Tuesday, November 30, 2010

March to the Manger

A Note to Hayward Wesleyan Church Family:
On December 19, we're going to hold our second annual March to the Manger at Hayward Wesleyan Church.

We will have a living nativity with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men bearing gifts -- and then the whole church family will join the story by bringing our gifts to Jesus.

Every man, woman, boy and girl is encouraged to participate!

What is your Christmas gift to Jesus? A spiritual commitment? An act of loving service? Canned food for the needy? A financial gift? A letter expressing your heart? Something you made with your hands?

Wrap it up, and bring it to church on Sunday, December 19 8:20, 9:40 or 11:00 a.m.

Hallelujah Chorus @ a Mall Food Court

Jeremy Mavis

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Build a Retaining Wall

To retain the grace of God is much more than to gain it; scarcely one in three does this, and this should be strongly urged on all who have tasted of Perfect Love.

-- John Wesley

Monday, November 22, 2010

Which Did God Believe?

A little girl listened intently as her father asked the blessing as usual for the morning meal. He thanked the Lord for the things God had so bountifully provided. Immediately after praying, however, he began to complain. He grumbled about the hard times. He griped about the quality of the food. He criticized the way it had been cooked.

Finally, the little girl interrupted him. “Daddy, do you suppose God heard what you said a little while ago when you prayed such a nice prayer?”

“Certainly.” Her father lifted his chin with the confident air of one who possesses superior knowledge.

“Do you think he also heard what you said about the bacon and the coffee?”

He stopped chewing and paused, with fork in mid-air between his plate and his mouth. He stared at his daughter as if trying to read her mind. He dropped his gaze and cleared his throat. “Yes, of course, he did.”

“Then, Daddy, which did God believe?”

(HT Ron McClung)

Friday, November 19, 2010

On This Day in Christian History

Recently, I found a preacher's gold mine --  Robert J. Morgan's On This Day in Christian History.

It's a compilation of inspiring faith stories from Christian history presented as daily devotionals.

When I teach Church History courses, I always launch the first session with "Without the 'story', history is just 'hiss.'  In high school and college, teachers often missed the point, taking us from "hiss" to "hiss" without engaging in the story.

On This Day in Christian History is a collection of stories with no "hiss'!

Drawing from multiple wells (Catholic, Evangelical, Holiness, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Missionaries, Monastaries and Seminaries) Morgan presents biographical sketches of saints and spiritual heroes who stand as models of sacrifice, love, courage, faith and Christian character.

Several of his tales made me want to dig deeper, to learn more (a great source for that is Google Books)

It's an outstanding guide for history buffs like me, and a great resource for sermon illustrations.

Marriage Obsolete?

News reports this week told of a recent poll indicated that a growing percentage of Americans (39%) believe the institution of marriage is obsolete.

Hold your horses!  A deeper look reveals another picture, as reported by the Christian Post.

I'm reminded of Mark Twain's comment, "Reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated."

Building a Marriage that Lasts

A report from the Family Research Institute on the State of Marriage in Wisconsin reported that 70% of people believe that the institution of marriage is weaker than it was 20 years ago. Statistics prove the case. In the 1930's, 1 out of 7 marriages ended in divorce. In the 1960's it was 1 out of 4. This year, it is predicted that at least half of the marriages will not survive. Each year, more than 200,000 new marriages end prior to the second anniversary. Around half of recently married couples expressed doubts as to whether their marriage union will last. 49% of these reported serious marriage problems.

What can be done to stem the tide and turn marriage back around? How can we build marriages that last?

The first step to building stronger marriages is to start the relationship on the right foot.

Most ministers in our community require extensive pre-marital counseling. Although some couples seem to view this as an annoyance -- it is vital to building a positive foundation for the marriage. There are many excellent resources and tests which measure compatibility and the potential difficulties the couple may encounter. It's best to know these things ahead of time.

