Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Martin Luther Nailed It


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

25 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. What is the "hub" of your life? (The central theme)
2. If someone were to look at your calendar and checkbook, what would they discover about your priorities? 
3. What is your single greatest strength?
4. What is your earliest memory from childhood? Is there any connection between this memory and your life today? 
5. Where do you invest your most significant emotional energy?
6. What role does God, prayer, the Bible, and church play in your life? 
7. What "turns your crank"? What do you love to do? 
8. Regarding the above question -- Are you carving out time to do it? If not -- Why not? 
9. What holds you back from being your best? 
10. Who has had the most significant influence upon your life?
11. Are you happy with the condition of your inner life?
12. When do you "recharge" your emotional and spiritual batteries?
13. Are there any unresolved issues poisoning your mind and heart?
14. Have you forgiven everybody as far as you know?
15. Are there any restitutions you should make?
16. Is your love for your family members reflected in the time you spend with them?
17. How do you communicate your affection and appreciation?
18. What is your plan for personal growth?
19. What helpful books have you read recently? What are you reading right now? What are you going to read next?
20. Who needs your help? What can you do to make a difference?
21. What are your unique gifts and abilities? How can you maximize them?
22. Does your attitude need an adjustment? Are you a hopeful optimist or a frustrated pessimist?
23. What problems are weighing you down? How can you get on the "solution side"?
24. What vision do you have for the future? What do you hope to accomplish?
25. What three changes could you make that would bring about a significant improvement?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Love Shines Through

Love, the greatest human virtue, is the primary measuring stick of the goodness in one's life.

Nothing is more delightful than loving, and nothing feels better than being loved.

A wise old minister once said Love is. . .
Slow to suspect - quick to trust
Slow to condemn - quick to encourage
Slow to offend - quick to defend
Slow to expose - quick to shield
Slow to reprimand - quick to forbear
Slow to belittle - quick to appreciate
Slow to demand - quick to give
Slow to provoke - quick to reconcile
Slow to hinder - quick to help
Slow to resent - quick to forgive.

True love is much more than a feeling or an emotion - it is an act of the will!
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres (1 Cor. 13.)

Real love moves beyond intentions. It shines through our actions, attitudes and words.

Unfortunately, un-love shines through too. You can pretend to love others - but they will find you out before too long.

Fault finding and criticizing others are signs of love deficiency.  Faults grow thick when love is thin.

Loving is risky business. There is a chance of being deeply hurt if you open your heart.  But, as Eleanor Roosevelt said,  "It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire, which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell. Giving out nothing, they receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death."

Consider this observation from Mother Teresa, "I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no more hurt, but only more love.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What Brings More Happiness 11 Kids or $11 Million?


Question: Who is happier? A man with 11 million dollars or a man with 11 children?

Answer: A man with 11 children -- because he doesn't want more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Slower than Gilbert Brown


The following article is an excerpt from my book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose:
A few years ago our family visited the Green Bay Packer training camp, to watch our gridiron heroes, and collect a few autographs.  Right across the street from the practice field, the team had set up a special tourist attraction called The Packer Experience.
For a not-so-nominal fee, fans were invited to become imaginary Packers.  After some arm twisting, I relented, and took the gang in to join the team! 
We tried on shoulder pads, wore authentic jerseys, tossed a game-used football, had our knees taped, and received black smudges under our eyes.  The Packer Experience included a 40 yard dash, where sprinting fans were clocked and compared with Packer players.
“Dad!  Let’s see you do it!” my son, Ryan urged.
“Nah,” I replied, “I don’t want to show anybody up.”
“Oh, c’mon Dad!  Be a good sport,” chimed the rest of the children, “You can do it!”
So, I did.
I hunched over the starting line, and, at the signal, took off like a shot, running as fast as my squatty little legs could carry me.  Music from “Chariots of Fire” echoed in my mind.
My grinning kids stood at the finish.  To congratulate me?  Not a chance!   They were just waiting to have some fun at my expense!  As I crossed the line, they doubled over, howling with laughter.
“Dad!” they hooted, “You’re slower than Gilbert Brown!!”
Now, Gilbert Brown was a honking monster lineman, pushing 400 pounds.  His bigness was legendary – so big, a Green Bay restaurant advertised giant-sized Gilbert Burgers on the menu.  Ol’ Gilbert was, by far, the slowest player on the team – and I was slower than him!  Might as well paste a “slow moving vehicle” sign on my back.
A few weeks later, however, I was in a Boeing 737, flying to a speaking engagement.  The little information guide in the seat pocket said we traveled at 585 miles per hour!  I thought, “Who’s going faster now, Gilbert Brown?” 
Gilbert couldn't touch that.  I was going faster than the fastest Packer!  In fact, I was zipping along quicker than Devin Hester, Bob “The Bullet” Hayes, and even the Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt!
My travel at such super-human speed was entirely due, to a power far beyond my own!  My job was to board the plane, and the pilot took care of the rest!
And that’s what the enduement of spiritual power does, enabling us to accomplish far more than we could on our own.  “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” says the Lord Almighty (Zechariah 4:6).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thirteen Thoughts on Pastoral Prayers

