Wednesday, April 30, 2008
"Yes, darling, it's very precious to me." his mother replied, "Why do you ask?"
"Because this generation dropped it!"
As I observe what's happening across our land, I can't help but conclude that this generation of parents has "dropped the vase."
We have dropped the vase of morality:
"What feels right" has replaced "What IS right".
We have dropped the vase of responsibility:
When things go wrong, the first reaction is to hide from and/or blame others. It must be someone else's fault.
We have dropped the vase of industry:
Today's emphasis on amusements have deprived the rising generation the noble satisfaction of completing a good day of hard work.
We have dropped the vase of creativity:
Brains shrivel when they're not stretched. Television is the number one mind shrinker! Instead of reading excellent literature, we are too often plopped on the couch like zombies.
We have dropped the vase of wonder:
Trivia stuffed lives leave little room for imagination and exploration. How sad, when life's adventures are experiened only through electronic gadgets. Life was meant to LIVE. It is not a spectator sport!
We have dropped the vase of discipline:
Unlike prior generations, we are a "soft" people. We do not know how to endure hardship because we have never really experienced it. This softness leads to a lack of self discipline in most areas of life.
Once the vase is dropped, how can we put it back together again?
We can use Spiritual Super Glue! God can rectify what we have wrecked! Let's take a look at the G.L.U.E. that can put the next generation together:
G -- Good Decisions based on timeless principles.
L -- Love expressed by selfless servanthood rather than selfish demands.
U -- Unity built on truth rather than the lowest common denominator.
E -- Endurance fueled by the quest for self improvement.
Lives built on eternal values will stand the test of time and situation. The further away we get from these values, the more prone we are to live below our best potential. As every archer knows, error increases with distance.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
In 1969, Elmer Towns published a book highlighting the Ten Largest Sunday Schools in America (Back then, they measured the size of a congregation by Sunday School attendance.)
Stumbling upon the Towns book a few months ago, I wondered what has happened to these churches over the four decades since this publication. I sent our fine intern, Becky Kavin, on a detective mission to discover how these congregations have fared.
Here's what she found:
1. Akron Baptist Temple, Akron, OH
1968 -- 5762
2008 -- 2000
2. Highland Park Baptist Church, Chatanooga, TN
1968 -- 4821
2008 -- no response
3. First Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
1968 -- 4731
2008 -- 2600
4. First Baptist Church, Hammond, IN
1968 -- 3978
2008 -- 12,000 (did not respond -- this figure comes from Outreach Magazine)
5. Canton Baptist Temple, Canton, OH
1968 -- 3581
2008 -- 1500
6. Landmark Baptist Church, Cincinnati, OH
1968 -- 3540
2008 -- 1200
7. Temple Baptist Church, Detroit, MI (Now Northridge Church)
2008 -- 13,865
8. First Baptist Church, Van Nuys, CA (Now Shepherd of the Hills)
1968 -- 2847
2008 -- 8000
9. Thomas Road Baptist Church, Lynchburg VA
1968 -- 2640
2008 -- 17,445
10. Calvary Temple, Denver, CO
1968 -- 2453
2008 -- 3500
Interestingly, in 1968, the largest church in America was just under 6000. In Outreach Magazine's recent list of the 100 largest churches in America. the 100th largest congregation was over 6000 people.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
As we continue on our journey through Ephesians, we will be focusing on 4:1-16 this Sunday,
You can read it here.
Here are a few questions to consider as you read the passage:
1. Note -- 3:1 says "prisoner OF the Lord" 4:1 says "prisoner FOR the Lord." What is the difference?
2. Look at the stack of "Ones" in verses 4-6. What do you observe?
3. What spiritual gifts are listed in verse 11? What is the purpose of these gifts (see verses 12-13?)
4. What does it mean to "speak the truth in love"? (v 15) Which is harder for you to speak?
5. What are the signs of spiritual maturity? (vv. 13-14)
6. How should we grow as a church? (vv. 14-16)
Songs we're doing this week include:
How Great Thou Art
How Great is Our God
Your Grace is Enough
Here I Am to Worship
To summarize, he says that we can work like crazy to bring people together, and unite their hearts as one. However, all human efforts are woefully inadequate. In the human realm it CANNOT be done. However, IN CHRIST, we find our unity.
