Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Religion Stories of 2010

Each year, the Religion Newswriters Association conducts its Top Religion News Stories of the Year poll. This year, over 300 journalists specializing in reporting on religion were polled. Their Top 10 stories were:

1. The proposal to build an Islamic center and mosque near the Ground Zero site.

2. The earthquake in Haiti that sparked relief efforts by many faith-based groups.

3. Pope Benedict XVI is accused of delaying church action against pedophile priests in Ireland, Germany and the United States.

4. The rise of the Tea Party movement, which is seen by some as a return to political prominence for the religious right.

5. President Obama signs the health-care reform bill which will impact many faith-based groups. Pro-life organizations are concerned that the legislation will provide funding for abortions.

6. The role of homosexual clergy among mainline congregations continued to be a hot topic in 2010. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA votes for the fourth time to lift the ban on noncelibate gay clergy. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America suffers scores of defections after its 2009 vote on the issue. The Episcopal Church is asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury to take a lesser role in the Anglican Communion after a lesbian assistant bishop is ordained.

7. The economic slump was an ongoing challenge for churches and ministries. The Crystal Cathedral declares bankruptcy. The Lutheran publishing house, Augsburg Fortress, drops its pension plan. The Seventh-day Adventist publishing arm removes top executives.

8. Bullying draws attention with several suicides attributed to it. Religious groups strongly condemn it, but some see it as having religious roots, especially in regards to homosexuality.

9. The U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey released by the Pew Forum offers some surprising findings, including that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons had the highest correct answers to general questions about religion.

10. Convening for the first time ever without a Protestant in its number (six Catholics and three Jews), the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the Kansas church that loudly protests at funerals of servicemen. Earlier in the year, the Court allowed a cross to remain at least temporarily on National Park land in the Mojave Desert. For the complete list go to 2010 Religion Stories of the Year.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Crazy last 48 hours

I love Christmas Eve, but I'm kinda glad it comes just once a year!  I'm exhausted quite frankly.  Between snow blowing and shoveling, sermon writing, family time and many other things, I've barely had a moment to collect my thoughts these last two days.

I'm excited for what 2011 has in store.  I'm blessed to not have to preach the next two weeks with the more than capable Brenton Balvin filling in for me both weeks.  By the way, if you need someone for pulpit supply, I'll put you in touch with Brenton - he's very capable and widely available for preaching engagements.

Then in just under a week we have our 5 year wedding anniversary.  I think I have something planned my wife will really enjoy, I just hope it doesn't kill me!  If you don't hear from me on Facebook after December 31st, you'll know I met my tragic end bringing joy to my wife.

And while this is our son's 2nd Christmas, it's really the first one he's able to participate in.  Earlier tonight he got to open a few gifts, and has discovered he really enjoys that process.  Tomorrow should be fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More evidence of the tragic conditions on South Dakota reservations

From the Star Tribune (and the US Census):

The three places in the nation with the highest median household income are all in Virginia, according to census data released Tuesday, while those with the highest rates of poverty are in four American Indian reservations, all in South Dakota.

The Virginia counties of Fairfax and Loudoun and the city of Falls Church had the highest median income, the data said, which spans 2005 to 2009. Falls Church was the highest at $113,313, up by 17 percent from 2000. The lowest median income was in Owsley County, Ky., at $18,869.

Of the five counties with poverty rates higher than 39 percent, four contain or are in reservations in South Dakota. The fifth, Willacy County, Tex., is on the Gulf Coast.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What we tell our kids about Santa - by Mark Driscoll

By Mark Driscoll - from the Washington Post.

'Tis the season . . . for parents to decide if they will tell the truth about Santa.

When it comes to cultural issues like Santa, Christians have three options: (1) we can reject it, (2) we can receive it, or (3) we can redeem it.

Since Santa is so pervasive in our culture, it is nearly impossible to simply reject Santa as part of our annual cultural landscape. Still, as parents we don't feel we can simply receive the entire story of Santa because there is a lot of myth built on top of a true story.

Redeeming Santa

So, as the parents of five children, Grace and I have taken the third position to redeem Santa. We tell our kids that he was a real person who did live a long time ago. We also explain how people dress up as Santa and pretend to be him for fun, kind of like how young children like to dress up as pirates, princesses, superheroes, and a host of other people, real and imaginary. We explain how, in addition to the actual story of Santa, a lot of other stories have been added (e.g., flying reindeer, living in the North Pole, delivering presents to every child in one night) so that Santa is a combination of true and make-believe stories.

We do not, however, demonize Santa. Dressing up, having fun, and using the imagination God gave can be an act of holy worship and is something that, frankly, a lot of adults need to learn from children.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Holiday Lights in Sioux Falls

The video below is from the day after Thanksgiving - filmed by a guy I went to college with - Christian Begeman. He really does an excellent job capturing some of the beauty of the day as Sioux Falls begins to celebrate the Christmas season. The music comes from another of the people I went to college with, the exceptionally gifted Liz Teel.

At the 1:47 mark you'll see a tree light up on the left hand side of the video (watch full screen!). That tree stands next to the Federal Building. Just a few days prior it stood in my parents' front lawn! That tree was planted by us in 1980, and concludes its life in a very beautiful way - as a reminder of CHRISTmas.

Holiday Lights from Christian Begeman on Vimeo.

A time lapse of two early holiday events in Sioux Falls, South Dakota that took place in late November, 2010

The original music was written and performed by my friend Liz Teel. The song is called "Gloria."

"Merry Christmas" is Preferred

A recent Rasmussen report found that a vast majority of Americans prefer to be greeted with "Merry Christmas" instead of the generic "Happy Holidays." Out of 1,000 surveyed, the poll found that 69 percent preferred the Christmas-specific greeting and only 24 percent preferred "Happy Holidays." [Liberty Counsel]

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Closed Abortion Centers

According to Operation Rescue, 31 abortion businesses closed in the last 12 months while 9 new abortion facilities opened. A total of 689 surgical abortion clinics remain in the U.S., down from a high of almost 2,200 in 1991. That means more than two-thirds of abortion centers have closed that were operating nearly 20 years ago. []

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Couples Living Together

According to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the number of unmarried couples living together spiked nationally during the recent recession. Demographers believe the increase is due to couples delaying marriage because of the cost, avoiding marriage altogether or sharing living quarters without a long-term plan because of short-term financial pressures. In 2009, 6.7 million unmarried couples lived together and 7.5 million couples in 2010 — a 13 percent increase. [The Washington Post]

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Poll Reveals Christian Voting Trends

Exit poll data which was collected by CNN and then analyzed by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life shows gains by the Republican Party among Christian groups. Among Catholic voters, 54 percent voted for Republican congressional candidates in 2010 compared to 42 percent in 2008. The analysis also revealed:
  • Among all white voters who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, 78 percent voted Republican this year, compared to 70 percent in 2008 and 2006.
  • Among voters who attend religious services at least weekly, 60 percent voted Republican, while only 44 percent of those who attend services less often voted Republican.
  • Among voters with no religious affiliation, 66 percent voted for Democratic candidates, down from 72 percent in 2008.
For the complete report go to The Pew Forum

