Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Meetings Make You Dumber

MSNBC has reported that meetings make you stupid.

"Group think" is less productive than pooled "solo thinking."

Now, what are we to do about staff meeting??

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Six Bits from Beeson

Mark Beeson's daughter, Amber, recently shared six things she learned from her dad at her blog, Amberwire. Thanks to Church Relevance for the lead.

1. Just Keep Doing the Next Right Thing.
" I don’t have to worry about everything, I just need to focus on doing the next right thing, right now, in front of me in this very minute. Then, after that decision is made, I can move on to the next right thing."

2. Attitude is Everything.

3. Strive to Live Without Regrets.
Basically, you’re human, you’ll have some regrets, it’s inevitable…but you can strive to save yourself from regrets later if you think about consequences now, before you do whatever it was that you were thinking of doing. Ask yourself, “Will I regret this later?” .

4. Someone is always watching you, Looking to you, Modeling after you.

5. Have a Friend, Be a Friend.
If I am friendly, people will want to be my friend. If I want to have a great friend, I need to be a great friend.

6. and last, but not least, People are Idiots.
People, people, people…what can I say? People need Jesus. We all need to know that we matter to God and we’re are here for a purpose! Generally, people (including myself) are idiots, and realizing that helps me to laugh often, to love extravagantly and forgive quickly.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Beneath the Ice

Black and white February tends to chill us to the bone.

Summer joys lie torpid in thick ice. Our hopes are hybernating.

Frozen in distant memory banks, spring flowers lie somewhere beneath.

In cold and cloudy winter, one begins to wonder whether May will ever show her lovely face again.

But she will! She will!
She always does!

Every spring,
she springs,
and sings,
and brings new life.

The multi-colored days,
pinioned by the bitter greys,
will soon burst forth in light,

Winter is only temporary.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Finally Happened

Now, we can get some of those reluctant guys into the church!
(Picked this up at Mayberry Driven Church)

World's Coolest Pulpit

This morning I introduced my new handcrafted northwoods pulpit. My artist friend, Jerry Zamber, created it from trees in the woods behind his house.
It has a "rustic" hand-hewn look, and is packed with meaning. There are three biblical themes woven into this sacred desk.
1. Creation: It reminds us of God's creative hand at work in our world. All things were made by Him.
2. Cross: Jesus died on the cross to redeem us. The pulpit reminds us of the price He paid on our behalf.
3. Community: Symbolized by the various supporting branches at the bottom. We really do need each other, and rely on one other for strength and support. It also speaks of John 15. "I am the Vine, you are the branches."
Our cracked plexiglass podium has seen better days, and is now relegated to the basement with the other "former pulpits" of the church.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Americans Sweep Birkie

"In my opinion, any day you find yourself at the starting line for the Birkie, it’s going to be a great day indeed!" ~ Scott Smith

Today's "half-a-Birkie" provided a rare opportunity for American skiers. After almost a decade of dominance, the Italians didn't get to the finish line first.

The fact that they didn't show up helped substantially.

Zack Simons of Utah was the first guy across the line (only the fifth American male to win since the inception of the race in 1973.) Kate Whitcomb, of Idaho was the winner in the women's field.

Aussie Friends

Australian, Wayne Field, who recently commented here, posts on a marvelous blog site for pastors: Ra'ah (Hebrew for "shepherd".)

I'm including it in my blogroll, and I encourage you to pop over for a visit!

It's fun to have connections on the other side of the globe. It's a small world after all.

Curing Souls

Though Eugene Peterson wrote this outstanding article over two decades ago, today's pastors ought to dust it off, give it another read, and put it into practice.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bridge to Terabithia

Took the family to see Bridge to Terabithia tonight, having finished the book a couple of days ago.

It's a great tale demonstrating the beauty of friendship, childhood and imagination, by Katherine Paterson (who happens to be an M.K.: missionary's kid.)

We agreed that the movie was almost as good as the book. We also agreed that we shouldn't read such sad stories right before bed.

Birky Lemon Slush

Hayward is the home of the nation's largest cross country ski race, the American Birkebeiner -- also known as the Greatest Show on Snow! Elite skiers have flown in from all over the world. Thousands have gathered from every state to test their mettle in the winter wilderness.

Unfortunately, however, the weather has not cooperated this year. Tomorrow's race has been reduced to the top 250 skiers, and shortened to a mere 23 kilometers (from 51.)

They won't be finishing on Main Street as usual. I guess, I'll just have to put my cow bell away until next winter.

The other 9000 or so skiers are invited to participate in "non-competitive" open track events. Seems rather anti-climactic to me, but I applaud the valiant effort to redeem the world class event, under dire circumstances.

No, it's not exactly the way things were originally planned -- but when life in Hayward throw you lemons, you gotta make lemon slush!!

