Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Our Christmas Celebrating began Friday.

I had an opportunity to speak at the MOPS group hosted by our church. It's a great chance to speak into the lives of some 40+ families. I always appreciate the opportunity.

Friday night was a chance to be together with Sarah's family in Indiana. Sarah, William & Kate had traveled by Amtrak Thursday and I arrived Friday afternoon. We had a great time with Sarah's folks, brother and grandparents. It was a quick trip but good stuff.

Sunday was a fun celebration at church. Christmas is just good.

Tonight--actually in a couple hours--we'll celebrate together again with our Christmas Eve service.

We'll do some small family stuff tonight and tear into presents tomorrow morning. My parents fly in tomorrow evening for a week. We are looking forward to celebrating Christmas with them too.

Pa Rumpa Pum Pum. The beat goes on.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mmmm, Music!

Here are a couple great videos.
Music ignites me.

1. Switchfoot just continues to be a great band!

2. Watch this guy, Andy McKee. Great stuff.

Church with a Mission (Trip)

The Trip...
In March a group from our church is heading to Antigua for a Mission Trip. Those who have been around here longer than me tell me that this is a 1st for our church. In our 75 year history an Adult/Family Short Term Mission Trip has not been taken. Our teens have ministered in this capacity many times but not adults/families. I'm going with a group for the first week of the trip and another group will head out during the second week.

The Mission...
Reggie McNeal asks six great questions in his book, The Present Future, contrasted by the "wrong" questions typically asked in church. They are;
Wrong: How do we do church better?
Tough: How do we deconvert from Churchianity to Christianity?

Wrong: How do we grow the church?
Tough: How do we transform our community?

Wrong: How do we turn members into ministers?
Tough: How do we turn members into missionaries?

Wrong: How do develop church members?
Tough: How do we develop followers of Jesus?

Wrong: How do we plan for the future?
Tough: How do we prepare for the future?

Wrong: How do we develop leaders for church work?
Tough: How do we develop leaders for the Christians movement?

Will a Missions Trip make our church missional? I not banking on that. I'm banking on the Word of God to transform our minds and hearts so as to see the world as God sees it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Peacemaker video

Here's the video we showed Sunday entitled "Peacemaker". I'm excited to post it here and excited that I am now on with this video.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Messing with Christmas

There is a saying, "Behind every successful man is a surprised woman."
Some truth there...some stretch.

I know for certain that my wife assists me and encourages me so much. We mull things over together across a wide range of subjects: kids, current issues, church life, politics, fun... She has a keen mind and a good read on things.

So we've been talking about Christmas and I shared with her a couple weeks ago that I did not have a clear direction on what to share during this season of Advent as we point toward Christmas. She reached back into her mental archive of sermons I preached in years past and over the course of the next few days began to remind and press upon me a sermon series I shared back in the Fall '04. Drawn from Dr. David Thompson's book, Holiness for Hurting People is a series of messages pointing to the holiness available for spite of our hurts.

Sunday's sermon will be from Ephesians 4:25. I'm going to talk about the Light of the World who has come to dispel our darkness and take us, using Dr. T's terms, from Delusion to Disclosure of our Pain.

A great song that goes along with this series is entitled "Peacemaker" by Greg Ferguson. It's on a CD entitled One Life. I think it is available from Willow Creek Community Church's on-line store.

Christmas may look/sound a little different at our church this year but it will still point to the Light of the World.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving Musings

A former professor from Asbury Seminary, Elsworth Kalas, preached a great message in Chapel back in 1998. Speaking on Leviticus 10 he pointed out the Intimate Peril serving in ministry has with it. Serving God is intimate work--a nearness and closeness--but there is always the peril of taking the things of God for granted. Case in point: Nadab & Abihu...see text.

I shared Sunday about the peril we each face in being close to God and one another. There is a danger of taking them for granted. I tried to give a challenge to handle with care those things and people God has placed in our lives.

