Posts

Showing posts from March, 2008

Where Is Spring?

Image
It's snowing today. The weatherman has joined Salman Rushdie in hiding. (I took this picture from my front door this morning. We've been in meltdown mode lately -- but the report last night said that we have up to eight more inches on the way!)
Where is spring? That's what I want to know! Everybody around town has been asking the same question, too.

Tomorrow's April, for heaven's sake. This time last year, we were sunbathing. This year, we're still wearing long johns.

Last year, the crocuses bloomed. This year, we're shoveling the bloomin' sidewalks. . . again.

Last year, we made fishing plans. This year, we're still ice fishing, and wondering what the plan will be if the thaw doesn't come before opener.

Where are those robins, by the way? Once again I ask. . . where is spring?

And here's the answer: Spring is here! Beneath the surface of the earth, she has already sprung! We just haven't seen much evidence of her yet.

I guarantee you, though, …

Milestone

Yesterday, the 100,000th person came to Revitalize Your Church!

It's incredible, really, that one can make a global connection with 100,000 people from a little town in the northwoods.

Happy Trails

Helen Mrotek, a precious member of our church family, passed away on Good Friday. We held her service yesterday at the church. Between the visitation and the funeral, it seemed like over half of Hayward showed up. She's been a pillar of our community for a long, long time.

For forty years, she and her husband, Duane, owned and operated Mrotek's Riding Stables, and they raised a fine family. She was, indeed, Proverbs 31 woman. "Her children rise up and call her blessed. . ."

At the funeral I concluded my remarks with the lyrics of Roy Rogers' farewell song:
Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we're together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Bummer

Oh, CUMBS!

Wisconsin should have clobbered Davidson.

There IS an I in Worship

Over the years, I've heard a few ministry leaders (mostly educators and/or greenhorns fresh out of seminary) say that in corporate worship services, we should avoid "I and Me" songs, and use "We and Us" selections instead.

Now, I understand what they're saying. We live in a "me-centered" consumer-oriented culture, and such narcissism is rightly opposed.

However, not all church songs that use personal language are narcissistic, and to castigate a good soul stirring chorus or hymn merely because it says "me" instead of "we" seems like a silly exercise in semantics.

If using singular pronouns for hymnwriting is such a fundamental flaw, then why in the world didn't somebody tell that to Charles Wesley? Why didn't they share the little secret with Fanny Crosby? Why didn't somebody inform David BEFORE he started writing all those Psalms??

You Ask Me How I Know He Lives

Pretty Cool

Image
My new buddy from South Carolina, Phil, reported that they had more than twice the number people in their church last Sunday than their entire town's population!!
Do you know of any other churches that can make that claim?? Best of all, sixteen people invited Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord. Congratulations to Pastor Phil and good people of Pelzer Wesleyan Church!

M3

Amen to Phil!! May it be so!!

I sense we, as a movement, are on the edge of exploding. The dream to be participate in m3 (missional multiplication movement) is beginning to emerge. Can't quite put my finger on it, but it is within our grasp. We just need to risk more, lead aggressively, have big faith, hold each other accountable for the right things and try stuff...even though we will fail often. It can happen! But we all need to partner in making it happen.

On A New Theology

Image
Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself.
-- Irenaeus of Lyons

The Groom Wore Black

Image
Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?" "Because white is the color of happiness, and today is the happiest day of her life." The child thought about this for a moment then said, "So why is the groom wearing black?"

Fret Not

"Fret not thyself. . ."

That's the way the first verse of Psalm 37 begins (in the King James Version) and it's a word aptly spoken.

It's easy to find ourselves fretting and stewing over circumstances beyond our control. Without even realizing it, toxic, anxious thoughts can seep into the mind, and poison the spirit. That's not the way it's supposed to be. We were not created for inner discord, frets and fears.

Instead, in the original design, we were made for faith. This quest for faith is embedded deep in every human heart. People might try to deny it, but it's still a reality! We're hard-wired to believe in The One who is greater than ourselves.

God created us to worship and acknowledge Him -- and in a very practical way, this means trusting Him with all our circumstances. ALL of them!!

Now, that's easier to SAY than DO.

