Thursday, September 30, 2010

Break The Grey

It's been a real joy having Bill Ballenger and team with us in the Wisconsin northwoods this week. They've been conducting school assemblies all around the area -- and everything is culminating today with the Break the Grey Concert tonight at 7:00 p.m.

The concert is free, and is at Hayward High School.

Local band, Found Broken (Wes Wilson, Luke Wilson and Trevor Young) will open.

If you're local, I hope you can make it!  You'll be glad you did.

LCO Health Fair

It is a real privilege to join the team representing Hayward Wesleyan Church today at the LCO Health Fair.  This is the third year we've been a part of it, and have found it to be a wonderful bridge to the community.

It will be held from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. at the LCO Convention Center.

Hundreds of people participate in this event, and I am amazed at how many of them have a connection of some sort with our church.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do You Know Who I Am?

A few years ago, my friend, the Illinois Wesleyan District Superintendent, Dr. Ray Barnwell and I were scheduled for an early morning flight after a week of teaching together in North Carolina.

Our mutual friend, John Vernon, offered to put us up the night before at a care facility he managed, Wesleyan Arms Nursing Home. “We often have extra room,” he noted, “and would gladly host you for the evening.”

That sounded like splendid idea!

So, Ray and I were dropped, suitcases in hand, at the doorstep of the nursing home.

Ray leaned towards me and whispered, “As soon as we’re settled in, I challenge you to a game of checkers in the day room!”

“You’re on!” I replied, “as long as we can catch some Lawrence Welk before the night is through!”

We entered the lobby, where a kind hearted receptionist glanced up from behind the welcome desk and smiled.

“Can I help you?”

I replied, “John Vernon said we could have a room here tonight.”

“Oh? He did,” she responded, perplexed. “Hmmm. Oh, mercy. I hate to tell you that our last room was taken just this afternoon!”

There was no room in the inn!

Now, here’s where I depart from what actually occurred, and render my own fabricated version of the story, especially when Ray is not around to defend himself.

Ray scowled, stepped forward with his hands on his hips and said, “Now, listen, lady, do you know who I am?”

She just smiled sweetly and said, “No honey, but if you come with me to the nurses’ station, we’ll both find out who you are!”

Now, of course that’s not how it ended. After escaping from the Wesleyan Arms Nursing Home, we just joked around, bummed a ride, ran across a busy highway, and had bar-b-que sandwiches. We didn’t get to play checkers or watch Lawrence Welk, but fortunately found a warm place for the night, and caught our early morning flights.

I relay this goofy little story, to ask you an important question: Do you know who you are?

Do you know that you were created by a God who loves you beyond the depths of imagination and that you were designed to bless others with your presence?

Do you know the truth about how precious and valuable you are?

If not, then, Honey, come with me to Jesus, and we’ll both find out who you are!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

America's Religious IQ Lacking

Take the 10 question quiz on-line Religious IQ Test at CNN.

The accompanying article, "Don't Know Much About Religion?  You're Not Alone." is based on a 32 question poll from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.  The results are striking:

"It's not the evangelicals or Catholics who did best -- it's atheists and agnostics.  It's not Bible belt southerners who score highest -- they came at the bottom.  Those who believe the Bible is literally the Word of God did slightly worse than average. . ."

What's Bottom Line?

The Bottom Line of Pastoral Ministry: Love God and Love all the People.

It's a matter of attitude and action, impacting everything we do, and not merely theoretical.

How is this priority demonstrated in your life?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Found Broken

My sons, Luke (guitar), Wes (bass) and their friend, Trevor (drums) will be the opening act for the Break the Grey concert on Thursday night (7 p.m. at Hayward High School)

They did our call to worship at church yesterday morning -- and woke everybody up!!

Steve Harvey Introduces Jesus

Saturday, September 25, 2010

24 Hour Sermon

Steve Furtick, the young,  passionate pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, preached a 24 hour long sermon, promoting his book, Sun Stand Still.

