Friday, October 31, 2008


Tomorrow is All Saint's Day -- November 1st. It used to be called All Hallows or Hallowmas - hence, the day before was called All Hallows Eve, which eventually morphed to be called Halloween. We don't celebrate All Saint's Day in our circles so much because it is really a one-two punch. All Saint's Day is a feast day honoring those who have attained heaven - followed by All Soul's Day - November 2nd - remembering those faithful who have died but have not yet been purified and reached heaven - in limbo up to this point.

So, we depart from that way of thinking. However, it would do no harm to pause for a moment to remember those who have gone before us - those who fought the good fight - those who finished the race well - those who have already heard the words we wait to hear someday, "Well done, good and faithful servant" - those who have paved the path - those who have given their lives to the cause of Christ ... saints as well as martyrs ... Billy Graham - Jonathon Edwards - believers in China and other countries who have died for their faith - William Carey - Watchman Nee - George Whitefield - Charles Spurgeon - John Knox - most of the original disciples of Jesus - Peter Cartwright - Chrysostom - the Sunday School teacher who taught you when you were a kid but isn't with us anymore - Charles Finney - Adinorum Judson - William Tyndale - John Wesley - Martin Luther - David Livingstone - Billy Sunday - John Huss - Ignatius - Dwight Moody - William Tyndale - John Wycliffe - Polycarp - John Bunyan - your parents or grandparents who were models of Christ-like living - Stephen, from the Old Testament - the Unknown Christian - and so many more.

But really ... if we have a faith in Christ, then WE are saints NOW, aren't we? The word 'saint' ought not be reserved for that little 90-year old lady in church who is now too old to sin! "SAINT!" That's YOU ... right NOW. So, congratulations tomorrow ... on All Saint's Day ... and rejoice in your salvation, that God has made you a saint by your faith in Christ.

Philippians 4:21 - "Salute every saint in Christ Jesus." (KJV)

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


It's great sitting with our staff pastors on a day like today - meeting with them one-by-one, listening to them talk about their vision for the future of our church for youth and children and single young adults and small groups/discipleship and worship/creative arts and Christian Life School.

We have a group of committed staff members - pastors - men and women who love people - visionary thinkers and creative doers - a loyal and trusted group - competent people - servants.
Just last night, for instance - we had 1,600 children and families come in costume to UNDER THE BIG TOP to play video games in the youth/children's cafes, participate in carnival games in the gym, eat cotton candy, get their face painted, bounce in inflatable bouncers, snarf down corn dogs and walk away with bags full of hard candy. What a great night to show them that we at KFA know how to have fun!
I've always had high dreams and hopes for our church, but listening to our staff talk today has pumped me up. Each one believes in what he/she is doing - each one expresses great love for our congregation - each one has ideas that we could never afford without God's help :) - and each one, in his/her own way, enthuses and energizes me for the road ahead. I'm thankful for the team we've been given.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Not long ago I had someone ask me if I preach Paul's Gospel or Jesus' Gospel. I was like, "Ummm ... huh?" I thought Jesus' Gospel WAS Paul's Gospel. There are TWO GOSPELS? (Actually, there are FOUR) ... but enlighten me, OK?" Truthfully, I think I know what they meant by the question, but I played dumb, as much to be ornery as anything probably.

The other thing I'm sometimes asked is: "Do you teach a Biblical worldview at your church?" I've heard other pastors answer this question by saying: "Oh sure. We have missionaries speak in our services several times a year. We have summer missions trips for families that are a big hit. We work hard to insure our people know the American church is not the sum total of God's work in the world. Blah, blah, blah."

Another pastor might say: "We preach thru the entire Bible every five years. We have all our teaching venues lined up to focus on the same passages, so by the time we're thru the cycle, they've been exposed to all the basic principles of Christianity and have a biblical worldview." (Sorry -- yawn.)

But -- I THINK -- a Biblical worldview is helping people think like JESUS. What did HE talk about? What did HE think about? Where did HE go? What did HE do? It is a way of making our faith practical to every situation we face each day. We ACT like Jesus 24/7 because we THINK like Jesus 24/7 -- or at least 18/7 -- we have to sleep SOMETIME.

EVERYBODY has a worldview. Our moment-to-moment decisions are shaped by the worldview we have adopted and adapted to over time, often without realizing we have done so. When we make a decision, we subconsciously run it thru mental and emotional filters that allow us to make the choices we do. That FILTER is the result of how we have organized information to make sense of the world in which we live.

Without a worldview, we'd be incapable of arriving at the hundreds of decisions we make every week because every option would seem just as appealing as every other. But a BIBLICAL worldview is a means of experiencing, interpreting and responding to reality in light of BIBLICAL PERSPECTIVE.

At the risk of sounding passe and extremely 1990's -- it is asking the question: "WWJD if He were in my shoes right now?" and then applying the answer without compromise, irregardless of how you anticipate the world reacting. (Don't know what "WWJD" means? C'MON! You have to GOOGLE IT if you don't know. Don't know what "GOOGLE IT" means? I'm giving up on you. I'm not even going to TELL you. Wow!)

Our KFA goal: Developing, instilling, marketing and multiplying a BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW in our congregation.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Last night, Joelene and I had the privilege of being part of a 25th anniversary renewal of vows (and reception) for a great couple in our church. That is a wonderful milestone that deserves to be celebrated in some grand style. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS MARRIED TO THE SAME PERSON. No regular feat today. Joelene and I celebrated our 27th earlier this year.