From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing

Monday, November 22, 2010

Abortion Drops in Washington

Another recent abortion clinic closing, this time in Yakima, Washington, is a reflection of a national decline in the demand for abortion among women ages 15-44. Public opinion suggests abortion is increasingly unpopular among Americans. A Gallup poll released in May 2009 found that 51 percent of Americans called themselves "pro-life" on issues of abortion, compared to 42 percent of those who considered themselves "pro-choice." Cathy Ruse, senior fellow of legal studies at the Family Research Council believes this trend is a response to post abortive women speaking up, the partial-birth abortion debate and increased access to ultrasound images. "An ultrasound image brings you face to face with humanity," said Ruse. []

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amazon Pulls Book

Due to public outrage, has pulled the e-book entitled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure authored by Phillip Greaves of Pueblo, Colo. The content led to hundreds of tweets and a Facebook page was created calling for a boycott of Amazon, who has sold other questionable material in the past. Amazon responded by saying they, "believe it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," but eventually, they pulled the book.[]

As a frequent customer of, I'd say this isn't censorship, but rather wisdom.

Court Upheld "God" in Pledge at Schools

Last week, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in New Hampshire's public schools. In 2007, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of two parents — proclaiming to be atheist and agnostic — whose three children were attending public school. 

The group challenged the New Hampshire School Patriot Act which requires that the state's public schools authorize a period during the school day for students to voluntarily participate in the recitation of the national pledge. The act allows students who choose not to participate to stand silently or remain seated and to respect the rights of those pupils electing to participate. FFRF argues that the schools' pledge practices are religious because the pledge itself is a religious exercise in that it uses the phrase "under God."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are churches in America reaching the next generation?

The following stats come from Brandon Vetter via Granger Community Church, with some good questions of his at the end:

  • Polling usually shows that 40-50% of Americans attend church once a month. The real answer?
  • Less than 20%. And that number is shrinking
  • From 1990 to 2050, church attendance is expected to grow by 10 million people
  • The population is expected to grow by 272 million people
  • The church is China has grown from 200,000 to an estimated 120 million while facing intense persecution under the Communist regime
  • In 1900, an estimated 9 million Africans were Christians
  • By 2025, that number is expected to grow to 633 million
  • 15% of American churches are growing but less than 5% are growing by new Christians
  • In a recent five year period, 10,000 American churches disappeared

Monday, November 15, 2010

Advent Devotional - Gospel of John in Reverse

If you are looking for an Advent devotional tool, check out this one below that was sent to me by Stu Merkel:

Gospel of John in reverse - An Advent Discipline

40 Days to Christmas beginning November 16

Day 1 - Chapter 21
Jesus' Appearance to Seven Disciples Who Were Fishing (21:1-14)
Jesus' Final Words to Peter (21:15-23)
Second ending to the gospel (21:24-25)

Day 2 - Resurrection Narrative - Chapter 20
First Evidence of Jesus' Resurrection (20:1-10)
Jesus' Appearance to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18)
Jesus' Appearance to Thomas (20:19-29)
First ending: The Purpose of the Gospel (20:30-31)

Day 3 - Passion Narrative
The Crucifixion and Burial Of Jesus (19:16b-42)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Most and Least Unchurched Cities in America

Warren Bird posted the following earlier this evening:

Many people wonder what U.S. city is least churched. Areas with the largest share of unchurched adults included San Francisco (44% of whom had not been to a religious worship service in the last six months), Portland, Maine (43%), Portland, Oregon (42%), Albany (42%), Boston (40%), Sacramento (40%), Seattle (40%), Spokane (39%), New York (38%), Phoenix (38%), Tucson (37%), and West Palm Beach (37%),  among 85 major cities studied by Barna Research Group based on 40,000 interviews conducted over the last 7 years.

By contrast weekly church attendance was highest among residents of Birmingham (67%), followed by Baton Rouge (62%), Salt Lake City (62%), and Huntsville (60%). In another approach to the same questions, cities with lowest share of self-identified Christians inhabited the following markets: San Francisco (68%), Portland, Oregon (71%), Portland, Maine (72%), Seattle (73%), Sacramento (73%), New York (73%), San Diego (75%), Los Angeles (75%), Boston (76%), Phoenix (78%), Miami (78%), Las Vegas (78%), and Denver (78%). Even in these cities, however, roughly three out of every four residents align with Christianity.

The cities with the highest proportion of residents who describe themselves as Christian are typically in the South, including: Shreveport (98%), Birmingham (96%), Charlotte (96%), Nashville (95%), Greenville, SC / Asheville, NC (94%), New Orleans (94%), Indianapolis (93%), Lexington (93%), Roanoke-Lynchburg (93%), Little Rock (92%), and Memphis (92%).

The research also pointed out some other interesting church engagement patterns.  For instance, the markets with the highest proportions of Christians who attend megachurches (1,000 or more adult attenders) included Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, San Diego, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and Houston. A similar pattern was discovered when it came to those who felt a “responsibility to tell others about their religious beliefs.”

Evangelism was firmly endorsed by a majority of those residing in Birmingham (64% said they agreed strongly that a person has a responsibility to share their beliefs with others) and Charlotte (54%); residents of Providence (14%) and Boston (17%), among other cities, were generally least supportive of such faith-sharing activities.

David Kinnaman, who directed the research project for Barna Group, commented that “one of the underlying stories is the remarkably resilient and mainstream nature of Christianity in America.  Nearly three out of four people call themselves Christians, even among the least ‘Christianized’ cities.  Furthermore, a majority of U.S. residents, regardless of location, engage in a church at some level in a typical six-month period.”

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Story - presentation of the Gospel

Read the Story 

The above image and link take you to an excellent presentation of the Gospel.

Stay-at-Home Dads

With the economy puttering along, households are shifting gears and rethinking their mechanics, allowing more dads to embrace the role of Mr. Mom. After a short- or-long term stint at home taking care of the kids, like the women before them, some men have been left wondering how to return to the labor market.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2009 unemployment rate for women was 2.2 percentage points lower than the rate for men — one of the largest work force gender gaps ever. The number of stay-at-home dads rose to 158,000 in 2009 from 140,000 in 2008 that were caring for children under 15 while their wives worked. The stay-at-home ratio for moms to dads continues to shrink, moving from 38 to 1 in 2008 to 32 to 1 in 2009.

