Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prince Quotes of the Year (2011 Version)

"Jordan and Israel” --Alex
To the Israeli Border guard when she asked what Arab countries Alex had visited. A little indignant, she informed Alex, “Israel is not an Arab country.” Alex replied, “Well, you’ve sure got a lot of Arabs living here.” In June, our family went on a mission and sightseeing trip to Jordan and the Holy Land with Central Church and friend, Rod Green. Our favorite places were: Petra (Ben), Caesarea (Alex), Garden of Gethsemane (Karla) and the Old City of Jerusalem (Rob).

“Hello, my name is Karla.” --Karla (of course!)
To Rasil, the child we sponsor through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. We worked on various projects at Rasil’s school in Zarqa, Jordan. Back in the states, Karla is still servicing insurance policies for Financial Analysis, helping lead our Young Married Sunday School class, and living the dream with three fine Princes.

“I bet you are great at guessing your Christmas presents.” --Alex
To a Jewish airport security agent examining our luggage as we were leaving Israel. The friendly agent educated Alex that she neither receives nor opens Christmas presents. Cultural awareness classes might soon follow for our firstborn.

“It was my pleasure to serve you.” --Ben
To everyone ordering at Chick-fil-A. Ben has followed in Alex’s footsteps working at the restaurant in Olathe since August. An eleventh grader at Olathe South High School, Ben plays the guitar in the youth praise team, drives a “new” 1994 Teal Oldsmobile Cutlass and was one of the 6.5 million people that purchased Call of Duty 3 in the first 24 hours of its availability. We are so proud.

“Can I interest you in a Medicare Supplement?” --Alex
To customers at Select Quote Senior—a Medicare Supplement Insurance company where Alex worked as a summer intern. They asked him to continue working while at school and he is now a licensed agent. Alex is also a sophomore at MidAmerica Nazarene University majoring in business, still dating Blaire and this fall shot his first duck. Quack. Quack.

“We need to go to the hospital.” --Rob
To Karla at 2 AM upon the realization that he was graced with a kidney stone—two procedures later the rock was removed. In other health news: Thanks to quarterly Botox injections, Rob’s migraines have been held at bay, his forehead is more smooth than any drink from Smoothie King and life is good.

“I think God is calling me to a field.” --Ben
To a group of students from Central at the Nazarene Youth Conference in Louisville, Kentucky in July. Cory Stipp, our youth pastor, wasn’t sure if Ben was talking about a baseball field, a field of daisies, or the ministry—Ben clarified that he is sensing God’s call into ministry. (We would have been worried if he was talking about a field of daisies.)

“Four More Years!” --Central Church Board
To Rob and Karla following Rob’s six year pastoral review at Central. We have been blessed to pastor Central longer than other church. We are so thankful for the opportunity to see God working in many ways. Central is doing well and Rob has begun to plan a sabbatical for late summer 2012.

“Merry Christmas!” --Rob, Karla, Alex, Ben and Maggy (actually Maggy said, “Bark! Bark!”)
To all our friends and family—we hope you enjoy all of God’s blessings this Advent Season!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not So Deep Theological Ponderings at Christmas

My not so deep theological ponderings of the Christmas Season:

1. Can a five point Calvinist “re-gift” unwanted Christmas presents or is their motto “Once your gift... always your gift”?

2. If a person can quote the movie Elf more than Luke 2 does that disqualify him or her from next year’s cantata and thereby relegated to standing in a store loudly singing for all to hear: “I'm singing. I'm in a store and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing! I'm in a store and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing!”

3. If wax is spilled on the pew cushion during the Christmas Eve Candlelight service by a careless worshipper, will the church janitor request that Santa put the perpetrator on the “Naughty list”?

4. When looking at my rack of unworn (and never will wear) Christmas ties I am overcome with sadness for the wasted effort and energy meant to bring Christmas cheer by the thousands of silk and polyester worms—and I wonder if my congregants have had similar feelings after listening to some of my advent sermons?

5. If one has twelve Christmas trees in their house (and I do), can that house be declared a National Forest by the Department of Natural Resources?

6. Would “wee little man” Zaccheaus have been upset if someone mistook him for an elf?

7. Does the sending of a Christmas “card for a card” card negate any goodwill one might have accrued from the sending of a Christmas greeting card without having first received one?

8. Had Aaron given Moses a Garmin for Christmas would the children of Israel have gotten out of the wilderness sooner or would they have simply heard over and over “Recalculating. Recalculating. Recalculating.”?

9. Since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, does one get double credit for attending a worship service on the 25th?

10. Will there be more new Tim Tebow football jerseys or Christmas sweaters worn to church on Christmas morning?

11. Do Pentecostal snowmen ever pray for fiery Holy Ghost revival?

12. Would Dancer and Prancer have been allowed to be Nazarenes?

In a much more serious tone, in your theological musing moments this Christmas season I hope you reflect on the glorious words of John 1, when the apostle wrote: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) Best. News. Ever! No joke!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving

The in-laws are coming. The in-laws are coming. After surviving six Thanksgivings without family, Karla’s folks will experience a Kansas Thanksgiving.

Plaza lights, here we come!

Because we usually go to Michigan at Christmas, they have never experienced a Kansas Christmas either. So my bride decided that we need to have the house decorated for Christmas when they arrive.

I protested, “We can’t decorate for Christmas before we eat turkey and cranberries!”

She said, “Why do you think that way, my dear?” (What she really wanted to say was, “Quit your belly aching and go grab the nativity scene from the basement, you lazy goober!”)

I said, “It’s against the law.” (What I really wanted to say was, “It’s against the law!”)

Since I mostly lose such arguments, I refrained from making any additional comments and retrieved the new nativity scene that we purchased this summer in Nazareth, Israel. This year we will display nativity scenes from past mission trips to Israel, El Salvador, Swaziland and Hobby Lobby. (Technically, Hobby Lobby is not a mission field. But believe me, if you are of the male variety, one perusal of the plastic flowers, frilly home decor and crafts-a-plenty store will tell any manly man that he is in a strange and foreign land.) Be that as it may, I like our Hobby Lobby nativity. It’s big, nice and the baby Jesus figurine doesn’t look anything like an infant version of a Batman villain—like the one we bought in Nazareth.

I am no Buddy the Elf when it comes to Christmas decorating. My particular role in the home Christmas transformation is mostly relegated to retrieving items from the basement, staying out of Karla’s way, and putting the wreaths on the outside windows. (Some men are “lights on the house” guys, I am not. I am not opposed to “lights on the house” guys; I just choose not to be that guy. Although, for what it’s worth, I do think that a “lights on the house” guy has a moral obligation to become a “lights off the house” guy by Ground Hog Day. Forget Puxatawny Phil, the real reason we experience six more weeks of winter is because “lights on the house” guy is not fulfilling his civic duty to become “lights off the house” guy.)