When you think about it, it's pretty amazing. Twenty-five YEARS. That's 300 months ... 1,300 weeks ... more than 9,000 days ... 218,000 hours ... 14 million seconds of marriage.

Twenty-five years ago. 1983. Some of our readers weren't alive yet. But here are some things that happened that year, just to give you an idea of what our wonderful, happily married couple celebrating 25 years of wedded bliss has slogged thru these past 2.5 decades:

* The ARPANET officially changes to using the Internet Protocol, creating the Internet.

* The International Olympic Committee restores Jim Thorpe's Olympic medals to his family.

* Björn Borg retires from tennis after winning five consecutive Wimbledon championships.

* The final episode of M*A*S*H is broadcast, becoming the most watched television episode in history, with 125 million viewers.

* The United States Football League begins its first year of competition.

* The Nashville Network (TNN) begins broadcasting.

* President Ronald Reagan makes his initial proposal to develop technology to intercept enemy missiles called the Strategic Defensie Initiative (DSI).

* A suicide bomber destroys the United States embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 63 people.

* Michael Jackson's song "Beat It," hits number 1 on the Billboard music charts.

* First publications of the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS shows up in the journal, "Science."

* Pioneer 10 becomes the first manmade object to leave the solar system.

* Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space

* New York Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield accidentally kills a seagull during a baseball game and is charged by police for his "act of cruelty to animals."

* Peter Jennings hosts his first broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight as sole anchor - as does Tom Brokaw for NBC Nightly News.

* Korean Air Flight KAL-007 is shot down by a Soviet Union jet fighter when the commercial aircraft enters Soviet airspace. All 269 on board are killed.

* Vanessa Williams becomes first African-American Miss America.

* Ameritech Mobile Communications (now Cingular) launches the first US cellular network in Chicago.

* U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut hit by truck bomb, killing 241 U.S. servicemen.

* President Ronald Reagan signs a bill creating Martin Luther King Day.

* An estimated 100 million people watch the controversial made-for-television movie "The Day After," depicting the start of a nuclear war.

* The last day that the AT&T Bell System exists before being broken up by the U.S. Government.

So you can see how much history our happy couple has outlasted in 25 years together. Here's to the NEXT 25.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 24, 2008


This month is Pastor Appreciation Month -- and I'm not tooting my own horn since I am one - but I got some pictures of our Asia trip from one of the guys who was along and they are great. I was looking at pics of one of the highlights of the trip when we were ministering to other pastors in Manila, the Philippines.

I identified with those pastors so much. Even though they're on the other side of the world, you know they go thru some of the same things we go thru here as pastors - family pressures, training, inadequacy, stress, friendships, direction, difficult people, etc. So, that gave me a heart for them. The pic above is me speaking to that same group of Filipino pastors.

On that note, when the Pew Forum on Religion spoke recently with pastors across the United States, here is what they learned:
* 90% of pastors were inadequately trained to cope with the demands of ministry

* 80% believed ministry had negatively affected their families

* 75% reported a significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry

* 70% said they developed a lower self-image than when they started in ministry

* 70% do not have another person they consider a close friend

* 50% felt unable to meet the rigors of the job

* 43% said a church ‘faction’ forced them to resign

* 33% said being in the ministry is an outright hazard to them and their families

* 23% said they had been fired at least once
Now -- I MUST say that most of those things above have not been my experience, but many pastors suffer in their calling. So, please pray for us as pastors. We need that from you. I can't think of a better gift during Pastor Appreciation Month than that.
And be blessed.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


It’s exciting being the church in America today. It’s tremendous being part of the church in Kenosha specifically. Nevertheless, there are some disturbing trends at play in the church nationwide that we should be aware of in order to manage our own approach to ministry in 2008 and beyond.

* North America is the only continent where Christianity is not growing.

* Five hundred billion dollars has been spent on ministry in the U.S. in the last 15 years with no appreciable growth.

* During the last ten years, the national population has risen 11.4% but membership in all Protestant denominations combined has declined by 9.5%. (NOTE: The Assemblies of God is actually growing in America, albeit only by about 2% per year.)

* Every year in our country, 3,500 to 4,000 churches close.

* Growth rates of Evangelical churches have generally been sorted by size. One interpretation is that smaller churches are helped by their intimacy while larger churches are helped by their ministry excellence. The challenge presented to ‘mid-sized’ churches is that they are too large to be intimate and too small to have the level of excellence larger churches have. They are ‘stuck in the middle.’

* Established churches that were more than 25 years old, on average, declined in attendance.

* Of the 95 million Americans aged 18 to 41, about 60 million say they have already made a commitment to Christ which is very important to them. However, only about 3 million of them have a Biblical worldview. Elements of a Biblical worldview would be:
- I believe Jesus lived a sinless life
- I believe God is the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present Creator of the universe
- I believe salvation is a free gift from God and cannot be earned
- I believe Satan is real
- I believe a follower of Christ has some responsibility to share faith with another
- I believe the Bible is accurate in all its principles
- I believe unchanging moral truth exists and is defined by the Bible

Beyond that, look at the attitude of followers of Christ:
* 80% of Christians say the primary purpose of the church is for their personal comfort and care
* 21% of active churchgoers have invited someone to church
* 2% have invited an unchurched person
* The average church attendees miss 12 to 15 weekends per year

So what?
My generation used to sit around bonfires singing "Kum Ba Yah" (no - seriously!) or "We are One in the Bond of Love." Today's generation may be better served by meeting at Starbucks or lighting candles or having prayer stations. Every generation of Christian tends to think the methods and styles used to effectively engage THEM and their peers are STILL the most effective methods and styles. It's worse when a group believes their particular approach is the ONLY valid Biblical one. That kind of thinking leads to dysfunctional systems because there is no single approach that works with all people in all cultures at all times and in all places. If there were, there would be no need for cross-cultural training for missionaries going to foreign cultures, something most Christians readily accept. The cultural and ethnic diversities in North America have completely changed the face of our population - and having said that, the effective approaches have also completely changed.