Fathers staying at home find themselves building stronger ties with their children, but the adjustment from full-time employee to stay-at-home dad can take one to two years. One stay-at-home dad recommends others like him to stay in contact with people and not to isolate yourself from the public but to get involved. Continue to network and do some volunteer work, all which might lead to part-time work or full-time opportunities. []

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Asking For a Christian Roommate Is Discrimination

Michigan's Department of Civil Rights is investigating a single 31-year-old woman for posting a note on her church bulletin board stating that she was seeking a "Christian roommate" to share her residence. According to the agency, she violated Fair Housing laws by "engaging in discriminatory advertising ... due to religious beliefs." If found guilty, the young woman may have to pay a civil fine, as well as be forced to attend "sensitivity training," so that she will not "discriminate in the future." The complaint was signed by Tyra Khan, a Michigan "Civil Rights Representative."

Joel Oster, a spokesman for the Alliance Defense Fund who is representing the woman, confirmed that ADF sent a letter to the state explaining that such housing rules don't apply to people living in their own homes and wanting to share their resources.

"[Tricia] is a single lady looking for a roommate. She is not a landlord. She does not own a management company. She does not run an apartment complex. She is a single person seeking to have a roommate live with her in her house," the letter said.

Oster also said that the government's actions blatantly violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of association and asked that the complaint be immediately dismissed. [,]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Protestant Pastors Disapprove of President's Performance

(below from FotF's Pastor's Weekly briefing)

A new survey released this week by LifeWay Research shows that 61 percent of Protestant pastors do not approve of President Obama's job performance. According to the Gallup Poll, currently 56 percent of all Americans do not approve of the president's performance.
The research also revealed that:
  • Forty-seven percent of pastors who identify themselves as Democrat, strongly approve of the president's performance.
  • Three percent of Republican pastors and 10 percent of Independent pastors strongly approve of the president's performance.
  • Fifty-five percent of pastors who consider themselves evangelical, strongly disapprove of the president's job performance, compared to 34 percent of mainline pastors.
The same study also asked the pastors about their opinions relating to endorsing candidates from the pulpit. Only 16 percent agreed, either strongly or somewhat, with the statement, "I believe pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit."
"We know that pastors have strong feelings when it comes to political candidates and their job performance," said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. "But each week when they step into public pulpits in front of sometimes thousands of congregants, the vast majority of those pulpits remain silent on advising others how to vote. They may not approve, but they do not plan to tell."
The survey, which was conducted October 7-14 of this year, was based on telephone interviews with 1,000 senior pastors of Protestant churches. For the complete report, please visit LifeWay Research.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Where is God? - Dr. John Townsend - Book Review

My first exposure to Dr. Townsend's writing was in seminary as I read the book "How People Grow" that he co-authored with Henry Cloud.  Being impressed for the most part with that book, when I got the chance to review "Where is God?", I thought it would be a good opportunity to read more of his writing. Thus far I've avoided reading all of the "Boundaries" though I have seen both Cloud & Townsend present a couple of times on that material (thus I haven't read it).

My book was provided free of charge via BookSneeze, but I am not paid for my review, and have sole authorial control over this review.

The first thing that I noticed was that similar to "How People Grow" this book rates high on readability.  It is easy to pick up, follow, and to read for long stretches.  As a reviewer, I try to read all the way through the books given to me, and read them thoroughly so I have a good feel for the materials, so readability is important.

Because I am in full time ministry, I was really hopeful for the content in this book.  It is asking a big, weighty theological question.  While many would not phrase it just like that, almost everyone of faith who has times of struggle contemplate something similar.  As a pastor with a vast collection of books and resources, I found the book didn't cover a lot of new ground for me, but that is not a negative actually.  What I really like about this book is that the material remains approachable for the average person, connecting real stories with real life in ways someone without an advanced graduate degree could absorb, learn from, and use.  While I could nit-pick a few points here and there, and would personally have gone a bit deeper, those are tiny criticisms of what is overall a very solid book.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Page CXVI - Hymns I and Hymns II

I've been listening to these albums for at least 6 straight months.

(updated code on 10/22/10 so now it shows and will stream properly!)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pastors and the Housing Crisis

Collin Hansen posted the following article at The Gospel Coalition site that I can relate all too well to personally.

(below is just a segment of the larger article, click through to see it all)

Pastors Search for Churches, Home Buyers

Killeen Bible Church had a solid plan in place. The leaders decided in 2008 that two pastors would share the pulpit after the man who planted the church 30 years ago retired to teach in a seminary. One pastor, recognized by the church as an elder, was already preaching regularly. The other led a fledgling church in South Dakota and planned to move back into the heart of Texas, where he had been discipled by the church’s long-time pastor. The plan made a lot of sense.

But it didn’t happen. The pastor in South Dakota owned a home. Everyone expected it would sell quickly, because the Lord had evidently called him to move. But after 10 months, the house still did not sell. And he could not afford the huge loss he would sustain by cutting the asking price. Killeen Bible Church briefly considered buying the house themselves and trying to sell it, but they decided against taking the risk.

Finally, the pastor and elders reached a mutual agreement in October 2009 to stop the process. The pastor in South Dakota stayed home and planted a church. Though their plans changed, everyone agreed that the sovereign hand of God had redirected them.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Francis Chan shares his thoughts on Biblical Simplicy

Francis Chan makes me feel inadequate as a Christian and as a pastor.  And that is a good thing.  Today Kent Shaffer shared some thoughts about Chan's presentation about Biblical Simplicity at Catalyst 2010.  Below is a segment, click through for the full post.

During Catalyst Conference, Francis Chan discussed following Biblical simplicity.
This is what the Lord  says: “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord , have spoken!
- Jeremiah 9:23-24
You should brag about the fact that you know God.
God answers prayer. But he doesn’t always answer prayer. The Bible says if you treat your wife with disrespect, He doesn’t hear your prayer. If you doubt, it is like you are being tossed by the waves of the sea.
A lot of times we just assume things are good. But there are plenty of times that God says, “Just stop it because I am looking at your life.”
Sometimes we need simplicity.
I know God, and He listens to me.
Think about that.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Clergy Appreciation Month - October 2010

Focus on the Family offered the following. I share it because there are many readers from many different churches who happen by this blog. It is in NO WAY a ploy by me asking for something from my very gracious and generous church. They love and respect me, but some churches aren't as good at this as mine is, so give it some thought and do something for your pastor this month!


What is Clergy Appreciation Month?

Clergy Appreciation Month is a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and multiple blessings provided by these special people. It is typically scheduled in October, but can be held at any time that is convenient for the church and the community. It is also important to remember that appreciation, affirmation and prayer support of our spiritual leaders is appropriate throughout the entire year.

Why is CAM necessary?

