Quick Thoughts on an Easter Morning …

In less than 3 hours we will be worshipping, and I will be preaching the Good News of Christ’s resurrection. What an honor to be able to share this Good News with people. I am praying for a mighty move of God in our worship today. I am praying extra, because this week has been a wild ride.

On Monday morning I did the funeral for a great lady who fought a long battle with cancer and she eventually won that battle as she is rejoicing with Jesus this Easter morning. I taught the Fatherhood class at the prison with my good friend Rob on Wednesday and that evening led the final class for a small group study. Friday morning was my normal turn as Chaplain at our local hospital. Friday afternoon I did the funeral for a special man and he is now walking around without his walker as he explores heaven. Friday evening, we had our Good Friday service. It was a powerful service. Saturday afternoon I did the funeral for another special lady who was 5 days shy of her 92nd birthday when she stepped into heaven. After the service I drove 45 minutes to visit a lady from our church who has been in the hospital for a few weeks. Earlier this week we were very concerned about her and what was coming next. Yesterday she was smiling, talking and doing much better.

My early Sunday morning routine got interrupted as I was doing my normal Sunday preparation of prayer and running through my sermon. Therefore, I am praying fervently that God will step in a special way. I am not confident all about my part this morning. But I am very confident in God.

This week has been awesome. This week has been busy. This week has been humbling. This week has been emotional. This week has reminded me that my plans don’t matter, what matters is being obedient in serving others.

I am going to celebrate. I am going to share the Good News. I am going to leave the results up to Jesus.

Have a blessed Easter.

 

Dennis

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Well Done Dad …

If you are talking about a steak, well done means no pink and some crust on the meat. If you are giving a compliment to someone, well done means that what you accomplished was done with excellence. But if you are talking about the evaluation of a life, well done means a life lived to the fullest in obedience of service for Jesus Christ. It means a life of impact and influence. It means a life that made other people’s lives better. It means hearing the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done describes my Dad’s life.

If a mischievous smile and a twinkle in the eye were an Olympic sport my Dad would have won a gold medal. When it came to teasing people, and still making them feel good, my Dad was a master. When it came to encouraging you to keep going and not give up, my Dad may have been the best. When it came to making you feel better just with his presence, there may have been no one better than my Dad. Well done, Dad, well done.

When it came to motivating a group of people to grow as followers of Christ and become a church that makes a difference, my Dad excelled. When it came to giving a challenge, one that you remembered, he always came through. When it came to being the pastor that you wanted for your church, it was my Dad. Well done, Dad.

When it came to living what he preached, my Dad did it better than anyone I have ever known. A person who worked with him at factory when Dad was a bi-vocational pastor said of Dad, “The direction of his walk always matched his talk.” Well done Dad.

When it came to making the loudest finger snap known to mankind, Dad was the best. If I was not listening, or if I was beginning to misbehave in church he would drop that right hand outside the pulpit and SNAP his fingers. It was so loud the whole congregation would sit up straight. My head would pop up from wherever I was and then I got the look. This is etched in my memory because I heard it more times than I could count. All of this took place without Dad missing a word of his sermon. He kept me in line, he kept me listening and he kept me interested in Christ. Well done Dad, well done.

When it came to embracing people and making them a part of the family Dad was outstanding. He did this with all of us in the family, he did this with all who entered the family, he did it with all whose family he entered and everyone who was in his church family. He left no doubt that we were loved. Well done Dad.

Between my Mom and Marge, Dad was married for more than 69 years. Dad did it with excellence and set an incredible example of what it meant to be a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather. Well done Dad.

Most of all, Dad took the admonition of John 10:10 to heart “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” You lived life to the full Dad. You showed us how to live life fully for Christ, for your family, your church and everyone you came across. Well done, Dad.

