Monday, July 31, 2006

Finishing Well

If you follow this blog to the end, I'll get to my devotional time this morning.

I had the privilege of hearing Dan Webster speak on authentic leadership (focusing on the heart, and not the head of leadership). One of the points he brought out was that 70% of leaders don't finish well. Check out that stat - 70%. That's crazy. He gave 3 reasons for that. Complacency / Laziness; Temptation; Discouragement.

Now I realize that some of the people reading this don't think of themselves as leaders. However, we all have people that look up to us and you never know what leadership roles you'll be in some day.

I think of Zidane (in French; or here) (French soccer player who head-butted an Italian player in the last few minutes of the World Cup Final this year), one of the world's greatest soccer players, and what so many (even nominal) soccer fans will remember him for is a head-butt and helping his team lose the Cup.

I think of Bill Clinton, a man whose ability to lead was surpassed only by his inability to control himself morally. Whatever his legacy, no one will ever forget Monica.

King Saul and King Solomon started off well, but ended horribly. King Uzziah did the same. You can make your own list of people who didn't finish well.

In my devotions this morning I was reading about King Josiah - the 8 year old boy who became King and really turned things around. He found the book of the law and started following it. After following the passover regulations, 2 Chronicles 35:18 - "No Passover like it had been kept in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet..." It sounds great - and it was.

But... instead of listening to God's messenger (2 Chronicles 35:20-24), he went to war and was killed. How sad to have such an amazing life and yet finish poorly.

I worry about finishing poorly. I have some histroy in my family of doing that. I think our best defense against finishing poorly is a tight walk with God and very sober judgment of self. We must know our weaknesses and set up defenses against them. Where are you weakest (complacency, temptation, discouragement)? What defenses can you put in place?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Commitment and Surrender - from Dan Webster

Dan Webster was the Youth Pastor at Willow Creek - when it had 1700 students coming to youth group and 200 adult sponsors. I was privileged to hear him at a retreat on leadership (the character / heart aspects of leadership, not the skills stuff) and this is one part of what he shared. I used it, along with the stuff from DeMoss on brokenness, in preaching on Sunday. I thought some might enjoy it (though "enjoy" may not be the perfect term).

COMMITMENT challenges us to a higher level of determination

SURRENDER calls us to yield our soul to God’s higher purposes

COMMITMENT is me saying that I’ll do better

SURRENDER is giving up and allowing God to do His work through me

COMMITMENT is my best effort

SURRENDER is God’s competency working through me

COMMITMENT is writing big impressive verbal checks

SURRENDER unleashes the grace that can cash them

COMMITMENT is me trying

SURRENDER is me trusting

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

ZAIRE - the DRC - "My Home"

Many times in my life I've had people sound very interested in the fact that I grew up in Africa. Usually that interests lasts less than a minute. If, for some reason, you are interested in knowing about the country I love so much, check out this link (thank you Peter Transburg for it).

The country is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It was Zaire when I lived there and was called the Belgian Congo before that.

I believe it was Time Magazine that just called it the most dangerous place in the world to live. It's a huge tragedy.

I dream of taking my family back there some day to show them where I grew up and to meet my friends. I nearly cry every time I think of doing that ("Lori - this is where I played soccer every day... this is where I built a fort... this is where I was born... this is where my first rememberable memory is" (getting spanked naked on the front porch at Kala)).

So check out the link and read just a bit about this country - the size of the U.S. east of the mississippi... a country rich in precious metals and diamonds... a country with enough potential through water power (hydro-electric) to give electricity to the whole continent, I believe... a country I still often call home.

Yes, these pictures are normal - a typical bridge (I've seen far worse) and a typical road during rainy season. Yeah - we don't mess around with Fords and Chevys much - just Toyotas.

Monday, July 17, 2006


"Brokenness." Here's a word you won't see used positively in this world. To try and write about it is scary - am I so full of pride that I think I have this brokenness thing down? Hopefully not. I guess I just put it on here to invite others to join me on this journey. I am going to preach this Sunday - and a huge part of the message is on brokenness - but I'm scared to even go there. How do you preach it?

