Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let’s NOT go “Back to Normal”

With the Covid nightmare end in sight (no, we are not out of the woods, but, yes, the end is coming) the Big Question people are asking is: When can we get “back to normal?” By that phrase, they mean: When can we stop wearing masks? When can we hug our grandchildren? When can we go to a ball game? Sit in a crowd? Not be socially distant? Be normal

This may surprise you: I hope we don’t go back to normal. I’m not talking about masks or crowds. I’m talking life

For many people, “normal” wasn’t good in 2019. Pandemic shutdowns and the quarantines of 2020 simply exposed the ugly truth that “normal” wasn’t working. Talk to any social worker, school psychologist, pastor or just about anyone else, and they will tell you that 2020 has been mentally and spiritually taxing on everyone. More than likely, you know someone who committed suicide in the last year. Read that last sentence again. That is NOT OK. Some of those individuals, concluded that the pressures of this world were too much, may have been pushed over the edge by the events of 2020. But they probably didn’t get to their mental state solely based on the events of the last year. More than likely, in 2019 and long before, they were walking toward this lonely destination (most suicides happen when the people are alone). “Normal” wasn’t working for them and 2020 exposed it. 

It’s not just the tragedies of suicide and a lack of mental health awareness and care that have exposed the fallacies of the old normal. The angst that led to the capitol building insurrection; the racism that George Floyd’s death sadly once again revealed; the societal trajectory toward godlessness; and the reality that social media has made us both more informed and more isolated than at any time in history– all show the old “normal” was not working. 

As more people get vaccinated and the pandemic restrictions loosen, let’s determine to not go back to the way things were.Instead, let’s do all we can to notice God’s children who are lonely in the crowd. Let’s hear the ones who have been shut down, shut out, and shut up by the old normal.  Let’s care for those whom society has missed.  Let’s keep pointing all to the One who said, “See, I am doing thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19). Let’s not go back to the old normal, let’s work for a new, better, hope-filled normal.

P.S. If you know someone struggling with life today, don’t wait for a vaccine. Call, text or (heaven forbid) visit. Sit with them. Listen to them. Cry with them. Point them to Jesus. 

King Sized Miracles Still Happen

Hear ye! Hear Ye! The Princes are now sleeping on a king!! On Tuesday, Karla and I put together a new king bed, box springs and mattress. This was no small accomplishment given our ancient history.  As we were gathering the 107 pieces to assemble the aforementioned king size bed my mind went back to two previous occasions and shuddered:

The Great Entertainment Center Fiasco of 1988. As newlyweds, we had decided to purchase an entertainment center to hold our wedding gifted TV and VCR. It was mass produced of questionable quality, pressed wood, and assembly required. Sadly, the photo on the front of the box did not match the assembly instructions on the inside of the box; neither did the number of screws match the number of holes to place such screws; and the phrase “some assembly required” should have been replace with “mechanical engineering degree from MIT required.” All of which produced our first post-wedding day spat. 

The Wallpaper Debacle of 1990. The parsonage for the Bad Axe Church of the Nazarene was a curious abode. The most interesting feature was a six-foot underground hallway connecting the church building and parsonage. This hallway also meant the parsonage basement was the church fellowship hall and the parsonage first floor, half bath restroom often served as the restroom facility for the church’s fellowship times. With such usage, Karla decided the restroom needed a wallpaper upgrade. The tiny little restroom (think: phone booth size) was more crooked than anyone in Washington. In other words, the project was small but tricky. The job consisted of baptizing the wallpaper in the upstairs bathtub, then delivering it to the main floor restroom (without dripping glue on the green and gold circa 1964 shag carpet). As the duly appointed wallpaper runner in this process, I was rarely successful. The wallpaper was either too wet, too dry or had ripped in transit. We learned this important fact that day: Wallpaper projects account for 68% of divorces in America (That’s a number I just made up). Thankfully, our marriage survived the Bad Axe restroom wallpapering project of 1990.  

From those two projects early in our marriage, we learned to stick to the things we know best. Karla handles small home improvement projects. I preach. We’ve kept this rule, until the 107 Piece King Bed Construction Project of 2021.

We laid out 106 of the 107 pieces (one washer was a no show). We assembled the necessary tools: a provided Allen wrench and another thing-a-ma-bob (sorry for the technical jargon). We took a deep breath and began. What happened next might be considered a miracle on par with the splitting of the Red Sea. There were no disagreements. No tears. No items thrown in disgust. The bed, box springs (no assembly required) and rolled up king size mattress, which came in a tiny box, and exploded into king size following a few snips of the plastic wrap, were all in place. Easy Peasy.