Enjoy your eternity. Enjoy reconnecting with so many who are in heaven because of your influence. Enjoy no more pain. Enjoy the return of a strong voice. Enjoy eating ice cream again without worrying about your blood sugar numbers. Enjoy running and jumping again. Enjoy hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Well done Dad, thanks for the example.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a day of celebration. I love celebrations, don’t you?  Not only did we have much to celebrate at my two churches but the sermon was about celebrating in our relationships. As for my musings …

-Our Assistant Pastor and his family began their ministry with both churches yesterday! Everyone is very excited to have them join the team. It is a part-time position for now. He will be focusing on Discipleship and Technology. My wife is jumping for joy at this because she has done a lot more of our technology stuff than she is comfortable with because there was no one else. Now she can get that off her shoulders and focus more other areas where she is gifted and passionate.

-The singing part of our worship went well in both churches and we did not have any sound system glitches. Maybe one. At my 9:00 church the sound guy forgot to mute my microphone during a couple of songs. So evidently I joined the worship team without invitation. Does that sound familiar Steve Dahlgren? 

-Yesterday was the 5th of a 7 part series on relationships, “7 Building Blocks of Great Relationships”. Each week we have focused on one word and what the Bible tells us about applying it to building of our relationships. Yesterday’s word was “celebrate”. Celebrating our relationships and the people in them produces joy and energy in the relationship. Ignoring the need to celebrate plants seeds of doubt and resentment in the relationship. I love the quote from the father of the wayward son in Luke 15:32 “But we had to celebrate and be glad, …”

-We had an all church carry-in meal at my 10:30 church. One of the men in the church smoked pulled pork for the meal. It was outstanding, some of the best I have ever tasted and I lived in the Kansas City area for a while. Big thanks to Greg. The fellowship was great during the meal and the help to set up and clean up was awesome. 

-We had a new person, or two, in both of my churches yesterday. One was obviously brought by another newer person and the other one said that they heard about the church and came to check it out. How cool is that?

-Attendance was good at my 9:00 church and attendance was okay at my 10:30 church. I went and checked and discovered that our 10:30 church’s attendance was 20 above the same Sunday a year ago. The fact that it didn’t seem that good indicates the growth we are enjoying. The 9:00 church was 10 above a year ago.

-We have a baptism service coming in 3 weeks at my 10:30 church with at least 4 committed to be baptized and I am still waiting to hear from 2 others. That will be a glorious day as they each share their testimony before being baptized.

-Vacation Bible School is being planned for both churches. One in July and the other in August. Much to do between now and then. The great news is that there are people leading both and my job is simply to help as needed. I love when it happens that way, isn’t that how it is supposed to be?

-I am so grateful for people who pray for me, especially on Sundays. I felt like I was running on fumes yesterday morning. Just before getting up to preach at both churches I just felt like I had nothing, no energy and just felt blah. But the praise is that at both churched when I stood up to start I felt the energy return and was able to preach with conviction, compassion and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you to all my prayer warriors! Are you praying for your pastor?

-Next Sunday’s message is on forgiveness and the need for it in our relationships. This may be the key to all the messages in this series. Praying that people attend, that they listen to God’s voice and that they are willing to apply it to their relationships. 

-I need to get going. I have a couple of hospital visits to make, one of them out of town, a funeral visitation and a meeting with someone asking about baptism. One thing is for sure, my work is never boring. I love my job and my people.

Here’s hoping that you know that someone believes in you and that you are being prayed for and celebrated this week.

Dennis

Sometimes You Just Gotta Make Some Noise …

I walked into our local public library, I heard her and then I saw her and then ….

A while ago my wife and I had the joy of having 3 of our grandchildren stay with us for a few days. The range of their ages are 8, 5 and 3. Those are ages of great energy, noise, laughter, emotion and joy. I absolutely love being around my grandkids

I noticed that my grandkids often ran to wherever we were going. Even when they walked they would mix in a few hops and skips. Their energy seemed boundless at times. Did I ever have that much extra energy?

I walked into our local public library, I heard her and then I saw her and then …

It was not just the extra energy that changed our house while my grandkids were here, it was the noise volume. It went up several decibels. Some of the noise was laughter, some of it was loud talking attempting to get someone’s attention and sometimes it was just loud yells of joy for the fun of it.

