sunday, Evel shared his testimony at the Crystal Cathedral. He said that for all of his life, he refused to accept Christ as Lord. He believed in God, but couldn't get away from the gold, the gambling, the booze and the women. Still, people prayed for Evel, including folks from his daughter's church, his ex-wife's church, as well as countless people who wrote him letters, urging him to surrender his life to Christ.
Then, it happened -- last March, during Daytona Bike Week.
In Evel's words: "I don't know what in the world happened. I don't know if it was the power of the prayer or God himself, but it just reached out, either while I was driving or walking down the sidewalk or sleeping, and it just—the power of God in Jesus just grabbed me. … All of a sudden, I just believed in Jesus Christ. …

Right Attitudes

1. Focus on winning big, not just on getting by.
2. Exhibit unconditional love. . . give freedom to fail.
3. Display a "servant leader" attitude.
4. Retain a lifelong student's attitude.
5. Develop a family-level commitment to the group.
6. Develop critical thinking without a critical attitude.
7. Keep a cooperative attitude.

(Bobb Biehl in Boardroom Confidence)

God and You

Bring to God your gift, my brother,
He'll not need to call another,
You will do!

He will add His blessing to it,
And the two of you will do it,
God and you!

-- R. E. Neighbour

A Measure of Spiritual Growth

SPIRITUAL INFANCY = Being Fed
SPIRITUAL ADOLESCENCE = Feeding Yourself
SPIRITUAL ADULTHOOD = Feeding Others

(From Dave Ferguson)

What Do You Like to Do?

"There are a lot of things that go into creating success. I don't like to do just the things I like to do. I like to do things that cause the company to succeed."

-- Michael Dell, Founder and Chairman of Dell Computers

Spanking

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Hammers and Nails

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If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
-- Larry Stephens

I Forgave

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My heart was heavy, for its trust had been Abused, its kindness answered with foul wrong; So turning gloomily from my fellow men, One summer Sabbath day I strolled among The green mounds of the village burial-place; Where, pondering how all human love and hate Find one sad level; and how, soon or late Wronged and wrongdoer, each with meekened face, Pass the green threshold of our common grave, Whither all footsteps tend, whence none depart, Awed for myself, and pitying my race, Our common sorrow, like a mighty wave, Swept all my pride away, and trembling, I forgave! -- John Greenleaf Whittier

LIfecycle of a Church

Church consultant, George Bullard, has a fascinating chart, which shows the stages of a church's life. You can find it here. (You'll have to scroll down a few posts on the page.) Thought provoking!

86,400

There are 86,400 seconds in each day --86,400 golden moments. That's a treasure trove! What shall we do with it??
Spend the treasure wisely!
Pack your day full!
Pack it full of joy.
Pack it full of love.
Pack it full of wonderful experiences.

When it's gone, we'll never get it back - so lighten up, look up and make it count for something!

Apostolic Succession

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I was ordained July 10, 1987, when General Superintendent, Dr. Earle Wilson, laid hands on me, shook my hand, and declared, "Take Thou Authority to Preach the Word!"
I was thinking about that recently, and began to wonder how far back I could go with the succession of my ordination. So, I did a little research. I was ordained by Earle Wilson Earle Wilson was ordained by Pilgrim Holiness General Superintendent, William Neff William Neff was ordained by the Pilgrim founder, Seth Rees Seth Rees was ordained by Nazarene founder, Phineas Bresee Phineas Bresee was ordained by Methodist Bishop, Levi Scott Levi Scott was ordained by Elijah Hedding. Elijah Hedding was ordained by Francis Asbury Francis Asbury was ordained by a renegade Anglican priest named John Wesley John Wesley was ordained by Anglican Bishop (of Oxford) John Potter.
From Potter -- there's a trail all the way back to St. Peter!! You can see the chart here. (Potter is at the bottom of the page #90.
Now, how about that??

3 Questions to Ask God

Hello. . . God. . .?
Where Are You?
Whatcha Doin"?
Can I Help?

(A member of our Guatamala Missions Team shared this with me upon their return last week.)

First Turkey

Helen Hayes, the actress, told about cooking her very first Thanksgiving turkey. Although this highly acclaimed performer of stage and screen was not a star in the kitchen, she thought the time had come, after several years of marriage, to prepare and bake her first turkey.

