Sunday, January 31, 2021

Day 29 of 365: Weak Excuse For Leaving Church

Here is something I have been wrestling with quite a bit lately. I realize this is going to be very opinionated but so are 90% of my blogs. Come to think of it...that is why people have blogs. So that they can express personal thoughts and opinions so here we go. 

In the life of any church...ANY AND ALL CHURCHES there will be people that leave. People that are simply done for one reason or another. Now being a staff pastor or senior pastor for the best part of 24 years I have heard many reasons for leaving a church. Some that are completely understandable and others that leave a pastor thinking....really? 


One of the flimsiest reasons a person has given me for leaving church was “this church is really not taking me to where I once was spiritually.” I would agree that a church ought to give you something to think about. In fact it is argued that there are five distinct purposes for a church. They are...

  1. Spiritual maturity
  2. Community
  3. Discipleship
  4. Service
  5. Growth (numerically and spiritually)


I can understand if a person is striving to live a life of virtue and these needs are not being met. If you are not being prodded and stretched then it might be time to look elsewhere. However, if said person is expecting these things to come automatically while depending heavily alcoholic beverages, poor lifestyle choices, cheating, etc. well then, I think perhaps one needs to quit putting so much responsibility on the church and start cleaning their own closet. 


A church should spur one onto greatness, community, faith, etc. but let me be clear...you have to want it. The problem with the Pentecostal movement that I grew up in and that many others did as well is that we think somehow one trip to the altar will clear that all up. I think it can give us a change of heart but if you are not willing to put that faith into action; well then you can blame the church all you want for your lack of growth. Nothing is going to change however. You will run to the next church only to be let down once again because you are doing nothing in your personal life to cause a change. 


So as I stated earlier, I think some people have a legitimate reason for leaving but really it comes down to the question of what are YOU doing to take YOUR spiritual walk to the next level? The church is a supplement to what you are already doing. 

Day 28 of 365: Just Help

Here we are just one month into the new year and already I have one surgery down that just might take care of my deductible for the year. All of the work they did on my nose one would have thought they could have reduced the size of it but alas, that did not happen. Oh well...here’s to wishful thinking. 

What always amazes me though when I go through these difficult times with my health is people’s generosity in surprising my family with pre-made meals. This weekend we were blessed with a yummy chicken alfredo dish and a fantastic homemade chicken pot pie. We did not ask for them but they showed up. 


This is what I have come to know about helping people. Many times when you ask a person going through a time of loss, surgeries, etc. what they need....they don’t honestly know. The best thing a friend, family member or church friend can do is just show up. Cut the lawn, bring a meal, drop off a gift card it is all appreciated that is IF you are allowed to come to their house. I have heard of cases where the person did not want anyone to come to their home. In that case...you tried. 


Scripture states “our Father knows what we want before we even ask for it...”, I wonder how much that trickles over into the life of a Christian knowing each other’s needs AND HELPING before the one needing help even asks. Hmmmm......

Friday, January 29, 2021

Day 27 of 365: You Need Help!

An interesting thing happened today as I am recovering from sinus surgery. At this point in my life, I am afraid to go to the doctor. It very well could end up with me being referred out to a specialist only to have another surgery. Within the span of one year I have had 6 surgeries. Simply crazy if you ask me. 

I have made mention of this surgery simply because I am a pastor and not showing up at church on Sunday might cause a few people to talk. So, I kind of have to put it out there. Besides that, I believe in the power of prayer. Sure, I made it through the surgery but I attribute that to great medical staff and prayer. 


So...back to the interesting thing that has happened to me today. I received a message from someone who said “you really think what your going through is difficult? Trying going through......”. Now, I certainly won’t say who this person was but what kind of sickness do you need to have in order to try and one up another person’s illness? You wouldn’t believe the crap a pastor puts up with but this certainly rates near the top. That and a person messaging you on the day of your first surgery saying they are leaving the church...another classy move.


If at any point a person becomes so insecure with themself that they need to try and one up another person’s illness...it is time to seek professional help. Honestly, all of the health stuff I have gone through...is not me. What is me is the mountain bike riding, middle of winter kayak riding, hiking, camping fun guy. I can’t wait to get back to all of that once again. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Day 26 of 365: You Can't Please Everyone

You have heard the old saying, “you can’t please everyone so don’t even try”. This quote shows up all over the place doesn’t it? I heard a comedian that was loved by many say, “you know that saying…you can’t please everyone? They were all at my show last night.” This really is the case and all you have to do is open your eyes a bit to notice you are offensive to someone. I am of the opinion that you should apologize to your friends and (for those pastors) congregants. It is inevitable that at some point you will tick off those closest to you. It could be a thing you said, social network update, how you dress, etc.

I have found this to be true in ministry and so will you if you are either currently in ministry or plan to be. It was many years ago while I was speaking at a camp when I bumped into a parent who had quite the family. This dad was really trying to go for a new record in the kid department. We got talking and after a while I brought up the fact that I think it is great when a family can go to Cornerstone. Immediately he began to tell me how horrible it is that we would spend that kind of money to attend a Christian music festival. He continued to tell me that their family cannot afford to do anything because of school supplies, clothes, and they were using government assistance. My initial response I wanted to give was “have another one”, but I refrained. It is amazing at the people who will get upset with you when you say you are going on vacation. In the words of one person that left our church year ago, "only rich people can afford to go on vacation.”


It is funny isn’t it how people can be a real kill joy for what excites you? One thing you will figure out quickly about me if you are my friend on Facebook, Twitter, etc. is that I don’t really talk down to anyone’s opinion. Initially you may say, “YEAH RIGHT!” but look at them, usually the threads I start are me stating my opinion and eventually it ends in a rather lengthy discussion. I will weigh in once or twice but that is it. I truly believe your opinion is your opinion. If a person posts what they think……..so be it.


