Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Big Godder or Little Godder?

A couple of days ago, at the Wisconsin Wesleyan Ministers and Mates Retreat, our General Superintendent, Dr. Jerry Pence told the following story:

Dr. Robert Wilson, was a great professor of preaching at Princeton Theological Seminary many years ago. One of Dr. Wilson's students had been invited back to preach in the seminary Chapel twelve years after his graduation from the school.

So, Dr. Wilson came in and sat down near the front of the chapel to hear his former student preach. At the close of the meeting the old professor came up to his former student, extended his hand, and said, "If you come back again, I will not come to hear you preach. I only come once to hear my students. But I'm glad that you're a big-godder. You see, when my boys come back, I always come to see if they are big-godders or little-godders, and then I know what their ministry will be like."

His former student asked him to explain, and so he replied: "Well, some men have a little god, and they are always in trouble with him. He can't do any miracles. He can't take care of the inspiration and transmission of the Scripture to us. He doesn't intervene on behalf of his people. They have a little god and I call them little-godders.

Then there are those who have a great God. He speaks and it is done. He commands and it stands fast. He knows how to show Himself strong on behalf of them that fear him. You, young man are a big-godder, and God will bless your ministry."

My Poll

I showed my son, Ryan, the "Hymns, Praise Chorus, or Blended" poll results last evening.

"What does that tell us?" I inquired.

He replied, "It shows me you have a bunch of old people reading your blog."

I resemble that remark!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Waiting

Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
I rave no more 'gainst Time or Fate,
For lo! My own shall come to me.

I stay my haste, I make delays,
For what avails this eager pace?
I stand amid the eternal ways
And what is mine shall know my face.

Asleep, awake, by night or day,
The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,
Nor change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone?
I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
And garner up its fruit of tears.

The waters know their own, and draw
The brook that springs in yonder heights;
So flows the good with equal law
Unto the soul of pure delights.

The stars come nightly to the sky;
The tidal wave comes to the sea;
Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
Can keep my own away from me.

-- John Burroughs in The Light of Day

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Worship Poll

Would you be willing to vote in my "Favorite Style of Worship Music" poll? It's on the right -- hymns, praise choruses, or blended??

Stewardship Sunday

Today is our "Stewardship of Money" Sunday. We've done this every January for the past 14 years.

This is my sixteenth January in Hayward, but my first two years I was too chicken to talk about tithing. The closest I got was "God is nice to you, so it would certainly be nice for you to be nice back to Him." And all God's children scratched their heads and said, "Huh??"

The first time I preached on tithing, an angry woman marched up to me after the service and reamed me out. "Money!! Money!! When will you preachers quit talking about money??"

I had gone 123 weeks and not mentioned it once -- and then I got clobbered for "money grubbing."

For the next dozen years or so, I dreaded the January, "Give God What's Due Him" sermon, because some touchy person would always get offended.

Then -- a couple of years ago, I figured it out! It's not my problem!!

I am called to preach the whole counsel of God -- and that certainly includes how to handle your money! Jesus, himself, spoke more about money and possessions than he did about heaven and hell combined. It's the topic of 16 of his 38 parables!

There are about 500 verses in the Bible about prayer, less than 500 about faith, and over 2000 about money! Certainly, then, it is not unreasonable for a preacher to bring it up once a year on Stewardship Sunday.

I've found a way to approach it, where people don't flip out and yell at me after church.

I start my sermon with something like this, "I'm just going to tell you what God's Word says about your money. The love of money can twist our hearts, and distort our thinking, so we're not seeing straight. If you get offended by what I say this morning, and come up to me and rant after the church service, that only proves my point. It shows me that you have an inordinate affection for money, and you need to surrender that to God. It proves that you are not mature -- because mature people are unselfish and generous and they don't act that way."

Since I've started saying that, I've not had any "post-stewardship sermon poundings."

Crummy Ideas

I'll tell you when people grow old. It's when their dreams die.

People can be old at thirty and young at eighty. It's a matter of vision, perspective, and expectancy!

Dreams are the stuff hope is made of. Everything we see started with a dream. It was just an idea seed that sprouted into something spectacular.

Before there was a computer, there was a dream.
Before there was a car, there was a dream.
Before there was a rocket, there was a dream.

Folks commonly say, "seeing is believing," but I think the opposite is true. "Believing is seeing!"

Everything starts with a dream. You have to believe it to conceive it.

Of course, there are many dud ideas. There are lots of creative thoughts that fizzle. I'm pretty good at thinking up duds.