Many helpful books have been written for engaged couples such as Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les Parrott and Preparing for Marriage by Dennis Rainey. These texts help couples dig deep relationally, and address such areas as conflict resolution, money, sexual issues, and communication.

Starting on the right foot does not include living together before you're married. Contrary to what some may think, cohabitation sharply increases the odds of divorce. We were created to be married first -- and then to live together. Not the other way around. When people get the cart before the horse, it causes trouble in the relationship.

Secondly, couples must keep a realistic view of the relationship.

Marriage is the imperfect union of two imperfect people relating imperfectly. No wonder so many people have struggles in marriage!

Sometimes, people are disappointed when life together does not resemble a Hollywood romance. Marriages might be made in heaven, but they have to be worked out here on earth!

The vows, "for better and for worse" were put in there on purpose. The commitment of marriage has to be big enough to include the "worse". If it doesn't, the relationship quickly falls disintegrates.

Love, according to Bible, bears all things. This includes annoyances, conflicts and pet peeves.

Nobody has a perfect marriage -- but a really good marriage is within the reach of every couple that makes the commitment and pays the price.

Thirdly, Intimacy is built through meeting your partner's emotional needs.

Willard Harley's excellent book, His Needs, Her Needs points out the importance of making deposits in your spouse's "love tank." This is the way to keep the sense of closeness. His web site, Marriage Builders, is very helpful for couples desiring to build a deeper relationship.

Selfishness is the number one enemy of marriage intimacy. It's hard to be close when you're being selfish. Instead of asking, "When will my partner meet my needs?" you should be asking, "How can I serve and encourage my partner?"

Every husband want to be respected. Every wife want to be cherished.

Fourth, Keep your eyes on the long haul.

A really good marriage is based on lifetime commitment. Here are the A.B.C.'s of a marriage that goes the distance:

A -- Anchor Your Marriage Relationship in God.

A Harvard Study revealed that couples who 1) read the Bible together 2) Pray together and 3) Attend Church together regularly have a divorce rate of 1 in 1287! That's less than 1/10 of 1%! There is no better way to divorce proof your marriage!

B -- Be Attentive, Honest, Caring and Open.

C -- Commit Yourself for Life. Together forever!

D -- Don't Go to Bed Angry.

E-- Examine Your Heart and Express Your Love Daily

If you say "I love you" every day for 50 years -- that's 18,250 "I love you's!" and each one draws you closer together.

F -- Forgive

"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage," said Ben Franklin, "and half shut afterwards."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

77 Hours a Week

My good friend and co-laborer, Jeremy Mavis, recently shared a profound insight on the importance of investing time in our children.  A real eye opener.  Read his post here.

Stress Busters

Just in case you're in the "pressure cooker", here are a few stress busters. Take one or two as needed.
1) You can accomplish big things only when you can say "no" to little things.
2) When you've done all you can -- let it go.
3) Not much is worth worrying about. Worry selectively.
4) It’s not what you do, but what doesn’t get done that drains you.
5) An ounce of action is worth a ton of worry.
6) Most of the things we worry about never come true.
7) Live on purpose! Set priorities and use them to chart your course.
8) God is bigger than any problem you have.
9) It's not the big job, but the little worries that drain our energy.
10) Refuse to allow fear to direct your life.
11) Relax. Don't sweat the small stuff.
12) Problems will come. You can't avoid them. The real you "shows through" when the pressure is on.
13) Life goes on.
14) Look for the joyful surprises -- the postcards from heaven -- in every day. They are there, but you must search for them.
15) Few things are worth fighting over. Keep the peace whenever possible.
16) Take a deep breath and realize how fortunate you are to be alive.
17) Stop putting it off until tomorrow. Do it today.
18) Lend a helping hand to others and you will end up helping yourself.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Myanmar Christian Fellowship Anniversary

Congratulations to Myanmar Christian Fellowship of Milwaukee, who celebrated their one year anniversay last Sunday!

