Thursday, June 30, 2011

Get Lost

"Do not lose yourself in your everyday work and activities. Rather, lose yourself in God. When you are doing work, let your innermost heart be centered on Him. Live in His presence and abide in Him. Then your work will follow you into eternity, and you will reap a rich harvest." ~Basilea Schlink

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Facing Down Fear

A terrorist lurks in your heart’s dark shadows, waiting to attack at any moment.  His name is Fear – though he often uses such aliases as Concern, Care, or Upset.

Fear keeps us from achieving success. It destroys our dreams. It dashes our hopes. Immeasurable damage is caused by this small four-letter word.

As we run the race of life, fear is a rope which twists and tangles itself around our legs, causing us to stumble, falter, and fail.

Theologian, Paul Tillich, stated that our fears put frightening masks over people and things. They appear to be more dreadful than they really are. When we remove the mask, the terror disappears.

Strangers are not so terrible when we view them as fellow human beings. The future is not nearly so fearful when we see it as it is -- realizing that life will go on.

"There is nothing to fear," quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt, 'but fear itself." It is the greatest enemy of courage, progress, and enthusiasm.

As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy -- and he is us!"

So, how do we face fear head on, rather than waiting for it to attack us?

1. We must learn to trust in God. The 23rd Psalm says, "I will fear no evil because you are with me." God's presence brings calmness and eliminates anxiety.

2. We must practice courage. Do the courageous thing -- even if it scares you to death! "Build dykes of courage," said Martin Luther King Jr, "to hold back the flood of fear." Meet your fears with a reservoir of courage, and they will melt away like April snow!

3. We must love sincerely. True love casts our fear (I John 4:18). If you love others, you will not fear them. If you love life, it will not terrify you.

4. We must move forward. We cannot allow small fears to discourage and defeat us. Move ahead! Keep plugging away! Dare to take a chance!

Life is too short to remain handcuffed to anxious stomach-churning thoughts. Break the chains, be bold, and conquer your fears today!

Lessons from a Long Term Pastorate

As Chuck Swindoll departed from Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton to become the President of Dallas Theological Seminary, he shared the following reflections with his congregation in a letter:

While going through the final month of pastoral ministry in Fullerton, I decided to include in my journal several of the things I had learned since coming to the church back in the summer of 1971. It occurred to me that you might benefit from knowing what those things are. . .so let me list them for you. I have learned that. . .
  • I should tell people how I feel about them now, not later.
  • things I'm not even aware of are noticed and remembered.
  • being real is a lot better than looking pious.
  • when you "fit" most things flow; they don't need to be forced.
  • it doesn't pay to talk someone into or out of a big decision.
  • days of maintenance are far more in number than days of magnificance.
  • some people aren't going to change, no matter what.
  • time spent with my family is a good investment.
  • grace is worth the risk.
  • thinking theologically pays off, big time.
  • you can't beat fun.
  • perception overshadows reality.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gnat Straining

These little gnats are such a nuisance
Buzzing around my head
Flying up my nostrils
Swirling in my mushroom soup.

I'm trying to strain the little critters out
Before they're down the hatch.

Strain! Strain! Strain!

Such a bother.
What a chore.

There is no task so strenuous as straining little gnats.

Gulp! Uh Oh!
I think I swallowed a camel!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Remembering Ron Carlson

Yesterday, I was saddened to hear that my friend, Ron Carlson, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

Ron, founder of Christian Ministries International, was a noted author and speaker, who travelled the globe for the cause of Christ.  He was a great champion of Christian apologetics, and biblical world view.

When he had a break in his demanding schedule, Ron and his wife, Marge, would come up to their cabin in Hayward -- and a few times each year, they attended Hayward Wesleyan Church.

Ron was always a real encouragement to me.  I know he could preach circles around me -- but every time, after hearing me speak, he would come up to bless me, telling how the message had ministered to his soul that day.  Ron was always affirming -- always lifting -- always positive and respectful.  Every time, I walked away from my "Ron Encounters" with extra confidence and enthusiasm.  He always made me feel valued.  In fact, Ron had graciously agreed to write an endorsement for my book, which will be published in a few months.  So, rather than containing his endorsement, the book will contain an acknowledgment in his memory.