Generally speaking, I produce hundred crummy ideas to every good one.

Now I could just quit, and say, "My ideas just aren't worth a hoot." But I can't settle for that! If I keep cranking 'em out, sooner or later a good one is bound to pop up!

I share the sentiments of the bard who said:

"I've dreamed many dreams that never came true.
I've seen them vanish at dawn.
But I've realized enough of my dreams, thank God,
to make me want to dream on."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Seven Ways to Develop A Church Vision

Keith Drury's Church Leadership Class at Indiana Wesleyan University is discussing vision and leadership. They're pondering how a minister and church obtains a clear vision for the future. At his website, Keith listed the following options:

1. Forget vision—just minister.
Pastor does not work with a vision for the future but "takes it as it comes" responding a week at a time waiting to "see what happens." Vision is overrated.

2. Keep on Keeping on.
On arrival the new pastor finds out what the pre-existing vision of the church was before arrival and goes with that.

3. All swim.
Pastor gathers the entire church to develop a vision statement.

4. Board dreams & casts.
Pastor meets with the board developing a vision, then they cast it to the whole church.

5. Pastoral staff dream & cast.
Pastor meets with pastoral staff developing the vision then together they cast it to the board and church.

6. Moses-on-the-mountain.
Pastor "goes up the mountain" and seeks the vision, then returns to cast it to board and members.

7. Denomination’s choice.
Pastor and church adopts the District Superintendent's vision (and denomination’s) for the church.

So -- what do you think??

I Don't Wanna Go!!!!

I just finished officiating a wedding, for a beautiful young couple.

It started as a "justice of the peace" kind of wedding, but in the last couple of weeks, morphed into something a bit more elaborate.

Moments before the ceremony was supposed to start, the two year old ring bearer decided he didn't want to go down the aisle.

He ran the opposite direction, with the best man, the maid of honor, and the bride's mother in hot pursuit!

The prelude music was interspersed with his defiant cry, "I DON'T WANNA GO!"

So -- he didn't. Instead, he crawled into the pews and in about two seconds, was sound asleep.

Later, I joked with the groom, "I'm sure glad it was him and not YOU!"

Have a Latte?


I found this at Campbell Greens's blog, Baldy's Words

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thriving New Church in a Small Town

A great article about about a Brand New Church in a rural community.

The Canopy Tour



Last Saturday, while visiting Managua, in a rare display of courage, my District Superintendent, Dan Bickel and I, agreed to join adventurist (and Spanish translator) Cindy Terry, on a "canopy tour."

I thought a canopy tour was going to be some kind of hiking path where we could meander along and enjoy the pretty tropical flowers.

To my astonishment, I soon learned that "canopy tour" means something far different than puttering through the pansies.

It is, instead, a three stage zip line from a mountain top, over two canyons and across a huge lake.

I was going to chicken out, but seeing my district superintendent strap on his gear gave me a little motivation. Besides that, I didn't want Cindy Terry to call me a wimp.

So -- I zipped.

It wasn't pretty, and I'll admit that -- but at least I did it.
I must confess, however, that the ride sure seemed a lot more fun after I'd reached the bottom of the mountain.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cool Dudes


Today, my good missionary friend, Mike Knox sent a picture of me with the Fonz (see last post)

10 Lessons from the Fonz

During my recent teaching trip to Nicaragua, I was privileged to meet an outstanding pastor named Alfonzo, who is growing a church among the poor in a Managua barrio.

I nicknamed him "The Fonz." He doesn't know a lick of English, so I thought he would enjoy learning a phrase or two.

I taught him how to give the thumbs up and say, "Hey, Cool Dude!" The missionaries rolled their eyes and joked about the gringo who was corrupting this poor Nicaraguan pastor.

One morning, "The Fonz" gave a devotional talk. A bilingual friend translated it to me. I didn't catch every word -- but the words I caught, caught me!

Thus, I would like to pass what I learned on to you:

Ten Lessons from the Fonz.

1. On Faith:
Who are you trusting? God or man? God will never fail you. People will always fall short. God, alone, is our provider. We must LIVE by faith and FULLY trust our God.

2. On Excellence:
Be your best for Jesus! Don't make excuses and give him your second best. Don't give him "just enough to get by", but rather, serve the lord WHOLEHEARTEDLY!

3. On Focus:
Set your eyes on Jesus. Look ONLY to Him. To do that, you have to look up, because Jesus lives on top of the mountain. Quit looking down at your situation. Look up and start climbing. Go where Jesus is, and you will be on the moiuntain top too.

