Wednesday, June 30, 2010

As You Do Unto Others . . .

The New American Religion . . .

Build A Bridge and Get Over It

Nobody likes to be criticized -- but a lot of people can dish it out. Some folks seem to have a natural talent for fault finding.
With all this criticism flying around, sooner or later you are going to get clobbered!

What is the healthy way to deal with criticism when it comes?

1. Consider the source.
Has this person earned the right to speak into your life? Pay attention to criticism from those whose opinion you respect. Don't worry too much about "blab-a-holics" who can't tell when to turn off the spout.

2. Take the kernel of truth and discard the shell.
You wouldn't think of swallowing a whole walnut and you shouldn't swallow a whole criticism either. Almost every criticism has a nugget of truth in it. Receive the truth as a gift, and get rid of the rest. If you can learn to do this, you will become a better person.

3. Don't throw criticisms back.
Hurling back negative remarks will only make matters worse. Refuse to waste your breath by arguing with a critic. He's not going to listen to reason anyway. When the darts start flying, the best thing to do is duck!

4. Realize that everybody is criticized sometimes.
We all have faults and hang ups. You can't fool anybody by pretending to be perfect.

Don't take it too personally, then, when someone points his guns at you. Instead, think of how many times you have made critical remarks about others.

If you accomplish anything in life, you will be criticized. It's just a fact of life. That's why it pays to have the heart of a lamb, with the skin of a rhinoceros.

When someone says something awful and hurtful -- Here's my advice: Build a bridge and get over it!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Tomb of Collective Genius

I once heard somewhere that there is a greater wealth of master symphonies, brilliant novels, and revolutionary ideas in a graveyard than anywhere else in the world. In other words, there is a greater mass of ideas that never left the heads of men and women than that actually saw the light of day and had an opportunity to make an impact.
-- Steve Furtick

Top Ten Reasons Pastors Get Fired


My blogger buddy, Todd Rhoades, recently shared the Top Ten Reasons Pastors Get Fired, in a post at his blog, Monday Morning Insight.

1. Control Issues (Who should run the church)
2. Poor People Skills
3. Church's Resistance to Change
4. Pastor's Leadership Style (too strong)
5. Church Was Already Conflicted When Pastor Arrived
6. Decline in Attendance and/or Conditions
7. Pastor's Leadership Style (too weak)
8. Administrative Incompetence on Part of the Pastor
9. Sexual Misconduct
10. Conflict with Other Staff

Monday, June 28, 2010

All Day Long


I was facing a difficult day. Many issues demanded my attention, my schedule was packed full of appointments, and my energy level was low. The needs around me seemed overwhelming, and the phone rang off the hook.

Realizing that I had not yet had my quiet time with God, I decided to escape from the office for a few minutes and find a place for solitude. A long time ago, I learned that if my soul is not anchored, I’m not much good for anybody.

I drove to a beautiful lake, and spent some time centering my mind on my Creator. It seemed as if my Heavenly Father was speaking his love, strength and peace to my heart.

Then, I read Psalm 25:5, which states, “My hope is in you all day long.”

All day long! Just think!

God is with me all day long – every single moment of every single day.

All day long, he offers his peace.
All day long, I can rest in his grace.
All day long, He demonstrates his love and faithfulness.
All day long, I can depend on Him.

He never goes out to lunch, never takes a break, never falls asleep on us. He is always there.

My good friend, Charlie Howe, is an enthusiastic God-lover. One day, I saw him riding his bike in the rain. I stopped next to him in my vehicle, and said, "Need a lift?"

He grinned and replied, "Yes! I was just praying for God to send me a good samaritan!"

As he dried off in my car, he shared his philosophy of life with me:

God is there.
And He cares.
So why despair?


We can keep our hope alive as we trust in Him – All day long!
(Chippwea Flowage picture courtesy of Pixn8tr's Flicker Photos)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not Home Yet

The settled happiness and security which all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world; but,joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe but we have plenty of fun and some ecstacy. It is not hard to see why.

