Get the book here

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lasting Fruit

A couple months ago Teens For Christ Connection (Phillipsburg, Ks) celebrated their 40th anniversary with an all-day event.

As Jane and I had served on staff for a couple years, and since I was, ah, "seasoned," they asked me to help MC the program.

Part of the day involved families from each of the four decades sharing how TFC had impacted their lives.

One family traced their spiritual lineage back to the Spirit of God working through a guy named Jack Hager.

It blessed my proverbial socks off; and I just learned it was videoed.

If you click the following link, you can either watch it from the beginning to learn the genesis of TFC, or you can advance to about 4.40 where I introduce the family; perhaps it will as much a blessing to you as it is to me.

Just a reminder - back then, like now; like until I flat-line; Jane and I are able to be in full time vocational ministry because a team of individuals and churches partner with us in finance and prayer.

As I frequently comment, "The gifts of God's people make ministry  possible; the prayers of God's people make ministry powerful."

To watch the video CLICK HERE

Friday, May 26, 2017

Me? Read a Book? Yeah, You!


I saw the ad often as a child.

Frankly, my parents didn't give me much, but my father did convey to me the importance...and joy...of reading. I remain an unashamed bookaholic.

It pains me to see so many of all ages who do not read.

Some say they've no time; some say it's too hard.

Which is why I resonate with this article by James Emery White:

HOW TO BECOME A BETTER READER

One of the most frequent questions I get is how to keep up with culture. My stock answer is to read voraciously. Then the follow-up comes: How can I become a better reader?
Borrowing a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, Susan Wise Bauer rightly maintains that any literate man or woman can become a reader. “All you need are a shelf full of books... and a few ‘chasms of time not otherwise appropriated.’”
With the scent of a savvy, real-world reader, Bauer gives the following suggestions:
  • Morning is better than evening: Why fight the fatigue?
  • Start short. As with physical exercise, work your way into shape starting with no more than 30 minutes a day.
  • Don’t schedule yourself for reading every day of the week. Aim for four days, giving yourself some days off for the inevitable interruptions of life.
  • Never check your email or social media right before you start reading. You know how it distracts the mind and commands your time.
  • Guard your reading time. Set it, keep it and protect it.
  • And take the first step now.
I might add three more to her list:
First, do not attempt to read a book – particularly a significant one – in the context of chaos. Blaring music, kids running amuck and interrupting you every five minutes, getting up to answer the phone... such distractions are insurmountable. Guarding your reading is more than setting the time itself aside; it is protecting its quality.
Second, do not become discouraged if you read slowly, resulting in only a few books a year. The more you read, the faster you will read. The same is true with comprehension. Your mind is like your body; you should not expect to run a 4-minute mile the first day or complete a marathon after two weeks in the gym. Speed and increased abilities in reading comprehension come with time. And they will come.
Finally, reading is served by knowing the degree to which individual books should be read. Not every book qualifies for a cover-to-cover journey. Long ago, Francis Bacon gave this wise counsel: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and digested.” Read each book to the degree that it deserves, and no more. A classic text that will help in this area is Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.
Most people would be amazed at what can be accomplished with such practices. Will Durant, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the famed 11-volume The Story of Civilization once listed “The One Hundred ‘Best’ Books for an Education.” As if he anticipated the reaction to such a program, he writes, “Can you spare one hour a day? … Let me have seven hours a week, and I will make a scholar and a philosopher out of you; in four years you shall be as well educated as any new-fledged Doctor of Philosophy in the land.”
He’s right.
James Emery White
Sources
Adapted from James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).
Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had.
Francis Bacon, Of Studies.
Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book.
Will Durant, The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, compiled and edited by John Little.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

"But We've Always Done It This Way"

Change.

Some hate to change. 

Some think any change is compromise.

Whether we like it or not, things...and people...change.

What worked a couple years ago may not work today. What works in Los Angeles may well not work in, say, Kansas City.

I'm pretty sure I know why people really don't like change -

It means work.

The gospel never changes. The methodology of presenting the gospel does...or at least should.

This article by Ron Edmundson maketh sense to me:

A SECRET TO SUCCESS IN MINISTRY YOU MAY NOT KNOW:

Imight have discovered a secret to the success of Jesus’ disciples.
And therefore my own ministry.
I never caught it until recently.
Read these verses and see if you see what I saw:
They were to wear sandals, but not put on an extra shirt.
So they went out and preached that people should repent. (Mark 6:9, 12 )
Remember what happened?
And they were driving out many demons,anointing many sick people with olive oil, and healing them. (Mark 6:13)
Did you catch what made them successful? Don’t miss it?

They wore sandals.