In August of 2009, by divine appointment, I gave Dr. Thuam Khai a ride from Indiana to O'Hare Airport in Chicago.  Journeying together, he shared his vision of organizing a small group of Burmese refugees in Milwaukee into a Wesleyan Church.

Returning home, I contacted our District Superintendent, Dan Bickel, who  immediately followed through and helped launch the work under the fine leadership of Dr. Khai and Rev. Richard Concklin (who doesn't know the Burmese language, but certainly loves the people, and makes his point through an interpreter.)

I was honored to visit the Burmese Bible College in Syracuse, New York last spring, and to share a meal with the dear brothers and sisters who "mothered" our Burmese work in Wisconsin.  It's truly extraordinary and apostolic.

A Nazarene Wesleyan Call for Immigration Reform

My friend, Dr. Norman Wilson, recently informed me of an open letter to President Obama from Nazarene and Wesleyan leaders regarding the pressing need for comprehensive immigration reform.  The list of signatories and information on how to add your name to this document can be obtained at Norman's blog, Evangelicals and Illegal Immigrants. 

An Open Letter To President Obama, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate:

As denominational leaders, pastors of churches, and lay leaders in the Nazarene and Wesleyan denominations, we express to you our deep concern over the broken immigration system facing our nation. Because of Congress’s failure to pass immigration reform in the last several years, we have seen this debate spill over into states in ways that may divide our communities, confuse enforcement procedures and contribute to the hateful rhetoric, which is currently dominating the national dialogue.

The United States is home to immigrants of all backgrounds – Hispanic, European, Haitian, African, Asian, and so many others. When immigrant families are afraid to send their children to school, go to the grocery store, talk to the police during an emergency or even answer a knock at the door, regardless of the nature of their immigration status, we must speak up. A divided, polarized, and frightened community works in complete contrast to the message of Christ’s love and reconciliation we strive to communicate in our world. It is time to re-engage the immigration reform debate in a civil and respectful manner. Solutions should be sought that integrate both rule of law and love of the immigrant.

As Evangelical leaders in the tradition of John Wesley serving a diverse spectrum of churches around the country we are united in the belief that every human being is created in the image of God. We come together in the belief that Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and also to welcome the stranger, regardless of immigration status. We too want immigration reform that respects the rule of law while providing a path to citizenship to those who want to integrate into the larger U.S. mosaic.

Consistent with our Wesleyan heritage and commitments to minister, love, and work with all people and in particular those whom Jesus called “the least of these” we support comprehensive immigration reform. We urge our policymakers to work constructively to address the challenges and complexities of immigration. We understand that we must enforce our borders and respect the rule of law in this country. Similarly, we must also look with compassion upon the immigrants who are here, working in all walks of life and contributing to the common good. A deep respect for the laws of the land calls for obedience, but also for the evaluation of the effectiveness and humanity of our laws. We assert that comprehensive immigration reform can do both.

As Evangelical Americans, in a country as diverse as ours, we should proudly embody our history and values as a welcoming nation. We pray that our politicians come together to craft fair and humane immigration reform as soon as possible, because a crisis of immigration policy that results in divided communities and families is also a crisis of the church. We are joining a Nazarene and Wesleyans for immigration reform campaign as a sign of our commitment to common-sense immigration reform that reflects our deepest and noblest faith values of respect for the law and love of neighbor.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thankful in the Cold

Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began every prayer with praise. One brutally cold Sunday, his people filed into the church, wondering what the preacher could possibly find to praise God for on such a miserable day. Alexander Whyte stood, bowed his head and prayed,

"O Lord, we thank Thee that it is not always like this."

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Blessing for Deer Hunters

May the Lord God make you an honorable hunter who respects his fellow hunters, the animals, the land, and all creation.

May He keep you safe, and all who share the forest and field.

May He make all hunters proud of their kill, gracious with their meat, and thankful in all circumstances.