On God's Will

Dallas Willard writes:

When our children, John and Becky, were small, they were often completely in my will as they played happily in the back yard, though I had no preference that they should do the particular things they were doing there or even that they should be in the back yard instead of in their rooms or having a snack in the kitchen.

Generally speaking, we are in God's will whenever we are leading the kind of life he wants for us. And that leaves a lot of room for initiative on our part, which is essential; our individual initiatives are central to his will for us."

in Hearing God (p. 11)

Your Sweetness

My missionary friend, Phil Nettleton, sent the following inspirational thought yesterday:

I read of a great servant of God, Dr. F. B. Meyer. When he was young he was often irritable. One day an elderly saint told him how he had gained victory over irritability in his own life. He discovered and developed the practice of the moment he felt irritation rising in his heart, he would look up and say, “Your sweetness, Lord!” Dr. Meyer adopted this practice and found it to be the antidote for his tendency to be irritable. In his preaching ministry he began to share this with many, bringing great benefit to his listeners.

He explained: Take the opposite attitude. If you are facing untruth, cry out, Your truth, Lord; unkindness-Your kindness, Lord; impatience-Your patience, Lord; selfishness-Your unselfishness, Lord; roughness-Your gentleness, Lord; discouragement-Your courage, Lord; resentment-Your sweetness, Lord.

I would recommend you try this simple plan for a month! See what results in your life and your relationship with God and others!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Marie and Jim have been married over 50 years.

A couple of days ago, she brought in this little piece of advice from her "Wild Words from Wild Women" calendar:

"Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That is what makes a marriage last -- more than passion or even sex!"

Pastor Facts

90 -- percentage of pastors who work more than 46 hours per week.

75 -- percentage of pastors who have experienced a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.

70 -- percentage of pastors who say they have lower self esteem now compared to when they started in ministry.

70 -- percentage of pastors who do not have someone they consider a close friend

-- Fuller Institute of Church Growth

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An Ash Wednesday Jail Service

This morning, I felt prompted to call the jail and see if I could possibly do an Ash Wednesday service there for the inmates.

I was happy when my dear friend, Lt. Barthel, granted permission for me to come.

With guitar, Bible, and a bowl of ashes in hand, I made my way through the maze of hallways.

A half dozen of us guys gathered in the "programs room" for the very first church service in our new jail. (All but one were genuinely interested in spiritual things. The other guy just wanted to get out of the cell -- but, hey, that's about the same percentage as what I have on Sunday morning! He actually participated a little bit towards the end -- and even laughed at my jokes.)

None of them were singers -- so I had to call an audible. We just sat down together and talked about life, faith, troubles, worry and God. It was a great conversation.

"We're not supposed to have weapons in here, but I brought a sword!" I said, pulling out my Bible. One of the men asked me if I would read Psalm 23. It seemed to help them all.

They wanted me to pray for them -- and so I did --remembering their specific concerns.

I wrapped it all up by breaking out my guitar and singing a blues version of "I Feel Better, So Much Better, Since I Laid My Burden Down."

None of them joined me in the singing, but that's o.k. --they were with me in their hearts.

Then I "ashed" 'em (a sign of the cross on their hand) before the jailor led them back to the cell block.

Ash Wednesday Prayer

Oh Jesus
You place on me the sign of your saving cross

Turn from sin
And be faithful to the Gospel

How can I turn from sin
Unless I turn to you?

You speak
You raise your hand
You touch my mind
And call my name

Turn to the Lord,
Your God, Again

These days of your favor
Leave a blessing as you pass

Turn to us, Lord
Turn to us
And we shall turn to you

Invisible Fence

"Five acres of invisible fence. A display of invitation without a welcome."

-- I recently heard a pastor describe the residents of his rural community this way. You know, there are a lot of churches that also fit that description.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Under Control

Attention -- all control freaks. (That includes me, by the way.) I have an important annoucement to make:

About 96% of life is outside the scope of your control!

Isn't that an unpleasant surprise? You knock yourself out trying to manipulate outcomes and make things go a certain way, but realize you have less than a 5% chance that it will turn out exactly how you had planned it! The odds aren't stacked in your favor. Less than 5%!

Here's another interesting observation. The more effort you put in trying to control everything, the less control you'll have. Strivings and graspings only lead to frustration and further chaos.

You can't control life's circumstances. The unexpected pops up every day.

You can't control other people. To a limited degree, I suppose, are able to control behaviors (i.e. parents who are guiding and disciplining their children), but we can NEVER control the attitudes of others.

You can't control the end results of your efforts. Of course, you'll increase your chances of success if you make good plans, work hard, and think smart. But you can't create the final outcome. There are many uncertain variables that go into producing the final result.