She called her husband and son in and prepared them. She said, "This may not come out exactly the way you want it too. If it's not a good turkey, don't say a thing. Without any comment, just stand up from the table, and we'll go to the nearest restaurant and eat."

When she walked into the dining room a few moments later with the turkey on a platter, her husband and son were already standing there with their coats and hats on!

(story from John Maxwell)

Helpful

Count Your Blessings

Johnson Oatman Jr. was a bivocational Methodist minister. Besides his full time work in Retail and the Insurance Industry, he served various local churches -- and still somehow found the time to write 5000 hymns.

One of them, published in Songs for Young People, was published in 1897. It's a great Thanksgiving Song. I tickled the ivories as we sang it at church this past Sunday: Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, see what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care? Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear? Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly, And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at…

No "Two For One" Deals

You cannot travel East and West at the same time.

"He who pursues two hares will catch neither." -- Asian Proverb

The Most Important Skill in Ministry

What is the most important skill in ministry??

Visionary Leadership?
Anointed Preaching?

Those are important -- but not THE MOST important. . .

Steve Furtick hits the nail on the head: The most skill in ministry is the "fine art of hearing from God."

In The Middle

I heard a cute story last week from Kathy, one of our parishioners. She was going through a children's book with her little grandaughter, Destiny. The theme of the book was feelings. Each page was about a different feeling.

When they came to the page that said, "SCARED", Destiny pointed and said, "Look Grandma! The word CARE is right there in the middle of it!"

Out of the mouths of babes! When we're SCARED -- we know that Jesus CARES and He's right there in the middle of it!

5 Ways to Mess Up Your Kids

1. Make them the center of the universe.

2. Act like they're not watching.

3. Solve all their problems.

4. Always defer to the other parent.

5. Never say "I'm sorry."



From Rob at EnterMission -- you can read the whole post here.

Not Gloating

Now, I'm not gloating or anything -- and I know Jesus loves Michigan fans too. In fact, The Buckeyes were just helping Wolverine character development.

Deer Hunting

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Today begins the "other" holy week in Hayward.
The men head off to the woods in blaze orange;
The church is half empty;
We won't be able to find a plumber, barber, or electrician;
Half the cars will have carcasses strapped on top . .
And, I get a free week without ANY marriage counseling!

Gone to the Dogs

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I suppose you could say This Guy's Wife is a Real Dog!
(thanks to Mark Gorveatte for the lead)
A man in southern India married a female dog in a traditional Hindu ceremony as an attempt to atone for stoning two other dogs to death — an act he believes cursed him — a newspaper reported Tuesday. P. Selvakumar married the sari-draped former stray named Selvi, chosen by family members and then bathed and clothed for the ceremony Sunday at a Hindu temple in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Hindustan Times newspaper said. Selvakumar, 33, told the paper he had been suffering since he stoned two dogs to death and hung their bodies from a tree 15 years ago.
"After that my legs and hands got paralyzed and I lost hearing in one ear," he said in the report.
The paper said an astrologer had told Selvakumar the wedding was the only way he could cure the maladies. It did not say whether his situation had improved.
Deeply superstitious people in rural India sometimes organize weddings …

Sodden Log

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O God, not like a stagnant pool with tepid depths, let my life be,
But like a stream, undaunted, cool, that plunges toward the sea.

O God, not like a sodden log, now dead, though once a stately tree, but pushing high above the bog still upward yearning, let life be!

-- J. Gordon Howard

Exploding Offering Plates

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Hey -- if we could figure out how to do this for offering baskets, we'd be in business! If more than three people pass it on without putting something in . . . KABLAMMO!

Church Decisions

How do church leaders arrive at the decisions they make?

1. Tradition:
Often, this decision is made by indecision. We just continue to do what we've always done. If it worked in the past, it should work today. There are a lot of empty churches that have operated this way for years.

2. Emotion:
We make decisions based on who will get upset and/or how strongly somebody feels about the issue. Whoever has the strongest emotion wins the day.

3. Pragmatism:
If it works for today, let's do it. This is a "consumer oriented" approach.

4. Selective Theological Interpretation:
This is usually used by a pastor, or a long tenured church member, searching for Bible passages to support #1 and/or #2 as an argument against #3 -- or sometimes visa versa.

5. Biblical Mission:
While staying true to Scripture (the Great Confession) , making faith-inspired decisions based on the Great Commission (Go make Disciples) in the spirit of the Great Commandment.

Rural Education

75% of Seminary Students are from urban and suburban communities.

