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Showing posts from 2015

New Year Reflection

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Here we stand at the threshold of the New Year. 2015 will soon be passed and packed away, living only in the attic of memories.  Looking ahead to 2016, 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 2016 – 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,�…

How to Be Led by the Spirit

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You will make better decisions when you are led by the Holy Spirit and this guidance is available to you right now!  As Romans 8:14 says, ". . . those who are led by the Spirit are children of God."

 But this begs the question:  how does the Spirit lead us?  Here are a few ways.

 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 Paradox of the Manger

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A special Christmas guest post by Ryan Wilson.  Great food for thought:
 It’s near. Can you feel it? It’s that sense of dread as you realize that you forgot to buy a gift for your Secret Santa. It’s that feeling of deflation as you look at your schedule and you realize that you don’t have a free evening from now until December 26th. It’s the season of red and green d├ęcor at Walmart, tacky yard decorations, and obnoxious songs on the radio (If I hear that refrain “We’re simply having a wonderful Christmas time” one more time, I think I’m going to deck someone’s halls!) Verily, verily I say unto you: The Christmas season is upon us once again!

 I may be overstating the negativity that surrounds the Christmas season. It’s not all bad after all! We all love (hopefully) re-connecting with friends and loved ones, and the festivities can certainly be fun. But it’s undeniable that the holidays can be an overwhelming, loud, and stressful time.

 Why do we do this to ourselves? Some may argue tha…

Churches are Like Horses

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An old farmer once gave the following advice to their newly arrived rookie pastor:
 "Go slow, son. Churches are a lot like horses. They don't like to be startled or surprised. It causes deviant behavior."
 (I found this little gem in Larry Osborne's excellent book, Sticky Teams)

March to the Manger is a Beautiful Tradition

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On Sunday, December 20, Hayward Wesleyan Church will once again celebrate a beloved tradition:  March to the Manger.  We've done this for six years now -- and it is always heartwarming and beautiful.

In the weeks proceeding Christmas Sunday, we encourage the congregation to prayerfully consider what they will offer Jesus for His birthday. We ask every man, woman, teenager and child to plan ahead and give careful thought to this request. (Think about a special Christmas gift for Jesus -- just like you would for all you other loved ones.)

This Sunday, our people will bring their gifts wrapped up (or in a special envelope provided) to the worship service, where they will present them to Christ.

Of course, a financial offering is always appropriate (March to the Manger is the offering), but we ask the church to reflect much deeper than that. What does it mean to offer YOURSELF to Jesus? What new commitment do you need to make? Is there a promise to keep? Is there something you should qui…

My Bad Hearing Does Not Trouble Me

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I can identify with this poem by Beethoven and am sharing it in honor of his birthday. . .

 My bad hearing
 Does not trouble me here.
 In the country
 Every tree
 Seems to talk to me, saying, "Holy! Holy!"
 Inside the forest is enchantment
 Which expresses all things –
 Sweet peace of the forest!

 Almighty, I am happy
 In the woods,
 Blessed
 In the woods,
 Every tree has a voice
 Through thee.

 O God, what glory
 In such a woodland place!
 On the heights is peace –
 Peace to serve thee –

 How glad am I
 Once again
 To be able to wander
 In forest and thicket
 Among the trees,
 The green things and the rocks.
 No mortal can love
 The country as I do;
 For woods and trees and rocks
 Return the echo
 A man desires.

I found this at Your Daily Poem

 This poem is in the public domain.

The End of Me

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In his wonderful new book, The End of Me, Kyle Idleman shares a counter-intuitive approach to reaching a place to be effectively used by Jesus.  Using the Sermon on the Mount as his launching pad, Idleman says the blessings begin when everything turns upside down and we:

Are broken to be wholeMourn to be happyAre Humbled to be exaltedAre Authentic to be accepted He also states our strength begins when we are: Empty to be filledHelpless to be empoweredDisqualified to be chosenWeak to be strong This book challenges status quo Christianity for consumers.  It is a call for self-denial -- downward mobility -- in order to rise in faith.

A very inspiring and convicting read -- and a great resource for small groups and/or possibly a sermon series.

Purchase here

A complimentary copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review on this blog.  I was not required to write a positive review.

Christmas is For Giving

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Christmas is For Giving.

Santa asks, “What do you want for Christmas?” Little kids write letters with lists of things they want.   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 tables?

