Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The lady in room 18...

She's a 50-something woman who, while out enjoying a ride on her bike, was struck by a car. Her home, temporarily, is Room 18. Nurses and doctors will patch her up and put her back together as best they can. Then, hopefully, she'll go back home. That's my prayer for the lady in Room 18.

When you see a bicyclist, please slow down and give them space! Four feet is the law! A whole lane is better!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From 'Forgotten God'...

The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit. The "entertainment" model of church was largely adopted in the 1980s and '90s, and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit.

From Forgotten God, by Francis Chan (p.15-16)

Team Type 1 wins RAAM...

Annapolis, Md. – Team Type 1 rolled onto the Annapolis, Md., City Dock early Friday morning as champions of the eight-person team division of the Race Across America (RAAM).

The athletes on Team Type 1 – all of whom have Type 1 diabetes – won the non-stop, transcontinental race in record time. They completed the 3,021-mile (4,861 km) distance in five days, nine hours and five minutes after starting Saturday afternoon in Oceanside, Calif.

Their average speed of 23.41 mph bettered the 23.24 mph of last year's winner, the Norwegian Byggkjøp presented by BMC Cycling Team, which completed nearly the same distance in five days, nine hours and 43 minutes.

At 2:38 a.m. EDT, Team Type 1 riders Jeff Bannink, Simon Bennett, Alex Bowden, Matt Brooks, Tom Kingery, Lonny Knabe, Bob Schrank and Mark Suprenant were recognized on the victory podium to the cheers of a large crowd of supporters that included the team’s founder, Phil Southerland.

Schrank, the RAAM team director, teamed with Southerland and Team Type 1 co-founder Joe Eldridge in 2007 when Team Type 1 won its second straight eight-rider RAAM team title. Last year, Bowden, Brooks and Suprenant joined Schrank on the squad that finished as runners-up.

“This is the biggest one for me by far of the three years I’ve done this,” Schrank said. “It seemed to have all the right pieces seemed to fall together. What was great was how well the team conducted itself in the face adversity.”

That bad luck included a grass fire in the Arizona desert that destroyed a minivan, an RV that had its transmission go out in Utah and a crew car that ran out of gas – all within a 24-hour span early in the race. The team is also on the lookout for Suprenant's Orbea Ordu bicycle, which went missing Thursday night.

RAAM Manager Dave Eldridge said overcoming those challenges was a testament to the focus and diligence of the team and nearly two dozen volunteer crew members.

“Once we physically removed the riders from the environment to fight the challenges, they went back to the task at hand, which was to push the pedals as hard as they could and go east,” Eldridge said. “The crew also did a great job. We made some decisions to keep people back and move people forward with the team and they came through with the support that was necessary. That’s really consistent of the message of Team Type 1. You have to manage the disease, just like you manage things in real life.”

Another remarkable story to emerge was the perseverance of Kingery, a member of the new Team Type 1 triathlon squad. The 33-year-old, Delaware, Ohio, resident broke his hand a month before the race.

“I came into this knowing I wasn’t the strongest climber and my cast limited my climbing training,” Kingery said. “So that made it even more of a challenge. I knew my strong suit would be on the flats.”

The team's quest to better the existing RAAM team record hung in the balance until the final hours of the race. Two of the Team Type 1's three slowest legs of the 53 time stations along the route came in the final 300 miles. The toll of pedaling for 10 or 15 minutes at a time for more than five days caught up to the riders, RAAM Coach Nate Keck said.

“I knew that getting the record was not a given,” Keck said. “But I also knew that we had a shot. So coming down to the finish, I basically just told the guys what we had to achieve to get it and they went out and knocked it down. We were fortunate to only get one time penalty. If we had received any more, we definitely would have been out of luck.”

Team Type 1 was created in 2004 to inspire people living with diabetes to take a proactive approach to managing their health and overcoming the obstacles often associated with the condition. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to properly control blood sugar levels.

Real bicyclists can't be put back together...

Found another treasure on the Brothers Brick blog today. A bicycling safety PSA done Lego-style. Enjoy! (And please watch out for bicyclists on the road!)

This is the way...

A little over five years ago, my eldest entered junior high. Because she decided to play sports and I wanted to support her in her athletic endeavors, I began traveling to places I’d never been before. Dexter. Cedar Vale. Burden. Sedan. Kiowa.

Since I didn’t even know some of these places existed until I was called upon to go there for a volleyball match, I would pull out a map and find out where I was going and how to get there. I’d study the highways I needed to follow and commit them, as best I could, to memory. I didn’t want to be looking at a map while careening down the road at 65mph. It’s not especially safe to do so.

I usually had no problem whatsoever finding the town in question, but finding the school buildings was another thing. I’d pass the city limits sign and begin wondering where in the world I needed to turn next. Was the school north or south of the highway? Was it east or west of Main? Was it straight ahead? Had I passed it? Was this the right town?

I hate being lost. It makes me feel all jittery inside. So if I didn’t see the school right off, I committed the cardinal sin against my manhood. I’m not ashamed to admit it: I stopped and asked directions of a local, someone who’d likely been to the school. Doing so saved me time, got me where I was wanted to be in the most efficient manner.

That was five years ago. Now I’m the seasoned veteran. I’ve been there, done that. Most places I’ve been to multiple times. Most seasons, with both junior high and high school athletes now, I travel to the same places more than once. So now I’m the one telling the newbies how to get to the schools in our league for ball games.

