Monday, September 28, 2009


If you scroll down to the very bottom of this page you'll find a POLL (open for one week starting today). I would appreciate it immensely if you would participate by voting. I'm just curious about what size church you prefer at this point in your life.

I know that the readers of this blog are not restricted by any means to those who attend my church -- so I thought it might be interesting to get the mix of views on what is the 'preferred size of church environment' by those who reguarly read this blog page.

Thanks for participating.

And be blessed.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Today at the end of our service we prayed for open doors of opportunity to come our way so we could share with people who might be wondering about Christ. We talked about figuring out where our Nazareth was ... what our pain was ... and what was already in our hand for God to use.

Funny thing is ... four hours later I'm at Miller Park in Milwaukee with some men from the church for a Brewer's baseball game - final home game of the season today.

I left the park just a few minutes early and on the way out, I find myself walking next to a group of six 20-somethings. Three young women and three young men. All of them are very good-looking. That isn't really germain to the story ... but they were all VERY good-looking people. I was honored to just be walking next to them - that's how good-looking they were. I thought maybe passersby would think I was actually WITH them rather than being just a stranger randomly walking in tandem with them. Maybe someone would think I was their father or something. Actually, I don't think there's any way I was good-looking enough to be their father.

So -- on the way out, 'our group' passed a man wearing a suit and hat - preaching. A sidewalk evangelist. He was telling those who walked by that they were all going to hell - Jesus died for their sins - repent while you can - and, O yeah - if you don't, you're still going to hell. Even if you're good-looking.

We all kept walking. I glanced at the six. They were snickering predictably to one another and laying down one four-letter word after another in reference to the sidewalk evangelist. As we continued on, I overhead them getting into to a conversation about Jesus.

#1: 'Jesus DID die for your sins.'
#5: 'What are you #*$&%@ talking about?'
#3: 'That's true. He died on a cross.'
#6: 'Yeah. I heard Jesus went into hell.'
#2: 'He &@#$*! did not.'
#6: 'I've heard He did. He went into hell.'
#4: 'Jesus never went into hell. That's &$*!@ crazy.'
#6: 'No, really -- He did. He went into hell.'
#5: '@*&$!#'

At some point I couldn't stand it any longer. As we all continued walking, I caught the eye of #6 - and I went way out on a ledge and said to her: "You're right, you know. Jesus DID go into hell. I'm a pastor and I've been listening to your conversation."

I could tell #6 was feeling completely vindicated at this point and nobody challenged my authority - which was when I realized they all knew I really could actually be their father - and then I had a few moments to tell them that Jesus DID die for their sins - He DID go into hell, but only so He could grab the keys of death and the grave - and that He loved them all and was their future hope.

They didn't scoff at me - they didn't belittle me - they didn't ridicule me - they didn't laugh at me - they didn't even argue with me. They seemed interested and open. The conversation went really well and ended with:
#3: 'Thanks, man.'
#1: 'Cool.'
#6: (Grateful smile)
#5: '@$*%!&'

I bet they kept talking about it as we parted ways to go to our vehicles. It was a door of opportunity. And God managed to use a sidewalk evangelist to bring it about.

And be blessed.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


As Reggie Joiner says:

'You don't have to agree with everything I say, but could you agree with me on the following observations?'

There are two powerful influences on the planet -- the church and the home.

They both exist because God initiated them.

They both exist because God desires to use them to demonstrate His plan of restoration and redemption.

If they work together, they can potentially make a greater impact than if they work alone.

They need each other.

Too much is at stake for either one to fail.

Their primary task is to build God's Kingdom in the hearts of men and women, sons and daughters.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Yes -- I turned 50 years old today. At 1:33 this morning, September 23rd. Hard to believe - at least for ME it's hard to believe.

You know those big, round YORK peppermint chocolate patties? I love those. I picked one up today to buy and realized these particular ones, according to the promo on the packaging, had 70% less fat! So I bought and ate four of them. The large ones. Without stopping. Hey! It's my birthday. Leave me alone.

Joelene and I got the chance to sing a little Karaoke 'impromptu' something at the party (above). The selection? "Unforgettable." Appropriate. The girls sang, too (above). The selection? "Fifty Candles" (a take-off on "Sixteen Candles"). Appropriate.

The birthday party cakes are shown below. That dark one was a HO-HO cake. Notice all the HO-HO's ringing the edge all the way around. It's a little known fact that I keep a box of them under the front seat of my car just in case of an emergency. The white, Harley-Davidson one was an Italian Creme cake. They're gone now.
Thanks for all the notes, cards, e-mails, Facebook and Twitter hits - and the love.

And be blessed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Fifty years ago, there were about 1 1/2 kinds of different churches out there. Most all of them had steeples, were led by men with seminary degrees in three-piece suits or robes, in pew-filled sanctuaries with hymnals and an organist, with a sermon delivered from behind a big wooden pulpit.

Today? There are 500 1/2 kinds of churches, including an amazing number of out-of-the-box churches. Many of these - an exponentially growing number - are meeting in rented auditoriums, theatres, schools and gymnasiums, sitting on stackable chairs, singing along with rock bands, listening to conversational teaching by a guy in blue jeans.