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

How about remembering those who are in need? Did you know that with the  $450 billion Americans spend on Christm…

O Holy Night

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The best lip sync of the worst rendition of O Holy Night


Two Dozen Symptoms of Insanity

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1) Trying to talk your way out of a problem you behaved your way into.

2) Believing that your situation will get better, but refusing to make changes.

3) Blaming others for your failures and shortcomings.

4) Neglecting the important priorities (God, family, personal health), while chasing after trivia.

5) Thinking you won't get caught when you do something wrong.

6) Lying to "make things better". (You can cover up a skunk, but it still smells!)

7) Hoping money will buy happiness.

8) Procrastination (Putting off the important matters because of the "urgent".)

9) Trying to please everybody.

10) Self-centeredness (The world doesn't revolve around you.)

11) Thinking another person will make you happy.

12) Expecting your children to follow your orders rather than your example.

13) Falling into a pattern of complaint, criticism and negativity. (Gratitude is an important aspect of mental and spiritual health.)

14) Thinking you can fix a problem by yelling.

15) Th…

John Wesley on Social Media

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 "Let us not then trouble and embroil ourselves and our neighbors with unprofitable disputations, but all agree to spread, to the uttermost of our power, the quiet and peaceable gospel of Christ."

I Am Thankful for These Five Things

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Reflecting on the old Thanksgiving hymn, For The Beauty of the Earth, I am truly grateful. . . 

1) For the Beauty of the Earth
  Those of us who live in the northwoods, have a front row seat to enjoy the grandeur of creation.  What a  beautiful place -- with splendid seasons -- each one proclaiming God's praise. 

2) For the Wonder of Each Hour
  Time is fleeting, but I’m thankful for the moments – the special moments we pause to treasure, sitting in  the Thanksgiving Chair.

3) For Thy Church
 In worship (holy hands above) and service (pure sacrifice of love).
 I am so thankful for our church, and the outstanding leaders who serve with me.

4) For the Joy of Human Love
 Brother, sister, parent, child.  I am thankful for my beautiful family, and am looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with them. We will miss Adam, Luke and Emily dearly – but are thankful for Skype!

5) For Thyself – Best Gift Divine.
 God has been my source of strength and comfort. I find that fellowship with Him is sweet…

Be Thankful

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Be thankful for the pile of dishes in the sink, because it means you had plenty to eat.
Be thankful for the dog hair on the carpet, because it means you have a loyal friend who shows unconditional love.
 Be thankful for the messes, because it means some living is happening in your home.
 Be thankful for the difficult conversations you have with your spouse, because they mean  you have a partner who cares.
 Be thankful for the annoyances at work, because they mean you have a job.
 Be thankful for paperwork, because it means you have been trusted with responsibility.
 Be thankful for the light bulb that needs replacing, because it means you have electricity.
 Be thankful for the leaves that need raking, because it means you have beautiful trees.
 Be thankful for clutter in the living room, because it means you have a family.
 Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, because it means you have yard.
 Be thankful for your lumpy mattress, because it means you have a bed to sleep in.
 Be thankful for …

Loving' Jesus from a Deer Stand

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Through 25 years of living in the north country, I’ve come to recognize that, by default, deer hunting season is Wisconsin’s other “holy week.”
It took me a while to figure this out. Year after year, I stood behind the pulpit on the third Sunday of November, and looked with dismay upon an empty sanctuary.  In Hayward, most of the men, and half the ladies vanish into the woods on deer opener, and they normally don’t re-appear for church on Sunday morning.
Of course, there are always a few devoted members of the flock who endure the annual Thanksgiving sermon, anxiously awaiting the concluding “amen” so then can hurry up and get out there. I’m happy to report that my Thanksgiving sermon usually has the intended effect. When it’s over, there’s a collective “Whew, Thank God!” then a mad scramble for the doors.
I regretfully admit that in my foolish, early years past, I attempted to heap guilt and shame on the poor hunters of the congregation in the weeks leading up to “the great departur…

Andrew Murray's Favorite Hymn: Moment By Moment

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This beautiful hymn,  Moment By Moment, was the great devotional author Andrew Murray's favorite hymn. I understand why.

 Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
 Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

 Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
 Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
 Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
 Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
 Never a trial that He is not there,  Never a burden that He doth not bear,
 Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
 Moment by moment, I’m under His care.