The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God;a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
-- C. S. Lewis

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Raised in a Vacuum

“You can't raise a child in a vacuum. All that carpet dust will clog up the kid's lungs.” -- Jacob M. Appel, American playwright, Arborophilia (2005)

(photo from Flickr Twicepix)

Friday, June 25, 2010

God and Grass


Larry, the great fishing legend, sent this treasure to me the other day --

GOD:
Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.
ST. FRANCIS:
It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.
GOD :
Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS :
Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD:
The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
ST. FRANCIS :
Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it - sometimes twice a week.
GOD :
They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS:
Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD:
They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS :
No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
GOD :
Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?
ST. FRANCIS :
Yes, Sir.
GOD :
These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS:
You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
GOD:
What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.
ST. FRANCIS :
You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
GOD :
No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?
ST. FRANCIS :
After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
GOD:
And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS :
They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD :
Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE:
"Dumb and Dumber", Lord. It's a story about....

GOD:
Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Christian Mission 2 Gaza


Here's the website of my friend, Dr. Hanna Massad's ministry, Christian Mission 2 Gaza.

Please pray for the Massad family as they share God's love in a very difficult place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bigotry

“It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.”

-- G. K. Chesterton

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fish Count

New (to me) fishing poles for Father's Day led a sudden significant increase in the Wilson Family Fish Count.

Status What?

An old church leadership saying:

"Be we high, or be we low,
The Status is the same . . . Quo."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Old Walnut Tree

Near the barnyard, by the fence,
old soldier stands with gnarled hands
saluting all the passerbys who happen by his shade.

Deep rooted kindness, with a furrowed brow,
crusty outside, yet velvet within
calling all the children in
as he's done down through the ages
"Come! Climb! Swing!"

And the old backyard centurion one summer day
invited me, again, to childish play.
But, laden with responsibility, I turned away.

You see, I've grown up now -- so much to do,
And ripe adults don't act that way.

Yes, with a heavy hearted sighing,

I turned and walked away.

But, even in the turning, my boyish heart was yearning
for another swing -- impulsive, foolish thing!
My grown up soul had somehow met its match.

Old soldier may be past his prime, with knotted, brittle hands,
Yet deep inside I fully understand
that he can still catch me!

So, in joyous liberation, I dropped my briefcase on the ground
and as a little child from grown up heart unbound,
ran carefree to the old walnut tree
to play, and climb, and swing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Courage For Action

"How, then, find the courage for action? By accepting the human condition more simply and candidly, by dreading troubles less, calculating less, hoping more."
-- Henri-Frederic Amiel

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mercy Clouds

You fearful saints, fresh courage take.
The very clouds you so much dread
Are filled with mercy and shall break
With countless blessings on your head.


-- William Cowper

"He delivers me from all my fears" Psalm 34:7

Native American Multi-Site

I'm at the Wesleyan Native Ministries Board Meeting in Indianapolis, where we've just received an amazing report from Pastor Larry Salway regarding the work of He Sapa Church in the Rapid City area.

Over 100 people have received Christ as a direct result of their ministry. They are sending out 41 dvd's of their worship gatherings to home churches which have been formed in such places as Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Minneapolis, Crow (Montana) and Sioux Falls -- so He Sapa is truly a church distributed. It's a multi-state multi-site congregation!

Kudo's to Pastor Larry who is truly making a difference.

The Sweetening Tree

"Let others lament over their troubles. We, who have the sweetening tree to cast into Marah's bitter pool, with joy, will magnify the Lord." -- Charles Spurgeon

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vote for Jo Anne!!


My blogger buddy, Todd Rhoades, is putting together the slate of speakers for the Nines Conference this fall (September 9.) It's an outstanding resource for missional church leadership.

He has asked if we can help select the speakers for this online video forum.

I nominated Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, and am wondering if you would be willing to go to the site here, scroll down to her name and vote for her. (You might have be signed into Twitter in order to vote.)
Jo Anne has something worthwhile to say to church leaders around the world. Let's help her say it!

Today

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!
--Psalm 118:24

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Think it Through


The quality of life is not a matter of luck - but of choice!

Some choices don't make much difference - like "What should I wear today?" (Although some people take an extraordinarily long time deciding this!)

Other choices can change the entire course of life - like "Who should I marry?" or "How does God fit into my life?"

