Monday, November 30, 2009

Chester Marcol


Chester Marcol is coming to Hayward this Wednesday night to speak at a rally sponsored by FCA. Special thanks to my good friend, Randy Young, who followed the inner prompting, and opened the door for this opportunity.

What do Teachers Make?

A Difference!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Helping the World

"We cannot help the world unless we change our way of being in it."

-- Hope & Action, an advent pastoral letter from Methodist bishops

Friday, November 27, 2009

Backyard Victory


Stellar quarterbacks, Rogers and Wilson, both facing vicious Lions, emerged victorious on Thanksgiving Day -- but Wilson had to nurse a sore toe afterwards.

Turkey Census

The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 250 million turkeys were raised in the United States in 2009.

I wonder what the turkey census is today?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

As The Sun Rises


Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.
Be fair in thy judgement, and guarded in thy speech.
Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger.
Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring.
Be a breath of life to the body of humankind, a dew to the soil of the human heart, and a fruit upon the tree of humility. -- Anonymous

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Alcohol Related Fatality?


The other day, the kids and I were driving north on highway 53, when we passed a dead bear lying on the side of the road.

I stopped to pay my respects, and thought maybe it was alcohol related.

Two Hammers

I have a sledgehammer in my garage, and I also have a small finishing hammer. They are both equally important to me.

If I had to choose between the two, I suppose I'd pick the little guy. He's been a real help to me over the years -- but I'd rather not choose at all. Both hammers are my good friends and trusted companions.

Thus, the hammers teach me a valuable lesson; bigger isn't always better! Smaller isn't always better either.

The value of the tool is determined by the task ahead.

Driving stakes for a circus tent? Use the sledge!
Repairing the living room coffee table? The finishing hammer will do perfectly. (My wife would not appreciate me using the sledge for that!)

This brings me to an important point. Why do we compare ourselves with others? Why do we allow ourselves to feel inferior (or superior) to the people around us? We're all equally important -- though we have different roles and functions in life. We're all a part of the same toolbox! We all belong to the same garage.

It would be silly for the finishing hammer to glance furtively at the sledge and murmur, "I'm so small and insignificant! Compared to that guy, I'm just useless!"
Likewise, the sledge could say, "I'm too awkward and clumsy. I wish I wasn't such a klutz and could be more graceful, like the finishing hammer."

Comparison with others is always a dead end street -- leading to inferiority or arrogance.

The importance of the hammer is determined only by the carpenter, not the hammer (or any other tool in the box!)

All the hammers -- both big and little -- are needed to build great cathedrals.

When it all is said and done, it won't matter which hammer was used for which part. Nobody will look at the majestic cathedral and say, "Wow, what a hammer!" Instead they will be inspired to glorify God and say, "What a Carpenter!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Go At It!

"You go at it! The best way to learn is to go at it! How to do it is to do it!"

-- D. L. Moody, when asked by three young seminarians (including R. A. Torrey) to teach them how to evangalize.

Big Business


A family was on vacation in a Minnesota northwoods small town. As they drove down Main Street, Mother pointed and said, "Look Johnny! There's First Lutheran Church!"

To this, Johnny replied, "Those guys must be a franchise. We have one of those in our town too!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

Billy Joe Daugherty


Received word this morning that Billy Joe Daugherty, pastor of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa died yesterday after a brief battle with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was only 57.

Pastor Daugherty was a great spiritual leader. Although I disagreed with a bit of his theology, I've always admired his ministry, and have been inspired by his teaching.
His congregation launched the Tulsa Dream Center, which houses a food and clothing distribution, dental/medical clinic, legal counseling, recreation facilities and other programs to help needy people of Tulsa.
Through his influence, 523 Victory Bible Institutes have been started in 85 countries around the world.
I'd call that a missional ministry. Well done, thou good and faithful servant.

I Don't Have the Gift of Mercy

Several times, over the years, I've heard visionary pastors use this phrase in sermons and conversation:

I don't have the gift of mercy!

When they say that, it's never in an apologetic manner. They don't seem to feel bad about being "mercy deficient." In fact, it's more like they're bragging about it.