I walked into our local public library (as in no loud talking, no running and never ever any yelling allowed), I heard her and then I saw her and then …

You are very likely smiling as you read of these noisy exploits of my grandkids. I will confess that I am smiling as I remember and type these thoughts. You are smiling as you picture children of these ages and imagine the smiles, the energy and the noise. I am smiling because they are my grandkids and I always smile when I think of my grandkids.

But there is something else isn’t there? If you are thinking anything like I am your question is along the lines of “When did I stop living life with this kind of joy and when did I stop making noise just because life is good?”

I walked into our local public library (as in no loud talking, no running and never ever any yelling allowed), I heard her as she yelled “Grandpa” and then I saw her as she came running across the library and then … without worrying about where we were she launched herself into my legs and gave me huge hug.

Jeremiah chapter 20 verse 9 says, “…his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

Here’s to hoping that you and I get a little bolder and make some noise. Here’s hoping that we don’t allow circumstances, fears, worries, or just the passing years to stifle our voices. Here’s hoping that you take a moment to yell this week, to tell someone about the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. Bonus points if you choose to yell during a worship service!

Dennis

Monday Musings …

Yesterday was a banner day in our church and in my personal life as well. We had a phenomenal day at church and it was the 40th anniversary of my wedding day. (You can read some personal stuff about that milestone in my previous 2 posts.)

-We celebrated our Vacation Bible School (VBS) yesterday. We finished it a week ago but we chose to have our celebration yesterday. It was awesome. We had a total of 47 different children attend VBS and we 35 of them come back for this celebration.

-The kids did fantastic. They sang, they did some Bible memory and they recounted the main points of every lesson when I quizzed them. Looks like they learned the lessons, now praying that they are really living the lessons.

-There was a lot of energy in the building as we worshiped. I loved it. There were a lot more smiles from the adults yesterday than I normally receive. Wonder what that is all about?

-An older couple came in a few minutes late. The kids were on the platform already doing their thing. This couple sat right in the middle of where the kids had been sitting and would return to sit when they finished. My wife whispered to me that I should go get them to move to some other seats. I said, “No, let ‘em fend for themselves”. It was fun to see the couple’s reaction when 30+ kids surrounded them. The couple handled it great and so did the kids.

-We had the second largest attendance we have had in my time here in Canton. It was awesome to see some parents, and other relatives in attendance who don’t normally attend. Praying that they will take the message the kids, and I, shared and accept it themselves.

-Praying that some of those family members will return and begin attending.

-It was great for our congregation to see the fruit of their prayers, their giving and their faithfulness with a platform full of kids and a sanctuary with so many people in attendance.

-The church had a big meal after the service in honor of our 40th wedding anniversary. The food was great and the cake was delicious. We received so many cards and a wonderful love offering. This church body is good to us and shows us in so many ways week in and week out how much they love us. Ministry is so much fun with a group like this at your side.

-Our 2 daughters, one of our sons-in-law and 4 of our grandkids were able to be with us. One of our sons-in-law was leading worship at his church and our son, daughter-in-law and 5 grandkids are in Africa, but we did hear from all of them. Our house is full and so is my heart.

-We already have some kids saving for next year’s VBS offering! How cool is that?

-Our sound system even cooperated for most of the morning.

-Our District Superintendent slipped into the service and stayed for the meal after. It was great to have him witness what is taking place in Canton. Love that man and his leadership.

-We had a first time visitor come yesterday who didn’t know that we were having our VBS celebration. I hope we didn’t scare them off. But at least they saw a lot of energy, smiles and joy. That should be enough to get them to give us another shot.

Here’s to you finding joy in your service this week. I am praying that each person who reads this is encouraged and has a reminder that God is present where you are and that you are loved.

Dennis

40 Reasons We are still Going Strong … (they aren’t all in this post)

True confession. Today is the 40th anniversary of our wedding. At this time 40 years ago I was awake and excited about getting married. I was nervous, but strangely I think I was more nervous about putting my Tux on than I was about committing to someone for a lifetime. You see I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing with a Tux or a marriage. (More on that in another post.)