May God bless you: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Amen  (adapted from Blessing of the Hunters by Fr. Mitch Pacwa)

A Prayer from Oswald of Northumbria

All that I am, Lord,
I place into your hands.

All that I do, Lord,
I place into your hands.

Everything I work for
I place into your hands.

Everything I hope for
I place into your hands.

The troubles that weary me
I place into your hands.

The thoughts that disturb me
I place into your hands.

Each that I pray for
I place into your hands.

Each that I care for
I place into your hands. . .

Keep me close to you, Lord.

Keep me close to you.
I lift my hands to you, Lord,
I lift them up to you.

Hands, Lord, Your gift to us,
We stretch them up to You.
Always You hold us.

Help me to find my happiness
in my acceptance of what is Your will for me
in friendly eyes, in work well done,

in quietness born of trust, and most of all,
in the awareness of Your presence in my spirit.

-- Oswald of Northumbria (605-642)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

One Thirsty Person to Another

One Thirsty Person to Another is an outstanding blog, from my friend, Greg Teegarden.  As the director of the Wesleyan Church Archives,  Greg been tremendously helpful in my historical quests!

Stop by and pay him a visit!

Prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life,
give me not a spirit of sloth, of despondency, of lost or of vain talking;
but bestow on me, thy servant, a spirit of chastity, of humility, of patience and love.

You, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother,
for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Computer Break

Immediately after church on Sunday, I'm flying to South Carolina teaching FLAME (Ministerial Preparation) Courses in South Carolina, and will take a break from blogging , e-mails, facebook, etc. until my return.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Trouble Gets Around

"A person never knows how trouble gets around the way it does, but it manages to keep most people occupied."
- R. Wiebe

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Franciscan Benediction

I shared the following benediction last Sunday, which was given to me by my friend, Dana Jalovick:

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of God's creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children
And all our neighbors who are poor.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Your Secret Name

Kary Oberbrunner has written a new book called Your Secret Name.  (I discovered this via an interview with Ed Stetzer.)

You have three names, Oberbrunner asserts:
1.  Birth Name -- The name assigned to you when you arrived in this world.
2.  Given Name --  The names you inherit while walking in this world.
3.  Secret Name -- The name granted to you by the one who made you.

Now, ready for a treasure?   Here's a powerful little test on the Secret Name website, which gives clarity to the names you've inherited -- and what God's secret name for you might be.  Awesome stuff!!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Simple Trust

Be still my soul! The Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul! Thy best. thy heavenly friend
Thro' thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

(Romans 8:28 -- ALL means ALL)


Monday, November 01, 2010

Obituary for Someone Else

A few years ago, Pastor Alan Newton wrote this tongue in cheek obituary for one of the most valuable members of his congregation, “Someone Else.” This is appropriately fitting, not only for churches, but also communities, schools, businesses, civic organizations and families:

Dear Friends,
I know all of you were saddened to learn this week of the death of one our church’s most valuable members – Someone Else. Someone’s passing created a vacancy that will be difficult to fill. Else has been with us for many years, and for every one of those years Someone did far more than the normal person’s share of the work.

Whenever leadership was mentioned, this wonderful person was looked to for inspiration as well as results. Someone Else can work with that group. Whenever there was a job to do, a class to teach, or a meeting to attend, one name was on everyone’s lips, “Let Someone Else do it.”

It was common knowledge that Someone Else was among the largest contributors to the church. Whenever there was a financial need, everyone just assumed that Someone Else would make up the difference.

Someone Else was a wonderful person, sometimes appearing super-human, but a person can only do so much. Were the truth known, everyone expected too much of Someone Else. Now Someone Else is gone. We wonder what we are going to do.

Someone Else left a wonderful example to follow, but who is going to follow it? Who is going to do the things that Someone Else did? Who is going to respond to the call to serve and help? Remember, we can’t depend on Someone Else anymore.