Monday, August 31, 2009

On My Soap Box

I don't think Jesus appreciates being represented by preachers like this.

Also, is it just me, or does the Christianity 21 Conference seem a little weird?

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Greater Love


Today, my wife, Cathy and I, will celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. I love her more now than the day in ’82 when she walked down the aisle and said, “I do.” (She was a beautiful bride, bold and confident. When it was my turn to say the vows, I blubbered and squeaked like Mickey Mouse – but she knew what I meant anyway.)

It’s hard to imagine that so many years have zoomed by. It seems like just yesterday that I was courting her – dating her – writing little love notes with x’s and o’s at the end, and saying goofy little things like “yours, ‘til the ocean wears rubber pants to keep it’s bottom dry.”

We’ve done a lot of living since then. We’ve had our share of joys. We’ve had our share of tears. We’ve had our share of heartaches through the years – but now, our love is sweeter still.

A while back, Cathy made an astute observation: “You can’t really love somebody until you’ve been through something with them. Before that point, you’re just acquaintances.” You know, she is right on the money with that one.

Maybe that’s why I love her so much – because we’ve been through so many things together.

I’m learning the true meanings of love. I say “meanings” rather than “meaning” because there are many facets to it. Just when I think I understand what it is to love, I realize I am barely scratching the surface. One can never plumb the depths of love because it is eternal.

The word “intimacy” literally means “profoundly interior.” Relational understanding, like gold and silver, is discovered deep underground. It comes from the core of our being. Of course, there is the exterior dimension as well. A “deep down” love is revealed by our actions for and towards each other.

A loving intent without a loving follow-through isn’t worth much.

One reason so many couples lack satisfying interactions with each other is because they have not paused to reflect enough on the deeper meanings of their relationship.

Maybe it would be good for couples to stop and ask these questions: What is our story? What are the themes of our relationship? Have we looked beyond the surface issues to the deeper substance? When are we most fully alive and free? What is or delight and desire? How can we turn duties into delights?

Marriage takes work. It requires much patience. If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t require patience! Marriage might be made in heaven – but it has to be worked out here on this earth. Maybe that’s why it’s for a lifetime – because that’s just about how long it takes for people to finally understand. Before then, we should probably put “Under Construction” signs in front of our homes.

The romance of love is splendid. It’s a beautiful gift from God. The warm friendship of love is sweet, and there is nothing that compares with comfortable familiarity. The choice to love sacrificially is the most sublime. It is love in the highest form.

I am reminded of these words from the poet, Rainer Marie Rilke, “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect, border and greet each other.”

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lighthouse Anniversary


Tomorrow, Cathy and I celebrate 27 years of marriage. In some ways, it seems like just yesterday when we tied the knot.

Later this morning, we're heading to the north shore, where we'll spend the night in a Lighthouse.
Hopefully, we won't have to rescue stranded sailors.

Facelift at MMI

Monday Morning Insight, my favorite blog (besides Revitalize Your Church), has recently undergone a face lift.

See the new and improved MMI here

Good stuff -- relevant and interesting information.

Kudos to Todd for a job well done. He's putting together the fantastic Nines Conference in just a couple of weeks!

Time Traveller's Wife

Cathy and I went to see The Time Traveller's Wife last night -- an interesting and haunting tale of love that goes beyond the limits. . . and, I'd suggest waiting for the DVD.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meltdown


If you like action adventure novels, I think you'll enjoy Meltdown by Chuck Holton. I found it to be a fast moving, action packed tale. Along with surprising twists, explosions, and plenty of heart-stopping suspense, the reader learns some good lessons about faith and life.

The global war on terror has reached catastrophic proportions, leading the U.S. Special Operations EOD team–Task Force Valor–to Chernobyl, where ghosts of past disasters are nothing compared to the nuclear nightmare about to unfold.
With CIA Agent Mary “Phoenix” Walker heading her first Special Ops mission and Master Sergeant Bobby Sweeney fighting demons on and off the battlefield, Task Force Valor races to stop a terrorist threat in the Ukraine before Europe is turned into a radioactive wasteland.

But when the terror reaches American shores, the team is powerless to help until they can save themselves. And when they finally track down the source of the chaos, what they find is worse than anything they could have imagined.

This is Awesome!

Dakota District Honors Native American Leaders

Nines Conference

This is just amazing!!