You get it. If I want people to respond.
If I want to see success in ministry.
If I want them to repent.
Maybe I need to wear sandals.
Maybe it’s not happening as much as I wish it would because I’m not wearing the right shoes.
I should wear sandals every Sunday morning. With my jeans or with my suit.
Sandals…the missing ingredient.
And, of course, I’m being funny. Or trying to be.
Okay, not funny, but I’m making a point.
Jesus gave very specific instructions, but they weren’t unusual to the disciples. Just specific. The people seeing the disciples wouldn’t have thought they were dressed strange either.
Jesus’ clothing instructions were within the context of the day.
It’s a reminder to me.
Methods change.
The way we do ministry changes. The clothes we wear. The songs we sing.
I don’t wear sandals. To preach. Catch me Monday through Saturday, or an hour after the last service, and you’ll find me in Biblical attire.
I dress in the context of the day. To the people I’m trying to reach. Styles change.
And, of course, there are other implications of this. Not just shoes. Context changes.
Here’s the point I’m making. If we are not careful, we begin to think our practices, the ones we’ve done so long, or the one we prefer, are Biblical, when really they are contextual.
Cultural.
And, context changes.
But the fact that people need to repent doesn’t.
And, so we minister within the context of the day, and preach truth.
Jesus modeled that for us.

If not…we’d all be wearing sandals.

(My California pastor friends are confused. You can ignore this post and enjoy your sandals.)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

No Choice and Choice

Whether you are calvinistic or armenian (or aren't sure what you are {and that's okay!}), you have the incredible power of choice.

As First Jack 1.18 declares, "You make your choices; then your choices make you."

But, of course, in many things you have no choice.

For instance Psalm 118.24 begins, "This is the day the Lord has made..."

No choice. The Creator of all has created this day...

Your choice? The verse continues, "...we will rejoice and be glad in it."

Easy to quote in the sunshine; a tad more difficult to do in the valleys of life...

Yet it is a matter of the will...the power of choice.

REJOICE!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Report on BQF Nationals 2017

It is Sunday. Last Wednesday began the 2017 Bible Quiz Fellowship National Tournament. The ministry I serve (Midland Ministries) hosted; and thus we had the prep and post work (of which there is a massive amount).

If you are not familiar with Bible quizzing (BQF style or any other), learn more here.

Forty-five teams of seven from about 14 states participated. This year's tournament was held in Kansas City, which has a large Bible quiz presence. It is only 45 minutes away from Midland's location in and around Saint Joseph, Mo. Many parents, grandparents, and other family members showed up to encourage and watch.

All tournaments have their own flavor; but this one seemed particularly sweet. Interaction among the teen competitors appeared friendly, respectful, and it was great to hear laughter; and great to see a pair or a group of quizzers praying together.

Quizzers (and staff) speak of "PND" (Post-Nationals Depression). Though probably not diagnosable, it is very real thing for many...intense days of competition laced with moments of hilarity and periods of heartache...As I say probably too often...Nationals has such uniqueness that it is like, to me, combat or prison...no matter how much you hear; how many videos you watch..unless you've been there, you've no idea.

You'll note I'm not displaying the team placements, or individual achievements. They are important, the teens work very hard for them; but whether they finished at the top or at the bottom; they've all memorized several chapters of Luke...Thus they are all victors.

  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Drudgery Sanctified

When asked what ministry looks like, I occasionally grin and reply, "We set up chairs, take down chairs; set up chairs, take down chairs..."

It is said we do a lot of the stuff we'd rather not do in order that we can do what we wish to do.

This from Oswald Chambers cleans it up and clears it up (and perhaps convicts it up?)

"Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome, and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

CELEBRATE!

When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all the galaxies in to being, limited all power, and for love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby.
 
Madeline L'Engle

Friday, September 2, 2016

Pondering Psalms...

Psalms. I still try to read five a day and thus all each month.

Why? Among other reasons, the psalmists record a wide range of emotions and realities. Sometimes life has "blah" moments; other times life is full of excitement and high emotion. 

There are other times in (honest) Christians' lives when life just sorta sucks, and God is questioned. 

All these realities and more are recorded in psalms.

Doesn't quite go in with the flashy, prosperity-geared hype of much "Christian" television. Doesn't "sell" well. Goes against the "glitter." Exposes the lies. 

But it is genuine. "Speaking the truth in love" is too-often cited as the proper way to give criticism, but the essence is to speak the truth. Methinks there are far too many followers of Christ wallowing in self-induced misery because they feel they are the only ones to be going through a dry spell, a time of doubts, a time of listlessness.  Why?

