Sunday, November 30, 2008

Explanation

This quote really hit me between the eyes:

Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?
-- Francis Chan, in Crazy Love

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A New Family Member


This morning, we adopted Vin from the Northwoods Humane Society. He's a good mutt -- a year old -- and full of affection.

Happiness Paradox

Great article by Nancy Ortberg, The Gospel and the Happiness Paradox

Pastoral Letter on the Economy

The Board of General Superintendents of the Wesleyan Church has released a Pastoral Letter on the Economy.

I think they did an outstanding job of encouraging the churches to act in faith and wisdom during these troubled times.

They are calling us to be. . .

• Disciplined because many of us have consumed too much of the world’s resources on
ourselves. This can be a time to control our cravings and determine to live more simply.

• Generous because there are people who are (or will be) going without some of the
necessities of life and we have an obligation to share with them in Jesus’ name.

• Prayerful because the problems that plague our world will not be solved by throwing
money at them, but by God intervening with justice and grace.

• Courageous because fear and panic are not becoming to the people of God. The peace of
Christ allows us to approach life’s difficulties with calm, deliberate, confident steps.

• Creative because the mind of Christ inspires His followers to think more clearly of how
to minister to others and to society in ways that spread hope and holiness that transform
culture.

Friday, November 28, 2008

True Hope and Change

Bishop N. T. Wright speaks at Harvard -- "Christianity is the answer for those who want to change the world."

Thankful

The great Bible scholar, Matthew Henry was attacked by thieves and robbed of his purse. He wrote the following words in his diary:

Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.

Cold Turkey


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gratitude

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." G.K. Chesterton

Gratitude = Doing Dishes

Gratitute requires action. I have heard that the difference between thankfulness and gratitude is similar to going to eat at someone else's house. A thankful person will compliment the good food and company. A grateful person will clean off the table and help with the dishes.
-- printed in the Indiana South Wesleyan

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Brother Steve

I talked with Steve tonight. He came through surgery well and is now on the mend. He's been through a lot lately -- but the Lord has carried him all the way.

Right now, he feels like he was run over by a Mack Truck -- but at least he's on the mend. He wants me to thank you for your prayers.

The Thanksgiving Attitude

Thanksgiving is not a holiday -- it's an attitude! If it's just a holiday for us -- then we let ourselves off the hook too easily. "I'll celebrate Thanksgiving one day a year, and be grumpy the other 364!" Actually, Thanksgiving Day is simply a reminder of how we ought to live every moment-- a special day to celebrate what we are called to be all year long!

Thanksgiving is "Thanks-living!"

Did you know that thankfulness and mental health go together? Counting your blessings can bring healing and strength into your life. Everything goes downhill when you are swamped with negativism and self pity.

How does a person cultivate a thankful heart?

1. Go hunting for small blessings.
Your life is packed with millions of small treasures! Sometimes, we are so hung up on petty annoyances, that we forget the abundance of joy.

2. Focus on what you have rather than what you wish you had.
Perhaps you don't have everything you'd like -- Is this really the end of the world?
Think about this: you are more wealthy than the majority of the world's population. Or consider this: You have a thousand times more stuff than the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock. Contentment is not found by obtaining more "things." It is a matter of the heart.

3. Quit waiting for someone to serve you, and commit yourself to serving others. Make it your goal to encourage and inspire others. Think "Here to Serve" when you walk into a room. Jesus said that the "greatest" person is the one who serves. Investing in servanthood was good enough for Jesus, so it should be good enough for the rest of us.

4. Become a generous giver.
Generous people are always the most happy individuals around -- they have discovered that giving brings tremendous fulfillment. Someone once said, "Give until it hurts." But I don't think it works that way. Instead, we ought to say, "Give until it feels great!"

Killing the stingy miser within you is the only thing that hurts -- once you get past that, giving is a joyful adventure!

5. Go on a complaint fast.
Intentionally refrain from complaining and criticizing. If a gripe comes to your mind, grab it, handcuff it, stick it in jail, and replace it with a praise.

6. Smile. Your day automatically goes better when you face it with a smile.

It makes you feel better, and look better too! All of your friends will thank you for smiling. Who wants to look at a grouch?

7. Pray and read the Bible regularly.
If your problems are big enough to stew over, they're big enough to bring to God in prayer. Good things happen when people pray. The Bible is filled with faith inspiring, love motivating, and hope producing passages. A daily dose of God's love letter will give you strength for every situation.

