Thursday, April 30, 2009

Master Your Desire

The Best Way to Master the Desire is to Desire the Master.

The Other 163

A very insightful article by my good friend, Phil Stevenson, in Expanding Wave:

In a January 2009 lecture given at Talbot Seminary, Charles Van Engen observed that of the 168 hours (24x7) in any given week active church members will give five of those hours to the church. That low number shocked me. In the 1980’s, I had heard that active church members would invest up to twenty hours a week. Prior to Van Engen’s remark I had understood it had slipped to ten. Regardless of the number, it appears that the time those most committed are willing to invest in the local church is eroding.

My question: What are we encouraging people to do with the other 163? I understand a segment of those hours will be for food and sleep, but there is a huge chunk of hours we need to leverage. How these hours are leveraged would appear to be built on two potential philosophical foundations:

Retrieval: This is getting those hours back for the church. We pull, prod and plead to have them show up for, serve at and support church ministry.

Retrain: This is giving them tools to serve Christ and the community of faith within the realty of their everyday life. It is helping them see their daily living IS ministry.
When a church places their emphasis on retrieval they may get an additional five plus hours, but that still leaves the larger segment of congregational participants with more time outside, then inside, the church. And this is as it should be for Christ has SENT us.

We need to retrain our people for more missional effectiveness. We need to provide tools that will equip them as ambassadors. We must take a sledgehammer to the wall that divides the sacred from the secular, church from society and personal faith from public values. Our people are indigenous in their environment. We must give them missionary eyes. Here are few suggestions:

Put an emphasis on members as missionaries. Believers will never be effectively mobilized apart from a deep sense of service. Salvation is both personal (we have been saved from our sin), but it is also communal (we have been saved to engage in purposeful service in society). The church is to equip its people for this saving purpose.

Teach on missional living. Missionaries are not sent ill-equipped. A new approach must be taken in teaching those in our communities of faith. Believers must be encouraged and taught to look at their neighborhoods, workplaces and communities with the eyes of a missionary.

Release people to engage their culture. When we release our people with limited time resources to choose community involvement over church only participation, we are moving toward a missional mindset.

Downplay involvement in “church only” activities. A church that keeps their people so busy with “church activities” will effectively remove them from the culture they are to engage. If you have so many church activities that it leaves your people little time or energy to be with their neighbors, you may have too many activities.

Place a high value on church planting. New churches are in desperate need of launch team members to help establish a base for effective ministry. Existing churches are populated with potential launch members. “Without regard to locations, missional churches are actively releasing members to new ministries and new churches. Their passion is to see the churches grasp the principles of multiplication” (Rick Rusaw).

Determine to be a transformational community. Transformation can only happen up close and personal. Yeast transforms dough when it is intermingled with it, not simply set beside it. A church will only be able to transform communities when they intermingle themselves in those communities.

What are you encouraging your people to do with the other 163 hours? Do you need to change or adjust your approach?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Church Cookbooks

Note to self: Edit church cookbooks BEFORE printing.

Even if 'Guinea pig is regarded as a nutritious meal in the Andes. It is easily digested and has a lot of good nutritional content,"

Sorry, Lutherans, It's best to leave that recipe OUT.

We were caught, once, with a church cookbook recipe that slipped through the editorial process. It was called "Cal Can Surprise"

The recipe went something like this:
1) Open a can of Cal Can
2) Put it on a plate and serve it to your guest.
3) Watch their surprise, when they taste it.

Sort of along the order of baked guinea pig.

Live Life Joyfully

Some dear friends of mine have a sign hanging over their doorway as you leave the house. It reads, "Live Life Joyfully!" I like that! It is a beautiful reminder, as they go out to face the world; that we really can choose how we are going to live.

Most folks don't think they have a choice in the matter. They believe that joy and happiness are simply the result of good fortune. When "things" are going well, we're happy.

Snoopy captures this thought when he defined happiness as "a piece of fudge caught on the first bounce."

This perspective takes us on an emotional roller coaster -- up one moment and down the next. Now, I love roller coasters -- but emotional ones are not so fun.

If circumstances dictate our level of contentment we are doomed to misery. Bad things happen to everybody! We all go through struggles, hardships and pain. If a "bad day" has the authority to plunder our joy, we're all in deep weeds.