Even without stringing thousands of lights on my house, there’s a lot of work to do before my in-laws arrive this Tuesday. It will take all the waking hours of this weekend to get the house ready. Well, all my waking hours when I’m not preaching three sermons, attending two weddings or watching the Nazarene Bowl football game at MNU—MNU is playing Southern Nazarene in the first round of the NAIA playoffs. Besides the aforementioned nativities, there will be trees, garland, candles, bulbs, wreaths and figurines of one Christmassy variety or another that will need to find their perfect six week resting spot. Could I order an extra batch of gingerbread cookies for strength, please?

Likewise, if our desire is to have a great Advent Season (Advent begins Sunday, November 27th by the way), there is much to do. What makes an Advent season great has very little to do with shopping, baking and decorating before Christmas. Instead, a great Advent season is completely determined by the preparation of our hearts. As such, let’s give ourselves the gift this Christmas season of renewing our spiritual commitment and resolving to follow Christ in a steadfast manner. In the next few weeks, take time to read the Christmas story—several times. Read it from Matthew and Luke. Read the first chapter or two from the Gospel According to John, too. If you are really adventurous, read some of the Old Testament prophesies regarding the coming Messiah. Read these passages while listening to some of the great carols of the season. Don’t let the only time you listen to Christmas music be in the veggy department of Wal-Mart. Then take time to tell your children and grandchildren why we celebrate and why this season is much more than parties and presents. Take time to reflect and be thankful for the unbelievable glorious truth that Emmanuel, God is with us.

Just as having the house ready for the in-laws takes time and preparation, having our inward house prepared and ready for Christmas takes intentionality and planning—and possibly eating a gingerbread cookie or two―but that’s another story for another day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Keeping at it

Permission to keep it real…. October was an extremely busy month. I am not sure if it is just that I am getting older (I know that’s true), but I think I am working harder and seeing less results than ever in my ministry. People are busier and less interested in Godly pursuits. This is not a complaint, just an observation. I am convinced that these are the most difficult days to pastor a church in the USA. I also believe every preacher in every generation has made such a statement. So what do we do? Keep at it. Never give up. Keep experimenting and trying. Making more and better disciples is too important to take a breather or complain or in some way stop pursing the hurting and broken people around us. Pray that we can create a culture— where there is a deep hungering for the Word of God and a deep desire to reach hurting, hungry and tired people.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Pastor

I am about to have a 24 hours that encapsulate why I love pastoring a great church like Central. Here's how my 24 hours from Saturday morning at 10AM until Sunday morning at 10AM will go...

Saturday 10 AM to Noon: MEMORIAL SERVICE for Charlie Yourdon. Charlie had been an important part of Central Church-- coming to Kansas City to work as an editor at the Nazarene Publishing House following 30 plus years of being a successful pastor. Charlie was successful, not because he pastored the largest church in the denomination, rather he was successful because he did things right. He loved God, loved his family and loved the people that God called him to shepherd. Charlie is rejoicing in heaven today—and what an honor it will be for me to be a part of his memorial service!

Saturday Noon to 1:15 PM: MEMORIAL SERVICE LUNCHEON. The luncheon provided for the family by the wonderful ladies of Central is always terrific! The ladies who work the kitchen, provide the meal, and clean up afterwards epitomize what it means to be servants of Christ. They always make me proud of the love and care that they display to grieving families.

Saturday 1:15 to 2:00 PM: RUSH HOME. I’ll check to see if there are any last minute duties that Karla has for me before the Amanda Fisk baby shower that will be at our house. She won't ask me to cook (and all the ladies said, “Hallelujah!”) or clean (the place will be spic and span before I get there), but she might have a last minute item that will need to be picked up from Price Chopper. I don’t know much about baby showers—but I know we want to keep all the ladies well fed and happy so they will have plenty of energy to “ooooooh” and “aaaaah” at all the cute bibs, outfits and other assorted gifts that Amanda will receive.

Saturday 2:00 to 3:30 PM: FISK BABY SHOWER. (Please notice the time change.) I will skeee-dad-dle as the ladies begin to arrive and commence to do whatever it is ladies do at baby showers (see above comments on “oooohing” and “aaaaahing”). I am glad that our ladies will celebrate with Pastor Forest and Amanda the soon-to-be coming of Baby Fisk.
Saturday 3:30 to 6 PM: HONEY DO DUTY. As the party/shower is winding down, I will return to the Prince Palace in order to help clean up from the party and get ready for our dinner guests that night. Whatever Sergeant Karla requests, she gets! (Tonight’s gathering will be the third event that she is hosting for the weekend—she’ll need any help I can offer.) You didn’t know it, but I married Super woman!

Saturday 5:58 PM: WHOOPIN’ CHECK. Get an update on my phone and see if my beloved, first place Tigers put “a whoopin’” on the Minnesota Twins.

Saturday 5:59 PM: BURGER BASH BROODING. This will be the first year I will miss the Burger Bash—I love seeing our students getting together and having fun all in the name of Jesus. We have a great youth group! I’ll miss eating a burger and seeing the students enjoying the fun games from the creative minds of Pastors Cory and Malorri.

Saturday 6 to 9ish PM: HOSTING A DINNER GATHERING. Sunday’s missionary speaker, Carla Sunberg and our missionary president and her husband, Stacey and Bob Lareau are coming to dinner. I wish everyone could come and sit around the table and hear the exciting reports of what God is doing around the world! (Oh wait…. you’ll hear about it on Sunday morning… you’ll love it!)

Saturday 9:01 PM: A SPORTS CENTER quick check to see if my beloved “This is Our Year” Detroit Lions beat the “only-thing-good-about-them-is-Tom-Brady” New England Patriots in the pre-season football game.

Saturday 9:02 PM to 10 PM: CLEAN UP from the dinner and the day. Dishes are my specialty—I can fill a dishwasher faster than Dale Earnhardt Jr’s NASCAR crew can change a tire. Record time baby!

Saturday-Sunday 10 PM to 5 AM: NIGHT. NIGHT. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite, bite, bite.

Sunday 5 to 5:45 AM: UP AND AT 'EM. Get up, Clean up and Gear UP for a great day!

Sunday 5:45 to 6AM: DONUT SHOP. I have gone to a donut shop on my way to church nearly every Sunday that I have been a pastor. I know, doctor, it doesn’t fit with my diet. I know, Karla, it doesn’t fit my waist line. But I am not sure I would be fit to preach without a tasty chocolate glazed donut in my tummy. (Who said, “You’re not preaching today so you don’t need a donut!”? I say, “Who asked you?”)

Sunday 6 to 7:30 AM: GETTING READY FOR THE DAY. This includes prayer, quiet devotion time and―since I am not preaching—I won’t be doing any final tweaking of my sermon, but I am teaching, so I will look over my lesson.