On Writing

I never want to write to write. I want to write because I can't not write.
- Mark Batterson

Church Basement Ladies


Cathy and I went on a double date with our friends, Steve and Linda, to Olive Garden and a performance of the musical comedy, Church Basement Ladies last evening.

The play was thoroughly enjoyable -- with an odd familiarity -- bringing to mind many "long-forgotten" church basement memories.
"This is most certainly true!"
Count your blessings instead of your crosses;
Count your gains instead of your losses.
Count your joys instead of your woes;
Count your friends instead of your foes.
Count your smiles instead of your tears;
Count your courage instead of your fears.
Count your full years instead of your lean;
Count your kind deeds instead of your mean.
Count your health instead of your wealth;
Count on God instead of yourself.
~~Author Unknown.~~
(Sent to me yesterday by my up-north friend, Bill)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dean

Late last night, I received a phone call, telling me that the authorities had just entered my friend, Dean's house, and found him lying dead on the floor.

I went immediately, and tried to help the officers, as well as Dean's daughter, who was sitting in a vehicle outside.

She had called her father several times, leaving messages -- but there was no response. Finally, in desperation, she contacted the law, and that's how they discovered he had passed away.

It appears he died sometime on Saturday.

My heart is sad. I'm thankful, however, that I followed the prompting a few days ago, and went to his home for a visit.

$250

Hindu extremist groups are offering money, food and alcohol to anyone who murders Christians and destroys their homes. The going price to kill a pastor: $250. Seriously.

More Here

Momentum

Andy Stanley on Gaining and Sustaining Momentum
When we ask churches that are experiencing momentum, “Why?” they will often respond, “God is just blessing.” Now that is a good answer, but that is not a helpful answer. The follow-up question needs to be, “what is God blessing?”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pray for Steve

My brother, Steve, who lives in Ohio, is having surgery Tuesday morning. Please pray him.

Food For Thought

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, Professor of World Mission and Evangelism at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, recently wrote a powerful two-part article on how the church is not training leaders to engage the present culture.
The Dangers of the Unconverted Seminary, Part 1

The Dangers of the Unconverted Seminary, Part 2

Sunday, November 23, 2008

John Metz

Just received word that my dear friend, John Metz passed away this evening. My heart is sad right now.

John was a tremendous mentor to me in the art of leadership. Until moving away to be closer to his family, he was a pillar of the Hayward Wesleyan Church. (I fondly referred to John as our "quality control department.")

Here's what I wrote about him a while back.

John will be deeply missed. Please pray for his wife, Phyllis and their children.

3 Big Words

Observations from Bob Roberts concerning shifts in thinking about church leadership:

In the 1990's, the three big words were:
1. Excellence
2. Relevance
3. Anonymity

In early 2000, the three big words were:
1. Belonging
2. Real
3. Community

But as 2010 approaches, the three big words are:
1. Spiritual
2. Global
3. Activism

Now, I really do appreciate Bob's obervations, and he correctly shows us that the times are changing. I would, however, like to propose three words that are bigger than ALL the above -- and at the core of ministry relevance:
1. Pray
2. Obey
3. Love

Friday, November 21, 2008

Sad News

I wrote about my friend, Fred, a couple of days ago. This morning, at 5:00 a.m., he passed away. I'm so thankful to have had the opportunity to be his friend and to be near him during his final days.

Fred loved Elvis, so the last couple of times we visited, I concluded our conversation with a some "Elvis hymns." Needless to say, I'm no Elvis Presley.

Fred and Judy have dogs and parrots. The first time I sang, the dogs howled. The second time, the parrots screeched. Fred really enjoyed it -- and that's what counts. It doen't matter what the dogs and parrots thought!

I think we'll do Peace in the Valley for his memorial service next week.

Shaping Conversations

My missional friend, Bob Roberts asks this profound question:

History is always moving. It never stops.

The only question is, “who will shape the conversations and what they will be?”

How will we as followers of Jesus participate in those conversations? What do we really have to say?

Luther the Blogger


Found this at Charles Hill's blog

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In Times Like These


The recent economic downturn has had a devastating impact on many families in the Hayward area. I've served as a pastor here in the northwoods for nearly 18 years, and have never seen conditions like this before.

People are being laid off. Homes are going into foreclosure. Businesses are folding. Families are running out of food.

Bad news from Wall Street leads to less business on Main Street.