4. On Holiness:
As ministers, we must be HOLY in our daily lives -- in everything -- in the little things. Our holiness is our power, authority and influence. We will not have the anointing if we are not committed to holiness in the way we live.

5. On Witnessing:
Your life is your greatest witness. Always look for an opportunity to to share the love of Jesus and to bless others.

6. On Marriage:
Husband love your wife. Wife, love your husband. "Jesus Loves Me" is a command to love my spouse.

7. On Laziness:
Some people are "leaners." They always lean on other people, and operate on the energy extended by others. They never exert -- but only lean.

If you are going to lean -- Lean on Jesus!! When you lean on Jesus, He's going to give you a boost and shove you forward!

8. On Ministry:
Serving God is the highest privilege. Bringing his love and blessing is our greatest fulfillment. Nothing else comes close in comparison.

9. On Survival:
How am I going to survive? By faith!! God is real! God is good! God is true! We can always count on his provision. I don't have to fret about my survival, because God has the situation under control.

When facing a big problem, God will bring creative ideas for the solution. That is divine intervention!

10. On Wisdom:
Doublemindedness is the enemy of wisdom. It brings instability. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Ask for wisdom, or the 'mind of Christ", and you will receive the gift of single-mindedness.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Sparks of Fire

My fingers emit
sparks of fire
with expectations of
my future labors
-- William Blake

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Back from Nicaragua

I returned last night from my week of ministry to pastors in Nicaragua. I am absolutely overwhelmed by the faith these precious people have in the face of extreme poverty.

They are living examples to refute the common adage that money buys happiness.

My body is back in the states, but my brain is still whirling around in Nicaragua.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blogging Break

I am leaving early tomorrow morning for a week of teaching pastors in Nicaragua. So, there won't be any posts here until I return.

Just seven years ago, we launched our partnership with Nicaragua. Since then, over 40 churches have been established. We've sent medical and construction teams from Wisconsin -- and each year, there is week of training for the pastors.

They've been after me for a long time to go -- and this year, it happened to work out for my schedule.

Honestly, I'd rather just stay home next week and be with my family. However, it was really important to our missions committee, and I know God has something to do down there.

So, I'll keep a good attitude and go willingly.

Happy Birthday Cathy


Happy Birthday Cathy!
You're even more beautiful today than when we met back at Marion College almost twenty seven years ago.


I'll tell you one thing -- I definitely married up!
I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be married to you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Productive Meetings


Mark Batterson recently shared some great thoughts on running a productive business meeting.

#1 Start Every Meeting by Sharing Wins!
This puts you in a positive frame of mind. Don't under celebrate what God is doing!

#2 Do an occasional Offsite Meeting
Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective

#3 Don't talk corporately about what can be handled individually!
If you talk about something that not everybody needs to know about you're wasting their time. And the larger your staff the more time you're wasting!

#4 Cut Your Agenda in Half
The more you talk about the less you accomplish!

#5 Make sure everything you talk about lands on a to-do list

Somebody Is Watching

William Bennett relates the story of a man who decided to steal some grain from his neighbor.
He brought his little girl with him, and posted her as a guard at the edge of the field. "Let me know if anyone sees me", he instructed her.

Just as he started pilfering, the little girl shouted, "Daddy! Daddy! Stop now! Someone is watching you!"

Jumping up, her father responded, "Who? Where is he?"

To this, the daughter replied, "God is watching you!"

The Final Proof of Power

I found this powerful quote by William J. H. Boetcker on Dean Brown's Atlantic Transplant blog:

"The man who is worthy of being a leader of men will never complain about the stupidity of his helpers, the ingratitude of mankind nor the inappreciation of the public. These are all part of the great game of life. To meet them and overcome them and not to go down before them in disgust, discouragement or defeat--that is the final proof of power."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Heavenly Music

Last week, at the Wesleyan Pastors' Gathering in Orlando, I gave a seminar for small town and rural pastors.

I was absolutely stunned at the overwhelming response. The room was packed twenty minutes before the seminar began. People ended up sitting on the floor all around me, lined the walls, stood behind me, and stood five layers deep in the doorway.

I thought, "Wow, there certainly are a lot of small town and rural pastors at this conference."

Then, I realized, it's because the majority of ministers serve in small communities. It's just a fact of life.

Unfortunately, despite the inspiration, the typical small town guy goes to huge conferences like this. feels absolutely overwhelmed, compares his church with "the big production" and feels totally inadequate.