Sunday 7:30 to 7:45 AM: STAFF MEETING. All the pastors get together for prayer and a game plan for the day. Have I told you what a privilege it is to work with the best pastoral staff anywhere?! I’d stack our pastors up against any church, any denomination, anywhere! We have a great team!

Sunday 7:45 to 8:25 AM: WAITING for folks to arrive. I’ll station myself out by the parking lot to say, “Welcome!” I love greeting folks as they gather to worship. I want everyone to know how happy I am that they have decided to worship the Lord at Central and how ready I am to praise the Lord! And I love it when new visitors think I am the parking lot valet!

Sunday 8:25 to 8:30 AM. PRAYING. Did you know every Sunday morning I meet with a group of people who will be praying for you and the needs of the church during the 8:30 service? The Pastor’s Prayer Team is the power behind the pulpit!

Sunday 8:30 to 9:45 AM. WORSHIPPING, praising the Lord, and listening to Rev. Carla Sunberg tell how God’s mission can be our mission! Sunday morning will be the best hour and fifteen minutes of your week! You are going to love hearing from Carla! (Karla with a “K” only preaches at me; Carla with a “C” preaches all over the world and is one of the best preachers I know!)

Sunday 9:45 to 10 AM: NEWLYWED CLASS, HERE I COME. I love being with our newlywed Sunday School class—they are a great group and I get to teach this week!

Whew... that’s my ministry packed 24 hours… and the next few hours that follow will include one more morning worship service, two services in the evening, lunch, and maybe just maybe a Nazarene Nap stuck in there somewhere.

In a 24 hour period, I will mourn with those that mourn; rejoice with those that rejoice, and worship our awesome God! In those 24 hours, I will I get to see love in action as meals are prepared and served; and I get to hear how love can be taken to an even greater level through our Global Outreach Day. In 24 hours, I will preach and teach and sing and laugh and cry and eat and sleep and enjoy every bit of the life to which God has called me. I’m going to love those 24 hours!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

10 Things I think I think (August 2011 edition)

It's been a while since I've given Ten Things that I think I think....So here goes.

1. I think that the summer has gone by entirely too fast. Is Ben really in school or is he sneaking out of the house, carrying a back pack, and doing homework at night all in an effort to pull a fast one on Karla and me? (A. He’s not that sneaky and B. He wouldn't get up before 7 AM for anything... School must be in session.)

2. I think that Darren Worcester who provided the "sciencey" props for the God’s Mythbusters series must be a terrific teacher. He is so passionate about his work and students at Olathe Northwest. I'm praying for Darren and all our teachers and students. And by the way, if one week is any indicator, God's Mythbusters is going to be a terrific series-- this week we are tackling: Faith Can Fix Anything.

3. I think Summit Marketing is awesome! The creative minds of Summit are providing our sermon logos (free of charge!!!!).

4. I think the Detroit Lions will be a better football team than the Kansas City Chiefs this year. OK Chiefs fans-- we will know for sure who is better on September 18 when the two teams play. On September 19 somebody will be doing some talking-- will they be wearing red and yellow or Honolulu blue and silver? (Of course, in the pre-season for the last 47 years I've said about the Lions: "This will be our year." I'm still waiting).

5. I think our Missions Speaker for our Faith Promise Sunday is one of the best missionaries and speakers around-- Rev. Carla Sunberg will be with us in a couple of weeks!

6. I think our Labor Day Sunday-- (one combined service at 10 AM and dinner on the grounds following) is one of my favorite Sundays. Praising Jesus and eating chicken... what a great combo!

7. I think the server at Panera is nice; she just gave me a free coffee! I still meet with some fellas at 6 AM on Tuesdays. Any early rising guys are welcome to join us-- I can't promise you a free cup of coffee, but I will promise good conversation and prayer! (We meet at the Panera at 87th and Lackman).

8. I think we have had 8 families move away from the area in the last several weeks (going everywhere from South Africa to Tennessee to Oregon and all places in between)-- not to mention a great freshman class of college students who are heading to pursue their dreams all across the country. I miss everyone already!

9. I think there are few men as godly as Charlie Yourdon. Charlie is struggling with a lung disease that has moved upon him very quickly-- yet Charlie is ever confident of God’s blessings on his life. Keep Charlie and Sharon and their family in your prayers!

10. I think whenever I am tempted to complain about the broken A/C in Karla's car, (proving that I can occasionally be a good husband-- Karla and I have temporally switched cars until the A/C is fixed)-- I remember all the blessings driving in a non-A/C car can bring. What blessings could there possibly be in driving around in a hot car in the middle of summer? Well, try these on for size:
A) Spitting seeds doesn't require a cup for the husks-- the windows are open, I can spit at will;
B) The wind whipping through the car messes up my hair-- some of my folically challenged brethren can only dream of those days; and
C) When it seems a bit warm, I am able to reflect on the fact that our troops are in even warmer conditions and more dangerous places. Moreover, there are only about 2 billion people in the world who would gladly change places with me.

In other words, driving around in my wife’s non A/C car reminds me that I have much to be thankful for—God’s love, family, health, America, and pastoring a great church like Central!

God Heals

Have you heard the old joke about the Pentecostal televangelist that taught his dog to speak? He called out “Speak, Fido! Speak!” And the dog immediately jumped to attention and barked, “Meow!”

If you didn’t like that one, you’ll probably hate this one. That same televangelist taught his dog to heel. He’d yell, “Heel, Fido! Heel!” and the dog would jump up on his hind legs, howl a couple of howls, and bop its paw on a stranger’s forehead.” (Grammatically, I should have written “Heal, Fido!” but that would have ruined the joke.) OK, the joke was already ruined….those were both dumb. As you can obviously tell, my calling is not stand up comedy.

Phony televangelists and their dogs notwithstanding, the reality of healing is no joke. God still heals!

I’ve prayed for hundreds, if not thousands, of sick folks down through the years. You name the ailment, virus, or disease—and I’ve probably prayed for God to heal the afflicted.
I’ve prayed that God would knock the snot out of head colds.
And swat swine flu bugs back to the pigs of Timbuktu.
I’ve asked God to change mean, nasty, ugly cancer cells into happy, healthy, pretty cells.
I’ve prayed that hurting and broken bones would mend together.
I’ve anointed so many people with oil; I ought to have stock in Crisco.
I‘ve called upon God to relieve the distressed before surgery, during surgery, after surgery and that He would miraculously make it so no surgery was needed.
I’ve requested of God to use medicines, doctors, nurses, technicians and any other medical equipment or hospital personnel that might wander in the operating room during a procedure.

I guess I won’t know until heaven (and then I probably won’t care) just how many hospital rooms, emergency waiting areas, doctor’s offices and homes I’ve been in to pray with sick folks.

Point of all of this: I am convinced that God still heals. I don’t think for one second that all those prayers uttered were a waste of time. Oh, I might not believe in healing the way some white-suited televangelists do―who at times appear more intent on emptying out people’s wallets than emptying out hospital corridors. Still I believe that God heals. I believe that just as Blind Bart (who was blind as a bat before he met Jesus, and then could see a gnat on a mongoose’s nose after he met Jesus) was healed―people can be healed from what ails them today.

God heals those afflicted physically, emotionally, spiritually and every other way. Our God is a mighty healer.

James was not just exercising wishful thinking when he wrote: Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15) That passage is true and I have quoted it in sermons and to sick folks probably as much as any verse in the Bible.

Hence I think old FB Meyer was on to something when he wrote: “The real tragedy of prayer is not unanswered prayer—but unoffered prayers.” Our issue is not that God doesn’t answer—too often our issue is that we don’t pray. A POINT OF CLARIFICATION: I am not suggesting that if we pray hard enough or long enough or utter some magical word that God is compelled to heal us. I have no clue as to why some sick and needy are healed and why some sick and needy are not. Those decisions are above my pay grade. (I tell folks I’m in “sales” not “management” when it comes to the question of answered prayers.) Nor do I pretend to have the nature of intercessory prayer completely figured out. I’ve been praying for years—and I still don’t know the exact nature of it all.

But this is what I know: God’s Word tells us to pray for the sick and needy. And when we do, we are to trust that God Almighty knows exactly what we need when we need it! As such there are times when we are not healed in the manner we would prefer (but faith is still saying, “I am trusting God!”); and then there are other times― like the lady who had a bleeding disorder for 12 years in Mark 5 discovered― when God says, “Enough is enough. You’ve been sick long enough. No need for fancy words. No need for anything other than actions.” And it’s BOOM! HEALED! “Go in peace!”

God still does the miraculous!

So if something ails you today… pray on! Do you need a miracle today? Pray on! Today might be your day of healing. Today could be the day when God says about your issue, “Enough is enough.” Boom! Healed! “Go in peace!”

Why We Do What We Do at Central

Why do we do the things that we do at Central? Good question.

Here's why we have Vacation Bible School: A lady who attends Central invited her co-worker's children to VBS. They accepted the offer and loved every second of it. One of the children, a fourth grade girl, was overwhelmed by the love and kindness shown to her. She kept asking her teachers why everyone was so nice. She asked lots of questions about God, too. And sometime during the week, she invited Jesus into her heart. Last Sunday, her family came to Central. They almost didn't come-- it had been a crazy morning (ever have one of those kind of Sunday mornings?). But they came anyway. During the morning service, we talked about baptism and I asked if anyone would like to be baptized. This fourth grade, first time-in-our-church-that-wasn't-a-VBS-program girl told her mom that she wanted to be baptized. She knew that Jesus was in her heart and she wanted the world to know! Way to go, VBS!!

Here's why we have young adult ministries: A young lady had been coming to our Narrow Gate young adult gatherings. The Narrow Gate group gets together a lot― for fellowship and Bible Studies and just hanging out time. They are a great group. The young lady was an army reservist, and she invited an army buddy to join her. This young man, from Tacoma, Washington joined them. Soon afterwards, they both were deployed to Afghanistan. Our group has been praying for both of them and sending notes of encouragement. Last week, Alex Bennett―the young man who came with his friend―was one of the 31 U.S. soldiers on the Chinook helicopter that was shot down on a mission searching for the enemy. We won't know the impact of our ministry on this young man's life, but I am so thankful for their outreach. (Keep Alex's family and all the families of our service men and women in your prayers.)

Here's why we do mission trips: While in Jordan, one of our team members noticed a boy who had some serious physical problems. The boy needed immediate medical attention. They insisted on taking him to the doctor, which happened. After we returned to the U.S., we discovered that the boy needed further treatment which would cost several hundred dollars. Of course, there is no health insurance in Jordan and the family could not afford the medical expenses. So, this family from Central―which had already “done their duty” and spent a lot of money to make a difference in Jordan―sent over the additional money to our missionary to help cover the expenses so that this boy could be healthy and well. They were a blessing while in Jordan and continue to be a blessing from here!

That’s just three examples of why we do what we do at Central. The ministries and people of Central are making a difference—it’s what we do!

Don't Sweat It

Maybe you heard, on Tuesday it was a tad warm in these parts. Some areas of Kansas City hit 111 degrees. When the temperature is higher than my last golf score-- I know we are in trouble. Rob Bell disagrees, but I think the temperature was only a few degrees cooler than H-E- double hockey sticks. I take back all the snide comments I made last January about internet inventor and former Vice President, Al Gore's global warming theories. All this to say-- it was HOT!

Also on Tuesday, in the midst of our eleven hour return trip from the Holy Land (a.k.a. Michigan), the A/C in Karla’s car stopped working. So, for the last leg of our journey, we went "old school”―windows down, wind blowing, sweat dripping, shouting when we spoke so that the others could hear―it was awesome.

The A/C failure was only the latest in a line of calamities in what has become known around our house as the “Summer of the Broken Stuff”. So far, our house was hammered by hail; our refrigerator went kapooey; my car had a fender bender; the pool pump pooped out; a crown crumbled (unlike Jack while fetching a pail of water, I did not fall down, but I broke a crown); even my watch stopped (it's not a stop watch-- it's just a watch that stopped).

Don't feel too sorry for us-- all of the aforementioned breakage is the nature of stuff. I believe "Stuff" stands for: Stupid Things Ultimately Fail Forever. In other words, stuff breaks. Things quit. Our junk becomes junk after a while.

Jesus reminded us: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be." (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT)

He was meaning, "the most important things in life aren't things at all”.

Too often we get that mixed up and we think things do matter. We strive for things, want more stuff, and do everything possible to acquire junk that will one day break or lose its luster or become outdated.

Jesus went on to say that He knows about the tiniest sparrow and takes care of the lilies of the field-- so don't worry. He knows about you and your needs. The lesson is true on hot days or cold ones. Things are just that-- things. People and relationships and, most importantly, God are what matter in life. Bottom line: God knows you. God loves you. God will take care of you.

Translated to my situation: When your A/C breaks on the hottest day of the year, don't sweat it. Jesus is in control!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Nebraska Furniture Mart, Job and Me

I’ve been to Nebraska Furniture Mart so many times in the last week I think I could have driven to Nebraska.
From Montana.

I received an innocent telephone call from my bride last week telling me that she thought our refrigerator was not working properly. She came to this epiphany upon removing a carton of ice cream from the freezer and noticing it to have the same consistency as pea soup.
“Strange,” thought my very perceptive connoisseur of fine ice cream.
And when she grabbed the milk from the other side of the dying side by side, she noticed it to be only slightly cooler than day old molten lava.
“How peculiar!” was her “church newsletter” reaction. (In the spirit of fair and balanced reporting, I wasn’t there at that precise second, so I cannot accurately write what her actual words were. I surmise that she said “How peculiar,” she may have used other words in the heat of the moment.)

