Monthly Archives: August 2013

Come Lord Jesus– in Syria and in my life

This week it is Syria.

Last week it was Egypt.

It was somewhere else in the world the week before that.

This week, it was a funeral for a guy who died too young.

Last week, it was a cancer diagnosis for a guy who is too young.

And the week before that?

It was someone and something else.

This week, it was a report of a marriage in trouble.

Last week, it was a rumor of another one falling apart.

And the week before that?

Another family, another issue.

This week so many need Jesus.

Last week, they needed Him too.

And the week before that?

They needed Him then too.

With each passing week, there are











jealousies and

self centeredness.

I am reminded over

and over

and over again… our world needs Jesus

and so do our homes

and so do I.

Now more than ever?


I wasn’t around 100 years ago.

Maybe the world really needed him more then.

I can’t speak for 100 years ago, but

I know the world really needs him now.

There may be points in my life history when I needed Jesus more,

but I need him now too.

With each passing day,

I know why the Bible’s next to last verse reads: “Come, Lord Jesus!”

It’s my prayer for this week,

and next week,

and probably in the week after that–

in our world,

and in our homes,

and in our lives.

“Come, Lord, Jesus!”

Ten Indicators you are at a Bad Church Potluck

10.  While praying before the meal, the pastor asks the Lord for a “water into wine” type of miracle.

9.  Instead of rushing to the front, the Jr. High boys kindly  let the senior adults go before them in the food line.

8.  You aren’t colored blind but the colors are reversed– salads are brown and meat is green.

7.  Ambulances are in the church parking lot on “stand by.”

6.  Every desert includes coconut as an ingredient.

5.  The best cook in the church brings a tuna casserole.

4.  People are reminiscing about the tasty communion wafers they had in the worship service earlier that day.

3.  The deviled eggs taste like the devil made them.

2.  There is a sign posted on the door from the health department indicating people should “enter at their own risk.”

1.  The “salads” contain jello, cottage cheese, canned pineapple or worse– the toxic combination of all three items.


The “highway of tears,” Olivet and a prayer for our college bound students

Karla and I are not the first parents about to drive “the highway of tears” as we transport our last born child and all of his earthly belongings the 492 miles (but who’s counting) to college. As a boy, his total college belonging list includes: a pair of shoes, flip flops, a few t-shirts, a couple of hoodies, jeans, shorts, small refrigerator, an X-box system and two guitars (If he were a girl– you’d have to read an invoice three pages long– just for the shoes and accessories). I know that we are not taking Ben to the electric chair– but to an institution of higher learning (while electrifying it is hardly lethal). Still, the truth is: our lives–they are a changin’.

I trust that the college of his choice (Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois) is a fine school. They have a fine football field on which the Chicago Bears like to practice, a nice president who doesn’t want to be General Superintendent, and the largest indoor rock climbing wall north of the Mason-Dixon line (apparently the rugged students of Olivet need such a wall so they might practice scaling the peaks of the “Great Illinois Mountain Range” all winter long).

His roommate is a fine lad. Ben and he were friends at our last church– eight years ago. They really haven’t been together much in the ensuing years, and we really don’t know much about his interests or hobbies. My guess is that those interests have changed in eight years. They usually do (I haven’t seen many 18 year olds playing with Pokémon cards). So all in all, except for coming from a very fine family, we don’t know much about the young man sleeping six feet from our youngest (I seriously doubt he’s an axe murderer. Now the kid in the next room over..hmmm he might be a little shady). Ben tells us his soon-to-be roomie has a 42 inch TV. All righty then– that settles it– as far as boys are concerned–he’s “the perfect roommate.”

We don’t know the professors who will be teaching Ben (well, I know one professor. We were in college together. I hope she doesn’t remember me or if she does remember me, for Ben’s sake, I hope she doesn’t hold grudges to the next generation). We don’t know the church he will be attending (I hope he attends regularly). We don’t know the girls he might possibly ask out on dates (I tried hard at General Assembly to find him a suitable, datable young Olivetian. I’m not sure that my efforts worked). We question his dietary habits (This will shock you if you know teenage boys– he tends to eat a lot of junk food). We are concerned about his laundry and cleaning skills (I won’t talk about his bedroom in a public forum, but suffice it to say there have been times we have worried that the FBI might come looking for Jimmy Hoffa in his treacherous territory). We’ve trained and taught him and did the best we possibly could– but now he will be on his own. A fact that leaves us a little teary as we are about to drive those 492 miles.

So with the great unknown ahead for our Ben, here’s what we pray for him and all of our college students away from home:

May you never forget the lessons learned at home and in church;
May the pursuit of excellence and godliness be as strong as the pursuit of academic achievement (and higher than the pursuit of the ultimate score on the latest video game);
May these days be filled with learning and wonder and exploration and joy;
May you have fun in the dorm, in the cafeteria, in the classroom, in the gym, and throughout the campus; but not so much fun that you forget to study or do you homework.
May the friends you make be of strong moral and Christ-like character;
May you discover God’s plan and mission and purpose for your life in these years;
May in all things you long to draw closer to Jesus.

And lastly, May you call and text home frequently (not just when you need a little extra cash).

If the next time you see me, I have tear stains on my shirt– you’ll know why.

If I were Czar of the Church of the Nazarene

I would tell the General Superintendents, “We love you. We honor you.  But you work too much.  As such there is a new scheduling rule: Your cannot be away from your home for more than six Sundays over the course of two months. On those “off” Sundays you have to really be “off.”  No  side preaching gigs (even if the church is close by); no bringing greetings from your recent travels, no nothing. Attend worship at your home church with your spouse.  Renew your soul.  Sing, praise, and worship; be encouraged, convicted and uplifted just like every other believer in attendance. We desperately need  well rested, creative, visionary, leaders– not over-worked, over-tired, over-stressed bureaucrats. “

I would tell our international brothers and sisters:  “We need you.”  We need your input.  At the recent General Assembly– there were 159 resolutions considered.  155 of those were from the USA. Four were from the other 158 countries where there is a Nazarene presence.  I’m not a math whiz– and I’m not exactly sure what those numbers fully mean– but I don’t think it’s good.  If we are going to be a global church– we need voices from around the globe to be heard.

I would tell our USA/Canada brothers and sisters: Quit crying over living in a post-Christian America and do something.  Try to reach your neighborhood.  Try new things. Try building bridges.  Try loving the unlovable. Try. Try. Try.  Will everything work?  Nope (not even close).   But some things might. Take risks. Be adventurous. Be evangelistic.  Do not except the excuse that reaching the unchurched population is harder now. America still needs Jesus (more than ever?).  The Gospel is still the Good News that must be shared.

I would tell local churches– quit “boo hooing” over budgets too.  They are not a tax. They are not franchise fees.  If we want to make Christ-like disciples in the nations– they are a necessity.  On my district we had eleven churches that didn’t give one dime toward any of their apportionments.  Zero. Zippo. Nada. I get it that not every year is going to be a good financial year.  Sometimes the decision is light bill or college apportionment?  (Chose electricity, Mr. Edison). There might be years when “Paid in Full” is not next to your church’s name in the district journal.  It happens.  But giving zero to missions? Zero?  If just one person in the church, gave up one Starbucks’ coffee a week– that would be $250 in a year.  How can a church not give a lousy buck to missions and call themselves a place that cares about reaching the lost?  Giving to missions is doubly important when one recognizes that a far majority of the new converts are coming from one of the 158 nations not named “United States.”    

I would tell our people to celebrate baptisms more.  Baptisms are the result of conversions.  Too often “New Nazarenes” are the result of a church split at the Baptist church down the road.  I have no interest in disgruntled sheep exchanging one pasture for a greener Nazarene pasture– I have a lot of interest in seeing those completely lost sheep finding the Great Shepherd, Jesus. I believe the commission is to “Go and Baptize…” not “Go and make Nazarenes” or any other thing.  We are to make disciples, Christ-like disciples, baptizing them in the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” 

That’s what I would do on my first day on the job if I were the Nazarene Czar.


Prayers, Pictures and the Beginning of the School Year

Was everyone with a child between the ages of 5 and 14 posting pictures on Facebook of their clean and pressed children in new clothes, new sneakers and new backpacks standing on their front porch ready to head out for the first day of school? It sure seemed like it. Most kids are smiling (big grins and happy faces), but a few look as if they are on their way to a root canal or the electric chair. These sad, where-did-my-summer-vacation-go kids have a grim, stoic, “those who are about to die salute you” type of expressions.

Of course, the person with the biggest smile might be the one on the other side of the camera– the mom or dad who has spent the last ten weeks making peanut butter sandwiches, hearing how boring their child’s day is and wondering how a house that was perfectly clean the night before could now pass for the featured home in the next episode of Hoarders.

