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.[]