Either they took the clock off the back of the sanctuary wall, or he was waiting for someone to fall out the window.

Actually, with Steve preaching, it probably felt like only 24 minutes.  I've sat through a few 24 minute sermons that felt like they were 24 hours long.
Ten Tips for a Church Financial Crisis

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Who Makes What?

"Churches don't make disciples.  Disciples make churches." -- Alan Hirsch

Pay Day v.s. Play Day

Everybody has a "pay day" and a "play day".

If you pay now, you can play later --
but if you play now, you will have to pay later - and the price might be higher than you expected. There's no such thing as a free ride. You reap what you sow.

If you do not humble yourself now, you will be humbled later.
If you do not discipline yourself now, you will be disciplined by life later.
If you live on credit now, you'll have to pay compound interest later.
If you are selfish now, you will be isolated and lonely later.
If you are negative now, life will get worse later.
If you are angry now, you will be bitter and ugly later.
If you fail to be kind now, you won't have friends later.
If you are a "people pleaser" now, you will sacrifice your integrity later.
If you don't cherish your family now, you won't have a family later.
If you don't work hard now, you will not succeed later.
If you fail to make healthy choices now, you will feeble and frail later.
If you don't read, learn and grow now, your brain will turn to mush later.
If you tell lies now, you will have to remember everything you said later.

On the other hand . . .
If you are generous now, you will be blessed later.
If you love now, you will receive 100 times the love later.
If you save money now, you will have wealth later.
If you build your faith now, it will hold you up later.
If you pay attention to your wife (husband) now, she (he) will bring tremendous fulfillment to your life later.
If you are positive now, things will get better later.
If you encourage others now, they will help you later.
If you live by faith now, you will never regret it later!

If you treat today right, tomorrow will return the favor.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom!

Happy Birthday to my mother, Elsie Wilson, who turned 88 today! She's still going strong!
I share Abraham Lincoln's sentiment, "Everything I am and hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."

Remember the Big Ten on 10-10-10

A limited number of copies of I Am, a new movie based on the Ten Commandments , is being made available for church showings in the month of October, 2010 (With an emphasis on 10/10/10)

Once, they called it the City of Angels. Over time, it has become the City of Lost Souls. Ten strangers entangle themselves in the spider web that is life in Los Angeles today. Unknowingly, they are living out the Ten Commandments one by one. As they struggle to solve their problems themselves, things only get worse -- their problems multiply, and spill over into the lives of so many others. Yet there is one presence that never leaves. One lone voice of love, reason, and compassion in the midst of lives on fire: the great I AM, God Himself. It's the ultimate love story that changes everything.

We're going to show it at Hayward Wesleyan Church at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 10.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

World's Oldest Man Offers Good Advice

"With all the hatred in this world. . . this good world. . .let us be kind to one another."

A Great Resource for Rural Pastors

Today, my friend, Dann Pageler introduced me to Heartland Ministry Network, an outstanding new resource to help pastors in small communities (associated with Trinity Bible College.)

I was privileged to join them on a conference call with Shannon O'Dell, who I happened to quote on my blog earlier this morning (prompting Dann's e-mail.)

Shannon shared some keen insights on transformational ministry in the rural context. He really inspires me!
Some great thoughts from the conversation:
1. "Churches with less do more!"
2. "The less resources you have, the more you have to plan ahead."
3. "Resist the urge to settle."
4. "The goal of a rural church should be to reach the last, the lost and the least."
5. "Don't let church bullies (who want control without responsibility)
dictate the future direction of the congregation."
6. "Your marriage is a reflection of your walk with God.
7. "If you're weary, get away, pray, refresh your soul, write down your dreams and hopes
for your church, then go home and go for it!"
I'll be posting my review of his outstanding book, Transforming Church in Rural America, in a couple of weeks.

Resist to Urge

"Leadership is resisting the urge to settle." -- Shannon O'Dell

Wow -- I really needed to hear that one. It's so easy to settle into complacency when you have a good situation and long tenure.