Dexter is west from the highway. Just turn right onto the road at the first intersection and follow it around all the twists and turns. Cedar Vale High School gym is to the east of the run down convenience store at the west edge of town. The parking lot is on the north side of the building. Central of Burden is three blocks north of 160. Turn on the street before Main. In Sedan, turn left when the highway turns right part way through town. It’s not far north to the high school. Oh, and Kiowa’s right on the highway. You can’t miss it.

It’s always best to ask someone who knows how to get to where you’re going the way to get there, isn’t it? If your direction-giver has been to where you’re wanting to go, it’s that much better. Someone who’s never been there is just as much in the dark as you are. They might give suggestions based on what little they know, but their uninformed ideas are just as likely as not to set you adrift.

Being lost isn’t pleasant in any circumstances, but even less so when you are forever lost. That’s why Jesus came from Heaven to Earth. As the song has it: he came to show the way. He’d been there. He was (and still is) the best person to get directions to Heaven from.

And what did he say about the way there? Quite a lot really, but one of the better known things he said is really quite amazing. Listen to his words as John records them.

In John 14:6 Jesus speaks. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)

Where is the Father? He’s our Father in Heaven, right? So the way to the Father and the way to Heaven are one in the same. And the way is Jesus. Jesus is the way to Heaven. There is no other way.

Contrary to popular opinion, all paths do not lead to God. All religions are not basically the same. One points you toward Jesus, the way to the Father. All others point you away from the Savior.

Listen to me. No one gets eternal life unless they come to the Father through Jesus. If you don’t go through Jesus, you will be lost for eternity. I don’t think I’m oversimplifying the message here. I’m not overstating the truth, am I?

“I am the way and the truth and the life,” means Jesus is the way to Heaven, doesn’t it? “No one comes to the Father except through me,” means there’s no other way, right? It’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? I’m not reading anything into his words, am I? You must come to God through Jesus! There are no other paths.

Most people miss the way to Heaven. Jesus said this would be true. Listen to what he says.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 6:13-14, NIV)

Why do so many miss the way? Why do they reject Jesus? Do you know? It’s because they do not want to follow God’s instructions. They’d rather go their own way even if that way leads to death. It sounds crazy, but it’s true.

So what does God say to the lost, the dying, those living in darkness?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:16-21, NIV)

Jesus cries out to everyone who will hear his voice: Believe on me! Do not die in your sin! Leave the darkness behind! Come into the light! Receive eternal life!

Those are the words of God to you. They are the words of the One who came from Heaven to be the way to the Father. They are his instructions to all who want salvation.

Will you obey? All who believe on Jesus receive the gift of eternal life. All who trust him escape the death in Hell they deserve.

Listen to Jesus again. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

Are you ready to come to the Father? You must believe. Will you?

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Follow His instructions...

There is a math test that I took in eighth grade that I’ve never forgotten. My teacher handed out this particular exam with verbal instructions to carefully read the directions at the top of the page before beginning. I paid as much attention to this suggestion as I usually did. I ignored it.

When my copy of the test was in my hands, I immediately put my pencil to question number one. I hurried through question one and two and three and four and then I began to get nervous. People who normally did poorly in the class were already handing in their papers. I wasn’t even half way through! The problems were hard. Some of work was new stuff, stuff I wasn’t sure we’d covered in class. Still they kept getting up and turning in their papers. Something wasn’t right!

I kept working, but I became more and more distracted as every student around me finished and walked to the teacher’s desk. I was so confused. This made no sense. I was the best student in the class. (I was an arrogant young man.) What was going on?

As I was sweating it out on a particularly difficult problem, I suddenly remembered the teacher’s pre-exam directives. He’d said plainly enough: “Read the directions at the top of the page before beginning.”

I stopped what I was doing and read. “This is a test of your ability to follow instructions as given by the teacher. You do not need to complete any of the problems on this exam. Write your name at the top of the page and turn it in immediately.”

I was so embarrassed. I wrote “Mike Neifert” on the line provided and walked to the front of the room. I vaguely remember a Cheshire cat grin on my instructor’s face as I sheepishly handed him my paper.

I paid a lot closer attention to his words at the beginning of assignments in the days that followed. His aim I’m sure.

Any of you ever have a teacher pull a dirty trick like that on you? Surely mine wasn’t the only devious trickster in the world. What class were you in when you learned to pay attention to the teacher’s words? Kindergarten? Fourth grade? Tenth?

Whether you figured it out early or late, you learned a valuable lesson. Listening to those over you, those who are in charge, is important. They set the rules. Your obedience to their guidelines sets you on the path to success. Refusing to follow their instructions almost always leads to failure. Sometimes the results are disastrous.

So who’s in charge of this universe? Who sets the rules for how we live? It has to be God, doesn’t it? If Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” – is true, then God is over all. He who made us is the rule maker. No one can override his instructions. What he says about how we’re to live or how we’re to speak or how we’re to approach him matters more than what anyone else says about any of these things. He knows more than anyone else about all things.
So God, in the Old Testament, laid down the law. After man rebelled against him in the Garden of Eden, he had to define evil in more specific ways. He defined evil so that man might know two things. Man needed to know just how holy God was and he needed to know, by comparison, just how unholy he was. The law with all of its “dos and don’ts” points out both things pretty well. Read through Leviticus or even just the ten and you’ll see that God expects a lot, his standards are high. But remember: he’s the Creator. His instructions matter. You can’t ignore what he says.

Keep reading long enough and you’ll eventually have to admit, if your honest, that you don’t measure up. God is holy. I am not. I cannot follow his instructions. I am powerless to do so. His standards are too high. My sinful nature causes me to rebel.