I like the last stanza which says, "Forgive us Lord the folly that quarrels with our friends, and draw us near to thy heart where every discord ends."
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, first developed the idea for his company while he was still a student at Yale. The professor didn't think much of the idea, and gave Fred a "C" for the project. (Impractical!)
Fortunately, Fred did not heed the "intelligent" professor's advice. Instead he went out and enthusiastically developed the world's largest express transportation company.
Sometimes "conventional wisdom" is the enemy of innovation and progress.Unenthusiastic intelligence results in half-hearted living. It is, as Voltaire describes, "like a warming oven - always heating, but never cooking anything.
"Enthusiastic people aren't necessarily shallow thinkers (despite what some folks might believe.) Peter Marshall said, "Enthusiasm is not contrary to reason. It is reason - on fire!" Enthusiasm is a positive, forceful energy that leads to vitality, success and achievement.
Missionary, Jim Elliot, wrote, "Wherever you are - be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.
"Unfortunately, sometimes enthusiasm is not accompanied by wisdom. A blind, brainless enthusiasm leads to frustration and failure.
Once a valiant knight knelt before his king and announced, "Your Majesty, we have just attacked and plundered all of your enemies to the west!
"To this the king responded, "What? We don't have any enemies to the west!"
"We do now!" the enthusiastic knight replied.
"Zeal without knowledge," said Thomas Fuller, "is like fire without light."
Intelligent enthusiasm is a powerful combination! Use both your heart and head to rise above the ordinary.
"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." Eph. 4:23
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Wouldn’t it be great if we received a dollar for every time we felt like throwing in the towel – but didn’t? We’d be rich!
That, ultimately, is the difference between those who rise above the ordinary and others who meander in mediocrity.
In order to achieve greatness, you must keep going – even when the way is riddled with difficulty. With your eye on the goal, you must plod forward without wavering.
When my children were smaller, they loved it when I read “The Little Engine that Could” to them before bed. “Read it again, Daddy!” my daughter exclaimed, “Read it again!” There’s something about keeping on which inspires all of us: from children to senior citizens.
What if Henry Ford would have quit?
You’d be walking to work!
What if Susan B. Anthony had quit?
None of the women would be able to vote!
What if Bill Gates had quit?
We’d still be pushing paper!
What if Thomas Edison had quit?
We’d be sitting in the dark!
What if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin had quit?
We’d be singing “God Save the Queen” before football games!
What if George Washington Carver had quit?
There would be no peanut butter – and we’d just be stuck with jelly sandwiches!
What if Martin Luther had quit?
There would be no Church Basement Ladies
What if Clara Barton had quit?
There would be no Red Cross. Millions would have died needlessly.
What if Jesus had quit?
We’d be lost in our sins without a Savior.
The point of the matter is this – If you have a worthwhile cause, keep going! Keep believing! Keep moving forward! Don’t quit! Giving up won’t help matters any.
Stick to the task! If you succeed, you will bless everybody. If you fail, you will still be an inspiration. Either way, it’s better than quitting!
The world is changed by those few brave souls who hang on just a little bit longer.
As the anonymous poet said:
When things wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must but don’t you quit
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
This Sunday, as we continue our journey through Ephesians, I will be speaking from the third chapter. Once again, I encourage you to read the passage ahead of time. It's good preparation for the heart.
You can find the passage here at Bible Gateway. All week long, I've been praying the last eight verses over you.
Some questions to ponder:
1. Verses 1 and 14 say "For this reason. . ." What is the reason?
2. Look for the following words:
- In Christ Jesus
3. When writing this letter, Paul was a prisoner (probably in Rome.) Why do you suppose he calls himself a "prisoner of Christ"?
