Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beaulah Camp

Here are some pictures (via cell phone) of the place where I've been preaching the last several days: Beulah Holiness Camp in Eldorado, Illinois.

The Pulpit
The Tabernacle

The Sign That Greets You as You Enter

Some Time We'll Understand

I appreciated Robert's comment today (below) on this post from a couple of years ago. I am re-posting it in honor of the 167th anniversary of Rev. Maxwell Cornelius' birth:

My friend, Mike, bought an old hymnal on e-bay. He carried it up proudly between services a week ago, and said, "Look what I got for 95 cents!"

I leafed through the brittle pages, and landed upon these beautiful words. In light of the sufferings and losses I've witnessed in recent months and weeks, it was a blessing to me.

Upon researching, I found that the author, Rev. Maxwell Cornelius, had suffered deeply in his life. He penned this poem shortly after the death of his wife, and shared them at her funeral service.

Not now, but in the coming years,
It may be in the better land,
We'll read the meaning of our tears,
And there, sometime, we'll understand.
-- Maxwell N. Cornelius (Hymn 82 in Tabernacle Hymnal)

Some day, we will read the meaning of our tears. There is meaning in every difficult and painful experience.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Construction Updates


Construction Updates For Hayward Wesleyan Church Children's Ministry Facility Expansion. Special thanks to Schmitz Excavating who donated all the excavation work.
(Thanks Jeremy for putting up the pictures so everybody can follow the progress!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Blogging Break

I'm heading out today to preach at the historic Beulah Holiness Camp in Eldorado, Illinois. It's a real privilege to partner with my Methodist brothers and sisters.

Then, I'll be teaching Church Leadership and Evangelism Courses at FLAME in Frankfort, Indiana.

Thus, I am not planning on posting anything at Revitalize Your Church for the next several days. If anything changes I'll let you know!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Daisy Gaze


"Simply gazing at a daisy reveals the mind of God."
-- James Bryan Smith

Journey of the Prodigal

Read Brennan Manning's little parable, Journey of the Podigal, aloud to my family as we travelled an hour and a half to Duluth the other day. I was amazed at two things:
1) How the story kept their attention the entire time.
2) How deeply it touched my heart. I actually choked back tears towards the end. (My kids made fun of me -- but methinks they were just able to hold it together a little bit better than me!)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Solid Gold


Farmer John was plowing in his field one day and hit a rock. Kathunk!

He climbed off his tractor, went around to the rock, and began to pull it out of the soil, to discard on the rock pile in the back 40. He noticed, as he dug around in the dirt, that it wasn’t really a rock after all. It was a brick.

The brick was encrusted with filthy grime. It looked almost like a brick-shaped dirt ball. As the good farmer picked up the brick, he was surprised at how heavy it seemed. This was no ordinary brick!

He scratched through the caked exterior, and discovered, to his amazement, a streak of gold gleaming through.

Could it be? Could it be?

The farmer hurried to the old farmhouse, where he washed the brick off in the sink, and discovered that his hopes had been realized. Sure enough, it was a bar of solid gold! What a treasure!

Farmer John told his wife, who told her friends, who in turn, shared the news with their neighbors. Pretty soon, everybody in town had heard about the discovery.

All the other farmers in the community started digging away in their fields, looking for some gold bars of their own!

Fred, who lived next door to Farmer John, was jealous. He dug all over his fields, but came up empty handed. There were lots of rocks, but no gold. It didn’t seem fair that his neighbor would have all the luck. Why should Farmer John get all the attention anyway? Fred wished somebody would notice him for a change.

Then, a splendid idea popped into his brain. Fred took a brick into his woodshed, and spray painted it gold. Then, in the middle of the night, he buried it in the small field behind his house. The next day, he asked a couple of buddies to help him dig for gold.

Lo and behold, as Fred was digging, he hit something. Kathunk! His friends ran over to see what it was.

Fred lifted the “gold brick” from the soil victoriously. “Wow!” his friends exclaimed, “You lucky dawg!”

But then, they laughed. They laughed so hard, they slapped their knees.

In the digging, Poor Fred’s shovel had scraped a big chunk of gold paint right off one side of the brick.

There are two morals to this story:
Be sure your sin will find you out.
The secret to life is to be solid gold on the inside.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dissolved

This morning, reading John Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection, I was especially struck by these words:

The longing heart be all on fire. To be dissolved in love!

Monday, July 20, 2009

2 Kinds of People

"There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ''Thy will be done,'' and those to whom God says, ''All right, then, have it your way.''

-- C. S. Lewis
(Found this great quote on a facebook status from my son, Wes.)