I did not sleep on the couch (neither because the project was incomplete nor by upsetting my bride with my handy man ineptitude). Instead, we slept in our new Prince worthy king-sized bed. 

The 107 (technically 106) piece King-size Bed Project of 2021 proves:

1). Karla has learned great patience during our soon-to-be-celebrated 33-years of marriage.

2). Rob has learned his best attributes are encourager and final bolt tightener. 

3). God still work miracles.

I can’t say with certainty that there was divine intervention in our bed assembly project, but I am praying for far greater miracles in your homes. This last year has been difficult on our families and marriages. But know this: God loves you. God loves everyone under your roof too. God still works miracles. It doesn’t take 107 pieces (106 technically) to figure that out.

This Lenten 2021 Fasting List Might Surprise You

Usually in the season of Lent, Christians’ fast. We give up things like chocolate, Facebook or coffee. Little did we know mid-way through Lent 2020, we’d give up things far more important than sweets or soda. We stopped meeting together. Stopped seeing each other. Stopped so many things at the beginning days of the pandemic. We sat home on Easter Sunday. Thanks for nothing Covid-19! None of those things we stopped doing were on our fasting list on Ash Wednesday 2020. As we embark in a new season of Lent, maybe in our pandemic-fatigued minds we are thinking, “Lent 2021– Let me count the things I’d gladly give up.”

Let’s give up: masks, social distancing, Zoom meetings, on-line learning, hybrid school schedules, and all other things “Covid” for Lent 2021.

Not so fast (pun intended).

Obviously, we aren’t out of the Covid woods. We still have a few hurdles to jump before this race gets back to normal. Instead of dropping our guard, here are a few suggestions of things we could give up in Lent 2021:

Fast from jumping to conclusions.

Fast from skipping gratitude.

Fast from running our mouths before using our ears.

Fast from stomping on people’s feelings.

Fast from hopping to negative talk.

Fast from leaping to one’s favorite news channel.

Fast from flying off the handle.

Fast from bouncing our initial thoughts on social media.

Fast from shooting ugly looks at those who happen to disagree with our opinions.

Fast from firing off gossipy or rumor-mongering emails 

And while we’re at it: 

Fast from always expecting to get our way.

Fast from limiting what God can do.

Fast from all those things that get our eyes off Jesus

Instead let’s win the race and do what the author of Hebrews calls us to do (in the Lenten season or not): 

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 12:1-3)

Lent 2020 didn’t end nearly was well as we had hoped. Lent 2021 might end far better than we imagine if we keep moving upward with our eyes fixed on Jesus.

To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?

If Shakespeare were writing in 2021, maybe his famous line would read: “To Vaccinate or not to Vaccinate?  That is the question.”

I have friends (people I love and care about) who have said, “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeve.” I have other friends (people I love and care about) who have said, “I’m going to wait. I’m going to see how this plays out. I’m in no hurry.”

People ask me my opinion on vaccinations. “Pastor, should I get the vaccine?” I get asked this a few times a week (PLEASE NOTE: I do not have a medical degree or a degree in immunology, I was a psychology major who went on to get a Master of Divinity degree). 

I have searched the scriptures (not medical journals). The only thing being shot in the Bible are arrows. The only needles are the ones “rich people can’t go through the eye of” according to Jesus.  The Bible doesn’t mention Covid, worldwide pandemics or anything close to what we are experiencing. So which is it?  To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

Like in all things medical, you need to talk to your doctor. Again, that’s not me. Although I have a dear friend, going through cancer treatments, who frequently refers to me as “Dr. Rob” and, just as frequently, she calls her oncologist “Pastor So and So.” Neither of us mind the mix up, but no one should expect me to give medical advice, and I don’t think her Hindu doctor is going to be preaching in a Christian church anytime soon. 

I’ve been vaccinated. All pastors in Genesee County are eligible. The county health department has deemed pastors as essential workers (duh!). Many (not all) of the Central Church pastors have received their first injection. Hopefully this will allow us to get back in hospitals and nursing homes to pray with folks. Hopefully, it will allow us to minister and shepherd our flock the only way I know how to do it: Loving God and Loving people. 

I look forward to the day when all people will feel comfortable coming back to church. I can’t wait. There are some of our folks who are in the super high risk category that have legitimately stayed away, watched on-line, faithfully sent in their tithe and have tried hard to stay engaged. Oh how I love and miss these people. Even before Covid, I was not a hugger. I’m more of a slap-you-on-the-backer. But I’ll be tempted to give hugs– of the big bear variety—when I see them again. Face to face. Moreover, I can’t wait to hear a church full of people singing the praises of Jesus once again. I can’t wait for folks to invite their friends to church and see those friends become fully devoted followers of Jesus. I just can’t wait.

I’m not sure when/if you should get vaccinated. That’s between you and your doctor. As your pastor, I can’t wait to see your smiling faces.  Until then, Grace and Peace, my friends, Grace and Peace!

Injection Expert, Dr. Rob Prince, Offers Inoculation Hymns

(Disclaimer: I’m not really a doctor, but I do know a thing or two about injections )

As more and more people are getting inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine, consider me an injection expert. I haven’t received the vaccine yet, but over the last ten years (thanks to my light and momentary migraine troubles), I estimate that I have had over 1,250 injections. Botox and Xiomin injections (30-40 shots every three months in 8 out of the last 10 years); monthly Aimovig doses; and 4 or 5 Benadryl injections per month add up to being poked a lot. This is not counting a few flu shots, blood draws, IV treatments, and other random jabs I’ve received in the last decade. Pin cushions have got nothing on me. 

Except for the injections that I administer myself (Aimovig and Benadryl), I’ve never watched a needle go in my arm, leg or head. Instead, I look away, close my eyes and often sing (in my mind– singing out loud would give my health care worker a headache). So when it’s your turn to roll up your sleeve, try singing. It can’t hurt. 

Just in case, you don’t know any appropriate hymns for such “sticky” situations (pun intended), here is my Covid-19 Vaccine hymn sing suggestions:

Before receiving the injection (possibly to your healthcare professional): Softly and Tenderly.  

While getting injected: Be Still My Soul or Cleanse Me.  

If the health care provider makes three attempts to vaccinate your arm: Holey, Holey, Holey (extra “e” provided)

The two words you DO NOT want to be used in describing your inoculation site: Deep and Wide

If the nurse has to use a tourniquet: Blest Be the Tie that Binds

Post vaccination: There is Power in the Blood

If the clinic doesn’t except your insurance and wants compensation:  Jesus Paid It All

Once we are in post vaccination world again: We Gather Together

Of course, If the conspiracy theorists are right and this vaccination is deadly, then maybe we’ll be singing:  When We All Get to Heaven. (That’s plain silly, not the hymn, conspiracy theories).

Unlike my previous 1,250 shots, I am looking forward to getting the vaccine (but I still won’t watch it go into my arm). Also unlike my other injections, this one is as much for others as it is for me.  As we all know, Covid-19 has changed everything—pastoring included. Pastors have been shut out of hospitals, nursing homes and in many cases simply interacting with people. I’m hoping an inoculation will allow me access to help, pray and point people to Jesus. Not quite as dramatic as Neil Armstrong’s famous quote on the moon, still I am hoping for: “One small poke for man, one giant leap toward normalcy.”  

Normalcy is coming. More and more of us are being vaccinated every day. In the meantime, keep praying for everyone in our covid-19 world, including: our government leaders, healthcare professionals, essential workers, and all those most vulnerable. Keep praying for the sick and remember those families that have lost loved ones. Whether getting a vaccination sooner or later, keep singing. Maybe during this time between inoculations-for-all and back-to-normal life, the best song we could sing is: Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus!  Our ultimate hope is not in a vaccine, but in Jesus! 

Make Christianity Christian Again

This really isn’t a political post, so please don’t read it that way. It’s written to my follow believers no matter how they voted and which party (if any) they support.

Like you, I have seen over the course of the last several months Christians behaving badly. This was most recently demonstrated over and over again in the news clips of people storming the Capitol Building some carrying Jesus banners, crosses and wearing Christianese paraphernalia. I have seen videos of pastors praying for curses to be brought upon those who disagreed with their political view. Some Christians, even well-known Christian leaders, have been guilty of spreading false rumors. Others have called for insurrection and extoled the use of violence in the name of Jesus. I’ve seen white supremacists and those blatantly exposing racist attitudes declaring a devotion to Jesus (sometimes in the same sound bite). If Jesus were still in the grave, he’d be rolling over. Instead, surely Jesus is disgusted by what has been done in his name by a few nut cases and a few whose eyes are no longer fixed on Him. 

Here’s the problem, like you and me, my non-Christian friends and acquaintances have seen this unsurely business too. They have seen the minority of Christians behaving badly, thinking this is all of Christianity and have said a big “Thanks but no thanks” to anything related to Christians. If we define “Christian” as being a follower of Christ, then we need to start acting like Jesus. We need to modify the campaign slogan of four years ago. Let’s “Make Christianity Christian Again.”