Let me highly suggest that you check out the following link. It's from Nancy Leigh DeMoss - Revive Our Hearts - and it's amazing. "The Heart That God Revives - Proud People vs. Broken People."

In case you doubt how brutally good this stuff is, let me give you a couple lines.

Proud people focus on the failures of others, while Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have to prove that they are right, while Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people desire to be a success, while Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others, while Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

There's even a study of sorts (but no answers - so it may not be quite as useful as it could be -but is still pretty good). Click here and then click on "Study Outline: Brokenness - the Heart that God Revives". It's great stuff.

Let me know you were here, whether you liked it or not.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Rosebud Report - finally

First of all - come to Sunday School this Sunday and hear all about it. The following is my very simple report of all that God did.

The bulk of the pics will have to be on another post - cause I can't get this to load them right now.

This trip to Wood, South Dakota, was my best-ever missions trip. I say that most years, and it's true. There is no good way to explain it all. The best thing a person could do would be to come to Church this Sunday and stay for Sunday school and hear all about it. I'll try to tell a bit about our trip - at least the parts that matter.

The word of the trip was "surprise". Thanks Kyle - and last comic standing. It's a great word and people all over Iowa and some on the Rosebud are saying it a lot. It's the last word we heard yelled at us across the town as we left.

It may be fitting. I really believe God surprised us in many ways. He works in different ways in us individually and as a group each year. I was surprised by God's moving on the Reservation in general. A long story made short. The first night they brought in an unsaved man who told us that last year when he saw us he told his son - don't go near those white people. They will steal you. He said many things, and was quite serious. He talked about how to the Indians, "wounded knee" happened yesterday. He said we had a chance to be the first honest white person many of them had ever seen. He stayed for our worship time and was amazed - and through relatives, called the local radio station and they came and broadcast our worship time on the radio live. Then they made us do a community concert and broadcast that live. We couldn't have done any of that had we tried to pay them to do it. SURPRISE - thanks God.

A bigger surprise to us (though not to anyone else, it seems) was what happened in Wood. Over this past year, the kids from the main house in "housing" (Indian part of our town of 70) were taken out of the house and dispersed across the state due to abuse from an uncle or someone. Even a week before we came back none of them were home and our contact knew nothing about them coming home. The crazy part - the day we showed up, these kids were back and were unpacking. We had prayed that day that they would return - but could hardly believe it when they did. I'm not sure I had any faith that they would be there - only faith that God could do it if He really wanted to. Major SURPRISE!!!

I was SURPRISED by some conversations we had with adults. Adults who told us that what we are doing is vital and important. Adults who told us that their kids have been waiting for us to come for weeks. Adults who told us that they won't even talk to religious people who come to their door, but actually encourage their kids to come and to work hard at memorizing verses. Relationships are being built that we pray will be used to accomplish great things for God.

As a youth pastor, a key reason for going is for my own kids. I was very moved by how God worked in them. I heard the most amazing things said by them as they shared how God was showing them their sin and working in their hearts. It was an amazing week of God's work in us - SURPRISE.

The dorms we normally stay in were not available this year so 100 of us piled into Pastor Gus' church. I thought it would be rough in many ways. The 3 of us guys on the trip only took one shower. Things went so well and the complaining was minimal to none. Wow. SURPRISE.

I believe it's God's timing that has us now really contemplating trying to bring some of the students back hear for a week. Pastor Gus, the pastor we work with and an Indian, told us that he believes the only hope these people have is to get off the reservation for a few years and really get their feet planted on the ground. Pray with us about bringing students back here.

This little recap is too short and wimpy to begin to try to tell all that God did. I hope you'll talk to our students and really press them for info on how God worked in them and what He is doing on the Rosebud. I pray too that many young people and adults will consider joining us next year as we head back.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jonathan Peter Olson is here

Jonathan Peter Olson (last blog switched the 2 names around - but I fixed it). He's great and his siblings love him.

Here are a few quick pictures.