One day, recently, my beautiful wife, Cathy noted that I was fretting and fussing over some financial difficulties. Gently, she …

Easter Wipe Out

I preached at four services this morning, as well as twice on Good Friday -- and now, this afternoon, I'm totally wiped out.

It's a good kind of wipe out, however.

The services went really well this morning, and I think a lot of people were inspired to love God more -- at least that was I intended to happen. In all, we had over 950 in church today.

At our early 7:00 a.m. service, we had the privilege of baptizing six people. It was, indeed, a heartwarming experience!

Now, hopefully, I can rest up tomorrow, for the upcoming week, which includes two funerals.

At least you can say this -- A pastor's life is never boring.

Early Easter

The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) is 2228 -- only 220 years to go!!
Thanks to my Auzzie friend, Mark Edwards, for this helpful piece of information.

The Cross Is the Place Of

C . . . Contrition (Psalm 51:17)
R . . . Repentance (2 Cor. 7:10)
O . . . Obedience (Phil. 2:8, Eph 5:2)
S . . . Sacrifice (I John 4:10, Heb. 11:17)
S . . . Surrender (John 12:24)

The Dead Church

Image
Wild wind, wilt thou never cease thy sighing? Dark, dark night, wilt thou never wear away? Cold, cold church, in thy death sleep lying, The Lent is past, thy Passion here, but not thine Easter-day.
Peace, faint heart, though the night be dark and sighing; Rest, fair corpse, where thy Lord himself hath lain, Weep, dear Lord, above thy bride low lying; Thy tears shall wake her frozen limbs to life and health again. -- Charles Kingsley (19th Century poet, novelist, and small town pastor)

To Be Continued. . .

On this Good Friday, my attention is centered on the cross. It was my waking thought this morning.

Jesus paid it ALL. ALL to Him I owe.

Tonight, we're going to have a powerful Good Friday service at the church -- I know it will be gripping and deeply moving for all who attend.

But, be warned, there won't be a "feel good" finish. The service will be over before the story ends -- much like the cliffhanger televsion programs that conclude with "to be continued. . ."

Judas' Kiss

Image
Judas left the fellowship of the twelve apostles after the anointing in Bethany and arranged to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-15). But when they met again at the last supper, there he was! Near enough to dip in the Savior's cup.
When our family read this for devotions last night I was angry at the absolute wickedness of Judas coming back to eat Passover with the one he had just sold.
I said to my daughter, evidently with more emotion than she was used to, "That is utterly wicked!"
She said, "What is so wicked?"
I said: "What if I went out tonight and arranged for a cruel man to kill you on the way to school tomorrow morning? That would be horrible. But then would it not be wicked to high heaven if I came home, after arranging for your murder, and had devotions with you and prayed with you?"
She was shaken.Small wonder that Jesus said, "It would have been better for that man if he had not been born" (Matthew 26:24). John Pipe…

Conversations with R. A. Torrey

Image
The past couple of mornings, I've been delving into the works of the great late 18th and early 20th century evangelist, R. A. Torrey.
Ever since I discovered his writings a few years ago, he has become a spiritual mentor to me. I own four or five of his books, and refer to them often. Two years ago, I had the privilege of going through Torrey's papers at the Billy Graham Center Archives. I spent an entire day reading his sermon notes and handwritten reflections. The greatest treasure in the collection was Torrey's own, personal Bible -- with many handwritten notes scribbled in the margins. I'll never forget that powerful experience. Yesterday, I came upon the only recording of Torrey's voice. He's preaching a sermon entitled, "Some Reasons Why I Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God." I found it to be quite inspiring to hear the voice of this great hero of faith. One of my favorite pieces he wrote is "Why God Used D. L. Moody" Powerful!! Convi…

Church Fractures

Over the past twenty four hours, I've had two pastor friends (from different states) tell me the same thing -- they're experiencing painful church fractures.

Both these guys are among the kindest and most loving men of God you'll ever meet. Yet, a few negative and narrow critics are trying to tear the work apart, threatening to leave, and badmouthing the leadership.

What is the terrible crime these pastors have committed??

Did they steal money from the coffers?? NO!!
Was there some kind of moral scandal?? NO!!
Are they neglecting the sick and hurting? NO!!
Are they guilty of prayerlessness? NO!!

