Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year Reflection

Here we stand at the threshold of the New Year. 2010 will soon be passed and packed away, living only in the attic of memories.

Looking ahead to 2011, I can guarantee one thing: a lot of living will go into it.

How will it turn out? Only God knows. This chapter may be drama. Perhaps it will be romance. Action adventure. Comedy. Tragedy. Mystery.

Next December, upon reflection, you will be able to describe the events of 2011 – but not now. The best you can do is throw your shoulders back, trust God, and march right in.

You see, although you don’t know anything about the upcoming months, God does – and He will be with you as you travel from mountain top to valley.

Nobody knows what tomorrow holds, but we do know WHO holds tomorrow.

Sometimes, in lonely moments, it feels as if we are alone, but God has promised never to leave you or forsake you – even in the darkest hours.

An anonymous writer captured this idea with these inspiring words:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied, “Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God.

That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Transition from one year to the next calls us to:

1. Sober Reflection.
2. Sane Calculation.
3. Serious Resolution.

Then, don’t let yourself. . .

Fret – when you’re doing the best you can.
Rush – when success depends on accuracy.
Assume – evil of someone unless you have the facts.
Judge – another person’s motives.
Belittle – others with your actions and words.
Quit – in the face of difficulty
Allow -- bitterness and resentment to remain in your heart.
Make -- excuses for not doing what should be done.
Waste – time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Top Ten Reads of 2010

1.  Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

2.  The Ultimate Blessing by JoAnne Lyon

3.  Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

4.  After You Believe by N. T. Wright

5.  Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

6.  Crazy Love by Francis Chan

7.  A Brief Guide for Writers by Keith Drury

8.  Strengthsfinder by Tom Rath

9.  Population 485 by Michael Perry

10.  Tozer on Leadership by A. W. Tozer and Ronald E. Eggert

Next Ten: Honorable Mention:

The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey
* Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
* Breaking All the Rurals by Shannon O'Dell
* Sun Stand Still by Steve Furtick
* The Enduement of Power by Oswald J. Smith
* Ageless Faith by Keith and David Drury
* Chazown by Craig Groeschel
* The Book of the Shepherd by JoAnn Davis

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who's Tooth Could it Be?

Bossing God Around

A nine year old boy was given a full grown St. Bernard for Christmas. Viewing his present with extreme delight and wonder, he exclaimed, “Wow!!! That’s great!!! But is he mine – or am I his?”

Now, that’s a great question for every Christian: Is Jesus mine – or am I His?

The answer ought to be “Yes!”

It is certainly a wonderful fact that Christ is a friend like no other. He meets our needs. He satisfies our deepest longings. He is a present help in the hour of trouble. He is the one who steps in when the rest of the world steps out.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! He is my Savior, my Deliverer, my Joy, and my Strength!

We must never forget, however, who we are and who God is. We don’t “own” Him.

George Barna, conducting recent research of American evangelical churches concluded that there is a deep-rooted self centeredness at the core of our religious expressions. A “consumer mind set” prevails across the board – “I’m involved with church for what I get out of it.” What’s in it for me? No wonder religion seems so empty.

I’ve had well meaning friends tell me how they boss God around when they pray: “God, I need this and that. You really have to come through for me here. I’m counting on you and you had better not let me down!”

There’s something wrong with this picture.

We need God – but He doesn’t need us.
He is willing to help and strengthen us – but we don’t have the right to give him orders.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Look Like God?

Out of the Mouths of Babes!  Check out Jeremy Mavis' account of a cute and humorous interchange with his daughter, Sari:  HERE


It would probably be safe to say that more than half of the evil in the world is due to well-meaning busybodies who just cannot refrain from interfering.  Needless to say, such people never have harmony or success in their own lives, for it is an invariable rule that he who minds his neighbors business, neglects his own.
-- Emmet Fox 

(Note, though several of Fox's quirky ideas are off base, this one rings true.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

John Wesley's Covenant Service

Each year, John Wesley - the founder of Methodism - would begin the New Year with a "Covenant Service." (We follow this same tradition at Hayward Wesleyan Church, by incorporating Wesley's Covenant into the worship service on the first Sunday of each New Year.)

The heart of the service, focused in the Covenant Prayer, requires persons to commit themselves anew to God.

Scriptures read at this service included Deuteronomy 31: 9-13, Jeremiah 31: 31-34, Psalm 50, and John 15: 1-8.