Yet, there is a happiness of spirit that does not depend on the happenings of life. There is a joy that goes deeper than bouncing fudge! There is a contenment far greater than any circumstance.

Happiness is a choice. It is not what happens to you that counts, but how you respond.

You will not find happiness by chasing it. It's like a lovely butterfly. The more you run after it, the more it flits away from you. However, if you are patient enough to stop and be still, it will land on your shoulder.

True happiness is the bi-product of a healthy, God centered, love filled life. You will never find it in a bottle. You won't capture it by working harder. The pathway of entertainment doesn't lead there. It begins and ends in the heart.

The right root brings the right fruit.

If happiness is missing from your life, don't look around -- but look within instead.

The word "joy" appears 218 times in the Bible. That indicates that joy is the serious business of heaven. It's not just optional frosting for shallow folks -- but, rather, the very fountain of life itself. We were created for joy.

"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance. . ." Proverbs 15:13

When a person is happy, says the poet, Trapp, "the heart sits smiling in the face, and looks merrily out of the windows of the eyes."

Digging the Garden

An old man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his own tomato garden, but it was very hard work as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him was in prison.

The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament.

Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty badly because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting to old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me. Love, Dad
The son replied:
Dear Dad,
Don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the bodies Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies.They apologized to the old man and left.

That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances
Love you,

(Thank you to my friend, Gary Exman, who sent me this funny story)
You might enjoy his recent post, Whatever Became of Common Sense in the Church?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Rich Visit

Spent a wonderful day with Rich Avery, Director of Wesleyan Native American Ministries, his son Brandon, Pastor Ben Drown, and Ralph Jacobson, who served as the chauffer.

This was Rich's first visit to Hayward, so we gave him the grand tour of the LCO Reservation, and introduced him to several of our ministry leaders as well as our missions committee.

Rich is an outstanding leader. He gave us some keen insights, which will be quite helpful to us as we continue to build bridges with the reservation.

Glass House

I've often heard that pastors live in glass houses -- well, this one is doing it literally.

A Living Legend

Ed Kleinhammer, a member of Hayward Wesleyan Church in northern Wisconsin, is known throughout classical music circles as one of the greatest trombone players in the world. Recently, he was declared a "Living Legend" by the International Trombone Association.

His career with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra spanned 45 years (1940 to
1985) and took him to all the great cities in America, as well as many nations around the world.

Born in 1919, Ed found Christ early in life through the ministry of the
Swedish Lutheran Church in Chicago. His faith in the Lord has guided him
all the way along. At 18, Ed wrote the following poem in honor of his

We know thou art present, O Lord
when we pray.
As we look to Thee for happiness from
day to day.
The mystery of life falls much short
of prayer,
For only too often
The world pours us sorrow which is
heavy to bear.
We ask for more love for the things
that are good,
For inspiration and peace in the things
that we should.
As we live in this life, wilt thou be
our Guide?
We ask thee to ever be at our side.

Keep us ever aware of the life that
Is to come;
That when our earthly tasks may be
Our souls may rest in eternal peace
with thee;
And that others we will
have inspired
thy heavens to see.

Growing up, Ed loved classical music. He would listen to the various orchestras on the radio night after night. There was a fire growing in his belly! When Ed was in his late teens, he happened to be walking the halls before a high school band competition. He stopped at the doorway of one room, and heard one of the bands rehearsing. The music so excellent and amazing, it inspired Ed to switch High Schools (travelling over a hour each
way) in order to play with them. Ed credits the teacher, John H. Barabash, a strict but excellent musician, for the success he has achieved in the music industry.

"Mr. Barabash taught me that music is more than a parade of notes. Good music has a pulse to it! It needs to come alive!"

It was around this time that Ed searched out the best trombone player he could find (David Anderson, who played for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and asked if he'd be willing to teach him lessons. Anderson graciously agreed to mentor the young Kleinhammer, and only charged him half price!
(Years later, Ed had the opportunity to mentor a disadvantaged young man named Stephen Wilson, providing free lessons, and even purchasing a trombone for him. Today, Wilson plays for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra!)