Chris Tomlin sings, "How can I keep from singing your praise?" I wonder if it is possible to keep from singing praise if we presume upon God and take for grant that which he has given us. Even if we are in a "worship & praise" service, but are taking it for granted, we are treading into the wrong territory.

Father God, thank you for your goodness to me. Thank you for your continual presence with me. Thank you for Jesus Christ and the gift of your Holy Spirit. Thank you for the great days and yes, thank you for the junky days too. Thank you for my wife and kids. Thank you for our extended family. Thank you for our great church and the community around us.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hunting...Jesus Style

It was a few weeks ago I approached a guy in our church with an idea. He owns an outdoor supply shop and we chatted about the "what if" of hosting some sort of event for deer hunters. All it took was one suggestion and my friend, Dave from Bowman's Outdoor Sports, ran with the idea.
(For those of you reading outside the state of Michigan, opening day of rifle hunting season is this Thursday.)

Last night was my opportunity to witness what happens when you tap into something bigger than yourself. The event was titled, The Blessing of the Hunt, and it was certainly that. His shop was absolutely FULL of hunters, their spouses and children.

Out of the 61,000 licensed deer hunters in our region of Michigan and of the 750,000 in the state of Michigan, we hung out with 200.

What'd we do?
6:30 PM...people began arriving for the 7:00 event
-people talked about hunting
-we ate
-people talked about hunting some more
-a taxidermist gave a brief presentation
-people kept talking about hunting
-I spoke to the group about the fact that although we look and see evidences of God in creation, the reality is that God is looking for us. He loves us and pursues us.
-Prayer of blessing and safety for the hunt
-a drawing for give-a-ways was held (including a sweet prize: a bobble-head deer)
-people talked about hunting
9:30 PM...headed home

I'm not a licensed deer hunter and don't plan to ever be one--much to the amazement of the men in my church. But I loved hunting last night.
-My field: Bowman's Outdoor Sports
-My target: Hunters who need Jesus
-My weapon: Love of Christ

Huge thanks to God for last night. Thanks to Dave & Shelly Bowman and all the people they connected with to help out last night!

Friday, November 9, 2007

How Do You Smell?

I’ve always had a thing with smells. Peter thinks I’m crazy. I’ve always associated people and places with smells and can go back to a specific memory just by smelling something. Kate and William both had Burt’s Bees lotion that I put on them when they were tiny. It’s one of my favorite smells. Another favorite is the smell of bread baking. It reminds me of home, growing up. Or the smell of a farm . . . the smell of my dad when he returned home from work each day. Weird, but true. What can I say? So when I saw this verse, I immediately took note:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession,
and through us spreads in every place
the fragrance that comes from knowing
.” 2 Corinthians 2:14

A wonderful friend of mine, Sally Dunlap, is such an example to me in this verse. She is every bit the southern School teacher that you can picture. She is small and petite, with white hair and sparkling blue eyes. Though she is a senior citizen herself, one of her ministries while she and her husband Whitney winter in Florida is to visit those who can’t leave their home. One of her ladies, she told me, had severe arthritis and her hands hurt her terribly. So Sally would take her best lotion to her house and while they would visit, she would rub the lotion into her hands, working them until they would begin to loosen. That is the fragrance that comes from knowing Christ. I imagine Sally, spending time with a woman that few would take time to see. I imagine the woman, and the smell of her hands long after Sally left. What a beautiful picture.

William and I started doing devotions together about a year ago. He loves them! He had a little trouble getting the word right, though. “Lotions, Mommy! Let’s do Lotions,” he’d say. When I finally figured it out, it occurred to me that he was being profound without even knowing it. How do I get the fragrance of Christ? By spending time with Him. Have you ever hugged your Grandma and find that you smell like her for the rest of the day? When I spend time with God, truly learning and loving Him, His smell is on me. I, in turn, leave that fragrance wherever I go.

May you have the fragrance that comes from knowing your Lord and Savior and may you spread it wherever you go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Home is Good

We returned last night from a fairly quick visit to my family in South Dakota. Aberdeen, SD has never been my "home" (my parents moved there after I graduated college) but it is home for me because my family is there. It was great visiting with my folks, my sister & brother-in-law and my grandparents. Kate turned 1 while we were with them. She's such a beauty and I am blessed to be able to be part of her life. Home is Good.

Home in Michigan is good. We were anxious to be back yesterday. There is something about familiar surroundings and your own bed. Ahhhh. Even being back in the office today is something of a welcome change. (I may feel different about it tomorrow...) But home is good.

While in South Dakota I had opportunity to hear my dad preach again. He's so good. What a great story teller! Then he pulls it all together for a great point. He keeps it clear and simple--so helpful when wanting people to understand.
-My biggest observation from being in the congregation is: There are loads of distractions when you are in the congregation. Great pastors know that the point of the message should be clear and concise so that, in spite of distractions, people will still get the main point. I want to keep it simple so people can get the point.

Home is good.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Praying Scripturally

Hello All! Sarah here. While I’m certainly not the intellectual that Peter is, I do have something to say from time to time. I’m glad that Peter is allowing me to share this blog with him.

God has been doing something amazing among our women lately. You may know that our church is offering the Bible Study Believing God by Beth Moore for the second time this year. I’ve been blown away as I’ve sat through, and helped teach, again. How could I have missed so much the first time?! Wiebke Papenfus came to me after we finished in the spring and wondered about offering it to the ladies of MOPS. Fifteen women from our MOPS group are currently in the same study! We are determined to be women who believe!

I’ve got to say that one of the most important things I have internalized from this study is the practice of praying Scripture. So many times I spit words out and then I wonder if I’m praying in the will of God. But if I pray a specific Scripture over a situation or a person, I can know that I’m praying the powerful words of God. How does this work out specifically? Here are some examples:

  • If I know someone is dealing with insecurity issues, I can pray Psalm 90:14 for them: “Satisfy us in our earliest youth with your loving kindness, giving us constant joy to the end of our lives.”
  • I pray Jeremiah 1:4-9 for Peter: “The Lord said to me, ‘I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman . . . you will go wherever I send you and speak whatever I tell you to. And don’t be afraid of the people, for I, the Lord, will be with you and see you through.’"
  • And for my kids, I like to pray Psalm 101 for them, especially verse 1-2. Here’s how I would personalize it for them: “Lord, help me to teach William and Kate to sing of your loving kindness and your justice. Let them sing your praises! Give them the strength to walk a blameless path (and may I be the example to them—but I need your help), especially in our home, where we all long to act as we should.” What a great reminder that even if no one hears me screaming at my children at the time, my attitude is going to reflect in my kiddos as they are in other situations!

Praying like this takes work and isn’t usually quick or easy, unless we really take time to study Scripture, instilling it in our lives. At Beth’s suggestion, I’ve begun to read my Bible with eyes wide open. When I come to a verse that applies to a person or situation, I write it down on a 3x5 card. I keep a stack of cards in my Bible and read them out loud. What a powerful way to pray! And I don’t need to second-guess if I’m praying within the will of God—because I’m using the words that He has already ordained! Try it and let me know how it works out in your life.


Beliefs recap

Someone asked me following Sunday's service, "I believe in the core beliefs of Christianity, but how do you answer someone's question when they ask you, 'Who created God?' "
-Bigger heads than me have attempted to wrestle with that question. My thought is, if you could answer the question of who/what created God you are left with another question of who/what created that... And the cycle would simpy repeat.
It's an unanswerable question.

Jesus said, "Believe in God, believe also in me." The big question is what will I do with Jesus?
Following that, I really like what Rob Bell, "Who is Jesus among us?" Meaning, if I understand him correctly, how is Jesus revealing himself to our local body of believers so that we will faithfully live that out in our community in response. Who is Jesus among us?