My heart is to have a church that honors substance over style - a church that understands some of the old wineskins will burst when we pour the new wine in - the old skins cannot tolerate the transformation. A church whose DNA is ripe for change because ... change is inevitable. I believe we're getting there. We're too close to stop now. I see it and hear it in the hearts and voices of people I meet in our church lobby every week. The message is seeping in. It's good. Let's keep going.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Because on SOME days, I'm pretty much a useless treasure of mindless facts -- all from those growing up days of doing crossword puzzles and word games for hours on end -- and reading World Almanacs front to back, memorizing the 50 states in order from biggest to smallest, alphabetically, when the entered the Union and by population (much of which I still know) - and World Almanacs that my mother still buys for me at Christmas 40 years later (Thanks, Mom!) ... because of all THAT, today is a throwback to those times for me -- and because you're reading my blog -- for you as well.

Did you know ...
* Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing?

* The slogan on New Hampshire license plates is 'Live Free or Die' and are manufactured by prisoners in the state prison at Concord?

* David Prowse was the guy in the Darth Vader suit in "Star Wars." He spoke all of Vader's lines, and didn't know he was going to be dubbed over by James Earl Jones until he saw the screening of the movie himself?

* There are only thirteen blimps in the world. Nine of the thirteen blimps are in the United States. The largest existing blimp is the Fuji Film blimp?

* The white part of your fingernail is called the lunula?

* Madrid is the only European capital city not situated on a river?

* The Boston University Bridge is the only place in the world where a boat can sail under a train driving under a car driving under an airplane?

* Emus cannot walk backwards?

* Shakespeare was 46 when the King James Version of the Bible was written. In Psalm 46, the 46th word from the first word is 'SHAKE,' and the 46th word from the last word is 'SPEAR?'

* The top layer of a wedding cake, known as the groom's cake, traditionally is a fruit cake. That way, it will save until the first anniversary? (And way beyond that, I'm just guessing.)

* Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten?

* The 1957 Milwaukee Braves were the first baseball team to win the World Series after being relocated?

I find that stuff FASCINATING. Sorry.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


A few years ago, a poll came out listing Kenosha, Wisconsin one of the most liveable, safest cities in the United States. I guess I was a little surprised. I mean, I love Kenosha, but "THE MOST LIVEABLE - SAFEST CITY IN THE U.S.A.?" Wow! High praise indeed. I don't know that it retains that status, but at one point, according to one poll, it did.

Having recently been in Manila, the Philippines, I guess I know why. Driving is WAY safer here. The traffic in Manila was amazing. Cars, trucks, buses and jeepneys (think a Jeep with a low bus attached to the back of it - seating comfortably for 16 - if by 'comfortable, you like sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder-ness) vying for the same space with slivers of daylight in between vehicles - whizzing by left and right. Not only that, but I don't think I've ever been in a city where the traffic was THAT backed up. To travel 5 miles routinely takes an hour. If you want to go 10 miles, better plan 1.5 to 2 hours - every day.

So on THAT basis, I guess the relative slow pace of Kenosha is a blessing. And then, I was reading some of Alan Nelson today and he was saying that 'speed kills.' Maybe.

He was saying, and I agree, that in his work with churches seeking change, he's heard more than his share of horror stories of change attempted too fast with disastrous results. But the problem was really a readiness issue, not speed itself.

With the pace of life today, I'm convinced that LACK of speed is more dangerous than moving too quickly. We feel satisfied to do what we did last year, making ministry 'tweaks' instead of significant improvements. We're at far greater risk going too slow than going fast.

Just like Alan Nelson, I hit the big 5-0 next year - in 2009. It's way down in September, so I have tons of time to pout about it before it actually happens - and hopefully I won't be saying that too much over the next 11 months - I'll try not to. But this whole thing of speed on my behalf may have something to do with that.

If you're in that place in life - or close to it - you're probably like me and Alan - contemplating what you're going to do with the remaining years God has given you. Does that sound morbid? Not at all. It's exciting. And we probably shouldn't delay in driving change. Life is too short and eternity is too long to putter. So -- pick up the pace.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Well -- my ears have been completely clogged up for the past 6 days now -- first starting back last week while I was in the Philippines. I keep hoping/waiting for them to 'unstick.' It wasn't because of the plane ride, but due to some sinus problems I developed while over there.

I have been walking around talking alternately either too SOFT or too LOUD -- with people saying, "Pipe down!" or "Speak up!" If it has ever happened to you, you know the misery of it. I keep rubbing both ears in hopes that it will cause something to 'pop' in there and fix it. And then I have been covering the left ear and the right ear and back and forth, testing to see if they have improved. Yesterday during worship at church, I could hear nothing except my own voice singing loudly in my head cave. It gives you some compassion for people who struggle with hearing loss or who have to wear hearing aids or even those who are deaf.

It reminds me of a ministry (and a plug) that Radiant Church out in Colorado Springs has ( I was privileged to travel with Executive Pastor Paul Kolbeck during my trip to southeast Asia this month. Great guy. He mentioned that they have one of the largest deaf ministries in the country there at their church, with separate services, ministries and facilities for their deaf congregation and their families. What a great ministry.