For example, both the Bears and the Colts fully intended to win the Super Bowl. Both teams planned, practiced, and poured their hearts into winning that game. Neither team, however, figured rain or slippery footballs into the equation. Stuff happens. The Colts adjusted a little better than the Bears, and walked away with victory. Sometimes, the very best plans and schemes go awry.

So, what is the 4% you CAN control?

1. You can control your thoughts.

2. You can control your words.

3. You can control your attitude.

4. You can control your behavior.

When you spend more time and energy controlling what you CAN control rather than the things you can't, you'll be surprised at how much more fulfilling your life will become.

Chase the Lion

Here's a Great Article by Mark Batterson. Inspiring!! Motivating!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Missions Eh?

An interesting post on Canadians as missionaries to the United States.

Smoggy Preaching

Once, after hearing a verbose preacher, one parishoner commented, "My, wasn't that deep?"
Her husband replied, "Nah, just muddy."

Several years ago, Professor G. Harry McLaughlin created a formula to measure the muddiness of communication.

He called the tool SMOG -- Simple Measure of Gobbledygook

You can test the readability of your own writing by using the SMOG Calculator.

Pastor, you might want to run your sermon through this before you preach it next Sunday.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

God In the Radio

A newcomer to our church told me an amazing story this morning. She has been coming about four weeks now -- and for the first time, has experienced the love and grace of Jesus. It has been absolutely tranformational for her.

She has signed up for Alpha, and also is singing in our Easter choir!

She told me that last week, she shared about her lonliness with Deb, one of our parishoners. Deb asked her if she had ever listened to Christian radio. She hadn't. In fact, she had never listed to a Christian radio station in her whole life! Deb told her where she could find KDNW, on the dial.

When she went to her car, she turned on the radio. Amazingly -- Miraculously -- it was already on KDNW! She said that her radio has NEVER been on that station before. She said her car was locked, and she has NO idea how the dial ended up at 97.3.

"It scared me to death!" she admitted, "But it also made a believer out of me!"

We're going to light the faith candle for her next Sunday.

Best Web Sites for Preachers

Alan Nelson has developed a list of the best websites available for preachers.

These are excellent tools, but besides the Holy Bible, the best preaching resource I've ever found is this book. I have it in my library, and read regularly for free refills.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Mission Field

Back when I was in seminary, I attended a church that had a sign above the exit: "You Are Now Entering the Mission Field"

Unfortunately, the parishoners didn't take that sign to heart. The once-mighty congregation dwindled down to a small group with great memories of the good old days, and sadly, a few years ago, they closed up their doors.

What happened to the mission field?

Every March, we have a Missions Conference here at Hayward Wesleyan Church. We bring in missionaries from all over the world, hear inspiring stories from other lands, and raise a lot of money to support these worthy causes.

It's exciting to think that we can literally touch the world from Hayward! We can really make a difference for someone in Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe, or in some Islamic stronghold.

When I give my dollars to misisons -- I am going! I've invested a part of my life for those dollars. So, in a way, when I send my money, I am sending ME!

Yet, we must never forget that our mission focus starts at home! How tragic it is when people travel across the seas bringing the Gospel, but are unwilling to go across the street to love their neighbors.

The Mission field starts at home, and then grows from there.

Jerusalem! Judea! Samaria! The ends of the earth! (Acts 1:8)

Next time you're walking out of church, remind yourself:
"I am Now Entering the Mission Field."

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Deadly Combo

What do you get when you mix the sins of gluttony and pride?

Answer: Fat men in Speedos

Church Multiplication!

The people of Bluffton Sonlight Church took Pastor Lyle's sermon to heart, when he preached on Genesis 1:28, "Be Fruitful and Multiply"

Suffering Through

Students at Indiana Wesleyan University, under the direction of homiletics professor, David Ward, are conducting a survey on the theme of suffering in preaching.

Speaking of such anguish, I think it would also be appropriate to survey the poor congregants who have to suffer through bad sermons every week.

Heretic's Guide to Eternity

I recently finished Spencer Burke's Heretic's Guide to Eternity

Reading this book is a lot like eating a northern pike. There are some tasty morsels -- but you have to do an awful lot of bone picking.

I appreciate his refreshing view about the wideness of God's tender mercy, which reaches out to us all. I applaud his emphasis on spirituality v.s. dead religion. Sadly, these themes have been neglected too often in the organized church.

However, his leanings towards univeralism is disturbing. In fairness -- he claims NOT to be a univeralist in the classical sense -- but this writing is dangerously close to the cliff!

He says he believes in hell, but it sure seems to me to like a "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", sort of way.

I don't preach on hell very often -- but I believe there is one and we need to do everything we can to avoid it. Like Burke, I don't think God wants ANYBODY to go there. However, there are some folks who choose that path. I don't think anybody ends up there by accident.