The Prayer of Invitation from this service follows:

Commit yourselves to Christ as his servants. Give yourselves to him, that you may belong to him.

Christ has many services to be done. Some are more easy and honorable, others are more difficult and disgraceful. Some are suitable to our inclinations and interests, others are contrary to both.

In some we may please Christ and please ourselves. But then there are other works where we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

It is necessary, therefore, that we consider what it means to be a servant of Christ. Let us, therefore, go to Christ, and pray:
Let me be your servant, under your command. I will no longer be my own. I will give up myself to your will in all things.

Lord, make me what you will. I put myself fully into your hands:

put me to doing, put me to suffering,
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and with a willing heart
give it all to your pleasure and disposal.

I do here covenant with you, O Christ,
to take my lot with you as it may fall.

Through your grace I promise
that neither life nor death shall part me from you.

I make this covenant with you, O God,
without guile or reservation.

If any falsehood should be in it, guide me
and help me to set it aright.

Mighty God,
let this covenant I have made on earth
be ratified in heaven

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

John Wesley, circa 1780

Friday, December 24, 2010

An Ugly Old Stump

Just an ugly old stump -- that's all it was -- and old stumps carry no hopes or dreams.

Only maps and memory rings

of thirsty days, hard toil, and weary longings
embedded to the core.

Just an ugly old stump -- a dwarfed reminder -- of what once was. . . and all that might have been.

If only.
If only.

But old stumps carry no hopes or dreams --

Only scarred rememberings. . .

of lightening strikes and howling wind,
of squirrels and hammer heads,
of children's summer climbings,

All these now faded away

To just an ugly old stump -- useless for humans, but to
to sit
to rest
to think

And hurried humans hardly take the time to do such things.

Just an ugly old stump -- that's all it was -- and old stumps carry no hopes or dreams.

Or do they?

Look again. Could it be? A tiny sprout of green?

What could this possibly mean?

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse" Isa. 11:1

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast. . ." Alexander Pope

"The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus from Quinhagak, Alaska!

Received this amazing video from our dear friend, Rachel Skime, who teaches in the remote fishing village, Quinhagak, Alaska!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Farewell Henry Covington

Pastor Henry Covington, who was featured in Mitch Albom's delightful little book, Have a Little Faith, passed away yesterday.  He was 53 years old.  Please pray for his wife, Annette, and their four children.

Pastor Covington led Pilgrim Church/I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries in Detroit.

Remembering Our Iraqi Brothers and Sisters

Al Qaida in Iraq Threatens Attacks Against Country's Christians

As Christmas approaches, please pause to remember our suffering brothers and sisters in Iraq -- whose lives are in jepordy because of their faith.

I am reminded of the carol, "I Head the Bells on Christmas Day"

And in despair I bowed my head,
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
"God is not dead nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.

Remember Why We Celebrate Christmas

In the midst of the hectic shopping season, a frustrated gentleman was overheard remarking, "They ought to kill the guy who's responsible for this!"

To this, another shopper quietly replied, "They did."

The significance of Christmas does not lie in a cradle, but in a cross.

The angels proclaimed his birth saying, "Unto you is born this day, a Savior. . ." He came to save us!

If the world had just needed a better education, God would have sent a teacher.

If the world had only needed some encouragement, God would have sent a motivational speaker.

If the world merely needed emotional stabilization, God would have sent a psychotherapist.

If the world needed a better social order, God would have sent a politician, or perhaps, a general.

But God sent Jesus to this earth as a lowly little baby -- to be our Savior. He came to save us -- from our sins, our situations and ourselves.

Forgiveness is the greatest need of the human soul, and Jesus Christ entered our world to bring it.

My nephew, Rodney, lived in South Korea for a while. He was astonished to discover the South Koreans don't celebrate Christmas the way we do. There are hardly any decorations. People don't put up Christmas trees, and Christmas songs are not played on the airwaves. His English class sat in rapt attention when he described all the things Americans do during the holiday season. Then he asked, "What do you do for Christmas?" They all replied with the same answer, "We go to church."

Although I love the Christmas enthusiasm around here, I can't help but wonder if the Koreans have figured out something that we're missing.

Christmas started in the heart of God and concludes in the hearts of His people.

We need to remember the deeper meaning of the season and keep Christ in Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Digital Story of the Nativity

Techology Show

Dr. JoAnne Lyon will be the special guest on the Techology Show tomorrow (Wednesday, Dec 22) morning 8:00 a.m. Central (9:00 a.m. Eastern) It's a fabulous program. I hope you can catch it if you get a chance:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Better Than 3-D

Innovative Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, is offering Christmas services in 3-D this year.