3 R's

D.L. Moody said that all preachers need to teach the 3 R's:


1. Ruin By Sin
2. Redemption By Christ
3. Regeneration By the Holy Spirit

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thoughts of Jesus

The first and final thought of Jesus was thought about God -- Adolph Schlatter

This thought provoking quote was in "Beginning with God" a Beliefnet post by Scott McKnight

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How to Make Good Decisions

Usually, it’s not too difficult to make a good decision. Most decisions we make can be determined by plain old common sense.

The CEO of a major corporation once said, “95% of the decisions I make could be made by any intelligent fifth grader. I’m paid the big bucks for the other 5%.”

Of course, as we have seen lately in the news, some CEO’s are paid the big bucks and make crummy decisions anyway! An intelligent fifth grader understands values such as honesty, uprightness, and compassion.

Nevertheless, there are certain decisions in life that are not the “slam dunk” variety. Sometimes, it’s really hard to know what to do.

When faced with a difficult decision, here are a few points to ponder:

Have you prayed about it? God can give you wisdom beyond your own for this situation. Most people panic first and pray later, “God, get me out of this mess!” It’s much better to pray first, and then you won’t have to panic later!

What is the bottom, bottom line? When all else is said and done, what is the single most important issue at stake in this decision?

What are all the possible courses of action? Often, people fall into the trap of thinking there are only two options. Usually, there are at least ten different ways to address a problem. List as many as you can. Try for ten! Which item on the list seems to be the best path to pursue first?

Do your heart and head agree? If not, why not?

What are the pro’s and con’s of each course of action. What is the most logical decision based on this? Do you have peace about that?

What do wise friends and counselors say? (Emphasis here is “wise” – There are plenty of people who will toss out unwise advice. You don’t need that kind of influence. Think of the person you most respect. How would that person handle this situation?

Are your emotions clouding your decision making process? It’s very difficult to make a good decision when you are angry, discouraged, fatigued or afraid. Sometimes, it’s best to step back and for a fresh perspective.

When you’ve done the best you can, lie down and go to sleep. God is still awake.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holy Roller


Julie Lyons, Wisconsin girl, turned skeptical crime reporter in Texas, was following a lead in South Dallas -- seeking stories, in this crime ridden community, of people who had been supernaturally healed from drug addictions.

She happened upon a small, rundown church, The Body of Christ Assembly, pastored by Rev. Frederick Eddington, and this encounter transformed her life.

In her recent book, Holy Roller, Lyons recounts her journey from a disengaged, conflicted, doubter to a full blown participant in a vibrant, pentecostal, African American faith community (She's the only white girl in the house.)

She shares frankly and openly about her personal struggles, as well as making troubling observations of those who abuse position and authority in the church. (After all, she was a crime reporter, remember -- turned religion columnist, "Bible Girl"-- but that's another story.)

It's encouraging to note that the pastor of the church, Rev. Eddington and his wife, Diane, are the genuine article. Lyons knows all the inner workings of this little congregation, and has nothing but positive and uplifting things to say about these unsung heroes on the front lines of ministry.

Holy Roller gives the reader an intriguing "front pew" view of African American Pentecostalism. I walked away with a fresh understanding and appreciation of these brothers and sisters, though there is definitely no sugar coating.
One of the most attractive things about the book is its stark honesty. There's not much nuance -- it's simple and real.

I also marvel at the power of the Holy Spirit, who certainly has performed some mighty miracles in the life of Julie Lyons. (I'm also glad to hear that after nearly two decades in Dallas, she still remains a loyal Packer fan!)



Monday, July 13, 2009

Children's Ministry Facility Expansion

Yesterday, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to move forward with the building project to provide more space for our children's ministry. It's reallly needed -- amd will help us tremendously as we continue to reach out to the rising generation.

When Getting it Done isn't Getting it Done

In an effort to get the work of the Lord done, we often lose contact with the Lord and quite literally wear our people out as well.

-- Andrew Tozer

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bishop Calls Personal Salvation A Heresy

In a stunning departure from historic orthodoxy, the presiding Episcopal Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, claimed that prayers of repentance for personal salvation is heresy and idolatry:

She called it "The great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God."

Contrary to the Bishop. I believe in personal salvation. Each one of us must give an account before the Lord -- and we all need God's saving grace. True faith, like a good education, does not come by social osmosis. Every great movement of God in history has emphasized this fact.

When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he said "You" must be born again. He was speaking personally -- not in the general sense. It's personal!

Jesus said to the woman at the well, I will give "You" (singular) living water. It's personal!

Peter, preaching in Acts said, "Repent and be baptized, every "One" of you." It's personal!

Indeed, salvation is personal! Every person needs it! Every person can have it!

When persons confess their personal sins, and open up the chambers of their personal lives, and ask Christ to come in as their personal Savior and Lord, He will bring a personal transformation!

I'm reminded of the old spiritual that says, "It's me, It's me, or Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

AFTER that, I'm inclined to agree with the Bishop. Then, it goes far beyond being "personal." An individualized, privatized faith that has no concern for mercy, compassion and justice is contrary to the heart of God.