As this world continues to progress with social networking at our finger tips you really find the true colors of people. The biggest concern I find on social network sites are people slowly turning the tide to say “you are not entitled to your opinion.” I love the ones that say, “I don’t need a special day to get my special someone a gift”. If this is the case…PLEASE don’t put any Christmas gifts under your tree this year. If you do, you will be contradicting yourself and please don’t celebrate a birthday with gifts either. The fact is, gift giving is one of the 5 love languages and it is almost tied with my top love language. Tracy and I found great strength in that book and so have many that read that. The ones who smash that book honestly are ones who have never read it. 


I remember talking with a lady in Wisconsin Rapids that read that book and it shook her to her core. This book is not about telling you how marriage should be (those books annoy me). This book shows you how to communicate with the people you love (spouse, kids). At the back of the book it has an assessment no different than a D.I.S.C. assessment or any other personality assessment. Once you find the love language…it opens doors wide for communication. This lady was shaken because she did not know her spouses love language and once she did…it was too late for their marriage that she knew could have been saved if she had read this book earlier. From both guys and girls I am amazed at the amount of people who don't like Valentine's Day. Just a thought...I wonder if these people have really had the all out romantic treatment that Valentine's Day brings on? Or does life, kids, jobs, etc. bog them down so badly they wouldn't know what a romantic time was if it bit them. Perhaps some do, but perhaps some don’t.


Your opinion is your opinion and I respect that. It is why I love blogging so much! I think there is nothing wrong with even discussing or joking around with someone else's opinion. The danger is when we become snarky or even rude in regards to someone else’s opinion. You cannot please everyone but you can certainly make everyone feel entitled to their opinion…this is what we call respect for each other.

Day 25 of 365: Starbucks Is Coming!

 

People are bored. It’s official. In our little city of Waupaca news broke today that Starbucks is coming to town. For someone like myself that doesn’t necessarily care much for their coffee, I am pretty excited to welcome them to town because their mochas, teas and ice green tea lemonades. I must admit as well that their banana walnut bread is extraordinary. Honestly the taste and texture of that bread is a dead ringer for my mom’s banana bread. Every time I have a slice, I am reminded of hers. 


The reason I say people are bored however is that when I posted the news to my Facebook page today, it turned into more grumbling and complaining. People saying it’s pricey, lousy taste, shop local, etc. Now I realize we have all been pretty well cooped up last year and the start of 2021 but really? We are going to debate over Starbucks? 


I guess what I am getting at is whatever happened to letting people have an opinion? If you agree, make it known. If not…keep on scrolling. I can tell you for someone like myself that moved from Milwaukee to a small city; this news makes me very excited. Yes, I realize it will be stiff competition for the other local coffee shops but honestly…it’s business. Selfishly I will admit it will be nice to have a coffee shop in town that stays open past 5:00 p.m. 


So…spring cannot come soon enough. I have my Starbucks app loaded and ready to go. It would appear 2021 just got a bit more awesome!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Day 24 of 365: Better to Give Than Receive

In Acts chapter 20 verse 35 we read a very important part of being a Christian. It says “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” What strikes me about this passage is just how many Christians think this refers to material possessions. That may be part of it but it certainly is not the main thrust of this passage. 

For a couple of weeks I have been going back and fourth regarding something I know I should do. Have you had those moments? You know what you ought to do but you try and delay the inevitable. It’s not because I am not wanting to do it…on the contrary, I am pretty excited about. What concerns me is the amount of time it will take. 


Well, today I gave in and messaged my friend Javier Gongora on Ambergris Caye in Belize. The purpose of the message was to offer my services to his church. A Spanish speaking only Assembly of God church. They are really doing their best down there but don’t have a website. After telling him that I would be willing to do their site for free; they were super excited and told me it was an answer to prayer.

When we can get out of the mindset that giving means material items, I believe more people will understand it to mean giving of time and talents. 


I will post the web address to this great church when I am finished. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

Day 23 of 365: Government Handouts For Church


Something that many if not all churches hold near and dear to their heart is the whole “separation of church and state”. Churches all over make it clear they do not want government involvement. This is a good stance to have considering how they could potentially dictate how churches ought to run. What they can and cannot say, etc. This is why I am a bit dumbfounded once again by an email I received. 


A week or two ago I received an email stating that the Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) is in effect and churches ought to apply. I have got to admit that I really struggle with churches taking advantage of this. From Joel Osteen’s church to many others….they jump all over this. Why is it that we want zero government involvement that is until they start handing out funds? It just doesn’t seem right. 


Years ago, I took my family out west to see Mt. Rushmore. While driving around out there I remembered that the Crazy Horse monument was in that general vicinity as well. It was thrilling to see this larger than life creation. After walking through the store and hearing the story one thing stood out to me. This monument could have been finished a long time ago had they accepted the multiple offers from government to fund it. No matter how many times they offered to finance it, this proud nation decided to turn it down. This is not surprising given the long history native Americans have with the government.


That whole ordeal really got me thinking about the church. I don’t believe it is right for a church as a whole to accept this handout that comes with stipulations. Personally I know of a few churches semi-locally that did get this loan. Looking at their situation I understand why. One of the churches broke ground on their new church during this time of COVID which personally I think is embarrassing. Rightfully so this has been difficult on them. Is this a reason to throw morals and standards out the window however? I personally do not think so.

It is my belief that government can keep their handouts to churches. Many times biblically and ethically we will not see eye to eye. In fact their morals (or the lack thereof) and a Bible based church rarely line-up. At the church I pastor which falls in the demographic of the average sized church made it and continues to make it through this age of more people attending virtual church than in person. I think there needs to be a wake-up call for many churches so that they realize speaking in music terms, they don’t sell their soul to the devil. That’s just my opinion though…what do you think? 

Day 22 of 365: A Short Break

So I have not blogged daily for a bit and so I am playing catch up. What was the reason for me dropping the ball (no pun intended...sorry Packer fans)? It was due in part to a lock-in at our church for a group called the Royal Rangers. 

For quite a few years now we have had this group going. The best way I can describe it is that it’s a faith based Boy Scout program started by the Assemblies of God a few decades ago. 


The founder of this program was a man named Johnny Barnes. I actually got to meet Johnny when I was a 9 year old at a Ranger summer camp. It was at that camp out or as we called it “Pow-Wow” that I gave my heart to the Lord. With hundreds of other boys at this camping event, I responded to the speaker to come up to the front and give my heart to God. 


This is why I am so passionate about this program at Radiant Fellowship. It is also the reason that I along with our other leaders make it a special time each Wednesday night. We want these kids to get to know God better. It is our desire to also help the boys make lasting friendships with others in attendance.


On Friday night of last week we held a lock-in at church. Everyone arrived at the church at 7:00 p.m. We let the kids play video games, eat pizza and other snacks, watch a movie and tried to go to bed at 1:00 a.m. It ended up being 3:00 a.m. before everyone nodded off. The kids had a blast. 


We look forward to many other activities like this. It’s never a bad time to invest in your local church’s kids program. Get involved....you might just like it.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Day 21 of 365: Unity?

It seems the buzzword around every presidential inauguration (and this one did not disappoint) is unity. Guess what? It’s never going to happen. Okay…there you have it. End of blog. 

Alright…I will carry on and try my best to explain. 


Unity is something that everyone wants. I mean whether you are republican or democrat or any other flavor in-between the buzz word always seems to be unity. This trickles over into churches, families, etc. What’s that? Don’t believe me about families? Try and explain to your kid why they cannot have their cellphone or why they have a time limit on the Nintendo. You might find the word “unity” is difficult to achieve at times. 


Perhaps this is why I am a bit cynical when I see the “COEXIST” bumper stickers. In a perfect world this would be very attainable. Why doesn’t it exist today? Well…re-read your Bible. Specifically the whole Adam and Eve thing. Sin enters the world and their is constant strife throughout the rest of the book. Even the disciples, the ones who got front row tickets to everything Jesus did argued with one another. 


Here’s a scripture worth mentioning found in John 15:18-19(NIV) “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” I realize in Hebrews 12:14 it states “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” but here’s the deal; when you make an effort you can only do that for yourself. The other person has to be willing to accept. Yes make every effort and you will find sometimes it works out. You will find that some relationships, acquaintances, etc. will be peaceful but at the end of the day not everyone is going to get along. 


I have had close friends where everything was going well and either I (or they) said something not well thought out, a strong willed person shared their opinion or someone else threw the first punch thus causing a lack of unity. Friendships end and bridges are burnt because of a lack of unity. Friends are going to let each other down. Churches ought to apologize right away when someone comes in because at some point something will be said that maybe didn't come out right or was misinterpreted and unity is out the window at that point. 


Churches often strive for this. Many do everything in their power to have a peaceful life giving presence in their community and yet someone will not like you because…well….uh…..IT’S A CHURCH! Perhaps they have been let down or burnt before. Perhaps they just never liked church. Sometimes it is a direct reflection on the pastor, programs or just the fact they don’t like church, God, etc. 


Now I am not trying to be all doom and gloom here but we have to come to grips with the fact that unity didn’t fully exist in the Bible either. Unity certainly has not existed in the course of the United States. I honestly do not think it is going to exist especially in an age where internet exists and keyboard warriors can leave potshots in regards to store reviews, news posts, etc. 


Hey Christian…do what you can to find unity and peace but we need to understand this. Political arguments have always been around and it would appear are only getting worse. Do your part to live in unity with those you can. Show respect and honor another persons opinions. Do your best to show the love of Christ to others and….well….that’s all that can be expected of you. Some people no matter how much you apologize, help, stretch a hand out to; it might get slapped away. That’s not on you…well…unless you are a jerk and don’t recognize it. 


Unity? It would be nice. Am I doubtful we will ever see true world-wide unity? Yep. Call me a pessimist (though I am very much an optimistic person) but I would tend to refer to myself as someone just taking scripture for what it says. History has shown us and the future seems to be pointing in that direction as well that unity though a beautiful thought probably won't happen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Day 20 of 365: Inauguration Day

It was inauguration day here in the United States and what a day it was. You had everything from Lady Gaga singing to Bernie Sanders rocking some awesome mittens. Here at the end of the day however, Joe Biden is now in the white house. 


Let’s just be honest, there are sore winners and sore losers. There is not a whole lot of flattering things going on from both sides of the tracks. One phrase I am seeing over and over again from some Christians is that they are going to pray for those in authority. That's cool and it's what we ought to be doing.


Where do we get that statement from? It comes from 1 Timothy chapter two. That passage says “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority.” Okay…we get that. I am confident many are actually praying for Joe Biden and his cabinet. Perhaps there are many simply posting that statement and not praying but that is between them and God. 


There is a second half to that scripture that a few Christians are leaving out. It continues to say “…. that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” That part stings a bit because it means the hateful posts on social network sights probably shouldn’t be posted (if you call yourself a Christian). It really is counter productive when a person says they are praying and then goes into name calling or doom and gloom talk. 