And you’re no better. We’re all in the same boat. We are unholy and, on our own, we can do nothing to escape God’s wrath against our sin.

“‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.’

“‘Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.’

“‘The poison of vipers is on their lips.’

“‘Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.’

“‘Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.’

“‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.”
(Romans 3:10-19, NIV)

You are accountable to God and you do not follow his instructions. Why should you escape his wrath? Why should you be allowed into Heaven? You don’t deserve salvation. You are a rebel. God has passed sentence on you. You are condemned.

But you are not without hope. God has made a way for you to gain salvation. He made that way because he loves you. It is through faith in Jesus, His Son, whom he sent to die in your place.

God is holy, but He is love too.

To receive my once or twice weekly message via email, send a blank email to Past messages are available at

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The preacher's pledge...

The internet has made it incredibly easy for pastors to plagarize the work of others. There are multiple sites that sell or give away sermons. There is a movement afoot to stop this dishonest practice. Over 6,000 pastors have taken the following pledge, promising to listen to God and produce their own unique proclamations of God's Word...

‘I will make the Bible my primary resource in sermon preparation and preaching. I may use other resources such as commentaries and web sites to enhance, not replace, my personal interaction with Scripture. As I study I will strive to accurately understand and honestly apply God’s Word, allowing Him to uniquely proclaim His truth in a relevant way through me.’ (Sermon Central)

I have never been able to use someone else's material. I praise God that he gives fresh messages for the people of the church I serve on a regular basis. I don't know that I'll go to the site and sign on to the pledge, but I don't ever plan on stealing others' work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Racing the storm...

I got a late start on my bike ride this afternoon. A funeral dinner and hang out time with fellow EMTs at the local pizza place, set me back about an hour and a half. But, better late than never, I was able to get in 10 miles.

I took off around 2:15. The wind was about 6mph out of the southwest. Looking west as I swung out onto the highway, I saw nothing but dark clouds. I knew I'd be pushing it to get in the 15 miles I wanted before the storm hit, so I pedaled hard. (Just under 15 would put me over the 2000 mile mark for the year.)

When I reached the top of Drouhard hill five miles out, I decided I could make my 2000 mile mark another day. I saw lightning and the wind kicked it up a notch. I made a quick U-turn and headed back toward town. (My average at this point was a respectable 18.6mph.) With the wind at my back, I flew along the highway, maintaining near or over 30mph most of the time.

Then the rain started hitting me. Not big drops. Not a lot of drops. Just a tiny drop here and there. I pushed harder. My average was now over 20mph. I turned south at the correction line eying the rapidly approaching darkness to my south and west.

I really wanted that 15 miles. As I neared town, I toyed with the idea of riding 2.5 miles south and back, but a few more scattered raindrops changed my mind. That and the gale force winds.

So I roared into town and broke hard for my garage. The drops were getting bigger and more numerous as I swung my leg off the bike and opened the door.

I walked my bike halfway to the back wall before all hell broke loose. The wind drove the rain into the garage.

I snickered. I'd won! My average at the end was my fastest ever: 21.6mph! The wind speed when I checked: 19mph out of the northwest!

My dear Wormwood...

I woke up this morning to an email from Focus on the Family announcing, among other things, the upcoming release of their latest Radio Theater adaptation: The Screwtape Letters. I couldn't believe it! Screwtape was one of my favorite books growing up. I loved the tongue-in-cheek way that C.S. Lewis exposed the devil's plans to destroy men and man's too-easy compliance.

I clicked on the link and was amazed at what I found at - behind the scenes video, ringtones, IM icons, and more!

And then the kicker for me...

Andy Serkis, Gollum's voice in the Lord of the Rings movies, is the voice talent behind Screwtape. Watch the videos and enjoy Serkis' amazing gift for bringing the elder demon to life.

Screwtape, the Radio Theater version, will be available on October 15, 2009. You can pre-order it on the website or through Focus.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seek first God's kingdom...

I'm warming up a Hunt Brothers Pizza for supper tonight. I flipped the box over looking for reheating directions and found the company's guiding principles:

Place God First In All We Do,
Be A Blessing To People,
Trust God To Meet Our Needs,
Strive for Excellence.

Good guiding principles for life. I know God will honor the "brothers'" decision to seek him first in their business.

Blasphemy contest...

You’ve got to wonder what an organization that touts itself for critical thinking is thinking when it sponsors a BLASPHEMY CONTEST:

Since Darwin is their god, it would be interesting to submit to this contest true statements about Darwin’s less than divine attributes.

Guest Blogger, William


At the beginning of the week I could not imagine being done with all I had to do. I had three funerals to prepare for and perform. I had an EMS schedule to put together. I needed to get the church newsletter to our editor. I had volunteered to teach the high school Sunday School class in the regular teacher's place and needed to think through that. I had my regular work - sermon prep, bulletin revision, song service planning, etc. - to do too. And those were the responsibilities I knew about on Monday. On Tuesday, teaching the lesson at both youth groups was thrust upon me when my co-leader, Matt, came down with the flu. (Hope you're feeling better, my friend.)

What I could not imagine Monday morning, is now a reality. I am done with all my work - at least the prep part. (I still have two funerals to perform Friday morning and Saturday afternoon.) I even wrote a new sermon Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. It's a bit shorter than my usual, but new is good. (No one's going to complain about a short message.) I had planned on pulling something from my files, but blessed me beyond what I knew was possible.

I give God all the glory! I could not have done all I needed to do without his assistance. I am grateful to Him and praise His name!

Seven hours over three years...

The Brothers Brick LEGO blog interviewed Angus MacLane, a Pixar animator, after he completed his Lego replica of Wall•E. (Pictured above.) Here is MacLane's response to their first question: How long did it take to build your Wall•E?

About seven hours over a span of three years. I started building the LEGO version of Wall•E around the same time he was being built in the computer in late summer of 2005. I had been waiting for some treads to be released, and with 7258 (the “Wookie Attack” set) I got just enough tread links for two treads.

The color scheme of Wall•E wasn’t settled so I stared building with all light grey. I wasn’t totally happy with the results. The treads were too small and pretty flimsy. I put him on the shelf and went back to work.

Then the snowmobile and bulldozer came out in 2007 and I had my tread solution. So I rebuilt him at the beginning of this year with the proper colors as we were finishing animation production. I’m proud of the overall proportions, but the eyes are still a bit too off for me.

(Read more of the interview...)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I wish for you to really know
The God from whom all blessings flow.
For He created all that is
And all the universe is His.
Although His power is over all
He listens when His children call.
For He has mercy, full of grace
Toward all who turn to seek His face.
The “God of Comfort” he has been
To all who turn away from sin.
He knows our hearts, our every thought,
And our redemption He has bought.
So give Him all your grief and hate,
Lay down your burden and its weight.
Then shout for joy and live in peace
And praise His name for your release.

- Thelma Achelpohl (1910-2009)

Most embarrassing funeral...

Yesterday I performed the first of three funerals I will be conducting this week. Three in five days! (That's a record for me.) Everything was going fine until I got to the end of page one.

But let me back up a bit.

I spent the whole day Monday preparing for this first-of-three funeral. I began work around 6:30am and finished everything up around 10:00pm. I wouldn't have been at it so late, but Monday also happened to be my newsletter deadline and I had a couple of missionary related events to participate in. (Enjoyed lunch with Todd and the evening with Tim and Lindsay. No regrets for the long hours.)

I got up early yesterday morning and, while breakfast was in the oven, ran over to the church to check over my notes. When I finished up my practice, I noted a few paragraphs that I wanted to revise and ran home to eat. I returned to my office before 8:00am and edited the service, reprinted it, copied the twelve pages for the family and placed my copy on the pulpit in the sanctuary. I was ready for the day.

About 9:45am, people began arriving at the church. I greeted some of them and helped out where I could.

Around 10:15am, it was clear that we were going to need more seating, so I worked with several men to set up chairs at the back of the sanctuary. We managed to get everyone seated before 10:30am.

A minute or so after 10:30am, I walked the casket up the aisle and stood on the platform while the family filed in. When they were seated, I stepped to the pulpit and began.

Everything went smoothly at first. I talked about Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous, “Serenity Prayer," reminding everyone that there are things we cannot change (like the death of a loved one) and things we can change (like following a good man's example) and wisdom we could seek in the confusion of the grief process. That was all on page one.

As I was finishing the last sentence at the bottom of the page, I flipped the sheet over and stopped. The page was blank. I looked frantically across at the top of the next sheet - Page 3. I died a thousand deaths in that moment. I couldn't go on. I apologized, said something about having the wrong notes and stepped down from pulpit. I walked briskly to the back of the sanctuary and turned toward my office. As I entered my study door, my friend Tytus, one of the funeral home's staff members, stepped toward me holding out a copy of my notes. He had retrieved them from my desk to save me time. I thanked him and returned to the sanctuary.

Remember when I said that I had printed my notes then copied them for the family? What Tytus had handed me was the family's copy. The family's copy which I had copied from the notes that had the blank second page. In my panic that did not occur to me. So I positioned myself behind the pulpit once again, opened this freshly retrieved copy of my notes and stared at a blank page for the second time in less than five minutes. I was about to cry at this point. I apologized again and repeated my exit, stage right.

This time, I dug frantically through the recycle bin and found my original notes, the ones I had successfully practiced with that morning. They weren't revised like the others, but they were all there. No blank pages! I returned to the sanctuary and the rest of the service went amazingly well.

Other funerals have been more interesting (even amusing), but this one tops the red-in-the-face list.

The rest of the story: I went back after the graveside service and looked at the offending copies. My office printer had pulled two sheets of paper through at the same time, so page 2 was on the back of page 3 and page 4 was on the back of page 5. I had an entire set of notes the entire time. I didn't even think to look.

Fist-bumping with the Dalai Lama...

MEMPHIS, TN – Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery fist-bumped the Dalai Lama as he arrived in Memphis for the National Civil Rights Museum’s “Freedom Awards.”

The Dalai Lama was greeted at Tom Lee Park by Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery and Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Tuesday afternoon, September 22, 2009. Mayor Lowery shook hands with the Dalai Lama and then grabbed his hand and showed him how to fist-bump. Lowery then told the Dalai Lama that he, “always wanted to say ‘hello Dalai.’” Both laughed at the gesture and joke.

Later, the Dalai Lama explained – laughingly – that smacking fists is considered a sign of violence. The Dalai Lama seemed to be amused by the greeting.

The Dalai Lama is in Memphis to receive the National Civil Rights Museum’s International Freedom Award at the Peabody Hotel, Wednesday, September 23. The award is given to an individual who has had a global impact or has impacted the state of human and civil rights abroad.

Race across the sky...

Had no idea this movie was coming! Looks great! Hope I can see it! I could drive to my parents house on October 22 and watch it at the Southwind Theaters in Lawrence, but that's six hours of driving. Raises the price of going to the movies a bit. Warren Theaters, please bring it to Wichita!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Where is God?