In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the formation of "All American Youth Orchestra". 15,000 people auditioned, and Ed was selected as a trombonist after the sixth round of try-outs. This was a tremendous honor, and Ed remembers it as one of the most thrilling moments of his life.

Some representatives from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra happened to be in the audience during the final audition, and shortly afterwards, invited Ed to join them. "Just think!" Ed remarked, "I was just a kid, and they asked me to play in one of the finest orchestras on earth!"

During Ed's long career with the orchestra, he played in all the great music halls, recorded many albums, lectured at Universities around the world, taught private lessons, and wrote two books, and received countless awards.

"My finest hour was one evening when we were playing in Boston. Everything just came together perfectly! We were ON FIRE!! The music was so wonderful
that night, it brought tears to our eyes!" The veteran conductor
exclaimed, "I've waited 60 years for this moment!"

"Music is the universal language of the soul." Ed says, "Everybody in the orchestra was a great musician, and every time we played, we put everything we had into the performance. It was always wonderful - a little taste of heaven."

Ed's first wife, Dorothy passed away in 1973. Three years later, he married Norma, who passed away in 1996. The next year, Ed relocated to Hayward, Wisconsin, where he found the Wesleyan Church. Ken LaCoy, the carpenter who built his house, invited him to attend, and he instantly felt right at home.

Shortly after joining the Senior Saints Bible Study Group, Ed fell in love with Dessie, who also attended. In a few months, they were married, and in 2009, they celebrated their 10th anniversary.

Long retired from trombone playing, Ed still lectures and gives lessons from time to time. He also makes coffee for the Senior Saints group, and has a beautiful ministry of encouragement.

Ed brought his trombone out for one final encore performance at Hayward Wesleyan Church, "to say thank you to the Lord for the wonderful life He has given me." When Ed finished playing "The Holy City", the congregation was filled with a holy awe. There was not a dry eye in the place.

A couple of years ago, Ed was working on an article for the International Trombone Journal on Mahler's Symphony Number 2: Resurrection. He made an appointment with Pastor Mark Wilson.

"Whenever I hear this beautiful masterpiece it feels like Easter, and a little foretaste of heaven.", he said, "That's where I need your advice."

"I'm wondering, do you think it would be appropriate to call Easter "a keyhole peek into heaven?"

"That's one of the best definitions of Easter I've ever heard!" his pastor replied, "I can't think of a better way to put it!"


Monday, April 27, 2009

A Note Regarding My Previous Post

I had the privilege of recently reading the two books summarized in my last post. At first glance, they appear to be "chick books", and I wasn't so sure I wanted to read them. . . but once I dove into the lake, I discovered that the water was just fine!

Aurora is the true story of a religous colony established in Oregon in the 1800's. Jane Kirkpatrick made these people of the past come alive with her vivid writing, as well as weaving in historical pictures and crafts.

I had never thought of crafting as journaling -- but that's what it is. . . at least in some cases. She showed quilts, for instance, that told a woman's story -- of joy, heartache, longing and hope.

I will never look at an old quilt the same way again -- and I have a new respect for the craft.

During the journaling class I taught last week, I spoke of "crafting as journaling" and especially focused on quilting. I used the Aurora book as an example of what I meant.

A Flickering Light is fiction based on true experience. It reminded me how deceitful our hearts and minds can be. The main character of the story is like a moth flying too close to a flame -- and there were lots of nuances and justifications which made things fuzzy -- like shadows. My take-home point is that we can talk ourselves into (or out of) just about anything and say that it's ok -- when, in reality, it's not.

Aurora and A Flickering Light


Wrap yourself in a fantastic journey, a remarkable commitment, and a spare and splendid story .

Master storyteller Jane Kirkpatrick extols the beautiful treasures, unknown to a wider public, rediscovered in the Old Aurora Colony of Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. The people and legacy of Aurora, a utopian community founded in the mid-1800s, will stir your imagination, hopes, and dreams; and remind you that every life matters—that our lives are the stories other people read first.

Unique and treasured quilt pattern variations
More than 100 photographs, many never-before published, from 1850 to today
Cherished stories from Aurora descendants
Rich images of fine crafts from the Aurora Colony and private collections
An introduction by renowned American artist John Houser

Aurora is about the difference every ordinary life can make—and a beautiful celebration of a time and place in which people expressed their most cherished beliefs through the work of their imagination and hands.