Let me give you the Old Testament counterpart to that scripture as to why we should be praying for our government whether you like them or not. In Jeremiah 29:7 it says “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Now I realize that was specific to this group of people but the truth still stands for us today regarding the land prospering. You and I still live in the United States. Why wouldn’t I pray for those in leadership be it for a long time or a short while? If I pray for “all those in authority” then I am trusting that we will perhaps have “peace and prosperity”.

Bottom line is that we are here. God is in control and he knows what he is up to. There are powers that are way beyond us working behind the scenes. All we need to do is trust God. I would say this (and I say this anytime a president is elected) if your guy got in…own it. The policies, procedures, etc. own it. If your guy did not get in then wait and see what the future holds. Trust God though and he’ll take care of the rest. 

Day 19 of 365: Home Office

 

One of the great joys of having an office at home is having your office at home. You don’t have to go anywhere. In my case all I have to do is go downstairs and step into my office. It has everything I need. A computer, bookshelf, MANY outlets, printer, wifi, etc.


One of the toughest things about having an office at home is having an office at home. You constantly hear kids and though you have a door, it does not keep all the noise out but in my opinion the pros certainly outweigh the cons. On the rare occasion the cat will sit in the doorway...stare at me and plot my death. 


The toughest thing I had to navigate with having an office at home is keeping to a schedule. It is very easy to go in late because the showcase showdown is in full swing on the Price Is Right. Before kids it was super easy to sleep in and get off course only to cram everything in at the end of the week. 


For those that have offices at home the best thing I could have done for myself is to start and stick to a daily schedule. Not one where you keep it locked into your head but rather one that is posted to the bulletin board INSIDE your office. This keeps a person on track so that you are not left scrambling at certain times. 


This is what my schedule looks like. Now keep in mind at any given point something could come up and you are taken in a different direction. It helps though to have something in place to keep you on task. 


Monday

- Data entry

- Sermon rough draft


Tuesday

- Tech Day

- E-Newsletter

- Online Church Update

- Radio Show

- Post Podcasts


Wednesday

- Breakfast

- Royal Rangers


Thursday

- Sermon Prep

- Pastoral Care

     - Setup Church Computer

     - Post songs


Take it from someone who has had his office in his home since May of 2004. A schedule is very important and within no time you will be feeling more productive than ever. 


I realize this blog is nothing heavy but for those of you that work from home…I am probably getting many AMENS!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Day 18 of 365: Modern Worship

Modern worship is an interesting thing to say the least. I was raised in a church/denomination/fellowship where hymns were the norm. The foot stomping, hand clapping, celebratory time of worship was expected. Sure it was riddled with seven eleven choruses…you know…sing the same seven words eleven times and hope the Holy Spirit shows up but that is alright. I have fond memories of singing hymns by Ira Stanphil, Doris Akers, Bill Gaither just to name a few. It seems though there has been a shift not only with the songs we sing but what we sing about. Allow me to explain. 

Somewhere in the mid to late nineties to today many of the popular worship songs have changed their message from “How great thou art” to messages of how we are worms. It’s as if the writers of these many songs tend to sit down with a pen and paper and turn their writing into one of those choose your own adventure stories using Christian buzzwords as the lyrics to these "songs of worship". 


In Psalm 77:5 we read “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” The problem with songs laced with low life verbiage is that they are usually popular. When a song is popular you repeat those songs over and over inside your head. The problem with that is then we actually start believing it. We begin to live in a state of not measuring up. Scriptural reminders like we find in Romans 8:37 “No, in all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” are tossed to the wayside. We negate the fact that “if God be for us, who can be against us?” It’s the classic idea that if you tell a someone something long enough they will start to believe it. 


In the realm of modern worship music (at the risk of sounding male chauvinist) many of the songs we sing are geared towards women…mainly moms. Why? Because typically moms are the ones in their cars running around all over taking their kids places, going to work, etc. By pumping these types of songs through Christian radio they are heard over and over again. I mean that quite literally...have you heard the rotation on top 40 CCM? It should be top 10 songs. The problem with that is when we sing about ourselves and what a wretch we are…we add that to internal memory and constantly try to be something not even God expects us to be (on our own). Then the problem becomes even greater because what happens when we sing about how awful we are over and over? Well…we believe it. What happens when we believe it? We then say what’s the point and give up forgetting that God’s grace is sufficient for us. 


Think about what we call that time of singing in church…we call it praise and worship. Praise is exciting and is about God. Worship…it can be slower or it can be faster but the very word worship (without doing a dictionary search) means all eyes on God. This means songs that talk about me, how I am undeserving of his love, the wretch that I am really any song that has the I/Me lingo is meaningless. 


Personally, songs that lift up the name of Jesus and the awesomeness of God are really the ones that people need to sing to enter into worship. 


But that’s just my opinion. 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Day 17 of 365: I'm Freaking Out Man!

 

Foundational passages of scripture


2 Timothy 1:7 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 


Hebrews 13:6 “So we say with confidence ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’”


John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” 


I could exponentially add to this but will stop here to state my case.

In the 46 years of living on this earth I have lived through 8 presidents (soon to be 9). I realize many others could say they have lived through more. My dad is going to be 81 years old soon and no doubt he could list many more. I/we have seen a lot of history through these presidents. Stories of victory and some stories…well…not so much. 


Fact of life is that elections will not always go your way. Sometimes it is shady and other times it is downright nasty. We have seen that within this past election. Regardless, it is not a surprise to God. It really isn’t. However, we see it all the time. If the Democrats win… bad things will happen because that elected person is probably the anti-christ. If the Republicans win then all of the freedoms will be taken away. On and on it goes president after president. It’s as if a case of amnesia settles in each election. We have seen theses things happen over and over again. 