This Sunday, "How do Christians behave?"


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Loading the Guns

I live in Michigan, where the licensed deer hunters outnumber the population of the state of South Dakota, and I do not own a gun. The men of my church just shake their heads at me.
The only loading I know to do is to prepare every Saturday night for what will come Sunday morning. A mentor pastor of mine, Dave Engbrecht, calls this "loading the guns."

Tomorrow I'm preaching on the topic, What do Christians believe? It's core stuff. Down to the bone stuff. (AKA, Doctrine & Theology)

The content of what I will share is similar to what I am doing tonight--making sure I know what I know. Our doctrine and theology, as followers of Jesus, is what we ought to be ready to live and share. It is what we must know that we know.

Alistair Begg says something to this effect... "The doctrines and beliefs of Christianity are not just for the intellectuals to know. In fact, they are learned more often through obedience to God's Word than they are through mere intellectual pursuit."
I like that. Obedience.

On another note, I spent time tonight surfing around blogs of former classmates, pastors and Chrisitan leaders around the world. It is amazing how God has placed His people around this orb. I am elated to be included in His kingdom work.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strange Sunday

Pray for our church.

Without looking back on sermons preached and getting a specific number I'm going to say that the last 4-5 times that I have preached a sermon on Salvation and asked for commitment, the response has been visibly empty--including this past Sunday. Now I fully believe in the quiet work of the Holy Spirit in a peron's life so please don't hear me getting overly focused on numbers. I am wondering, though, why we are not seeing that fruit come forth.
  • Is it connected to the message?
  • Is it connected to our outreach?
  • Is it connected to a spiritual barrier?
  • Is it connected to...?

So, pray for us. Pray that we would see the harvest. Perhaps our greatest effectiveness in seeing the fruit of salvation will NOT be in the Sunday morning worship service. If so, that's fine with me. So long as we find that place where we are most effective.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

How in the world?

It's simply not something we can ascend to intellectually. It's simply not something we can attain because my mom and dad have it. It's not even something we can give to someone else regardless of how bad we want to.

It's Salvation. The free gift of mercy found in Jesus Christ. Your brain can take you only so far, your parents/role models can hope it for you, and once you have received it you want everyone else to know the same. This great gift is life changing.

So how in the world does one get "saved"?
Luke 5:12-13 is a great backdrop for understanding our spiritual condition and seeing the beautiful gift Christ brings when He shows up on the scene.

Ponder the question of How one gets saved. Let me know your thoughts.


NBC Response

Following my last post I did, in fact, contact NBC in regard to a racey commercial they aired during last Saturday's cartoons. I emailed the NBC Corporate Offices and immediately received a generic response from them. It said something like, "Thank for writing but due to the high quantity of responses we receive we cannot guarantee that we'll actually do anything--even read--your email..." (That's not a direct quote.) I understand that to a point and didn't get all bent out of shape.

Instead, I contacted our local NBC station, NBC25, with the same email. Today I recieved what I would call a decent and considerate email from a Jon L Bengston. Thanks Jon. I appreciate his action and I appreciate him following up with me. Below is the content of his response.

Yours was the second email that I received on this issue and I researched the issue and found that NBC Network did air a promotion for Chuck in the Saturday Morning segment of their telecast. I forwarded the original compaint to the Affiliate Relations Division of NBC and did get a response that it was referred to both NBC Legal Affairs and upper management at NBCfor review. The promotional spot was inadvertantly more exactly, improperly scheduled for other than adult time periods and how that happened is up for review. Both the network and WEYI-TV take our responsibilitiesseriously especially when kids are affected. I can only assure you that on behalf of WEYI-TV NBC25 and our sister operation WBSF-TV CW46 this occurance is obviously not an example of our normal broadcast efforts. I appologize for the situation and for the uncomfortable situation created as a result.