The nature of the service provided by pastors and their families is unique. God has entrusted to them one of the most precious of assignments — the spiritual well-being of His flock. When a pastor becomes ineffective, the very souls of his or her parishioners are endangered. When eternity is in the balance, we should all be concerned.
Pastors and their families live under incredible pressures. Their lives are played out in a fishbowl, with the entire congregation and community watching their every move. They are expected to have ideal families, to be perfect people, to always be available, to never be down and to have all the answers we need to keep our own lives stable and moving forward. Those are unrealistic expectations to place on anyone, yet most of us are disappointed when a pastor becomes overwhelmed, seems depressed, lets us down or completely burns out.
That's why God has instructed us to recognize His servants.
"The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching" (1 Timothy 5:17).
The good news is that we can make a difference! Clergy Appreciation Month is one way we can counter the negative erosion in the lives of our spiritual leaders with the positive affirmation they need.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Church website overhaul

Last week I entirely overhauled our church website at (aka ) for First Congregational Church of Waseca, MN where I pastor.  If you have a few minutes I'd appreciate any constructive criticism you might have of this overhaul.  I'm sure it can get better, and appreciate anything others may catch.  I'm a pastor & not a designer, but for the cost and time involved I am pretty happy with how it looks and functions.  Someday we'd like to purchase a site from someone like Clover, but for now, this is in our budget.  But cheap doesn't have to = bad, so give me any ideas you might have!  In the end it is another tool in the transmission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, so may it bring Him fame and glory!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Most Support Student-Led Prayers

A national survey, conducted in July and August of this year, shows that a clear majority of Americans believe that public school students should have freedom to express their religious faith in school. 

In their latest State of the First Amendment poll, the First Amendment Center asked 1,003 adults a series of questions relating to a variety of First Amendment issues. Of those polled, 80 percent agreed, either strongly or mildly, that students should be allowed to offer a prayer at public school events. Of that group, 59 percent said they don't practice religion themselves.
The survey also found:
  • Seventy-five percent believe that students should be able to speak about their faith at public school events.
  • Seventy-five percent support the proclaiming of a National Day of Prayer by the Congress or the President.
  • Sixty-one percent believe that the freedom to worship "applies to all religious groups regardless of how extreme their views are."
  • Twenty-eight percent said that freedom to worship "never was intended to apply to groups most people would consider fringe or extreme."
  • Sixty-six percent believe that the First Amendment requires a clear separation of church and state.
"Clearly, most Americans want to keep government out of religion, but they don't see an expression of faith by a student at a public school event as a violation of the separation of church and state," said Ken Paulson, president of the First Amendment Center. For the complete report go to the First Amendment Center.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Improve your meetins by having a...

WHO will do WHAT by WHEN” list.  Then follow up and check back (NOT micromanage) to make sure it is taking place.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sexy Too Soon

The battle against the sexualization of our children

Monday, September 20, 2010

41 flowers on the orchid I keep in my office

My office orchid has 41 open blooms on it!

This orchid blooms a couple times a year at minimum.

Lovely and long lasting flowers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Religion Is Good for Humanity

According to a new Family Research Council study, religious practice in the home has a significant, positive effect on a child's level of academic achievement. The study showed that the grade-point average of students involved in religious activities is 14 percent higher than those not involved. It also shows that religious students spend more time on their homework. Click here for the full report.

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

First Amendment Rights Upheld on College Campus

Asserting "separation of church and state," the University of Wisconsin-Madison had refused to fund Badger Catholic, a student-led organization (formerly known as the Roman Catholic Foundation), because its events included prayer and worship. However, the university chose to fund other sectarian groups such as the Jewish Cultural Collective, as well as secular groups including Sex Out Loud, which "counseled" students how to engage in "healthy sexuality" and how to be a "critical consumer of porn," etc. The Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Alliance Defense Fund, who represented Badger Catholic, that the university unconstitutionally discriminated by being guilty of "viewpoint discrimination." []

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Exchange with Ed Stetzer - Notes from 9/7/2010 - Small Churches Episode

#smallchurch Twitter hashtag

A lot of this come from Stetzer’s book - Transformational Church:  Creating a new Scorecard for Congregations.

Normal Church in America is under 100 in weekly attendance.

How is God working outside the walls of your church?

Ed Stetzer & Thom Rainer
Vibrant leadership, Relational Intentionality & Prayerful Dependence

Discern --> Embrace --> Engage --> Discern…
The “how” of ministry is shaped by the who/when/where of the culture.

Vibrant Leadership

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Religious Hiring Rights Threatened

In May 2010, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who has personally battled addiction and bipolar disorder, introduced a bill (H.R. 5466 — SAMHSA Modernization Act of 2010) that would amend Titles V and XIX of the Public Health Service Act to revise and extend the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the first time in 46 years — and to remove religious exemptions related to hiring for faith-based organizations that receive federal funding.

The bill would outlaw any government funds or contracts with religious organizations that do not agree to "refrain from considering religion or any profession of faith" when making employment decisions. According to the bill, it would affect "licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, pastoral counselors, psychosocial rehabilitation specialists, and any other individual determined to be appropriate by the Secretary."

A letter was sent to every member of Congress last week (Aug. 25) from several evangelical charities such as World Vision, the U.S. Catholic Bishops and Orthodox Jews that said the bill "would be catastrophic" to their religious freedom and to their missions to serve the needy. It asked lawmakers to reject any legislation that would "dilute the right of faith-based social service organizations to stay faith-based through their hiring."
"Stripping away the religious hiring rights of religious service providers violates the principle of religious freedom, and represents bad practice in the delivery of social services," said Anthony Picarello, general counsel of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The religious leaders say the religious hiring rights can be traced to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and even to the First Amendment of the Constitution. A unanimous 1987 Supreme Court decision also upheld the right of religious organizations to hire people of the same faith, ruling that the practice does not violate the constitutional principle of separation of church and state.

Interestingly, on Monday, Aug. 23, a federal appeals court ruled that World Vision, the Christian humanitarian giant, who signed and released the Aug. 25 letter, can fire employees who do not share its theological tenets. (See article below)

Another open letter was sent to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also urging him not to "dilute the right of faith-based" charities to "stay faith-based through their hiring." Many of the 100 signatories were presidents of small Christian colleges. [,,, Catholic News Service]

Court Rules in Favor of World Vision
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Monday of last week that World Vision, a faith-based relief organization, was free to hire and terminate based on its statement of faith. The case has been closely watched by religious organizations and nonprofits who receive federal funding. The ruling is a result of three World Vision employees who were found to have lied during the hiring process about specifics of their faith and were immediately released. The former employees are expected to appeal the decision. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits religious discriminations; however the court ruled that World Vision was exempt from Title VII of the Act for "a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities."

Steve McFarland, chief legal officer for World Vision, was pleased with the ruling and said, "What's at stake is the religious freedom of every individual and church and para-church organization and faith-based organization in the country. Every member of Congress asks and discriminates against job applicants based on their political persuasion. Even Planned Parenthood asks where your politics are with respect to the sanctity of human life. You can call it the bad word 'discrimination,' but it's called 'free association.'" []

(From FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Next For Francis Chan?