One Sunday, after I had mentioned hell in a sermon, a guy came up to me and said, "I don't believe in that!"

I replied, "I wish I had that option. I'd rather not believe in it too -- but I believe in the Bible, and the Bible says there is one. So, I have to either make myself and my own opinions the standard of truth, or I have to go elsewhere. I choose the Bible."

I have found, however, that most preachers who talk about hell seem to enjoy the idea that people are headed that direction. Something's twisted about that!

So, I do agree with the gracious spirit of Burke -- even though I disagree with some of his conclusions.

I'd rather assume there IS a hell to avoid -- and then find out in eternity that there isn't one, than to assume there isn't one -- and to find out later that there IS!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Personal Soul Care

Dallas Willard wrote an important article on Personal Soul Care for pastors.

It's imperative for pastors to serve from a full tank, rather than fumes. The minister's most important job is being tuned up spiritually.


This week, the 25,000th visitor came to my blog! Thank y'all for coming!

Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point A Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, Ask If They Want Fries with that.

4. Put Your Garbage Can On Your Desk And Label It "In."

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks . Once Everyone has Gotten Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy."

7. As Often As Possible, Skip Rather Than Walk.

8. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.

9. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go."

10. Sing Along At The Opera.

11. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their Party Because You're Not In The Mood.

12. Have Your Co-workers Address You By Your Wrestling Name, Rock Bottom.

13. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won!, I Won!"

-- Found this at Mark Batterson's blog, Evotional

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Web Page

Thank you to Leah Conner for creating a new web page for our church! It's still under construction -- but I thought you might want to see it! Be sure to check out the staff page.

Star Dust

As I was straightening up after a wedding rehearsal, I found a candy valentine heart lying near the altar of the church.
"Hmmm", I thought, "Maybe there will be a little nugget here that I can use in Aaron and Leah's wedding tomorrow." I was hoping to find one of the old standard phrases such as "Love Forever", "Truly Yours", or "Ever Devoted". Instead, I was disappointed to find that this little green heart said, "Star Dust". "Star Dust?" I exclaimed, "Good grief! Who thinks up this stuff anyhow? How in the world can I use Star Dust in the wedding?"

Unfortunately, too many people have a "Star Dust" view of love. They think there's some magical poof from Cupid, and they'll live happily ever after. Before long, however, the "Star Dust" turns to "Star Wars"! Marriages might be made in heaven, but they have to be worked out down here on earth. Then -- a brainstorm hit me! If a marriage is going to go the distance, it needs the real kind of S.T.A.R.D.U.S.T.

S- Spiritual Foundation:
When a couple has a rock solid spiritual commitment, they love each other more deeply. The Bible says God is love -- and as we love Him more, we love each other more deeply as well! There is no other foundation which will stand strong through every storm of life. Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it.

T -- Troubles!
Every relationship will run into troubles sooner or later. My wife, Cathy, recently said, "You can't have a deep relationship with someone unless you've been through some 'stuff' together!" She's absolutely right. If we keep an open heart and humble spirit, we can learn and grow through our troubles. The very things that could tear us apart draw us closer together!

A -- Attitude Adjustments.
We all have the tendency to slide into negativism and fault finding. Every day, we must take our thoughts captive and refocus the way we think. If you look for the best in your partner, and you will find it!

R -- Responsibility.
In a strong marriage, both partners take full responsibility to make it work. It requires a 100% commitment. "I will go the extra mile for you!"

D -- Dedication/Devotion
This says, "I will be yours forever! The other 'D' word (divorce) will not be a part of our vocabulary. I am determined to do whatever it takes to build a great relationship. Such an attitude requires the hard work of resolving difficult issues -- but the reward far outweighs the price.

U -- Understanding.
Seek to understand rather than to be understood. George Truett said, "The reason why marriage is for a lifetime is because that's how long it takes to understand each other!" Actually, understanding is a wonderful journey -- an exploration into the fascinating person God has placed into your life!

S -- Selflessness.
I believe almost 100% of marriage problems are a result of selfishness. The best way to marriage harmony is to have a mindset that says, "I'm here to serve!"

T -- Trust and Tenderness.
Trust is the glue that holds homes together. This is why truthfulness is so vital to every marriage. Tender thoughts, words and actions are love expressed! True love shouldn't remain bottled up inside. It must be communicated.


For God so loVed the world,
That He gAve
his onLy
So N
That whosoever
Believeth I n Him
Should N ot perish,
But have E verlasting life."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Amazing Grace Sunday

Our church is joining thousands of other congregations around the country this weekend in celebrating Amazing Grace Sunday!

We will lift our voices in singing "Amazing Grace" which happens to be my favorite song, and remember the redeemed slave trader, John Newton.