Leadership Network and Catalyst are presenting wonderful Online Conference for Church Leaders -- "The Nines"

Leadership Network asked some of the church's greatest communicators: "Ifyou had nine minutes to talk one-on-one with thousands of church leaders, what is the one thing that you would tell them?

The result is a series of passionate and personal messages that will help you and your church navigate into the future.

It will be on September 9 -- starting at 9:09 (Central).

There's quite an impressive lineup, and it's FREE!! You do need to register, however.

I think every pastor could benefit from this excellent leadership development opportunity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

500 Consultations

Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, and former church consultant, shared four observations me made from his 500 consultations:


First, our consultations focused much attention on matters of leadership. We found that many church leaders were in trouble because of poor leadership skills and poor interpersonal skills. Most of these leaders were well trained theologically and biblically, but they weren’t prepared to lead an organization or deal with people issues.

Second, our team was often perplexed at the weak evangelistic endeavors of churches. It seemed in many congregations that the Great Commission was not taken seriously. It wasn’t that evangelistic efforts were done poorly; they weren’t done at all.

Third, we saw that church leaders needed the eyes of an outsider. One of the most common components of our consultations was "the first-time guest." Someone on our team would make his or her first appearance at the church at a worship service. That person would note carefully everything from parking to greeters to the worship service to friendliness to the church facilities. We would then provide the church leadership with a first-time guest verbatim. That report alone proved to be one of the most helpful parts of our consultation. It was also one of the most surprising to many church leaders.

Finally, we learned that pastors and other church leaders are often hurting. Sometimes the greatest assistance we could provide was a listening ear and the promise of prayer.


More here

Monday, August 24, 2009

All in the Family


Ryan led worship at church yesterday, and Luke, Wes and Hannah served together with him on the team. It blesses my heart to see my kids serving the Lord with gladness.

Happy Birthday Luke


Happy 17th Birthday to my son, Luke, who is a kind, gentle caring young man -- and plays a mean guitar! I'm glad to be your dad!

Squishy Faith

Have you noticed that American Christianity has gone squishy?

Perhaps it’s the consumer culture. Maybe it’s the “Me Generation” coming of age. It might be that the Bible has taken a back seat to the entertainment industry in the recent decades. It certainly has something to do with a lack of sound doctrine being preached and taught in our churches.

A lot of people are now under the impression that it doesn’t make any difference WHAT you believe, as long as you believe something. Of course, that is faulty logic. For instance, you might believe it’s safe to step out of a flying airplane without a parachute, but you’ll come to a rude awakening in a few seconds. WHAT we believe is vitally important.

We need to know the Truth in order to be set free. (John 8:32) Hosea 4:6 says, “My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”

The average church member knows less about the Bible today than the average non-believer did a hundred years ago. When Christians decry the demise of our culture, we must understand that the failure began with us. Somehow, the church has lost her voice when it is needed most.

Friend, I have two questions for you.

1) Do you know what you believe?
2) Do you believe what you know?

I am committed to helping followers of Christ know more fully what they believe. Of course, we will have differences of opinion on a wide variety of subjects – but in the main things – the most important things – we need to know, understand and agree.

John Wesley said it this way: “In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, diversity; and in all things, charity.”

Perhaps, the bigger question of the two is the second: Do you believe what you know? We might SAY we believe something – but if we don’t live it, do we truly believe it? Our faith and love is proven by what we DO rather than what we SAY.

In old English, the word “believe” means “live-by.” Do you live by it??

If a faith isn’t worth living, it’s not worth much.

Really living what the Bible says, through the power of the Holy Spirit is called holiness. That is what God calls us to be – a holy people.

What is the evidence of living it? Loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

God help us to know what we believe, to believe what we know, and to truly live what we profess.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Prayer for Revival

My heart was moved by this prayer for revival, and I join with a hearty "amen."

Father Almighty,

We trust that you desire to send revival and spiritual awakening to your people. We believe that you can revive and renew us. So we pray…

We pray that a hunger for revival would consume your people.
(Neh. 1:1-11)

We ask that you inspire our pastors with messages that will awaken your people.
(2 Tim. 4:2-5)

We pray that your people will have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
(Rev. 2:7)

Make the Church of today hot.
(Rev. 3:14-16)

We pray that those who have left their “first love” would return.
(Rev. 2:4-5)

We pray that those who have stopped gathering for worship would be convicted with a renewed sense of urgency to gather for worship.
(Heb. 10:25)

We ask you to call out an army of intercessors burdened for revival.
(Isaiah 62:6-7)

We desire to see evangelistic zeal consume your Church.
(James 5:19-20)

We cry out with the psalmist:
Will you not revive us again?That your people may rejoice in you?
(Ps. 85:6)

Trevin Wax (Tennesee Baptist Convention, adapted)

True Joy


St. Francis of Assisi once explained the meaning of perfect joy to a brother monk:

What is perfect joy? A messenger comes and says that all the masters of Paris have entered the Order, write "not true joy."