“Where is God when it hurts?”

We’ve all wondered that at some time or another. Tragedy strikes a loved one and we speak out our complaint. The confusion that reigns in our hearts causes us to cry out in pain.

Perhaps this past month has been a month of questioning or of doubting. You’ve faced incredible loss. You’ve weathered a chaotic emotional windstorm and your life is in shambles.

“Where is God?” you ask.

Though you do not feel his presence, he is with you. He has not left your side. He has not abandoned you.

Think back on the events that led to your puzzlement. When you were in the middle of those terrible circumstances, what happened? A friend spoke gently to you and peace flooded your soul. You received hugs from a dozen family members and found joy. The church prayed for you and God showed up.

Sometimes “where God is” is in the church – in believing family and friends. The church is Jesus’ body. It is his arms and feet. When you receive kind words and hugs and prayers, it is God personally expressing his love to you.

Be comforted. Put your faith in the God who has not forsaken you. Trust him and allow him now to use you to comfort others with the comfort you have received from him through his people.

Friday, September 18, 2009

If I should die before I wake...

This was my first exposure to Tim Hawkins. He's got lots of really funny stuff. Check him out on YouTube. (Another favorite is the corporate worship songs.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mr. Donovan said, "YES!!"

I'm getting that Cadillac jersey. (See 'An ethical dilemma...' below.) I was in Wichita to visit someone in the hospital and stopped in at Donovan Auto Sales, an authorized Cadillac dealer, and asked if I could test drive a beautiful red CTS. I explained why and they gladly handed me the keys. The owner and one of the salespersons are avid cyclists.

My fifteen minutes behind the wheel were a blast. The CTS is a fun car to drive. (If I was in the market for a car that costs almost as much as my annual income, I'd pick one up tomorrow...maybe.) I pulled back into the parking lot without having put a dent in the car and got my "free jersey" form signed. I faxed it to Bicycling Magazine from the Friends Ministry Center and was on my way to the hospital in no time.

So I'm getting my jersey and I didn't have to compromise my values to get it. Yippee!

Monday, September 14, 2009

An ethical dilemma...

Some of you are going to laugh at me when you read this post. You're going to be blown away that I would even ask the question I'm going to ask. It will seem preposterous to you. It is not at all to me.

It all started when I opened up the latest issue of Bicycling Magazine. I read the article about Lance and Alberto's rivalry. I skimmed a couple of other features and then I noticed this crazy Cadillac promo. It was on one of those annoying cards every magazine places in the binding. The gist of the offer was this: Test drive a Cadillac CTS. Get a free Cadillac bicycling jersey valued at $100. (Like the one here only black.)

I saw that and thought, All my jerseys are plain and boring. I want this jersey. So I proceeded to call a dealership in Wichita to see if they would allow me to test drive a car that I openly admitted I wouldn't likely buy. The sales rep I talked with said he'd have to check with his manager and call me back. So I gave him my name and number. Before I even got home, he had called back.

I talked with my manager and he doesn't want to have someone driving a $50,000 to $60,000 car around town unless they're serious about buying. He said if you brought your form in, we could sign it for you."

Now the question: Do I go and have someone sign a form that says I test drove a certain car that I did not drive so I could have a $100 bicycling jersey?

I wrestled with that question of ethics for only a few seconds before deciding, no, I could not do that. I would be forcing the salesman or manager who signed my form to lie and would be receiving a jersey I did not earn honestly. Bummer.

Think I'm nuts? Go ahead and comment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finding joy at work...

Not every moment of every work day is filled with joy. There are days that are just plain miserable. Nothing goes right. Half the equipment breaks down. Everyone gets cranky. The hours grind on and on and on.

You’ve had days like that. I’ve had days like that. All God’s children have had days like that.

So what do we do on “days like that” to grow in our relationship with God and bless those around us? How can we find joy on the worst of days? Is there any way to redeem dismal?

I thought a little on that a little and came up with a few suggestions that might just do the trick on the dreariest of “days like that.”

First and foremost, I would advise you to fix your eyes on what is permanent.

I love the message of encouragement Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 4:16-18. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

What’s permanent is not the troubles we’re facing on any given day. What’s permanent is what we cannot see. Our salvation. Our every reward in Heaven. Our God and Savior.

All the troubles we face in this life – broken down tractors, cranky bosses, dead air conditioners, failed computers, grumpy customers – are just passing, short-lived annoyances. The machines will be fixed – or replaced – sooner or later. Things will be patched up with people eventually. So don’t spend all your time worrying over these things.

Remind yourself of the things that are forever. Remember what Jesus has done for you. Twice in Hebrews we’re told to do just that. Hebrews 3:1 tells us to “fix [our] thoughts on Jesus.” (NIV) Hebrews 12:2-3 says much more. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV)

Jesus died in your place so you could spend eternity with God. Rejoice in the incredible gift of eternal life that God has given. Don’t forget what’s permanent.

“…you have been raised with Christ, [so] set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV)

Keeping a focus on the eternal will help you endure the mundane troubles in your workplace.

Now, with your eyes on the prize, take time to pray. I don’t know how many times a friend of mine has testified in Sunday School or in one-on-one conversations I’ve had with him that he’s taken computer programming problems to God in prayer. And the solutions always come. Why do they come? First, because God knows computer software better than any programmer or geek does. Second, because God gets the glory when he helps his children solve problems.