Returning to her Midwest roots, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick draws a page from her grandmother’s photo album to capture the interplay between shadow and light, temptation and faith that marks a woman’s pursuit of her dreams. She took exquisite photographs, but her heart was the true image exposed.

Fifteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele loves nothing more than capturing a gorgeous Minnesota landscape when the sunlight casts its most mesmerizing shadows. So when F.J. Bauer hires her in 1907 to assist in his studio and darkroom, her dreams for a career in photography appear to find root in reality.

With the infamous hazards of the explosive powder used for lighting and the toxic darkroom chemicals, photography is considered a man’s profession. Yet Jessie shows remarkable talent in both the artistry and business of running a studio. She proves less skillful, however, at managing her growing attraction to the very married Mr. Bauer.

This luminous coming-of-age tale deftly exposes the intricate shadows that play across every dream worth pursuing—and the irresistible light that beckons the dreamer on.

Purchase here

Author Bio:
Jane Kirkpatrick is a best-selling, award-winning author whose previous historical novels include All Together in One Place and Christy Award finalist A Tendering in the Storm. An international keynote speaker, she has earned regional and national recognition for her stories based on the lives of actual people, including the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Hall of Fame. Jane is a Wisconsin native who since 1974 has lived in Eastern Oregon, where she and her husband, Jerry, ranch 160 rugged acres.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Life Is the River

My son, Adam, wrote a beautiful poem. You can read it here.

. . . Life is the river, the heart is the boat

21st Century Evangelism

Indiana Wesleyan University professor, Dr. Ken Schenck, recently shared some good thoughts concerning evangelism in the 21st Century.

I think he hit the nail on the head!

A New Definition of Auto Industry Growth

Flat is the new up.

-- John Krafcik, President and CEO, Hyundai

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cheese Toast Jesus


Desperate Situation

Poor guy -- I think they should cut him some slack.

Finally It's My Turn!

Ron, from the library, called and left a message for me last evening -- the new John Grisham book (The Associate) is waiting for me at their circulation desk! Yippeee!

About six weeks ago, I put my name on the waiting list -- and was number 84.

Since then, I've been badgering the library staff on a regular basis. "Where am I on the list now?" So, I watched my slow climb, from 84, to 63 to 41 to 25 to 8 to 1. I've been number 1 on the list since last Thursday.

Now, it's finally my turn. I hope it's as good as the wait.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We Have a Winner!

The winner of my "Gardening Eden" give-away is:
(Drumroll please. . .)

JEFF RUGGLES of Williston, ND!

Congratulations Jeff!

Honorable Mention goes to my dear sister-in-law, Linda Weaver Wilson, whose name was submitted by her loving husband, Sam, in honor of her birthday.

Sam -- I guess that means you're going to have buy her a birthday present after all.

Seriously -- Linda -- I'm going to send you TWO good books!

Thanks to everybody who participated. For those who really want a copy of Gardening Eden, You can buy it here.

God's Time for Revival

God's time for revival is the very darkest hour, when everything seems hopeless. It is always the Lord's way to go to the very worst cases to manifest His glory.

-- Andrew Gib

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pray for Dave and Mary Lou

Please pray for Dave & Mary Lou Stevens, the beloved cooks for all our FLAME (non-traditional ministerial preparation) Courses. They were in the middle of a FLAME in Stroudsburg, PA, when Dave became seriously ill, and was hospitalized in a local hospital.

Please pray for the volunteers who jumped in as substitue cooks -- and pray also that their culinary offerings will not lead to indigestion. (just jesting about the indigestion! I know you guys will do do great. The Lord can work miracles, and the director, Wayne Richards is truly grateful for your willing spirits!)

Earth Day Give-Away

I am going to give away a free copy of Michael Abbate's Gardening Eden (see last post)

Here's how we're going to do it. For the next 26 hours, I'll be collecting names -- you can submit your name in one of two ways:
1) Leave a comment here at the blog with your name and town.
2) e-mail me at with "Eden" in your subject line. I will need your name and town.

At 8:00 AM tomorrow (Thursday the 23rd), I will put all the names in a hat - and pull out the winner!