Likewise, that all the prelates beyond the Alps, archbishops and bishops; likewise that the King of France and the King of England (have all entered the Order): write, "not true joy."

Likewise, that my friars went among the infidels and converted them all to the faith; likewise that I have from God this grace, that I make the sick healthy and work many miracles: I say to you that in all these things there is not true joy.

But what is true joy?

I return from Perugia and in the dead of night I come here and it is winter time, muddy and what is more, so frigid, that icicles have congealed at the edge of my tunic and they always pierce my shins, and blood comes forth from such wounds.

And entirely (covered) with mud and in the cold and ice, I come to the gate, and after I knock for a long time and call, there comes a friar and he askes: "Who is it?" I respond, "Friar Francis." And he says, "Go away! It is not a decent hour for going about. You will not enter!"

And again he would respond to my insistence, "Go away! You are a simpleton and an idiot! You do not measure up to us. We are so many and such men, that we are not in need of you!"

And I stand again at the gate and I say, "For the love of God take me in this night." And he would respond, "I will not!"

I say to you that if I will have had patience and will not have been upset, that in this is true joy and true virtue and soundness of soul.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Whispering Giant


The acclaimed sculptor, Peter "Wolf" Toth, showed up at church last Sunday morning, and asked if I would be willing to say a few words at the dedication of Hayward's newly refurbished "Whispering Giant." The ceremony is this morning at 11:00 a.m. I am truly honored to participate.

Toth's "Whispering Giant" statues, in honor of Native Americans, can be found in all 50 U.S. states, as well as several Canadian provinces.

Virtual Mentors

A fabulous post by Mark Batterson

I've heard that the average author takes about two years to write a book. So that means when I read a book I gain two years of life experience. Read a hundred books this year and you'll gain two hundred years of life experience.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash for Clunkers


From my friend Gary:

Vikings are expected to receive $4,500 from the Federal Gov't under the cash for clunker quarterbacks program!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Poor Sucker


Wader fishing last night -- and here's my trophy sucker to show for it.

Another Twist in the Pastor Favre Saga

After a brief stint with the Presbyterians, and some soul searching in the Mississippi wilderness, Pastor Favre decided to come back to town and start a new church down the street -- much to the dismay of his original congregation.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Control

The Big Question for Leaders:

Would you rather control a few people or influence many?

If your focus is on "control", you'll never have the influence.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Important Summit Meeting

Prayer is a summit meeting in the very throne room of the universe. There is no higher level.
-- Ralph Herring

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Robin Mark in Minong

The great Irish songwriter and worship leader, Robin Mark, is coming to the little town of Minong, Wisconsin (population 500) for a concert this evening as well as a training event for worship leaders through the day.

What am amazing thing! Kudos to our daughter church, the River, for having the vision and gumption to pull it off! Way to go!

This morning, our Benevolence Team is hosting a huge pancake breakfast and Farmer's Market at the church in order to raise funds to help those in need. I'm thankful for Trudy and team who have the heart to step up and make a difference for those who need it so desperately.

In a Grain of Sand

To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.
-- William Blake

Friday, August 14, 2009

If This Is Not A Place. . .

If this is not a place where tears are understood,
Then where shall I go to cry?

And if this is not a place where my spirit can take wings,
Then where shall I go to fly?


I don't need another place for trying to impress you
With just how good and virtuous I am.

I don't need another place for always being on top of things;
Everybody knows that it's a sham.


I don't need another place for always wearing smiles,
Even when it's not the way I feel.

I don't need another place to mouth the same old platitudes;
Everybody knows that it's not real.


So if this is not a place where my questions can be asked,
Then where shall I go to seek?

And if this is not a place where my heart cry can be heard,
Where, tell me where, shall I go to speak?


So if this is not a place where tears are understood,
Where shall I go, where shall I go to fly?


-- Ken Medema

Talking and Judging

For too long, the church has talked to itself and judged the world. It's time now for us in the church to talk to the world and judge ourselves.