Interestingly, we did a "favorite song" poll in our bulletin last Sunday.

1st place -- "I Can Only Imagine"
2nd place -- tie "Amazing Grace" and "In Christ Alone"

If you were voting on a favorite church song, what would it be?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Balmy Wisconsin

My friends, Ryan and Heather, shared this little weather report with me recently:

60 above zero:
Floridians turn on the heat.
People in Wisconsin plant gardens.

50 above zero:
Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in Superior sunbathe.

40 above zero:
Italian & English cars won't start.
People in Wisconsin drive with the windows down.

32 above zero:
Distilled water freezes.
The water in Hayward gets thicker.

20 above zero:
Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, wool hats.
People in Wisconsin throw on a flannel shirt.

15 above zero:
New York landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in Wisconsin have the last cookout before it gets cold.

People in Miami all die.
People in Wisconsin close the windows.

10 below zero:
Californians fly away to Mexico
People in Wisconsin get out their winter coats.

25 below zero:
Hollywood disintegrates.
The Girl Scouts in Wisconsin are selling cookies door to door.

40 below zero:
Washington DC runs out of hot air.
People in Wisconsin let the dogs sleep indoors.

100 below zero:
Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Wisconsinites get upset because they can't start the Mini-Van.

460 below zero:
ALL atomic motion stops (absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.)
People in Wisconsin start saying..."Cold 'nuff fer ya?"

500 below zero:
Hell freezes over.
Wisconsin public schools will open 2 hours late.

A Celtic Prayer

From the Celtic Book of Prayer (I picked this up from Scott McKnight)

Call: Who is it that you seek?
Response: We seek the Lord our God.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your heart?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your soul?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your mind?
Response: Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Call: Do you seek Him with all your strength?
Response: Amen. Christ, have mercy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fund Raiser Idea

Instead of the standard Valentine's Banquet, I think the teens should consider this idea for their mission fund raiser next year. All they would need is one taker -- and they'd have several years of missions trips paid in full!

Of course, we'll have to see if Kirk and Aaron know how to cook Beluga caviar, Perigord truffles, Kobe beef, and Brittany lobster. And, yes, they'll need to serve Hawaiin punch instead of red wine.

Li'l Sarah and the Baby Blessing

Yesterday morning, a precious family gathered at the church for a blessing of their latest arrival: a baby daughter.

I stood at the front of the church and said, "On this is a beautiful, heartwarming, and meaningful occasion, we have gathered to bless little Sarah. Would someone bring little Sarah up and place her in my arms?"

Everybody laughed.

Then, the blushing mother explained, "The baby's name is McKenzie. I'M Sarah!"

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Busy Day

Yesterday, I welcomed a newborn into this world, prayed with two ladies who are hospitalized with very serious conditions and met with a heartbroken couple who lost their home in a fire.

I also wrote a letter to a friend in prison, worked through a couple of administrative snags that needed untangling, returned a half dozen phone calls, counseled with a lady who is going through some major life transitions, wrote a newspaper column, prayed with a lady who needed some encouragement, met one on one with four of our pastors about various issues, met with and blessed a couple of members who have decided to leave the church, wrote up a synopsis of our church board meeting, and spoke at our Valentine Banquet.

In between all that, I worked my sermon.


I have control over three things:

1. What I think.
2. What I say.
3. How I behave.

-- Sonya Friedman

(My friend, Dean Brown added a fourth -- "Whether or not I pray."

What's Possible?

"Spiritual formation begins with the question, 'what's possible?' People will live up or down to their beliefs." -- Dieter Zander

Friday, February 09, 2007

Today in History

On February 9, 1709, six year old John Wesley was "plucked like a brand from the burning flames."
This was a defining moment in Wesley's life, and throughout the rest of his years, he referred to it in his sermons and writings.
His brother Charles, the hymnwriter, was also deeply moved by the experience. The song he wrote at his conversion goes like this:
How shall I all to heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from the eternal fire.
How shall I equal triumphs raise,
Or sing my great Deliverer's praise?

It's A Girl!

Jeremy and Amanda had a baby girl this morning! Sari Mae Mavis entered this world shortly before 2:00 this morning!

I had the privilege of praying a blessing over this precious little one on this first day of her life.

A newborn baby is a living illustration of Psalm 139:13-14!

Board Blessings

We had an outstanding Board Meeting last night. There was much faith and positive energy in the air.

After a time of prayer, Diane led a devotional, in which she said, "a rut is just a grave with both ends kicked out."

Her statement exploded inside me during the reading of the minutes. "Hey! Let's get out of the rut! Let's leave this room and wander through the church for a "walk-by blessing!"

There were four different groups meeting at the church in other parts of the building: the praise team, a men's support group, a women's support group, and some cooks in the kitchen, peparing food for the Valentine Banquet.