With Christs love in our hearts, we will naturally go forth and bless OTHERS.

Alaska at Last

My good friend, Rachel Skime, recently left for Alaska to teach for a year in a remote wilderness village. (And here I thought Hayward was a remote wilderness village all this time!!)

She's just started a blog to chronicle her adventures: Alaska At Last!

I encourage you to swing by, pay her a visit, and maybe leave a comment. She's a long way from home.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday John Calvin


To commemorate the 500th aniversary of the birth of John Calvin:

Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday to You!
Happy Birthday Dear Johnny!
Happy Birthday To You!
Q: What do get when John Piper drinks Mountain Dew?
A: A Hyper Calvinist!
A good word from my friend, David Drury: What I Learned from the Calvinists

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Well Read

The great minister, Rev. A. J. Gordon, spoke of his grandmother back on the farm who had only two books in her possession: The Bible and Pilgrim's Progress.

She studied these two books every day -- and in the process nurtured a deep devotion and sweet humility.

Gordon's biographer writes, "Often did her grandson, coming back to the old home of summertime, marvel at the depths, the richness, the fullness of this hidden life." (W. B. Riley, The Perennial Revival, p. 166)

A friend of the mighty prayer warrior, Robert Murray McCheyne. observed that as he studied the Scriptures, he "pored over the pages just exactly as a money-hunter might search through sands known to contain gold nuggets" and on every occasion brought forth a treasure.

Do you think today's leanness of the evangelical soul is due, in part, to a lack of dilligent Bible study?

It's certainly not a lack of resources.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Reverend Andi


Congratulations to my good friend, Andi Wittwer, who was installed last Sunday as the pastor of the Woodland Wesleyan Church.

Andi has cut back her work schedule (managing at Hardware Hank) to four days a week (ten hour shifts) so she can have both Wednesdays and Sundays off in order to pastor this little northwoods congregation.
Her husband (and my barber) Ron, is a kind and loving man. He has overwhelmingly supportive of Andi's calling and is her number one cheerleader.

The good folks in the Danbury area are in for a real treat -- and lots of faith adventures! God is going to do some special things through this beautiful couple.

Millions of Purposes

if we could see what God could see (which we never will, because we will never be infinite), we would see millions upon millions of purposes in every action of the Son of God.

God is never doing just one thing in what he does with us. He is always doing thousands of things that we cannot see. He never has only one purpose in what he does. He always has thousands of purposes in everything he does. … For those who love him and are called according to his purpose, all of them—all of them!—work together for good.

-- John Piper, from the sermon "You Will Never Be Thirsty Again"

(Thanks to my friend, Bud Wesche, who shared this with me)

Monday, July 06, 2009

A Call for Prayer and Action


I was saddened to hear that the Wesleyan Chapel Among the Onadagas was destroyed by an arson fire Sunday morning.
Let's stand together with Pastor Sandy Sinesi and this precious congregation as they rebuild from the ruins.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Fireworks

My friend, Ron McClung, recently shared the following in his Positive Perspective column. With his permission, I'm passing it along to you for the 4th of July.

John and Tom could hardly have been more different. John was a talker who did so often and forcefully. Tom was quiet, preferring to write and read rather than engage in debate. John came from the north while Tom grew up in the south.

Both were farmers and both became lawyers. Both were elected to the Continental Congress that met in Philadelphia in 1775. By now you know I’m thinking about John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

They collaborated on the Declaration of Independence, with Jefferson writing most of it. Adams and Benjamin Franklin made suggestions for changes and embellishments. The Congress tweaked it further before final passage.

John Adams advocated a strong central government. Without a solid central government, how would these colonies ever stick together to form the United States of America?

Thomas Jefferson believed strongly in states’ rights. Each state, while loyal to the central government, had the right to determine many things for itself.

Unfortunately, their disagreements became sharp. They even became political rivals. Upon George Washington’s completion of his second term as President, and his refusal to run for a third term, John Adams was elected. Since Jefferson came in second, he became vice-president, as was the practice in those days.

Apart from a single conversation on the street, the two never communicated directly again during Adams’ presidency. When they both ran for President in 1801, Jefferson won and Adams retired.

They reconciled by letter before they died, Adams sending his correspondence from his native Massachusetts and Jefferson responding from his native Virginia. They both died on the same day, exactly fifty years after the Declaration of Independence was signed, on July 4, 1826. Adams was 90 and Jefferson was 83.

Adams’ last words, unaware that Jefferson had succumbed a few hours earlier, were: “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

It took strong personalities to forge a robust nation. When two live wires come into contact with each other, sparks often result. Whom have you encountered, resulting in sparks? Is there someone with whom you need to reconcile?