Gardening Eden

In honor of Earth Day, I'd like to recommend Gardening Eden by Michael Abbate'. It's a compelling call to be better stewards of the earth (or The Garden.)

Living in the Wisconsin northwoods, I am privileged to see the splendor of creation every day. When I go into the woods, I find it easier to hear from heaven. By the river side, my soul finds peace. My heart goes out to the city folks who are surrounded by asphalt. Where can they go to experience such re-creation?

God made our beautiful earth for us and need to take better care of it!

Abbate' presents a clear biblical case for Creation Care. He sounds like a normal guy-- not like some weird environmental activist. It just makes good common sense!

In the second half of the book, he lists 50 practical tips for conserving energy and other simple lifestyle solutions. These tips will help you be a part of the solution rather than the problem -- and will save some serious cash as well!

Download first chapter here

Purchase it Here

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe

I finished Larry Osborne's 10 Dumb Things Smart Christians Believe on the airplane last week.
My initial response to the title was, "That's pretty bold and/or arrogant."
Now, I've met Larry personally. He's a good man, and doesn't strike me as arrogant at all -- so I settled for "That's pretty bold!" At least he uses lessens the sting by using the word, "smart."
In this book, Larry writes about various spiritual "Urban Legends" that, if left unchecked, can harm people in their spiritual journey. Most of these issues are reflect TRUTHS that are taken too far or misunderstood:
1) Faith Can Fix Anything
2) Forgiving Means Forgetting
3) A Godly Home Guarantees Godly Kids
4) God Has a Blueprint for My Life
5) Christians Shouldn't Judge
6) Everything Happens for a Reason
7) Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide
8) God Brings Good Luck
9) A Valley Means a Wrong Turn
10) Dead People Go to a Better Place
My favorite take-home point was from #4. Larry says, "It's not a Blueprint -- It's a Game Plan." I like that. It's liberating for people who have made some bad decisions early in life. God can rectify what people have wrecked!
This would be a great guide for small group discussion, helping people to really think about what they believe and why.

60 to Zero

Seth Godin on rapid change in the communications business. How does this relate to church?

5 Memories

Here's an exercise I conducted with my Journaling Class last night:

1) List five vivid memories for your childhood. Which ones rise to the surface?
2) What feeling is attached to those memories?
3) Is there any connection between this and how you experience life as an adult?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

First Person Narrative

Today, I gave a "First Person Narrative" sermon.

I had been planning to preach on Peter and the two miraculous catches of fish (John 21 and Luke 5.) Early this morning, as I was giving my last "go-over", an idea popped into my mind.

Instead of just TELLING the sermon, why not BE the sermon? Rather than talking ABOUT Peter and the big catches of fish, what if I BECAME Peter and shared these stories First-Hand??

So, I took the risk, drove home quickly and grabbed my fishing hat, pole, net and tackle box -- for visual effects.

I've heard about this kind of preaching, but have never personally tried it. I think it went pretty well. The people were engaged, the message came through, and the text spoke for itself.

Cathy overheard a little fellow whisper to his mother, "They ought to put that story in a book!"

Base Hits

Wayne Cordeiro shared a very good post recently: Preaching for Base Hits

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back Roads

What a joy to have Adam (our oldest son) and Allegra (our lovely daughter-in-law) with us this weekend!

We went to Backroads Coffee Shop this morning -- and then took a back roads scenic "long cut" home! We saw a flock of Canadian geese, a momma wood duck with her ducklings, and a baby loon. It was awesome - and we would have missed the whole show if we had staid on the main roads.

That's the way life is -- the best treasures are nestled away where the paths are unworn.

Adam has a new blog! Pay him a visit here.

Making Decisions in Crisis

John Maxwell recently posted an outstanding article on decision making in challenging times:
Crises Call for Critical Choices

Friday, April 17, 2009

Western PA

I just returned from speaking to a wonderful group of Wesleyan pastors from the Western Pennsylvania District. They were fantastic -- hung right in there with me as I blabbed along!

My host, Shawn Cossin, is an outstanding young pastor (former state trooper) who is has a thriving ministry at Sandy Lake Wesleyan Church. It was a real joy to get to know him. We have kindred spirits! Shawn definitely has a bright future.