Anyway -- I THINK -- today -- my ears unplugged on their own. Actually, I'm not completely SURE. I keep running water in the sink to see if it sounds 'tinny' -- or turning bathroom fans on and off -- or covering one ear at a time and then singing like a fool -- to test whether I'm hearing it fully or not. Like I said, I'm not completely sure, but I THINK I may be back. Time will tell.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Today was the wrap-up of our six weeks of ONE MONTH TO LIVE. It was a great run. Over 800 of our people got themselves into small groups. Way to go! And kudos to our Life Development Director, Lisa K., for her passion and vision and direction to get us all there.
The four pillars of ONE MONTH TO LIVE have been:
live passionately
love completely
learn humbly
leave boldly
In the movie ‘SECONDHAND LIONS,’ two old curmudgeons, Hub and Garth, played by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall, assume the care of Hub’s 10-year old nephew, Walter, played by Joel Haley Osment, after his mother abandons him. The two men are at first reluctant hosts and Uncle Hub begrudges Walter the little food he eats and the small space he takes up. The two old men live in a dilapidated farmhouse and spend most days sitting on their old porch, shotguns straddling their laps, nursing giant grudges against the world and taking potshots with their guns at any traveling salesmen foolhardy enough to venture near. They want to be left alone to die quietly in their misery. In their own words: “THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT NOTHIN.’”

But the boy’s presence works a miracle. Their withered hearts slowly grow young again, learning to love once more. They start to hunger for more. They begin to spend their enormous fortune. Apparently they possess a mysterious cache of money hidden somewhere on their land – and they end up spending it on everything from garden seeds and tools to a catapult that flings plates skyward for shooting practice – to a Red-baron style airplane and a secondhand lion – a mangy old feline who just wants, like they did, to finish her days in undisturbed silence.

As the old men’s hearts wake up, they tell Walter their story, bit by bit. Uncle Hub was once a swashbuckling adventurer, and Garth his trusted sidekick. Together, they live an enchanted, dangerous life, routing armies, plundering treasures, rescuing damsels in distress. Together, they outwitted a cunning enemy, an Arabian sheik, Uncle Hub’s rival, for the love of his life – beautiful Jasmine.

Walter is never sure whether to believe these stories. He wants to, but they’re so exotic and these arthritic cranky old men bear little resemblance to the legendary heroes they describe in their stories.

The two old men, in their closing days, become every bit as outrageous as they claimed to have been in their youth. They finish well. They die in their nineties, full of days, joyriding their plane with such reckless abandon they crash it upside down into the barn door.

Walter, now grown, comes to survey the scene of their death. As he stands outside the house, a helicopter rises overhead and lands nearby. A handsome young man, around his age, steps out. He is dark-skinned and Middle Eastern. Walter realizes it is the grandson of the legendary Arabian sheik, Hub’s rival. Both men grew up hearing fantastic stories of sword fights and narrow escapes and buried treasures and both wondered if they could be true. The sheik’s son looks at everything – the farm, the barn, the hole where the plane hit.

So,” he says, astonished – ‘It’s true after all. They really lived.’

Walter smiles. ‘Yesthey REALLY lived.’

And THAT’S my hope and prayer for all of us as we continue beyond the ONE MONTH TO LIVE series. May we live lives worthy of our calling – not hoarding – not living begrudgingly – but gladly spending and being spent for the Kingdom, making every moment count every day of our lives - so that when we’re gone and the dash is finished. our epitaph will be, “THOSE CRAZY FOLKS OVER THERE AT KFA --- THEY REALLY LIVED."
And be blessed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Day 6 - Into Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is a city of over 12 million people - and the remarkable thing about it is ... 30 years ago it was only a fisherman's village. Today it is a city with skyscrapers that run for 30 miles down the coast. Amazing. That's a lot of concrete, trust me.

We had another 'dim sum' lunch while in Shenzhen, which is an amazing assortment of hors d'oevres type Chinese food served on a huge lazy susan at a round table. The game is to transfer the food from the lazy susan to your plate with a set of chopsticks before the food circles past you - no small feat, but a lot of fun. One of the highlights of lunch were these deep-friend shrimp, head and everything - on a long toothpick skewer. You just eat the whole crunchy thing, head and all. Guess what? I did. No problem.

We met a pastor of one of the home churches there in China. The Chinese Christians have a ton of passion for God. We would be jealous. The estimate is that most home churches in China - not endorsed by the government - have 20-30 people in each. Because of the size of the nation and the relative undercover arrangement of the house churches, it is impossible to know how many Christians are really in the country, but we KNOW it is growing, as does the government. In fact, Chinese 'missionaries' are taking over Africa and the Middle East. The word is that the U.S. has pretty much sealed its fate in the Middle East and the country that will send missionaries in to transform that part of the world for Christ is China. The Middle Eastern nations and Arab Northern Africa are embracing the nation of China (as end times predict) - but the GOOD NEWS is that they will also embrace the Chinese missionaries and they will make spectacular gains for Christ in those countries in the coming years. We have to help the Chinese get trained to do that, since our presence will be less welcoming in those places. It's still missions, just a new 'face' on it.

A very few of us on the trip met privately with a man -- (and I have to be careful what I say here) -- but he had been in prison for over 30 years and had been chained, bound and beaten for years -- all because he was a believer - no other reason. He had been released from jail and I cannot tell you how much joy he had. He counted it a privilege to suffer for the cause of Christ. His testimony made me emotional and he was such an example of what a true believer is. China is filled with such believers.

That evening we had some ministry at a certain place filled with young professional adults within China. They were eager to hear the Gospel and about subjects related to the Gospel. We spent about two hours ministering to them that night. Very powerful moments.

Day 7 - We went shopping in Shenzhen at the most 'brutal' market I have ever been to. The sellers there would not leave you alone - touching you, grabbing you, calling you over. My 'extreme height' didn't help me at all. I have been to other such markets in Mexico, India, Barbados and other places, but this took the cake by far.

In the evening, we got back to Hong Kong for our evening flight to Manila, the Phililppines. When we arrived late that night, the heat knocked me over. Ninety degrees at night - and steamy hot. WOW! My roomie for the rest of the trip was my friend, Sam Farina.

Day 8 - Ministry at THE LORD'S ASSEMBLY in Manila for me and Don and Rick. The rest of the crew split up and went to other churches. THE LORD'S ASSEMBLY is led by Pastor Peter, a great man of God. I spoke on "LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH." It was a great morning of ministry for us all. Afterwards we went next door to a Chinese restaurant where we had a terrific meal, including that black fish I mentioned in the October 12th blog and some mango shakes. Delicious!

Day 8 - I discovered that California Pizza Kitchen, Chili's, Krispy Kreme, Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald's all have 'homes' in Southeast Asia. Fun. We only ate at the FIRST one though. We had supper at CPK with Russ Tierney, head of the Asia A/G Missions Department. The rest of the afternoon Sam and I worked on our presentations for the Christian Businessman/Pastors' Conference in Manila coming up.

Days 9 & 10 - Christian Businessman's and Pastors' Conference in Manila -- The businessmen we brought with us from America ministered to the Filipino businessmen -- and then the pastors on the trip ministered to the Filipino pastors the following day. This, for me, was the highlight of the trip. I loved rubbing shoulders with these great pastors and felt that our ministry was well-received. We spoke on topics such as "Breaking the Poverty Mindset," "Dreaming Bigger than You Are," and "Fulfilling Your Life Purpose."

We met Pastor Ray Calusay, who leads a great church in Roxas City, the Philippines. He is the General Superintendent of the A/G Philippines and is a little spitfire of a man, full of the Holy Spirit, passion and faith - and what an awesome communicator! A great pleasure.

At lunch, we all broke up and sat at separate tables to help those pastors sitting with us develop their own Life Purpose Statement.

Day 11 - We visited the ASIA PACIFIC A/G HEADQUARTERS in Manila. Just down a couple of floors is Mike Williams, supported by our church for many years - who heads up ICI (International Correspondence Institute) in Manila. He toured us thru his office headquarters.

I wanted to buy Joelene a pearl necklace, bracelet and earrings while in Manila (famous for pearls). So I'm a hit at home right now.

On our final day, we toured Old Manila Fort, used before and during the Spanish American War by the Spaniards as a Dachau-style concentration and killing camp. What a way to END the trip, huh?

Hey - a couple of times, I even got to work out in one of the hotel gyms. So it didn't ALL go south for those 2 weeks. Most of it did, but not ALL of it.

All in all - it was an awesome life experience. Wouldn't have traded it for anything. Can't wait to go back someday.

P.S. -- If you are reading this, A.H., (you know who you are) - YES - I REALLY WAS IN CHINA. :)

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Over the next several days, let me share some highlights of my trip to Hong Kong, China and Manila, the Philippines ...

Day 1 - We got kicked out of the Million Mile Northwest Airlines Club in Minneapolis airport. Don't worry - we didn't really do anything wrong (much) - but they kicked us out. Embarrassing. I'm going to keep you guessing on that one because I don't want to implicate one of my fellow travelers, but trust me, it was no biggie. I tried to change clothes in the airplane bathroom (picture it) - and ended up getting thrown around in there by the plane's movement - hit my head on the wall and door -- I think people outside in the cabin thought there were three people in there fighting.

My trip to Tokyo airport was sitting next to a woman who had lived in Cambodia for 15 years - doing ministry to the poor there. She is originally from Wisconsin.

We had 20 hours of flying that first day to get all the way to our final destination, Hong Kong.

Day 2 - We met our fellow travelers first in Tokyo, though - pastors and Christian businessmen from Colorado Springs (Radiant Life Church - executive pastor Paul Kolberg and businessman Ken Driscoll) -- from Charlotte, North Carolina (businessmen Buddy Goforth and Mike Chisholm - and pastor Sam Farina) -- and from Wayne New Jersey (Calvary Temple Internationa - pastor Tom Keinath). And of course, the boys from Kenosha - Don Daniels, Rick Vojtisek and me. A great group of guys.

Day 3 - STATISTICS: Seventy percent of Chinese live in rural areas. Many leave home and family to work and earn money - often up to 11 months of the year. Many times, when they get home, they no longer have a family. In a high percentage of circumstances, BOTH mother and father leave home to work while the children are raised by grandparents. This cycle continues down thru the generations.

China has two kinds of churches. The government supports in theory the THREE-SELF church. This means the church is self-propogating, self-funded and self-governing. However, government is FIRST - church is SECOND. The REAL, but unsupported church, however, is comprised of hundreds (possibly thousands) of HOME CHURCHES, spread all over the country, ministering the love of Christ in very small group settings. But the church is alive in China. Even so, neighborhood 'watchers' report suspicious ongoings to the government, so the church is always in danger. It is unlawful to speak the gospel to anyone under 18 years of age in China.