Whenever I hear a pastor boast about unmerciful he is, I cringe.

"Oh, don't say that!! If you struggle with being a merciful person -- that's a spiritual maturity issue! That means you don't love people very much. Why would any pastor brag about not loving people?

People who operate without mercy tend to be bullies and jerks. Who wants a bully or a jerk for a pastor?

Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Other Holy Week


Through 18 years of living in the north country, I’ve come to recognize that, by default, deer hunting season is Wisconsin’s other “holy week.”

It took me a while to figure this out. Year after year, I stood behind the pulpit on the third Sunday of November, and looked with dismay upon an empty sanctuary.
In Hayward, most of the men, and half the ladies vanish into the woods on deer opener, and they normally don’t re-appear for church on Sunday morning.

Of course, there are always a few devoted members of the flock who endure the annual Thanksgiving sermon, anxiously awaiting the concluding “amen” so then can hurry up and get out there. I’m happy to report that my Thanksgiving sermon usually has the intended effect. When it’s over, there’s a collective “Whew, Thank God!” then a mad scramble for the doors.

I regretfully admit that in years past, I’ve attempted to heap guilt and shame on the poor hunters of the congregation in the weeks leading up to “the great departure.” They hung their heads, as I poured it on. “Surely, you can give your Creator ONE hour of your precious hunting time. Where is your commitment? Where is your sacrifice? Where is your priority?” I even made a vague suggestion that if they agreed to sit in church for an hour, that heaven would take note of such devotion, and perhaps reward them with a trophy buck.

They didn’t buy it.

Several years ago, in mid-November, I went for the nuclear option. “People, if you truly love Jesus, then you’re going to prove it by coming HERE next Sunday morning, rather than traipsing out into the woods before dawn!”

They didn’t buy that either.

The good folks of Hayward instinctively know the odds of bagging big buck are much greater from a deer stand than a church pew.

One older fellow shook my hand afterwards and said, “Pastor, thank you for sharing your perspective, but next Sunday, I’ll be lovin’ Jesus in my tree stand.” (I think he was giving a Norwegian rebuke.)

That day, I learned a valuable lesson. My job, as a northwoods pastor, is to bless the dear hunters, and not try to force them into being something else.

Besides, what other season affords such opportunity for solitude and reflection? What occasion brings a better place for prayer? In the normal course of life, most folks don’t carve out enough time to be quiet and listen to God’s voice.

One can certainly worship in the woods. In fact, there is no greater cathedral. The splendor of creation inspires the soul to greater heights.

Hunting season imposes “Sabbath” on us. The entire town slows down, and it’s hard to find a mechanic, a repairman, or a barber. Slowing is good medicine for the soul.

Wisconsin’s deer hunting season includes Thanksgiving – and that certainly is appropriate for such a holy week.

Undertakers and Bad Gas


I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes (legendary U. S. Supreme Court Justice)

A man approached a fellow passenger on an airplane and inquired, "Excuse me sir, but as I passed you just now I noticed that you look like a minister. Am I right?"

"No," came the reply, "I just have bad gas.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day by Day

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find, to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He Whose heart is kind beyond all measure
Gives unto each day what He deems best—
Lovingly, its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day, the Lord Himself is near me
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear, and cheer me,
He Whose Name is Counselor and Power;
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then in every tribulation
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
Ever to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.

"Blott en Dag" by Karolina W. Sandell-Berg, translated into English by Andrew L. Skoog)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Winning over Worry


Two men were climbing a steep hill on a bicycle built for two. When they finally made it to the top, the first man said, "Whew! That was a stiff climb. I think it was the hardest hill I've ever been on.""It certainly was," his companion replied, "and if I hadn't kept the brake on, we would have slid down backwards!"

When we worry, it's like pedaling uphill with the brakes on. Anxious thoughts make life ten times harder.

Unfortunately, our natural human tendency is to worry about our situations. Is there anybody on this earth who is not familiar with the uncomfortable gnawing of worry in the belly? I seriously doubt it.