Though we're in hard times, these are the only times we have -- thus, we need to keep a proper perspective. Here are some important reminders as we face adversity:

1. God is far bigger than the problem.
If the financial crisis looms like a mountain, remember -- God is the mountain mover! There's no challenge too great for the Almighty. There is not one situation beyond His ability. Instead of telling God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is!

2. Hard times teach us wisdom.
Difficult days force us to stop and evaluate where we are, what we're doing, and why we're doing it. Nobody becomes wise with ease. It takes trouble to grow in patience and understanding.

3. The valleys are where we grow.
We rejoice on the mountaintops -- but we grow in the valley. Hardship forges character and makes us better people. The sweetest people I've ever met are those who have gone through the most difficult experiences.

4. There's always a reason to be thankful.
If we look for blessings in the darkest days, we will find them. Thanksgiving brings a special joy and peace.

5. We are never poor if we are rich in love.
In loving relationships, we find true wealth. Money can buy things, but not true happiness.

6. It's only money.
My dear friend, Gerry Anderson, served on our church Stewardship Committee until he passed away last year. I recall several times, when the budget was tight, he would say, "It's only money." Life is much more than money. We must never let money troubles take our focus off the more important matters of life.

7. We're blessed to be a blessing.
Not everybody is suffering right now. If you are one of the lucky ones, you have a two-fold obligation:
a) be thankful
b) be a blessing to someobdy else who is less fortunate.

8) There's always hope at the end of the day.
No matter what happens, you'll get through it. The sun will rise tomorrow. When all is said and done, all will be well.
Here's an old hymn that reminds us to trust the Lord in the dark times.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Fred

Yesterday morning, I was called to the bedside of my friend, Fred, who is dying of cancer. I was deeply honored that he had invited me to come and enter this part of his life with him.

I wasn't sure where Fred stood spiritually, and prayed all the way to his house that a door would open, and that I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings. I didn't want to be pushy -- but I knew Fred needed assurance and peace.

The Lord arranged everything beautifully. We were able to talk deep. I shared several verses of Scripture, sang a few hymns, and prayed. God was present. The whole room was filled with love.

At the end of our conversation, Fred shared a clear testimony of his faith -- that he is trusting in the Lord completely.

I don't know how many days my friend has left upon this earth -- but I do know the peace of God will sustain him.

This Sunday, we're going to light the faith candle for Fred.

Monday, November 17, 2008

My Mother's Wish


Recently, I read a heartwarming Christmas Story -- My Mother's Wish, by Jerry Camery-Hoggatt.
It's a tiny little work, only 81 pages. I devoured it in one sitting!

It's the enchanting tale of "contrariwise" Ellee Crumb McKutcheson, and her complicated relationship with her domineering mother.

Ultimately, it's a parable about hopes, expectations and love.

Hoggatt, a professor at Vangaurd University, is a master story teller. His humor is fabulous! There were several "laugh out loud" occasions as well as a couple of Kleenex moments.

A great read for Christmas, but I would suggest reading it first before giving it to your mother.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Static

I participated in telephone conference call yesterday afternoon. One of the members (nobody knew who) of the group had a cell phone that was acting up -- squealing, feedback -- a bunch of static.

The noise was so distracting, that we were unable to finish our business, and had to reschedule our phone conference to a time when everybody will be on land lines.

The lesson I learned from this experience: One person making a lot of static can mess things up and keep a group from accomplishing what they need to do.

Challenging

A great post by Tony Morgan: Ten Reasons Why You're Probably Going to Fail.

Unfailing Love

Be persuaded, timid soul, that He has loved you too much to cease loving you. ~ Fenelon

O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Purple Cows and the Sticks Conference

My blogger buddy, Mark Batterson posted on his recent talk at the Sticks Conference.

I was out of town speaking on the other side of the country and thus, was unable to attend this awesome event for pastors in small communities. Too bad. I really wanted to be a part of it.

Nevertheless, I can get a feel for it from reading Mark's blog as well as the following:

Charles Hill

Kevin Rush

Samwise the Brave

Tim Stevens

Church Requel

Jeff Borden

Kris Sorenson

Courage

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, "I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, November 13, 2008

7 Vital Attitudes for Effective Ministry

My good friend, Gary Exman, has a fantastic ministry encouraging and blessing those who serve in small towns and rural communities. I found the following post on his blog, and am passing it along to you. I also encourage you to pay him a visit at Come and See:

A rural or small town church is usually very positive. A rural pastor is usually positive too. However sometimes negative ideas and feelings can take control. Let me suggest 7 vital attitudes a small town or rural church and its pastor need to have in order to keep its ministry going and growing.

