Monday, December 31, 2007

What Does This Painting Say to You?


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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

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


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

Friday, December 28, 2007

Holy Turf Wars


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

Spirit of Humility

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Faith is the Oil


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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

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!

However, there are plenty of blessings to go along with those troubles. It's a good mix, really -- a gallon of grace for every teaspoon of difficulty. God is with us.

Therefore, we must not succomb to the tears, nor cave to the fears. Regret and anxiety are terrible dictators.

No -- we just need to live one day at a time.

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

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!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Immanuel and Love in Galoshes


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.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Lotsa Snow


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.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Church

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Seven Ups


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 not be weary in doing good; for at the proper time,We will reap a harvest if we do not give up.Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good.." -- Galatians 6:9-10

5. Look Up ! . . .To the Lord.

"I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me". -- Philippians 4:13

6. Reach Up !. . . For something higher.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,And lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path." -- Proverbs 3:5-6

7. Lift Up ! . .Your Prayers.

"Do not worry about anything; insteadPRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING." -- Philippians 4:6

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 children.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

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 presentation (to the music of "You are My Sunshine" and "Lifesong" )

I, then, shared a Message from Leah to all of us. It was based on the last e-mail she sent to me, just a few days before she died.

We sang "It is Well with My Soul" and "I Can Only Imagine", then joined hands and prayed together.

Finally, we exited the sanctuary with Amazing Grace as our postlude (It had also been the prelude -- reminding us that we are surrounded by grace. God's love goes before us, His mercy follows us. His grace will lead us home.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

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.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

Carolers

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!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Prayer of the Magi

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 a whole lot we don't know about the magi. We have to use our imaginations to connect the dots and color the pages. However, I do believe I know the prayer these men held in their hearts as they journeyed to Bethlehem.

In many ways, it's the same thing I hold in my heart today: a prayer with three parts.

Part One: Where Are You?

Sometimes in life's journey, we face perplexing and difficult circumstances. There are days when the darkness overtakes the light, the sorrow outweighs the joy, and the questions are louder than the answers. We are prone to wonder: "Where are you, God? I'm looking, and I can't find you."

But he Christmas story reminds us that the Christ child is called "Immanuel" which means, "God WITH us." Even when it seems like he is nowhere to be found. . . he is NOW HERE -- Right Here -- Right Now. He is with us.

If you have a seeking heart, you will find Christ, because all along, He is seeking you!

Part Two: We've Seen Your Star

If you ask "where are you?" with an open, humble and honest heart, you will find the answer. You will see his star. It may not be exactly what you had pictured. You may not get a shout or a lightning bolt from heaven. Perhaps it will be just a whisper or small glimmer of hope.

Look for the hope glimmer. Look! You will find it. Through the clouds, his star is shining somewhere, and it will guide you home.

"The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious dawn."

Part Three: We Have Come to Worship You

We may never get satisfactory answers to life's darkest questions. We may never understand why bad things happen to good people. But, if we can find it in our hearts to trust God anyway -- to honor him first with our lives, we will be blessed with peace.

Like the wise men, let us bring our gifts of Gold, Frankensence and Myrrh:

Gold speaks of Majesty. "Jesus, you are the King of Life. It will trust you and submit to your will. You are my Guide."

Frankensence speaks of Divinity. "Jesus, I turn my concerns into prayers. I believe you are good. You are my Helper"

Myrrh -- speaks of Suffering and Loss. "Jesus, I give you my griefs and sorrows. I know you are with me. You are my Healer."

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bell Ringer

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."

Yucky Stuff

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 those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Presidential Small Town Preacher


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 days well. I conducted Aaron and Leah's wedding, and dedicated their two little ones, Austin and Hayden.

Leah's faith shone brightly through all the adversities of life. She has a positive and loving outlook, which inspired others. She taught Sunday School in our Nursery for several years, and recently redesigned our church webpage.

We're going to miss her. Please pray for her family as they try to figure out how to proceed from here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

With Malice Towards None


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 charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Malice is defined as -- a desire to cause pain, injury or distress to another.
With malice towards none!

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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wedding Bells

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.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

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.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Joseph's Prayer


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.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

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

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?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Megachurch Protests and Deer Hunting


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.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Megachurch Map


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.)

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

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 seeking love is blind.
Self sacrificing love has eyes wide open.

Self seeking love constantly compares.
Self sacrificing love keeps no record of wrongs.

Self seeking love is temporary.
Self sacrificing love lasts forever.

Love is a gift -- which is really nothing, until you give it away.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

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.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Evel Knievel's Testimony


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. I did, I believed in him! … I rose up in bed and, I was by myself, and I said, 'Devil, Devil, you bastard you, get away from me. I cast you out of my life.' … I just got on my knees and prayed that God would put his arms around me and never, ever, ever let me go."

Following his testimony, Evel was baptized by Dr. Robert H. Schuller (the dad) (trascript of interview and baptism here) Then, something extraordinary happened. Robert A. Schuller (the son), felt prompted to invite anyone else who needed to be baptized to come forward.

As the congregation spontaniously sang "Amazing Grace", between 500 and 800 people came to the front of the church and were baptized. I suppose you could say the Crystal Cathedral, that day, experienced a touch of revival.

God bless you Evel. I'm glad you took the great leap of faith.

(Christianity Today reported on the event here)



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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Forgave


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!

Monday, November 26, 2007

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!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

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




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??

Saturday, November 24, 2007

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.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

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)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Helpful

George Bullard's Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development.

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 others with their lands and gold, Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold; Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small, Do not be discouraged, God is over all; Count your many blessings, angels will attend, Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

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."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Yes!!

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!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

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.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

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

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!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gone to the Dogs

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 to dogs and other animals, believing it can ward off certain curses.

The paper showed a picture of Selvakumar sitting next to the dog, which was wearing an orange sari and a flower garland.
The paper said the groom and his family then had a feast, while the dog got a bun.

Sodden Log

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

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Exploding Offering Plates


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!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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

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.

Monday, November 12, 2007

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!

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!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

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."

"I love the man who can smile in trouble," observed Thomas Paine, "that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Did You Ask for A Sign?


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 salute and taps, his wife, Karen bravely clutched the folded flag close to her heart.

I whispered a prayer and gave her Jesus.

As the service concluded, and everybody hugged each other, a member of St. Joe's, handed me a box of Tremblay's fudge. A note taped to the box said, "Happy Thanksgivng Pastor Mark. Thank you for sharing your life with us."

I smiled, thanked her, and gave her Jesus.

From there, I drove two and a half hours to Children's Hospital in the heart of Minneapolis. On the sixth floor, little Eddie, only six months old, was struggling.

His family asked if I could come and baptize him.

My normal mode of operation is the "dedication" of little ones rather than baptism. However, we live in Lutheran and Catholic territory. This precious family didn't need a doctrinal discussion. They needed a blessing and a visual reminder that Jesus is holding Eddie close to His heart.

We obtained special permission to wheel Eddie down to the chapel -- oxygen tanks, i.v. tubes and all. Several family members and friends gathered in that small sacred space. A nurse stood quietly in the back of the room wiping tears.

I took Eddie in my arms, blessed him and his parents, and gave them all Jesus.

Driving home, I practiced Sunday's sermon out loud. Folks in the next lane stared and pointed at the "crazy man."

I grinned, waved, and gave 'em Jesus.

Friday, November 09, 2007

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

Thursday, November 08, 2007

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


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.

Cookies

My good friend, Sue Bartz, sent me this treasure trove of cookie recipes. Just click on the cookie's name, and presto -- you'll get the recipe! This is for all the folks who complain about "cookies" on their computers.

1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cake Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms