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If only we could give a yellow card to bad behaving church members…

The best thing in soccer (in my opinion from watching the World Cup) is when a player does something unbecoming or commits a foul.  The foul isn’t what’s great, it’s what happens next. The referee runs up to the misbehaving player; doesn’t say a word; but holds high a yellow card. If the untoward behavior was really bad, the player gets a red card and the athlete is kicked out of the match. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we could hand out yellow cards in church too? 

No words. 
Just stand before the deserving, misbehaving individual holding up the “yellow card of shame.” 

Here’s my list of deserving a yellow card church offenders:

  1. Cell phone owners whose ringtones blare during a funeral service. (It’s a red card if the song is Cool and the Gang’s “Celebrate Good times, c’mon.”) 
  2. People who can’t afford to tithe, but can afford luxury cars, trips, the latest designer clothes and other extravagances.
  3. Drivers who don’t take turns in the duo drive thru lanes at Chick-fil-A (technically this is not church issue, but come on– It’s Chick-fil-A, for crying out loud. 
  4. Anyone thinking that women preachers are less than men preachers.
  5. Church members who exit because “they are not being fed.”
  6. Social media users who pick fights; air grievances; and are your garden variety jerks.
  7. Authors of cowardly anonymous letters
  8. Any person who brings a salmon or Spam dish-to-pass to a church potluck.
  9. Those who angrily complain to the pastor about the youth pastor 30 seconds before the worship service is to begin
  10. Pineapple on pizza people. (not church related, but true)
  11. People who complain about the commercialization/secularization of Christmas but who do not attend Christmas Eve and/or Christmas Day services (Prioritize one if not both). 

Some of those were silly, others are far more serious. I’ll not be handing out yellow cards anytime soon, but this is meant to be reminder this Christmas Season: Let’s be kind. Don’t do any yellow-card-worthy annoyances. Do nothing that would land you on the “naughty list.” Keep in mind that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (being right and annoying is not). 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:13-15

Let the 2023 General Assembly Countdown Begin

After a two-year delay (thank you Covid) the Church of the Nazarene will finally have her “family reunion” (General Assembly) in June of 2023. All resolution changes for the Manual were due by December 1. Delegates received their housing forms for General Assembly last week. Guests can register through the Nazarene website this Friday. We are officially in General Assembly 2023 Count Down Mode. It’s just 27 weeks away. Let the speculations begin…

  • Will the Church of the Nazarene pass a resolution to allow for social drinking?
  • Will the church address transgender individuals? 
  • Will there be a statement regarding capital punishment in the Manual? (There’s not one? Nope).
  • Will the church pass a more readable and explainable Article X (sanctification)? (Please).
  • Will the closet fundamentalists among us want to change Article IV (Holy Scripture)? (ugh)
  • Since we’ve gone six years in-between Assemblies, will this be the year when the GMC bean-counters gets their wish for a cost effective five-year General Assembly cycle instead of the current four-year?
  • Can there finally be a review process for District Superintendents? (There’s not one? Nope)
  • Will there be a job description for Regional Directors? (There’s not one? Nope)
  • US Presidents can serve well into their 70’s, why not General Superintendents? 
  • Is it possible to have a General Assembly without any craziness on the floor– i.e. passing a resolution that defies biology? It’s happened, then rescinded upon further review.

(There will be plenty of other resolutions than those mentioned above, the delegate’s book of proposed changes is usually an inch thick).

And, of course, with two General Superintendents aging out (Eugenio Duarte and David Graves), the question everyone is asking: Who will be elected General Superintendent? (Maybe the question that should be asked: “Who in their right mind would want that crazy, difficult, stress-filled, hotel-hopping, away-from-home job?”)

The United Methodist Church fireworks won’t occur at the 2023 Nazarene General Assembly. (The UMC is splitting, for the most part, over the issue of human sexuality. In the last General Assembly, the delegates passed our current statement on human sexuality with 97% agreement). But are we travelling down the United Methodist road? We have generally lagged 20 years behind the United Methodists in practice and procedure. Will we eventually land where they have landed? Is a church split inevitable in 2043? Can we take steps even now stave off such eventuality. Stay tuned.

The theme of this General Assembly is “Jesus is Lord.” Everyone should be able to rally around that theme. There should be 100% agreement. We should be united in mission and message.

In the meantime, everyone who calls themselves “Nazarene” should be in prayer. The world still needs the message that the Church of the Nazarene has historically given: “Holiness unto the Lord is our watch word and song;” Making Christ-like Disciples in the nations is our strongest desire; and We are a Christian, Holiness, Missional people. Pray not for uniformity, but for unity. Pray that the Holy Spirit pours a holy fire upon us. Pray. It’s not too early to pray. We’ve got 27 weeks. Let the countdown begin.

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 1:10

Ornament Shopping in a Rough Year

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland is the world’s largest Christmas store, and is located in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It has every type of ornament and Christmas item imaginable. Jim Shore? Got it. Thomas Kincade? Got it. Hummel’s? Got them. Want a glass Big Foot ornament? They got it. Need a professional $999 Santa Suit? They got it. Must have a pink and purple unicorn stocking (what does that have to do with Christmas? I have no idea, but…) They got it. Harry Potter fans need a “Hogwarts Great Hall & Tower” for your Christmas village. For $299, they got it. How about a “Bob-Ross-with-Pallet” Nutcracker? They got it. 

Every year, Karla and I make the trek to Frankenmuth to get our boys (and their wives) an ornament for their tree (The District Pastor’s Christmas Dinner is held in Frankenmuth at Zehender’s Restaurant this coming Monday, so we will be in Bronner’s on Monday afternoon). Usually the ornament has something to do with some happening of that year. When Alex and Blaire bought their first home, we purchased an ornament commemorating that event. The year our family went to Italy, we got them ornaments in reference to that very special trip. I’m sure this year, we will get one about a baby-on-the-way. You get the idea. 

If you were to go to Bronner’s shopping for an ornament that best characterized your 2022, what ornament would you purchase? Have you had a defining moment in your life this year? Was there a special trip or a milestone of some kind to celebrate and remember? 

What if you truthfully say: “I have nothing good to remember from 2022. It’s been a hard and horrible year.” Not only was there no special trip and the kids or grandkids did nothing spectacular, but the year was full of grief and heartache. What if looking back on this year brings tears not cheers? Could you buy an ornament at Bronner’s?

Now, I don’t know if they have such ornaments (they have everything imaginable so maybe they do), but maybe your ornament would be something engraved saying: 

A rotten, terrible, very bad year… 
it was for years like this…
that Jesus came. 

Maybe it’s a little long for an ornament, but it’s true. 

The Good News of Christmas, of course, has nothing to do with unicorns, big foot or anything from Harry Potter. Instead, Christmas celebrations are a reminder of the simple truth that God is with us. In good years and bad, God is with us. When on the mountain top or in the valley, God is with us. Maybe the 2022 ornament should be a mountain as a reminder that when at the top of the mountain looking down or at the bottom of the mountain looking up, God is always with us.

Worry Less. Trust. Wait. Advent.

It takes no time to flip from the last page of Malachi to the first page of Matthew. But in that half-second page flip there are 400 years separating those two books in the Bible. 400 years of silence. Imagine that. For perspective, think from just after the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock (history buffs know that was in 1620) until now… nothing from the Lord. Nothing. No oracles. No prophets. No direction. Nothing.

Today, we have the Holy Spirit. Empowering and enabling us to hear from God on a daily, regular basis. God almighty, in the person of Jesus Christ indwells in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. That wasn’t happening. Then it was silence. 400 years of silence.

Finally, the silence broke when the message came from Gabriel the angel to Zechariah. His “well along in years” wife, Elizabeth, was going to have a child; they were to name him John; and he would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17). And the rest is history…

After 400 years of silence, the first prophetic utterance came to Zechariah. It’s interesting what Gabriel said and what was not said in this first-after-400-years’ encounter. The Lord didn’t lay out the whole salvation plan (that would come in bits and pieces later), instead God gave Zechariah just what was needed for that moment. John would be a joy and delight. He would turn many back to the Lord. That’s all great, but nothing about Jesus. Nothing about Jesus’ death on a cross. John would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth, but nothing about that possibility that we too could be filled with the Holy Spirit. Your son will be great. He’s not to drink wine. He will go with the power and spirit of Elijah. All Pretty fabulous news items, still not the whole story. The Best News, Jesus, was still coming.