So when things are breaking down and all hell has broken loose, pray. Pray for your equipment. Pray for your boss. Pray for your coworkers. God cares about all this stuff, so bring it to him.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV)

And don’t forget that you can pray on good days too. Find reasons to pray for your coworkers when things are going well. Thank God each day that machines run smoothly and no one gets hurt and spirits are high. In the good times and the bad, go to God with your concerns and joys. Constant conversation with your Maker will change your outlook and bring enjoyment to your work-a-day world.

With your heart set on the permanent and your mind engaged in prayer, set your hands to service.

Listen to God’s Word on this matter.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8, NIV)

Serving your boss, your company, your coworkers with the same attitude of respect and fear and sincerity of heart that you serve Jesus with will benefit you. Most likely it will benefit you now. You’ll have better relationships with those around you. You’ll be valuable to the company. You’ll bring customers back for a repeat visit. But even if you don’t see any immediate rewards for respectful and sincere service, you will see eternal rewards. God will see to it that your valuable service to his Son in your workplace receives its just deserts. You will – don’t miss this – be rewarded forever for your performance on the job.

Why? Because you are working for the Lord, not men. Because the light of your good works shining in your work place brings glory and praise to your Father in Heaven.

So unless our boss instructs you to do something illegal or immoral, do what’s asked of you with excellence, with eagerness, with the joy and strength God gives. We do all things at all times in all circumstances for God’s glory. When our boss blows up at us, we choose to submit to Jesus. When our coworkers are annoyed with us, we serve Jesus by serving them.

All for praise to God…always!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Youth ministarz...

Just a little fun for those who care for teens. Thanks for all you do for the 'yoots' of your community. A special thumbs up for Wil and Paige! Can't wait for January 1!

President's address on education...

I'm as conservative in my politics and religion as anyone could be. I annoy my "liberal" friends on Facebook all the time. They dish it out to me too.

I get all sorts of emails from organizations on the political and religious right. I hear all the hype about how horrible President Obama is for our nation. Some of what I read I agree with, but some of it is just plain silly.

I mean what's up with complaining about the President talking with school students, urging them to stay in school and take responsibility for the future of America? I took the time this morning to read the President's speech. It was pretty good. No hidden agenda that I could see, but then maybe I'm not learned enough. Hmm.

So, this is my word to my conservative friends: "Stop being so silly!" Yelling and screaming about really bad ideas is one thing. Ranting and raving about a speech that encourages responsibility? There's nothing crazier than that.

(READ the speech people! I've linked to it above.)

Making godly decisions...

Eight questions to ask when making a decision...

1. The scriptural test - Has God spoken about this in His word already?
2. The secrecy test - Would it bother me if everyone knew this was my choice? See Prov 11:3.
3. The survey test - What if everyone followed my example?
4. The spirit test - Am I being people-pressured or spirit-led?
5. The stumbling test - Could this cause another person to stumble?
6. The serenity test - Have I really prayed about this and received His peace in this situation? The Holy Spirit IS NOT going to confirm something that is going to hurt you.
7. The sanctification test - Will this keep me from growing in the character of Christ?
8. The supreme test - Does this glorify God? Glorify - to give an accurate reflection of who He is.

- June Hunt

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Enjoying your work...

While my kids were at piano lessons in a nearby town this week, I stopped in at the fire department there to visit with my friend Sam who works there. He was out in the parking lot talking with his grandparents when I pulled up. They were in the area visiting family and had stopped by to shoot the breeze with Sam. I enjoyed getting to know them a bit.

Sam’s grandpa works for a feed lot near Lamar, Colorado. His duties include operating big loaders. He regaled Sam and me with the tale of the time he ran over a steer with his 50,000 pound machine – that’s empty weight! Amazingly, though he ran over it twice and tire marks were visible across the steer’s midsection, the beast survived. (Of course the poor thing still became a McDonald’s entrée in the end. That’s life on the feed lot if you’re a cow. One way or another you’re dead meat.)

Besides this story of squished bovine, one other thing stood out to me in our conversation. Sam’s grandpa, sort of offhandedly, said something I thought rather profound. I can’t quote him exactly, but he said something like, “I know some people find it hard to believe anyone could enjoy working in a feed lot, but I like my work.”

After doing the same thing week after week, month after month for over 30 years, that’s significant. Not everyone can say, “I like my work,” but Sam’s grandpa could.

I think right now, with the way the job market is, there are a good number of people who are more thankful for the job they have been in a while. With so many out of work, it’s hard to complain no matter the hours or the pay or the people or anything. I know those still-employed folks I’ve talked to are grateful they can keep food on the table for their families.

One guy I’ve talked to repeatedly is one of only two men still holding a job at his company. Everyone else was let go months ago. You know he’s thanking God for work.

I’ve heard the other side too, of course. People hoping they can find something to do. Men and women willing to do anything, but unable to land a job. Some in our town are in that boat. A few in our church are.

I hope you pray for your friends who are struggling to make ends meet. Don’t forget those whose unemployment benefits may be about to run out. Do what you can to help.

Let’s go back to Sam’s grandpa’s statement now. “I like my work.” Can you say that? I hope you can. The Bible says that if you can say that, it’s a gift from God.

Listen to what Solomon, King of Israel, wrote in Ecclesiastes 5:10-20.

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase, so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes on them? The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep.

“I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when he has a son there is nothing left for him. Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb, and as he comes, so he departs. He takes nothing from his labor that he can carry in his hand.

“This too is a grievous evil: As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain, since he toils for the wind? All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.

“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”

I love these words of wisdom. They warn of the dangers of piling up wealth. If you love wealth, you’ll be dissatisfied with what you get for yourself. Everyone will be knocking on your door wanting what you have. You’ll be worried about losing your stuff to some misfortune and lose sleep over it. Your life will be filled with frustration, affliction and anger. That’s not how “having it all” is advertised, I know, but it is what comes with the love of money.

These words don’t stop there, though. They also speak of the joys of working hard for a living. The sleep of the laborer is sweet – Solomon says it’s true whether there’s a lot to eat or little. The man who works finds satisfaction in it and, get this, that satisfaction is a gift from God. It is the Lord, Solomon says, who enables men to enjoy what they have and allows them to be happy in their work. Our God fills each laborer’s heart with gladness, with joy. Being able to say, “I like my work,” is evidence of God’s work in your heart.

As I read this passage I am grateful for the gift God has given me in my work. I like what he’s called me to do. I wouldn’t trade my job for any other – at least not most days.

Are you grateful for the same in your own life? God’s calling on your life, the vocation he’s given you, is made sweeter by the joy he gives in it, is it not? Why don’t you thank God right now for this gift? It seems an appropriate thing to do on Labor Day.

God is good!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Set an example in purity...

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)

I was listening to K-Love the other day. The afternoon DJ was talking about his son’s first day of high school orientation. His son took in most of the day with no problem, but then came the welcome dance. The teens on the dance floor began bumping and grinding. The adult sponsors in the gym did nothing to stop this suggestive dancing and the DJ’s son, with no other options, went out side with some friends to play football. He told his dad about his discomfort later that day. He explained why he had walked out. Dad was proud of his faithful son.

Young people, extreme pressure is put on you to compromise your convictions. Your friends will tell you that sex outside of marriage is no big deal. Your classmates will tell you getting drunk or high is great fun…even if they can’t remember what they did last weekend. You’ll be treated like an outcast if you choose to buck the system and remain pure…in every area of life.

Buck the system anyway. The system is broken. Heartbreak is what the world’s immoral ways have to offer. Embarrassment. Regret. Disease.

The Bible is plain when it comes to the enemy’s plans. Jesus said it best, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10a, NIV) Two times the writer of Proverbs warned his readers: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25, NIV) If you choose impurity, you will be robbed, killed, destroyed. If you choose purity, you will live.

Jesus, in contrast to our enemy, the devil whom our Savior has conquered, has “come that [we] may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b, NIV)

Choose purity! Set an example for your fellow believers. Show your peers that the pressure can be overcome by God’s grace and power. You will never regret following God’s way for you. You will never regret helping a friend courageously resist temptation.

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Set an example in faith...

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith…” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)

My younger friends, there are two different ways – they’ll sound like opposites when you hear them – that you can lead by example in the area of faith.

First, you can be passionate about what you believe God is calling his church to do. Like Joshua and Caleb, you can lovingly and energetically insist, “God has given us this land! We should go up and take it! With God on our side, we can do it.”

Your enthusiastic urging may be just what the church needs to take a bold step of faith.

The second way you can set a faith example is by humbly submitting to the church’s decision when things don’t go your way. Being willing to step aside when others disagree with the direction the church needs to take shows maturity. The mature person of any age, when the church has sought the Holy Spirit together, chooses to trust the discernment and insight of the people of God. Faith is shown in great measure when a passionate young person submits to God’s direction as he’s spoken to the entire church.

Can we be honest? The first kind of faith is a whole lot easier to express than the second kind. As a young person you are so full of energy for God. You trust God and are willing to risk much for the kingdom. “With God all things are possible,” is your mantra.

But trusting God’s people. That’s another story. You’re just a bit suspicious of those who disagree with what you think you’re hearing from Jesus.

It took me a long time to come to the place where I was willing to accept the fact that God is more likely to speak plainly to the church as a whole than he is to any one individual. I wish it wasn’t true, but trusting the church to hear God’s voice and discern his direction came hard for me. I’m thankful that I have left that mistrust behind.

My young friends, watch what happens in church business meetings when believers disagree on an issue. Passions will be high at the beginning as everyone states their opinion. It can, at times, sound like people are mad at each other. Then something amazing takes place. As the discussion continues, differences start to disappear, opinions are less forcefully pushed. And, usually, a better solution or a better plan than either side could have imagined coming into the meeting is proposed. That’s how God works when his people trust him to speak to the church. I’ve seen it time after time after time after time in the churches I’ve been a part of.

So set an example for believers in faith. Be passionate about your trust in God. Express what you believe he is telling you. Allow him to work in your heart and redirect you when the church meets together and hears something new and better than you imagined.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finding time for...

Something to think about...

I get a fair amount of “Where do you find the time to ____?” comments from people.

Here’s where I get the time: I don’t watch much TV. I watch 30 min. per day or less, and usually only 10-15 minutes.

That doesn’t make me better or more spiritual or anything else. I can certainly waste many hours on line, which is just as bad. But it does explain where I “find” time to do more important things: Bible study, prayer, service, exercise, family time, etc.

OK, I watch some TV, but I am deliberate about what I watch and when I watch it. I don’t just sit down to watch whatever is on. I’m glad to see that my daughters picked up on the habits of my wife and me. They have their favorite shows but are surgical in their viewing habits and don’t waste endless time watching TV.

The average person watches four hours of TV per day. Four hours per day! That’s 28 hours per week. So when I hear that I have no sympathy for people claiming to want to do more things for their faith (again, Bible reading, service, prayer) or their health if they can’t find a way to just cut back 10% of their TV watching.