Here's the reason my two dear ministry brethren are getting hammered: They have had the audacity to use new music and new methods to reach a new generation. (GASP!! God Forbid!!)

These guys are straight as an arrow in doctrine and in practice. They are respectful to those who hold differing opinions. They are not forcing anybody to do anything they don't want to do. (In…

The Edge of Impossibility

Image
It is on the edge of impossibility that one is in the position to see miracles and experience the strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit moving within one's self and within the Church. -- An International Wesleyan Church Leader

Holiness

Holiness IS possible in THIS life. . .

Luke 1:75
Romans 6:22
Titus 2:12
1 Peter 4:1-3

Symptoms of Insanity

Image
1) Trying to talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.
2) Believing that your situation will get better, but refusing to make any changes.
3) Blaming others for your failures and shortcomings.
4) Neglecting the important priorities (God, family, personal health) while chasing after trivia.
5) Thinking you won't get caught when you do something wrong.
6) Lying to "make things better." (You can cover up a skunk, but it still stinks!)
7) Hoping money will buy happiness.
8) Procrastination (Putting off the important for the urgent.)
9) Trying to please everybody.
10) Self centeredness (The world doesn't revolve around you.)
11) Thinking another person will make you happy.
12) Expecting your children to follow your orders rather than your example.
13) Falling into a pattern of complaint, criticism and negativity. (Gratitude is an important aspect of mental health and spiritual wholeness.)
14) Thinking you can fix problems by yelling.
15) Assuming a big problem will go a…

Palm Sunday

I love Palm Sunday -- with the Children's Palm Branch Parade -- and the Palm Sunday Worship Choir -- We're going to blow the roof off in praises to the King of Kings!

My sermon is on "Hosannah" -- which comes from the ancient Hebrew hymn which was sung every year at the Feast of Tabernacles. There are some really beautiful connections between the Triumphal Entry (Matthew 21), the spiritual revival in Nehemiah 8, and the ancient hymn itself (Psalm 118.)

As I was researching it, God blessed my socks off. I just hope I can get it across to the people the way I feel it in my heart.

Hosanna -- God save us!

Amish Osama

Image
The Dredge Report (Jim Watkins) broke the shocking news. Osama was discovered by authorities yesterday, hiding on an Amish farm in northern Indiana.

By the way, for good measure and just for fun, here are ten things never to say to airport screeners.

Sluggish Economy and Church Finances

David Bell, president of Covenant Quest, graciously shared some very helpful advice with me in a recent e-mail conversation concerning church offerings and budgets.

After our correspondence, he wrote a wonderful article on the subject:
Sluggish Economy Increases Financial Pressure for Church Leaders

It is a valuable resource for pastors.

Humbled by a Blooming Desert

Image
My good friend, Wendy, who is a college professor in Palm Springs, recently shared an inspiring insight with me: I have been amazed and humbled this spring in the desert. For the first two years I was here, we had no rain. Then this past winter, we've had some rain every weekend. There were bushes that had all dried up--they looked like dead sticks. The rain came--after 2 years--and they started to turn green. Now, they are covered with flower blossoms! Imagine believing, hoping, enduring for 3 years with no nourishment. Imagine then, with just 5 inches of rain total, coming out in your full glory. Do I have faith enough to endure 3 years of waiting for my basic needs to be met--let alone all the frilly little things I ask for????? Do I store up enough nourishment to withstand three years onslaught of parched sand? And then coming out with all the best I have inside of me with no apparent bitterness for the wait?

NOT Consumed

In light of my last post fretting money issues -- I have an update.

I spent some extra time with the Lord this morning in the sanctuary, praying about our church's financial situation. I opened my Bible to Lamentations 3 -- and this verse jumped off the page and into my heart:

"Because of His great love for us, we are NOT consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness."

That makes me want to shout!

Economic Impact

Todd Rhoades recently asked the question, "Is the Economy Hurting Your Church?" It was timely. Also, in his last newletter, Tim Johnson, of MCMA (Minnesota Church Ministries Association) noted that several churches in his area are in financial crisis.

At our church, we're feeling the budget crunch too. We're facing some big financial challenges right now. For the first time in my seventeen years as pastor here, we are bringing in less money in the offerings than the year before. This is uncharted territory for me. We've always budgeted for growth.

