Monday, April 30, 2012

The Power of Summer Bible Camp

A great post by Jeremy Mavis on why sending your kids to Bible Camp is a great idea!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Purpose of Theology is Doxology

"We should never forget that the purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.  The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship to praise God for being greater than we know."
--  Geneva Study Bible notes

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Treasure Hunt

What if we viewed each day as a Treasure Hunt?  What if, in our early morning prayers, God revealed little clues leading us to people He treasures -- sort of a Divine Treasure Map?  What if we went forth eagerly to bless, encourage and serve?  What if we went forth boldly, filled with Holy Love?  What if we viewed life as a daily adventure with God rather than a burden to be endured?  What if the chance meetings along the way were really Divine Appointments?

Wouldn't that make a difference in how we act and react?  Wouldn't that change our attitude?  Wouldn't the world be a better place if all Christians had that perspective?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Young Feller and Old Guy

Looking forward to speaking at Camp Forest Springs today, to a large group of senior citizens.  I like speaking to the Golden Agers.  They call me "young feller."  Unlike, when I went to speak at a college a while back, and in the lunchline, I overheard a coed whisper, "Who's the OLD guy?"

The Good Old Days Weren't So Good After All

The past is a nice place to visit from time to time -- but it's a crummy place to live.

Sometimes, we see a television show or visit a museum exhibit showing life a couple hundred years ago. Perhaps, you've thought, "Those were the good old days! I wish we could go back and live like that."

I don't think you really do.

A couple hundred years ago the life expectancy was 38 years, the average work week was 72 hours, and the median annual income was $300.

Cholera, typhoid and yellow fever were common. For instance, one out of five people in Philadelphia in 1793 died from these diseases.

Many women died in childbirth, and the flu also claimed the lives of many. Almost every home experienced the sorrow of losing a child.

No internet, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, or microwaves. No soft mattresses, electric heat, lights, cars, television, recorded music, Tupperware, air conditioning, soft drinks, milkshakes or cheeseburgers.

Everybody milked their own cows!

Nah -- you wouldn't want to go back there and live.

Thank God we’re living in 2012 rather than 1812!

Yet, there is something special about yesteryear. Perhaps we can bring the treasures of the past into the present.

Rich family values are passed along from one generation to another. Some of the greatest music was written two or three hundred years ago. The Bible, of course, composed in ancient times, brings fresh inspiration and insight today.

St. Augustine said, "You can only understand backwards, but you must live forwards."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Give Me That Book!

I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: . . . I want to know one thing—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me.  -- John Wesley

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nine Things to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

If you're struggling to discern God's will your life. . .  If you're confused about what God wants you to do, it may be helpful to consider the consider the clues in Psalm 100:

1)  Shout for joy.
2)  Worship the Lord with gladness.
3)  Enter His presence with singing.
4)  Know that the Lord is God (and that means you're not!)
5)  Realize that you are His -- and this is His pasture.
6)  Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.
7)  Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
8)  Always remember, the Lord is good, and His love endures forever.
9)  Rest in His faithfulness, that continues through all generations.

Troubles come and troubles go -- but the love of the Lord lasts forever!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sandpaper People

Some folks are like sandpaper. Everywhere they go, they rub people the wrong way.

An individual may be highly intelligent, hard working , willing to go the extra mile -- but still fail because of an abraisive personality.

I've often wondered, how do they sabotage themselves? Is it just the way they're wired, or can they do something about it?

Although we are born with certian "grit" which make us more or less people-oriented, I firmly believe that anyone can get along with just about anybody, if they follow a few basic relationship rules:

1. Focus on the Positive.
You will find plenty of negative things about people if you look for them. Instead, go mining for the positive -- and you will find that too!

2. Never go fishing with a Crabapple for Bait. You have to be friendly if you want people to be friendly to you. You can't expect to keep many friends if you are always grousing. (Negative folks do keep some friends -- negative ones!)

3. Follow the 101% Principle. Find the 1% you have in common and give 100% to it!

4. Don't impute Motives. It's easy to jump to conclusions and rush to judgement without knowing all the facts. Regardless of what happened, assume the other person had good intentions.

5. Be willing to Forgive. Refuse to allow your frustrations to stockpile into a mountain of bitterness. It's best to keep short accounts. Deal with it and let it go.

6. Believe in Other People. Remember that we are all created in the image of God. Each person you meet is a VIP! Never consider yourself "above" someone else.

7. Follow the Golden Rule. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

8. Be Genuinely Interested in Others. Focus on them rather than yourself. Self-absorbtion is a certain path to unhappiness.