When you put Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris in a room together, you get one of the most interesting conversations I've ever been privileged to listen in on! Video of it below.

The Gospel Coalition Council members Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris ask Francis Chan why he stepped down as senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, and what he plans to do next.

Building Blocks for Successful Church Planters

Mark Bjorlo of The Journey North Church shared the following on his Facebook page today:

1. Relationship with God
2. Emotional Health/Self Image
3. Relational Ability
4. Marriage/Family Relationships
5. Personal Integrity
6. Vision/Philosophy of Ministry
7. Evangelism
8. Leadership Gifts/Ability
9. Entrepreneurial Organizer
10. Public Ministry Skills
11. Enthusiasm/Energy
12. Faith
13. Productivity
14. Knowledge of Church Planting
15. Discipling
16. Ability to Motivate Others

Friday, August 27, 2010

Top Ten Most Stressful U.S. Cities

Las Vegas, Nev., topped Forbes "most stressful cities" list. Coming in order after Las Vegas are Los Angeles, Calif.; Houston, Texas; Tampa, Fla.; Riverside, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; Dallas, Texas; New York, N.Y.; Chicago, Ill.; and number 10 is Detroit, Mich. Factors that determined their placement were: high unemployment, long commute times, long work hours, limited access to health care, poor physical health and lack of exercise. Click here to read more about the top ten most stressful cities. []

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Church Body for Lutherans

This week, Aug. 26-27, in Grove City, Ohio, more than 1,000 Lutherans from throughout North America will gather to form a new church body for confessional Lutherans. The annual Convocation of Lutheran CORE will adopt a constitution to create the North American Lutheran Church. Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE, said, "The NALC will embody the center of Lutheranism in America. The NALC will uphold confessional principles dear to Lutherans including a commitment to the authority of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions." Lutherans throughout the United States have been reacting to actions by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which allows pastors to be in same-sex relationships and to officiate at same-sex union ceremonies. They also object to the ongoing movement away from the authority and teaching of the Bible throughout the ELCA. []

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why does the King James Version of the bible have different verses?

Justin Taylor has started to answer this question.  Below is a segment from his post.  I highly recommend clicking through to his original because there are video and resources he provides as well that are excellent.


Have you ever wondered why modern translations of the Bible don’t have certain verses found in the King James Bible? This can be a sensitive pastoral issue, especially in some regions of the United States.
I occasionally get requests for recommended resources on how to respond, and thought I’d pull together a few popular-level pieces in this post.

Here is New Testament scholar Daniel Wallace:

The Greek text which stands behind the King James Bible is demonstrably inferior in certain places. The man who edited the text was a Roman Catholic priest and humanist named Erasmus. He was under pressure to get it to the press as soon as possible since (a) no edition of the Greek New Testament had yet been published, and (b) he had heard that Cardinal Ximenes and his associates were just about to publish an edition of the Greek New Testament and he was in a race to beat them. Consequently, his edition has been called the most poorly edited volume in all of literature! It is filled with hundreds of typographical errors which even Erasmus would acknowledge.
Wallace highlights two examples, starting with Revelation 22:
In the last six verses of Revelation, Erasmus had no Greek manuscript (=MS) (he only used half a dozen, very late MSS for the whole New Testament any way). He was therefore forced to ‘back-translate’ the Latin into Greek and by so doing he created seventeen variants which have never been found in any other Greek MS of Revelation! He merely guessed at what the Greek might have been.
Then 1 John 5:7-8:
For 1 John 5:7-8, Erasmus followed the majority of MSS in reading “there are three witnesses in heaven, the Spirit and the water and the blood.” However, there was an uproar in some Roman Catholic circles because his text did not read “there are three witnesses in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit.” Erasmus said that he did not put that in the text because he found no Greek MSS which had that reading. This implicit challenge—viz., that if he found such a reading in any Greek MS, he would put it in his text—did not go unnoticed. In 1520, a scribe at Oxford named Roy made such a Greek MS (codex 61, now in Dublin). Erasmus’ third edition had the second reading because such a Greek MS was ‘made to order’ to fill the challenge! To date, only a handful of Greek MSS have been discovered which have the Trinitarian formula in 1 John 5:7-8, though none of them is demonstrably earlier than the sixteenth century.
Wallace explains that he and many other textual critics would personally prefer to retain these readings, but integrity demands that we go with the best available evidence:
It illustrates something quite significant with regard to the textual tradition which stands behind the King James. Probably most textual critics today fully embrace the doctrine of the Trinity (and, of course, all evangelical textual critics do). And most would like to see the Trinity explicitly taught in 1 John 5:7-8. But most reject this reading as an invention of some overly zealous scribe. The problem is that the King James Bible is filled with readings which have been created by overly zealous scribes! Very few of the distinctive King James readings are demonstrably ancient. And most textual critics just happen to embrace the reasonable proposition that the most ancient MSS tend to be more reliable since they stand closer to the date of the autographs. I myself would love to see many of the King James readings retained. . . . But when the textual evidence shows me both that scribes had a strong tendency to add, rather than subtract, and that most of these additions are found in the more recent MSS, rather than the more ancient, I find it difficult to accept intellectually the very passages which I have always embraced emotionally.

Friday, August 13, 2010

U.N. Children's Rights Treaty

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is concerned that, if the Senate gives President Obama his way and ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child, "This treaty would, in fact, establish a precedent that those rights have been given over to the international community." DeMint also stated, "If the government, or even the international community, tells you how to raise your children here in America, is there anything that's off limits?"

The U.N. adopted the UNCRC on Nov. 20, 1989. Twenty nations signed on to enforce the treaty by Sept 2, 1990. That number is currently 193 nations, with the exception of the United States and Somalia. Nations that ratify U.N. treaties are bound to adhere to them by international law. If the Senate approves of this treaty, the United States would fall under the jurisdiction of an 18-member panel that oversees children's rights in nations that are part of the treaty. Among rights threatened would be parents' ability to direct their children's spiritual upbringing, as well as what and when they learn about sexuality.

Sen. DeMint is in the forefront of opposition to the convention and has introduced a resolution (S.R. 519) that asks the Senate not to ratify the UNCRC, as it "undermines traditional principles of law in the United States regarding parents and children." Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is leading the charge for its adoption. So far, S.R. 519 has at least 30 co-sponsors. [,]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Exchange with Ed Stetzer - Notes from 8/10/10

Ed Stetzer – The Exchange
Church revitalization

It is easier to raise a baby than to raise the dead!

Comeback Churches
-many churches are flat to declining
-studied 324 churches

What principles from Comeback Churches could guide pastors and churches down the path of revitalization?

What are some barriers to spiritual growth?
-self-focused leaders and churches
-when it all about you it is hard to focus on Christ
-Experiencing God’s discipline
-past problems in the church keeping new people from coming
-Lack of radical faith/reliance
-can’t live off the faithfulness of people in the past
-Doing instead of being the church
-just going through the motions rather than living out faith
-Watering down the gospel/truth
-Distracted from our first love
-Ineffective disciple-making
-Irrelevant ministry
-if the 50’s come back, many of our churches are ready to go!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Little Men Working Potty for Justice!

For Justice's birthday my parents got him the Little Men Working Potty.  Since he is only 1 and not yet in potty training, we haven't officially tried it out.  But we took it out of the box an played with it anyhow, and it is really cool!  There is a sensor in the bottom of the bowl that identifies when a child has peed into it, and it plays encouraging truck sounds when this happens!  There are also weight sensors under the bowl that set off sounds when the child makes a deposit in the bowl.  Very cool!  Hopefully it'll encourage our little man sooner rather than later to be potty trained.  In the mean time he has enjoyed opening it and closing it, climbing on it and pushing it around the house.  We'll have to limit those activities once we put it into active doody...err duty.

Product Features

  • 3-in-1 potty, step stool and trainer seat
  • Truck design made just for boys
  • Rewards child with real truck sounds
  • Bonus stickers included (to reward the child with!)
If you are looking for something a little less showy I'd also recommend the Baby Bjorn Potty Chairs - they come in a rainbow of colors to match any bathroom's decor!

Friday, August 06, 2010

2010 Leadership Summit Notes

If you are looking for notes for the 2010 Leadership Summit put on by the Willow Creek Association, check out Tim Schraeder's notes - they are as good as they get.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Google Wave is dead

From the Google announcement:

Wave has taught us a lot, and we are proud of the team for the ways in which they have pushed the boundaries of computer science. We are excited about what they will develop next as we continue to create innovations with the potential to advance technology and the wider web.

Yeah, it taught you people still care about their privacy.  It taught you that you are not the goose that lays golden eggs.  And it taught you how NOT to roll out a new product.  Google Wave fail.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Review: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire

Below is my review of Arcade Fire's new album The Suburbs.  It was released today at midnight and is offering it for only $3.99 on MP3 download at the moment.  Is it worth $3.99?  Barely.

This is the review I have posted at

I really wanted to like this album. But I'm not an uncritical fanboy, so I can't. Sure, I don't hate it, it isn't bad. But it isn't special like some would have you believe. Don't drink that Kool Aid blindly.

My favorite part of the album as a whole is the overall ebb and flow of pace and style that keeps it at least interesting and listenable. It is music you can put on while driving down the road, and then tune out while you think of something else. But that isn't what I want in my music. I want it to grab me, to change me, to make me feel something, but mostly all I get from this is indifferent meh.

Some of the tracks really seem like they are trying to hard to be different. There is nothing wrong with different, but being different just to be different almost never works out unless your name is Beck.

1. The Suburbs - solid start, creative and catchy.
2. Ready to Start - R.E.M. does this better. So did The Cure.
3. Modern Man - It's like they stole it from 80's Devo and modernized it. Not bad!
4. Rococo - I like the rich musical sound, but the vocals don't add to it.
5. Empty Room - U2 meets Bjork. Not bad, but not great either.
6. City With No Children - U2 does this so much better.
7. Half Light I - Modern Pink Floyd - really good!
8. Half Light II (No Celebration) - Kinda Faith No More cross with INXS - and I really like it!
9. Suburban War - a modern take on acid rock? Wanted to like it, but can't.
10. Month of May - This one should be really high energy in concert, but doesn't seem to translate on the album.
11. Wasted Hours - Love it! Catchy, makes you want to air strum along.
12. Deep Blue - This is the rich sound like Rococo, but I like it much better. The vocals add to it here. Probably my favorite track.
13. We Used to Wait - Like the lyrics, you can keep the music.
14. Sprawl I (Flatland) - Good emotional "feeling" song. Easily blends into the background of life.
15. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) - Ace of Bass? ABBA? Really?
16. The Suburbs (continued) - Like Neil Young might sound today if he were 35 years younger. And that's a good thing. Great end to the album.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Cleargy need to take more time off, take care of themselves better

Original @ NY Times

Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work
Published: August 1, 2010

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

Public health experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity have become so unhealthy and unhappy.

But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.

“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”

As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"In God We Trust" Is Constitutional

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington, D.C., ruled that printing the national motto, "In God We Trust," on U.S. currency is constitutional and does not violate the Establishment Clause. Self-avowed atheist Carlos Kidd claimed U.S. currency violated the separation of church and state. Kidd demanded that the government "destroy or recycle all circulating currency, and replace it with new currency without religious inscription." The court wrote, "It is quite obvious that the national motto and slogan on coinage and currency 'In God We Trust' has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion." [Liberty Counsel]

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Impact of Long-Term Unemployment

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, long-term unemployment takes a much greater toll on a person's emotional state, finances and career prospects as compared to short-term unemployment.

For the study, 2,967 adults were interviewed in May of this year. Of that group, 810 were either currently unemployed, or were jobless for at least some period of time since December of 2007. Those who had been unemployed for at least six months had experienced higher levels of "major change" in their lives as a result of the recession than those who had been unemployed for less than six months.

The study showed several areas of life that are impacted by a long period of joblessness.

* Family finances: Not surprisingly, those who had been unemployed longer (six months or more) saw more of a decline in their family income, with 56 percent seeing a decline compared to 42 percent who had been unemployed for less than three months. Even those who had not had any break in their employment reported a 26 percent drop in their household income in the past 18 months.

* Relationships: Strained family relations and loss of contact with close friends were reported at a higher rate by those who had been jobless for six months or more.

* Career goals: Over four-in-ten (43%) of the long-term unemployed said the recession has had a "big impact" on their ability to achieve their long-term career goals.

* Emotional impact: Those who had been unemployed for longer periods of time were more likely to report that they were struggling with such issues as loss of self respect, doubt about being in the right career, lowered expectations and feeling pessimistic about the future.

For the complete report visit Pew Research Center.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tolerence = we'll accept what you believe as long as it isn't Christianity?

Student Pressured to Change Christian Beliefs

Jen Keeton
Georgia native Jennifer Keeton, an Augusta State University student getting her master's degree in counseling, was threatened with expulsion for sharing her faith publicly and for not agreeing to attend and complete a re-education program.
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed suit against the university on Keeton's behalf on First Amendment grounds. ADF is litigating a similar case at Eastern Michigan University and has successfully resolved a case at Missouri State University.
According to ADF, university faculty said Keeton's beliefs are unethical and incompatible with the counseling profession, saying it would hinder her "ability to be a multi-culturally competent counselor, particularly with regard to working with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning populations." According to court papers, when Keeton asked why her biblical ethical views would disqualify her competence as a counselor, and how her Christian convictions were any less acceptable than those of a Buddhist or Muslim student, Mary Jane Anderson-Wiley, an associate professor who oversees the school's student education and discipline, responded, "Christians see this population as sinners."