Yet, although worry is familiar to us all, we don't have to treat it like a welcomed guest. In fact, we have every right in the world to kick it out! "No Vacancy" -- There's no place for anxious thinking here!

How can we evict worry from our lives? Let me offer a few suggestions:

1. Talk to yourself!
A great way to abolish worry is to ask yourself the right questions such as,
* Why am I feeling tense right now?
* Will the world end if what I'm worrying about comes true?
* Is stewing over this making it any better?
* Who else is worked up over this issue? Why or why not?
* Is this worth losing sleep?
* What is the bottom line fear in this situation?
* So what?

2. Sell yourself some hope.
Y ou've already been selling yourself on fear, tension, and all the "What if's". Why not switch gears and start looking for what's going right?

Elmer Wheeler, in The Wealth Within You, said, "we become courageous by the same process that we become fearful; successful and confident by the same process that we become failures. Both are ideas that we sell ourselves. If you are timid and fearful or feel inferior, you do not need to learn the technique of selling ideas to yourself. You are already a past master at the art. All you need to do is change the ideas you sell. Suggest confidence to yourself in exactly the same way you have been suggesting failure."

3. Seek wise counsel.
It really helps to talk the issue through with someone who has a level head and the wisdom of experience. Good advice is worth more than gold.

4. Pray about it.
A burden is really a call to prayer. If it's big enough to fret about, it's big enough to pray about. The Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us! Prayer increases faith, which puts the kabosh on worry.

5. Take a dose of reality.
Worry casts long shadows on little things. It exaggerates the problem, and turns mice into monsters. If you think your situation is really bad, why not look around? You will find lots of people who have it worse. Chances are, your problems are not nearly as terrible as they seem.

6. Think "through" not "to".
Often, people think "to" a difficulty and then panic. When we come up against a big problem and then camp out, it only leads to frustration and worry. The much better path is to keep exploring solutions. Refuse to let the issue get the best of you. Working at a solution drains the worry away.

7. Keep moving forward.
Worry and positive action don't usually go together -- You're either invested in one or the other. If you're spinning the worry wheels -- it's better to get onto another track of thinking.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Procrastination

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Millions of people have good ideas, but never get around to doing anything with them.

What a tragedy to see so many unrealized hopes and dreams. Why do we put off the important tasks of life? Why do we allow ourselves to settle into the plateau of mediocrity?

Here are a few possible explanations for this phenomenon:
1) We tend to value comfort more than accomplishment. When forced to make a choice between the two, most people follow the path of least resistance.

2) Fear of failure can keep us from starting. Of course, the greatest failure is not trying. I'd rather attempt something great, and fail -- than to attempt nothing and succeed.

3) Poor time management keeps us from fulfilling our dreams. If we don't schedule the important things into our lives, they won't get done. Poor planning leads to hectic living - with little to show for it.

4) Our actions reveal our true priorities. We live what we really believe - regardless of what we say. Rethinking priorities helps to turn the vision into a reality.

5) Often, a huge goal seems impossible to attain. We stand, immobilized, as we stare at it. However, a mighty mountain can be moved one shovel at a time. What small steps can you take today which will set you in the direction of the dream?

6) Critics and small thinkers can derail the best ideas. Always welcome wise counsel, but refuse to allow petty people to sidetrack you from your mission.

7) Believe it can be done - and it will! (Believe it CAN'T be done - and it wont!)

8) You say you don't have the time? Yes you do! "I don't have time" is just an excuse. You have 24 hours in a day just like everybody else. Use 'em or lose 'em.

Hudson Taylor said there are three stages in any worthwhile project -
Impossible
Difficult
Done!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Filled Up and Poured Out

We are filled up to be poured out.

Fill up with love -- and then pour it out.
Fill up with faith -- and then pour it out.
Fill up with hope -- and then pour it out.
Fill up with joy -- and then pour it out.
Fill up with the Spirit -- and then pour it out.

We're blessed to be a blessing.

If we fill up. but don't pour it out -- we're bloated.
If we pour it out, but don't fill up -- we're depleted.