On several occasions, after church, Ron slipped a $50 bill into my hand, and said, "Here, take your family to lunch."  He ignored my protests, and my kids were certainly thankful!

Rural Life Better for You

Odds and Ends

Leith Anderson, Tim Pawlenty's Pastor, Stays Out of Partisan Politics  (Includes a great quote from my friend, JoAnne Lyon)
Calvinists Who Love Wesley  (I think they're on to something)

Evangelicals See Declining Influence in U. S.   (But it's the opposite in Latin America)

Atheist Converts After Mock Prayer to Win $1m Lottery is Answered.  (I wouldn't recommend this method of evangelism.)

Glen Campbell Diagnosed with Alzheimer's  (So sad -- a wonderful musician.)

Long Lines at 9:00 a.m. Sundays at Crystal Cathedral (for the 1:00 p.m. Spanish service, that is)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Monday, June 20, 2011

How the Spirit Leads Us

Yesterday, I preached on being led by the Spirit.

". . . those who are led by the Spirit are children of God." --  Rom. 8:14.

How does the Spirit lead us?

1)  Scripture:  Search the Scriptures daily, and God will give you a special word that fits your situation.  Whatever you're going through, God has a word for it!  You will never go wrong by living in the Word.

2)  Prayer:  We fail to find guidance in our prayers because we are too prone to tell God what He should do, rather than asking Him what WE should do.  If we ask, He has promised to grant us wisdom (James 1:5.)  Consider your pressing issue:  Have you seriously prayed about it?

3)  The Grand Purpose:  Rather than getting hung up on "What is God's will for me?" it might be better to ask, " What is God's will for the world?"  Then, join Him in that glorious cause.  The Spirit moves us -- a bias for action!  You are meant to DO something.  "Let me pray about it" is sometimes a clever device to buy time for excuses.  If you sense a holy nudge, follow up!  If God doesn't want you to go through that door, He can close it.  Action, rather than intent, makes the difference.

4)  Community of Faith:  Often, the Spirit speaks to us through spiritually mature friends who love God and have our best interest in mind.  No person is an island.  God places us in a church family, so we can encourage, correct and help each other.

5) Circumstances:  The Lord loves us too much to waste our painful experiences.  Sometimes, He uses difficult circumstances to move us to the place He wants us to be.  When we are tempted to cry out, "Where are you, God?", He responds, "Right here, guiding you through this."  God does His best work through those refined in the fire of affliction.  For instance, the Jerusalem Church faced severe persecution, and multiplied exponentially as a result.

6)  Sanctified Common Sense:  Jesus died to take away our sins, not our brains.  God made our minds and trusts us to use them to make wise decisions.

7)  The Spirit Adventure (or Treasure Hunt):  The seventh step takes everything to a whole new level.  Using the prior six, your life can be infused with daily flowings of the Holy Spirit.  You can live naturally in the supernatural!  God really works that way -- if you only have the faith.

Lately, I've been experiencing this.  God has been taking me on amazing adventures, I like to call "Treasure Hunts".

Early in the morning, I pray something like this::  "God, show me someone you treasure today, and help me to bring blessing, hope and joy to them.  May your Spirit filll, guide and flow through me to others.  Wherever you go, I'll go.  Whoever you send, I will receive as your gift.  I'll follow your nudges whereever you lead.  Help me stay out of the way and let your work!

God has recently answered that prayer in astounding ways!  This is real -- not just a matter of philosophy, world view, or evangelical sub-culture participation.  It is truly participating WITH Jesus as He accomplishes the greatest mission on earth.

You can live in the first six -- leave out the seventh -- and live a mundane, boring Christian life.  Or you can step out of the little box and go on the grand adventure.  I recommend the latter.  It's definitely worth the risk.

What a joy!  What a treasure!

Leadership Test

"The true test of leadership is not what happens when you're there, but what happens when you're NOT there." -- Ken Blanchard  (HT John Maxwell)

Late for Church

This creative little video made me smile

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

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!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What's Eating You?

Certain foods are linked to specific moods.
  • Sad?  Ice Cream and Cookies.
  • Happy?  Pizza or Steak
  • Bored?  Potato Chips
Sometimes, we use food to mask feelings of anger, fear and guilt.  Many people in our congregations, struggling with this complex issue, find themselves in a destructive cycle of emotional overeating and binge eating.