House churches face problems of their own.
- leaders are untrained - sometimes if you know how to READ, you're automatically the leader.
- a 'king' mentality breeds - leaders sometimes don't want to talk to other leaders because they are skeptical, suspicious, jealous or afraid of getting into trouble.
- heresies abound because of lack of training - (i.e. 'clapping' drives away the Holy Spirit -- Christmas and Easter aren't in the Bible so they don't celebrate them -- Christ came as a man the first time, but the second time He came as a woman -- etc.)

Day 4 - A visit to the RADIO CHINA office. Broadcasts are sent into remote areas of China via Russian towers. The office they work in in Hong Kong is only 400 square feet in area. That translates to the whole of the Gospel being shared to a country of 1.3 billion people - the largest nation on earth - from an office space 20'x20.' This is how we're going to reach China in the 21st century, vs. the age-old way of reaching them one-by-one, face-to-face.

Day 5 - We rode a tram at about a 45 degree upward incline to the top of Victoria Peak, the highest point on Hong Kong Island. Had dinner up there. At about 8 p.m., the whole of downtown HK lights up - buildings and all - they dance with lights to music every night from 8 till 8:15 p.m. Fascinating and beautiful. Hong Kong harbor is one of the most beautiful harbors I've ever seen. The entire city is pristine clean and wonderfully serviced by transportation - subway, train, cab, bus, ferry, moving sidewalks and escalators. Honestly, I have never been on that many escalators in my life while in HK.

Part two of my Asia Download tomorrow, including ministry in China and the Philippines.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Yesterday we were part of a Christian Businessman's Conference here in Manila. It's one of the main reasons we're on this trip. It is the first of its kind in this country. The General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God - a little guy with a large passion - Rey Calusay - was the force behind this new outreach to the Christian businessmen of his country. The Philippines is locked in a poverty mindset and to hear him speak to them about breaking out of that was inspiring.

Many from our team then got up and talked about their business experience as believers. Our two guys, Don Daniels and Rick Vojtisek, did a great job. I am speaking this morning to the PASTORS of the Philippines about "Dreaming Bigger than Yourself." So, I'm excited about that.

The weather continues to be so steamy you can hardly breathe -- wet all the time -- humid -- extremely smoggy from all the diesel -- downtown is covered with a blanket of 'black' -- but the people are absolutely wonderful all around. That has made it awesome.

My next post MAY be when I return on Thursday or Friday. We'll see.

PS - The people are very short here - I'd say average male being about 5'6" -- So, quite LITERALLY, I'm a big freak. :)

Be blessed.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


We're in Manila, the Philippines, for the remainder of our trip. Yesterday (well, it was yesterday for ME at least) -- I preached in a church here -- about 300 people. Lovely people and pastor. Very smiley. If you know Ed Calayag from our congregation, well, "There you go." Duplicate him 300 times and you get the idea. Loved that.

They took us to eat at a Chinese Restaurant next door to the church -- we let the Filipino pastor order FOR us -- he ordered, among other things, Lapu-Lapu. A few minutes later they brought out a really black, 18" long fish in a bucket with what looked like dirty water in it to me. The Filipino pastor nodded and 15 minutes later it was back out on a dish with a little olive stuck in its mouth for us to eat. :) And yeah, it was good.

The weather is very hot in Manila. Eighty five degrees all day easily -- and very humid. It rained yesterday for 90 minutes like the world was coming to an end - but then it stopped. The streets were real steamy the rest of the day.

I'll share more later.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Shenzhen, China is a city of about 12 million people, lying just north of Hong Kong. It is one of the busiest ports in all of mainland China. That's where I am today. The whole city is only 30 years old, which is amazing considering it's present-day population. Before that, it was just a small fishing village. One of the largest Super Wal-Marts in the world is here ... multiple stories high.

We visited a factory today where they make bluetooths. Really fascinating.

The people here are lovely ... so courteous and kind ... very smiley and sweet. It is a joy to be around them.
My food stories today are:
I ate a fish head.
I ate this deep-fried-shrimp-thing-including-head-and-eyes-on-a-skewer-that-had-been-alive-five-minutes-before-it-went-in-my-mouth thing that tasted awesome.
Along those same lines, CHOPSTICKS have to be two of the most frustrating things known to man on the planet today. How people EAT with those things is beyond me. We have eaten almost every one of our meals with them - no forks - no spoons - how many meals so far? Eight? And I'm no better at it NOW than I was when I started. This trip is more than about FOOD - WAY more - but right now, that's all I'm telling you. :)
More upon my return. WAY more.
And be blessed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


OK folks -- I'm in Hong Kong - have been for a couple of days now -- Today is Thursday -- or maybe it's Wednesday -- or possibly Friday -- I'm really not sure. It's 10:30 p.m., I DEFINITELY know that.

I don't know how many times on the trip I'll be able to post - the next few days don't look real promising. But I wanted to slip this one in here when I had the chance.

The harbor at Hong Kong is absolutely stunning. It is big and beautiful and at night, where I just came from a vista overlooking the entire harbor, is not to be missed (if you ever get here). It rivals any harbor I've ever been in. At 8 p.m. every night, the skyscrapers literally come alive. They LIGHT UP and do a laser show and the buildings change colors - some are outlined and flash - for about 15 minutes - to music piped in overhead. It's amazing. That's it in the picture above.

For lunch today we had what they call a 'dimsum' lunch. "Dimsum" just means "small portions" basically. And that's what they were. Picture yourself at a large round table with ten others - and a giant lazy susan on the table constantly rotating these little hors d'oerves of Chinese fare. You can take as much as you want and eat until you collapse (which is how any decent American treats such a buffet).