Sometimes small choices can turn into disastrous outcomes:

"Should I cheat?"
"Should I take this drug?"
“Should I visit this website?”
"Should I protect myself and tell a lie?"
"Should I go out with this person?"

Think it through!

Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick invented the following six-point test for making excellent decisions:

1. Does the course of action you plan to follow seem logical and reasonable? Never mind what anyone else has to say. Does it make sense to you? If it does, it is probably right.

2. Does it pass the test of sportsmanship? In other words, if everyone followed this same course of action would the results be beneficial to all?

3. Where will you plan of action lead? How will it affect others? What will it do to you?

4. Will you think well of yourself when you look back on what you have done?

5. Try to separate yourself from the problem. Pretend, for one moment, it is the problem of the person you most admire. Ask yourself how that person would handle it.

6. Hold up the final decision to the glaring light of publicity. Would you want your family and friends to know what you have done? The decisions we make in the hope that no one will find out are usually wrong.

Poor choices bring negative results. On the other hand, things usually turn out better when we make the right decisions. It pays to think first and act second.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New Barna Insights

Kids + Parents = Faith Involvement

Thankful for the Hard Places


We thank Thee, Lord, for pilgrim days,
Across the desert sand,
For there we learned to know and praise
Our Father's guiding hand.

We thank Thee, Lord, for loneliness,
Beneath the desert sky;
For there we learned Thy ways to trace;
As silent stars swept by.

We thank Thee, Lord, for midnight fear,
For wilderness alarm;
For there we learned that Thou art near,
When aught Thy saints would harm.

We thank Thee, Lord, for lack of bread,
For pillows made of stone;
For then we were by manna fed,
And slept beneath Thy throne.

We thank Thee, Lord, for parching thirst,
When desert wells were dry;
For there we saw the fountain, Christ,
That gave us full supply.

--D. W. Whittle in Jonathan: And Other Poems

Because It's True

Most Christians Cannot Explain Their Faith

"Young man," Apologist, Josh McDowell said, "Do you know the difference between you, me and the majority of Christians in the world? To you, it's true because you believe it. For me, I believe it because it's true."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Key

The key to revival is not getting our churches filled with people, but getting the people who come to our churches filled with God."
-- Duncan Campbell

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

An Army of Ordinary People


Although I'm not a big "house church" proponant, I must say Felicity Dale's new book, An Army of Ordinary People is impressive.

For several years, Felicity and her husband Tony have been international leaders in the house church movement, and have helped many find a vibrant faith in Christ and meaningful fellowship. Their organization, House2House, provides valuable resources for those involved in these "simple churches."
According to George Barna, six to twelve million Americans attend such home fellowships, rather than traditional congregations.

An Army of Ordinary People shares the heartwarming stories of several individuals who opened their lives up to God's calling, and brought "the church" to their own unique context. Where two or three are gathered in Jesus' name, there's a church -- whether they meet in a house, a classroom, a coffee shop, or the workplace.

Pastors of "Legacy Churches" such as mine can certainly learn some valuable lessons from this movement if they keep it all in the right perspective. Just think what would happen if EVERY church member captured the concept of literally BEING the church rather than merely attending it.
Purchase Here (a complimentary copy of the book was provided to Revitalize Your Church for review by the author)

Keep Looking Up

Some people go through life looking down. Shuffling along the path, all they see is dirt.

They look down their nose at others, are constantly "down" on themselves, and see only the negative side of every situation. They're "down" on new ideas and seem to bring everybody else down with them.

Other people are in the habit of looking up! They see the sky with limitless opportunities.

They believe the best of others, possess a high degree of confidence, and make the most of each day. They focus on what's right rather than what's wrong.

The folks who go through life looking down are miserable. The ones who look up discover happiness in each day.

What is the difference? Nothing but attitude!

Our attitude towards life largely determines what we can accomplish. If you say "It can't be done", you won't do it. But if you say, "It CAN be done and I'm going to give it my best shot!", your chances of success increase greatly.