Our refrigerator was built during the Bush administration. The first Bush administration. George H.W. Bush. It was time. Apparently things don’t last forever.

So we headed to Nebraska Furniture Mart—whereupon I discovered a store flowing with refrigerators and happy salesmen.

I know how to pick out a car—you kick the tires.
I know how to pick a tomato—if it’s red, grab it.
But how do you pick the perfect refrigerator? There are no tires to kick. There weren’t any red ones.

Back when I was a kid, you could get a refrigerator in any color you wanted—as long as that color was white. But today they sell refrigerators in more colors than even Crayola has -- white, black, stainless steel, silver mist, bisque. Bisque is a color? What’s bisque? There are side by side refrigerators, top freezers, bottom freezers, and freezerless refrigerators. There are French door refrigerators. The French not only have their own fries and kisses, now they have their own refrigerator doors? There are refrigerators that make ice in the doors. Cubed ice. Crushed ice. Some refrigerators have bells and whistles that inform one that they inadvertently left the French doors open. (I told Karla that my checkbook has an alarm that would go off too—if I wrote a check for that particular model. I don’t think she bought it, but we didn’t buy that outrageously priced Lexus of the refrigerator world).

I discovered the good folks at Nebraska Furniture Mart aren’t giving those dispensers of coolness away. So we shopped and we talked and we prayed (we really did). We slept on it (not literally sleeping on the refrigerator―that would be weird). We went to a few other stores and then back to Nebraska Furniture Mart and then back again. We went back so many times; you’d have thought gas prices were under $3.75 a gallon like the good old days.

Finally, we decided on a refrigerator that we hope to have for many years to come--one that will keep our precious ice cream hard as granite and our milk cold as snow.

So why tell you about our refrigerator shopping experience?

Some people look at God like we were looking at refrigerators:
If God can dispense timely good things like crushed ice, we’ll take Him.
If God can fit into our space and go with our décor, we’ll take Him.
If God can quench our thirst from time to time, we’ll take Him.
But don’t over step your bounds, God.
Don’t be more than a convenience to my mostly organized life.
Just be there when I need you, but when I don’t need you, don’t bother me (no offense).
And above all else… don’t cost too much, God.
I think God demands a little more than that. He is not Maytag Almighty—but God Almighty.

God was taking issue when Job was getting a little demanding with Him. And finally God said to Job in chapters 38-41 basically this (which could have been a Motown song, well actually it is a Motown song): Who do you think you are, Mr. Big Stuff?

After reading those chapters, you’ll come to this conclusion (which Job came to): God is God, and you are not God. Trust Him with the big stuff. Trust Him in the small stuff. And life (even life with its broken refrigerators and everything else) will be much better when you simply trust that He is at work in the midst of all things. It’s becoming like Paul who said in Philippians 4:13 (The Message): I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Refuse: Re-fuse. verb. 1.) Indicate unwillingness. To declare a decision or intention not to do something.

Here are a few things I refused to do this week.

I refused to watch even one second of the royal wedding. I know I have English blood flowing through my veins. I know my last name is Prince. Still I wasn’t too interested in the happenings at Buckingham Palace at 3 a.m. Central time last Friday morning. At that time of the day, the only thing I was interested in doing royally was sleeping.

I refused to say yesterday, “May the Fourth be with you”. I like Star Wars. But I never wanted to grow up and be a Jedi Knight or Yoda or Obi Wan Kenobi. Besides, I think I misplaced my light saber.

I refused to complain about the rising gas prices. I get it that gas prices are high. Really high. I also get it that most of the people in our world don’t own a car, and hence, most folks have no need to complain about rising gasoline prices. My family is so widely blessed we have three cars sitting in our driveway (and probably will have four cars after this summer if Ben gets his way). The way I see it, I am blessed beyond measure living in this wonderful country—so why should I complain?

I refused to celebrate the death of the Osama Bin Laden. I celebrated that he was brought to justice. I celebrated that he can no longer be a dangerous threat. I celebrated that our soldiers acted with precision. But I will not celebrate in death. It is a somber reminder that we live in a fallen world that desperately needs the peace of God to reign.

I refused to grumble that Alex will have less scholarship money than last year. He received a great education this year at MidAmerica Nazarene University. It’s a terrific school and he had a great year. I’m proud of him. If MNU has to make a few cuts in scholarships to be more fiscally sound—I’m willing to do my part.

I refused to join the chorus of naysayers that think God is done in America. We serve an awesome God and if He can bring revival to a city like Nineveh that was on the brink of total annihilation―and He did (read Jonah), then I think there is hope for America! Let’s pray, believe, tell and hope that God is doing some great things! Today is the National Day of Prayer. Find a place to pray (I’m going to the Johnson County Courthouse at noon in Olathe) – and pray for our country and for our world! God’s not done yet!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kate and Karla Each Married a Prince

Shockingly, I have noticed a few differences between Kate and Karla's wedding to their respective princes.

When Kate marries her Prince on Friday-- most of England will be watching.
When Karla married her Prince many, many Fridays ago-- not a single person in jolly old England noticed (not even a few of my distant relatives who live there!).

When Kate marries her Prince-- the paparazzi will be snapping pictures of their every move.
When Karla married her Prince-- a guy with a camera showed up and we have a few photos from the occasion... somewhere.

When Kate marries her Prince-- her dress will be scrutinized by fashion critics far and wide.
When Karla married her Prince-- her dress came "off the rack" from JC Penney. (Incidentally, she also purchased her Prince's wedding ring at JC Penney. Good thing JC Penney didn't sell cakes, aisle runners or invitations or we might have had pink clearance JCP price tags on every item at our wedding.)

When Kate marries her Prince-- the Royal couple will say their vows in historic Westminster Abbey.
When Karla married her Prince-- we said our vows in Westland, Michigan. (In case you're wondering... except for the fish and chips sold at the local Long John Silver's, there aren’t too many similarities between Westminster and Westland.)

When Kate marries her Prince-- there will be a royal reception prepared by the finest chefs of Europe at Buckingham Palace.
When Karla married her Prince-- there were a few ham rolls, radishes, celery sticks and a bag of potato chips that Karla and a few friends prepared the day before the wedding for the reception in the fellowship hall of the church.

When Kate marries her Prince-- they will be serenaded by choirs and orchestras.
When Karla married her Prince-- we had a guy with a plug-in Casio keyboard in the fellowship hall playing the best of the Bee Gees.

When Kate marries her Prince-- they will begin their marital bliss in the lap of luxury.
When Karla married her Prince-- we lived in government subsidized housing as I finished seminary and worked as a part time youth pastor.