 Never a heartache, and never a groan,
 Never a teardrop and never a moan;
 Never a danger but there on the throne,
 Moment by moment He thinks of His own.

 Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
 Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
 Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
 Jesus my Savior, abides with me still.

How a Minister Finds the Freshness and Fullness of God's Power

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"We need a generation of preachers who seek God and seek Him early, who give the freshness and dew of effort to God, and secure in return the freshness and fullness of His power that He may be as the dew to them, full of gladness and strength, through all the heat and labor of the day."
 --  E. M. Bounds (Preacher and Prayer)

The Ugly Old Man

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A few years ago, I took my daughter, Hannah, to Perkins Restaurant for a daddy-daughter date.

As we finished the last of our french fries, I waved down the waitress and asked for the bill. She smiled and said, "I have good news! Somebody else in the room paid it for you this evening."

"Who?" I wondered.

"Well, he said if you insisted on knowing, blame it on the old ugly man sitting across the dining room."

"Sitting where?" I asked.

She furtively nodded in the general direction. I glanced around the restaurant, and right away, I spotted Don, one of my parishioners, having dinner with his wife.

I strode across the dining room, and greeted Don cheerfully: "Thanks a million, you ugly old man, you!"

The startled expressions on their faces immediately informed me that I had made a big mistake! I'd picked the wrong ugly old man to thank!

"I beg your pardon?"

"Er. . . but. . . the waitress said. . ." I tried to explai…

I Fought for You

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For all those who served our country. . . Thank You!  Freedom always comes at a price.  I think your heart will be touched by this video:






East of the Evergreens: A Tribute to Veterans

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A special Veteran's Day tribute by John Miller of Brule, Wisconsin:

 East of the evergreens lies a grassy knoll, which has been there from days of old.
 The only route to the grassy knoll is by a narrow, winding gravel road.
 A cloud of dust can be seen afar, created by a long procession of cars.
 Their travel resembles a snail's pace, passengers are with heavy hearts and somber face.
 As the procession arrives and comes to rest, many have come to pay their respects.
 Honoring a Veteran, America's best.

 Proceeding to the top of the grassy knoll, white crosses are visible in numerous rows.
 Near each cross there is placed a small American flag,
 Signifying those brave souls who were courageous and true,
 Who fought and died for the Red, White and Blue.
 Suffering, sacrifice and lives that were lost, the price of freedom at a terrible cost.

 The preacher made certain that everyone heard, this Veteran confessed that "Jesus is Lord",
 Assuring all he is now in a be…

How to Find Your Happiness

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"If you seek your happiness in God alone, you will never be disappointed, if in anything else, you surely will, for all creatures are broken cisterns."  -- John Wesley

The Path to Peace in Jerusalem

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In light of the recent violence in Israel, I share the following excerpt from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

Jerusalem literally means “City of Peace”, but down through the centuries, it has been anything but that. Although we continually “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” (Psalm 122:6), the answer seems long delayed. Holy Land violence, like a simmering pot, threatens to boil over at any moment.

Touring the Old City a few years ago, our group witnessed a riot at the Wailing Wall. A woman rabbi from Manhattan decided to pray at the men’s section of the wall. The Orthodox rabbis went ballistic. Authorities locked down the gates and it took a whole platoon of soldiers to quell the uprising. Needless to say, I was glad to get out of there.

My dear Palestinian friend, Hanna Massad, has chosen not to get out of there. Exiled in Jordan after the last persecution, Hanna, a Baptist pastor, keeps coming back home to Gaza, one of the darkest places on earth.

Amidst raging conflict and de…

Having the Right Eyes

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"I remember the puzzlement and insecurity of one's first confrontation with his work, along with his name, which is just as new. And then for a long time, nothing, and suddenly one has the right eyes."

-- Poet Rainer Rilkie describing his first exposure to work of artist Cezanne

How Much "Having" Does a Person Have to Have?

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How much "having" does a person have to have?

“How much money would it take to make you happy?”  Someone reputedly asked business tycoon, John D. Rockefeller, how much money it would take to make him happy.”

The business magnate replied, “Just a little bit more!”  But then, again. . . maybe not.

Contentment, after all, isn’t having what you want. It’s wanting what you have.

Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian author, told of Parkham, a poor peasant who dreamed of having a "break" in life. Much to his good fortune, he heard about a tremendous opportunity in a distant place. The government said that he could have all of the land he could encircle by foot in a day.
Excited about this wonderful possibility, Parkham sold all of his possessions and journeyed to the place where he could pursue his dream of becoming a landowner.