Let’s preach, teach and live out the lessons of Jesus. Let’s pray for those who disagree with us (our enemies). Let’s refuse to curse those who curse us. Let’s be peacemakers. Let’s love people—all people. Let’s not be afraid to eat with the “tax collectors and other sinners” of our day. Let’s be a good neighbor. Let’s not cast the first stone, and yet still be bold and loving enough to say, “Go and sin no more.” Let’s bring healing and help. Let’s be quick to forgive and quicker to seek forgiveness. Let’s be slow to speak, slower to anger and slowest at being first. Let’s pick up the basin and towel and serve. Let’s remember to also pick up our cross daily. Let’s be like Jesus. Let’s Make Christianity Christian Again. 

A Response to the Violence at the Capitol Building

Usually I take this space to offer an encouraging word; maybe a light-hearted little piece; or a commentary on the church. Following yesterday’s images from Washington D.C that were broadcast across the country, as a pastor (not as a politician), I am compelled to offer this:

America is divided. Like never before in my lifetime, we are not a “united” state. My heart is heavy and sad. In the midst of such chaos and turmoil, there can be a few things on which followers of Jesus agree. Such as:

  • What happened at the Capitol Building yesterday was a disgrace. 
  • Yesterday’s events have once again exposed that we have problems in our country. Lots of problems. Problems that will not go away overnight.
  • Violence is not the answer to our many problems.
  • Jesus is correct when he said in Mark 3:25, If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Houses, churches and/or countries in this context are all the same. Division leads to destruction.
  • The answer to our world’s greatest problems is Jesus. We have just celebrated the season when we had the audacity to believe prophet Isaiah’s words considering the Babe of Bethlehem:  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Given the above facts, can we, followers of Prince of Peace, join together in praying for our country? Jesus called us to love and pray for even our enemies. Such a call includes praying for the following people…

  • Those with whom we disagree
  • Those who voted differently than us
  • Politicians and leaders on both sides (all sides) of the aisle 
  • Those who were hiding in offices as rioters stormed the Capital Building 
  • Those who were doing the storming 
  • The police officers who were trying hard to protect and serve
  • Our children who watched yesterday’s unfolding drama and today are wondering about the country we will one day hand over to them 

My heart breaks for our nation. Our greatest weapon is prayer (Ephesians 6:18). So let’s pray. Our greatest attribute is love. So let’s love one another (John 13:34). Our great temptation will be to take our eyes off Jesus and onto something or someone else. So let’s keep our “eyes fixed on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). 

Will America recover from this divisiveness? I do not know. Will Jesus be Lord when all is said and done? Yes, He will! 

This Pastor’s Truer-than-ever Bible verses as we enter 2021

These passages have always been true, but they hit closer to home to this preacher and maybe you too: 

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (James 4:13-14). For the first time ever, we can truly say: Hindsight is 2020. In looking back on 2020, what priorities have been revealed? What we thought was important may not be that important.

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4:2). Preaching in 2020 qualifies as “out of season” preaching. Two thirds of the crowd are sitting on a couch watching the sermon. Have seeds been planted? Are they growing? The preacher doesn’t know. It’s out of season. Great patience and careful instruction are needed more than ever.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  (Genesis 2:18). Which is worse: dying from a virus or dying from a lonely heart? Loneliness is real and heartbreaking. Too many have died alone or mostly alone. We need each other more than ever.

Mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15). The preacher says, “Amen.” The funeral is over. Now what? There’s nothing magical in the sliced ham and cheesy potatoes served at a funeral dinner. The unspoken message in our eating with relatives and lifelong friends is closure can happen, life moves forward and Jesus is with us. 

In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. (2 Corinthians 8:2). The pandemic has revealed both sides of this literal coin. Givers give and greedy don’t. Money has little to do with this equation. Jesus was right (duh). You can judge a person by their fruit. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25). Please note this observation has been confirmed repeatedly by on-line worshippers. They sense it. They know it’s happening. Their hearts are growing colder. They don’t like it or want it, but a fade is occurring. How can it not? We need each other to avoid critical attitudes, vacuumed opinions and self-focused agendas that grow when we are absent. We need each other to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Our gathering is indispensable but must be safe.

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:44). The cliché is wrong. Death and taxes are not the only certainties in life, Jesus’ return is certain. Jesus is coming again. The Day is approaching. Am I ready? Are you?

