Thursday, January 29, 2009

Parting with the Painful - Offering Praises for the Positive

This Sunday, February 1st, will be a significant day for Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church. Our Transition Team will lead the congregation to reflect upon our heritage. This will be a 3 hour event (including our morning worship service) focused on: Parting with the Painful and Offering Praises for the Positive.

During the worship service, the sermon will be based on Matthew 6:12 – “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. This service will conclude by celebrating forgiveness, received and given, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper together. Forgiveness is the grace that enables us to break free of the bondage of past sins so that we can move forward into the future God desires for His church.

An afterglow time will follow the worship service. The congregation will divide into small groups led by Transition Team members. Each group will be given the opportunity to discuss these two questions: 1) What is the one thing in NGWC’s past that I have most needed to release to God so that we can move forward? 2) What time at NGWC did I feel most motivated and excited about our church? After these discussions the congregation will gather for a soup and sandwich lunch together.

Following the lunch, everyone will return to the sanctuary to celebrate God’s blessings upon the church during the last 30 years as highlights are given from the tenures of the last six pastors. As each former pastor is remembered, people will be given to stand if they came to faith or joined the church during these years. Words of affirmation and humorous memories will be shared by those who desire to do so.

Please join those who already in prayer for God to do a special work in our midst as the Neighbors Grove congregation gathers together this Sunday.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Individual Responsbility - Part 2

The second item I read this week that reminded me of the great need for all of us to take individual responsibility was written by our oldest son, Stephen, who lives in Hong Kong. He is 30 years old and works as an assistant editor for a book publishing company. In my humble opinion, he has a gift for writing that I hope will be utilized for good. Here is what he wrote:

The Shoe is on the Other Foot

It will go down, perhaps, as one of the most historically important moments of this century. At 12:05 p.m. in Washington D.C., the son of an African immigrant took the oath of office to become the President of the United States. But as the world looked on, we all cringed in unison. We watched painfully as President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts stumbled over each other in trying to repeat the sacred oath.

But why? Why should a simple mistake immediately bring such trouble to our hearts? Understandably, both men were nervous on this monumental occasion. Indeed, it is not unusual at all to see a bride or groom stumble over their vows at a wedding. In fact, if such a thing happens at a wedding, we would merely smile and wish the happy couple all the best. So what exactly makes this slip up any different?

Simply put, the political discourse in American politics has gone off the deep end. Everyone’s actions, and none more so than the President, is examined and then re-examined under a microscope by their political opposition.

We saw this for eight years under former President Bush. Every mispronunciation, every stumble, every minute mistake was shown brightly to the world. The defenders of President Bush would, predictably, make excuses for the blunders. They would blame the mistake on others, or simply brush them off by saying everyone stumbles or mispronounces words occasionally, especially when they are under pressure.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Those who defended Bush’s blunders now point the finger at President Obama. Those who trumpeted the gaffes of President Bush now find themselves defending a stuttering Obama.

And so it goes on and on. We may remain hopeful for a change in the political discourse, but change will not come from one man alone. We must all change. From politicians, to the media, to the everyday man on the street, we must all change the way we think about and react to those whom we disagree with politically. Can we change? Yes, we can. But will we?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Individual Responsbility - Part 1

This week I have read two different thoughts that have really stirred me to reflect on my individual responsibility instead of blaming others or expecting others to solve my problems.

This post will quote an email I received called: Peace Meal - Food for Thought on Biblical Peacemaking.

Let It Begin with Me

All it takes is one person who hears the call of God and responds, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isa. 6:8). Perhaps for your church, that person is you. Please pray about it and reflect on the Scriptures given above. Ask God to give you a longing to see a culture of peace in your church that reflects the love and power of his Son. If he gives you that longing, hard work awaits you, but great blessing is also in store, for Jesus' promise in Matthew 5:9 is absolutely dependable:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
Taken from
The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 297.

It just takes one.

There is a theory in the study of family systems that says if just one person begins to change, then the family changes. For example, if a passive son begins to be more assertive in his decisions and behavior, then the whole family changes. They may look the same, drive the same old Honda, and still play Monopoly every Saturday night. But since he changed, the family is no longer the same. And the courage of one member to change often inspires others to change as well.

So who will begin to change your church's culture to one of peacemaking? Ken writes: "Perhaps…that person is you." What? Me? Surely not! I mean, doesn't that need to come through the pastor or the elders or the deacons or the Sunday school teachers? I'm just one person.

Exactly! That's where change begins--always has, always will. It begins with the man or woman in the mirror. If you begin to practice biblical peacemaking in your church, your church will change. It may keep the same street address, sing the same hymns, and keep the steel-blue pew cushions, but it will be different. It all begins with the courage of one with the power of One.

As a friend of mine loves to say - this is a trustworthy saying.
In my next post I will share something that our son, Stephen, recently wrote and has submitted to several newspapers for their opinion section.

Monday, January 19, 2009

OK - this the last posting of pictures from our recent cruise. Enjoy!!

By Divine providence we met up with Josh and Joy Tietje while on the cruise. They were on their honeymoon. They are friends of our daughter and son-in-law and were in college together.

This is a picture of us together in front of the Water Tower in Nassau. It is a small world - we had no idea that anyone that we had any connection with would be on the same ship.

I decided to have a chat with Ernest Hemingway. Apparently he lived in Key West for a few years in a house across the street from the lighthouse that Pam and I climbed to the top of. I got some pics of the roof of the house but there was an admission fee to get in so we stayed out.