If you are given the task to lead the congregation in prayer on Sunday morning, I encourage you to consider the following:

1) You are the representative of the people -- bringing their prayers and the concerns of their hearts before the Father. It is not just your own personal prayer -- so instead if saying, "God, I love you so much" say, "God, we are here to tell you how much we love you."

2) Be sure you don't pray the same phrases every time. Change it up. If you don't prepare and think about the prayer, you will automatically resort to old familiar cliches -- which wear out quickly in public usage.

3) Say "thank you" to God early in the prayer. "O Lord, we thank you today for providing strength, peace, and contentment for each moment. . ."

4) Don't preach at the congregation through the prayer. Don't yell. God is not hard of hearing. 

5) If you use an ancient or other written prayer -- let it stand alone. Don't add to it. If it's worth using, then it shouldn't need your help to boost it. Trying to add your own topping to a classic prayer is like adding a little color to the Mona Lisa with magic marker. This is also true with the Lord's Prayer -- don't recite the Lord's Prayer, and then try to improve on it.

6) Whenever possible, add a personal element to the prayer -- one who is sick in the hospital, one who has lost a loved one this week, students going back to school. In many ways, a pastoral prayer is an act of pastoral care. Be careful, though, not to belabor this or to go into details. God already knows all the details. Something like this would be appropriate, "Father, we ask that you would comfort the Lewis family as they grieve the loss of Larry, their beloved husband and father, We pray also that you would bring healing to our friend, Judy, in the hospital and we remember Josh today, as he serves in Iraq." The prayer is not an announcement, but rather as a connecting point with those who are hurting.

Just a quick mention will bless all the friends and loved ones, as well as the person named in the prayer. (They'll hear about it.)

7) Eliminate distracting mannerisms. i.e. repeating the same word or phrase over and over -- "Dear Lord, oh God, we thank you, Dear Lord, oh God, for helping us, Dear Lord, oh God." Another common repeat is "just wanna" -- "Dear God, we just wanna praise you tonight, and we just wanna give you all the glory. . .

8) Occasionally, lead them in a guided silent prayer.  "First, let's pray for our loved ones". . . then allow for a period of silence, while they do so.  Be sure to give adequate time for this. A common mistake is breaking the silence too quickly.

9) Don't use a special "prayer voice". Don't pray in 17th century English. Don't say "UH" at the end of every sentence. "Dear God-uh, We are in your presence today-uh to give you praise-uh."

10) Along the same line, be sure to speak clearly and loud enough so the people can hear you. Don't mumble into your shirt. Keep you head up enough to project.

11) Keep it brief. The impact and helpfulness of a public prayer diminishes with long, eloquent waxing. It's better to do your long prayers in private -- and keep your public prayers short.

12) Finish the prayer in Jesus' Name. Say it clearly and deliberately -- "In Jesus' name, amen" or "In the mighty name of Jesus, amen", or "In the name of our Savior, Jesus, amen." Speak his name boldly and clearly as you finish the prayer.

13) Through it all, remember that you are addressing God -- not the people. (Your job is not to make an impression) But, you are addressing God on behalf of the people.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Mood of the Leader

"Smile and the world smiles with you."

Recently, I read some interesting facts indicating that the old adage is really true! Researcher and Psychologist, Daniel Goleman, along with his associates, did a study on the "bottom line performance" of companies. They discovered that the thing which influences a company's bottom line performance more than anything else is the mood of the leader.