But, here in Hayward, we're offering something even better than that:  Live!

Jesus Manifesto

As a senior pastor, I read a lot, and have tons of books in my library. Books to a pastor are like hammers to a carpenter: valuable tools.

I appreciate most of what I read, and normally glean a tidbit or two from each.

Rarely, however, does a book capture my heart in such a way that it recalibrates how I do ministry.

Jesus Manifesto, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola is such a book. It so it is no small thing when I say that it ranks among the five best books I've ever read, and I believe every pastor needs to hear this message.

Clearly, simply, yet profoundly, they capture the essence of what life and ministry should be about: Jesus alone.

How quickly we fall away and focus on lesser things, when only ONE thing is needful. This book brings us back to our first love.

I was so deeply moved by Jesus Manifesto, I purchased a copy for my entire pastoral staff, and was inspired to launch a year-long sermon focus in 2011 on Jesus.

Thank you, Leonard and Frank, for sounding this clarion call. We desperately need it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Two Tensions a Leader Must Manage

Holiness and Soap

Holiness, like soap, doesn’t do much good until applied! You can keep it in a box, philosophize about it, and debate its merits at length, without ever getting around to using it.

Soul cleansing is like taking a shower. If you skip a day, you’ll be the only one to notice. If you skip a week, your family will notice. If you skip a month, everybody will notice!

Using soap is, indeed, much better than merely discussing it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Truth of the Matter

The Truth of the Matterby Andrew Klavan, is a great action-packed adventure geared to young men (and since I loved the book, I'd like to pretend I qualify.)

In a clandestine mission to thwart a terrorist plot, Charlie West, age 18, escapes from prison after being falsely arrested for a murder he didn't commit.  The events of an entire year has been wiped from Charlie's memory, and this story captures his desperate quest to understand what happened.  Not only is Charlie on the run from the law, but also a brutal terrorist group, The Homelanders, who intend to assassinate him.

Throughout the fast-paced tale, there are several profound insights on life and faith shared by our hero, who is wise far beyond his years (It helps to have the author on his side!)

The Truth of the Matter, the third book in the Homelanders Series, is sort of a blend of Jason Bourne, the Hardy Boys, and Danny Orlis (the Christian young adult sleuth from the 60's.)

I've passed along to my son, Luke and Wes, who are eager to read it too.  Purchase Here.

(A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me via Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Pulpit and Prayer

The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. The pride of learning is against the dependent humility of prayer.

Prayer is with the pulpit too often only official—a performance for the routine of service. Prayer is not to the modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul’s life or Paul’s ministry.

Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God's cause in this world.

--  E. M. Bounds,  Preacher and Prayer

Glory to God

Fabulous song! I want to sing this soon in church!

Monday, December 13, 2010

March to the Manger

On Sunday, December 19, Hayward Wesleyan Church will,again, clebrate Christmas with a special event called March to the Manger, at their three worship services, 8:20, 9:40 and 11:00 a.m.

Here's what happened during last year's March to the Manger, according to Senior Pastor, Mark O. Wilson.

In the weeks proceeding Christmas Sunday, we encouraged the congregation to prayerfully consider what they would offer Jesus for His birthday. We asked every man, woman, teenager and child to plan ahead and give careful thought to this request. We asked the people to bring their gifts wrapped up (or in a special envelope provided) to the worship service, where they would present them to Christ.

Of course, a financial offering is always appropriate, but we asked the church to reflect much deeper than that. What does it mean to offer YOURSELF to Christ? What new commitment do you need to make? Is there a promise you need to keep? Is there something you need to quit or start? What is the prayer of your heart?

When Christmas Sunday arrived, there was special electricity in the air. The congregation flowed enthusiastically into the church, bearing their special gifts for Jesus.

At the conclusion of the service, we presented a living nativity. Mary and Joseph entered as we sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Baby Jesus (played by the precious twins Johnnie Jo and Candice Rain LaFontaine) appeared as we sang “Silent Night”. Angels, the little drummer boy and shepherds followed with other carols. As we sang “We Three Kings”, the wise men strolled majestically down their aisle, bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Then, I invited the congregation to come and join the nativity, singing “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

A beautiful sense of God’s love filled the church as the congregation flooded towards the front of the church bearing their gifts for their Savior.