Randy was also there, cleaning up from a class he and Josh had offered for husbands -- How to cook a romantic dinner for two. I told him the women of the church would rise up and call him blessed!

We went into each room, told them how much we appreciate them, and that what they're doing is really important. Then, we laid hands on them, and prayed blessings over them.

Everybody beamed. On the way back to the meeting room, I heard someone say, "It's fun to get out of the rut."

Baby on the Way

Shortly before the board meeting, our Children's Pastor, Jeremy called, and said he was taking Amanda into the hospital -- It looks like a baby is on the way!

I told him that was absolutely NO excuse for missing our monthly board meeting. They KNEW we always meet on the second Thursday of the month, and they should have scheduled the labor for a more convenient time!

Seriously, I blessed them, prayed with them, and sent them off to become a family of three.
I've not heard any word since then, so I'm figuring it's been a long night for for this beautiful couple.

Futility and the Best Board Report Ever

This week, Jeremy, our children's pastor, submitted the best report to the board I have ever seen in all my years of pastoral work. With his permission, I am posting it for you:

Sometimes I think life is entirely futile. We live, we die. While we in America are currently protected, the rest of the world lives amidst civil war, strife, hunger, disease, chaos, fear, death, etc. When one looks at the politics in our country and in the world, futility seems to emanate from these thrones of power. The poor and minorities are oppressed. The rich are exalted. The middle class are targets of powerful corporations feeding us a line that their particular product or service will grant us a life of worry-free happiness if we hand over our credit card and bank account information. Who can win? Violence in schools… bullies… drug epidemics… and suicides. Natural disasters that seem like God’s vengeance. Global warming threatening the very reality we know. The list could go on and on. AIDS in Africa. Child slavery in the Far East to produce the goods we Americans enjoy. Starvation. FUTILITY.

What a way to start a board report, eh? “How’s it going in children’s ministry, Jeremy?” “FUTILE!!”

I wonder, though, if the way things are in this world… you know, futile… is a good thing. I wonder if the result of the Fall of mankind is the futility of it all. Because if this world did work for us, then maybe that’s all we would get. Maybe if the world worked for us, then we wouldn’t need God. Maybe the consequence of the apple from the wrong tree, is that life is really going to be horrible for you!! Nothing is going to work the way you want it to. That new flat screen TV you want to buy isn’t going to make you happy. Seriously. Because someday it is going to break. And someday you are going to want another one that is bigger and better. We are never satisfied. Man alive!! Doesn’t this kind of futility sound horrible?

That is why Jesus had such good news, the gospel. His way, His truth, His life. God’s kingdom. A way of life that is entirely upside down from the way we think it should be. Life that has hope out of futility. Something that will work for us in a world that is not made to work for us. The ways of Jesus. The life of Jesus. The words and actions of Jesus. Touching lepers (AIDS people, bad people in jail, old person in the nursing home, homeless person, or that obnoxious person that all of have in our lives). Befriending prostitutes and sinners (the crack whore that I heard walks the streets of Hayward, people who smoke, consume alcohol, produce meth in their basements, watch R-rated movies, etc.). Their lives… are futile! But with the good news of Jesus, God’s world does work for them. In His kingdom is where the rejects of this world will find what they are looking for.

I am concerned about what our children and youth in Hayward have to look forward to. FUTILITY? Or HOPE? Which is it? Are our lives centered around God’s kingdom and the ways of Jesus? Or are our lives centered on what this world has to offer in all of its futility?

That’s what has been going on inside of me lately. What can we bring as a faith community to this world of Hayward? Hope? Or just more futility? Are activities and programs at church that we do with children and youth just more futile things that families consume? Or are they a life-giving apparatus that displays and models hope that only living in God’s kingdom can produce?

In our nursery, we provide child-care for parents so that they can attend a church service and any discipleship classes that are offered on a Sunday morning. We try to provide a loving, caring and spiritual environment where babies and toddlers feel safe and secure and loved, and where parents feel comfortable to focus. Hopefully and prayerfully, this attempt is not futile, but produces life in God’s kingdom through loving people’s young ones.

In our children’s ministries: Main Street (Sunday School), Junior Followers, Followers, and various events (Trunk or Treat, Easter Eggstravaganza, VBS, and Kids Camp)… we provide biblical and Jesus-like learning opportunities amidst a fun, communal atmosphere where children can see the ways of Jesus modeled in the lives of adults and inspired to live in hope in God’s kingdom (not in futility). Hopefully and prayerfully, this attempt is not futile, but produces life in God’s kingdom through loving people’s children.