Jon L Bengtson
Operations and Programming

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sex Talk

We wrapped up our sermon series "Taking it to the Limit" this past Sunday. Talking about Sex in church is right up there with talking about Money. It messes with people's junk. I'm of the impression that during sermons on Sex there are many people who think, We don't need a sermon like this, we are Christians. Perhaps it is we who need it most. In a world where anything goes it's time followers of Jesus get things squared away so that our testimony can be most effective. I'm grateful for one comment in particular following the sermon. A mom approached me and said, Thanks for emphasizing what we emphasize at home.

Christ-followers are going to have to be more intentional about setting moral margins. There is a continual whittling away at moral limits. For instance, I was watching cartoons with my 3 year old son this past Saturday morning. During one of the commercial breaks I was stunned. Mixed in with commercials about G0-gurt and the newest toys came a commercial for a new TV show. In the commercial a woman takes off her shirt and exposes her bra to a man. It's ruffled my feathers enough that NBC will get a formal complaint from me. I'm not being militant but it bugs me immensely that this is what they are showing my son during a half hour cartoon.

Hold the line friends. Moral margins are important to your Heavenly Father.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Finding our Margins

The past weeks at NBWC have been a great time. I have openly used a sermon series preached by Andy Stanley of North Point Church ( on the margins of our life: time, emotions, finances and this week we'll conclude with moral margins. The feedback and additional insights the congregation have shared with me have been fantastic. I can't help but think that a nerve has been struck--in a positive way.

If you take a glance at our culture the message is, "Push it to the Max", "Go all the Way", "Spend More", "Work More" know what is being said. In contrast, our Heavenly Father calls us back from the edge. Our Heavenly Father asks us to order our days (Psalm 90:12). He asks us to trust him, even with our money (Micah 3:8-10). He implores us to get as far away from sexual temptation as possible (1 Corinthians 6:18).

We all live at limits. The question, and the challenge, becomes which limits will I choose. Culture's or God's? The invitation from God is to allow him to help us create margin.

Picture margin like the space between jogging and sprinting. Sure, we can all sprint for awhile. But does anyone sprint a marathon? What's the longest a sprinter runs in a race...100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters? I think that's about it. But a runner who is keeping a steady pace has margin. There is something in the tank in case it is needed later in the race.

The Bible teaches us to run hard, for we are in a great race. Transversely, the Bible instructs us to live wisely. A wise person knows their limits and lives a few paces back from them.

May God Bless you as you seek His Limits for your Life!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Venture

So I'm here. I don't think I get to be called a blogger yet but I do get to say I have a blog. (Man, I am so cool.) Actually, my itch for putting some thoughts out into the word of cyberness has been itching for awhile but like many things in my life it gets replaced by other "urgent" items of business. How often does that happen...the urgent takes the place of the important...too much I suppose.

Life-Life has been going so great. Sarah and I are still friends and still married. Most people 7 years into their marriage should aim for the same thing. I'm aiming for it for 50 years down the road. Our kids...come on, how can I not love them?! William scares me with how brilliant he seems to be. Maybe every 3 year old is brilliant like he is (a collective "no" from his grandparents was just given) but he astounds me with his attention to detail and his long term memory. Kate is such a beauty. She has learned to shake her head no. For now, it's cute. I don't think she knows what it means. Soon enough she will and the cuteness will take a backseat.

Ministry-Life wasn't going great too long ago. I was feeling like I was in the tank. But, thanks be to God for helping me to stick it out. Thanks to my wife for being wise enough to yank me away from the church, office & people for 4 days recently so I could breathe and laugh again. Now, in the immortal words of Vanilla Ice, "I'm rollin' in my 5 point 0 with my rag-top down so my hair can blow..." Ok, so I don't have a Mustang 5.0 (don't really want one) and I don't have hair that blows in the wind but the fact remains I am ready for the next season of ministry.

More to come...Peter.