9. Determine that you will be an Encourager and a Positve Influence on each Person you Meet!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Walking on Water

Here is an excerpt from my recently published book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose. The book is available locally at God’s Country Christian Bookstore, or you can track me down to obtain a copy. I’ll be giving a presentation on the power of story and the writing process at the Weiss Community Library in Hayward at 6:30 p.m. on May 31. I will be available to sign books afterwards.
So, now that we’ve paused for the commercial interruption, here’s the excerpt:
In Wisconsin’s northwoods, all the Wesleyans walk on water. So do the Baptists, Lutherans and Catholics. Shoot, we don’t just walk on water – we drive on it! Every February!
Each winter, little makeshift ice fishing villages pop up everywhere on area lakes.
I’ve considered holding church out there on the ice, but the board hasn’t gone along with me yet. I figure we can convert a few anglers, drill a big hole, and baptize them with bungee cords. We’ll call it the Holy Jesus Polar Plunge!
The first winter after my arrival from sunny southern California, I couldn’t believe my eyes, when I observed people driving their pick-ups on the ice, heading for their fishing shanties.
In December, I thought, “Those people are nuts!”
In January, I just accepted it as natural part of tundra life.
By February, I mustered up enough courage to join ‘em.
While taking our family on a Sunday afternoon drive, I impulsively swerved our minivan onto the snow packed trail towards Nelson Lake. There was no calmness in the cabin! All the kids yelled for dear life, and Cathy grabbed the dashboard, shouting ‘WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!”
But in a few moments, the panic subsided, as we found ourselves gliding across the solid surface. Realizing the ice was definitely thick enough to hold us, they relaxed somewhat.
This incident reminded me of an old poem I’ve slightly revised from childhood:
A man walked out onto a frozen lake in trembling fear one day
Then a four wheel drive came rolling by, laughing all the way
Great faith and little faith alike were granted safe convoy
One had pangs of needless fear and the other had all the joy

Friday, April 13, 2012

Life is a Journey of Affections

"Life is a journey of affections, which is meant to bring us to our true homeland in God." -- St. Augustine, (as paraphrased by William Dyrness in Fuller Seminary's Theology, News and Notes.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Morning Show Interview

I'm scheduled to be on the Good Morning Show tomorrow morning on Nashville's 760 AM talk radio, hosted by my friend, David Gould, and Rachael Sain.  We'll be discussing my new book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.

I'll be on shortly after 7:15 AM Central Time.

Nobody Falls Asleep at This Church


"It will be filled with shouting, dancing, speaking in tongues, serpent handling and fire handling," said 21-year-old pastor, Andrew Hamblin, of the Tabernacle Church of God. "We'll celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a good old time!"

A few rattlesnakes will certain spice up an Easter Service.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sample Chapter of Filled Up Poured Out

Click Here to read Chapter One of Filled Up, Poured Out:  How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.

Available Now!
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Compassionate Candor

Most of us are less than candid. We don’t want to hurt feelings or upset people, so we keep quiet and let troubling things slide by.

Of course, we’re taught that from childhood. Parents and teachers said “good boys and girls stay in their places with zipped lips.” “Tattle tale” is the worst possible childhood crime.

This mindset is reinforced in the workplace, where people who rock the boat often receive the boot. Most bosses are more concerned about “keeping peace” than “making things right.” Of course, as Teddy Roosevelt said, “There is no unrighteous peace.” Thus, the whole environment becomes a haze of unspoken tension and discontent. The very peace we’re trying to attain by silence eludes us.

Usually, everybody knows the issue, but nobody wants to talk about “the elephant in the room.” We’re like the villagers in Hans Christian Anderson’s tale, who gawked at their emperor strutting his stuff in the buff, believing he was fully clothed. It took a guileless child to point out the obvious truth that no one was willing to speak.

The problem is, our situation won’t change unless it’s resolved, and that won’t happen until someone has the gumption to bring it up. The truth shall set you free.

Unresolved issues, like dead skunks, won’t smell better by hiding them under the bed! If you know of a situation that needs changing, and are wondering why somebody doesn’t do something about it -- guess what – YOU are somebody! Maybe it’s up to you to speak the truth.

Of course, the truth must be spoken in love.

Candor without compassion makes one a jerk. Nobody wants to hear from a jerk, even if that jerk is right.

In every communication there are two communications:

1. What I need to say.
2. Whether or not I care about you.

The second communication should be the first and last! In other words, a difficult conversation should go something like this:

1. I care about you.
2. Here’s what I need to say.
3. Again, I really care about you.

Compassionate candor is the primary communication key that unlocks the door to resolution.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Pastors, Be Encouraged!