In our middle school ministry we provide a weekly community gathering where 6th, 7th, and 8th graders can experience a kind of world where acceptance and kindness rule in hope, not bullying and threats and cliques and sarcastic comments about the squeal in one’s voice in futility. Hopefully and prayerfully, this attempt at introducing middle school students to a community that is built on love and hope in God’s world, not on destruction and futility in this world.

In our families… the divine, uniquely structured model of holy communal living in honest, transparent, sometimes messy, mostly gross ways, in close proximity amidst four walls and a roof. The family transcends culture. It is its own culture. And don’t miss this: FAMILIES AREN’T DEFINED BY THE CULTURE, CULTURE IS DEFINED BY THE FAMILIES. If a community has many broken families (futile), then the culture is defined by an attitude (and a reality) of futility. If a community has many strong, united families (hope), then culture is defined by this attitude and reality of hope. Kind of like the Amish. For all their subversion to our current culture (no electricity, no cars; manual stuff) their families typically exhibit strength and hope from their unity (there are exceptions, but look at it in general). Hopefully and prayerfully, our families in this community can attempt to live in light of God’s world (kingdom) focused on our own particular family in hope of living as a model to restore the futile families in this community. It takes a family that is willing to look hard at itself and live out in familial living the ways of Jesus in hope. Then, one-by-one, a community starts to change.

That has been what is going on inside of me lately. Sure, programs and activities and curriculum and instruction and fun times are happening. Children and youth are growing in their knowledge of the Lord and being discipled in the ways of Jesus. But even beyond these attempts at transforming a culture through youth and children… they need good warming ovens… good homes where this unique life of faith (in the ways of Jesus in God’s world) can be encouraged, lived out, and modeled.

Now that could change a culture.
That could be the end of futility.That could be the beginning of heaven.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bear Fan Loses Bet And Changes Name to Peyton Manning

This guy wasn't paying attention in Sunday School when they covered the story of Jephthah's vow. (Judges 11)

How to Get Out of Your Church

When a parishoner decides to leave a church, it's never an easy decision -- particularly if the relationships run deep. It's painful, and often, there's a lot of misunderstanding (usually on both sides, much like a divorce.)

Sometimes folks are "stuck" at a church in a relational quagmire, need to get out, but don't know how to exit gracefully.

This lady discovered a perfect way to do it without offending anybody. In fact, they had quite a gathering to honor her departure.

Maybe I'll try that someday. I wonder if they'd let me preach my own funeral.


My Hoosier buddy, Jerry Brecheisen, who lives in Indianapolis, recently reported on the Indianapolis Colts' Homecoming Celebration -- and then noted that this earthly celebration is absolutely nothing compared to the Homecoming we're going to experience some day in heaven.
"The homecoming I'm looking for will make the Indianapolis one look like a warm up!"

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What an Introduction!

Check out Steve Harvey's Introduction of Jesus.

Five Marks of God Centered Generosity

My good friend, Dale Argot, posted a great sermon he preached last week on church planting at Sermon Cafe Roundtable.

He shares five marks of God centered generosity from II Corinthians 9.

1. God supplies the resources.
“…God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat.”

2. God increases and enlarges the resources.
“In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.”

3. God promises abundance.
“…You will be enriched in every way.” Now I know that your thinking that overnight I have caught the health, wealth and prosperity bug, but I assure you that I have not. The next point is where those who are of the prosperity camp stop.

4, God supplies so we can generously share.
“…so that you can always be generous.” John Wesley lived his life with this philosophy, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”

5. God receives the credit when we live generously.
“And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” We can’t take the credit for what God has done. We can’t even take the credit for what God has given us.

Changing the Bulb

How many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?
None. God has pre-ordained when the lights will be on and when they will be off.
How many Catholics does it take to change a light bulb?
None. They always use candles.

How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb??
Ten. One to actually change the bulb, and nine to say how much better they liked the old one.

How many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb??
"We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that a light bulb works for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship to your light bulb andpresent it next month at our annual light bulb Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence through Jesus Christ."

How many Baptists does it take to change a light bulb????
CHANGE ????????????

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Frost and Chill, Bless the Lord

Last night, as the mercury fell to more than 20 below zero, my kids and I went outside and blew bubbles together! (My friend, Naomi Cochran, gave me the splendid idea!)

Some of the bubbles froze before they landed, and rolled around on the ground like little crystal balls! Isn't that cool?

I enjoyed it so much, I went out early this morning by myself and did it again!

When the cold spell comes, there is a choice: we can either complain or we can rejoice. I choose the latter!

As the Canticle of the Three Youths states:

Cold and chill, bless the Lord.
Dew and rain, bless the Lord.
Frost and chill, bless the Lord.
Nights and days, bless the Lord.
Light and darkness, bless the Lord.