St. Paul said, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). On this Independence Day, don’t be so independent that you cannot forgive. Strong personalities can be at peace, even if they have to agree to disagree.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Yet I Will Praise You

This is an absolutely beautiful song: You Tube Video here
(Lyrics by Andy Park, Vineyard Music)


I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my brokenness
I will praise You Lord I will praise You Lord my God
Even in my desperation
I will praise You Lord

And I can't understand
All that You allow
I just can't see the reason
But my life is in Your hands
And though I cannot see You
I choose to trust You

Even when my heart is torn I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even when I feel deserted I will praise (trust) You Lord
Even in my darkest valley I will praise (trust) You Lord
And when my world is shattered and it seems all hope is gone

Yet I will praise You Lord
I will trust You Lord my God
Even in my loneliness
I will trust You Lord I will trust You Lord my God
Even when I cannot hear You
I will trust You Lord

And I will not forget
That You hung on a cross
Lord You bled and died for me
And if I have to suffer I know that You've been there
And I know that You're here now

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Shortly before his untimely death, pitchman, Billy Mays was interviewed in American Way Magazine. He remarked, "I'm not going to let other people who may have a problem with me-the way I pitch--deter me because I have a lot to give and a lot to do yet in my life. I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."

Dr. Jeff Myers, professor at Bryan College, happened upon this article and made the following observation:

"I think there's a bigger platform out there for me now."

Those words haunted me. How often have I pinned my hopes on the platform I could stand on in the future, or the greater good I could do tomorrow, or the ideas I have for someday.

This simple interview with Billy Mays reminds me that there are no guarantees. My careful planning for tomorrow must not trump the influence I must seek to have today.

When it comes to mentoring, coaching and discipling the next generation, this moment, now, is the most important platform there is. Take time now to give a blessing. Go to lunch today with someone who needs your encouragement. Be reconciled with others today. Make that phone call now.
Martin Luther King was right. There is a fierce urgency of now.

Jello

Seth Godin: There's Always Room for Jello

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

So Beautiful!


This morning, I finished Leonard Sweet's new book, So Beautiful.

I'm still basking in the afterglow and the best words I can use to describe it is: "So Beautiful!!"

I've read several of Sweet's other books, and must say that this is the best by far. In a witty, candid, and thought-provoking style, Sweet grabs the reader immediately and doesn't let go until the last paragraph.

The basic premise of So Beautiful is that congregations need to re-think their values and priorities. The old APC approach: Attractional, Propositional, Colonial (or ABC: Attendance, Buildings, Cash) won't cut it for churches that desire to reach this present generation.

Instead of APC/ABC, Sweet suggests that followers of Christ, as individuals and congregations, capture an MRI ethos:
Missional
Relational
Incarnational.
He then unpacks each of these concepts in detail. It's dynomite!

"Just as DNA's three strands make life possible, three other elements work in harmony to make life not just pretty, but beautiful. And it's in the church where we find the greatest expression, and ultimate fulfillment, of these three components to a beautiful life."

I found myself exclaiming, "Yes! Yes! That's what I want! That's IT! That's SO Beautiful!"

One of the things I like best about Sweet's writing style is that he draws from a wide variety of sources, and packs each page full of pithy phrases, poetry, inspiring quotes, and engaging stories.

There's a ton of grist for the sermon mill! I must have written a dozen pages of notes in my journal -- which will certainly be processed and find their way into my blog, messages and other communications.

Leadership Team Check Up

A great post by Perry Noble: Seven Questions Leadership Teams Should Wrestle With

Take Responsibility

A Virginia inmate, Robert Brock, made the headlines a few years ago when he sued himself for five million dollars.

It seems he violated his own civil rights by getting drunk and arrested -- and so, he filed a lawsuit against himself.

He then asked the state to pay -- as he couldn't have an income in prison.

Well, maybe he was insincere -- but he did take personal responsibility! That's better than average.

Most of us tend to avoid responsibility by making excuses and blaming others. It's always someone else's fault!

It is refreshing when somebody stands tall and takes responsibility for his/her own actions.

President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said, "The buck stops here!" Now, that's taking responsibility.

Pope John XXIII, shortly after he was elected pontiff, said, "It often happens that I wake up at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it -- then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope!"

Every now and then, I catch myself saying, "Somebody really ought to . . ."

And then I realize, I am somebody! That means I need to quit complaining and start working towards a solution.

Take responsibility! Don't shirk it.

Joseph Fort Newton said, "A duty dodged is like a debt unpaid; it is only deferred, and we must come back and settle the account at last."

"All problems become smaller if you don't dodge them but confront them," stated William S. Halsey, "Touch a thistle timidly, and it pricks you; grasp it boldly, and its spines crumble."

The single reason why so few people rise to become leaders is the unwillingness to pay the price of responsibility.