When Kate marries her Prince-- there will be pomp and circumstance and a high degree of regality.
When Karla married her Prince-- there was little pomp, some goofy circumstances and very little regality... but God has blessed this union in greater ways than I could have ever dreamed!

So when Kate marries her Prince-- everyone will hope it will be a fairy tale type marriage.
But when Karla married her Prince-- it was for better or for worse (there's been both times in the last 23 years), for richer or for poorer (yup, we've had some of the latter and are still waiting for the former), in sickness and in health (we're hoping for a healthier year), and 'til death we do part... but through it all, I can say, like the best of fairy tales it has been "happily ever after”.

I'm so glad Karla found her Prince.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I liked everything about Easter... but the shopping

As a boy, I liked many things about Easter.
I liked Easter baskets.
I liked Easter candy. (Except Peeps. I hated Peeps. Still do.)
I liked Easter dinner.
I liked Easter ham. (My mom always made ham on Easter. Turkey was Thanksgiving’s entree. Christmas was always a tossup—some years ham, some years turkey.)
I liked Easter eggs.
I liked Easter egg hunts.
I liked Easter songs. (Karla still thinks if you don’t sing “Up from the Grave He Arose”, then it - and I quote - “ain’t Easter”.)
I liked Easter sunrise services.
I liked Easter lilies.
I liked the Easter movies on TV.

There was always a lot to like about Easter.
But I hated… make that I HATED Easter clothes shopping.

A week or so before Easter, we would head to “Sears and Roebuck”, “Monkey Wards” or “Robert Hall’s”. (Does anyone remember Robert Hall’s? Did you have Robert Hall’s in Kansas City?) I would try on all sorts of suits and pants that were always a tad big. They had to be big enough for me to grow into, but not so big that I looked like the kid in the movie BIG wearing Tom Hanks’ clothes. Most generally I wanted my folks to purchase me a very cool polyester leisure suit with wide bell bottom pants (think: Motown’s Temptations circa 1970). I think my mom had something like the cartoon character Richie Rich’s attire in mind. (That is, short pants, matching jacket and a bow tie. In other words, an outfit that shouts to the bullies of the world “Hit me!”). As you might imagine, without the aid of a federal mediator, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth during the negotiating process in the boys clothing department as we tried to come to an agreement. Of course, my mom had the wallet and she had the direct line to the Easter bunny and his knowledge of hiding Easter baskets (for well behaving boys in department stores clothing areas). She had all the eggs in her basket (so to speak); so I usually left looking like a poor man’s Richie Rich--only in one size too big.

When Easter arrived the next week, all of those Easter shopping horrors were behind me, and my brother and I would wear our slightly oversized suits and ties; my sisters would wear dresses, hats and white frilly gloves (no one wears hats and white frilly gloves anymore, but my sisters did back then). Then on Easter morning, we’d stand in front of the church sign and get our picture taken―proving for all eternity that, for one day at least, we were clean, dressed nice and looked like we enjoyed wearing polyester. It was easy to smile wearing a Richie Rich outfit knowing that your pockets were full of jelly beans and a tasty ham dinner was in the oven.

Your family traditions may differ from mine in the early 1970’s. Still I hope that you include a time for praise and worship this coming Easter (preferably at Central Church, of course!). Everyone you know needs to be celebrating the resurrection this Sunday. Bring a friend with you! It’s not too late to invite a neighbor or a family member—do it today!!!

Jesus really doesn’t care what you wear, what you eat, whether you are a jelly bean or a Peep kind of person, or what flowers adorn your house this Easter—but He does care that you can rejoice that He is Alive! I hope to see you this week! It’s going to be an AWESOME Sunday! We have some great things planned! We will have three services: 8:30 and 11:00 a.m. (with an all church reception in between the services) and then our new Sidedoor Service will celebrate Easter at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

They're "Accidents" not "Planned Fors"

People come into our lives.
Sometimes unexpected,
Out of nowhere.
Take yesterday for example.
I was coming back to the church from a hospital, minding my own business listening to sports radio. I probably should have been listening to praise music or praying or doing something far more holy than listening to the latest Barry Bonds saga, because while waiting for the red light to turn green… BAM! A fine lady from Lenexa smacked into Betty (the name I’ve given my 2002 Chevy Impala).

I think she thought I was going to turn right on red.
Or maybe she just didn’t see me.
Or maybe she was listening to sports radio instead of praise music, too.

That’s why they call them accidents. Nobody plans them. If they did—we’d call them “Planned Fors” instead of “Accidents”. But that would sound weird: “I was involved in a “Planned For” this afternoon. Yeah, I planned for a whole lot of inconvenience and headaches with my insurance company and a stranger’s insurance company. It ought to be fun!” See what I mean? That sounds weird. We don’t plan for it. They are accidents.

People—not just cars―get bent out of shape over accidents.
That’s too bad.

Cars can be repaired. Well sometimes. And even when they can’t be, they are just cars. Even though I’ve named mine “Black Betty”, and we’ve been together ten years, and I like her—quirks and all (she has a lot of quirks: the windshield wipers stop in the wrong position because the motor was put on backwards; the yellow check engine light has been on for nearly four years; the red air bag light is also on; there’s a missing heater knob; stains are on the seats; there is green paint on the side where I got a little too close to the garage once or twice… well, you get the idea…)―it’s just a car.

But people, on the other hand… People matter. People really matter. And it’s too bad when they get bent out of shape, because they aren’t as easily fixed. A week in the body shop might do the trick for a fender bender on your car, but it might take a little longer with a sore personality or a hurt relationship.

I’ve been thinking and praying for the nice lady that ran into me. I hope she isn’t losing any sleep over the bump in my car. I hope she knows that cars are just cars and it’s people that matter

Friday, March 25, 2011

Breaking Up with my Kidney Stone

Neil Sedaka once sang, "Breaking up is hard to do" and apparently Neil could not only play a mean piano but his lyrics were 100% spot on. My kidney stone has proven him true. A month ago I had a lithotripsy procedure which was supposed to smash my kidney stone into smithereens, but it was unsuccessful. Breaking up is hard to do. (By the way, when I purchase a thing-a-ma-jig at Wal-Mart and it doesn't work, I take it back and my money is promptly returned. No questions asked. It is safe to say, the same rules don’t apply in the medical world. I’m not holding my breath for the hospital to hand back to me or my insurance company the 10,000 smackeroos from the first useless go-around any time soon, but I digress…) The breakup didn't work, that's my point.

