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Showing posts from March, 2009

Bravehearted

I recently finished Eric Ludy's Bravehearted Gospel. I found it to be a good and challenging read. I like spiritual writers who whack me on the side of the head to help me think straighter. Writers who quote Tozer and Ravenhill get my attention.


I don't always agree with Tozer types -- but they always make me think and pray -- and that's a good thing!


Although Ludy suffers a bit from what B. T. Roberts called, "a warring holiness", and picks a few fights that really aren't necessary, I believe the essence of what he is saying (keep it true to the Bible) is an important corrective to some of the doctrinal fuzziness of recent times -- particularly in the emergent camp.

Bishop Earl Paulk

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Bishop Earl Pauk, died yesterday in an Atlanta Hospital.

His congregation, Chapel Hill Harvester Church, was one of the first independent megachurches in America. It gained international acclaim through innovative use of drama, dance and liturgical arts, as well as cutting-edge social ministry.

This gifted leader, mingled with presidents (his church was designated as one of Bush's "Thousand Points of Light"), preached to thousands, influenced multitudes, and encouraged millions through his books and television ministry.

Yet, today, as his death is being reported -- the word used most often in connection with him is "scandal."

How sad.

Not Too Bright

Fitting In vs. Standing Out?

Do Something About It!

The great historian and philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, dressed to speak before a large audience, was walking out the door when his mother spoke to him.

"And where might you be going, Thomas?" she asked.

"I'm going to tell the people what's wrong with the world."

"Aye, Thomas," his mother responded, "But are you going to tell them what to do about it?"

It doesn't take a genius to realize that there are a lot of problems in this world. Any simpleton can point out what's wrong. There are flaws and shortcomings in every organization, family, and individual.

If you're looking for faults - you'll find them. They're everywhere! In fact, you have a quite a few of them yourself! (If you're not sure about that, ask you family members.)

It is no great badge of honor to be a fault -finder. It takes a great person, however, to be a "good-finder"
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I believe there is a direct link between attitude and emotional health. Negativi…

They Don't Mind

The sermon might be boring, but this congregation doesn't mind a bit.

PCUSA

I was under the assumption that PC stood for Presbyterian Church (i.e. John Knox, Heidelberg Catechism.)

Now, I understand it means Politically Correct.

Prayer Request

Please join me in prayer on behalf of my young friend, John LaFontaine and his precious wife, Candice.

John is in his early 30's, and was recently diagnosed with an aggressive cancer (stage 4.) Candice is pregnant with twins.

John and Candice are beautiful people -- so full of faith and love. After committing their lives to Jesus, they have given themselves fully to serve God and others. Their ministry at the jail has produced much fruit.

Last summer, John created and organized an event called "Heartfest" which brought the churches of the reservation and the churches of the Hayward community together. It was a powerful and inspiring experience!

Many of us have been fasting and praying for John. We're going to break the fast with a chili fund raiser for the LaFontaine's this evening at the church.

John was released from the hospital just a day or so ago to home hospice care. He's suffering a lot -- but I heard this morning, that's he's planning on co…

Guitar Hero Pastors

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Amen to Steve Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte:
If my generation isn’t careful, we may fall into a Guitar Hero mentality toward ministry:
Everybody wants to be a rock star, but no one wants to learn the chords.
It’s hard work to study God’s Word. To pray for breakthrough. To do spiritual battle on behalf of those we lead. To charge forward in faith for the cause of Christ. To run a church with the highest standard of excellence.
Aspiring ministers: Be willing to pay the price. Or please go do something else with your life.

Economy and Charitable Giving

Yikes!! From a Pioneer Press article (March 20, 209) by Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann:

A study by the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy found that. . . every time the stock market declines by 100 points, charitable giving declines by $1.8 billion.

Not So Smart Object Lesson

This pastor should have heeded the warning.

On the positive side, the congregation will remember this sermon illustration for years!

Back in the Saddle

I'm back in the saddle again, after spending a couple of days with a delightful group of small town and rural pastors in upstate New York.

The conference was held at the Wesleyan Church in Big Flats. (Big Flats is a great town but not very big! I wonder how big Little Flats is!)

They had me come and speak for a day and a half in an effort to encourage and inspire these faithful soldiers for Jesus who serve in little places. It was a tremendous honor for me to be with them.

Although I went there to bless them, these folks ended up blessing me more! How beautiful to see such commitment and faithfulness to the cause of Christ.

The host pastor, Bern Lytle, for example, has pastored the same congregation for about a quarter of a century -- and he still loves it!! You can see the gleam in his eye! He truly is making a difference in his community.

