Tuesday, March 31, 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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bishop Earl Paulk


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

Man Attempts Robbery at Cop Convention

Fitting In vs. Standing Out?

A great post by Seth Godin!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

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"
.
I believe there is a direct link between attitude and emotional health. Negativity drains the joy right out of us. God created us to rise above our circumstances, rather than to sink in self pity.

Instead of despairing over a difficult situation, why not do something about it?
Instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle?
Instead of dealing in troubles, why not deal in hope?
Instead of focusing on what you've lost, why not focus on what you have left?
Instead of thinking about the problem, why not consider the solution?

Ever wonder why somebody doesn't do something about a certain situation? Guess what - you are somebody!

You can do something about it!

Friday, March 27, 2009

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 coming to the event.

What a trooper! What a good soldier for Jesus!

Guitar Hero Pastors


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.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

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 -- and he was familar with the history of Hayward Wesleyan. He has a passionate heart for God and people. No wonder God is blessing his ministry.

It was good to connect with the Central New York District Superintendent, Wayne Wager. Just a very short time ago, his precious wife, Pat, passed away from cancer. Even as he walks the valley of grief, I noticed how he tenderly encouraged his pastors. They all love him deeply. What a saint!

My good friend Paul James arrived with a vanload of pastors from the eastern part of the state (where he serves as District Superintendent.) They drove hours -- and then had to listen to me speak for hours. I think they deserve a medal!

I was overjoyed when my friends, Steve, Vaughn, Tom and Jay showed up from Victory Highway Wesleyan Church , which is a flagship church in our denomination. It was also great to reconnect with a few of my former FLAME students, who graciously heard my stories twice!

Dan Jones, the sharp, young pastor of Avon Wesleyan Church took me out to dinner and we had a fascinating and engaging conversation on church leadership. This guy is on the ball! He has a great future ahead of him.

A real highlight for me was getting to know Bud Fancy of Pulaski Wesleyan Church (who organized the event.) We're going to be good friends for life! His son, Seth, is an amazing young and godly man who is neck deep in church planting (The Bridge to New Life) -- and loving it!! If I lived within driving distance, I'd definitely go to his church.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

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.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

David


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 to be a part of this team, then you need to be there during that week of practice! There's no other option!"

That night, David didn't get much sleep. He tossed and turned as he prayed a lot about the decision he needed to make. By morning, he knew exactly what he should do. David resigned from the football team and went on the mission trip. His mother said she had never seen him so happy.

Now, this may seem funny to you -- but I went out for football. It was a different team than David's and our school was hard up for football talent. They took everybody. I was short, slow and scrawny -- but I made the team (and stuck with it for about a month.) So -- the lesser player ended up on the team, and the far greater player wound up off the team and on a mission. (I was invited to go on the same trip, but declined due to my important football obligation. I played guard, tackle and end. I sat on the end of the bench, guarded the water bucket, and tackled anybody who came near it!)

Sadly, before the pictures from the mission trip were developed, David was dead. While driving his sister to school one morning, he was hit by a drunk driver, and killed instantly.

It was one of the most shocking and life altering experiences I've ever had.

On the night of the accident, I went on a long, reflective walk -- and prayed my heart out. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to take my friend's place in ministry. David had been really sold out to God, but in comparison, I was pretty much lukewarm. That night, over 30 years ago, things changed for me. I knew I couldn't really fill David's shoes -- but maybe I could touch a few lives. Perhaps, in some way, David's ministry could live on in me.

So -- that was my call to ministry -- and I'm so thankful for the opportunities I've had. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful life.

I was privileged to re-connect with David's family a few months ago. They did not realize the profound influence David had on my life. It was beautiful to remember this godly young man together. David's mother and I laughed and cried as we reminisced the phone. It was a wholesome and cleansing experience for me.

Even to the day he died, David carried a card in his pocket. It's message is etched permenantly on his tombstone in Ashley, Ohio. The card says: If you meet me and forget me, you've lost nothing. But if you meet Jesus and forget him, you've lost everything."

David's mother told me that even all these years later, people stop by to read the message on his grave stone. Several hearts have been touched and changed forever due to this simple message.

Even though he is dead, yet he speaks.




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 expenses from the rental car accident, take care of his fines, and keep the DWI off his record. He also said they must hurry. He needed the money before the offices closed that afternoon.

Shaken by this horrible news, in an act of sacrificial love for their desperate son, they went to the bank, took out the requested funds and wired the money.

Later in the day, after talking with their real son, they realized they had been scammed – but it was too late. The money was gone, and there was no way to track down the villain. Of course, law enforcement is investigating, but they admit finding the bad guys will be difficult (I hope and pray they DO!)

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. Now, these dear grandparents realize they should have checked into it further to see if the request was legitimate. But at the moment, it was a serious crisis. They felt they had to do something NOW in order to protect the son they love.

I am sharing this with you, so you can warn all the grandparents you know, so they will not fall into this trap.

1) Be suspicious. Tell your children and grandchildren ahead of time that it’s nothing personal – but they will need to verify certain things before you believe it’s really them.
2) If somebody calls claiming to be a loved one in need, ask questions that only the loved one would know.
3) Don’t fill in the blanks. If they call and say, “This is your grandson,” respond by asking, “Which one?”
4) Get their phone number and tell them you are going to call them back. If they won’t do it, that’s a major red flag.
5) Verify everything that is told. For instance, in the above scenario, you could ask “which police station/sheriff’s department are you in specifically? Can you give me the name of the police chief/sheriff? What is the number? The address? What is the car rental company? Where did you get your car? All this information can be verified by the internet.
6) Don’t assume a number they give you (i.e. for the police department) is legitimate. Anybody can answer a cell phone and say “Montreal Police Department”. It’s much better to get the REAL number (via the internet or directory assistance) and call it.
7) Don’t use Moneygrams unless it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and you are ABSOLUTELY SURE – and even then, only in extremely rare occasions.
8) If it’s a crisis in Canada (or another country) that requires fast cash, it is likely to be a scam.
9) Be sure to ask the opinion of somebody else (a friend, a pastor, law enforcement, a trusted advisor) before you proceed.
10) If there’s any doubt – DON’T. In the above case, what would have happened if the call was true and the parents had NOT sent the money? Their son maybe would have faced a night in jail, some fines or other consequences. It probably wouldn’t kill him.
11) Don’t rush. Take the time you need to process everything. Hurry clouds judgment -- particularly with requests like this. If you are pushed to do something, it increases the likelihood that you will do something you regret. If they say they “need the money in an hour” – it’s almost certain they don’t. I recall a wise counselor saying, “A crisis on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

After hearing about this horrible experience, I did some googling, and discovered that this experience, called “The Grandparents Scam”, is quite common. It has happened to a lot of good folks! When I googled the phrase “Grandparents Scam” the result was a whopping 15,900 pages!!

This isn’t an isolated case! Countless senior citizens are being victimized by these ruthless thugs and it needs to stop! We must get the word out to people! If someone would have alerted my friends ahead of time, they certainly wouldn’t have sent the money.

Note – If it seems a bit fishy – it probably IS! (and fishy stinks!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

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


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 a single seed. . .
Sadly, we had major computer problems, and I could not show the pictures of the missionaries on the big screen. Instead, I taped their pictures to the box.
Last Sunday, when we made our Faith Promise for Missions, I took the lid off the box and everybody came forward and put their commitments inside it. It was a powerful and moving experience.

End of Your Rope

A great post by Mark Batterson: Out of Nowhere

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.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

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 are also brought by Tim Stevens.

Thanks Charles and Tim! It makes me feel like I was there with you -- almost :)

Open and Closed


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 clenched fists, they find their jaws clenched too. Selfishness and being uptight go together. If you want to be happy, start by being generous. Happiness is not obtained by getting everything you want. Instead, it is found in giving to others, An “Open Hand” means holding loosely to earthly things. Don’t get worked up over material items that are broken or lost. It’s only stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Stuff is always temporary. Live life with Open Hands.

4) We need to have Open Minds: Approaching others in an Open Minded way means recognizing that others might have valid opinions and ideas too. It’s easy to think that OUR way of doing things is the ONLY way. That makes life miserable for family and friends who must suffer our stubbornness.

5) We need to have Open Hearts: When the heart is open, love pours out. Sometimes, through hurt or disappointment, we are tempted to close off our heart towards others. However, we were created to love. If we erect barriers and walls, we cannot experience life as it should be lived. Nobody is an island. An old African proverb says, “I Am because We Are.” We really do need each other.

Whenever you see a “Closed” sign, this is a reminder for us too. Sometimes, we need to be “Closed.”

1) We need to have Closed Eyes: In other words, overlooking the faults of others. Now, if you want to go digging for flaws and faults, you will find them in everybody. We all have our shortcomings. It is noble to overlook the human weaknesses in others. The Golden Rule says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Do you want other people to pick you apart? To point out all your shortcomings and failures? If not, then you shouldn’t go around doing that to others. This is especially true at home. One wise person gave the following advice for young people: “Keep you eyes wide open before marriage, and half closed afterwards!”

2) We need to have Closed Ears: Don’t be a willing receptor of gossip and garbage talk. If a conversation starts to go to the dump, the honorable thing is to back out of it. Usually, a kind word about the victim being criticized will shut the gossiper up. When garbage trucks drive out of town loaded with trash, they head straight to the dump. I once heard John Maxwell say that some folks are like Garbage Dumps. People come to them with a big load of garbage and dump it -- because they invite it with an invisible sign: Garbage Dump: Open for Business! If people keep coming to you with loads of dirt, maybe you should put out a sign that says, “No Dumping Allowed!”

3) We need to have Closed Hands: By this, I mean hold on to what is good. Don’t let go of truth, regardless of popular opinion. Sometimes truth is politically incorrect. Grab hold of what is right Never let it slip from your grip!! Always take the high road. Hold on to faith. Hold on to God. Hold on the best in life.

4) We need to have Closed Minds: When it comes to ageless issues of truth, moral absolutes, character and integrity, it’s better to be closed minded. Some folks are so open-minded, their brains fall out!

5) We need to have Closed Hearts: Closed, that is, to anything that would take us down the wrong path. Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life. Don’t love the ways of the world too much. Inordinate affections keep us from being true hearted and whole hearted. Close your heart towards addictions, sins, and temptations that drag you down

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Don't Let Me Go

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.

A Church ALIVE


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.

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)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

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


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.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

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 of fun -- and everybody will learn something about the Great Commission along the way!

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.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Barbarian Revolt


"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."


Every Four Seconds


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 opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.


Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

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

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Vision of Students Today



Eye Opening!

Craig Groeschel on Failing

Fail Selectively

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

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!

Monday, March 09, 2009

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 aggravating to have to walk on eggshells around a person who is unpredictable and inconsistent.

Broken Commitments:
It is far better to under-promise and over-deliver than to do the opposite. Every time a person breaks their word, they also break a trust.

Violation of Rights:
Ignoring basic rights of courtesy and respect will almost always bring an angry response. Every human being has the right to be treated with dignity.

Poor Communication:
People are always down on what they’re not UP on. You can’t just say something once in passing and then think you’ve communicated. A true communication has not occurred until the one receiving it has GOT it!

When it’s Not Done Right:
Normally, when someone is upset about something not being done “right” they mean “MY WAY!” It pays us all to remember that there is more than one way to look at just about every issue. There are very few things in life that must only be done one way.

_____________________________:
I left this one blank so you can fill it in! Whatever and Anything! There are some folks who will get upset about anything. You can’t do much about that except try to be patient, love and understand the best you can.

So, how do we go ahead and get along? Here are a few suggestions:

Get alone with God and pray about it. It’s hard to stay mad when you’re prayed up.
Make peace with yourself. Most conflicts are caused by inner turmoil.
Assume 80% of the responsibility for getting along. That means be proactive in the relationship. If you think it’s 50% your responsibility (or less) you will wait around when you should be doing something.
1. Fix the problem, not the blame.
2. Never judge motives (unless you are assuming they mean well.)
3. Attack issues, not people
4. Look for common threads. Find what you agree on and put your energy there.
5. Go back and patch the holes. This means to apologize, the make amends, to reconcile and iron out the differences.
6. Make sure they know you care about them.
7. Remember, love covers a multitude of sins.
8. Use the 7:1 ration (seven affirmations to one correction)
9. Refuse to be consumed by negativity
10. Be easy on people when they fail
11. Put God first, and the other things will fall into place.
12. Forgive 70 times 7.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

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.

Friday, March 06, 2009

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!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

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 amazement. There stood Bubba, clutching a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meat and chanted:

'You wuz born a deer, you wuz raised a deer, but now you is a catfish.'

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Perfect Stranger


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 find herself seated next to a passenger who shares her scorn for religion. After she confides her husband’s unexpected turn, their conversation soon leads to a fascinating exploration of spirituality, God, and the quest for meaningful connection.

I believe that folks who are interested in teaching theology, ought to consider using a similar format.
Storytelling is, of course, the method Jesus used!

On the Sixth Day God Created Wisconsin

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. )

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Latin Lesson


"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!

Monday, March 02, 2009

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

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 long distance run. Successful people are the ones who are willing to grit their teeth and keep going, regardless of the cost.

Cicero, the great Roman orator, practiced speaking before a friend or a critic every day for thirty years. His investments paid off.

William Cullen Bryant rewrote the classic poem, “Thanatopsis”, one hundred times. His investment paid off too!

Of the nearly 250 papers that Albert Einstein published in his lifetime, many were ignored and some were proven wrong. Did that stop him? No! He kept on working – kept on producing. His investment, as well, paid off.

What are your goals? What’s keeping you from acting upon them now? What obstacles are you facing which must be overcome? Are you willing to keep going, even when things get tough?

Booker T. Washington stated, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

II Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith.” Are you able to honestly say these words?

Keep your eye on the goal. Don’t give up. Keep on going, and soon you will cross the finish line.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

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!)