Many years ago, an anonymous poet captured this thought by saying:
If you would have some worthwhile plans,
You've got to watch your can'ts and cans;
You can't aim low and then rise high;
You can't succeed if you don't try;
You can't go wrong and come out right;
You can't love sin and walk in light;
You can't throw time and means away,
And live sublime from day to day.


William Makepeace Thackery said, "The world is a looking glass and gives back to everyone the reflection of his own face."

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

To Syracuse and Beyond

Had a wonderful trip to central New York this past weekend, where I spoke at the Intersect Conference in Painted Post on Saturday, and preached at Lyncourt Wesleyan Church in Syracuse on Sunday.

It was a joy to be hosted by my friends, District Superintendent Wayne and Deb Wager along with Wayne Jr., who pastors the Lyncourt Church. I was also delighted to see some old Wisconsin friends, students from FLAME, my buddy, Steve McEuen, and several of our Burmese brothers and sisters in Syracuse and Utica, especially their leaders, Pastor Than and Dr.Thuam, who leads the Burmese Bible Institue.

Our brothers and sisters in central New York are doing an outstanding job ministering to the Burmese refugees, and training them for ministry and mission.

Other highlights of the trip included visiting the grave of my hero, early Wesleyan leader, Adam Crooks at Oakwood Cemetery, climbing a bell tower and playing a pipe organ in an old cathedral, searching out the spot where the Wesleyan Church began, visiting the stadium at Syracuse University, and lunching at "The Mission" (the old downtown abolitionist Wesleyan Church that harbored runaway slaves and in recent years has been transformed into a Mexican restaurant.)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Missional Playground


To the delight of the children of our congregation, the new play structure is on the way. Special thanks to Bill Juen, Don Adams, Kurt Proctor, Pastor Jeremy Mavis and all the kids who worked hard to raise the funds for this special project. It is going to bless our whole community.

Friday, June 04, 2010

No Pain, No Gain

Here's a great post from my dear friend and partner in ministry, Heath Davis. His blog, A Northoods Life is outstanding.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Thin Places

There is a Celtic saying that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, but in the thin places that distance is even smaller. A thin place is where the veil that separates heaven and earth is lifted and one is able to receive a glimpse of the glory of God.

Pay Day vs 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, June 02, 2010

Searching for God Knows What

I've heard it said that hard writing makes easy reading. If that's the case, then Donald Miller has done some wonderfully hard writing -- because his books are delightfully engaging.

I just finished his newly revised and expanded edition of Searching for God Knows What (compliments of book sneeze),and found it to be a powerful and inspiring resource for spiritual growth.

Miller says that theology is primarily relational rather than propositional. If we don't have it right relationally, then we don't have it right -- even if we "have it right." In his words, "Being a Christian is more like falling in love than understanding a series of ideas." It's a narrative, not a formula.

He makes his point vividly through excellent story telling and colorful imagery. For instance, as he describes what he imagines the Garden of Eden was like, I almost felt like I was there!

One special perk with this edition - -there's a cool little secret code search game embedded in the book with a nifty decoder inside the back cover. You can receive clues by going to http://www.donaldmillerfan.com/

Great Scheduling Tool

Ever frustrated by trying to find a time that works to get a bunch of busy people together?

This little tool, recommended by my friend, Rich Avery, is a quick, simple and user-friendly way to discover the optimal time and date for a meeting or gathering of any sort.

Doodle.com

Is a Baccalaureate Service Religious?


Recently, I met a great guy named Jeff Finley, who works for Chicago Sun Times Media, and, along with Brett Johnson, writes for their religion blog, which I've found rather fascinating.

Having participated in our local Baccalaureate service just a week ago, I thought this post by Brett Johnson was excellent: Is a Baccalaureate Service Religious? I especially appreciated the approach taken by Hinsdale Central, noted at the end of the article . . . "BY the seniors FOR the senior class of 2010."

Big Business

“When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”-- Dr. Richard Halverson (from Church Whisperer)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Correct Answer

A monk of the early period confronted his pupils with a difficult, perplexing, theological question.

One by one, they all attempted to answer. When it came to the last one to speak, he said:

"I don't know."

And the monk commended him for the correct answer.

(I found this cool little story in Teach Us to Pray by the Belgian trappist, Andre' Louf.)