Having taken a couple of big faith steps in the last year or so, we now find ourselves facing a mountain.

For the last couple of weeks, I've found myself, too often, consumed by all this.

Of course, there's some good news. Times like these cause us to lean closer to the Savior, to go deeper in prayer, to be clearer in purpose, and more strategic in planning.

As a staff, we have done much soul searching -- and it come…

Top Ten Things You'll Never Hear as a Pastor

10. We need to sing more contemporary choruses.
9. Your alliteration and parallel construction of main points, as well as your solid biblical hermeneutic, made today's message memorable.
8. I would really love to teach the junior high Sunday school class.
7. You make way too many home and hospital calls. You need to spend more time with your family.
6. You don't need the board's approval; just do what you feel God would want for this church.
5. Your sermons could be a bit longer.
4. We're going to give you a 10 percent salary increase and an extra week of vacation.
3. Your children are so well-behaved.
2. Is it okay if we tithe more than 10 percent?
1. You're a much better preacher than that televangelist with the big hair.

(Swiped from Jim Watkins!)

New Sins

Image

O Splendor of God's Glory Bright

Image
This morning, I was refreshed by a deep reading of "O Splendor of God's Glory Bright", which was written by the 4th Century Bishop, Ambrose. (translated 1910 by Louis Benson)
O splendor of God’s glory bright, From light eternal bringing light, Thou Light of light, light’s living Spring, True Day, all days illumining.
Come, very Sun of Heaven’s love, In lasting radiance from above, And pour the Holy Spirit’s ray On all we think or do today.
And now to Thee our pray’rs ascend, O Father glorious without end; We plead with Sovereign Grace for pow’r To conquer in temptation’s hour.
Confirm our will to do the righ, And keep our hearts from envy’s blight; Let faith her eager fires renew, And hate the false, and love the true.
O joyful be the passing day With thoughts as pure as morning’s ray, With faith like noontide shining bright, Our souls unshadowed by the night.
Dawn’s glory gilds the earth and skies, Let Him, our prefect Morn, arise, The Word in God the Father one, The Father imaged by the Son
.

Jail Population and Church

Image
Yesterday, I came across this startling report that for the first time in history, more than one in a hundred Americans are behind bars. 2,319,258 people are locked up in America's jails and prisons.
That means that next Sunday morning there will be twelve times more Americans in the caboose than in all the Wesleyan Chuches across our land combined!
Yikes!! We'd better start "ramping it up!"
Methinks, if churches did their job better, the prison population would be decreasing rather than increasing.

The Forces of Mediocrity

Seth Godin recently shared some keen insights regarding the Forces of Mediocrity.


There's a myth that all you need to do is outline your vision and prove it's right—then, quite suddenly, people will line up and support you.

In fact, the opposite is true.
Remarkable visions and genuine insight are always met with resistance. And when you start to make progress, your efforts are met with even more resistance.



Billy Graham's Motto

Geared to the Times
Anchored to the Rock

Pay Now or Pay Later

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Life comes with a price tag. The choice of WHEN to pay the price is entirely up to you.

You can pay the bill up front and invest your effort and energy into planning, intentional decision making and thinking ahead. Or, you can wait and pay the piper at the end.

Yes, you have to pay for it, on one side or the other -- and you get to make the choice. But here's the difference:

If you pay up front, you will receive a great return in life with compound interest!
If you pay at the end, you will have to pay much, much more -- with compound interest!

There's a reward for "up front payments" and there is a penalty for "paying later."

This is true for all the areas of life.

When you buy something, you can pay now, or buy it on credit and pay double.

In your marriage, you can pay emotionally up front, and do the hard work of listening, understanding, dating and keeping romance alive. Or -- you can delay this payment for several y…

Medieval Worship Wars

Louis Bourgeois was the Cantor for the Church of St. Pierre in the mid- 16th Century. He's the guy who put the Psalms to music -- so common folks could sing in church (before that, only the "God-pros" were allowed to do it.)

Interstingly, he was jailed for a spell, because he had the audacity to change a familiar tune. Talk about worship wars!!

Odds and Ends

Pastor Ben is doing well, and was released from the hospital yesterday. We had to talk him out of coming to choir practice last night -- a good sign that he's spunky again.