A good word for pastors from Priscilla Hammond:

Whether you had thousands or are still waiting on the one, the thing that matters most isn't how creative your marketing collateral or relevant your message or quick your follow-up. On this day after Resurrection Sunday, can you say this?

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power. I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. Psalm 40:10 (NLT)

Her entire post is excellent -- and especially helpful for Easter Monday.

Pastor Fred's Easter Monday Meltdown

HT Margaret Feinberg

Friday, April 06, 2012

It Is Finished

“It is finished!”

Those were the words Jesus Christ uttered as he hung, dying, on the cross. “It is finished!” What could he have possibly meant?

Failure Words?
At first glance, one might wonder if these were words of despair – quitting words. “It is finished! It’s a hopeless cause! I’ve failed! I quit!”

It would certainly be understandable if that’s what Jesus meant. Just think: he suffered the greatest injustice in human history. He lived a spotless life, but was sentenced to a traitor’s death.

He came to love – but was hated.
He came to help – but was rejected.
He came to heal – but was broken
He came to forgive – but was despised.
He came to bless – but was cursed. .
He came to bring life – but was brought death

Stepping into darkness and bearing another’s burden is difficult enough. It becomes nearly impossible, however, when the person who needs the help rejects it.

You could hardly blame Jesus if he had meant “I’ve had enough and I give up” when he said “It is finished.”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, he didn’t give up on humanity. He didn’t give up at all! Despite the wickedness, hatred and scorn – he “loved them to the last!” He ended up on the cross precisely because he was NOT willing to give up! He loved them enough to pay the ultimate price. There was no quitting! There was no turning back!

The good news from Good Friday is that Jesus has not given up on you! Regardless of where you’ve been or what you’ve done, the Savior loves you and is offering you his grace and forgiveness.

Fighting Words?

Another way you could interpret the phrase, “It is finished” is to say “I’m fed up! If this is the crummy way you’re going to treat me, then I am THROUGH with you!” Again, you could hardly blame Jesus if that’s what he meant.

People often say this when they’ve been hurt and pushed over the edge.

“I have tried and tried to save this marriage – but now it’s OVER! I’m through with you!”
“Son, I’ve waited up past midnight for you to come home one too many times. Pack you bags! I’m through with you!”
“You have messed up the accounts again. I can’t stand this kind of incompetence! Clear out your office. I’m through with you!”

They treated Jesus in the most horrible way you can imagine. The worst suffering and disgrace you’ve ever faced pales in comparison to what Jesus endured. It would only be normal to fight against it and say “I’m through with you!!”

BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HE MEANT!

No, Jesus wasn’t at war with them. When he spoke about those who were committing such atrocity against him he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

These were not fighting words They were reconciling words: words of peace and release.


Faith Words!

When Jesus said “It is Finished”, he was not saying failure words or fighting words. Instead he was speaking faith words! He had done the job he came to do! He had completed his purpose!

Just like a construction worker who completes a bridge and says, “It’s finished!” That’s what Jesus was saying!

I have opened up the Bridge – over the mighty gulf of sin and evil – to a right relationship with God. The work is finished!
I have opened up a Way – a road to eternal life for whoever has faith and believes! (John 3:16) It is finished!
I have opened up the Door – to life beyond death. “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies!” It is finished!
I have opened up a New Life for you. You can live in freedom and forgiveness. It is finished!

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Augmented Reality Glasses



Google is testing a new product:  Augmented Reality Glasses.  I'd love to get a pair.

Of course, viewing life through the lens of the Holy Spirit is the ultimate augmented reality!

Six Ways Pastors Pray

As a pastor, I am called on to say a prayer several times each day.  My prayers, as Adolph Bedsole noted in Parson to Parson, can be summed up in the following categories:

1.  Ritualistic Praying:
This is saying prayers as a part of the pastoral function.  Prayers in worship services and other ministry settings.

2.  Routine Praying:
Prayers for meals.  The prayers spoken as a regular pattern of life.

3.  Official Praying:
Prayers at civic functions such as graduations, house blessings and ski races. 

4.  Emergency Praying:
At times of crisis and deep need -- an urgent calling upon the Lord.

5.  Praying on the Run:
Maintaining a spirit of prayer as you navigate the day's events and circumstances.

6.  Praying in the Closet (Praying Deep): 
Carving out extended time with the Lord to drink deeply from the spiritual well.

ALL pastors engage in the first four kinds of praying.  Many actively participate in #5 -- praying on the run.

The greatest lack is in the sixth category.  The failure to pray deeply results in shallow living and anemic ministry.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Chuck Colson Hospitalized

Prayers requested for Chuck Colson who is in critical condition after emergency surgery.