When it was all over, we were astounded by the overwhelming results. Not only did we have the largest offering in the history of the church, (helping us catch up in the general fund and including generous gifts for benevolence, missions and our building fund) but there were many significant spiritual commitments made as well.

The gifts presented to Jesus included two packs of cigarettes, a pouch of chewing tobacco, a bottle of gin, two credit cards (cut up), a clock and a watch (“giving my time to Jesus”), a Yogi Berra baseball card, a miniature television (“I’ve been watching too much TV.”), a blanket, a quilt, lots of items for our food pantry, gifts for needy children, many acts of kindness and blessing – and best of all – there were several who committed their lives to Christ that day!!

Back in October, as we considered doing this, I said, “This will either be a colossal failure, or it will become an annual tradition.”

It’s going to be an annual tradition.

My Lord, How Full of Sweet Content

My Lord, how full of sweet content;
I pass my years of banishment!
Where’er I dwell, I dwell with Thee,
In Heaven, in earth, or on the sea.

To me remains nor place nor time;
My country is in every clime;
I can be calm and free from care
On any shore, since God is there.

While place we seek, or place we shun
The soul finds happiness in none;
But with a God to guide our way,
’Tis equal joy, to go or stay.

Could I be cast where Thou are not,
That were indeed a dreadful lot:
But regions none remote I call,
Secure of finding God in all.\
-- Madame Guyon  (Net Hymnal)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snow on Snow

Early in the morning last week, I stepped outside to a scene of diamond glinted snow, sparkling in the rising sun. The Northwoods is truly a winter wonderland. Of course, we must view it this way, as the white blanket is here to stay. You won’t survive well in Hayward if you can’t take the winter.

Sigurd Olson, my favorite nature writer, in his classic text, The Singing Wilderness, shared the following thoughts regarding the snow blanket:

There is a new excitement in the air, a feeling of release. Life will now be lived in an established white world where conditions of food and shelter will not change for a long time.

Stability has come to the Northwoods, and to my own life as well.

The coming of the snow adds zest to my activities. Now, there will be time for a multitude of things that during the feverish moving about of summer and fall, were denied me, leisure after the long and constant busyness.

To me, that is the meaning of the first snowfall -- not a cessation of effort but a drawing of the curtain on so many of the warm-weather activities that consume so much time.

The snow means a return to a world of order, peace and simplicity. Those first drifting flakes are a benediction and the day on which they come is different from any other in the year.
(pp. 192-193)

The snow blanket before Christmas reminds me of this beautiful prayer given by Peter Marshall, former Chaplain of the Senate in December of 1947:

We thank Thee, O God, for the return of the wondrous spell of this Christmas season that brings its own sweet joy into our jaded and troubled hearts.

Forbid us, Lord that we should celebrate without understanding what we celebrate, or like our counterparts so long ago, fail to see the star or to hear the song of glorious promise.

As our hearts yield to the spirits of Christmas, may we discover that it is Thy Holy Spirit who comes -- not a sentiment, but a power -- to remind us of the only way by which there may be peace on earth and good will among men.

May we not spend Christmas, but keep it, that we may be kept in its hope, through Him who emptied Himself in coming to us that we might be filled with peace and joy in returning to God.
-- Amen

Bearing God

Advent from the Eyes of a Pregnant Pastor

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cost of Discipleship?

I went into church and sat on the velvet pew. I watched as the sun came shining through the stained glass windows. The minister dressed in a velvet robe opened the golden gilded Bible, marked it with a silk bookmark and said, "If any man will be my disciple, said Jesus, let him deny himself, take up his cross, sell what he has, give it to the poor, and follow me."

attributed to Soren Kierkagaard

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Poet of Ur

It seems to me that a lot of people in blogosphere like to fight too much.

It's safe, I guess, to vent and rant online -- and I suppose that's better than taking your frustrations out on your family, co-workers or your church board.

If possible, I try to steer clear of those controversies. I'm not very good at fighting with bullies, and daddy always said, "Never enter into a spraying contest with a skunk."

That's why I try to keep a positive environment on my blog.

A while back, after observing a heated controversy at Out of Ur, Dan Haase, poet from Wheaton put it like this:

Some come like snakes –
Through cracks, and holes, and misconceptions of argument –
Hissing out their truth,
causing dust to rise,
into the eyes and nostrils –
Then, in clouded mind,
With venom in the veins,
The BODY dies.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Audacious Faith

Upon meeting Steven Furtick a few years ago at Newspring's Unleash Conference, I was immediately impressed with his passion for life, God and ministry.  This remarkable young man was consumed by a holy vision that was both extraordinary and inspiring.