So…what’s my point? I am glad you asked. If you are a Christian then WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? We must remind ourselves of these foundational scriptures that I posted at the top of this blog. If we believe and follow the ways of Christ then what are you freaking out about? I mean…yeah things can be shaky and nerve racking and….and…..and. What about knowing God is still in control? I suppose we can make up all kinds of excuses regarding the COVID vaccination and more but once again…this is nothing new to American history and this is certainly nothing new to God. 


If you are a Christian going into full tilt panic mode let me encourage you with this quote by J. C. Ryle “There will be no universal peace until the Prince of Peace appears”. Okay…let me get a bit more scriptural. How about John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 


Hey Christian…do you believe what you read in scripture? Then act like it. People are watching and we ought to be a light not beacons of panic. 

Day 16 of 365: Becoming Like...

One of the statements that frustrates me living in Waupaca is “we are becoming like Milwaukee”. This is a phrase that is occasionally used in my city when some crime happens; mainly drug busts. 

I will admit that I get where the town folk are coming from when they make a statement like that but in reality…no…it’s….not. Milwaukee is my hometown and after spending 30 years in that area to hear someone make a statement like that really shows me that perhaps they have a small world view. Sure our little city has pockets of problem but in Milwaukee most nights there is a homicide. There are always stolen cars and other kinds of crime. The comparison is really quite different. 


This got me thinking a bit about another statement I hear regarding the political climate here in the United States. It’s safe to say the presidential race did not go the way many were hoping. I will not get into a talk about many of the things that went on but one statement that drives me nuts is when a person says “we have become China”. This statement mainly stems from the “censoring” that is happening on social network platforms.  


Let’s think about that statement for a minute. Us in America do not know the first thing about persecution. There is no under ground church here because we are free to worship. In red China the communist party reigns supreme. So many other stark contrasts can be made regarding this statement. It is mind boggling. 


I think the better approach is to say we will be praying for our country. Actually, I am working on finding a friend from China that I will be doing a video interview with in the not so distant future to discuss that very phrase. I personally am kind of tired of doom and gloom Christians. More on that in another blog. 

Day 15 of 365: Ikea

I will admit this blog fell somewhat behind. My wife, Tracy and I ended up taking an evening to head up to Bloomington Minnesota home of IKEA. Actually it is just one of the homes for this monstrosity of a store. There is one only two hours south of us but it did not have the bed in stock we were hoping for for Noah. Thus…we headed 4 hours in the other direction. 

One of the things I have maintained as a pastor is that I am a follower of Christ first, husband and father second and pastor third. Believe it or not COVID season has been very difficult on pastors and so I saw that Tracy and I needed a night away. In a moment, I did the best I could to clear my schedule so that we could make this happen. 


A friend of mine once said, “people make time for the things they really want to do”. I am finding this to be more and more true. The time you make for the things that really matter is always time well invested. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Day 14 of 365: Love Languages

Today we celebrated my wife’s 41st birthday. We met when she was only 20 and I was 26. I can honestly say doing birthdays, having birthdays, giving gifts and receiving gifts are some of my favorite things to do. 

I don’t know how many of you have taken the 5 Love Languages assessment but it is something you should consider. I am astounded at how many spouses spin their wheels thinking their spouse likes one thing when in fact it is another. For instance my love language is physical gifts followed by words of affirmation. I love when I get a new gadget just because. What I found out though early in my marriage to Tracy is that my love language is not necessarily hers. Her’s is physical touch. 


Let’s keep this blog light tonight after yesterdays topic. If you have not taken the 5 Love Languages assessment, I would challenge you to do so by clicking here


You will find your relationships will grow when you are dialed into what they are into.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Day 13 of 365: Christian Music and the Cancel Culture

 

In my opinion this cancel culture has gotten out of control in 2020 and it is now trickling into 2021. This is true for conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians. I mean come on…back in the day if Christians did not want to support something they would simply boycott it. I am looking at you Disney! Yes I am being facetious. 


This is a slippery slope though and since I have enjoyed Christian music for a long time, I thought I would make a statement about this very thing.


When a Christian author begins to “go off the rails” it is evident to see because we read it in their books, articles, blogs, etc. At that point the decision is made by the reader if they are going to keep following this authors writings or not. This is nothing new with authors like Rob Bell, Tony Campolo and more. 


What many Christians would be surprised to know is what a lot of Christian artists believe. Admittedly many are not vocal about their stance on current events because they want to sell records. You can find articles here and there where their stance is obvious. 


At this point let me clarify, I personally believe this cancel culture is not good. Just because we don’t agree with something someone else is saying does not mean they should be cancelled. A few decades back many people would simply change the channel if there was something they did not agree with. It's that simple...don't buy their product if you don't approve of their political stance or message.


My concern is that this is a slippery slope because people have become more and more fanatical about this disturbing trend. Allow me to explain this further. 


Christians can be quick to move on from those they don’t agree with. As someone that has worked in the Christian music industry please allow me to humbly submit that it is naive to think that just because they are a Christian musician; it does not necessarily mean they have the same viewpoint of many evangelicals...politically or lifestyle speaking. Fact is there really are no more Christian owned record labels. They are predominantly owned by secular businesses that know how to market to Christians. 