1. Never talk behind one another's back.
2. Always pray daily for the pastor and for one another.
3. If you have a difference with another member pray about that difference and go to that person with an open heart to him or her.
4. Tell the devil to get out of the church in the name of Jesus every day.
5. Keep the written word as your guide to faith and polity.
6. Listen to other's ideas about order of worship and music and try out some of their ideas.
7. Always respect your pastor and his or her ministry.

First Snowman


Introducing the first Wilson snowman of 2008. Hannah named him Herbie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Missional Shift or Drift?

A good, thought-provoking article in Christianity Today

A Picture with Dr. Duewel


A Special Experience

Yesterday morning, I dropped Dr. Duewel off at the airport for his return trip to Indiana.

We drove to Minneapolis the aftermoon before, so we could break up his trip, and have some special time together.

I was wondering how we were going to pass the time in the evening. I was fairly certain Dr. Duewel wouldn't be too interested in watching Monday Night Football or some crime drama.

It was about 7:00 p.m. -- three hours until bedtime. Do you know how we spent it?

We prayed and sang hymns together.

He went through his normal prayer routine, and I was invited to hover at the edges where the glory spilled over. It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

As he prayed through his daily prayer list, he would often stop and ask me about the person he was praying for. . .

Do you know Leith Anderson? He has such responsibility! I've only met him a couple of times, but I pray for him every day!

Do you know John Maxwell? A few years ago, the Lord laid a heavy burden on my heart to pray for him every day.

I had been in a meeting with our new General Superintendent, Jo Anne Lyon, last week, and she told me that years ago, she and Dr. Duewel had crossed paths. "I think he might remember me," she said.

So, I asked Dr. Duewel, "Do you remember Jo Anne Lyon?"

"Do I remember her?? Of course I remember her! I remember her every day in prayer! I also remember the other two Wesleyan Generals, Tom Armiger and Jerry Pence. I don't recall if I've met Dr. Armiger and Dr. Pence, but I pray that God will bless and lead them daily."

This is amazing, because Dr. Duewel is a member of the Free Methodist Church. He's 92 and prays for our Wesleyan leaders by name every day. I'm 47 amd couldn't name a leader of the Free Methodist Church if you put a gun to my head!!

At the end of our prayer session, I knelt before him. He laid his hands on me and prayed a special blessing of anointing and empowering over me, my family and my ministry. It was a beautiful moment that I will cherish forever.

As we drove in rush hour traffic towards the airport yesterday morning, we sang "Victory in Jesus."

Glory!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Apostles and Earrings

I wonder if this belonged to one of the apostles? Simon the Zealot strikes me as the kind of guy who would wear an earring.

I recall the time, when I was graduating from seminary, I received an invitation to start a new congregation in a college town. In the letter, they outlined the vision, the demographics of the community, and their expectations for the pastor.

The letter ended with a p.s. -- "and of course, your wife will not be permitted to wear earrings."

They forgot say anything about ME wearing earrings. For a while, I was tempted to go ahead, take the position, and get my ear pierced.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pressurized

Just in case you're in the "pressure cooker", here are a few stress busters. Take one or two as needed.
1) God is bigger than any problem you have.
2) You can accomplish big things only when you can say "no" to little things.
3) When you've done all you can -- let it go.
4) Not much is worth worrying about. Worry selectively.
5) With God all things are possible!
6) An ounce of action is worth a ton of worry.
7) Most of the things we worry about never come true.
8) Live on purpose! Set priorities and use them to chart your course.
9) It's not the big job, but the little worries that drain our energy.
10) Refuse to allow fear to direct your life.
11) Relax. Don't sweat the small stuff.
12) Problems will come. You can't avoid them. The real you will "show through" when the pressure is on.
13) Life goes on.
14) Look for the joyful surprises -- the postcards from heaven -- in every day. They are there, but you must search for them.
15) Few things are worth fighting over. Keep the peace whenever possible.
16) Take a deep breath and realize how fortunate you are to be alive.
17) Stop putting it off until tomorrow. Do it today.
18) Lend a helping hand to others and you will end up helping yourself.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Beautiful Day with a Precious Saint


We had a wonderful day at church with Dr. Wesley Duewel.(Author of Ablaze for God.) Dr. Duewel is a true saint of God. In his life, there is a thin veil between earth and heaven. He has walked with God so long and so deeply, that he lives the spiritual realm as naturally (even more so perhaps) than the physical realm.