Church growth expert Peter Wagner estimates the number of out-of-the-box churches now exceeds the number of churches in the largest Protestant denomination.

Donald Miller outlines twelve characteristics of the "New Paradigm Church:"

1. They began after 1970.

2. The majority of members were born after 1950.

3. Seminary training of clergy - optional.

4. Worship - contemporary/modern.

5. Lay leadership - highly valued and deeply empowered.

6. Small groups are intensive and extensive.

7. Clergy and congregants dress informally.

8. Tolerance of differing personal styles is prized.

9. Pastors are understated, humble and personally transparent and vulnerable.

10. Bodily, not just cognitive, worship is normative.

11. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are affirmed.

12. Bible-centered teaching predominates over topical sermonizing.

How does your/our church stack up? Which three of these would you consider have special importance for growth and the future?

And be blessed.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Once a week - every Wednesday morning early - I meet with a group of eight other lead pastors from our city - like-minded brothers all. We pray together, catch up on life together, read the Word together, gab together, talk theology and church together. Over the past three years, we have developed quite a strong bond. They are men of faith and courage and valor and example.

It underscores for me the BODY of Christ - the unified body. As we represent our congregations and pray for each others' churches, something significant happens in the spiritual world.

How very much we need that today. We need MORE than that.

Many conservative believers today won't even acknowledge that the rock star, Bono, is on the side of the angels in his personal and public war against global poverty. We see and hear denominations demonizing one another. Some churches won't work with other churches as a matter of 'principle,' whatever that means. And yet, Jesus says, 'Whoever is not against you is for you.'

In effect, Jesus demands we cease and desist and abandon our painstaking attempts to weed the field, trying to pull out each wild plant by our own gloved hand. Instead, He says, 'Tend to the wheat.' Participate in the growth of the Kingdom - the wheat - and leave the work and business of weeding the field to the Master Gardener Himself.

And be blessed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


This is the birthday that never ends, I'm afraid. Today at church, they pulled me out of the membership class I was teaching and dragged me into the main auditorium where they were showing old pictures of me and where my whole family surprised me onstage with a luscious-looking chocolate cake. Nice.

After both services in the main church lobby there was chocolate cake for everyone.

The 'touchstone' during the service today was a pair of 3-D glasses for everyone, complete with 3-D movie on screen. Is the way you see the world the way Christ sees it? Or is your view distorted?

P.S. -- On a more (much more) spiritual note, it was awesome to have John Bevere (author of "BAIT OF SATAN" and "DESTINED FOR ETERNITY") with us on Saturday evening. Twenty-five people came to faith.

And be blessed.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Our family is home from Minneapolis and my three daughters took me to lunch at the Boat House Restaurant down by the lake. Years ago, when each of them turned 18 years old, I wrote them a letter -- expressing my dreams and hopes for them -- picturing a special future -- a 'release' of sorts as well. To my surprise during lunch, they had each gift-wrapped a customized letter to ME, framed, expressing each of their personalities and love. It was awesome. We all sat there and cried. I have no clue what the waitress must have thought as she passed by and saw all of us sobbing into our fish. But it was good sobbing.

After that, I got to doze with Elias, my grandson.

Later in the evening, there was a spectacular surprise party for my 50th birthday at my home which is this coming Wednesday (pictured below). The HO-HO cake was huge and amazingly decadent. O my goodness. Thanks for all the chocolate. You shouldn't have. No, I mean it.

Then - to cap off a tremendous day - we got to have Elias in our bedroom all night - gave him his feedings - does it get any better than this? I think not.

And be blessed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today we had our pastoral staff meet with six other Wisconsin church staff teams at our place to begin the adventure of LIFE DEVELOPMENT RESOURCE training with Mel Ming (pictured).

I had the privilege and pleasure of traveling to Seattle earlier this year for four days to begin my own training with Mel as an LDR coach. He is an amazing man full of huge amounts of knowledge and wisdom - SO wise you wish you could just screw his head open and pour the contents right into your head (not literally).

Today, we began the two-year process of aligning our church mission, purposes, values and strategy. Proves to be an exciting ride.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I was talking with a group of people this morning and showed them the "NEW WAY" I peel a banana. According to a documentary I saw awhile back on monkeys, it revealed that they peel a banana by turning it 'upside down' and peeling it down to the stem, not vice versa like most of us.

Since that time, every banana I've eaten I've peeled that way. Guess what? It works - and it's easier.

You're going to get one and try it now, aren't you?


This guy below confirms what I'm telling you in the youtube video.

And be blessed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


KUDOS to those who staffed and supported the opening day for the VIDEO VENUE at our church. Live music - a host pastor - casual atmosphere - food and drinks in the auditorium - one-hour service - message on video from that morning's first service in the main auditorium. Congrats to those who are in on the ground level with that. You rock.