So today, as you are at home sipping your afternoon tea or napping in geometry class or watching a soap opera or doing whatever it is you do on a springtime Thursday afternoon-- I will have returned to the no-money back guarantee hospital (aka the torture chamber) so that my friend "Rocky" might officially receive his eviction notice. Like something out of a sci-fi movie, my urologist will break out a laser gun and blast the little guy. The doctor assures me that "Kid Rock” will be vaporized and the whole ordeal will take less than an hour. He calls it a “minimally invasive procedure”. I think whenever a laser is used on your body―and they have to knock you out before using the laser gun or light saber or whatever it is on your body—then, my friend, that is a Maximum Invasive Procedure. My wife says I’m being “overly dramatic about the whole thing”. To which I said to her, “Shhh… I’m working on mine and “Stoney’s” acceptance speech for our academy award.”

Here’s what I know: Like my mom’s driving technique on a highway—even when travelling behind someone who is driving slower than a snail; and like Woody Hayes’ Ohio State’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense; and like a ball-hogging basketball player-- my kidney stone has refused to pass. Apparently singing the old teen camp song, “I shall not be… I shall not be moved…” my kidney stone is stuck somewhere between the place of pain and the place of freedom. After being stuck in this no passing zone for about four weeks now, the doc says, “Today is the day, Buster! The eviction notice has been served!”

So what are the spiritual implications to my dilemma? I know a lot of people that are just like my kidney stone (and I don’t mean they are a “pain in my back”). I mean, they are stuck in a place and for whatever reason have refused to move. They are just there. Not doing anything. Not going anywhere. Stuck.

Hebrews 6:1 says: “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity…” Refuse to be content with where you are in your Christian walk. In other words… press on! Dive into God’s word. Move on to maturity. Don’t stay in the same place. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Reject the easy path of laziness or indifference. Like I’ve been telling my kidney stone for the last four weeks “Get moving!”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Too bad it wasn't yesterday

The weather man says today the temperature will hit a balmy 71 degrees. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

I imagine by the end of today what’s left of our snow piles will be gone. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

Probably all vestiges of “Blizzard 2011” from a couple of weeks ago will be a memory. Too bad it wasn’t yesterday.

Why all of this “too bad all of this wasn’t yesterday” talk?

Well, yesterday morning when taking out my trash and collecting my mail, I noticed that one patch of ice remained at the end of my driveway. One last, grey, melting stretch of winter was lying there. Lying there in wait to slip up one last victim, it turns out. The ice patch (as if it had a sick and crazed mind of its own) was holding out for one more dupe.

It found one.

I clearly noticed the icy place. I even thought to myself, “Remember Rob, you’re wearing your slippery black shoes. Be careful of the ice.” Still, I wanted to get the mail and to do so would mean stepping on the icy area. I carefully maneuvered around the ice to get to the mailbox. I tippy-toed on all the places that looked dry and ice free. I grabbed the mail and noticed that Ben had a birthday card from a nice lady in the church; I think there was a bill in there from a doctor’s office and some advertisements from the grocery stores. “Oh, Price Chopper has some good deals this week!”

For a brief moment, I forgot about the remaining, evil ice patch.

That’s all it took.

My slippery black shoes hit the ice and like a boy in the love for the first time I was “head over heels”.

I fell.



Today I have a sore hip to prove that this winter was an icy, yucky season of coldness. I wish trash days were Thursday instead of Wednesday because this morning the ice is gone. But they are not. Trash day is Wednesday, and on Wednesday there was ice. And I fell. Did I already write the word “Ouch”?

Isn’t that the way of temptation and sin? We might know that there are trouble spots ahead; we might even try to maneuver around them; and we might even be successful for a while. But when we get distracted, or forget, or simply stop trying and stop looking to Christ for our help—that’s when we slip up in life. And that’s when we fall. Then afterwards, we wish we hadn’t fallen. But we did. We have the bruises that verify our actions.

Paul offers this warning to us in 1 Corinthians: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

I know a lot of folks who look back on their yesterdays and wish they hadn’t happened. They remember slipping and falling on things a lot more serious than a patch of ice. The ensuing pain and agony was much deeper for them and their family than my little bruise.

So be careful. Oh―not be careful of the ice―it’s gone. Be careful of the snares the Enemy has placed in front of you to trip you up. Be careful of those places where you know you are weak. But most of all, keep your eyes on Christ. Don’t get distracted. He can help you to withstand any temptation and keep you standing firm!

My Prayer Request

I was asked this week to give some people a list of my prayer requests. This was my response to the request.

I was humbled to learn that some folks in the congregation want to pray and fast for me for the next 40 days.
I am thankful for this sacrifice of their time and their willingness to go before our Heavenly Father on my behalf.

I was also asked to make a list of some of my prayer requests…and I thought I could jot down a few items on the sheet of paper and send them along. My medical chart seems to be growing by the week―that alone could keep these good folks praying for 40 days. I have two teenage sons (another 40 days); a wife tired of the health concerns of her husband (40 more); etc….
But are those my most pressing needs?

The more time I thought about this― (Wasn’t this supposed to be a few scribbles on a note pad? It is quickly beginning to rival War and Peace.)―the more I realized that my most pressing need is not my health or even my family. Not even close.

If I am going to continue to lead a great church like Central, if I want to be the best husband and dad that I can possibly be for Karla and the boys, then here is my request:

I want to be closer to God. I want to hunger and thirst for Him. I want to crave the word of God. I want to covet spending time with Him. I want to see things as God sees them. I want to have my heart break when I see someone hurting or broken or troubled. I want to have a deeper passion for the lost. I want to better notice the lonely. I want to see the disabled through new eyes. I want to have the same urgency to pray for the confused teenager as I seem to have to pray for an oversized kidney stone.

So that’s my list…
Yes, I have health issues.
Yes, I want my marriage to be a God- honoring and growing relationship.
Yes, my boys are constantly on my mind to make good choices.
Of course, I would love it if the church worries were never a worry.
Certainly, I pray that our brand new newlywed class would grow and for those couples to get rooted early in their married years to Christ.
No doubt I need help in all the other pastoral duties that I carry—providing vision for a church, managing a pastoral staff, putting together sermons, counseling individuals, managing a church budget in a tough economy, on and on I could go…

But what I really need, what I must have—I want the Holy Spirit to be so consuming of who that I am―that when I speak or act or lead or am at a doctor’s appointment or a school conference or the check-out line at Wal-Mart―that the people I encounter will see Jesus in me. Always. Only. Jesus.

Pastor Rob

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Prepared for "Snowtorious B.I.G." and other things

When I was a boy… (Uh Oh here it comes… just writing those five simple words, “When I was a boy” instantly makes me sound like my dad. In the Bob Prince sound-a-like competition, the question now becomes “What will follow those five fateful words?” Will I write about working at the age of eight hitching up the ice man’s horses, eating mayonnaise sandwiches—no meat, just mayo and bread, or shoveling mountains of snow? This week it’s all about the snow, of course). So “when I was a boy” in the Great White North (a.k.a. Michigan), we would have laughed at the euphemisms for our recent slight dusting of snow. Seriously, do we have to refer to this week’s event as “Snowpocalypse”, “Snowmegeddon” or (as hip hop fans have been referring to it) “Snowtorious B.I.G.”? Back in the day, we had snow waist high (neck high to toddlers). We went to school even if there was a snowflake or two on the driveway. There were no snow blowers. We had shovels the size of teaspoons. Yet, we shoveled our walks and our neighbor’s walks, too. And we didn’t (I repeat did not) name the blizzards as if the world was coming to an end. (I think my dad is smiling in heaven right now and telling St. Peter how I’m a “chip off the ol’ block”. Peter probably doesn’t understand the cliché.)