Unlike other addictions, one cannot just abstain.  An alcoholic achieves sobriety by staying completely away from booze.  The recovering drug addict stays away from drugs -- but a person suffering from disordered eating cannot simply stay away from food.

We must reimagine our relationship with food, so it is our fuel rather than our focus.  In other words:  eating to live rather than living to eat.

Hope, Help & Healing for Eating Disorders, by Dr. Gregory L. Jantz, is a helpful resource for pastors, counselors and friends of those struggling with food issues, and is a good tool for someone to begin the journey towards emotional healing.

"Food is meant to be your ally, meant to strengthen and sustain you;," notes Dr. Jantz, "it was never meant to be your enemy, your lover, your friend, or whatever you substitute it for."

This insightful guide explores the emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of eating, and uses thoughtful questions to help the reader navigate the maze of painful experiences, tangled relationships, and conflicted feelings.

A word of caution.  People battling with such issues as anorexia and bulimia will not be "fixed" by merely handing them a copy of this book, although it addresses both.  Used in conjunction with appropriate counseling, it is an outstanding source of hope and encouragement for those seeking help.

(a complimentary issue of the book was provided to me by Waterbrook Press for review on this blog.)

The Secret to His Success

"The secret to my success?", responded Al-Zawahri, "I simply took the Dale Carnegie Course on "'How to Win Friends and Influence People.'"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flowing in Holy Love

Here is the sum of the perfect law; this is the true circumcision of the heart.  Let the spirit return to God that gave it, with the whole train of it's affections.

"Unto the place from whence all the rivers came," thither let them flow again.  Other sacrifices from us he would not not; but the living sacrifice of the heart he hath chosen. 

Let it be continually offered up to God through Christ, in flames of holy love.

"Desire not to live, but to praise his name:  Let all your thoughts, words and works tend to his glory.  Set your heart firm on him, an don other things only as they are in and from him.  Let your soul be filled with so entire a love of him, that you may love nothing but for his sake."

"Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to his glory in all your actions."

"Fix your eyes upon the blessed hope of your calling, and make all the things of the world minister unto it."
--  John Wesley, "Circumcision of the Heart"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Four Types of Thinkers

There are four different kinds of thinkers in every organization, and they are all equally important.

“What If” Thinkers:

These are the folks who look for the possibilities rather than the problems.  They are the kind of people that would see something that hasn’t been made yet, and ask, “Why not!”  They creatively seek possibilities, and are quick to see potential.  They look beyond present reality to what could be, and thrive on positive change.

Sometimes, “What If” thinkers are criticized for being na├»ve and unrealistic.  They can exhaust more practically minded people --   but it always takes an idea person to get things launched.  Every great accomplishment starts with a good idea.

“Why” Thinkers:

“Why” Thinkers look beyond the surface to the deeper meanings.  In order to buy in, they need to understand the reason behind it.  They live on purpose, and are intentional in what they do.  “Why” Thinkers look underneath every idea for the grand purpose, and won’t invest themselves if they don’t see it.

Occasionally, when they don’t make all the connections, (or fail to find 100% agreement) “Why Thinkers”  bog down progress with their reluctance.  Living with ambiguity is a struggle for them.  However, they are the ones who make sure the right things are being done.

Without their valuable input, we might end up like the driver who, going the wrong direction, said, “Well, at least I’m making good time!”

“How” Thinkers:

These individuals immediately see all the details that need to be handled, whenever an idea is proposed.  They are excellent at planning ahead, and have good organizational skills.  Creating detailed “to do” lists helps them accomplish the goal.  They have a keen ability to look ahead and play out the implications of decisions.

“How” Thinkers may appear somewhat negative when an idea is proposed, but that’s because they are looking at the larger picture.  Almost instantly, (although they may not be able to articulate it right away) they sense the full impact of a decision, including the necessary time, energy, money, and resources.

“When” Thinkers:

These are the practical “Get it Done” people.  I’ve heard it said that in every organization there are Wish Bones, Jaw Bones and Back Bones.  “When” Thinkers are the Back Bones who turn plans to action.  Why just sit around talking about an idea, when you can get to work on it?

Sometimes, they may act prematurely (Ready – Fire – Aim), – but without them, there would be too much jaw flapping.  They are the ones who make things happen.

Wise, creative progress is made when all the thinking types work together, using their unique strengths for maximum energy investment.