Praying the Seven Last Words of Christ

It is significant that Jesus prayed from the cross. Here he was, experiencing the worst torture a human being can endure, and through it all – he prayed.

 Most of us, in that moment of anguish, would succumb to the suffering, and our prayers would be diminished to one word: “Help!” Looking back upon the worst moments of my life, I’d have to say “Help!” is the most sincere prayer I’ve ever uttered.

 Yet, Jesus went beyond a prayer for help at Golgotha. His prayers from the cross reveal the intensity of his pain – yet, a deep love pouring from his heart. Instead of being consumed with himself, he turned his focus to God and others.

 The old adage states, “We all have our cross to bear.” In our moments of anguish, we can look to Jesus, and see how he responded in his darkest valley. A review of Good Friday events shows that Jesus did three things:

1) He pressed into prayer.
2) He poured out love.
3) He surrendered all to God.

 What an example for us! In deep sorrow and suffering, we, too, can press into prayer, pour out love, and surrender all to God.

 The prayers of Christ from the cross serve as an excellent model for our praying during this holy week:

 1) Father, forgive them for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)

 Are you holding bitterness and resentment in your heart? Who has wronged you? Are you struggling to forgive? If you can’t bring yourself to forgive them, ask God to do the forgiving for you. Forgiveness is for our own benefit. Carrying resentment is like swallowing poison and hoping the other person will die.

 2) Today you will be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

Who is lost, broken and hurting? Pray for those who are suffering from their own decisions. Rather than judge them, love them. Remember we all need grace, and our past mistakes do not necessariy dictate our future. Focus on the life beyond this life, and how God’s love draws us to where we need to be. Trust those who are wandering to God’s care.

3) Behold your mother. (John 19:26-27)

Are you so consumed with your own pain that you are neglecting those closest you? What do your dearest loved ones need from you? Do you know how they’re doing? Pray for them. Love them deeply. Show them your concern.

4) My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mat. 27:46, Mark 15:34)

Admit your deep despair and loneliness. Where and when do you feel rejected and forsaken? This prayer comes from Psalm 22. Remind yourself that Psalm 23 follows immediately. We are never alone. In the darkest valley, God is with us.

5) I thirst. (John 19:28)

What is your deep seated thirst? What do you think you need to survive? Thirst for praise? Thirst for acceptance? Thirst for significance? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

6) It is Finished. (John 19:30)

What needs finishing in your life? What have you begun, but not completed? What is God’s calling for you – his unique mission? Are you following it? If not, what stands in the way? What parts of you are still “under construction?” Be patient with others, they are still under construction too. “Be patient with me. God is not finished with me yet.”

7) Into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

What do you need to release into God’s hands? Have you been trying to control outcomes and other people? Let them go. Release them into the hands of your loving father. Are you concerned about your future? Your past? Are you confused about your present situation? Are you struggling emotionally? Spiritually? Relationally? Physically? Surrender all to God.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Rural Church Relevance

Here's an article I wrote for Light and Life Magazine, listing some good things the rural church has to offer:  Rural Church Relevance.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

How to Pray for an Hour

This morning at church, reflecting on Christ's question, "Could you not tarry with me one hour?", I challenged the congregation to spend an hour in prayer sometime this week. 

The church sanctuary will be open from 6 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Thursday specifically for this purpose.

In case you're wondering what to do with the other 58 minutes, here's a handy guide from Dick Eastman's Hour that Changes the World.  Powerful stuff -- and the best guide for an hour's praying I've ever encountered.

A Few Reflections on the Cross

An African Good Friday Benediction by Bishop Emmanuel Koliny of Rwanda:

Minister: All our problems . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!

Minister: All our difficulties . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!

Minister: All the devil's work . . .
People: We send them to the cross of Christ!

Minister: All our hopes . . .
People: We set on the risen Christ!

Minister: Christ, the Son of Righteousness, shine upon you
and scatter the darkness from before your path:
and the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you, forever and ever.
Amen.

A Good Friday reflection by Richard John Nehaus:


Many years later, I was on a program with a famous evangelist from California who had built a huge cathedral designed by a famous architect. He said there had been a debate about whether the cathedral should have a cross.

Some people thought the cross an excessively gloomy symbol.


"I said that of course there will be a cross," declared the famous evangelist. "The cross is the sign of Christianity and we're a Christian Church.

"Then he paused and announced with a triumphant smile, "But I can tell you that there's nothing downbeat about the cross at the Crystal Cathedral."

An upbeat cross?

Back in Pembroke, a Wesleyan church visited by our elementary school class had in large letters above the communion table, "He is not here. He is risen."

Yes, I thought, he was not there.