Mike Donehey who is the front man for Tenth Avenue North “used to candidly address political issues on his Tumblr, Seized By A Great Affection. In 2015, he used it to call for tolerance and understanding in the wake of the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage ("Until you've sat down with some gay couples and listened to their stories, please don't just start tweeting hateful, judgmental things"). And in January of this year, he re-tweeted an “incredibly articulate little blog” by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens (“a guy I really look up to as an artist”), about the danger of "applying the word 'Christian' as an adjective to a nation, because there are things a nation is going to do that are inherently Christian, and things that aren’t.” That quote was taken from Billboard Magazine. 


In that Billboard Magazine interview and I quote “Donehey still uses social media to occasionally touch on political subjects, including abortion (the day after the election, he tweeted, “I dream of Pro-Life signs that no longer read, "Abortion is Murder," but instead, read, "I will adopt your child"), and he called on Trump to “please, embrace humility.” As a Christian artist, Donehey says he does "feel the need to at least address what the culture is up in arms about.”


According to this Billboard Magazine article “Donehey’s friend Matt Maher — a Nashville-based, Grammy-nominated Christian artist who won Songwriter of the Year at the 2015 GMA Dove Awards — is a practicing Catholic. He has also protested the travel ban (tweeting that it "wounds the heart of God"), and decried Trump's assault on journalistic institutions (tweeting on Feb. 24, “Either we believe in freedom of the press or we don't"). Last year, he criticized Trump on his personal blog during the Republican primary — but shortly after he decided to back off. "I was ripping on Trump pretty hard because it was entertaining,” Maher says. “I was just amazed that this person was leading in the polls. And then I stopped and realized that he's tapping into a sense of grievance and woundedness. I would say things, and people would be like, 'Stop it. I love your music, just stop talking about politics.’"


I say all of that to say be careful Christians. Go ahead and weed out what you want to but understand it is a rabbit hole. A few people have asked me why I am opinionated about Christian music and this is why. I (and many others) know to much about it. The truth in many of these songs are undeniably true. A lot of songs are theological train wrecks as well. I am however reminded of the quote that says “All truth is God’s truth” and that does not mean the song in and of itself is bad. What I am saying is that you can love the song but it’s sometimes difficult to forget the source and what they stand for. One might be surprised at how many Christian artists are living alternative lifestyles….but I digress. I don’t want to ruffle feathers to much here. 


If you are going to get rid of one thing…and if you want to be committed to this then I hate to break it to you but you will have to get rid of a lot of other things. That is if you want everything to fall in line with what you believe be it if you are Christian or not. Republican or Democrat. If you are going to purge every CD by that artist because so and so is gay...well I hate to break it to you but you might have to get rid of a lot of your clothes because where you bought it from might have an agenda that is not lined up with you. Should your work give to United Way...you might need to quite because United Way supports things you probably would not support otherwise. It goes the other way as well...if you are gay you might want to stop going to that certain cafe because truth be told. It is owned by someone straight. Do you see how crazy this all seems? Where does it end?


Personally? This is what I love about the body of Christ. Though different we can all still be as one IF AND ONLY IF all parties are mature and can put differences aside for the cause of Christ.




*Quotes taken from https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/politics/7751669/christian-music-donald-trump-response-interview

 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Day 12 of 365: Activator!

 

As I mentioned in my previous blog, a few years ago I took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment and found my number one strength is “activator”. According to this result an activator can make things happen by turning thoughts into action. They want to do things now, rather than simply talk about them. This sums me up in a nutshell. 


The reason I bring this up is that it is good to discover things about yourself. It’s funny how a 5 Love Languages or other assessments can reveal stuff about you that might not have known. 


Regarding being an activator it comes with it both good and bad things. The good is that you can get things going in relatively short order. The bad thing however is that you might find yourself in over your head at times.

Each strength that a person has comes with it a pro and con but that is how God made us and that is what makes the body of Christ so unique. I encourage you to find what your strengths are and then use them. You might be surprised what God will reveal. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Day 11 of 365: Rotors

 

Today I set out to do something that would have cost me a lot of money at a local garage and that is change my own brake pads and rotors all the way around on my Kia Sorento. I always enjoy doing my own repairs be it on the house, car or at the church. In an age where there is so much information at our finger tips via Google and YouTube my philosophy has become why not give it a try. A professional is only a phone call away should things go south. 


This project today reminded me of a comment I received last year when I decided to put new flooring in my basement. A friend said “your father sure taught you a lot. You seem to know how to fix most things.”. That statement got me thinking quite a bit today.

My dad did teach me a lot of things growing up. I think the biggest is stability. Stability in marriage, job or anything else I set mind out to do. There were times that we used a drill putting up a hand rail or something. In fact there were times when we used a hand saw but it was only to build something for Royal Rangers. There were so many things he taught me over the years but not a whole lot of it falls into the “handy-man” category and that’s okay. Not everyone is going to enjoy doing home/auto repair, etc. and let’s face it with the internet more people are able to do things themself. There were multiple times this year that I asked my dad to help with a project at church and home. He said quite a few times "I learned something new today". 


Where did I learn these skills then? I think back to the first plumbing job I did after Tracy and I bought this house in Waupaca. My parents never owned but always rented and so plumbing was something I was never taught. In this house there was a need for a new garbage disposal so I went out and bought it. I opened the cupboard doors under the sink and cut the drain pipe out and told myself “there…now I am committed.” I was once described as the type of person who would jump off a cliff first and then figure out how I am going to land. That description is pretty spot on. Now I can sweat pipes and more. 