According to the filed complaint, "She has stated that she believes sexual behavior is the result of accountable personal choice rather than an inevitability deriving from deterministic forces. She has also affirmed binary male-female gender, with one or the other being fixed in each person at their creation, and not a social construct or individual choice subject to alteration by the person so created. Further, she has expressed her view that homosexuality is a 'lifestyle,' not a 'state of being.'"

The Remediation Plan required that Keeton attend "diversity sensitivity training" toward working with GLBTQ populations, plus the faculty sought to change her beliefs by assigning her remedial assignments to increase her exposure and interaction with gay populations by attending such events as the Augusta Gay Pride parade, then writing about her feelings after being there.

"A public university student shouldn't be threatened with expulsion for being a Christian and refusing to publicly renounce her faith, but that's exactly what's happening here. Simply put, the university is imposing thought reform," said ADF senior counsel David French. "Abandoning one's own religious beliefs should not be a precondition at a public university for obtaining a degree. This type of leftist, zero-tolerance policy is in place at far too many universities, and it must stop. Jennifer's only crime was to have the beliefs that she does."

Anderson-Wiley told Keeton that she had a choice of standing by the Bible or by the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. Keeton chose the Bible. [, American Family Association, The Washington Times,,, Family Research Council]

Lessons from the Compost Heap - by Pastor Chris Meirose

Yesterday I had an article published in our local newspaper - The Waseca County News -  Below is that article.  Credit to Shanon O'Dell's book "Transforming Church in Rural America" for the genesis of this article's main idea.

Garden season is in full bloom.  Any gardener worth their petunias knows the secret to good growth is the right fertilizer.  Water is just H20, and the Sun provides its energy, but fertilizer turns plain dirt into something special where life can grow.

One of the most common sources for this black gold comes from a compost heap.  If you aren’t familiar with the composting process, you take all your organic scraps and pile them together, and then wait for them to rot and decay.  The smell of a compost site can be stomach churning in its stench.  Sometimes I think marriages are a lot like a compost heap.

Most marriages accumulate a lot of stinking, rotting junk from the past - broken promises, unfulfilled expectations, cutting words, acts of betrayal.  A marriage is the perfect location to build a compost pile of pain, anger and frustration.  We bring up the old smells, and as they age, they stink worse.  We hold onto past hurts and dwell on injustices.  You don’t want to get down wind of a lot of marriages!

Do you believe in miracles?  I do.  And I think there is a miracles waiting to happen in all those compost pile marriages.  No matter how bad they smell.  If you handle your compost pile properly, you know they can produce some of the richest, most fertile soils and fertilizers on the planet.  You take something that was dead and to be discarded and watch God give life to it, using it to grow something new and beautiful.

Everyone who has been hurt in a relationship needs to take those pains to the compost heap, especially those of us who are married.  Bring it to God, and watch Him heal, liberate, and breathe new life into something that was once a stinking decaying mess.

Colossians 2:13-14 says:  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.

If you are a Christ follower, He has done that for us, and if your spouse is a believer He has done it for him or her as well.  But if we are to turn our compost pile of a relationship into fertilizer for something far greater, we must allow that same forgiveness to flow through us into the other person as well.  We must take our pains, the offenses, and dig them up with a shovel and spread them at the feet of the cross.  Leaving them there for God to work as only He can.  He is in the business of taking things that are dead and giving them new life.

If you would like to know more about First Congregational Church you can visit us on the web at or join us for worship at 10 a.m.  each Sunday, visitors are always welcome!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Adoptions Increase

Bethany Christian Services — the nation's largest adoption agency — reports that international and domestic adoptions have increased by 26 percent over last year. Bethany has also seen a 19 percent increase in families stepping forward to begin the adoption process this year. Bethany has partnered with many organizations to promote adoptions, including Focus on the Family and the MTV reality show "16 and Pregnant." One of the most watched episodes for MTV in 2009 featured a Bethany birth mother who decided to place her baby with a family in North Carolina. []

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

All the way my Savior leads me - Lyrics

Lyrics by Fanny Crosby.  My favorite version was sung by Rich Mullins.

Fanny Crosby was one of the most prolific hymnists in history, writing over 8,000 despite being blind since her infancy.  She wrote so many hymns that she would often publish under pseudonyms because some publishers didn't want too many of her songs in one hymnal.

All the way my Savior leads me
  1. All the way my Savior leads me,
    What have I to ask beside?
    Can I doubt His tender mercy,
    Who through life has been my Guide?
    Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
    Here by faith in Him to dwell!
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well;
    For I know, whate’er befall me,
    Jesus doeth all things well.
  2. All the way my Savior leads me,
    Cheers each winding path I tread,
    Gives me grace for every trial,
    Feeds me with the living Bread.
    Though my weary steps may falter
    And my soul athirst may be,
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see;
    Gushing from the Rock before me,
    Lo! A spring of joy I see.
  3. All the way my Savior leads me,
    Oh, the fullness of His love!
    Perfect rest to me is promised
    In my Father’s house above.
    When my spirit, clothed immortal,
    Wings its flight to realms of day
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way;
    This my song through endless ages:
    Jesus led me all the way.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A must read book for rural pastors

I just wrote a review over on for what I am comfortable in saying will be one of my top 3 books for 2010 - Transforming Church in Rural America by Pastor Shannon O'Dell.  Below is that review, and I would highly recommend you give this book a read, even if you aren't a pastor, even if you aren't in a rural church.  Really clear insight into transforming the church to better share the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I know I'll be purchasing a few extra copies and sending them to some friends (like to Brenton Balvin)

I pastor a small church in a small town in Southern, MN, and this book spoke to me like few others have. My summary of it would be "He's saying everything I've experience, only far better than I could've said it."

From first page to last, Shannon O'Dell writes in a compelling way, challenging all rural pastors to aspire for something great. To not let the fact that because you are in a rural area to limit your creativity and passion for spreading the news about Jesus.

The first attraction of the book is simply that you have someone else who has been there and can relate to your experience as a rural pastor. But the book moves you far beyond this with some excellent ideas on how to push through the "traditional" way of thinking.

From the book:
Four Most Difficult Decisions for a Rural Pastor (pg 38):
1. To pastor in rural America...with low incomes, low resources, and low expectations
2. To reach the lost and unchurched (Most people say they want to reach the lost...until they do and the church starts changing!)
3. To equip the church with accurate and healthy structure...changing laws, constitutions, and church policy as necessary
4. To remove "Holy Cows" to be more effective...such as pews, property, and people

Pastor O'Dell gives ideas on tackling all four of these issues, as well as many others, and does so in a readable non-Scorched Earth kind of way.

Any pastor can benefit from this book, but especially pastors of smaller and more rural churches.

Reading this book was like finding a kindred spirit to minister with, event though we are separated by many hundreds of miles. It was refreshing, a fresh wind in my ministry sails.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Try to come to Church?