Also, here is a list of songs we're planning to sing:
(note -- the two older hymns are from Cyber Hymnal. The plodding electronic music at the site leaves a bit to be desired -- but it has all the lyrics, and also tells the story behind the song.) The newer songs are from You Tube -- and I can't guarantee that we'll do it the same way on Sunday morning.)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Sadly, this afternoon, I discovered that today's funeral involved the tragic death of a young man. It was very difficult for everybody. If I had realized the circumstances, I would never have written the original post.
Thus, I have chosen to remove it, and ask all my readers to pray for this precious family during their hour of grief.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
I worked my fingers to the bone hammering stubborn typewriter keys, in a frantic attempt to sound intelligent and scholarly. I scoured the thesarus for the longest multi-syllable words I could find and plopped them into my sentences.
Finally, after several anguished hours, I had a six page masterpiece. Never, in all my life, had I written (or even read) a collection of so many scholarly words in such confined space.
I smiled triumphantly as I turned my assignment in to Dr. Elder the next morning. As a noted scholar in literature, she was sure to be impressed!
A few days later, our graded assignments came back. I was astonished to find no grade on my paper. Instead, a bold "See Me!" was scribbled at the top of the page.
Nervously, I approached Dr. Elder after class, clutching my composition.
"I-I-I'm wondering why you wrote this on the top of my paper" I stammered.
The good professor smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye, replied, "Mark, I know you can do much better than this. You need to BE YOURSELF when you write, and quit trying to be somebody you're not! Those aren't your words. That's not your heart. You should write to express rather than impress.
"You have the potential to be a delightful and creative writer -- but I need to hear it in YOUR voice -- in YOUR style!"
"Now, I'm going to give you another chance. Instead of trying to be a Shakespearian scholar, just relax and be yourself! Say it the way you feel it!"
So, properly chastened and motivated, I went back to the typewriter in my dormitory, and returned with a new paper -- as well as a fresh outlook on writing, which has stayed with me ever since:
Write what you mean from the heart!
Say it your way, and let 'er fly.
Or, I could put it another way, reverting to Shakespearian: "In tranquilized repose and festive merriment, inscribe the quintessence of thy bosom and waft thy substance."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
"I am proud to be paying taxes in the United States. The only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money." -- Arthur Godfrey
New simplified 1040EZZ --
line 1 -- How much did you make?
line 2 -- Send it in.
Monday, April 14, 2008
They had written President Hoover, as well as the governor of each state, asking for a personal testimonial to the Bible, and an expression of opinion on the value of Universal Bible Sunday.
The President responded, as well as 26 of the 48 governors.
President Hoover said, "The annual observance of Universal Bible Sunday is a valuable aid in spreading knowledge of the Book of Books, from the pages of which have come those ideals that root our government and our national life firmly in the conscience of men and women."
Governor J. C. Phillips of Arizona: I think the movement to establish Universal Bible Sunday is a most commendable one. I was a Bible student early in my life, and during most of the later years have taught a Bible class.
Governor H. G. Leslie of Indiana: The biggest influence in the lives of men today is the open Bible. No man's education is complete without a good working knowledge of the Bible. It's influence upon individuals and society is so marked that the outstanding men and nations of today are those whose lives and actions most nearly conform to its teaching. It is most fitting and proper that we devote a day to contemplation of its worth to humanity.
Governor R. C. Dillon of New Mexico: The Bible is undoubtedly the greatest book ever written, The reading of it should be encouraged, and there should be a copy of it in every home.
Governor F. W. Green of Michigan: If we could instill into the minds and hearts of people on earth that faith which was in the bosom of the wise men of the East who followed the star to the manger where reposed the Redeemer of mankind, the world would be a better place in which to live. The Bible is the greatest agency for the teaching of this faith which is so necessary for the future preservation of our spiritual and national life.
Governor H. C. Baldridge of Idaho: The more I observe the activities of men, the more thoroughly I become convinced that a literal interpretation of Christ's teachings would solve ALL the problems of society.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
You can find it by clicking here (Bible Gateway)
Some questions to ponder as you read the passage:
1) What "deadens" us?