We didn’t take pictures on the first day of school when I was a kid (maybe some moms did– mine didn’t). We didn’t have backpacks in those days either– you just carried your books, papers, pens, pencils, rulers, slide rule (If you have to ask– you’re too young), protractors and lunch (Let the record show, my lunch was not in the Spiderman lunchbox I begged for, but rather my PB & J was housed in a dull brown paper sack. I still contend my tummy troubles to this day are the result of not having a superhero protect my lunch as a boy). I usually got a new pair of tennis shoes (not the Converse All Stars that I wanted, but the K-Mart knock off version. A fact that explains my slow racing times in the forty yard dash at the annual Marquette Elementary Field Day.) and one pair of two-sizes-too-big Sears and Roebuck Toughskin jeans (The size discrepancy allowed me to “grow into them” or so I was told. Never mind the fact, that I was a small child and usually didn’t “grow into them” until two grades had passed.). All this to say, if my mom did take a picture of the first day of school you’d see a kid with one hand holding onto his many school supplies, one hand holding on to his pants that were about to fall down, one hand holding onto his brown paper sacked lunch (I know that’s three hands) and wearing dorky K-Mart tennis shoes that would make even a three handed boy wish for a fourth hand to cover his face. I’m glad we didn’t take pictures back then.

The first day of school has certainly changed since I attended the Marquette Elementary School.

But this hasn’t changed: Our kids still need us to pray for them as they embark on a new school year.

Pray for your child or grandchild or neighbor’s child.
Pray for that child’s teacher.
Pray for the principal.
Pray for the para-professionals who are helping your student.
Pray for the school office staff and school janitors.
Pray for the school nurse.
Pray for the other children in the school.
Pray for those boys and girls who might feel the need to bully other children.
Pray for those children who are coming to school from troubled homes or are hungry or sick.
Pray for those children that excel in academic settings.
Pray for those students that don’t.
Pray for the coaches, music teachers, and art teachers.
Pray for the bus driver.
Pray for the crossing guards.
Pray for the lunch room workers.
Pray for the hall monitors.
Did I miss anyone? Pray for all those who are involved in any way in educating our children.
Pray for those that are homeschooled and those that are taught in alternative locations too.

Pray for all those who are beginning this school year– that God might bless them, keep them and shine his light upon them. It’s a new school year. Let’s pray it’s a good year (even if the your kid has to navigate throughout the year without the benefit of Converse All-Stars or a Spiderman lunchbox).

Why churches don’t grow (true or false)

1.  Smallsville (Our town is too small. Our facilities are too small. Our crowd is too small)


A) With the lone exception of  Monowi, Nebraska (population: 1) most every town has residents that need Jesus.

B) There weren’t any church buildings until around 400 AD and the early believers seemed to manage just fine without them.  Besides they saved money on the electric bill..

c) Jesus had a group of 12 men and they all deserted him– but once they got their Acts together (Did you see what I did there?   It was a little thing called “Pentecost” described in Acts 2 that made the difference)– That little group turned the world upside down.


2.  Oops-itus. (We have the wrong ________  Pick your problem from the following choices: preacher, crowd or music).


What people care about more than music, demographics and sermons is: Are they loved?  Forget “If you build it they will come,” the correct motto should be “if you love them they will come.”


3.  Mega-envy.  (Only mega churches grow).


Churches grow all over the world and never obtain “mega church” status.

There are great loving churches under 1,000 in attendance.

There are great loving churches that average under 100 in attendance.

There are great loving churches that average under 50 in attendance. 

There are even great loving churches that meet in a home and average under 20 in attendance. 


4.  Blame  (It’s not me, God hasn’t sent people our way).

         Maybe true maybe not

If we believe in a loving sovereign God, then it makes sense that God would direct some people to other churches rather than to send people to a dysfunctional or damaging church.  But it may be equally true that no new people have darkened your doors because no one has invited a new person since the Carter Administration.   


5.  Burp!  (Of course we’d never say it, but we care more about potlucks, softball games, and ladies craft nights than reaching the lost.)

         Most likely true.

Not once did Jesus teach us the value of “the covered dish;” or instruct Peter and Andrew how to turn a double play; and he rarely (read: never) gave scrapbooking or needlepoint tips. But he did tell us to make disciples, love the lost, and help the hurting.


6.  Busy (We are busy people.  We’d like to do more, but we don’t have time to _____________ –pick one: pray enough, evangelize enough, try enough or risk enough).

Most definitely true

The biggest enemy of evangelism is not a post-Christian America, millennials who want to leave the church, or worship wars within the church– the biggest enemies of evangelism are our busy schedules that eliminate prayer and the time to organize, plan, dream and execute the strategy to reach our generation.


Ten Unwritten Rules for District Assembly

In honor of this week’s District Assembly on the Kansas City District, I give you:

Ten Unwritten Rules for District Assembly

10. If you don’t have candy or gum to share with your fellow delegates, according to the new manual they have a right to vote you into being a Baptist.