Below is the first segment of a post by Pastor Chris Elrod.  Love his words!

Yoda was right - "Do or do not....there is no try!"

July 13, 2010
by Chris Elrod

There are very few phrases that get my blood boiling more than someone saying they will try to come to church.  It especially puts me in “punch you in the face” mode when it comes from a person that is an occasional church attender.  They might as well just say, “I’m a big wussy that would rather feed my immaturity than to give God any kind of quality time.  I have not grown up…I am a child…and you should spank my bottom like a toddler!”   Try is such a stupid word.  Anyone can try…at anything.  Try is the word of a loser that has no intention of giving it their best shot and pulling out all of the stops to make it happen.  Try is a word that appeases a tense conversation with no real commitment attached to it.  When you use the word try in connection with church attendance…you just sound like an idiot.  Either you will come to church or not….there’s no try.   It’s not like you are fighting off terrorists, rabid badgers and 30-foot tidal waves to make it to church.

Let’s be honest…going to church in the United States in the 21st Century is not a real difficult task.

Click here for the rest of the article on Chris Elrod's site.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Ten Questions to Ask to Turn a Conversation Toward the Gospel

Many Christians suffer with unnecessary fears about sharing their faith. Once they finally get a conversation turned to the subject of the Gospel, however, most believers find that they're able to manage quite well. Much of the time the biggest problem is simply moving a conversation from small talk to "big" talk, the biggest subject of all—the Gospel. Here's a list of questions that can help. Some of them aren't original with me, though I don't recall where years ago I first heard the ones I've borrowed. I've found that the last one opens more doors for the Gospel in the widest variety of situations.

  1. When you die, if God says to you, "Why should I let you into Heaven?", what would you say? Are you interested in what the Bible says about your answer?
  2. If you were to die tonight, where do you think you would spend eternity? Why? Are you interested in what the Bible says about this?
  3. Do you think much about spiritual things?
  4. How is God involved in your life?
  5. How important is your faith to you?
  6. What has been your most meaningful spiritual experience?
  7. Do you find that your religious heritage answers your questions about life?
  8. Do you have any kind of spiritual beliefs? If what you believe were not true, would you want to know it? Well, the Bible says . . . .
  9. To you, who is Jesus?
  10. I often like to pray for people I meet; how can I pray for you?

(HT: Don Whitney)

Yes, I know I'm fat, thank you.

An annual obesity report by two public health groups has more bad news — obesity rates increased in 28 states last year. Though the survey shows an increasing awareness of obesity and its threat to public health, that knowledge has yet to translate into results. The report showed that Colorado ranks as the leanest state in the country with an adult obesity rate of 19.1 percent. Last year, four states — Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia — had obesity rates of over 30 percent. The new results show that Mississippi continued its six-year reign as the country's fattest state. And four more states have joined the over 30 percent rate — Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Obesity in adults is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, while overweight is a body mass index between 25 and 30. []

Monday, July 05, 2010

Court Rules in Favor of Marriage

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge to the state's 2006 marriage amendment. Julaine Appling, president of the Wisconsin Family Council, said, "When Wisconsin voters passed the marriage amendment in 2006 by almost 60 percent, they recognized the purpose of the amendment was clear and simple: to protect the institution of marriage. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reinforced that purpose in their decision." People for the American Way and gay-activist groups vowed to challenge Wednesday's decision, claiming the amendment was unconstitutional. []

I'm inclined to day that the SCOTUS won't hear this and will leave it as a state issue.  But I've been surprised before. What do you think?

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Proud to be an American

A new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press®, conducted June 24-27 among 1,001 adults, finds that more than eight-in-ten (83%) say they are either extremely proud (52%) or very proud (31%) to be an American. Just 14 percent say they are moderately proud (8%) or have little or no pride (6%) in being an American. People younger than 30 are less likely than older Americans to say they are extremely proud of being an American. []

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Should church leaders drink?

My thoughts - it is permissible, but we must be responsible with it - with the who, what when and where of drinking alcoholic beverages.  I drink (in a good year) a handful of beers and about 4 glasses of wine (generally holiday wine - Thanksgiving, Christmas times).  There have been years I have haven't drank.  I do enjoy beer and wine, but it is quite rare when I drink them.

According to a monthly poll released this week, 40 percent of evangelical leaders said they "socially drink alcohol." Many of them added that they only drink "in moderation," "on special occasions," or "infrequently." And they noted that they do so only with those who share similar views on alcohol consumption.
The poll was based on responses from the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals, including the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations.
Among the majority who said they did not consume alcohol, the common reason for abstinence was not because they believe it is sinful to drink. "Even though there is no prohibition on moderate alcohol consumption in Scripture, due to the many implications as an example to family and those I serve, I like Paul's words 'it is better not to' (Romans 14:21)," said Gary Benedict, president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, according to the NAE poll.

Some denominations, however, do not allow leaders to drink. "[W]hile we understand one cannot defend [abstinence from alcohol] biblically, we have chosen to raise the standard for leadership in our movement," said Jeff Farmer of Open Bible Churches.

Others said they abstain from drinking because of alcoholism in the family, a desire to be an example to younger generations, or the affect alcohol addiction has on society. "Alcohol and its effects have been a major challenge in American society," said Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
According to earlier LifeWay Research, 29 percent of lay people and 24 percent of senior pastors agreed that people should never drink alcohol. But, while 68 percent of pastors said reasonable consumption of alcohol is a "biblical liberty," just over half (54%) of lay people agreed. And, at the same time, 90 percent of clergy said a Christian drinking alcohol could cause other believers to stumble or be confused.[]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Justice is getting close to walking

Successfully Handle Behavior Problems in Children

Shana Schutte has put together a great resource over at Focus on the Family dealing with how to Successfully Handle Behavior Problems.  Below is a most of the opening article with links to plans for each age group of children.  A worthwhile read for all parents.


Dr. Leman is the author of numerous books including Have a New Kid by Friday. In this book, Dr. Leman gives humorous, insightful and effective advice on many behavioral problems for every childhood age and stage. If potty training is driving you crazy, he's got it covered. If you need help teaching your kids to become more respectful of one another, he can help. And if you want to prevent your teens from lighting up, Dr. Leman addresses that, too. In this module we'll share Dr. Leman's expert advice on these and many other parenting challenges, including eating and undereating challenges, wardrobe issues, tattling and put-downs.
Before we begin, Dr. Leman has a few reminders for parents to keep in mind when dolling out discipline.

Remember that your child wants to please you

During my fourth year as a teacher, I taught art to high-energy, hormonal sixth-graders. By March of the school year, I was convinced that although I enjoyed teaching, it wasn't God's calling for my life. So, one week before school ended, I announced that I would be moving on. I wasn't surprised that some of my students weren't sad that I was leaving, but I was surprised that one student in particular cried when I announced my departure.