I was blessed to meet Lynn Ensign, who pastors Mt. Pisgah, a thriving congregation in the middle of nowhere. His roots go back to Wisconsin …

Blogging Break

Flying out Monday to speak to a group of small town and rural pastors in central New York for a couple of days. I won't be doing any blogging until after my return home.

In the meantime, feel free to check out a pretty cool list of blogs on one page via MyAlltop

The Clergy Gender Gap

An intriguing article about the differences of perspective between male and female members of the clergy: Men are from Tyre, Women are from Bethany.

David

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I have been meaning to write this for several months. In fact, I've started nearly a dozen times, but kept putting it aside. It's such a painful thing to remember.
Back when I was a freshman in high school, I really looked up to David Beckley, an upper classman from the next town over (just a few short miles away.)
We were together at youth camp, where David responded to God's call to preach the Gospel. As a direct result of that commitment, he decided to go on a mission trip at the end of the summer, and he ended up paying a huge price for making that decision.
David was an outstanding football player. College scouts had been scoping him out. He had a lot of natural talent, enthusiasm, and a tremendous work ethic. David loved the sport. Yet, he loved his Lord more.
When he asked the coach for a little bit of time away from the team in order to go on the mission trip, the coach was indignant and inflexible. "No way! In life you have to make choices. If you're going …

Scam Warning

I wrote this for my column , Positively Speaking, which appears weekly in the Sawyer County Record:

Normally, I try to make this column the most positive place in the paper. Today, however, I’m going a different direction. I’m sounding an alarm -- an important warning for all the senior citizens who happen to be readers of the Sawyer County Record (Please share this with your friends as well.)

Just last week, something terrible happened to a precious senior citizen couple in our community. They received a phone call from a man pretending to be their son. He said it was an emergency. He was in big trouble at the police station in Montreal, Canada, and needed their help immediately. He claimed had flown to Canada on a trip, had been drinking, and smashed up a rental car. Now he was in serious trouble unless he came up with some serious cash fast. Would they be willing to send $4600 to him via electronic transfer? If they would send the money, it really help him, because it would cover the…

Bummer and Yippee

Bummer -- the Ohio State Buckeyes just were knocked out of the NCAA tournament.
Yippee -- The Wisconsin Badgers are still in!

When 30 Seconds Takes 30 Minutes

There are two occasions when 30 seconds takes 30 minutes:

1) NCAA Basketball games
2) Sermons

My Alltop

Innovative author, technological guru, and inventor of Alltop, Guy Kawasaki has just introduced a new blog aggregator: My Alltop.

You can see ALL your favorite blogs on one page -- along with titles of their most recent posts.

Alltop originally started as a storehourse of all the top blogs in various categories. I was honored to have Revitalize Your Church listed as one of the Top Church Blogs.

Now, we can personalize it -- and see all the blogs we want on one page! Great innovation!

They Put it All in the Box

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In preparation for our recent Missions Weekend, I preached a message from John 12:24, "Unless the kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it only remains a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds." Just about a hundred years ago, the missionaries to west Africa packed all their belongings in a coffin sized box. They left for the field, realizing that there was a good chance they would not return home. Many of them were buried in the box. My good friend, Nate Yoder, made a box like that for me. We put it in the front of the church. I told the story of our early Wesleyan missionaries to Sierra Leone. (Paul Shea has a great presentation here. I used some of his insights in my sermon.) They gave their ALL! They were willing to invest their very lives! They put it ALL in the box! Then I challenged the congregation . . . "What are you willing to give, so others will know about Jesus?" Unless the kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains only…

End of Your Rope

For Others

If your gospel isn't touching others, it hasn't touched you.
-- Curry R. Blake

Lord's Prayer in Ojibwe

Nosinan ishpimi eaivn,
tvkkijiinenjigade iu kidishinikazouin.
Kitogimauiuin tvpitvguishinomvgvt.
Enendvmvn tvizhijigem oma aki,
tibishko iuidi ishpimi.
Mizhishinam sv nongum gizhigvk iu gemijiia.
Gaie uebinamauishinam iniu nimbataizhiuebiziuininanin,
ezhiuebinamauvidua igiu mejitotauividjig.
Kego gvguedibenimishikaen ninguji jishobiziia,
gaie mitaguenimauishinam mvjiaiiuishvn.
Kin sv kitibendam iu ogimauiuin,
gaie iu gvshkieuiziuin,gaie bishigendaguziuin,
kakinik apine go kakinik.
Amen.