I don’t know if you happened upon a grocery store on Monday night with the impending doom of “Blizzardopoly” on the horizon, but people were flooding my local Price Chopper like there would never be food in the Northern Hemisphere again. I walked into the grocery store to get medicine for our sick puppy… (That’s not another name for Ben. Our dog has been acting strange lately and the vet suggested we give her a baby aspirin or two.) When I walked into Price Chopper, I noticed that every shopping cart was in use. Every single one. Now I didn’t need a cart since my only purchase was Maggy’s baby aspirin. Still, the notion that every single cart was gone indicated to me that maybe the apocalypse had come.

I started to hum the song “And you were left behind” from the old Christian film A Thief in the Night. I wondered if maybe I should buy the last can of Spam on the shelf (then I remembered I don’t like Spam… sorry Pastor Tim). I ran a mental check list of needed supplies. Do we have enough batteries for our flashlights? Do we have any flashlights? Will we starve if we are snowed in for the next 24 hours (if not days)? Will we be able to see our food if we don’t have any flashlights?

I decided all of this was just plain silly. And while standing with my aspirin in the checkout line that reached Manitoba, (OK it didn’t go that far, but it was winding its way into the frozen food section) I thought how glad I am that I am prepared. And when I write “prepared” I’m not referring to “Snowzilla”. Instead I am so thankful that I am ultimately prepared for “come what may”. I have Christ Jesus as my Savior. I know that should my life end today, I will be at home with Him. My eternal accommodations have been made. My future is secure. I am thankful for the truth of Romans 10, where Paul writes: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)

So, if this week’s 15 inches of the white fluffy stuff really were “Snowathon 2011”, then my cupboards might not have been totally prepared. But on a much more important matter, I am so glad to report that my heart is prepared! Thanks be to God! And my question for you is: Are you prepared?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Our New Newlywed Class

This week Karla and I (along with Paul and Sheryl Kyle) will begin teaching a Newlywed Sunday School Class at Central. It’s been a while since we’ve been newlyweds—maybe this class will make us feel like newlyweds again. Maybe it will make us thankful that we aren’t. In any event, preparing for Sunday reminded me of those early days of our marriage.

Karla and I were married while I was finishing my last semester of seminary. In fact, we were married smack dab in the middle of the semester. Why did we choose to get married with school in full swing? This might not be the best reason for moving up a wedding day (although there are far worse reasons)… but here was our reason:

At the time, Karla worked as a corporate travel agent. During her company’s annual Christmas gathering, she won a pair of free airline tickets to anywhere in the world—but the tickets had to be used by April 1st. (No fooling.) Waa-la… our June wedding became a March wedding.

So where in the world should a love struck couple honeymoon in March after a long, cold Kansas City winter? Hawaii? No. The Bahamas? Nope. Paris? Venice? The jungles of the Amazon? All romantic locations I’m sure, but no. We went to see John Wesley’s house (the founder of Methodism)… in London.
“Isn’t John Wesley dead?”
“Yes. He’s been dead for years.” (At the time of our wedding day, John Wesley had been dead exactly 197 years and ten days.)
“Then why go to his house? Wouldn’t the tea and crumpets have been a bit stale?”
“Well, it’s not just his house… there’s a chapel there, too!”
“Wesley’s house doesn’t sound very romantic even with a chapel on the property,” you say.
“Ummm… so I’ve been told the last 23 years.”
“Isn’t London in March cold and rainy?” you ask.
“Isn’t London always cold and rainy?” I ask back.
“So why go to Wesley’s house in cold and rainy London for your honeymoon, when you could have gone to a sunny, romantic beach in Hawaii?”
I have no answer to that question—other than to offer the excuse that I was a John Wesley geek. (See the above reference to the exact number of years and days our wedding day fell past his demise.) Truth be told, I am still a Wesley geek. But I am a wiser and smarter John Wesley geek than in those early days of my wedded life. By the way, I promised Karla that at some point in our married life we would get to Hawaii. We haven’t made it there yet… but Karla if you are reading this….someday we’ll get there, “cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye”.

All that to say, similar mistakes (and others much more important) are what we are hoping our young couples will avoid. That’s why we are starting this new newlywed class. (That and the fact, that our old newlywed class membership roster isn’t really filled with newlyweds anymore. I think they are sending their kids off to college next year. The last wedding in the class took place during the Reagan administration. OK, it’s not quite that bad, but they aren’t newlyweds.) This Sunday, all those who consider themselves newlyweds or “nearly weds” or those who are “just thinkin’ about it” are welcome to join us in Room 229 at 10 a.m. We will be beginning a study called “Building your Marriage to Last”. I am excited about young couples starting their married life off on the right foot, and I am excited about them meeting other young couples who are in the same place in life. I think this is going to be a great group; I just might not like sharing all of these old stories.

Monday, January 10, 2011

NIcaragua Team Returns

The last of our Mission team is to arrive back in the states today or tomorrow (the weather might keep them from Kansas City). But all reports from Nicaragua are good. The Church Building was built. Good things accomplished. And best of all 67 people committed their life to Christ! I love it! Next Trip: Jordan in June!

Mission Trips are worth it!

We had a brief discussion in the executive committee meeting on mission trips and church income. Does church income dip as people are paying for mission trips? Are they using their tithe to take a “vacation”? That’s the argument.

Let me just flat out say it: I think mission trips are worth it. One mission trip equals 52 sermons in my opinion. While maybe people shrink their tithe to pay for mission trip #1, I doubt that happens thereafter. Rather I think mission trips produce givers.

I’ve seen plenty of nominal mission givers become phenomenal mission givers after going on a mission trip. The way you get a heart of missions is doing missions. People need to experience missions first-hand. That’s why it is one of our main strategies in making better disciples. That’s why we want 15% of our congregation going on mission trips every year. That’s why we try to provide those opportunities. Besides, we've had quite a few Centralites return to the mission field after a short term trip-- a one-week trip turns into a lifetime calling (see David and Jodi Cooper as prime example #1 and our speakers on Sunday Brad and Nancy Firestone as example #2).

If you've never been you need to go. It'll change your life!

By the way, Dan Rexroth tells me he now has had 39 people expressing interest in the 30 spots for the Jordan mission trip! (I love these kind of problems!)