I've been reading his outstanding new book, Transforming Church in Rural America, and will be reviewing it here in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Together, They Ride

In honor of today's Chequamagon Fat Tire Festival, I am sharing a poem I wrote a couple of years ago:

Amid cheers of loved ones, out-of-towners, and smatterings of locals
congregated on Main Street's crowded side
The vast Bicycle Armada glides.

Two thousand five hundred, did I hear?
Sailing furiously down Main Street
Into the wooded wilderness.

Two thousand five hundred look-alikes
On fat tired bikes.
But they, themselves seem neither fat nor tired (yet!)

Hunched over handlebars, determined
The helmeted hopefuls fly
In wild-eyed animation.

Wave after wave, the countless waves go by
inspiring awe, and even tears from sidewalk sentimentalists
who with wave and cheer, race on with them -- vicariously.

Two thousand five hundred souls hodgepodged,
Cobbled together from different ilk.
Following the clarion call. . .

From Minnesota and Montana
Texas and Kentucky.
From urban sprawl and hamlet

Together, they ride.

Farmer and Banker
Undertaker and Mechanic
Minister and Bartender

Together, they ride.

Republican and Democrat
Believer and Skeptic
Liberal and Conservative

Together, they ride

Management and Labor
Judge and Lawbreaker
Teenager and Elder

Together, they ride

Male and Female
Minority and Majority
Builder and Boomer and Buster

Together, they ride -- side by side.

So very different, but on this September day
So very much alike.

On Main Street, in a small Wisconsin town
A Bike Race brings the difference down.
Sailing, they cast it all aside -- and together, they ride!

All hearts united.
All minds directed
To the common end
A common friend -- the finish line.


We’re all fundamentalists, but the issue is what our fundamental is. The Christian fundamental is a Man dying on a cross for his enemies. There’s the truth.

-- Scot McKnight

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rehearsing is for Cowards (a Seth Godin post)

Bouncing Like Tigger

"I'm Tigger!" little Suzie shouted as she jumped up and down in the back seat of the car. Her frazzled mother repeatedly asked her to stop bouncing. "Be a nice little Tigger and sit down."

"Precious, Mommy wants you to stop being so active right now. Be a good girl and buckle up!"

“Sweetheart, this is getting on Mommy's nerves!"

Finally, realizing that her requests had fallen on deaf ears, Mother pulled to the curb and screeched to a halt. "This is IT!" she shouted, "I've had ENOUGH! If you don't sit down and start behaving this minute, you are going to regret it, young lady!" Instantly, the little girl stopped bouncing and settled down.

"That's much better." Said Mother.

As the car pulled from the curb, Susie muttered under her breath, "I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm bouncing like Tigger on the inside!"

As a minister, I have witnessed the tragic results of destructive choices and bad habits. Over the years, I've preached plenty of "behavioral" sermons on a wide variety of topics such as stealing, dishonesty, adultery, addictions, unforgiveness, gossip, greed, grumbling and the like.

Yet, although most folks would agree that these vices should be eliminated from their lives, I've discovered that few actually rise up and gain victory over them. There's a vicious pattern of struggle and failure.

Try to behave - fail - feel bad - determine to do better.
Try to behave - fail - feel bad - determine to do better.
Try to behave - fail - feel bad - determine to do better.

Many people think that if they continue this cycle long enough, sooner or later, they'll be able to live right. There's a big problem with this viewpoint - As long as you're stuck in the mud, you won't go anywhere by pushing the gas pedal to the floor - You'll just spin your wheels and throw mud!

The bottom line issue? Even when we're trying to "sit down" on the outside, we're still "standing up" on the inside. There's something "Tiggerish" that rises up within us and knocks us off course.
The answer? If you want to get out of the rut and experience genuine life change, you need to change from the inside out. . . Only God can do that!

"His power can make you what you ought to be. His blood can cleanse your heart and set you free. His love will fill your soul and you will see, twas best for him to have his way with thee."