Sticks Sessions

I was really bummed when my schedule kept me from attending The Sticks Conference . . . again. It's something I've been wanting to find for a long time -- a kindred fellowship of pastors who serve large churches in small towns.

It's a very unique position -- and needs to be navigated with grace and faith.

"Large church" is a relative term, I suppose. Compared to Willow Creek, Eaglebrook or Saddle Back, we're just small pertaters -- but in Hayward, we're huge.

A small town church pastor cannot operate like a CEO or a rancher. There has to be an ethos of openness and patience. You can't demand. You can't drive. You can't be rigid -- or you will lose the respect of your people.

Anyhow, I am truly thankful that Charles Hill put this conference together -- as it will bless a lot of guys in remote contexts like mine.

Happily, I discovered that the keynote sessions are provided via blog: Here at the Sticks Page. Highlights of each major session a…

Open and Closed

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You know those signs in store windows that say “Open” on one side and “Closed” on the other? Well, I have a little idea that you can use whenever you notice one.

Whenever you see an “Open” sign, it’s a reminder of how we should be “Open”.

1) We need to have Open Eyes: This is the way to see things the way they really are (rather than what we assume them to be.) It means having eyes of faith rather than unbelief. Through Open Eyes, we see our neighbors’ needs, rather than shutting them out. Having Open Eyes brings clarity to the situation. Solutions come into focus.

2) We need to have Open Ears: Listening is one of life’s greatest virtues. Many of us talk too much and hear too little. Since God gave us two ears and one mouth, we should use them in that proportion. Open your Ears to the whisper of God. Open your Ears to the cry of a needy world. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

3) We need to have Open Hands: This means being generous. When people hold tightly to possessions with clenc…

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

What does this say to the church?

Don't Let Me Go

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A few days ago, while flying home from a speaking engagement, I pulled out a copy of Don't Let Me Go (by David Pierce) and began to read it.

It's a true "coming of age" story about a daddy and his 15 year old daughter, who find a special bond through climbing mountains and running marathons together.
I laughed so hard, I almost blew Diet Coke out my nose (The middle aged businessman sitting next to me gave a nervous glance sideways. ) Then, fifteen minutes later, I was wiping tears away (and My seat mate was CERTAIN he was next to a total basket case.)
Don't Let Me Go is an awesome read for guys like me -- who have teenagers at home. It inspired me to go out and do something crazy with my kids. I don't think I'll be climbing Mt. Ranier or running a Marathon -- but I've come up with my own list of adventures!
Thanks to David Pierce for inspiring my heart -- and helping me be more intentional with these last few years I have with my almost-grown children.
Or…

A Church ALIVE

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I really appreciate my friend, Tom Harding, who pastors an innovate church, ALIVE (First Wesleyan Church in Central, South Carolina.) Taking an unusual approach to ministry, they are doing an outstanding job of reaching both the older generation as well as college students. Great article about their ministry here
A — Adoring our God (worship)
L — Loving our community (fellowship)
I — Instructing believers (discipleship)
V — Valuing the lost (outreach)
E — Equipping for ministry (service)
A church ALIVE is worth the drive! (Photo by Selton Ipock)

Maxwell Mishap

And Margaret shook her head and said, "Oh, John, John, John."

Fixing the Economy Rural Style

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Over a Rural Route Church, there's a great post on How to Fix the Economy Rural Style: 1. Bailing Wire 2. Duct Tape 3. W.D. 40
Read the rest of the list here

A Word of Advice for Small Town Pastors

Recession and the Church

An article in the Christian Post reports on churches defaulting on mortgages.

I'm truly glad our church is debt free right now.

We are going to be doing some construction this year sometime (education, office and storage space)-- but it will be with money we've already raised.

God Size Down Under

My Aussie friend, Wayne Field, wrote a great review of God Size Your Church, written by my blogger buddy John Jackson.

Good stuff!!

John's insights are very helpful (I wrote an endorsement in the front of the book) and Wayne's perspective is particularly enlightening.

I think it's really cool that the three of us pastors from Reno, Nevada (John), Australind, Western Australia (Wayne), and Hayward, Wisconsin (Me) consider each other friends -- even though we've never met!

Purchase God Size Your Church Here.

The Right Thing to Do

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Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Medical Center, may have found a good alternative to layoffs.

Read the inspiring story here.

Cudos to Paul and the others in the administration who have their priorities straight.

Passport to the World

We are holding our Passport to the World Missions Expo today!
YIPPEE!!

From 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., we will turn our whole church building into the "whole world."

Various areas of the church will represent different countries. People coming in will receive a passport and go through customs and orientation.

Then, they are free to travel the world: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, The U.S.A. and then we also have the "Everywhere Room."

We have missionaries here from Nicaraugua, Czech Republic, Croatia and South Africa. Two churches we helped launch (Safe Harbor in Superior, and The River in Minong) will be represented. We also will have good friends we support from Mercy Ships, the local Pregnancy Center, Camp Forest Springs, and Hephzibah Children's Home. Short term mission teams from our church will be featured as well.

This will be an "interactive" experience for whole family -- including various ethnic foods and activities.

It's going to be a ton o…

The Science Behind our Generosity

A very interesting article in Newsweek on generosity:

People are more willing to help a single individual than many. In an experiment, one group was given general information about the need for donations, including statements like "Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than 3 million children." A second group was shown the photo of a 7-year-old Malian girl named Rokia, and told that she is desperately poor, and that "her life will be changed for the better by your gift." People in the second group gave more.

Barbarian Revolt

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"There is a barbarian revolt taking place, and its command center is the Kingdom of God. Everywhere the Kingdom of God advances, there is a violent engagement against a dark kingdom. To be born of God is to be made a citizen in the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of God is at war. Do not confuse this Kingdom with Paradise. Salvation is not reentry Into a Paradise Lost; it is enlistment in the mission of God."

-- Erwin McManus

Every Four Seconds

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Every four seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ after viewing the "JESUS" film.

Every four seconds... that's 21,600 people per day, 648,000 per month and more than 7.8 million per year! That's like the population of the entire city of Seattle, WA, coming to Christ every 27.5 days. And yet, if you are like most people, you may have never even heard of it.

Called by some "one of the best-kept secrets in Christian missions," a number of mission experts have acclaimed the film as one of the greatest evangelistic tools of all time. Since 1979 the "JESUS" film has been viewed by several billion people all across the globe, and has resulted in more than 225 million men, women and children indicating decisions to follow Jesus.

The Evangelical Demise

The Christian Science Monitor published a thought provoking article by Michael Spencer (aka Internet Monk) entitled: The Coming Evangelical Collapse.

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the op…

5 Good Reasons to Pray

1. Prayers of confession gets us right daily with God.

2. Prayers of praise gets our hearts thinking positive.

3. Prayers for others helps them make it through the day.

4. Prayers for our spouses and family lifts them up to God.

5. Prayers for our pastors and churches make them more effective in our communities.

The scriptues say, 'when you pray, believe that you will receive and you will have....' Keep on praying friend. (from Gary Exman)

A Most Important Question

"Is Jesus enough for me?"
-- Charles Hill

A Vision of Students Today

Eye Opening!

Craig Groeschel on Failing

The Sin of Our Times

The sin of our times is the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, and interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.
-- Dorothy Sayers

Decline of Religion in America

The news reported yesterday on the dismal state of religion in America.

I think the increased mumber of people who have "no religion" (15%) has something to do with the attitude, character and behavior of the 76% who claim to be Christians (specifically, the 34% who call themselves evangelical.)

A couple of thoughts:
1) We need a revival in America.
2) Christians and churches need to practice what they preach
3) They will know we are Christians by our love

Up To Something

When You Are Down to Nothing, God is Up to Something!

Getting Along

It is always more pleasant when people are getting along. As the Bible says, “Behold how pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.” One mother recently told her children, “I only want one thing for my birthday – Just a full day when you all get along with each other without squabbling!” They didn’t make it. (You could say they gave her half-a-present!)

Ask anybody, and they will tell you they want to get along with others. However, more often than not, we find ourselves embroiled in controversy of some kind or another. Usually it’s because of misunderstandings.

Understanding what frustrates others is, therefore the first step towards peaceful relationships. Why do people get upset?

Abrupt Change:
Mark Twain said the only person who likes change is a baby with wet diapers! Normally, however, people are not totally opposed to change. They just get worked up if it is sprung on them!

Unclear Expectations:
When we assume they know what we’re thinking, we’re asking for trouble. It’s a…

Tragedy

Pastor Killed in Illinois Church Shooting

Please pray for the family of Pastor Fred Winters, who was shot and killed during a worship service at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Illinois.

This is so sad.

Missions and Dog Food

"Today, Christians spend more on dog food than they do on missions."
-- Leonard Ravenhill

Football Game Gives Hope

Vibrant Ministry in Rural Montana

The Wesleyan Information Network shared this inspiring report about Pastor Tom Gudmunson and his thriving ministry in the sticks.


Congratulations to Pastor Tom for making good progress when he could have made excuses.

Grandma's Jam Session

When I was back home in Ohio last week, we had a family gathering at my brother, Wayne's house. After dinner, mom and I played guitar, while my brother, Sam, played the harmonica. It was fun!

My wonderful niece, Lynn, captured us unaware via video, and then uploaded it to Youtube!

In the background are some home videos of my mother, when she was younger than me!

Inspiring Story

Pastoring Adoptive Parents

John Piper recently shared an excellent post at Desiring God: 10 Ways to Pastor Adoptive Parents and Those Considering Adoption

Born a Baptist

My sister-in-law, Sandy, sent this one to me:

Each Friday night after work, Bubba would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a venison steak. But, all of Bubba's neighbors were Catholic....and since it was Lent , they were forbidden from eating meat on Friday . The delicious aroma from the grilled venison steaks was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked to their priest. The Priest came to visit Bubba, and suggested that he become a Catholic.

After several classes and much study, Bubba attended Mass.....and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, 'You were born a Baptist, and raised a Baptist, but now you are a Catholic.'

Bubba's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived, and the wonderful aroma of grilled venison filled the neighborhood. The Priest was called immediately by the neighbors, and, as he rushed into Bubba's yard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazeme…

Perfect Stranger

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I recently finished A Day with a Perfect Stranger, David Gregory's sequal to Dinner with a Perfect Stranger.
Both of these little books are outstanding stories that inspire faith.
In the first book (Dinner), Nick Cominsky accepts a strange dinner invitation -- and ultimately realizes that he's spent the evening conversing with Jesus. There's a lot of insightful dialogue, and plenty of humor. No wonder it has been a breakaway bestseller!
The second book (Day) featuring Nick's skeptical wife, Matty, is equally as good:
A devoted mother who feels abandoned by her workaholic husband, Mattie Cominsky gives her life meaning by investing herself in her two-year-old daughter and her graphic-arts business. Exasperated by her husband’s sudden new obsession with Jesus, she views an out-of-town business trip as a welcome opportunity to reflect on her marriage—and to decide if it’s time to put an end to this painfully unrewarding relationship.
Aboard the plane, Mattie is relieved to fin…

On the Sixth Day God Created Wisconsin

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On the sixth day God turned to the Archangel Gabriel and said, "Today, I am going to create a land called Wisconsin.
It will be a land of outstanding natural beauty, a land of countless glaciers, pure lakes each one full of fish.It shall have tall majestic pines, peacefully flowing rivers, landscapes full of tall grass, and eagles, beautiful blue skies, forests full of bear, elk and deer, rich farmlandand fair-minded people.
God continued, 'I shall make the land rich in resources so as to make the inhabitants prosper and they shall be known as a most friendly people, people who practice being Wisconsin Welcomers every day.
'But Lord,' asked Gabriel, 'don't you think you are being too generous to these people of Wisconsin?"
''Not really," replied God "just wait and see the winters I am going to give them!"
(Thanks to Linda, our office manager, who sent this to me. )

Latin Lesson

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"veni, vedi, velcro" -- "I came, I saw, I stuck around." -- from my friend, Chad McCallum Fitting after nearly 18 years of ministry in the same church!

Unfinished Symphony

"Christ-centered church critics" is paradoxical. The spiritually mature person should be learning how to live in this world where, as Ronald Rohlheiser says, "all symphonies remain unfinished."

-- Mike Lueken in "Unfinished Symphony" Leadership Journal

Tortoise and the Hare

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We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare. In their great race, Mr. Hare started with a flash, and, noticing his huge lead, decided to stop for a moment and take a snooze.

Mr. Tortoise, on the other hand, plodded along slowly and steadily. At first, he was left in a cloud of dust, but he refused to quit. He kept going. After a while, he waddled right past the napping hare, and crossed the finish line. His persistence, not his swiftness, made him a winner!

Are you a tortoise or a hare? Do you finish what you start, or do you leave a trail of unfinished projects behind you? Sometimes, the people with the greatest talent lose life’s race because they are undisciplined, and unwilling to go all the way to the finish line.

Oh yes, these folks have lots of great intentions, but little things just seem to crowd them out. Any expert in goal setting will tell you that to reach a big goal, you gave to tackle it one step at a time. Achievement is not accomplished by a quick dash, but by a …

Arrogance of Power

Ten Ways to Avoid the Arrogance of Power -- this is a great business post, which can be applied by pastors and other church leaders (Special thanks to Todd Rhoades for the lead!)