Effective leaders understand that not everybody thinks alike – and that team members who see it differently add valuable perspective.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Mystery of the Watermelon

William Jennings Bryan once likened the mystery of God to a watermelon seed:

“I have observed the power of the watermelon seed. It has the power of drawing from the ground and through itself 200,000 times its weight.

When you can tell me how it takes this material and out of it colors an outside surface beyond the imitation of art, and then forms inside of it a white rind and within that again a red heart, thickly inlaid with black seeds, each one of which in turn is capable of drawing through itself 200,000 times its weight–when you can explain to me the mystery of the watermelon, you can ask me to explain the mystery of God"

HT Mark Batterson

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Church and the Inner Life

"The church often does not really encourage an inner life. It substitutes belief systems and belonging systems and moral systems for interior journeys toward God."
-- Richard Rohr

Friday, June 10, 2011

Let Him Dig!

An old man and woman were married for many years, even though they hated each other. Whenever there was a confrontation, yelling could be heard deep into the night. The old man would shout, 'When I die, I will dig my way up and out of the grave and come back and haunt you for the rest of your life!'

Neighbors feared him. They believed he practiced magic, because of the many strange occurrences that took place in their neighborhood. The old man liked the fact that he was feared. ---To everyone's relief, he died of a heart attack when he was 98.

His wife had a closed casket at the wake. After the burial, she went straight to the local bar and began to party, as if there was no tomorrow.

Her neighbors, concerned for her safety, asked, 'Aren't you afraid that he may indeed be able to dig his way out of the grave and haunt you for the rest of your life?'

The wife put down her drink and said, 'Let him dig. I had him buried upside down.'

And you know men won't ask for directions...

(Received this from my sister-in-law, Sandy.)

The Heart of the Gospel

"The heart of the gospel is the cross, and the cross is all about giving up power, pouring out resources, and serving."
-- Tim Keller

Thursday, June 09, 2011

6 Communications in Every Communication

1. What the speaker intended to say.

2. What the speaker actually said.

3. What the speaker thought he or she said.

4. What the hearer needed to hear.

5. What the hearer actually heard.

6. What the hearer thought he or she heard
(HT Richard Dobbins)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gospel People

Every church needs mission maintenance and regular recalibration.  Sometimes, we need to go back to the very beginning and ask ourselves, "What kind of Christians are resulting from our ministry?  Is this what we've been aiming for?"

Jesus said, "Go and make disciples" (Matt. 28:19), and the question remains, "What kind of disciples are we trying to make?"

Our answr:  Gospel People!
The Grand Story:

God calls us to be citizens of His Kingdom. This is the first message of Jesus recorded in the books of Matthew (4:17) and Mark (1:15).

The God’s Kingdom on earth was initiated at Creation (Genesis), first modeled by Israel (Exodus—Esther), celebrated through worship (the poetic books), made new by Jesus Christ (Gospels), exemplified by the early church (Acts & Epistles) and will be culminated in the coming age (prophets & Revelation).

The Gospel is our invitation to join this sublime story, participating in Christ’s grand mission of redemption.

"To heal the person, we must first heal the story they imagine themselves to be in." ~ James Hillman.

A Robust Gospel:
We are Gospel people, living and partnering on earth as Colonies of the greater Kingdom. This Gospel is robust – going far beyond an initial religious experience, or weak affirmation of belief (Matt. 15:8). It involves everything we are called to be as Christ’s representatives on this earth (Phil 1:27).

So, as citizens of this Kingdom (Phil 3:20), what do Gospel People look like (Titus 2:10)?

1. Gospel People Know God’s Grace (Eph 2:8-9):

The Gospel ushers us into God’s loving grace, resulting in genuine conversion and authentic worship (John 4:24).

• We realize our sin and our need for a Savior (Matt. 1:21).
• We understand the freedom of forgiveness (John 8:36).
• We repent and turn to God (Acts 3:19).
• We worship wholeheartedly, in grateful response to what He has done in us (Psalm 103:1-5).