When we figure out the "becoming", the "behaving" will flow naturally.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Old Shoe Friends

Some people bring relief when they arrive. Others bring relief when they go!

I like to call the former, “old shoe friends.” When you have an old pair of shoes that are really comfortable, they just go along with you naturally. They’re not squeaky and they don’t pinch your toes with every step. They’re not two sizes too small. In other words, they possess a welcoming, broadness of spirit. After all, as Benjamin Disraeili said, “Life is too short to be little.”

Old shoe friends accept you for who you are, and believe in you. You can turn to them for advice, knowing that they have your best interest in mind, and that you are not their project for “fixing.”

You don’t have to wonder where you stand with these friends. You know they love you, regardless of what happens.

This is not to say that old shoe friends won’t confront you if they see you making a mistake that is hurtful to yourself or others. A true friend will tell the truth, even when it hurts. “Wounds from a friend are better than kisses from an enemy.”

Old shoe friends bring comfort to the weary soul. They understand between the lines, and stand beside you in the darkest times.

A prisoner in New York once remarked, “Friends are those who step in when all the rest of the world steps out.”

Stepping in is what friends are for. “Greater love has no man than this,” Jesus said, “that he lays down his life for his friends.”

Old shoe friends bring courage to the fearful heart. Loneliness, like fatigue, makes cowards of us all. We were not created to face life’s trials alone. This is true from the beginning, and is why the Creator said, “It is not good for man to be alone” and then created a partner for Adam. We need companions for life’s journey – friends who will walk the distance with us.

A true friend living out 1 Corinthians 13, “Always protects. Always trusts, Always hopes and Always perseveres.”

Of course, you and your old shoe friends will have some frustrations along the way. When you know each other well, you have to live with each others’ weaknesses. However, true friendship doesn’t let the frustration stand in the way of compassion. We might disagree, but we can learn to disagree agreeably!

Old shoe friendships are forged over time. They survive the disappointments and distances. They find a way to put “charity into the clarity, and clarity into the charity.”

When communicating, there are always two things being communicated:

1) The information you want me to know

2) Whether or not you care about me

The second is by far the most important communication. I believe that couples struggling with communication get hung up on the first one (information) and fail on the second (compassion.) Good communication is not about relating information as it is making a connection.

As author, John Maxwell recently said, “Everybody communicates, but few connect!”

I appreciate these words from poet, Maya Angelou, “I may forget what you said. I may forget what you did. But I will never forget how you made me feel..”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cliff Falls

"It's one thing to believe in something when you don't need it to be true. It's another when everything is riding on it."

I just finished a fabulous novel, Cliff Falls, by C. B. Shiepe.

This page turner revolves around exploited child television star, Clay Grant, who disappears on his eighteenth birthday after an arson fire destroys the Hollywood studio backlot, and spends the next fifteen years on the run, hounded by the media. He goes from place to place trying to fit in, until he is discovered again.

He eventually lands in jail, after a fight with an aggressive, determined photographer, and brought up on charges of tax evasion.

A kind minister who knew him during his television days, comes to the rescue, bailing him out of his plight, and offering a new start in the small town of Cliff Falls.

The plot thickens after his arrival, however, as the pastor's own family members are forced to face their own need to drop the mask and be real.

Cliff Falls draws the reader to significant personal reflection through several thought provoking moments It's particularly good read for those who feel trapped by the expectations of others or obligated to fulfill a role.

(book provided for review by Ooze Viral Bloggers)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Those Heretics

"There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only shewing a becoming zeal in the cause of God."
-- John Newton

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Small Church Causing Big Problems

I think my blogger friend, Chuck Warnock, hit the nail on the head with this piece regarding Pastor Terry Jones and his ridiculous grab for attention.

Jones embodies the very fundamentalism he seeks to destroy.