Here is Pam eating a chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick from Kermit's in Key West. It was very, very good. I helped her eat it! I promise!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cruising to the Lighthouses

Pam and I are really into lighthouses. In the last six years we have visited approximately 25 lighthouses in our travels. Some of our vacations have even been planned with visits to certain lighthouses in mind. I wish I could say that there is something spiritual about it. Maybe there is but I am not sure.

We just like looking at them. They each have a different appearance and personality. We like climbing to the top of the ones where you can do that. Since I figured out how to take self pictures of Pam and myself, we usually take one of ourselves while we are at the top of these lighthouses.

During our cruise we got to climb the Key West lighthouse and sail by the lighthouse in the harbor of Nassau, Bahamas. So we have two more to our growing list of lighthouses visited. Above is a picture of the Nassau lighthouse with the Atlantis hotel complex in the background. Next is a picture of Pam and me at the top of the Key West lighthouse and then one of the Key West lighthouse from the ground. Enjoy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pam Went Parasailing

The most often asked question about our vacation was: Did you go parasailing?

This was something that Pam had desired to do for several years. Santa Claus knew about her desire so he delivered a coupon on Christmas morning for her to do a tandem parasail in Key West with a companion of her choice.

Here is a photo to prove that she did indeed get to go parasailing and to reveal who she choose to be her partner.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too Nice to Do Good

"Nothing is so cruel as the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin."
-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

This Bonhoeffer quote reflects the truth that I tried to teach during our mid-week Bible studies this week. After the holiday and vacation break I have returned briefly to the "one another" commands for our Bible study. This week we focused on Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

This is a difficult command for many Christians. We are often so afraid of hurting someone's feelings or being rejected by them that we neglect to confront them with the error of their ways. Jim Van Yperen points out that our credibility and integrity for admonishing is built up when we first practice some of the other "one another" commands like forbearing, forgiving, serving and loving one another. But even then, we may be so nice that we can't do good. The good being to try to help our brother or sister see the error of their way.

For those who have been waiting for some vacation pictures to get posted - please be patient, they will be here shortly. I am paying for last week's vacation with an extra load of work this week.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Title Deed

I finally got blogspot to upload a copy of the Title Deed that the Transition Team will be distributing to the congregation during the month of January and signing on the first Sunday (tomorrow) in the worship service. This Title Deed is discussed in the previous blog from yesterday. If anyone would like to receive a jpeg file of this Title Deed just send me an email and I will reply with it attached.

Tomorrow, after the worship service, Pam and I leave for cruise out of Jacksonville, Florida. Hope to see Renee Reeves, a friend and former work associate from our years in Terre Haute, Indiana while there. So it will be at least a week before the next blog.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Giving Our Church Back to God

The first statement in the NGWC Transition Team Covenant reads:
We will strive to abandon selfish motivations as we prayerfully seek to surrender ownership of Neighbors Grove Wesleyan Church to God.

The team has a strong desire to see all members of the congregation make a similar commitment. To that end, I will be preaching a message from Isaiah 6:1-8 (Isaiah responding to God's call after King Uzziah dies). The main point will be that Isaiah had to give his country and himself back to God before God could use it or him again. In the same way, our congregation must give the church back to God before He will use it or us in a powerful way.

At the close of this first worship service in 2009 all of the Transition Team members will stand before the congregation and sign a replicate Title Deed as an expression of their intent to give their church back to God. Everyone will also be given a smaller sized version of the same deed and asked to prayerfully consider signing their deed before the end of January and our first congregational event focused on the church heritage.

In this service the Transition Team will also be sharing a few details about our first congregational event to take place in four weeks. These details include:

Our Heritage:
Parting with the Painful and Offering Praises for the Positive
February 1, 2009 -- 10 am – 1 pm
Worship Service: Repenting of the Sinful
Afterglow: Releasing the Hurtful
Fellowship: Rejoicing for the Helpful
(Soup & Sandwich Lunch is Included)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Five Month Reflections

The following will appear in this Sunday's bulletin at Neighors Grove Wesleyan Church as I share my assessment of our first five months together as their Intentional Interim Pastor.

I believe that God has chosen to grant favor to our church as we have begun the intentional interim process together. On what do I base this belief?
* Last August we were able to hire a great Youth Director – Chris James.
* Our weekly offerings are better now than when we arrived in July.
* The new roof on the sanctuary has been completely paid for.
* Worship attendance has picked up from the low 80's to 100 or more on an average Sunday.
* We had great participation for the shut-in Christmas caroling.
* Over 60 people attended the communion service on Christmas Eve.
* The church was able to have wonderful children's and adult Christmas musicals.
* In three weeks our new Assistant Pastor, Randy Haithcock, will be joining our staff.
* The Transition Team has gotten off to a great start preparing for our first congregational event.

There are other more intangible things that I see happening in us and through us as a congregation. These intangibles are just as important, if not more important, because they relate to our spiritual growth and maturity. God is at work among us! He will continue to grant us favor if we will continue to humble ourselves before Him and be obedient to His Word and Spirit.

The next posting tomorrow or Saturday will share more details about the work of the Transition Team and their plans for our first congreational event focused on the church heritage. After this next posting I will be on vacation for a week with Pam on a cruise. I hope to post a picture or two of our trip upon our return.