Hmmmm -- now, that's interesting. If you are a leader, and everything is a big mess -- the first thing to start fixing is your own attitude! This applies in business, school, sports teams, church, and home. If you don't like what's going on around you, it's time to change what's going on within you!

"A cheerful heart is good medicine", Proverbs 17:22. Or, as Madeleine L' Engle said, A good laugh heals a lot of hurts."

We cannot afford to allow little nit-picky annoyances to rob us of joyful health. We were created for joy. We were made to laugh. When the worries and burdens of life bind us up and squeeze the happiness out of our soul, we are living below our rightful inheritance as children of God.

"Mirth is God's medicine. Everybody ought to bathe in it," said Henry Ward Beecher, "Grim care, moroseness, anxiety -- all this rust of life - ought to be scoured off by the oil of mirth.

"Unfortunately, people have the mistaken notion that Christians are a miserable lot. "Are you a minister?" someone asked a gentleman. "No," he replied, "I just have bad gas.

"A little kid, visiting his grandfather's farm, observed the sorry looking mule. "Poor ol' mule," the boy declared, "I think he has Grandpa's religion.

"It ought not to be so! Christian people have the privilege of being the happiest people in the whole world!I agree with C. S. Lewis, who said, "Joy is the serious business of heaven."

Jesus reminded us of this heavenly attitude when he said, "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you -- and that your joy may be full." Joy is the natural result of spiritual health. Fear, worry, resentment, and other "joy robbers" are symptoms of spiritual disease. They need to be released if the joy is going to flow.

Just a few practical pointers on how to have a joyful life:
1. Don't take yourself so seriously -- nobody else does!
2. Worry is the "red light" that indicates a low joy level.
3. Joy comes by voluntarily serving others.
4. Enjoy the little things each day. Take time to stop and smell the roses.
5. Focus on joy in the hard times. Remember -- This too shall pass!
6. Share life honestly with a good friend. This will divide the sorrows and double the joys.
7. Look for the humor in every situation.

"Give me a sense of humor, Lord.
Give me grace to take a joke.
To get some happiness from life
And pass it on to other folk."
 -- Chester Cathedral

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Door Bell Praying

"Much of our praying is like the little boy who rings the doorbell, but runs away before the door is opened."
 -- Leonard Ravenhill, Why Revival Tarries (quoted in Herald of His Coming, Sept. 2012.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

"They're Looking for Me!"


A boss needed to talk with one of his employees because he had discovered an urgent problem in one of the company’s main computers. He dialed the employee’s phone number and a a child answered by whispering: “Hello?”

Irritated that he had to talk with a child, the boss asked, “Is your father at home?” 

“Yes.”

“May I talk with him?” 

“No.”

The boss asked, “Is your mother at home?” 

“Yes.”

“May I talk with her?” 

“No.”

Irritation rising, the boss said, “Is there anyone there besides you?”

“Yes,” the child whispered, “A policeman.”

Wondering what in the world was going on, the boss asked, “May I speak with the policeman?”

“No, he’s busy.” 

“Doing what?” 

“Talking to Daddy and Mommy and the fireman.”

Now concern crowded into the man’s thoughts, alongside the irritation, coupled with what he thought sounded like the noise of a helicopter. “What is that noise?”

“A hello-copper,” answered the whispering voice.

“What’s going on there?”

“The search team just landed the hello-copper!”

“What are they doing there?”

Still whispering, the young voice muffled a giggle and said, “They’re looking for me!”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

John Wesley's Advice for Political Elections


Ask God for Something Fresh


"It's to be remembered that all revivals in the history of the Christian Church that have shook towns, cities, and countries, all began with people saying, 'We can't take what is anymore. We've got to ask God for something fresh!'"
- Pastor Jim Cymbala, Brooklyn Tabernacle, Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Good Boy Righteousness

If my righteousness is merely about striving to be a "good boy" or "good girl" then I'm at the same righteousness level as my dog.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not Down But Up

Are you going through life looking down, just looking at dirt as you shuffle around? Are you "down" on other people, and "down" on yourself? Do you only see the "down" side of the situation? Are you "down" on new ideas?

If so, do you realize you are bringing everybody else down right along with you?

Maybe it's time for a face lift! (or better yet, a faith lift!) It's time to stop looking down and start looking up! You will see a blue sky with limitless opportunities, when you look up!