If people could just skip one half hour show three times a week and go for a walk it would do wonders for their health and well being. In fact, that would do more to improve the average health of the nation than any politically driven reforms by either party.

Sorry for the sermon, but if people would take an eternal perspective and realize just how much they are missing out on participating in God’s kingdom it would do great things for their lives.

I’m not saying you have to watch zero TV, or even a certain amount. Just decide to control it and not let it control you. Not only can it waste your time, but the shows and commercials are almost universally designed to make you covetous and lustful.

Map out what is truly important to you then estimate where you spend your time, then be intentional about getting the two in sync.

Guest Blogger, Neil

Set an example in love...

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love…” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)

Before we get too far, let’s define love here.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NIV)

That’s the kind of love Paul is telling you who are young to show the church by example. Having patience with those older and more cautious. Remaining humble. Speaking politely to those in authority. Looking out for the needs of others. Controlling your anger when things don’t go your way. Forgiving friends who hurt you. Protecting others rather than bullying them. Sticking with your friends when life is tough.

If you don’t see many people living that way, don’t get discouraged. Do something about it. Love! Show the way. Perhaps your love will inspire others to risk loving those close to them. Perhaps your example will melt the heart of a believer who’s heart has grown bitter over the years. Perhaps your practical expression of God’s love will win another to your Savior. Love, love, love and love some more.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Set an example in life...

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life…” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)

Last Spring Break (March 2009) a small group of youth and adults from our church spent our vacation time sprucing up Camp Quaker Haven with dozens of others from all around the Yearly Meeting. The youth from Argonia Friends were great examples to the believers there. They worked hard from sun up to sun down. They painted for hours on end without much complaining. They hauled downed trees and dug trenches and carried heavy loads and tore down stuff. They did whatever was asked of them all week long. When others took time off to play, they kept working. I was so proud of them. They were good examples in the way they lived and worked that week.

Self-indulgence is the norm among the youth of our day. In reality it’s the norm among America adults too. The baby boomers refuse to grow up. In fact, I read this recently on “Baby boomers, now well into middle age, are still turning on to illegal drugs, doubling the rates of illicit drug use for the older generation, according to U.S. government statistics released on Wednesday. The rates of people aged 50 to 59 who admit to using illicit drugs in the past year nearly doubled from 5.1 percent in 2002 to 9.4 percent in 2007 while rates among all other age groups are the same or decreasing, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported.” ( - Aug. 19, 2009)

Self-discipline is uncommon in our nation. Those youth seeking to follow God and set an example for believers in life will be noticed if they live a life of selflessness. Their sacrificial lifestyle, their willingness to give themselves wholeheartedly to their work, will shine brilliantly in this dark world.

“Let your light shine before men,” Jesus said, “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16, NIV)

While it’s true that salvation “is by grace…not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is also true that you “are…created in Christ Jesus to do good works...” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)

Kids, teens, young adults – set an example for your parents, your grandparents, your older friends. Do the good things God created you to do. Work hard, not only when your boss or your parents or your teacher is watching to win favor, but all the time. “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men…” (See Ephesians 6:5-8 for more.)

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Levi's in...

Levi Leipheimer has inked a two-year deal with Lance Armstrong's new RadioShack team, the U.S. cyclist confirmed Tuesday.

"There were other possibilities, but I've signed with the best team in the world, an American team that's going to sign more American riders," Leipheimer said.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong announced the new team during the Tour de France. He finished third overall in the Tour while racing for Astana, his first participation in the race since securing his seventh yellow jersey in 2005, after which he retired.

Leipheimer, one of Armstrong's Astana teammates, broke his right wrist in stage 12 of the Tour and was forced to withdraw.

Leipheimer said he plans to race the Tour of California, the Dauphiné Libéré and the Tour de France in 2010.

"Those are my three favorite races and top my objectives for next year," he said.

Belgian media reported last week that Belgians Sebastien Rosseler and Gert Steegmans are set to join the new RadioShack squad, which is set to be managed by current Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel.

Bruyneel, who has accumulated nine Tour de France victories as a team manager - seven of which were with Armstrong – still has to negotiate his way out of the remaining year left on his contract with Astana.

VeloNews (Agence France Presse - 9/1/2009)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Set an example in speech...

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech…” (1 Timothy 4:12, NIV)

I ran across a YouTube video this week that set me to thinking on this matter. The pastor in this video is preaching about God’s desire for marriages to be strong. He seems to be genuinely concerned for the people he’s speaking to. You can tell he wants healing to come to every relationship that’s been messed up by sin.

Then, while sitting on a stool talking about what God wants for husbands and wives, he uses an unbelievably vulgar word. I mean, we’re talking an R-rated word – a word that’s inappropriate in any setting, let alone a church service. And he seemed unrepentant. He didn’t stop and apologize. He didn’t blush. He just kept preaching like nothing had happened.

That my friends is not how God wants us to speak. It is not the example the young are called to set for believers. Unfortunately, it is the kind of language far too many are using on a regular basis.

In Ephesians 4:29 Paul says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

Filthy language, coarse joking, using God’s name in vain – are all unwholesome. They’re uncalled for whether they’re spoken out loud or abbreviated on Facebook or Twitter or Messenger. OMG. IFLY. LMAO. WTF. All inappropriate.

Reject the world’s standards. Ignore your peers when they say it’s no big deal. How you speak matters! Don’t gossip. Don’t slander. Don’t insult. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up…”

Make it a point to encourage others whenever you can. Make it your practice to always speak the truth in love. Make sure your words draw people to Jesus rather than chase them away from him.

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