Keep filling up and pouring out! That's how we're created to live and serve in this world. Let the river flow!

Friday, November 13, 2009

When You Don't Feel Like It

John Bloom has written a great post over at Desiring God -- When You Don't Feel Like It, Take Heart.

The Sabbath Demise

Found an interesting Wall Street Journal article a while back about the demise of Sabbath Keeping in America.

Sundays changed when the world changed. Stopping farming in the Middle Ages was easy. But to close restaurants, shut up amusement parks or clear the airwaves when Americans with money were trying to spend it that day was impossible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stand Fast


Above all, stand fast in obedient faith,
faith in the God of pardoning mercy,
in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who hath loved you, and given himself for you.

Ascribe to him all the good you find in yourself,
all your peace, and joy, and love,
all your power to do and suffer his will,
through the Spirit of the living God.v.v.

Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree.
to the spirit of persecution.

If you cannot reason or persuade a man into the truth,
never attempt to force him into it.
If love will not compel him to come in,
leave him to God.

-- John Wesley

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holy Candidness

My blogger buddy, Mark Batterson shared some powerful insights from his recent staff retreat.

Most of our ministries get stuck at the point where we're less than honest. We aren't willing to verbalize or confront an issue because it might hurt someone's feelings. That is where a ministry will stop growing. . . You have to cut through the issues to get to the heart of the matter.

Good News in a Twitter

The Gospel is the counterintuitive, joyous, exuberant news that Jesus has brought the unending, limitless, stunning, love of God to even us!

(140 character Twitter message -- thanks to Art Erickson for passing it on.)

As the Grains of Wheat

as the grains of wheat
once scattered on the hill
were gathered into one
to become one bread

so may all your people
from all the ends of the earth
be gathered into one in you

-- Marty Haugen

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prayer Carries It

Prayer must carry our work, as well as our preaching. He does not heartily preach to his people who does not pray for them. If we do not prevail with God to give them repentance and faith, we are not likely to prevail with them to repent and believe.
-- Richard Baxter

Monday, November 09, 2009

White Picket Fences


Susan Meissner has done it again. (Previously, I reviewed Shape of Mercy, which ended up winning the Christian book award for fiction.) Now, she's given us another powerful novel which leaves the readers reflecting on their relationships and the deeper meanings of life's experiences.

White Picket Fences tells the gripping story of a seemingly "perfect" suburban family. Beneath a thin layer of varnish, however, lies major unresolved issues. Things are not always as they seem and people often go to great measures to hide from the truth which will set them free.
A good read -- haunting -- intriguing -- which reminds us of the old adage, "You're only as sick as your secrets."
(Preview copy was provided for review by the publisher.)


Saturday, November 07, 2009

I Love it When God Does Things Like This!


Last August, when teaching FLAME Courses in Frankfort, Indiana, I met a wonderful brother, Dr. Thuam Khai, who is providing leadership for the Burmese Bible College in Syracuse, New York.
After classes, Brother Thuam needed transportation to Chicago, Providentially, I was heading the same direction myself, so I gave him a lift.

While we travelled, he told me about a small group of Burmese believers in Milwaukee, that needed an affiliation.
Through this Divine appointment, the wheels began to roll.
I helped Brother Thuam connect with our Wisconsin District Superintendent, Dan Bickel -- and last week, they all met together to begin the groundwork for a brand new Burmese Wesleyan Church!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tragedy

A few days ago, a young man in our community, Arthur Garcia, killed another man, David Palm (his ex-girlfriend's brother) and then committed suicide.

It was a sad and shocking turn of events -- which hits awfully close to home. Just today, I discovered that Arthur attended services here at Hayward Wesleyan Church five out of the last seven Sundays of his life. I even prayed with him one Sunday after church last month.

It really breaks my heart -- and I wonder how this possibly could have happened. Oh, how I wish we would have reached out to him further.

Please remember the families in your prayers.

Something to Ponder

The average church member has listened to 6000 sermons and 8000 prayers, sung 20,000 hymns, and asked zero people to receive Christ.