You will believe the best of others, possess a high degree of confidence, and make the most of each day, when you look up!

You will focus on what's right rather than what's wrong, when you look up! Look down and you will see the hardened ground. Look up and you will see the smile of God. What a difference looking up makes in our faith and perspective! Our attitude towards life largely determines what we can accomplish.

If you frown, look down and say "It can't be done", you're right! With that attitude it CAN'T!

But if you throw your shoulders back, look up and say, "It CAN be done", you are also right! With that attitude, anything is possible!

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."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cured!

I thought this cartoon was especially funny in light of our "Do You Want to Get Well?" sermon series.

Friday, October 12, 2012

In the Spin Zone

In light of last night's Vice-Presidential Debate, I thought this post by my friend, Eric Hambrock, was fitting:

Spin is the ability to take facts and twist them or “spin” them to make them seem to be in your favor. Now, you may say to yourself, “Self…isn’t that called lying?” The modern answer is “no”! You see it’s not lying because the truth didn’t change. We all know you can’t change the truth. We just change the presentation of the facts so it appears in our favor.

Read the rest of his insightful post here.

Frankly, I'm weary of the entire process.  My in-box is flooded each day with political propaganda sent to me by well-meaning parishioners.  I'm not quite sure what they expect me to do with their "alarming facts", but I refuse to be a pawn for either political party.  The Gospel should inform our politics, not the other way around.

We're not going to distribute political spin, cleverly disguised as "Informed Voter Guides, nor will we permit any campaign to place fliers on windshields in our parking lot.

Pretty much, everybody I know already has their own view on the election, and the commercials, debates, etc. aren't going to do much to sway them one way or the other.

For those still undecided, the best "No Spin" source of information is found at votesmart.org a bi-partisan organization committed to presenting the views of each candidate fairly.

I can hardly wait till November 7.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Advantages of Taking a Nap

This interesting post at Lifehacker gives me a fresh appreciation for those who snooze during the Sunday morning sermon:  The Science of the Perfect Nap.

"Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."  -- Matthew 11:28

Monday, October 08, 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

4 Kinds of Small Groups that Expand Ministry

Here's great post from Rick Warren regarding four kinds of small groups that expand the ministry of a local church:
1) Membership  (introductory group -- i.e. recovery and support groups)
2) Maturity  (discipleship -- what we normally consider small groups)
3) Ministry  (ministry teams in the church -- i.e.  ushers, music teams, youth workers)
4) Mission  (teams organized for the purpose of community transformation and global impact.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

It's Not Worth the Knot

Whatever you're stewing over isn't worth the stomach knot.

It's not worth the knot!

I've found, from personal experience, that worrying doesn't help matters one bit. It just makes the burden heavier.

We all know we shouldn't worry -- but circumstances beyond our control set us off. Anxiety is toxic waste oozing through our mind and body.

It's contagious too. You can get a whole room full of people to start fretting with just a few negative fearful words.

The crazy thing is -- most of the stuff we worry about never happens. And that's a fact.

The other day, I came across my worry file. Several years ago, as I was trying to quit the worry habit, I would write my worries down and place them in my file.

Now -- over a decade later, I've unearthed my pile of worries. Guess what. Of the dozen or so worries I had placed in the file, NOT ONE OF THEM happened!! I had spent restless nights, and hours of inner churning for nothing!!

One wise guy figured it out: "Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better! The things I worry about don't happen!"

Worry is the unhealthy child of fear and unbelief. It gives a small matter a big shadow.

Faith is the light which chases the shadow away.

Jochabed was really worried. Pharoah had decreed that all baby boys should be taken to the Nile River and drowned. What was she to do with her infant son?

In an act of courageous faith, she took him to the Nile River and, with a prayer, sent him off in a little basket. Her son was rescued by a princess, and later Moses became one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. The name "Moses", fittingly means, "drawn out."

Is there a burden that has been causing you stress and turmoil? How about using the Jochabed approach?

Put your burden in basket, and send it down the river!

Trust God to take care of it. He can "draw out" the best possible solution.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Mega-Watt Church

We'll probably never be a megachurch.  Our small northwoods village doesn't lend itself to a congregation like that.  However it's a perfect place for community impact -- a great place to build a "mega-watt" church.