This attitude has gotten me far in life. Friends like Ben who taught me how to do my own brakes is something I have never forgot and am so grateful for. Charlie and Josh are other friends that I can call if I feel I am getting in over my head on a car project. Knowing that I can do breaks lead to many other car repairs I never knew I could do until I tried like shocks, struts and more. I have mechanically inclined relatives but I was never asked if I would like to learn. In regards to home repair I just learned on the job. The first home repair Tracy and did (outside of plumbing) was to gut our basement down to the studs and brick. We then dry walled the entire thing to make it into a second living room. We were so grateful for friends and my brother because they helped a lot. It also helps to have a father in law that enjoys helping out as well. All these things are worth trying because (in my opinion) hiring a professional can be very costly but necessary at times. 


My advice to anyone who says “I wish I knew how to do that” is TRY IT! You just have to know that you will make mistakes but a friend that knows how to do it is only a phone call away. You have Google and YouTube and worst case scenario….a professional is always willing to come and do it the right way. This same attitude has trickled over to the church I pastor. A willingness to try something or know people that would help has saved the church thousands of dollars. 


One last tidbit…a few years back I took the strength finders assessment. My number one trait was “Activator”. An activator is a person who when he hears the words that something is broke and needs to be fixed; instantly comes up with a plan. It’s in their blood and that’s who I am. Many times that is a good thing and other times…not so much. I will talk about that in my next blog. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Day 10 of 365: Help A Brother Out

Excitement to help other pastors is something I am experiencing these days. Being the pastor of a smaller church is not the easiest calling in the world. Even though the average sized church in the United States is less than a hundred people, it means there is more work to do. There are certain increments in church sizes where more staff can be brought on which lightens the work load for everyone. That of course is dependent on the giving to go with it.

In a smaller church the pastor or pastor and wife take on a lot of roles. In my case my wife helps with the women’s ministry and does the kids church. Our kids program currently is on hold due to COVID. My responsibilities include everything from pastoral to custodial to janitorial...oh yeah secretarial as well. Did I miss any “ials”?


Along this journey though, admittedly I have learned a lot to make a small church experience a good one. This includes making quality graphics, technology and more. One also learns to do ministry on a shoestring budget. These are all things that after being the lead pastor of a church like this for 15+ years, I am now at a point where I am ready to help other pastors that might be starting off. With that said, I have been approved to start a coaching program called “Forged”. 


I look forward to meeting with other pastors across our state within the Assemblies of God. It is a monthly meeting via Zoom where a group of 10+ pastors will be conversing, sharing ideas, resources and more. It is exciting for me to see how many pastors have signed up for this free program that I pray will benefit them. 


Something I always enjoy doing is passing along knowledge I have to others that might be starting off on the same journey. Sometimes it is passing along knowledge to someone who has been on the journey for awhile and simply needs a fresh perspective. I appreciate that when someone teaches me a new skill. Quite a few years ago my friend Ben taught me how to do brakes on my own car. Since then I have not paid a mechanic to do it because I learned how. I think this is something that God has intended for us to do. In fact it seems a bit scriptural doesn’t it?

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Day 9 of 356: Christian Music

Christian music, what to say about it. Over the course of this year I might hit on this topic here and there because I love music. Not just Christian music but all kinds of music. To be completely honest here, if someone came up to me and said “Did you hear the new.....on the local Christian radio station my reply would probably be a solid no.” 

Top 40 contemporary Christian music never did it for me. Sure there were the days when I was younger that I would rock Carman, etc. but that is because the Christian music market back in the early 80’s were slim pickings. If a new Christian album came out; chances are most Christians owned it. 


I used to be a music buyer for two different Christian bookstores. One for was ProBuColl’s in Milwaukee (worst job of my entire life) and the other was at Something More which was the best job I have had outside of being a pastor. Sure, I met with sales people from the big Christian labels but my main gig was to order stuff from independent and underground artists from metal to holy hip hop. Personally I thought that was where the true talent really was. 


Back to Christian music today...it is pretty rare to find a song on Christian radio that is not so vanilla. What I mean by that is everything is the same. No one really goes out on a limb to change the message a bit. We are lacking artists like Rich Mullins, Keith Green and others. So many “worship” songs are all about us and not so much about God. I do find it disturbing that so many Christians can quote their favorite songs easier than they can quote scripture. Really that is what’s more important. 


I am going to sound a bit old here but many of the songs we sing today aren’t exactly worshipful but I get it. For some singing these songs can be very helpful which is great. At the end of the day I like the songs that don’t talk about woe is me stuff but rather focuses on the awesomeness of God. So, if you ever see me in church or at a conference and not raising my hands during a worship song...well...it’s probably because it’s not really a worship song. 


Okay, I will step off my soapbox now (for today). 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Day 8 of 365: Trump...Robertson and Calling the Kettle Black

 

There’s an old phrase that goes something like “Look who’s calling the kettle black.” What that looks like in modern times is someone that is morbidly obese watching a TV show like The Biggest Loser only to comment on how “that” person needs to lose some weight. It looks like someone who struggles with parenting pointing out parenting flaws in others. 


This week I caught a headline and watched the video where this scenario played out at the end of 2020. It was between two very well known people in our society and it caused my jaw to drop if I am being perfectly honest. 


In an interview with Pat Robertson (that’s two mentions in one week) he said President Donald Trump is living in an alternate universe and that he should just hang it up. This coming from a man who appears to live in an alternate universe himself. You do not have to look very far on the internet to see all of his predictions regarding the end of the world (and his other off the cuff comments). There was also that one time he predicted a giant meteor would blow up the earth. 


This got me thinking quite a bit though. Why do people have to say these kind of things? If life has taught me one thing it is to keep my mouth shut. Lord knows I have spoken out quite a few times while not having everything together. It turns out to be embarrassing and what pointing out ones flaws in another person does is shows how insecure that person making those statements really is. 