Our conference was at Hyde Wesleyan Church -- which is famous for it's amazing missions program. I don't think there's a church anywhere that's more intentional about blessing the nations than these guys. I was blown away.

Unfortunately for me, their senior pastor, Bob Croft, was on sabbatical. So, I'll have to wait to catch a few pointers from him.

I was especially delighted to reconnect with my friend, Jeremiah Gomez. He's a sharpie!

It was also a joy to visit with District Superintendent Randy Swink and his wife, Gayle. They're doing a great job of leading the Wesleyans in Western PA, We've had a special connection ever since their son, Brad, did his internship with us. My boys, Luke and Wes, think B-Rad is one of the coolest people on planet earth!

I am truly honored to be able to travel and speak to pastors in small places -- but still I must say, the best part is coming home :)

Leading in a Small Town

Gary Lamb, lead pastor of Revolution Church in Canton, Georgia, writes about life as a small town pastor at The Sticks Blog:

In a smaller town if your church starts growing and impacting the community EVERYONE knows you. I didn't say everyone likes you but everyone does you! It can make a simple task like going to the store for a gallon of milk a big deal.

It can make something as relaxing by taking your family out to eat and turning into a non-stop counseling session because everyone in the restaurant knows you and just needs a "couple of minutes" of your time. Lose your temper and make jerk of yourself? Yep, it becomes town gossip. Gotta make a tough decision? Trust me, it will be the topic of discussion the next morning as the old men gather at the same diner everyone morning. That's life leading in a small town.

(I can relate to that!!)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Paying Taxes With a Smile

"It would be nice if we could pay our income taxes with a smile, but normally cash is required."

" 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."

Simplified IRS Tax Form

1) How Much Did You Make Last Year?
2) Send It In!

Pro File

Outstanding communicator, John Maxwell, recently shared how he goes about filing material for future reference. Great stuff -- especially for those of us who preach.

One thing Preachers and Prisoners both need -- Good Files

Monday, April 13, 2009

Knowing God's Will

Dr. Jim "Umfundisi" Lo, recently suggested the following questions to consider when attempting to discern God's will regarding a decision:

1. Will it honour God?
2. Is it consistent with Scripture?
3. Is it the “best” thing that could be done? Is there something “better” to do?
4. Is it my heart’s desire? Is this something I really have a passion for?
5. Does it fit who I am as a child of God? Does it fit my skills, gifts, resources, abilities, capabilities, limitations, etc.?
6. Does it fit God’s overall plan for my life? Has everything He’s brought me through readied me for this opportunity, this purpose, this adventure?
7. Are there, or has there been, any providential leadings toward this course of action?
8. Am I willing to submit this decision to God’s will?
9. Is there, or has there been, an inner conviction and compulsion to undertake this course of action? Has it been confirmed through another person? Through the Holy Spirit? Through His Word?
10. Do I have lasting peace in my decision?

(HT Pat Hannon)

State of Religion by State


This chart says we have some very significant challenges before us.

See also Newsweek's Article recent article: The End of Christian America

This is certainly a matter of concern, but I am reminded of the old phrase from Mark Twain:

"Reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Empty Urn Rant

Russell D. Moore is just dead wrong on this one. (No pun intended.)

It's an article in Christianity Today, opposing the practice of cremation. Seems to me, he's making much ado about nothing., and I'm frankly surprised the CT folks bothered to print it.

Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. From dust we come, and to dust we shall return. There's absolutely nothing wrong with speeding up the process! (A little kid remarked, "There's somebody either coming or going underneath my bed!")

God is certainly BIG enough to handle the resurrection of cremated bodies (Moore grants this in the article.)

It felt to me like this article was putting unnecessary yokes on people's shoulders.

Seems to me, people should do what is best for their situation. If you prefer to do the full casket and burial for your loved one, that's fine and dandy. You should do it. There are certain advantages to that approach, and most stem from tradition.

However, it's wrong to chastise those who choose cremation -- for that, too, is a valid option.

1) It costs much less -- financial stewardship
2) It takes less space -- environmental stewardship
3) In the end, it makes absolutely NO difference -- the dead person isn't going to care one bit, and on resurrection morning, the new body isn't going to be any different than one that's straightened out and stuck in a box.