I walked away saying, "I need some of that!"

Well, Furtick has written a challenging book, Sun Stand Still, to help people  (like you and me) discover and demonstrate audacious faith.  It's not a comfortable read.

In his own words, Furtick says, "This book is not a snuggie.  The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien.  I'm not writing to calm or coddle you.  With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind."

The book challenges people to move beyond the mundane, and to be bold in praying, believing, living, and obeying God.

I finished the book under the unsettling conviction that I have settled for less than I should in dreaming God's dreams for my congregation and our northwoods community.  What would GREAT FAITH have us do?

Furtick points to a phrase  that capture him from page 23 of Jim Cymbala's Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:

"I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on our behalf."

What is YOUR page 23 vision?

(a complimentary copy of this book was provided for review by Multnomah's Waterbrook Publishing Group.)

Terrorist Monitoring Program

The FBI has a new program to track terrorists. It will make us safer, and we will hardly notice their monitoring activities. You can learn more about it by clicking here

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Our Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas from the Wilson's!  We wish you and your family a very special holiday season.

As 2010 draws to a close, we pause to thank God for his loving guidance and keeping grace.

Here are a few significant events from our household in recent months:

Our home sustained some storm damage from tornado-like winds this summer, and we lost many beautiful trees from our lawn.  All of old pines in front of the church were also destroyed. 

Driver's License!
Luke and Wes, along with their friend, Trevor, formed a band called Found Broken.  They were privileged to be the opening act for the Break the Grey Concert with Bill Ballenger.  It was an awesome event!  Luke plays guitar and leads worship often.  Wes plays bass, and provides lead vocals for the band.  They both have been composing original songs.  This year, Wes obtained his driver's license, and Luke landed a job at Pizza Hut.

 Hannah has become a babysitter in high demand.  She loves working in the church nursery, and visiting the elderly in the nursing homes.  She plays violin with Northwoods Strings, and loves going to Youth Group.

 Ryan, a senior at Indiana Wesleyan University in Christian Ministries, is prayerfully considering the next chapter of his life. 

 Adam and Allegra live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they are students at UNI (University of Northern Iowa.)  Adam also works at John Deere in the engineering department, and Allegra has recently started a new job at Bath & BodyWorks

 Cathy continues to homeschool, play viola, and lead the Bible Quizzing program at the church.  This year was a milestone for her, as she achieved her weight loss goal, and has really committed herself to physical fitness.

 Mark is in his 20th year as Senior Pastor of Hayward Wesleyan Church.  He is currently writing a book with Wesleyan Publishing House, which will likely be available sometime in 2011.
Adam and Allegra


Found Broken Concert


“They cut a path through tangled underwood
Of old traditions out to broader ways.
They lived to hear their work called brave and good,
But oh! the thorns before the crown of bays.
The world gives lashes to its pioneers
Until the goal is reached, then deafening cheers.”

-- Anna Howard Shaw (19th century pastor, medical doctor, women’s suffrage activist)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Chase Your Lion

I'm really impressed with Heath Mullikin, a dynamic, creative young pastor from South Carolina, who has an outstanding blog, Chase Your Lion.

Though I'm more of a mouse than a lion -- Heath chased me down to do an interview about small town ministry and blogging.  You can view it here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Journey of Hope

Come and begin the Christmas season with the Hayward Community Christmas Choir's Christmas Cantata, "Journey of Hope"

Freewill offering will be accepted.

Thursday, December 2, at 7:00 PM
Friday, December 3, at 7:00 PM
Sunday, December 5 at 2:00 PM

At Hayward High School Auditorium

Seating is on a first come basis, doors will open one hour prior to the performance.

Saving Generation iY's Future

My dear old friend, (as in long time -- not as in age), Tim Elmore,was recently interviewed by Christian Post, regarding his new book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future. 

It's a fascinating take on understanding and ministering to the rising generation -- that geezers like me need to hear.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Qualities of Prevailing Churches
(a great post from my blogging friend, Shannon O'Dell)

How to Implode a Church

Having recently read, Too Great a Temptation, Joel Gregory's account of the power struggles surrounding his brief, but stormy tenure as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, I found the following video of First Baptist's recent implosion of five buildings quite interesting.

Blake Coffee made some astute observations concerning Church Implosions at Church Whisperer