75% of Seminary Graduates, however, begin their ministry in a rural or small town setting.

You're Contagious

Pessimism is contagious.
Optimism is also contagious.
Of which are you a carrier?


-H. F. Wood

Starting In A Small Church

Here's a great post from Keith Drury on the Advantages of Starting Your Ministry in a Small Church.

Preaching is Fishing

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How shall souls be caught? They shall be caught by preaching Christ.
Just preach a sermon that is full of Christ, and throw it unto your congregation, as you throw a net into the sea. You need not look where they are, or try to fit your sermon to different cases; but throw it in and as sure as God’s Word is what it is, it shall not return to him void; it shall accomplish that which he pleases, and prosper in the thing whereto he hath sent it. -- Charles Spurgeon (via Phil Johnson)

Nazareth

A great sermon here, by Jeremy Troxler, Director of the Thriving Rural Communities Initiative at Duke Divinity School.
Now, if only we can learn to do this with Small Group Leaders. . .

5 Kinds of Christians

A new study from Christianity Today identifies 5 Kinds of Christians and their views:


1. Active Christians
2. Professing Christians
3. Liturgical Christians
4. Private Christians
5. Cultural Christians

It's an interesting piece of work -- but at the end of the day, when it's all said and done, I think there's only one kind of Christian -- the person who has Jesus in his/her heart.

Relationships!

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On Saturday, I had a delightful visit with Ron and Carol McClung. Ron is the District Superintendent of the Iowa-Minnesota District of the Wesleyan Church. He's on a sabbatical, and wanted to talk with me about the growth of Hayward Wesleyan Church, and our recent church planting efforts.

I turned the tables just a little and asked him a question:
From your travels and observations of many churches -- what piece of advice you would give to the small town and rural pastors who read my blog?
Ron replied: Relationships!! Relationships!! It's about relationships!! Pastor, you can preach fantastic sermons, make brilliant strategic plans, and work your fingers to the bone, but if you don't love your people, it won't mean a thing!

The Pack

What A Game! For once, I got to keep my fingernails.

Two Kinds of Good Days

Sometimes, life is like cruising down a highway on a summer day.
At other times, it's like hiking through a murky swamp.

There are "smooth sailing" days -- and then there are the ones filled with bumps and jolts.

But one thing lies in common: They're both good.

They don't both FEEL good, mind you -- but they're good, nevertheless.

The sunshine days are good for carefree laughter, pleasure and fun.
The dark and difficult days are good for character development.

Either way -- it's still a good day.

If you're going through the dark valley, don't despair. Joy will come in the morning. Learn the valuable lessons life has to offer -- and keep trudging forward. Don't give up.

As Dag Hammarskjold stated, "When the morning's freshness has been replaced by the weariness of midday, when the leg muscles quiver under the strain, the climb seems endless, and suddenly, nothing will go quite as you wish -- it is then that you must not hesitate."

"…

Did You Ask for A Sign?

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Give Them Jesus

Yesterday was rewarding and fulfilling.

I had to opportunity to visit with a friend who is fighting a life-threatening disease. She has tremendous faith -- much much more than she realizes. She asked some deep questions.

My answers were inadequate, but she left feeling assured, because I gave her Jesus.

I spoke with a board member -- reviewing Thursday night's meeting. We are moving forward into some uncharted territory. It's exciting and frightening at the same time. We prayed together. I had a few questions.

He gave me Jesus.

The roads were snow covered and slippery: the first "bad driving day" of the season. While I white knuckled it to the National Cemetery, I prayed for good Lord to provide safe and timely travel.

Jesus helped me. Thank you Jesus!

Conducting the memorial service for Chet Smigla -- who served his nation aboard ships in two wars, then his neighbors as a Coast Guard search and rescue captain -- I quoted Scripture and Tennyson. After the gun sa…

Three Questions of a Leader

1. Am I genuinely interested in people?
2. Am I taking care of today?
3. Am I taking others to a higher level?
-- John Maxwell

Burnout

Are you burned out?? Here's a little test to let you know.

(via Monday Morning Insight, via Cory Miller)

The Way of Peace and True Liberty

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1. Strive to do another’s will rather than your own.
2. Choose always to have less than more.
3. Seek the lower places in life, dying to the need to be recognized and important.
4. Always, and in everything desire that the will of God may be completely fulfilled in you.

-- Thomas A Kempis

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