Launching Out

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

27 Below

At 6:47 a.m. on Sunday morning, it's a bone chilling 27 below zero. With wind chill, I'm surmising it's 35-40 below zero. (That's fahrenheit for readers outside the USA!)

You know it's cold when your nostrils freeze closed every time you breathe in.
You know it's cold when you have to scrape the inside of your windshield.
You know it's cold when the steering wheel won't go the direction you're trying to take it.

After a long, grumpy, complaint, my old car started up! That was a miracle, really.

The two stray cats we "semi-adopted" are lounging in our garage with a hearter.

One of our breakfast cooks called this morning, and said that he had lost electricity at his home, so he's not coming in. Fortunately, he has a fire place.

Our snow blower was attached to a battery charger, but the oil froze -- and so, our custodian, Ryan was clearing the sidewalks by hand this morning. He recruited his wife, Mary Ann, to help him. I think he owes her one BIG TIME!

I'm guessing that most of the churches in town are going to close -- but we'll stay open. I'm fairly certain not many people will show up for church today.

Christian Softies

I recall when Tony Dungy was fired from Tampa Bay after another excellent season that didn't end up at the Super Bowl.
Critics said that his Christian faith made him "too soft" to win the Big One.

Well, the Christian softie has certainly proven them wrong! In fact, BOTH coaches (Dungy for Indianapolis, and Lovie Smith for the Bears) in today's game are deeply committed believers in Jesus.
Here's a great link to their testimonies (via Campus Crusade) as well as some of the players in the game.

They appeared together in a USA Today advertisement Friday to proclaim that faith in God is the most important thing in their lives. I think a positive influence like that is absolutely tremendous!
You can get Tony Dungy's Super Bowl Breakfast talk here on UTube

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Christian Bloggers Survey

I recently participated in a Christian Bloggers Survey. We were asked to post the list of those who participated - so here it is.The results of the poll will be posted at Church Communications Pro, as well as in Rick Warren’s Ministry ToolBox.

Polls Closed

The results are in for my Hymn, Praise Chorus, Blended Poll.

Blended -- 67%
Hymns -- 20%
Praise Choruses -- 13%

A couple of commenters suggested that "praise choruses" is not really a good label, as it smacks of 1970's happy clappy songs. Earle Wilson calls them 7-11 choruses. There are only seven words, and you repeat them eleven times.

Most of the newer songs are not like that -- although I still haven't quite figured out how to exegete "Days of Elijah."

A Refresher Course in Pre-School

Sometimes, when folks are all grown up, they forget the valuable lessons they learned as youngsters.

I think it might be a good idea to send every adult back to pre-school for a refresher.

If we all went back to pre-school, here are a few important things we'd learn to say again:

1. Please.

So often, people make selfish demands of other people, forgetting that gentle requests are far more productive than dictates and ultimatums.

Just think how pleasant our world would be, if we all treated each other with courtesy and respect.

"Would you please. . ." goes much further than "You'd better. . . or else!"

2. Thank You.

Ingratitude is at the heart of most misery. Your emotional and spiritual health is directly linked to the level of thankfulness in your life.

If you go around thinking that "life owes you", you're unhappiness is guaranteed.

Gratiude as the root, produces joy as the fruit.

3. I'm Sorry.

A measure of maturity is how we own and admit our mistakes. Whenever we've hurt someone, intentionally or without realizing, we must go back and try to make amends.

Saying the actual words, "I'm sorry" is the first step towards healing in a fractured relationship.

A failure to admit failure is the greatest failure of all!

Generally speaking, an offended person will be reconclied with a humble, heartfelt, honest apology.

Of course, the mere words, "I'm sorry", don't mean too much if they are not followed with appropriate action.

I recall my mother saying, "Sorry is as sorry does."

4. I Forgive You.

Forgiveness is difficult, but essential.

It isn't "letting the other person off the hook", as much as it is "letting ourselves off the hook of bitterness."

Small children have a beautiful way of making up after a conflict. They can have a spat one minute, and then, get over it and be best buddies the next.

Wouldn't it be great if we grown ups could learn to let our offenses go like that?

Yes, I think every grown up ought to go back every few years for a continuing education course in Pre-School.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Complaining Pastors

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together:

A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God.

A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his own wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.

But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God.

Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him to what he is committed to do, and thank God.

Great quote posted over at (I found it today at Monday Morning Insight)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Church Super Bowl Party Shut Down

The National Football League (NFL) has ordered Fall Creek Baptist Church to cancel their Super Bowl viewing party on the grounds that the church used its trademark name in their promotions in addition to the church’s plan to charge a fee to attend.
Good thing I didn't decide to charge the teenage boys who are planning to come to our house.


Question: What is $126.85 per month?

Answer: The pension former Green Bay Packer star, Herb Adderly receives.

That's less than several current NFL players receive per SECOND on the playing field.