At the first crack of dawn, Parkham took off to claim his land! He ran at top speed all day long. Nothing was going to deter him! He wanted to cover as much …

I Prayed for You Today

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Even though I wasn’t sure exactly what to say,
 I talked to God and spoke your name. I prayed for you today.

I asked the Lord to give you strength, to calm you from your stress,
 To free you from the things you fear and bathe your mind with rest.

I asked the Lord to help you in the uphill days to come.
 I asked our precious, loving God to complete what He’s begun.

He whispered in the quiet and He filled my heart with peace.
 He said that you are deeply loved, and that His love will never cease.  --  Greg Asimakoupoulos

Love is in the Listening

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The following is an excerpt from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out:

You and I were given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak; but talking and explaining come easier than hearing and understanding.

Why is it so hard to listen? Consider this: We speak at 100 to 150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250 to 300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute. So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over for thinking about other stuff. For efficient folks, that’s a lot of wasted communication space. Therefore, the fast listener tends to zone out and think about a myriad of other things. Zoning out is evidenced by such responses: “Um hmm,” “Yes, dear,” “I don’t know,” and “Whatever.” Listening is hard work.

True listening is more than hearing the words. It’s processing those words and seeking to understand their depth and meaning. …

Solution Finding is Better Than Fault Finding

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In any given situation, there are two kinds of people:  Fault Finders and Solution Finders.
Fault Finders immediately see the flaws of the world, the nation, the community, and others.  They seem to get a morose satisfaction in pointing them out.  Of course, there’s no intelligent alternative solution offered – only criticism.
Fault Finding isn’t rocket science.  You don’t have to be very bright to gripe and complain.  In fact, such behavior indicates small mindedness.
Great minds talk about great ideas.  Average minds talk about the weather.  Small minds talk about other people.  Or, as Benjamin Disraeli said, “To belittle is to be little.”
Solution Finders, on the other hand, commit themselves to the harder work.  Like the Fault Finders, they see the problems – but unlike them, they believe there’s a positive solution if you keep looking.  Solution Finders believe that every problem contains the seeds of its own solution.
Fault Finders arrive at the problem, and then pitch their tents at…

Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians

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A tattered book on my library shelf, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians, by James Gilchrist Lawson, has been a tremendous blessing and spiritual benefit to me down through the years.  The stories of these godly men and women from the past inspire me to plunge in to the deep end of the prayer pool -- and live in the overflow of holy love.

A digital copy is available here for free.

And Then I Shall Be Free

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Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
 Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
 I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
 Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand. -- George Matheson

Shooting Blessings

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The following excerpt is adapted from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose:

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Driving down Main Street, several years ago with my little girl in the back seat, I glanced in the rearview mirror, and caught her aiming a finger gun at unsuspecting pedestrians. “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

“Hannah, cut that out!” I scolded, “It’s not nice. We don’t shoot people; we bless them.”

After riding in silence for a few minutes, she started up again—this time with two fingers, “Pow! Pow! Pow!”

“Hannah, didn’t I tell you to stop shooting people?”

“But Daddy,” she replied, “this time, I’m shooting blessings!”

Shooting blessings requires a few essentials.

Positive Energy
Some folks run on positive juice, and others run on negative. We bring blessing with the positive.

Encouraging Words
Everyone’s imperfect, but we must look for the good rather than finding fault. Building up others is called edification, and this begins at home. Are you speaking y…

How to Evict Worry From Your Life

Two men were climbing a steep hill on a bicycle built for two. When they finally made it to the top, the first man said, "Whew! That was a stiff climb. I think it was the hardest hill I've ever been on.""It certainly was," his companion replied, "and if I hadn't kept the brake on, we would have slid down backwards!"
When we worry, it's like pedaling uphill with the brakes on. Anxious thoughts make life ten times harder.
Unfortunately, our natural human tendency is to worry about our situations. Is there anybody on this earth who is not familiar with the uncomfortable gnawing of worry in the belly? I seriously doubt it.
Yet, although worry is familiar to us all, we don't have to treat it like a welcomed guest. In fact, we have every right in the world to kick it out! "No Vacancy" -- There's no place for anxious thinking here!
How can we evict worry from our lives? Let me offer a few suggestions:
1. Talk to yourself!
A great wa…