So, the lunch provided today was an assortment of the following:
Rice wrapped in seaweed. I, of course, was the only one at my table who actually tried to eat the seaweed wrap ALSO. After my third bite someone at the table told me I wasn't supposed to eat that part. So I stopped. At least you can say THIS for me, I'm the same in the States as I am anywhere - stupid.
A mushroomy shaped thing covered in gray sauce ...
A green cylindrical shaped vegetable - no, not green beans - no, not celery - no, not asparagus - no, not that other vegetable you're thinking --- as of yet it is unidentified.
A clear-skinned thing filled with brown stuff ...
A puffy white thing filled with off-white stuff ...
A squishy meatball thing ...
And a lot of other stuff I can't even begin NOT to describe.

But you know what? It was all very, very yummy. Very good.

OK - that's it for now. I'm dead tired. I had a 19 hour flight (combination of flights) to get here -- and they ran us from 7:30 a.m. till 10 p.m. both days so far. I'm dead. Not literally.

I'll talk to you again before my trip is over, hopefully. If not, please be patient with me. I'll fill you in day-by-day upon my return with real details.

And be blessed.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I will be headed to Asia tomorrow for ten days, seeing how God is at work in that part of the world as well as doing some ministry myself. A couple of men from our church are travelling with me and a few others from other churches.

The extent of my blogging remains to be seen during that period. I'll blog as often as I have the resource, time, capacity and energy.

I'd love to update you on all that is happening while I'm there. Even if I have the time, I don't know that I'll be able to tell you everything going on WHILE I'M THERE. If not, when I'm back for sure.

But I'll keep you posted as often as I can. I return on October 16th.

And be blessed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


This is our FOURTH week of the ONE MONTH TO LIVE campaign. Many of our people are existing on rice for days at a time, to key in on the plight of the homeless.

This week the emphasis was "LEARN HUMBLY." Some of the coolest quotes from the "OMTL" book came out of this section ...

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything You gave me.'" -- ERMA BOMBECK

"All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -- RALPH WALDO EMERSON

"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." -- MAYA ANGELOU

"God whispers to us in our pleasures; speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." -- C.S. LEWIS

"The difference between school and life? In school, you're taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you're given a test that teaches you a lesson." -- TOM BODETT (I would amend that last part personally to say: 'In life, you're given a test to PROVE whether or not you've learned the lesson.')

"There lives in each of us a hero awaiting the call to action." -- H. JACKSON BROWN, JR.

Enjoy those and have a great ONE MONTH TO LIVE week.

And be blessed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


Back at the September 24th blog, I posted a poll asking what the age breakdown of readers of this poll were. Here are the results from that one week of polling:

GENERATION NOW - born after 1993 - no readers
MILLENIALS - born between 1982 and 1993 - 10%
BUSTERS - born between 1965 and 1981 - 39%
BOOMERS - born between 1947 and 1964 - 47%
BUILDERS - born before 1946 - 2%

Thanks for responding.

Today - we had people come into church membership via a class we do on Saturday mornings. Of those people, 3 were BOOMERS and 4 were BUSTERS. Just interesting, I guess.

And be blessed.

Friday, October 3, 2008


At the Tuesday night banquet hosted by the A/G TRUST SUMMIT in Palm Springs where I just returned from, Rick Warren spoke. Here is the final installment of that P.S. trip, spread out over these past few blogs for the sake of length … with my own thoughts sprinkled in here and there …

* It takes more than sermons to grow a person to spiritual maturity. We know that because people, after twenty years of listening to weekend messages month after month, are still prone to be jealous, negative, gossipy, unkind, impatient and enjoying ‘fried pastor’ for lunch every Sunday afternoon.

* Focus on building PEOPLE and God will build His church.

* The Gospel was both a COME and a GO Gospel to Jesus.
He said, “ComeCome and see.”
Come … all who are thirsty … and you drink from the fountain that gives living water and never runs dry.
Come … you who are weary and heavy-laden … and I will give you rest.
Come … just as you are.
However, these words of “COME,” Jesus says to the WORLD.

He also says, “Go … Go and tell.”
Go … make disciples.
Go … teaching what you have learned.
Go … and baptize them.
THESE words He says to the CHURCH.

* Jesus used a progression when He ministered. He STARTED with COME AND SEE --- but He progressed from there, layer by layer, to “Take up your cross and follow Me” … “Don’t put your hand to the plow and look back” … “Leave father and mother and be My disciple” ………
His EVENTUAL plan was to move people thru various stages of maturity till they got to the point of “COME AND DIE.” But it all STARTED with “COME AND SEE.”
The best way to get them to a COME AND DIE life place is not thru sermon after sermon, but thru consistent, healthy, transformational small group life.

* If we just TALK to people all the time without helping them DO, they’ll just become huge, giant EARS – but they’ll have little tiny HANDS … tiny FEET … tiny HEARTS.

* There are 58 commands in the Bible that are ‘one another’ commands – that you can NOT fulfill without small group life. In the New Testament, the early church met in TEMPLE COURTS (that’s ‘big church’) and they also met HOUSE-TO-HOUSE (that’s group life).

* If we aren’t careful, ministry can morph into entitlement. “SERVICE” becomes “SERVE US.”

* There are five main problems in the world … Spiritual EmptinessCorrupt GovernmentPovertyPandemic diseaseIlliteracy. These problems can only be solved by the Church today. The Church is the only true global organization in the world. We have the biggest army. There is a church in nearly every village – we speak more languages than the United Nations – we have the ability and power to mobilize the planet – we have the greatest credibility – in villages all over the globe, pastors are more trusted than government officials. There is NOTHING on the face of the earth bigger than the Church.