Our people were deeply touched by his total dedication to the Savior, his fervent prayer, and his overflowing love.

Tomorrow morning, we're hosting a meeting for pastors in the area -- and I'm going to turn Dr. Duewel loose on them!!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Home

Finally home -- after a full week away teaching Evangelism in South Carolina and speaking to a group of pastors in Oregon. I was privileged to have dinner last night with our General Superintendent, Jo Anne Lyon along with Karl and Sharon Westfall. Karl is the DS for the Northwest District, and Sharon's daddy is one of my heroes -- Orval Butcher.

We dined at a lovely restaurant with a panoramic view overlooking the city. Beautiful!

JoAnne and I found several amazing connections -- including a mutual apostolic succession!

Awoke at 4:15 this morning, to catch an early flight back to Minneapolis. Arriving at the airport, I scuttled over to Gate C18, and served as the "Welcoming Committee" for Dr. Wesley Duewel.

Dr. Duewel, author of Ablaze for God and several other books, will be our special guest speaker at church tomorrow.

We had a delightful visit all the way back to Hayward.

I discovered that Dr. Duewel was personal friends with the great missionary E. Stanley Jones. He knew the Oswald Chambers family (My Utmost for His Highest), He knew the evangelist Duncan Campbell (Revival of the Hebrides) He met some of the first converts of the 1904 Welsh Revival, and knew the great preacher Paul Rees. He also told me that he had the opportunity to see Mahatma Gandhi up close.

Dr. Duewel is an amazing man. 92 years young and still going strong!!

One more thing -- the best part of my trip this week was coming home and being with my family!

Friday, November 07, 2008

North by Northwest

I'm having a delightful time speaking at the Northwest District Pastor's Retreat in Neuberg, Oregon. Their District Superintendent, Karl Westfall, has been a good friend for many years. He's doing a great job of leadership in a very challenging culture.

Last night, I spoke on bringing dry bones to life (Ezekiel 37) and shared about our Ablaze for God series. The Lord helped me and the message seemed to hit home with them.

Trunk Or Treat



About a thousand kids showed up at our Trunk or Treat last Friday evening. Pastor Jeremy and crew did a fantastic job providing a safe, fun and kid-friendly environment at the church. The moms, the kids and the dentists were all happy!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dirty Laundry


A young couple moves into a new neighborhood.
The next morning, while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees the neighbor hang up the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean", she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs another laundry soap."

The husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang out the wash, the young woman would make the same comment.
About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband, "Look! she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?"

Her husband said, "I got up early this morning and washed the windows."
(sent by a friend via e-mail)

Our Christian Responsibility

"I urge you then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone -- for kings (Presidents) and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

This is good and pleases God our Savior,. . .

I Timothy 2:1-2a

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Winning Blow

Prayer is striking the winning blow. Ministry is merely gathering the results in.
-- E. M. Bounds

Table Rock South Carolina

I am at Table Rock, South Carolina, teaching a course on Evangelism to a wonderful group of 24 eager students. They are insightful and engaging. It's fun to teach a group so ready to learn and grow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ryan's New Song

Check out my son Ryan's new song. It's really profound.

Lonely Man's Hymn

Blogging Break

After church today, I am flying to South Carolina to teach a FLAME Evangelism Class, and then to Oregon, to speak to a group of pastors.

For the first time, I'm planning on taking my laptop with me as I travel. However, I don't know what kind of internet access I'll have on the road and my schedule will be pretty demanding.

Thus, this may -- or may not be the last post you'll see here for a while.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Zehnder

Zehnder's a new group that's just now breaking out and getting known beyond LA.
Twins, Tom and Tim Zehnder present a wide repertoire of missional music. Their pastor says they are musicians, disciples and theologians "all in one."
Here's a Youtube performance of Spirit Born
Blow through me, Wind, breathe on me,
Breath, make Spirit born,
All of my soul, make Spirit born, Spirit born.
The Nicodemus in me can’t believe how
The Nicodemus in me is too long in religious categories
The Nicodemus in me still runs to the rebel rabbi
In the middle of the night…”