Over the next few days I am going to give my wife some notes, cards and other things that will contain 40 reasons I love her. Shhhhh, don’t tell her this is going to happen, it is a surprise.

Here are 5 of the 40 …

She is beautiful. In all honesty I noticed her because she was so pretty and she is more beautiful today than she was when I first met her. (Side note: I first met her while on a date with someone else. Don’t get upset the first time I called to ask her out I had to wait until she got in from a date with another guy.)

She still laughs at my jokes. Even the ones no one else gets. I am pretty sure that she sometimes laughs just to make me feel good. But the fact that she still laughs after 40 years is pretty cool.

She is my biggest cheerleader. (If you ask her she has a great cheerleader story to tell you. It is very inspirational and has become a family legend. A former staff member of mine still calls and asks her to repeat the story sometimes.)

She is an awesome mother and mother-in-law. She loves our kids, and we consider our in-law kids our kids and she loves them the same. She has sacrificed much, more than our kids know, while our kids were still at home. Actually, she still does.

She has been, and still is, my partner in ministry for the 32+ years that I have served. There have been times in my ministry that I was pretty sure some of the churches were happier she was with them than me.

There are many more and I will share them in the near future.

For today, I just want to say Happy Anniversary to the love of my life, to my partner in every sense of the word , to the one who has given me more than I will ever deserve.

Here’s to Jody, I love you.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

We finally had a true summer Sunday. The weather was warm and it hasn’t rained in 8 or 9 days and many people were gone. It is okay, one out of the first 10 Sundays of the summer is okay. It was still another good day …

-The spirit during our time of music in worship yesterday was tremendous and that was with some significant sound issues. People were really singing out aloud. Maybe it was because I told them that I had decided the music goes better with motions, after experiencing worship with our Vacation Bible School kids this past week. I told the congregation as we began that after watching the kids in VBS that if the adults didn’t sing out I was going to make them do motions with all the songs. Maybe I need to make that threat every week. Just kidding, sort of.

-It was so fun to share with the entire congregation that our kids brought in $1,000 for kids in Kenya during VBS.

-We had a missionary speak during worship and he is serving in Kenya. That worked out great given our focus for giving during VBS. He and his college student daughter also shared with all of our children during Sunday School. That was a great follow up for our kids after VBS.

-I love hearing from people who are passionate about serving Christ. I was especially moved hearing from the missionary’s daughter about her passion to serve those in need wherever she is located.

-Our attendance was below our last year’s average for the first time all summer. The good news is that it was just barely below. But it was the first time it has felt like a summer Sunday.

-I am excited that a couple of our kids, and some of our grandkids, will be in worship with us next Sunday. They are coming in to help us celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Even better news is that will all be staying with us for 3 or 4 days. The other kid, and grandkids, have a great excuse for not being here, they are serving in Kenya. We hope to Skype with them.

-I am very excited to hear from a few people this weekend who are desiring to serve in ministry. These are people who have not been serving until now. In fact, they are very excited to begin serving. Good things really are happening in Canton.

-Loved getting together with some of the people from our small group last evening. We will be starting a couple of new groups out of this group in a few weeks. It is exciting to think of reaching new people, seeing new relationships begin and seeing people step up in leadership.

-My wife and I enjoyed having lunch with the missionary and his daughter. They serve a little over an hour from where our son and family are serving. We were able to talk about some familiar places.

-Next Sunday will be our celebration of Vacation Bible School. They kids will be sharing in song, memory verses and sharing about their giving. I am so excited to see them all together again and I am praying that many of their family members come and experience this with them. I am excited for our whole congregation to see and share in this outstanding event as well. For many who give faithfully to see that their giving is going to reach many children and families in our community.

Here’s hoping that you are already looking forward to next Sunday. I am praying that you will have many opportunities to encourage someone this week.

Dennis

Lessons learned from Vacation Bible School …

“Oh, I know Jesus loves me, Oh I know Jesus loves you, from the top of my head to my wiggly toes …” That song (with motions) is stuck in my head. Why? We just finished our Vacation Bible School and that was part of the theme song. Vacation Bible School was great and I know I learned more than the kids. The kids learned a lot, but I can say without a doubt that I learned more. Just over a year ago I wrote a post “7 Lessons learned from Vacation Bible School”. I learned some more this year and was reminded of some of the lessons I learned last year.

-I learned that energy makes worship and learning a lot easier and more fun. The kids brought the energy every night and the adults used that energy to serve in powerful ways. Now if we could just get the rest of the people who attend on Sunday mornings to have a little more energy. Maybe we should start requiring that they do motions with every song. What do you think?

-I learned that giving can be fun. Our church, that is not large, at least not yet, had a total of 47 kids attend VBS. Those kids gave over $1,000 in 4 nights!!! You read that correctly. More impressive is they did it with no incentive of a prize and none of the money given was for anyone they knew. The money is all going to Africa to send a bunch of kids to school and feed thousands of kids who otherwise would have no meal at their school.

(Highlight: some of you are being cynical and thinking that all the money came from the kid’s parents and grandparents. Much of it did, but we had many, many kids emptying their personal banks to give their personal money for other kids. In fact one boy had been saving coins since last year’s VBS so that he could give to other kids this year. How is that for sacrifice?)

-Serving together is a great way to get to know people. There is a great bond that forms when you serve with someone.

-We have many outstanding adults. So many gave so much of their time, and energy, to serve the kids. Some gave up hours at work, some took vacation days to serve and all of them gave all the energy they had to serve. There are some serious naps going to be taking place this weekend.

-Smiles really do made a huge difference. I wrote something about kid’s smiles last year and I was blown away by the smiles of the kids and the smiles they were able to produce in the adults this year. I will go through smile withdrawal this next week.

-Kids love to volunteer. When we asked for volunteers we had dozens of hands go up no matter what we were asking them to do.

-Kids remind me that Church can, and should be, fun.

What are some of your memories of VBS? What have you learned from serving children?

Here’s hoping that you receive many smiles this week.

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

This is a day of celebration. Why? Because every day should be a day of celebration. Why? Because we have so much to celebrate. That was the theme of my sermon yesterday and it seemed that we really did begin to celebrate. This past week has been schizophrenic as far as circumstances in my life. I experienced some tremendous highs and some frustrating lows (see previous post for a couple of examples) but I decided to choose joy and thankfulness in all things. It has really made a difference and I think I am finally beginning to get this thing of celebrating life. So … as you might expect yesterday was a great day! Here are a few musings from this great day …

-The atmosphere and energy in our worship service was outstanding. People were engaged and really participating throughout the service.

-3 of my grandkids spent the weekend with us and therefore were in church with us and that definitely added to it being a great day.

-We had at least twice as many children as we have had on most Sundays and kids equal energy. The best part of that was that even those serving our children were excited after having some many more children. Isn’t that awesome?

-The music part of worship went very well and people were participating with volume. There were only a couple of small technical glitches in the service and that is really good for us.

-We had 2 new families in worship and a family who returned for the second time. These are all local families and have either been seeking to find a church home or have been unchurched.

-People were very engaged during the sermon and that always makes it easier to preach.

-Our small group was down in attendance but we had some great sharing as usual and the personal growth in some of the people is so encouraging.

-5 people came to my Church 101 class to find out more about our local church, our vision and our denomination. It is going to be a fun group.

-After having 3 grandkids, ages 7, 4 and 2 with us for the weekend and traveling 4 ½ hours to see our newest grandchild earlier in the week, my wife and I really enjoyed our Sunday afternoon naps. It was a good tired, but I was still tired.

-In just over 4 weeks we will get to be with our son, daughter-in-law and 5 grandkids who are serving as missionaries in Africa. Let the countdown begin.

-Our attendance was very good yesterday as you might expect with all the visitors. The attendance has been trending upward, but we preachers are sometimes not the most patient when it comes to reaching new people for Christ and experiencing growth in the church.

Here’s hoping that you choose joy today and seek to celebrate all that God is and all that he has for you.

Dennis