For heaven's sake -- don't add undue pressure to grieving people, by suggesting they're letting God down if they chose the latter option!


Friday, April 10, 2009

John's Home-going

Shortly after 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, our dear young friend, John LaFontaine, passed away. He was only 32.

We've been praying much for John ever since he was diagnosed with aggressive cancer about four months ago. He fought valiantly.

Yesterday, he was in a lot of pain. It seemed like a Gethsemane of sorts. Then, today was his Calvary.

I am heavy hearted right now. John was such a strong and faithful soldier for Jesus. His only aim was to bring glory to God. This is true in his death as well as his life.

Last summer, John organized an event on the Reservation called "Heartfest." Singlehandedly, he built a bridge between the Christians from the LCO Reservation and the larger Hayward area. We ate together, sang together and shared our stories. It was a beautiful experience I'll never forget.

Also, John volunteered at the jail several times a week, leading Celebrate Recovery Groups.

He gave his life away to others -- and it's no wonder that hundreds showed up for the Chili Benefit Fundraiser we held for him two weeks ago. That night, to everyone's amazement, he showed up (had just been released from the hospital), stood up (nobody thought he could stand), and spoke up (and we thought he was too weak to speak!) He shared a powerful testimony of God's grace, and encouraged everybody to live for Jesus. There was not a dry eye in the place.

John's precious wife, Candice, is expecting twins in just a couple of months. She certainly needs our prayers and support more than ever. I am amazed at the depth of this young woman's faith and trust in these very dark and difficult times.

I see Jesus shining through her. God bless Candice.

This verse went through my mind again today, "Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it only remains a seed. But, if it dies, it produces many seeds."

May it be so for John.

Good Friday

Today- The Holy One
The Lowly One
The Lonely One
The Only One - Died
To reconcile us to God- Amazing Grace!
-- Leonard Ravenhill, in Heart Breathings

Chicken Livers

Great post by Tony Morgan on Church and Chicken Livers!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Religion in America

According to a Newsweek poll of 1,003 adults, released April 7, less than half (48 percent) believe religion can answer all or most of today's problems. The percentage is the lowest number Newsweek has recorded since it began polling Americans on that issue in 1957 (when 82 percent believed religion could answer the problems of that time).

Also, 68 percent of Americans think religion is losing influence on American life, up from 62 percent in 2007 and 46 percent in 2005. And 81 percent say that's a "bad thing."

from The Christian Post

Experience the Treasure

It was truly a delight to recently discover Experiencing the Spirit written by Henry Blackaby and his son, Mel.

In a soul-gripping manner, these two godly men call us to a deeper walk with the Lord, and challenge our spiritual mediocry with this simple concept: Repent, Trust, Obey and Be Filled With the Holy Spirit!

As I was reading this book, it seemed to be reading me!

What a delightful treasure! Books like this don't come around very often. Experiencing the Spirit ranks right up there with my other spiritual "meat and potatoes" books -- such as Andrew Murray, Hannah Whitehall Smith, Wesley Duewel, Bounds, Tozer, and Brengle. (Most of those are more a hundred years old -- how exciting to find a fresh expression of the same thing!!)

Speaking of treasure, if you haven't read Randy Alcorn's little book, The Treasure Principle, There's a recently revised edition available with a profound concluding chapter: 31 Radical, Liberating Questions to Ask God About Your Giving.

This is an outstanding resource for pastors and churches, particularly during these troubled economic times. Alcorn shows us how to keep a proper and healthy perspective about our "stuff." "You can't take it with you -- but you can send it on ahead!"

The Treasure Principle is the best book on financial stewardship I've ever read. A couple of years ago, it inspired the best sermon on possessions and giving that I've ever preached.

Both books can be ordered here.

Ministry to High Needs Church Members

Chuck Warnock shares a good post on how to provide quality ministry and pastoral care to high-needs members.

Take home point -- it takes 25 people to adequately care for a extra needy person. If the pastor and one or two others try to do it all by themselves, everybody will end up frustrated.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

To Please My God

I ask no bliss
But this,
To know Thy will,
And it fulfill,
In every part
So that my heart,
Without alloy,
May know the joy
By peace
Or rod
To please
My God.