God doesn’t always lay out the entire plan in our lives either. God might not tell you what’s happening in six years or six months or even six days, He gives us what we need for today. Often this is how God operates. It’s the manna from heaven for the children of Israel. It was provided for daily. Not a six-month supply. Daily. See also the Lord’s prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” Not tomorrow’s bread. Today’s. 

God calls us to be faithful today. Daily. Each day faithful. We are not to worry about tomorrow. Trust Him for today. Trust Him for tomorrow too. God is working. Breathe. Relax. Rest. Wait. Know that God almighty has given you exactly what you need for today!

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25-27

Thank God on Thanksgiving from A to Z

Thank God for All things good and pleasing.
Thank God for Blessings both warm or freezing. 
Thank God for Candies, treats, and everything sweet.
Thank God for Delightful days with plenty to eat.
Thank God for Excitement to start the holiday.
Thank God for Family who’ll soon gather this way.
Thank God for Groceries that line our shelves.
Thank God for Houses to shelter ourselves.
Thank God for Ice Cream and any other dessert.
Thank God for Jellied rolls and calories I will insert.
Thank God for Kickoffs and football on TV.
Thank God for Lions (this doesn’t rhyme because the Detroit Lions goof everything up).
Thank God for Memories of parents now deceased.
Thank God for November’s wonderful holiday feast.
Thank God for Our family of weirdos and bumpkins.
Thank God for Pies– apple and pumpkins.
Thank God for Quick little bites off the grill.
Thank God for Relish and pickles, sweet and dill.
Thank God for Sauce – from a cranberry, of course.
Thank God for Turkey – enough to feed a horse.
Thank God for Unique holiday joys and traditions.
Thank God for Various subtractions and additions.
Thank God for Wonderful days and a great life.
Thank God for X-cellent planning by my sweet wife.
Thank God for Yawning– my old body needs a nap.
Thank God for Zillions of joys bringing this poem to a wrap.

But most of all… 
Thank God for Jesus and his great love and grace.
No rhyme… just the truth!

The End.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why I am thankful for the Church of the Nazarene. 

1. Jesus (through the Church of the Nazarene) rescued our family. My alcoholic dad walked into an evening service at the Garden City Church of the Nazarene (later changed its name to Elmwood Church of the Nazarene) and the rest is history.

2. The little Nazarene church, as dysfunctional as it was, gave me a place to serve. As an 8th grader, I was teaching Sunday school to 2nd graders. (Granted I was the only teenager and they didn’t know what to do with me). 

3. The Nazarene campgrounds in Howell– as kids we had fun and heard about Jesus. At the campground, I had my first “real” job (mowing Mrs. Buckley’s lawn doesn’t count). I washed dishes in the kitchen during camps as a 14-year-old).  

4.  My Olivet Nazarene University education. Loved every minute of it.

5.  Met Karla while serving as a summer intern, at the Alanson Church of the Nazarene.

6.  My Nazarene Theological Seminary education. (Worked as a janitor cleaning the Nazarene Publishing House for two of those years).

7. Getting married in the Nazarene church in Westland, officiated by Nazarene pastors, Mark Barnes of Plymouth and my brother, Fred, of Union Lake.

8. Serving in six Nazarene churches (five as solo/lead pastor). All great churches in their own unique way. Alanson, Bad Axe, Metropolitan (Roseville), Richfield (Otisville), Lenexa Central and Flint Central (all in Michigan except Lenexa, of course).

9. Having my boys grow up in Nazarene children’s ministries and youth ministries. Both attending NYC. Both graduating from Nazarene institutions. (Alex from Mid America Nazarene University; Ben from Olivet Nazarene University).        

10. My parents and Karla’s dad’s funerals were in Nazarene churches (Plymouth and Reading, Michigan).. 

The Church of the Nazarene has provided everything for me. Without the Church of the Nazarene, I would not be alive (my parents would have divorced before I was born). Since I quit working at the Thom McAn shoe store when I went off to Olivet as a 17-year-old freshman, every pay check I have received (except for my part-time stint at the Knox Presbyterian Church in seminary) has been from a Nazarene institution. I would never have met Karla. My boys wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have the friends and colleagues that I have known. From my beginning days and until my closing breath, the Church of the Nazarene has been in every vital happening in my life.

I love the Church of the Nazarene and am very thankful for her. 