2) What makes us Alive?
3) What does this passage say about our good works?
4) What walls of hostility (alienation) should be broken down? How?
5) What does it mean to be "Built Together as a Temple?"
The blizzard like conditions are God's tender mercies in disguise.
In just over an hour, we will be holding the funeral services for Scott Hams, a UW Stout student, who was killed in a tragic fire last Saturday.
The police chief told me a couple of days ago, that a nasty, hateful group from Kansas was threatening to come and protest at the funeral. These are the same folks who travel around the country and rant at funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. They call themselves a church -- but they are certainly based on a "different gospel." I think their leader must not have gotten enough attention when he was a little boy or something, and ended up twisted.
Scott's family has enough to deal with, without having to face a group of nasty hatemongers.
Anyhow, Highway 53 is impassable -- so I think that takes care of our protestors.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Last Saturday, I received my delegate packet -- and was delighted to see the two names presented as candidates for General Superintendent: Dave Holdren and JoAnne Lyon.
Both JoAnne and Dave are good friends of mine. Either one of them would make an outstanding leader for our denomination. It's going to be a difficult decision. I wish we could elect them BOTH!!
Hmmmm . . . could we go back to FOUR Generals? Or. . . maybe we could divide it into two part-time jobs and figure out some kind of "work share" arrangement. "OK JoAnne, you take Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Dave, you've got Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. . . and you both have to work on Sundays."
Correction: A good friend gently pointed out that I shouldn't be advocating "working on Sundays" on this blog, so -- in light of that -- We'll just give both JoAnne and Dave Sundays OFF!
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
You were designed and fashioned by God's hand -- and He doesn't make mistakes. As the old saying goes, "God don't make junk!"
Yes, you're a diamond, and so am I. So is your spouse, your parents, your children, your relatives, your co-workers, your friends. Now, that's a genuine treasure trove!! Shiver me timbers!!
However, there's one little problem. We're still diamonds in the rough: not yet smoothed and polished. Quite a bit of "coalish carbon" remains.
Our rugged edges and odd shapes lead to conflicts, irritations, and misunderstandings with the other "diamonds" around us.
This is why we must go through difficulties. The Master Jeweler knows exactly what is needed to shape us according to the best design and make us shine. He uses the hammer of hardship and the anvil of angst to knock off the rough edges. He takes the file of frustration and shaves off our impatience.
This is why certain people annoy us. It's by design! When sandpaper people rub us the wrong way, it's a good reason to rejoice! We're being buffed and polished!
This is why we have been placed under authority (parents, bosses, teachers, law officers.) The Master Jeweler uses these authorities as His helpers in the diamond polishing workshop.
When we run from trouble, hide from relationships, or angrily resist the authority placed over us, we short-circuit the shining process, and deprive ourselves of necessary character development. Mature attitudes are developed only by learning how to respond to authority, and grow from our grievances.
Monday, April 07, 2008
When Scott was a little boy, Cathy and I took care of him in our home during the summer months. Three years ago, his mother, Bonnie, passed away after a long struggle with cancer.
Please pray for Scott's dad, Al and his brother, Josh, as they go through this dark valley of grief. Josh attends our youth group each Wednesday night.
The funeral will be held at our church this Friday, with Rev. David Benson of First Congregational, officiating.
I decided to call my mentor, Loring Peterson. He'd know just what to do. Loring had preceeded me at the church, and I always could count on him for a good word of wisdom and encouragement.
"Hey, Mark!" he answered the phone cheerfully, "How are you doing up there in the frozen tundra??" (He'd retired to Florida.)
"Don't ask, Loring! It's just terrible! I have more troubles than I can count. Every time I turn around, a new problem pops up. Loring, would you please pray for God to take away my problems?"
I was astonished when my esteemed mentor shouted, "NO!!! Heavens, No!!"
"What??? No??? I thought you cared! I thought you understood! Why won't you pray for me??"