-- Leonard Ravenhill in Heart Breathings

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Christian Tailgater

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy street. Suddenly, just in front of him, the light turned yellow. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and repeatedly honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, while also, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very stern looking police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.

He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, 'I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. 'I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' window sticker, the 'Choose Life' license plate holder, the 'Follow Me
to Sunday-School' bumper sticker and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk; naturally... I assumed you had stolen the car.

(HT Ben Witherington and thanks to my friend, Steve Gerich for passing it along to me!)

Friday, April 03, 2009

Give Away Winner

Congratulations to Jim Vileta, who was the 14th person to respond to the free book offer yesterday. Keep your eyes open -- because I'm going to do this again in a few days!

Motivation Multiplication

"Motivation is everything. You can do the work of two people, but you can't be two people. Instead, you have to inspire the next guy down the line and get him to inspire his people."

-- Lee Iacocca, Auto Executive

Thursday, April 02, 2009

I Still Have a Book to Give Away

Over 300 people have visited Revitalize Your Church since my "Book Give Away" was posted -- and I'm kind of surprised that 14 people haven't e-mailed me already.

Just to make sure you understand . . .

I am giving away an awesome book absolutely free to the 14th person who e-mails me with "Clutter Free" in the subject line. (Be sure to use the e-mail address I included in the post.)

We're almost there -- but I really would hate to see the day pass without someone claiming the prize!

Book Give Away!!!!!

I will give a FREE copy of Clutter Free Christianity to the 14th person who e-mails me:
send to orangeluther (at) Note I listed it as (at) here rather than @ because I don't want to get spammed.

Be sure to put "clutter free" in the subject line. I'll report back on who won.

Keyhole Peek

My dear friend, Ed Kleinhammer, a "Living Legend" who played trombone for the Chicago Symphany Orchestra, stopped by my office around Easter time a couple of years ago. He had a question for me.

"Pastor, I am writing an article for the International Trombone Journal, and I'm focusing on Mahler's Symphony #2 -- Resurrection!"

"Whenever I hear this beautiful masterpiece it feels like Easter, and a little foretaste of heaven.", he continued, "That's where I need your advice."

"Do you think it would be appropriate to call Easter "a keyhole peek into heaven?"

"You're FABULOUS, Ed! Yes! It's a keyhole peek into Heaven! I'm going to use that one on Easter Sunday!"

experience the symphony here.
and here -- the grand finale.

Aufersteh'n, ja aufersteh'n
Wirst du, Mein Staub,
Nach kurzer Ruh'!
Unsterblich Leben! Unsterblich Leben
wird der dich rief dir geben!

Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you My dust,
After a brief rest!
Immortal life! Immortal life
Will He who called you, give you.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Who's Happier?

Question: Who is happier? A man with 11 million dollars or a man with 11 children?

Answer: A man with 11 children -- because he doesn't want more!

(a funny from Clutter Free Christianity)

Clutter Free Christianity

Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, has written an inspiring new book, Clutter-Free Christianity.

With an engaging and humorous style, Jeffress goes right to the heart of what it means to please God. So often, our lives are overflowing with a thousand different things. We become distracted by many demands clamouring for our attention.

Even as ministers of God's peace, we can find ourselves too busy to fully experience it. We end up being too busy and resenting the intrusions.

That's not God's best for us. Jesus said, "only one thing is needful."

Clutter-Free Christianity reminds us of that "one thing." It's a matter of the HEART!

From time to time, we need a de-cluttering -- a good "Spring Cleaning of the Heart!

Reading this book was a soul cleansing experience for me. I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a wise and godly father, receiving deep (but simple) spiritual truths. It helped me slow down a bit and catch my breath.

The big question isn't "what's happening" -- but rather "what's happening inside me?" How have I allowed other things to distract me from my primary purpose?

Jeffress speaks candidly about such issues as forgiveness (his best chapter, I think), trust, contentment, prayer, and service.

This book is especially helpful for people who are swamped and stressed (maybe with church activities!!) It's for the person who knows life is whirling too fast and needs to slow it down.

Great Quote

"If you get impatient the world gets out of order and the soul falls into a web of confusions."
-- Oliver Steeds

No Fool

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
-- Jim Elliot (missionary martyr)