For instance, at the rallies, we had a fantastic worship leader, Robin Mark. He's the dude who wrote such soul stirring songs as "Days of Elijah" and "Jesus, All for Jesus."

The worship was powerful and deeply moving. The music was flawless. We sang wholeheartedly.

Back home, most of the rural congregations sing the very same songs -- but somehow, they don't come out the same way --At least, not on earth.

Heaven is another story, however. All praise sounds just the same by the time it reaches the pearly gates.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Board Meeting

I returned an hour ago from the church board meeting. We had a great night!

God guided our entire discussion. There was much positive energy in the room, and we got a lot accomplished. Last month was a little bit different.

What was the difference between tonight's meeting and last month?

1. I bathed this meeting in prayer ahead of time. Earlier this morning, I spent an extra hour in prayer, asking for divine wisdom and guidance for leading the meeting. I also prayed specifically for each board member.

2. I made a specific point to work through issues with a couple of board members who had some unanswered questions before the meeting -- this ended up being a very positive and affirming step for all of us.

3. At the beginning of the meeting, we spent extra time preparing our hearts in prayer, asking God to guide and direct us according to His will -- after all, it is His Church!

4. We did substantial deciding without a lot of hashing. One agenda item that had a "high potential hash factor" was referred to a team of three board members who will come back next month with a written, concise plan. That move saved us an hour or so of circular discussion.

5. Tonight, my own heart was oriented towards faith rather than fear and "problem solving." This carried over into our conversation as well as our decisions.

6. Last month, I brought problems to the board. This month, I brought solution steps.

7. It helped that our treasurer reported that December was the best month we've ever had financially in the history of Hayward Wesleyan Church.

Words Can Hurt

My little friend, Linnea Cocharan, won second place in the "No Name Calling Week" poetry contest this week.

I share this excellent work with her permission:

Words Can Hurt

"Think before you speak"
Is good advice to know.
Don't let your mouth just leak,
But learn to stop the flow.

Words can really hurt--
Sometimes they feel like knives.
That's why you shouldn't blurt
Unless it's something nice!


~Linnea Cochran, age 9

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Crash

Last Monday, my son, Adam drove his first car home after purchasing it in Iowa.
On Tuesday, he crashed it.

At least he's ok -- but the car's not. The front end is all smashed in. He managed to drive it home and now it sits forlornly in our driveway.

I made some remark last night about how it looks like we're starting a junk yard. That comment did not go over very well.

Fortunately, our good friend, Randy, took pity on us, and has agreed to fix it up for us -- a restoration project of sorts.

He found all the parts at the auto salvage yard for a little over $400.

That is substantially lower than our initial projections, but we know there'll be lots of other expenses incurred, and our 25th Aniversary Cruise Fund is taking a severe beating.

Deliver Me

"Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake,
and also from the man who makes the same mistake twice."

-- Dr. William Mayo

Monday, January 08, 2007

Reading List

Here's what I've been reading lately.

Joyful

There's a big difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness depends on "happenings". If good things happen, we're happy. If bad things happen - we're sad or angry.

Joy, on the other hand, is a deep abiding sense of contentment. It remains strong and steady regardless of the situation.

You can possess joy and still have moments of unhappiness. You can experience some happy moments, without knowing the deeper joy.

Many people try to capture joy by chasing fleeting moments of happiness. Movies, amusement parks, sky diving, accomplishments, alcohol, popularity, food and relationships are just a few of the activities individuals pursue to create some "artificial joy." The problem is that these things do not provide a cure for emptiness of the heart. They just distract us for a while.

Some folks have "destination disease" - thinking that real happiness will come in the future . . .
When I get married
When I graduate
When I'm promoted
When I retire.

Wake up and smell the coffee! If you're not content now, you won't be content then either! Joy is an inside job. What happens in you is far more important that what happens to you.

Real joy comes from being connected with God. It has nothing to do with your circumstances, and everything to do with the state of your soul.

If you wish to increase the joy and contentment in your life. . .

1) Love Much .
The greatest joy in all the world is loving and being loved. Loving much means releasing all resentment and unforgiveness. It means moving outside of yourself and becoming a generous person. You cannot love much when you are consumed by selfishness. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

2) Live Right.
You cannot possibly maintain a joyful heart if you are carrying a heavy load of guilt and shame. When you mess up - 'fess up! Don't try to cover it up or hide your blunder. Face up to the truth. The truth will set you free.

You must not allow the past to hold you hostage. Addictions and other harmful behaviors can be conquered through the power of prayer, surrender, and self-discipline.