The Steve and Marilyn Anthony Day

We are calling this Sunday “the Steve and Marilyn Anthony Day” at Central Church. It’s Dr. Anthony’s second retirement party (Steve retired from being the District Superintendent on the Eastern Michigan District in 2013 and promptly started serving as the interim pastor at Central Church and, after my arrival, became Central Church’s Senior Adult Pastor). After 49 years of vocational ministry, he’s retiring again. 

Of course, if you know Steve he’s not done. He has organized two Central Church Florida “snowbird” gatherings in January 2023. He is scheduled to preach at the Lakeland Holiness Camp in Florida this winter. He just preached a revival in Caro, Michigan. He won’t be done until Jesus calls him home. And good news, he and Marilyn aren’t leaving Central Church. They will probably be gone more since they won’t have official duties. They’ll stay in Florida longer. Visit family more often; but they will continue to be a part of the church. When Doc told me he was planning on retiring, I said, “OK, you can retire, but when you are here, I’d like you to do everything you were doing before you retired– only we won’t be paying you anymore.” That was not the best offer he heard that day. 

Steve and Marilyn Anthony have been a delight to serve alongside. A delight!  He has been a mentor and friend. When times get a little sticky, he has my back. When folks get a little “complainy,” he makes some phone calls. When younger staff want to try new things, he has been their biggest supporter. Steve and Marilyn Anthony are a big reason Central Church is a great church. 

This Sunday, we will only have one service at 11AM (all Sunday School classes will meet at 9:30). Orpheus Choir from Olivet will be here. Greetings will be brought by current Eastern Michigan District Superintendent Dr. Mike Kitsko and former Olivet Nazarene University President, Dr. John Bowling. Dr. Anthony will be preaching. Following the service there will be a come and go reception. A few snacks to tide you over until lunch will be served. As you say thanks to Steve and Marilyn for their service to the Lord a thank you gift card to a favorite restaurant or store would be more than appropriate). It’s going to be a big day.

The Anthony’s have been a blessing to all the churches on the Eastern Michigan District. But they have been a blessing to Flint Central Church (in my opinion) the most. Not only helping though normal pastoral transitions, he led through the near total fire of the building in 1996, the death of pastor, Dr. Gavin Raath in 2004, and for the last nine years they have been a constant, faithful example to old and young alike. If you can’t tell, I absolutely love the Anthony’s. I will miss them when they are not here and rejoice with them when they are. I hope this Sunday will be a day they will always remember with great fondness.

Consistency: The Missing Piece in Families Today

My parents weren’t perfect. Like all of us, they had flaws. But if I had to pinpoint the key to their success in raising a faithful family, it would be: consistency. My folks were consistent. We knew where they stood and they didn’t waver. They were the same at home, in church, and at work, wherever. 

Jesus held first place for them. Nothing came before Jesus. Nothing. We didn’t miss church. I don’t think any of us kids questioned whether we were going to church. That was never an option.  We were going. If you were sick, I mean “near death bed” sick, then you could miss. Other excuses like sporting events, sleep over at friends, staying up too late on Saturday or just wanting to sleep in—were never good reasons. Church doors open? The Princes were there. 

They consistently worked around the church. Mowed grass. Cleaned the church. Served in whatever capacity was needed. Taught Sunday School. Led groups. I remember my dad filling in for the preacher when the pastor called in sick one Sunday. They participated in whatever was the latest church growth fad. Evangelism explosion. Knocking on doors in the neighborhood. Handing out tracks. You name it. They were all in. Moreover, they never spoke poorly of the pastor or others from the church. Our church growing up was far from perfect, but my folks didn’t complain about others (at least not in front of us). 

My folks were consistently generous too. They were regular tithers. After we were out of college, their tithe became 15% of their income. I think when they passed they were giving 20% to the work of the Lord. That is before their special offerings. In the old days, Nazarenes took lots of special offerings: Thanksgiving Offering. Easter Offering. Prayer and Fasting offering. Alabaster offering. Bible College offering. Seminary offering. World Mission radio offering.  When a missionary was passing through; or special revival meetings were held; or support of the camp grounds was needed, they would give in those offering too. If the church needed a new roof or if the furnace went out—they “dug a little deeper” for those special needs. 

Consistent in priorities. Consistent in service. Consistent in giving. 