To Be a Serious Writer

To be a serious writer requires discipline that is iron fisted. It’s sitting down and doing it whether you think you have it in you or not. Everyday. Alone. Without interruption. Contrary to what most people think, there is no glamour to writing. In fact, it’s heartbreak most of the time.
-- Harper Lee

This is true about being a serious pastor too, except in the pastoral work, it's not alone and with plenty of interruption.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Optimism Beats Pessimism

I once heard my friend, John Maxwell, say, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” How true that is!!

When you boil it down, just about everything in life is related to attitude.

Did you know that a poor attitude is the number one reason why people are dismissed from their jobs? Do you realize that attitude is the primary difference between mediocre football teams and Super Bowl contenders? Do you understand that your success in marriage, work, and living depends largely on your attitude?

Quality of life is not measured by what happens to you - but by how you respond. As Helen Workman said, "It's not what you have to meet, it's how you meet what you have."

A doom -and -gloom pessimist will find problems in every possibility. An optimist will see the opportunities in every obstacle.

A set-back is a dead end to a pessimist. For an optimist it is only a detour.

A pessimist longs for the "good old days", while the optimist believes that the best is yet to come.

Pessimism drains energy and shrivels the soul. Optimism, on the other hand, brings refreshing hope and enthusiasm.

Pessimists criticize and complain about people. Optimists use their words to encourage and inspire.

The pessimist declares, "The sky is falling!" The optimist says, "The sky's the limit!"

In the words of an anonymous bard:

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you like to win, but think you can't It's almost certain you won't.
Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man; But soon or late the man who wins is the one who thinks he can!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Seeds of Turmoil

Bryant Wright provides an excellent ariel view of Islam and the biblical roots of the Middle East crisis in Seeds of Turmoil.

I've read several books of this nature, and have found most of them to be interesting but cumbersome. Wright's book (provided for review by Booksneeze) was a surprisingly easy read.

For those versed both in Scripture and contemporary affairs, the book is a bit elementary. Readers looking for an introductory biblical perspective on the Middle East crisis, however, will find it a good option.

Purchase here

Git 'er Done!

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Millions of people have great 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 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 – 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:

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Endorphins, Adrenaline and Worship Music

I heard an interesting radio program on PBS the other day regarding the neuro-science of music. Researchers discovered that when you hear music you enjoy, your brain releases endorphins, causing you to feel good, and have a overall sense of well-being.

If, on the other hand, you hear music you don't like, your brain releases adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone.

This might explain a lot of the conflict that happens in churches over music. It's merely a matter of endorphins vs adrenaline!

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Art of a Good Marriage

During last Saturday's wedding, I was asked to shares Wilferd Arlan Peterson's inspiring tribute to matrimony: The Art of a Good Marriage

A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the "little" things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say, "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values, and common objectives.
It is standing together and facing the world.
It is forming a circle that gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation, and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right person -- it is being the right partner."

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Everyday Holy Moments

In searching for God, many people tend to look for the miraculous and supernatural. Instead, we should be attending to the ordinary,
-- Philip Yancy

My note: This is true in marriage and family life as well. It's the day to day interactions of thoughtfulness that count

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Something They'll Never Forget

"People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But, people will never forget how you made them feel."

The Best Gift Ever

"The best gift I can give to the people in my life is to find a way to live with deep contentment, confidence, and joy in my daily experience of life with God."

John Ortberg

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Letting Go

The quest to control circumstances and other people always leads unhappiness. We cannot control others, but we can control ourselves. We cannot control outcomes, but we can control our responses. Let go is to let God.

Recently, a friend shared this beautiful piece, penned by an anonymous author. I think it sums up the idea beautifully:

To let go does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off,
it's the realization I can't control another.

To let go is not to enable,
but allow learning from natural consequences.

To let go is to admit powerlessness,

which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to try to change or blame another,
it's to make the most of myself.

To let go is not to care for,
but to care about.

To let go is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to be in the middle arranging all the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their destinies.

To let go is not to be protective,
it's to permit another to face reality.

To let go is not to deny,
but to accept.

To let go is not to nag, scold or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.

To let go is not to adjust everything to my desires,
but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody,
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.