Declare war on anything in your life that holds you back from being all that you ought to be! Commit yourself to personal growth and right living.

3) Think Straight.
Your attitude determines your altitude. Living well requires a steady diet of good thoughts. Refuse to allow the "little bugs on the windshield" (worry, frustrations, regrets, tensions) to deter you from a positive frame of mind.

The quality of your life is measured largely by what you think. Be sure you're capturing the best thoughts, and living according to your highest priorities.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Blech!

I've been fighting a massive cold. Was in bed all day yesterday, and preached under the influence of Dayquil this morning. I felt like I was preaching with a cotton head.

Cathy took Adam to the airport this morning for his return to college in New Brunswick. He called a little while ago -- missed his connection in Detroit. Then, his redirected plane had mechanical problems.

Dr. Graham, the kind-hearted gent, who agreed to pick Adam up from the Bangor airport, now has an exta eight hours of waiting. Bless his heart.

Some days are like that.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Faith or Foolishness?

The senior pastors of the larger Wesleyan Churches met together on Thursday for an "iron sharpening iron" conversation.

A recurring theme of our discussion was how to discern the difference between great faith and plain old stupidity. It seems like there's a fine line between the two!

John Maxwell and Bill Hybels joined us for dinner, so we asked them the question: When it comes to making big decisions and vision for the future, how do you know the difference between faith and foolishness?

Bill responded, "Success. You won't know for certain until after the fact. If it flies well -- great faith. If it crash lands -- great foolishness. You will know in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20."

"Seek God's will in prayer," Bill continued, "and then proceed boldly with what you feel called to do. If it flubs, then admit it -- don't hide it. Apologize. Go before the people and say, "We really thought we had God's leading on this, but apparently, it was something else. We messed up and we're sorry."

He further explained that trying to "cover and hide" a dumb mistake just makes it worse. Everybody knows it's a mess up anyway, so you might as well own up to it and learn from it.

John added, "One other thing -- if ego is involved, it WILL be a failure -- even if it looks like success. Before you embark on a great step of faith, you'd better examine your heart and make sure you're doing it with pure motives."

Back

Returned late last night -- great conference. We started our travels at 4:30 a.m., and after a long delayed departure from Orlando and a five hour weather layover in Atlanta, it certainly was good to see home again.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Blogging Break

Decided NOT to take my laptop with me to the Wesleyan Pastors Gathering in Orlando. Therefore, I won't be posting until after I return Friday.

I'm really looking forward to hearing great speakers, seeing old friends, and going outside without a coat!

Monday, January 01, 2007

No More Frozen Pizza

Here is a great post by Pastor Rod at Kingdom Come: No More Frozen Pizza

Earth Born Clouds


I ran across the phrase, "earth born clouds" in John Keble's classic book of poetry, The Christian Year, based on The Book of Common Prayer.

Keble, a 19th Century Anglican, was trying to connect his church liturgy with common language of the heart.

Here's the phrase I read that captured me:

Sun of my soul, Thou Savior, dear.
It is not night if Thou be near.
Oh! May no earth born clouds arise
to hide thee from thy servant's eyes.

I've been pondering -- what are the earth born clouds that keep us from seeing Jesus? What is the hazy mist that obscures our vision?

Here are six --

1. compartmentalization (segregating the sacred from the common)
2. inordinate affection (loving the things of earth too much)
3. discouragement (a spirit of heaviness)
4. negativity (unbelief disguised as wisdom)
5. anxiety (F.E.A.R. -- False Evidence Appearing Real)
6. turmoil (relational snags)

I have experienced all of the above as earth born clouds at one time or another.

The good news -- beyond the clouds, the sun is shining!
---------------
Encore! Another of Keble's bits:

The trivial round, the common task
would furnish all we need to ask;
room to deny ourselves, a road
to bring us, daily, nearer God.

New Mercies

I wrote this poem this morning after awaking to a beautiful blanket of snow.

Yesterday, the weather was quite gloomy. For the first time ever in December, on the way to church, Hannah sang, "It's raining. It's pouring. The old man is snoring. . ."

I wasn't snoring. . . but I was brooding. Dark rains somehow have a shadowing effect on the human heart.

Oh, what a delightful postcard from heaven this morning, awakening to freshly fallen snow and a cloudless sky!

Dark December rains
make morning like night,
but gathering saints sing
"There is no shadow
of turning with Thee."

A fresh blanket of snow
sparkles like diamonds
in the New Year sun.
"Morning by morning
new mercies I see."

Great is Thy Faithfulness.
Great is Thy Faithfulness.