Because believers too often not only don't speak the truth, we lie. "How ya doing?" "Great, praise the Lord," when, in fact, we are close to dying inside.

Vulnerability isn't "safe," and no one wants to be around someone who is always whining, but we all need to work at being real, genuine, and open with our brothers and sisters in Christ. That "we all" does, of course, include me.

Motives for not sharing? Perhaps some don't think "real" Christians go through down times? Others don't want their particular issue to be spread..in other words, we don't trust those to whom we might be vulnerable. 

Some don't want to admit to having any less-than-mountaintop-experiences.

Perhaps some just don't want to run the risk of making another "down" because of our "downess"? Not sure if that last sentence conveys what I'm attempting to say...

The Psalms are a look inside the heart as well as head of David and the author psalmists. Superintended by the Holy Spirit, the recorded words are sometimes shocking, other times comforting, occasionally confusing.

Sort of like life. Real life. Redeemed life. Life for which we can be certain of one crystal-clear fact...the Lord is with us 24/7...and though He rejoices with us when we rejoice, He weeps with us when we weep...and equips us to do the same with one another.

In a valley? He is with you now...not "just" at the other end.

And the way out of the valley is through the valley...with the Lord your God taking the "point."

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Not Just for a November Thursday

Giving thanks...
"give thanks in all circumstances..." NIV, ESV
"in everything give thanks..." NKJ
"give thanks in everything" HCSB
"No matter what happens, always be thankful..." NLT

Just a few versions of 1 Thessalonians 5.18; and all conclude pretty much the same, "...for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Wanna know God's will?

Can't tell you specifically (nor can any other human) what His will is for your life, but we can see one of the few places in scripture where "His will" is specifically defined (there are at least three others)...to be thankful.

But notice we are to be thankful in all situations, not for all situations. We need not be thankful for cancer, divorce, crime, war, gossip, etc. But we can trust the Lord and His sovereignty (to include Romans 8.28, which is a delightful verse to quote to other people!) and be thankful in the valleys, in the bad times, in the doubt and confusion. Important distinction...

I am so very grateful that God chose me in Him (and we don't have to understand stuff to be thankful for stuff!) before there was time. I'm grateful He called me to Himself.

I'm so very thankful for Jane...a Proverbs 31 wife who puts up with so much of "me" and still loves me. And I'm thankful for four great, wonderful, exasperating, prayer-provoking children.

I'm also grateful I get to "brag on Jesus" vocationally, and for those folks who pray and give that we might continue to serve as home missionaries totally dependent on "support/deputation."

And I'm thankful for you...a zillion things you could be doing, and you are reading this! Amazing!
Here's something from Elisabeth Elliott: "It is always possible to be thankful for what is given rather than to complain about what is not given. one or the other becomes a habit of life."
And this chewable from G. K. Chesterton: "The modern world (he died in 1936) has had far too little understanding of the art of keeping young. Its notion of progress has been to pile one thing on top of another, without caring if each thing was crushed in turn. People forgot that the human soul can enjoy a think most when there is time to think about it and be thankful for it. And by crowding things together they lost the sense of surprise; and surprise is the secret of joy." (emphasis added)

In the midst of the hustle and bustle, remember the giver of all good gifts and give thanks to Him...remember to verbalize your love and thanks to those who are crucial, precious, irreplaceable parts of your life...and remember that an optimist is one who sees a 28 pound turkey on the dinner table on Thanksgiving and who, on Friday, asks "What's for lunch?"

Although...in my opinion...there is nothing quite as good as a cold turkey sandwich loaded with onions late Thursday or Friday...

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


So last night I decide to read Psalm 119. I do that fairly often since it is so focused on the Word of God (though using a number of, in my mind, synonyms).
As I read I spotted three verses that methinks will develop into a sermon...I share them for your own edification and/or comments:

Psa 119.133 Keep steady my steps according to Your promise,
and let no iniquity get dominion over me.

Psa 119.165 Great peace have those who love Your law, nothing can make them stumble.

Psa 119.173  Let Your had be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts.
Rather cool, huh?

I'm sure some will think it is sacrilege, but makes me think of an old Beatles tune:

Verse 133...help me to walk steady...don't let any sin creep up and get power over me

Verse 165...prerequisite...love God's law; guarantee, nothing can make you stumble (cue D.C. Talk..."what if I stumble, what if I fall; will the Lord still love me when the walk becomes a crawl")...Doesn't say we won't stumble; does say nothing can make us stumble...we stumble on our own...

Verse 173...because I've chosen His precepts, God's got my back!

Here's another great verse: Isaiah 41.13 For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who says to you, "Fear not, I am the One who helps you."