"I'll pray for you alright -- but I'm sure NOT going to ask the good Lord to take your problems!"
"W-w-why not?" I muttered.
Because, all those problems have to do with people -- right?? And if I asked God to take away all your problems, He'd take away all your people! Now, you don't want THAT do you?"
I gulped, "Well, I suppose not."
"So, Instead of praying that God will take away your problems, I'm going to pray that God will help you face 'em head on. I'm going to pray that you will endure the problems like a good soldier, that you will learn something valuable from 'em and that you will come through them all shining like gold!"
"I'll pray that God will help you love ALL your people, the way Jesus loves His church, and that you will stay sweet, no matter what anybody says or does against you."
"Now, if you'd be satisfied with THAT kind of prayer, I'd be happy to send one up on your behalf."
Sunday, April 06, 2008
There's a big difference between saying a prayer and being IN prayer.
Two ways to live "In Prayer":
1. Spirit of Prayer: This is a day by day, moment by moment awareness of God's presence -- maintaining a prayerful attitude throughout all the interactions from the day.
2. Seasons of Prayer: Setting apart extended time, each day, to pray deeply. This also applies to getting away for a day (or half day, or two days, etc) for prayerful reflection -- hearing from the Lord.
The most loving thing you can do for others is to pray for them.
Here's a great way to BLESS your loved ones:
B -- Body: Pray that God will grant strength, energy and healing.
L -- Livlihood: Pray that God will help them in their work, school, and all the details of living.
E -- Emotional: Pray that God will keep them from discouragement, depression, anxiety and fear. Ask that they will be filled with deep inner peace.
S -- Social: Pray that God will bless all their relationships.
S -- Spiritual: This is the MOST important. Pray that God will bring them into the fullness of His presence. (I learned this from my prayer partner, Judy Gorud)
When praying for the Spiritual Dimension here are some powerful insights from Ephesians 1:15-23.
1. Thank God for what He's already doing in their lives. (the faith and love already planted in them.)
2. Ask God to Guide them into His very best plan. This entails both wisdom (using your brains) and revelation (using your heart.)
3. Ask God to to Help them know -- that their eyes of understanding will be opened. Pray that they will:
a. Know the Hope.
b. Know the Riches (of the Spiritual Inheritance)
c. Know the Power
I concluded the service by leading the people in a time of prayer on behalf of their loved ones.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
"I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions WERE my work!" ( Out of Solitude)
Friday, April 04, 2008
17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
There are many ways people relate to Christ:
A. Christ is An Enemy (but He's still reaching out to you)
B. Christ is A Stranger (go deeper!)
C. Christ is an Aquaintance (or Familiar Stranger) (Go deeper!)
D. Christ is a Helper (true -- but go deeper!)
E. Christ is a Friend (the best friend you'll ever have -- but go deeper!)
F. Christ is Savior (a glorious truth -- but you can still go deeper!!!)
Here's the deepest level -- and it is the secret to spiritual victory:
1) I am blessed in heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (v. 3)
2) I was chosen before creation to be holy and blameless (v. 4)
3) Glorious grace has been feely given to me (v. 6)
4) I have redemption and forgiveness of sins (v. 7)
5) I have wisdom and understanding by' the riches of God's grace (v. 8)
6) I know the mystery of God's will and how to please Him (v. 9)
7) I am destined to fulfill God's plans (v. 12)
In Christ. . . I am Blessed
In Christ. . . I am Chosen
In Christ . . . I am Redeemed and Forgiven
In Christ . . . I'm Destined for Glory
. . . AND YOU ALSO WERE INCLUDED!!!!! (v. 13)
It's for YOU! It's for YOU!
. . . YOU were marked with a Seal -- the Holy Spirit
. . . YOU have received the deposit for the GREAT inheritance!!
What does that mean?
A. Like a plant in toxic soil -- uprooted and transplanted into Good Soil.
B. Like swimming -- instead of wading around on the edges, jump off the high dive!