9. Any pastor that fills his/her pastor’s report with riveting tales about building projects, bathroom renovations or paint choices in the teen area will be required to read The Master Plan of Evangelism and give a book report at next year’s assembly.

8. If it is not the ordination service and you are wearing a coat and tie, you had better be the District Superintendent or an insurance salesman who got lost on his way into the office.

7. If you catch, giggle and then report to your friends that the General Superintendent was napping during the spellbinding pastors’ reports don’t be shocked when your next assignment is in Outer Mongolia or some equally appealing location (Read: Cleveland).

6. If you can name each country from the flags displayed during the mission service, you win a free trip to Papua New Guinea (no expenses paid).

5. Starting this year, pastors from all churches that did not pay their World Evangelism Fund in full will be forced to stand and sing, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations.”

4. Earn extra points by standing up and shouting, “I object! Your honor” during the report from the District Appeals Committee.

3. Fitting into a pair of skinny jeans might be easier for some delegates than fitting into the musical style of the NYI service. Solution: Bring ear plugs and smile.

2. When bored here are a few suggestions:
A. Send a note to the District Superintendent (via a page) asking, “Why in the texting era do we need pages?” Then text him, “LOL”
B. Find someone who looks like Phineas Bresee; during a break get him to sign your Phineas bobble head.
C. See how many words you can find in “Elmer Schmelzenbach.”

1. When voting and you don’t know any of the candidates always vote for the most Biblical sounding name (i.e. John, Peter, Mary, and Methuselah get in– Duane, Courtney and Charlie are out).

Ordination is a big deal

Ordination is a big deal.  A really big deal.  It’s the church affirming God’s call upon a minister’s life. 

As a young teenager, I felt God was calling me into a life time of Christian service. But it wasn’t until sixteen years, a high school diploma, two degrees from Nazarene institutions and several years of church work later, that Dr. Raymond Hurn finally placed his hands on my head and ordained me at the altar of Detroit First Church of the Nazarene.  From that first moment of “maybe God is speaking to me” to the General Superintendant giving me the charge to minister in Jesus name– there were plenty of meetings, classes, prayer times, conversations, reflection and ice cream (I’m not saying ice cream helps discern God’s will– but it doesn’t hurt). 

Ordination was the church saying, “You were not a silly teenager when you thought you heard God’s voice at the  campfire after-service gathering on the Eastern Michigan District Campgrounds led by Roy Quanstrom for the handful of mostly seventh graders who happened to show up.  You were not crazy.  It wasn’t the effects of an extra spicy burrito on the night you first sensed God calling you.  What you believe was a divine encounter–  we believe was real and genuine. We believe God spoke to you.  We believe God called you.  We believe you have certain gifts and abilities that God can use.” At my ordination the church gave a reassuring and confident “Yes” to what God had already done in my life and what he might do in the future.  It was a huge moment in my life.  Ordination is a big deal.

In the Church of the Nazarene they don’t just ordain anyone who has a teary eyed testimony.  There are hours of classes that must be taken.  One must be involved in real ministry on a full time basis (at least 30 hours a week) for three years and even longer if the minister is part time.  Those wishing to be ordained must also meet several times before the District Credentials Board (it might not be as scary as an IRS audit review, but it’s close.  I know I’ve been a card carrying member of a District Credentials board for the last 22 years and sometimes by the end of the day we get grumpy). All this to say, ordination takes time.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not always easy. It’s a really big deal. 

The credential board doesn’t just look for correct theological answers, they also look for the content of the person’s character and a demonstration of a supernatural encounter and calling.  Paul told Titus a few things to look for in an elder:  The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless–not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. (Titus 1:5-9)

I think those are still the qualities we look for in an Elder.  Those ordained must display a life worthy of the calling that God has placed upon them. They must tell it, show, and live it.   So when the minister can abide by all of the qualifications– he or she is recommended for ordination.  Did I mention– ordination is a big deal? It is.  A REALLY big deal.

Next week at our District Assembly (General Superintendant Jerry Porter willing) four people from Central Church will be ordained:  David Cooper, Jon Gildner, Malorri Seamon and Tanner Stevens.  All four have completed the process and have proven to be a faithful candidate for ordination.  They’ve answered all the questions.  Taken all the classes.  Served in various places.  They are prepared.

Ordination will be one of the most powerful life moments for each of them– and so I would encourage you to make plans to attend the service at College Church in Olathe on  Thursday, August 8 at 7pm.  We want to help celebrate God’s working in these who we know and love and who have dedicated their lives to serve the Lord.  We want to share in their joy.  And we will want to affirm that we will keep them in our prayers as they continue to minister in Jesus name!  Ordination is a really big deal– we will want to be there for our friends!