This list could be longer, but I pray 2021 will call me to:

  1. Prioritize Jesus (pandemic or no)
  2. Be Faithful in preaching no matter the season.
  3. Come alongside the lonely or mourning.
  4. Be Generous no matter the bottom line.
  5. Have an unswervingly commitment to our indispensable gathering
  6. Be ready to see Jesus whatever may occur in 2021

Whatever happens in 2021, I want to be faithful, generous, and ready.

The Needed Reminder for Christmas Eve 2020

One of the necessary ingredients of a good Christmas Eve service, in my opinion, is when a powerful soloist sings, “O Holy Night.” It’s not Christmas Eve until I hear, “O Holy Night.” The song contains these words:   

A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

This year has produced more than a few weary souls. I’m one of them. You probably are too. We are all weary. But the good news as we celebrate Christmas Eve 2020 is that “yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

We have hope!  Jesus has come! Rejoice! Fall on your knees and hear the angel voices!!

O Holy Night was originally written in French. An American abolitionist and Unitarian minister, John Sullivan Dwight, brought it to America in the 1850’s. The song became very popular in the north prior to the Civil War where the third verse rang very, very true. 

Read the lyrics from the last verse. Take them all in. Let these words swirl in your mind and heart. Imagine living in pre-civil war America and singing out these words: 

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name 

The powerful message of the third verse was a needed reminder to the abolitionists in the 1800’s and it’s a needed reminder to our 2020, covid-weary, grief-stricken, election-depleted, social-unrest-burdened souls.  Jesus still calls us to love one another. His law is still love and His Gospel is still peace. Jesus still breaks the chains of oppression for everyone is still our brother and sister!  Yes, in 2020 and in every other year, let all within us praise His Holy Name!

More than ever I need the powerful message of Christmas!  My weary soul needs to hear the Good News!  Rejoice this Christmas Eve, my brothers and sisters, rejoice! For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

What the Latest Nazarene Year-End-Numbers tell us about the USA/Canada Clergy (Hint: It’s not good news)

According to the latest General Secretary report, there are 4,544 Churches of the Nazarene in USA/Canada and 23,508 Churches of the Nazarene in the world. There are 2,313,216 members in the Church of the Nazarene worldwide (615,610 USA/Canada). You can see the full report here

USA/Canada saw a 1.58% decline in membership in the last year (7.83% decline in the last decade). Every other region has seen double digit growth in the last decade:

Africa                          +56.07%

Eurasia                        +64.48%

Asia Pacific                 +19.27%

MesoAmerica            +31.13%

South America          +37.94%

USA/Canada has more money, more resources, more clergy, and yet we are sliding down the wrong side of a slippery slope. In fact, USA/Canada has 58.6% of the ordained elders in the world (10,927 out of 18,641)—but accounts for only 18% of the conversions (40,696 of the 225,324 conversions) in the last year.  If you are keeping score at home, the conversions to elder ratio in USA/Canada vs. Africa is not even in the same ballpark. In USA/Canada there are 3.72 conversions for every elder, and in Africa there are 39.8 conversions per elder. USA/Canada received 20,401 new Nazarenes last year or less than 2 per elderEurasia received 23,161 new Nazarenes with only 905 elders (25.59 new Nazarenes per elder). I could go on and on but you get the picture.

It’s not all on the ordained elders. We are Protestants after all, and we firmly believe in the “priesthood of all believers.” Our culture is changing. All denominations are down. There probably isn’t a simple answer to fixing this dilemma. Still the stats don’t lie. Moreover, if the experts are even half correct, the pandemic has made things worse, not better for our pastors. If USA/Canada clergy were having trouble reaching the culture pre-Covid, what will happen post-covid? If USA/Canada clergy had a burnout problem pre-2020, what will happen in 2021?  The outlook might seem as dire as those aboard Apollo 13, and my fellow Nazarenes might want to say, “Lenexa, we have a problem.”

But Instead of crying out to Lenexa, maybe we should cry out to the Lord. Jesus tells us to pray for the workers in the harvest field (see Matthew 9). Usually, we assume that’s solely a call for more workers, but we already have plenty of workers. Instead of more, could we pray for renewed passion, wisdom and strength for the workers we already have? We need encouraged pastors. Could we pray for an army of encouragers to come alongside our weary pastors? 

To see a turnaround in the USA/Canada numbers we will need a renewed spirit, a fresh fire among our pastors and laity alike. We need men and women captured and inspired to live out and share the good news. The harvest is still plentiful, but our workers are weary. Pray that the Lord of the harvest might revive us once more.