-- Herb Miller (Fishing on the Asphalt)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Comfort Zone

Simply to enclose oneself in "the given" is no glory to God. It is an evasion of life and of growth, a hiding your light under the bushel.

-- Thomas Merton, A Vow of Conversation (p. 24)

Seven Year Old Steals Car to Keep from Going to Church



Poor kid. There have been times when I've felt the same way myself.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Driver's Education

A quote from my son, Wes, after I took him driving last night:

"Dad, it really doesn't help me much when you grab the dash and yell, 'WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!"

Why So Many Marriages Fail


One of the chief reasons so many marriages fail is that the functions of a date and mate differ radically: that of a date is to be charming; that of a mate is to be responsible; and, unfortunately, the most charming individuals are not necessarily the most responsible, while the most responsible are just as often deficient in charm.
-- Sydney Harris (journalist)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Defining Success

How do you define success?”

A good friend asked me that question recently, and I’ve been mulling over it.

Many people define it as MORE:

More money.
More toys
More vacations
More luxuries
More things.

Others define it as BETTER:

Driving a better car.
Living in a better house.
Having better vacations.
Being promoted to a better position.

Still, others define it as ATTRACTION:

Being beautiful
Being intelligent
Being popular
Being acclaimed

Some define it as POWER:

Influence
Authority
Strength
Conquest

But how does the Bible define success?

Read the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. They are considered wisdom literature, written by Solomon, noted as the wisest man who ever lived. How is success defined in the world’s greatest wisdom guides?

1) Trusting God.
2) Being Faithful
3) Seeking Wisdom and Understanding
4) Enjoying your Work
5) Enjoying your Relationships
6) Staying Sweet
7) Doing Good
8) Blessing (Refreshing) Others

In other words, true success goes far deeper than the outward appearance. It is a matter of the heart.

“Commit to the Lord all that you do and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. . .” Ecclesiastes 9:10
“A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others, will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25

Monday, November 02, 2009

Tapped Out: Pastor's Job Can Easily Breed Depression


What kind of personal pain would cause a 42-year-old pastor to abandon his family, his calling and even life itself? Members of a Baptist church are asking that question after their pastor committed suicide in his parked car in September.

Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression. Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to ask for help or even talk about it. Sometimes they leave the ministry. Occasionally the result is the unthinkable.

Experts say clergy suicide is a rare outcome to a common problem. But Baptists in the Carolinas are soul searching after a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by pastors. In addition to the September suicide of David Treadway, two others in North Carolina attempted suicide, and three in South Carolina succeeded, all in the last four years.

Being a pastor -- a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success -- can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors.

Pray Back


A friend from another church sought my advice some time ago about a conflict she had with the pastor. "Do you ever pray together?" I asked.

"Well," she replied, "He has prayed FOR me several times, but no, we have never really prayed together."

Those words haunted me long after the conversation. How many times in my life and ministry have I been guilty of the same thing -- praying FOR people, but not really WITH them.

As a direct result of that encounter, I began conducting a prayer experiment.

Almost always now, whever it comes time to pray with someone, I say, "I'd like to pray for you, but then would you be willing to say a prayer for me?"

I've done this with staff and ministry leaders of course -- but I've also done it with people who have come in for counseling, during nursing home, hospital and shut in visits -- even with folks coming in seeking benevolence assistance.

At first, they look stunned -- then they normally smile, and almost everyone is willing to pray back. (Even the few who say they'd rather not pray out loud, always tell me that they will remember me in their private prayers.)

A few outstanding things have come from this new approach:

1) Empowerment:
The request gives them confidence. It tells them that we are not in a hierachical relationship -- but are on the level. God listens to their prayers too.

2) Tears:
Often, people cry when they're praying aloud for me. It deeply touches their hearts -- and ministers to their souls. (mine too!)

3) Responsibility:
It reminds them that they have a duty to pray for others -- and it is more blessed to give than to receive.

4) Fulfillment:
It brings great joy and more love to their hearts.

5) Faith:
It stretches their faith -- and that's always a good thing.

I recommend that every pastor give the "Pray Back" a try. It's a great way to hit heaven.