Huckabee dropped out of the race. Everybody knew he didn't have a snowball's chance, but I loved his delightful quips and stories. It made the race much more interesting. Maybe McCain can hire him to give some public speaking and bass guitar lessons.

Today, we're headed to Waterloo to visit our son, Adam and his beautiful wife, Allegra, and to see their new apartment. That's going to be a lot of fun!

Our Faith Promise total for Missions last Sunday, was about $64,000 -- well on the way to our $80,000 goal. (In comparison, last year at this point, the total was on $28,000.) It was a blessing to see that even in tough economic times, our people rose to the challenge of bringing God's love to those who are less fortunate.

Farewell to Favre

Image
The flags are half mast in Hayward today -- the gipper has retired.
My 19 year old son, Ryan, said that he has never seen a Packer game without Brett Favre at the helm. It's sure going to be different now, and poor Rogers has some huge shoes to fill.
After pondering over what made Favre such a great champion, here are a few sentimental observations:
1) He Showed up to Play Every Sunday. Regardless of what was happening in his life (i.e. his father's death and his wife's cancer), he still found a way to get to the game on time.
2) He Played Through the Hurts. I've watched just about every Packer game since Favre's debut. I've seen him clobbered, hammered, hamstrung, smashed, and boggled. Yet, Brett kept getting back on his feet again. Remember the year when he played half a season with a broken thumb? Somehow, the desire for victory was far greater than the physical pain.
3) He Took Risks and Made Plenty of Mistakes. Not only does he hold the career touchdown record, he…

Somebody's Being Selfish

"Mine! Mine!"
"Give it back!"
WHAP!!!!!
"EEEEAGHHHHH!! I'm telling Mo-oooom!"

Oh, the blissful words of children at play.

Through the course of raising five kids, I've heard several such conversations along the way.

Whenever there's an interaction like that -- I can guarantee you something: somebody is being selfish!!

Now,here's an interesting observation -- grown ups can act like that too.

A person might be 60 years old and still be childish and prone to temper tantrums. "Mine! Mine! I want my way or else!" WHAP!!

When a person is petty, demanding, and insensitive, it's a trial for everyone involved. When the fur flies in the squabble, I can guarantee you something:
somebody's being selfish!

The reflective Kentucky monk, Thomas Merton said, "To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell."

Self-centeredness is the root of most conflict. Show me…

Pray for Pastor Ben

Image
Last evening, Ben, our pastor of congregational care, slipped on ice in front of our church, and fell backwards, hitting his head hard on the sidewalk. It knocked him out for a few seconds, and some concerned friends helped him back into the church building.
After a few of us hovered around him, tending to his wounds and asking lots of worried questions, he reluctantly agreed to allow me to drive him and his wife, Lois, to the emergency room, where Dr. Mohammed ran tests, and said that there was a slight bleeding in the brain.
The doctor arranged for an ambulance to take Pastor Ben to St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, for observation under the care of specialists. I drove his wife, Lois, up to Duluth in the wee hours of the morning so she could be with him, and did not arrive back home until 4:00 a.m.
Ben and Lois are in good spirits, and they have a positive outlook on the whole situation. They have learned a long time ago, to accept whatever comes, and then make the best of it. When li…

Missions Conference and an Unexpected Turn of Events

Image
This weekend, we held our annual Missions Conference. The theme is "Call of the Kingdom", and we had some outstanding missionaries with us for an activity-packed three days.

Jeff Whitney and his new bride, Geyla came here from Russia. Rick and Clara West represented the Latin American Ministries of the Wesleyan Church.
Shirley Duncan came on behalf of Hephzibah Children's Home in Macon, Georgia.
Yesterday, Dr. H. C. Wilson, the General Director of Wesleyan Global Partners, delivered a powerful message in our worship services. He's a dynamic communicator, and really inspired us to see the needs of the world around us. I'm grateful to partner with such committed ministers of God's grace.
We received Faith Promise commitments for Missions at the end of the service, and the total is around $65,000 so far. (Our goal is $80,000 -- and we're well on the way. Last year at this time, for instance, the Faith Promise total was $28,000.) Last night, after the concluding s…

3 Options

"When it comes to the Great Commission, followers of Christ have three options: Go, Send or Disobey." -- John Piper