From the study of the scriptures, we see five things Jesus did that are also the answers to the five biggest problems the world faces today. These are unveiled in RICK WARREN’SP-E-A-C-E” PLAN:
1) He Preached reconciliation
Love God and love others. That’s it. This addresses the SPIRITUAL EMPTINESS problem.

2) He Equipped leaders. This addresses the GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION problem.
Jesus loved everybody.
Jesus fed 5,000.
Jesus trained 70.
Jesus discipled 12.
Jesus mentored 3.

3) He Assisted the poor. This addresses the POVERTY problem.
Jesus’ very FIRST sentence in His very FIRST message related in Luke chapter 4 is: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to help the poor … “

4) He Cared for the sick. This addresses the DISEASE problem.

5) He Educated the next generation. This addresses the ILLITERACY problem.
Let the little children come to me for they are the Kingdom of God,” He said. If you want to do God’s KINGDOM work, you have to care about kids.

More good stuff.

And be blessed.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, spoke at the Tuesday afternoon session of the A/G TRUST SUMMIT here in Palm Springs. God has done amazing things thru Rick. Six years ago, he wrote the book that has sold more copies in history than any book other than the Bible – “FORTY DAYS OF PURPOSE.” The book has also been translated into more languages than any book EVER, except for the Bible … well over 100 languages.

Since the writing of it, Rick has declined a salary from his church and has paid Saddleback Church back every cent they have given him over the 29 years he has pastored there. He and his wife, Kay, now live on 10% of their income and give 90% away. Now THAT is huge integrity.

DOWNLOADS from Rick’s time with us Tuesday afternoon …

* One of the ways you define maturity is by the ability to reproduce – when you start having BABIES (this relates to the mature church birthing other churches).

* There are 18,000 communities in the United States without an evangelical church presence.

1 – PERSONAL – getting right with God. When that happens, ministry stops being a duty and becomes a delight.

2 – RELATIONAL – getting right with others. When this happens, gossip goes down, harmony goes up … conflict goes down, unity goes up … confusion goes down, joy goes up.
Two important things happen when you have relational renewal … people sing better (worship) ----- and ------ people hang around after service is over (fellowship). That’s how you know it’s CHURCH and not a PERFORMANCE. People hang out.

3 – MISSIONAL – church ON PURPOSE … settling the question, “WHY ARE WE HERE AS A CHURCH?”

4 – STRUCTURAL – (this is where many churches miss it) --- you can’t put NEW wine in OLD wineskins. As an organization grows, the structure of it must change. The skills needed to pastor 300 people are totally different than those needed to pastor 2,000. It is an entirely different ‘animal.’ It is also the difference between being a ‘shepherd’ and a ‘leader/executive.’

5 – CULTURAL – this is where the church begins to change the climate of a community.

Some good stuff there. The final installment of the Palm Springs trip will be shared tomorrow.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008



Yesterday morning’s session at the Palm Springs A/G TRUST SUMMIT included the following observations from General Superintendant George Wood about our denomination and world …

Over the past five years, the Assemblies of God in the United States has seen 2.2 million people come to faith in Christ … 600,000 people have been baptized in water. That is phenomenal. Yet, there has been a net gain in actual church attendance in the A/G over the past 5 years of only 62,000 people – averaging approximately ONE PERSON PER A/G CHURCH in the United States!

In the past five years, 1,450 new A/G churches have opened … but 1,221 churches have closed – for a net gain of 229 churches.

35% of our A/G churches are under 50 people in attendance. That accounts for 6% of Sunday morning attendance in the A/G nationwide.

29% of churches average 50-99 in attendance – accounting for 27% of Sunday morning attendance.

20% average 100-199 – accounting for 18% of Sunday morning attendance.

15% average 200 – 999 – accounting for 29% of Sunday morning attendance.

1.5% average over 1,000 (KFA would be in this category) – 191 churches in all – accounting for 21% of Sunday morning attendance.

The Assemblies of God is tithing out of its own general budget toward church planting. This is being ‘missional’ at its best. Look at it this way: the National Royal Rangers Department (ministry to boys) has 13 full time people working for it at our A/G headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. There are 150,000 boys enrolled in the program nationwide. Yet, only FOUR people are in the Church Planting Department at headquarters – and THREE of them are support staff. Does that seem somewhat upside down, given the mission of Jesus when He was here?

George O. Wood, Superintendant of the A/G, revealed that he now has 5,000 friends on Facebook (I’m one of them) --- and FACEBOOK has recently shut him down, sending a message to would-be people now wanting to be his friend saying, “George has enough friends.” Apparently there is a quota for ‘friends’ on FACEBOOK.

The A/G COMMISSION ON DOCTRINAL PURITY has published some brand-new and updated position papers on the following topics:
Immigration --- Mental illness/depression --- Worship --- Divorce/remarriage

1/3 of all Assemblies of God Gospel Publishing House orders for materials are now purchased ONLINE.

The A/G is discovering that many churches who have been involved in Saturday night services are cancelling them now in favor of other times, including SUNDAY nights. This is not a throwback to the old Sunday night service. Instead, several churches have designed an environment for 18-29 year olds on Sunday NIGHT – rationale being that it is the time that age group has the most discretionary time. This Sunday night offering often has the very same content as the Sunday MORNING service, with slight tweaks in presentation, hotter music, etc.

P.S. - Because there was a lot of information here, the rest of the Tuesday afternoon and evening presentations by Rick Warren that I referred to yesterday will be unveiled here tomorrow.

And be blessed.