Showing posts from 2013

Instead of a Bunch of Resolutions, Try One Word for the Year

A helpful insight from my good friend, Dennis Jackson. . .

Kipling's Fatherly Advice Good for Entering a New Year

In a conversation about literature a while back, I asked, “Do you like Kipling?”  To that, my friend responded, “I don’t know.  I’ve never Kipled.”

The British author, Rudyard Kipling is best known for his classic piece, “The Jungle Book”, as well as his collection of short animal stories.  A few years ago, while digging in the archives of the British Museum, I was privileged to actually hold an aged letter Kipling had written with his own hand.  It was a surreal moment,spanning the centuries, and drawing kindred hearts together.

In my opinion, Kipling’s most inspiring work is a short poem entitled,“If”, which he penned for his son’s birthday:

If you can keep your head when all about they are losing theirs and
blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance
for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.  Or being lied about,
don’t deal in lies.

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating.  And yet, don’t look too
good, nor talk too wise…

Duty Calls


John Wesley Covenant Renewal

This Sunday, in keeping with our annual tradition, Hayward Wesleyan Church is going to do the longer version of the Wesley Covenant Renewal Service, which was first published by John Wesley in 1780.  This is a rich and deeply meaningful experience, if we take these words to heart.

 I've taken the liberty to adapt and combine a few versions of the Covenant for the pattern we use.
The shorter version we've used for the past few years can be found here.   I drew heavily from the versions from George Lyons and Jeren Rowel.
Wesley Covenant Renewal Service An Adaptation by Mark O. Wilson from versions of the Covenant by George Lyon and Jeren Rowel
Introduction:Historical background of John Wesley, and the purpose for the covenant renewal. Hymn:“Come Let Us Use the Grace Divine” written by Charles Wesley especially for the covenant renewal. LEADER: "Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant which will never be forgotten" (Jer. 50:5, RSV). LEADER: Almigh…

The Renewal of Christmas Evans

Christmas Evans, the tough, one-eyed Welsh revivalist, wrote in his diary of a spiritual dry spell. To rememdy this, he went into the woods and spent three hours before the Lord in prayer and brokenness.

He wrote:

“There stole over me a sweet sense of His forgiving love. As the sun was westering I went back to the road, found my horse, mounted it, and went to my appointment. On the following day I preached with such power to a vast concourse of people gathered on the hillside, that a revival broke out that day and spread through the whole Principality.”

-- Note: A few years ago I had the privilege of visiting Christmas Evans' grave in Swansea. I've been inspired by this godly man's faith and devotion to the Lord.

Pastor, if you're wondering how to revitalize your church, maybe you need to start with your own heart first!

The great evangelist, Gypsy Smith, said, "Draw a circle around yourself, get down on your knees and say, 'Lord, please send a revival, and sta…

You Ain't Gettin' Diddlysquat. . .

I'm tempted to have our choir sing this one for the Candlelight Christmas Eve Services. . . and then preach a sermon on repentance.

(HT Frank Viola)

A Christmas Wagon Ride

A large Catholic Church in a big city put up a Manger Scene every year in front of its church for the month of December. The congregation decided to purchase a new baby Jesus one Christmas season. Every Sunday before Christmas people going by would notice the Manger Scene and particularly the baby Jesus.
On Christmas Eve the Priest went outside to say a prayer before the evenings services. He noticed instantly that the baby Jesus was missing so he called the police.
The officers arrived shortly thereafter and began cruising the neighborhood hoping to find the infant Jesus. After a few blocks ride they noticed a little boy pulling a glimmering new red wagon and to their surpise they saw the baby Jesus placed carefully in that wagon. They stopped their car and asked the boy where he was going with his red wagon and what did he have inside.
The boy excitedly exclaimed that he had gone down to the front of the church every day and prayed to baby Jesus for a new wagon and promised him…

Looking for Splendor in the 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 o…

Merry Christmas!


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 …

Strange Fire, Familar Ice

John MacArthur's new book, Strange Fire, is a 300 page attack on Pentecostals and Charismatics. He has nothing nice to say about them. As I plowed through the diatribe, Mother's sage advice rang in my mind, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything."  Well, John ignored Momma and said a lot.

 In some respects, MacArthur raises a valid concern. Many bizarre antics occur under Pentecostal circus tents. There is a disturbing lack of accountability in many of those circles, and thus, manipulation, heresy and abuse often go unchecked. Prosperity preachers, using this false theology, take advantage of gullible people, and that's wrong.

 Like MacArthur, I abhor charlatans who build personal empires by fleecing the flock, using false claims and empty promises. He is right in protesting self-proclaimed prophets who equate their own words as divine inspiration. Too many uncritical suckers swallow the bait hook, line, and sinker.

 However, Strange …

Old Hymns for Our Day

"Happy Holidays" and the Christmas War

I don't think warring over Christmas is such a great idea.  It makes Christians look like grinches.

A couple years ago, I observed the following conversation between a department store clerk and an irritated "Pro-Christmas" customer.
"Happy Holidays," the clerk smiled.
The customer glared at her and growled, "It's MERRY CHRISTMAS!", then stormed off in a huff.  I was tempted to fill in the last part, "you filthy animal!"