2. Gospel People Flow in the Fullness of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8):

We are commanded not only to follow Jesus (Matt. 10:38) but to be filled with His Spirit (Eph. 5:18). This is an interior work, reflecting Christ (2 Cor. 3:18), and not just relating to Him. Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

  • This is a call to absolute surrender, holiness and sanctification. Being fully devoted to Christ. It means renouncing all idols and affections which draw us away from the Savior (Gal. 2:20, 1 Thess. 5:23).
  • The evidence of the fullness is the bountiful fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) and daily obedience (1 John 5:3).
  • Being filled with the Spirit means living a life of love (Eph. 5:2), rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, and giving thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
3. Gospel People Grow in Christ-likeness (Titus 2:11-12):

Fully developing followers of Christ are on a growth trajectory empowered by spiritual commitment. This requires moving beyond the elementary principles, to deeper truths. As Tim Keller said, “The Gospel is not just the ABC’s, but the A to Z.”

• Scripture and prayer are foundational and must be given highest priority (Acts 6:4).
• We engage in spiritual practices (disciplines) as training in godliness (1 Cor. 9:25).
• We learn from and submit to one another in Christian community (Rom. 12:10).

4. Gospel People Show Selfless Devotion to Christ and One Another (1 John 4:7-8):

Loving God means loving His people (1 John 4:7). The Gospel grafts us into a new community of faith (Rom. 11:19). We are not merely joining a group, but changing citizenship. A new allegiance is expected, which is reflected, by actions rather than intentions (Luke 6:46).

This devotion is evidenced by. . .

  •  Loving deeply (1 Pet. 1:22)
  • Attending faithfully (Heb. 10:24)
  • Giving generously (2 Cor. 9:6)
  • Serving passionately (Eph. 6:7)
5. Gospel People Go Into all the World, Blessing, Serving and Multiplying Disciples  (Matt. 28:18-20):

The Great Commission, our last command, must be our first concern. We are literally joining Christ in his mission to renew and redeem the world. “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

  • We view all of life as mission (John 20:21).
  • We reach out globally as well as locally (Matt. 22:9). John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.”
  • We are ready to go to the darkest places, bringing hope and light (Matt. 5:16).
  • Being disciple-makers, we invest ourselves in equipping others, who will, in turn, reproduce God’s grace in other lives (2 Tim. 2:2).
  • We will faithfully continue on the mission until it is completed (2 Tim. 4:7)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Peace to You

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

–John Greenleaf Whittier

Sunday, June 05, 2011

How Would You Answer My Friend?

A friend recently e-mailed me with a few questions about the nature of the soul.  I'm wondering how you would answer them:

Does everyone have a soul?

Does only the soul go to heaven?

What does a soul look like?

Has anyone ever seen a soul?

I have heard the expression, "I looked into his eyes and saw his soul". Is this possible?

Can one physically touch a soul?

Can one communicate with a soul?

What's inside a soul? Does the holy spirit reside inside the soul?

Does satan have a soul?

Is "soul food" good for the soul?

Where is the soul located?

Is the soul any certain color....white, black, red???

Does God, the angels, any spiritual being communicate with the soul?

Does the soul ever leave you.....visit heaven? Go on vacation?

Saturday, June 04, 2011


The Banderdinker, a kayak and canoe event, was held this morning on Nelson Lake.  Over 150 enthusiastic people paddled around Big Island and over 100 eager volunteers served with gusto -- including the Boy Scouts.

Special thanks to Backroads Coffee, who served as the major corporate sponsor, Northwoods Strings who provided fiddle music for the day, and Pam Ruetten, who provided inspiring leadership for the event, and loaned me her personal kayak.

Funds raised from this special event will go towards Hayward Wesleyan Church benevolence fund, Northwoods Strings, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Everyone involved had a great time -- and it was a smashing success all the way around.  I heard that someone from Georgia is so inspired by the idea, that they are launching a Banderdinker of the South in March of 2012.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Male Logic

A wife asks her husband

"Could you please go shopping for me and buy one carton of milk,
and if they have eggs, get 6!"

A short time later the husband comes back with 6 cartons of milk.

The wife asks him, "Why the heck did you buy 6 cartons of milk?"

He replied, "They had eggs."

(Thanks to Daryl Coons for sending this to me.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Lord, Help Me to Be Kind

Lord, help me to be kind to those who are unkind,
Compassionate in heart to those who cannot find
In me, what they have sought in vain.
That I may have a love for those who love me less,
A patient tenderness for those who would not bless
But curse me, in their bitter pain.
-- Haldor Lillenas