-- Herb Miller

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Which Critic?

From Seth Godin's business blog

Some critics matter.
Some are merely loud
Others are just difficult. . .

The challenge is in figuring out which kind of critic is worth paying attention to as you create your product or service. In a business to business setting, pleasing the gatekeeper and the bill payer is essential. On the other hand, pleasing an angry blogger might not matter at all.

In our desire to please everyone, it's very easy to end up being invisible or mediocre.

Communicating Greatness

God is so great, He communicates greatness to the least thing that is done for His service.
-- John Wesley (Plain Account of Christian Perfection)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roberts Rules of Order Test

To my dear FLAME Church Leadership and Management Students. Here is our beloved Robert's Rules of Order Test. I look forward to your joyful and prompt completion of this assignment!

Remember, no pain, no gain.

Just reading John Wesley this morning, who said, "Receive everything (except sin) as a gift from God."

The Rest of Faith

Lord, I Believe a Rest Remains (by Charles Wesley)

Lord, I believe a rest remains
To all Thy people known,
A rest where pure enjoyment reigns,
And Thou art loved alone.

A rest where all our soul’s desire
Is fixed on things above;
Where fear, and sin, and grief expire,
Cast out by perfect love.

O that I now the rest might know,
Believe, and enter in!
Now, Savior, now the the power bestow,
And let me cease from sin.

Remove this hardness from my heart,
This unbelief remove:
To me the rest of faith impart,
The Sabbath of Thy love.

The Good Old Days

The past is a nice place to visit from time to time -- but it's a terrible place to live.

Sometimes, we see a television show or visit a museum exhibit showing life a couple hundred years ago. Perhaps, you've thought, "Those were the good old days! I wish we could go back and live like that."

Are you sure about that?

A couple hundred years ago the life expectancy was 38 years, the average work week was 72 hours, and the median annual income was $300.

Cholera, typhoid and yellow fever were common. For instance, one out of five people in Philadelphia in 1793 died from these diseases.

Many women died in childbirth, and the flu also claimed the lives of many. Almost every home experienced the sorrow of losing a child.

No indoor plumbing, no refrigerators, no microwaves, no soft mattresses, no internet, no electric heat, no lights, no cars, no tv, no computers, no recorded music, no tupperware, no soft drinks, no cheeseburgers.

Everybody milked their own cows!

Nah -- you really wouldn't want to go back there and live.

Thank God you live in 2009 instead of 1809!

Yet, there is something special about yesteryear. Perhaps we should bring yesterday’s treasures into the present and appreciate them.

Rich family values are passed along from one generation to another. Some of the greatest music was written two or three hundred years ago. The Bible, of course, composed in ancient times, brings fresh inspiration and insight today.

St. Augustine said, "You can only understand backwards, but you must live forwards."

Monday, August 10, 2009

Back in the Saddle

It feels like forever since I've posted daily here at Revitalize Your Church. The last couple of weeks have kept me occupied from morning to night -- first, speaking at Beulah Holiness Camp, and then, teaching FLAME Courses (Evangelism and Church Leadership) at Frankfort, Indiana.

A real highlight was the arrival of my family in Frankfort early last week. What a joy for them to share in the FLAME experience -- and they were sad when it ended.

A couple of days ago, we celebrated Cathy's parents' Golden Anniversary -- 50 years! Friends and relatives came from all over the country to share in their joy -- and the program was filled with "the sound of music!" I am amazed at the tremendous musical talent God gave to the family. I lucked out by marrying in!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

FLAME Courses

I've been teaching FLAME (Ministerial Training) Courses in Frankfort, Indiana this week. It's been a great week so far -- with tomorrow being the last day.

The first half of the week, I taught Church Leadership, and now, I'm teaching Evangelism.

This afternoon, my class of 30 students along with 30 additional teens , went out into the community to be a blessing. We went in groups of 3-5 people, and everyone returned rejoicing as they reported everything that had happened.

Altogether, they prayed with 125 people and one horse.

It's been wonderful having Cathy, Luke, Wes and Hannah here with me. There are 290 attending this FLAME, making it the largest one in history. Dr. JoAnne Lyon spoke this morning, and inspired everybody. I also had the privilege of meeting a new friend, Dave Ward, who is a brilliant scholar -- professor at Indiana Wesleyan University, who is also finishing his PhD at Princeton.