I guess if someone wanted to know just how messed up we are as a people, they would just have to look at that comment from Robertson to Trump. Bottom line however is that we should just learn to remain quiet on things when we clearly don’t have it altogether ourselves. This would save a lot of embarrassment and ridicule. 

COVID Chronicles Quarantine Day 10 of 10

 

So that’s it. The quarantine for myself is over and Tracy’s last day is tomorrow. To be honest with you it seems a bit weird to know this. It takes a heavy reliance on science and our medical professionals that have done their homework to know a person is no longer contagious after having something like COVID. 


Yesterday was supposed to be my sinus surgery. That has now been pushed back until the end of January. What is surprising (but I totally trust them) is that I am told I will not need another COVID test. If I took it, I would still test positive because of the dead virus being in my system. Again, I don’t doubt this at all. It just seems weird for it to be so cut and dry regarding which day a person does not have to quarantine anymore. 


I am excited to be out and about again but just a reminder, to those of you who have not gotten this...count your blessings. The lingering effects of this are kind of a pain to deal with for some.


Thanks for reading my ramblings through all of this but it was a little something I could do to maybe educate others and certainly kill time. Here’s to not getting it again after March when the immunity can supposedly wear off. 


Tomorrow!? I shall celebrate by driving to Menard's to purchase a toilet so that I can replace one here at the house. Later that day I will go to the auto parts store and replace the brakes on my car. PARTAY!!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

COVID Chronicles Quarantine Day 9 of 10

 

Here it is…day 9 of 10 and I am happy to say my dad is officially out of quarantine. He even ran a few errands today which is good for him. I don’t like when he goes through things like this given he lives on his own now. That is why I would call him 2-3 times a day…just to break up the isolation. Now that he can get out and about I will go back to just one phone call a day. 


Overall the family is doing well. A lingering effect for Tracy is fatigue beyond what she normally has after a day at work. There have been a couple of moments where she could barely smell chocolate. What better way to test your senses than with a healthy dosage of M&M’s ha ha. 


The kids are doing pretty well through it all. Nothing major going on. One good outcome from the kids having this is that they will be immune once they can get out of quarantine. What that means for James and Noah is a return to in person school. This will be the first time this school year that they will actually be in a class. Noah is especially thrilled, he genuinely loves his teacher Ms. Fletcher. 


Emma has decided not to go back to in person school which is fine with us since she is doing well with virtual. She switched schools at the beginning of this school year and so it is especially fine with her that she stays put. Being in a new school building would bring with it plenty of challenges. She doesn’t deal well with a lot of stress at one time.

Thanks again everyone for reading my ongoing ramblings from a bored parent. After tomorrow I will end this series. 

Day 7 of 365: So About Those Trump and COVID Prophecies.....

 

There was a day not so long ago that Christianity’s poster child for off base statements was none other than Pat Robertson. It seemed he would quite often have an unbiblical statement regarding natural disasters, presidential choices, etc. 


Since those days which were not so long ago, there seems to be more and more “prophets” saying Trump was going to be the elected president once again in 2021. These are the same people that said COVID would be gone by Easter of 2020 or at the very latest, January of 2021. They were wrong.


Let me back up a bit here. I was raised in a church setting where prophecies were the norm. In fact they were almost expected. Prophecies that were passive aggressive in the middle of the church service that really were nothing more than a disgruntled church member trying to drive their point. Some prophecies came true and were edifying but many more were simply off base by people trying to flow in a spiritual gift that clearly was not theirs to have. 


These days more and more people have risen to the surface as “prophets” saying Trump was going to win the 2021 election. You have people like people like white house spiritual adviser Paula White, Pastor Robert Jeffress, Kris Vallotton and more. After reading through the Bible many times, I have no doubt that nothing could stand in the way of God wanting to do His will. 


Honestly, I blame folks these false prophets and hyping up a group of Christians that in all honesty have the theological depth of a misquoted Christian meme. It’s embarrassing. 


A big takeaway from all of this is that Christians ought to look at these “prophets” and test them as scripture exhorts us to do (1 Corinthians 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21; see also Jeremiah 14:14; 23:52; 1 Kings 22).


It’s mind blowing but these folks will continue on to lead sheep astray. Dare I quote Matthew 23:15 and say they "make them twice as much a child of hell as they are."Their ministries will continue to grow and have massive amounts of followers because this points to a larger problem and that is Christian nationalism rather than kingdom minded Christians. I will be honest, I liked what President Trump regarding some Biblical issues.


By definition Christian nationalism is “primarily focused on internal politics, such as passing laws that reflect their view of Christianity and its role in political and social life.” This has many dangers and we have seen it in recent times right here in the United States. Many Christians worshipped President Trump more than God himself and that is a problem. 


A kingdom minded Christian is one that puts Christ’s teachings first and actually tries to live that out. Our ultimate allegiance is to Christ’s kingdom. Our love in Christ should exceed our comradeship with unbelieving American patriots, whose numbers are many. Instead we see visceral words and deeds by “well meaning Christians” in order to drive an agenda. A kingdom minded Christian has no agenda other than to live a life worthy of that calling. 


I am reminded of the words in 1 Timothy 2:1-3 which states "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior,”


We as Christians would do well to remember those words “peaceful and quiet lives”. There is a larger thing going on here and when we act out it really stiffles the work of Christ that far surpasses anything going on in the political realm. 


Here is a bold statement but one I stand by, many Christians today are the ones that the religious right of the 1980's (which was headed up Jerry Falwell) would have been thrilled to have. That movement crashed and burned to the ground however. Learn from history and let’s not repeat it.