I grinned at the startled cashier, and said, "Don't let it bother you.  He's just looking for a fight."
Seems to me, the clerk expressed the Christmas spirit far better than the angry evangelical protester.
Come to think of it, the word "holidays" actually comes from "holy days."
When someone says "Happy Holidays", they are actually wishing me happiness and holiness -- expressing the peace and presence of Christ.  I'll take that, and say " happy, holy days to you …

Fret Not Thyself

"Fret not thyself. . ."

That's the way the first verse of Psalm 37 begins (in the King James
Version) and it's a word aptly spoken.

It's easy to find ourselves fretting and stewing over circumstances
beyond our control. Without even realizing it, toxic, anxious thoughts
can seep into the mind, and poison the spirit. That's not the way it's
supposed to be. We were not created for inner discord, frets and

Instead, in the original design, we were made for faith. This quest
for faith is embedded deep in every human heart. People might try to
deny it, but it's still a reality! We're hard-wired to believe in The
One who is greater than ourselves.

God created us to worship and acknowledge Him -- and in a very
practical way, this means trusting Him with all our circumstances. ALL
of them!!

Now, that's easier to SAY than DO.

One day,  my beautiful wife, Cathy observed me fretting and fussing
over some financial difficulties. Gently, she reminded me that I ought

Christmas is for Giving

Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” Little kids write
letters with lists of things they want. Some of those cute letters
made their way to the Sawyer County Record last week.

That’s a precious thing, and I certainly don’t want to detract from
the wonder little children experience at Christmas.

But, at the essence, Christmas is not for getting – it’s for giving!

Tis the season of unselfishness.
Tis the season to share with those you love.
Tis the season to be compassionate for those less fortunate.

It’s not about spending money you don’t have on stuff they don’t need.
This year, especially, with financial squeeze we’re all feeling – how
about simplifying? How about being creative, spending a little less,
and giving a little more of yourself? How about shopping locally, so
you when you DO spend, it’s helping your neighbors put food on their

How about giving something homemade? How about giving your time?

How about remembering those who are in need? Did you know that
Americans spent $45…

Things that Get God's Attention

*  The fall of a common, ordinary sparrow (see Matt. 10:29) 
*  A single strand of hair falling from someone's head (see Matt. 10:30) 
*  The hungry cry of a tiny baby (see Isa. 49:15)  
*  The sound of two coins falling from a widow's hand (see Mark 12:42)

HT:  Tommy Barnett

The Biographical Bible

The Bible, the greatest story ever told, and Ruth Tucker, one of the world's greatest storytellers, join together in The Biographical Bible: Exploring the Biblical Narrative from Adam and Eve to John of Patmos.
In her usual, engaging style, Tucker brings Bible characters to life, painting them in full color.  I love how she sees the human side of these individuals.
The entire Bible is covered, from Genesis to Revelation -- using biographies to tell the grand story of redemption.
This is so much more than a Bible story book.  It is a good piece of scholarly research, with lots of helpful insights sprinkled throughout.

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story

I've just finished the last book Brennan Manning wrote before passing away.  It's an engaging novel called The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story, co-written by Greg Garrett.

This is a modern day account of the prodigal son parable with a twist.

Jack Chisholm, celebrity senior pastor of Grace Cathedral, a thriving mega-church with global impact, is widely known  as "the people's pastor", and frequently uses the mantra, "we've got to do better."

Poor judgment in a compromising situation leads to Jack's immediate (and very public) fall from grace, landing him on the pages of national newspapers.  In one fell swoop, he loses his position, wife, friends, self-respect, and money.  He winds up in a Mexican resort town-- alone and penniless, wishing he would have done better himself.

Jack's estranged father, Tom, travels to Mexico, uninvited, to bring his wandering son home to the small Texas village he left years ago.

The prodigal pastor returns reluc…

Diamonds in the Rough

You are a jewel! A treasure! A priceless diamond! There's no one else
in this whole world quite like you. You're one of a kind.

You were designed and fashioned by God's hand -- and He doesn't make
mistakes. As the old saying goes, "God don't make junk!"

Yes, you're a diamond, and so am I. So is your spouse, your parents,
your children, your relatives, your co-workers, your friends. Now,
that's a genuine treasure trove!! Shiver me timbers!!

However, there's one little problem. We're still diamonds in the
rough: not yet smoothed and polished. Quite a bit of "coalish carbon"

Our rugged edges and odd shapes lead to conflicts, irritations, and
misunderstandings with the other "diamonds" around us.

This is why we must go through difficulties. The Master Jeweler knows
exactly what is needed to shape us according to the best design and
make us shine. He uses the hammer of hardship and the anvil of angst
to knock off the rough edges. …

You Say What You See

"What do you say?"

Parents often use this phrase to remind their children to say "Thank you."

We hope the practice of expressing thanks will  become ingrained in
our kids if we ask this question repeatedly.

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.

The longer I live, the more I'm convinced that "Thank you" is an
expression of the heart, not just the lips.  We can mouth the words,
but if the gratitude isn't deep within us, we have not properly
expressed thanks.

The secret to Thanksgiving is seeing things straight.  You say what you see.

If you see unfairness -- you speak words of protest.
If you see problems -- you will complain.
If you see shortcomings -- you will criticize.
If you see failure -- you will speak negative words.
If you see stupidity -- you will roll your eyes and judge.
If you see fearful outcomes -- you will fret out loud.

Yes, life is full of unfairness, problems, shortcomings, failures,
stupidity and fearful outcomes -- if you look for those…