If America used to be considered a “Christian nation” and now it is “Post Christian,” some wonder how did it happen? When people talk about the rise of “nones” (those who claim no religious preference on the census reports) or the lack of participation in worship services or the waning finances in churches today—I wonder in part if that is because of what has (or has not) been modelled at home. Whatever happened to a consistent walk with Jesus? I know that’s not the complete answer. It’s too simple.  I know plenty of good parents whose children have made lousy choices. Still, the consistent godly walk before our kids and grandkids is a major factor in determining the spiritual trajectory of those who come behind us. 

Let us be consistent in our worship, in our service, in our giving. Can we be as bold as the Apostle Paul who told the Corinthians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

You Have Two Weeks

Two weeks from today is Thanksgiving. 
Two weeks to get the house ready for company.
Two weeks before the Lions lose to the Bills. (Oh me of little hope)
Two weeks before you eat too much turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.
Two weeks before you see some family and friends

What will you do with these two weeks before Thanksgiving?

Complain about the election?
Blast the politicians for whom you didn’t vote.
Show contempt for the direction our world is going?
Rage against the bad drivers
Nit-Pick the preacher’s sermon (hey, that’s hitting a little close to home)
Criticize often.
Grump. Grump. Grump.
Whine about gas, food and just-about-everything-else prices.
Nag those you live with about socks on the floor, dishes in the sink or any number of things (Hey, who ate my last Nestlé’s Crunch bar?)
Worry always.
Moan and Groan. Groan and Moan. Moan. Moan. Moan.
Murmur against those with hair colors that seem unnatural.
Mutter about older people with whom you don’t understand.
Fear the future.
Babble on and on about the good ol’ days.
Lament about all the things you don’t have.
Notice all the things bad people do have.
Constantly Condemn.
Denounce. Denounce. Denounce.
Slam whomever for whatever. Whenever. However.
Judge first.
Apologize last. Maybe never.
Be angry.

Neck stiff.
Ears deaf.
Eyes closed.
Shoulder chipped.
Stomach knotted.
Hands clenched.
Lips vile.
Tongue lashing.
Fun forgotten.
Joy gone.
Hope lost.

Or we can…

Be thankful always (Ephesians 5:20)
Be Patient in affliction (Romans 12:12)
Be gentle to all. (Philippians 4:5)
Be filled you with all joy and peace (Romans 15:13)
Rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15) 
Love our enemies (Matthew 5:44)
Pray continuously (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Give Generously (Psalm 37:21)
Reach unity (Ephesians 4:13)
Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess (Hebrews 10:23)
Hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:13)
Spread the aroma of the knowledge of Jesus everywhere. (2 Corinthians 2:14)
Always trust
Always Hope
Always Persevere (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Given those choices. 
I’ll choose the later ones. 
I hope you do too.

What to Wear to Post-Election Parties

No matter who wins or who loses tomorrow’s mid-term elections our future is secure because of Jesus and nothing else. The Apostle Paul put it this way: Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20-21).  My passport may say, “USA” but my citizenship is in heaven. I’m just passing through this old world trying to take as many people with me to heaven as I “eagerly await” His return.

Tomorrow night, the supporters of all the candidates will be “eagerly waiting” the election results. Will the evening end with balloons and confetti or somber concessions? My wife, Karla’s post-election, pre-party question: What does wear to such a gathering?

We need not wonder about clothing choices as we “eagerly await” Christ’s return. Upon His return, there will be a party, for sure. Yet, as we wait, Paul gives us fashion tips. Fashion tips? That’s right. Paul gives we who are living in Post-Christian America,”eagerly waiting” clothing instructions (that’s very appropriate for post-election parties too). In Romans, he writes: The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:12) Then two verses later, he tells us clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 13:14). He spelled out his best clothing option even more clearly to the Colossians (and us), “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13 underlining mine).

After all the votes are tallied, no matter who is elected, and as we wait our Lord’s return, here is our fashion statement. Wear the armor of light in our dark world; be so connected to Jesus it is as if you were actually wearing him like your favorite outfit; and always (whether your preferred candidates win or loses) wear the Christ-like attributes: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Until that great and glorious Day of His return, we are Christ’s heavenly ambassadors on planet earth no matter what party is in power. Dress like it. This has nothing to do with red hats or blue scarfs, it has everything to do with acting like Jesus at all times and through all circumstances.