Excerpt from today's message on DETOURS:
If any word epitomized Jesus’ life, it was DISCOMFORT. From the very beginning to the very end … His birth into poverty – born into a hostile world on a bed of straw – scorned, afflicted, rejected – right up to the end – His death full of shame, humility, pain, disgrace, betrayal. Jesus and discomfort go hand-in-hand.

Personally embracing a life of discomfort means doing some things that don’t come easily for you. God is calling you to be with people you don’t always feel comfortable being with, serving them, helping them, loving them, detouring for them.

Anyone can love people who are like them. You don’t get points for that. The Father’s love is best reflected – and most potent – when we love those with whom we least identify – or those who we think might be opposed to us.

The purest essence of the Gospel is about loving your enemies, not your friends. It’s about blessing those who persecute you and those who may be against you. It's not telling your buddies how great they are.

And when we begin to detour for THEM, then people outside the church begin to see God in all His fulness through us.

And be blessed.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today is the 8th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the downed planed over a Pennsylvania farmfield.

It's a day of reflection; it's a day of remembering; it's a day of making renewed commitments to live our lives less for ourselves and more for others. Life is short and it's not about us.

I wonder what you do when you see a sign that says, "Detour Ahead." You probably aren’t saying to yourself, 'Oh good! I get to take a detour today.' Instead, you probably feel frustrated because you’re not sure how out of your way the detour is going to take you. Maybe you’re pressed for time and the detour is going to make you late and mess up your schedule.
But what if you were driving and saw ONE road sign that said “Detour Ahead,” and another next to it that said, “Take Your Usual Route?” It’s completely your choice. Which would you take? You’d probably take your usual route — especially if you knew the detour would cost you some uncertainty, time, money, and personal frustration.

LIFE detours that prevent us from taking our normal routes come at us all the time. They come in the form of illnesses, layoffs, life setbacks, disappointments, relational rifts, deaths in the family, a spouse that walks out – all kinds of things. But there are other times in life when you have a choice to get off your normal path and take a detour — a detour YOU CHOOSE.

And in THAT scenario, I wonder if you’re the kind of person who would follow the sign that says “Take Your Usual Route” or “Detour Ahead.”

Think about it. I'll be back tomorrow for Part 2 and the day after that for Part 3.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It's September 9th, 2009 - 09/09/09 -- and our staff is involved all day long - on and off at their own convenience - for nine-minute teachings all day long in one of our rooms here watching pastors and leaders from all over America teach in bite-sized segments about church, leadership, pastoring, learning, etc.


You can find out more information at

And be blessed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


You gotta love tomorrow's date - 09/09/09. Those repeating digits aren't going to happen again until January 1st, 2101, when it will be 01/01/01. Well, except for next year when it will be 10/10/10 -- oh yeah, and the year after that when it will be 11/11/11 --- and let's not forget the year after that when it will be 12/12/12. But after that, it's not going to happen for a real long time.

In Florida, at least one county clerk's office is offering a one-day wedding special for $99.99. Even the creators of the iPod got in on it by moving their traditional Tuesday release day to Wednesday to take advantage of the unique date today. Focus Features is releasing their new film called "9," an animated tale about the apocalypse, today on the 9th.

Cultures around the world are so superstitious, and while I don't ascribe to any of that nonsense, it's sometimes good to know what other people believe. If nothing else, it's at the very least, semi-interesting.

Some cultures think the number '9' is lucky; others see something like 09/09/09 as an ominous warning. Certain cultures associate the number '9' with forgiveness, compassion and success on the positive side as well as arrogance and self-righteousness on the negative side.

Both China and Japan have strong feelings about the number '9.' Those feelings just happen to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. China pulled out all the stops to celebrate their lucky number '8' during last year's Summer Olympics, ringing the games in at 8 p.m. on 08/08/08. In the Chinese language, '8' sounds very much like the word 'wealth.' But '9' is important to them as well. Historically, ancient Chinese emperors associated themselves closely with the number '9,' which appeared prominently in architecture and royal dress, often in the form of nine fearsome dragons. The imperial dynasties were so convinced of the power of the number that the palace complex at Beijing's Forbidden City is rumored to have been built with 9,999 rooms.

Japanese emperors would have never worn a robe with nine dragons, however. In Japanese, the word for '9' sounds very similar to the word for suffering, second only to the number '4,' which sounds like the word for death.

Here in the USA, many hotels omit the 13th floor because so many people consider it unlucky. In Japan, it's the 9th floor that is many times missing.

Pythagoras, the Greek mathematician said the number '9' had all kinds of special properties. Actually, any grade-school math student would know that to be true. In fact, the number '9' always intrigued me as a big nerd in math class. Here's why:

The sum of the two-digits resulting from nine multiplied by any other single-digit number will equal nine. Meaning: 9x3=27 and 2+7=9.

Multiply nine by any two, three or four-digit number and the sums of those will also break down to nine. For example: 9x62 = 558 --- and --- 5+5+8=18 (a multiple of 9) --- and if you break down the number '18' - 1+8=9.

Sept. 9 also happens to be the 252nd day of the year. Guess what 2 + 5 +2 equals ... yep ... .'9.' Freaky, huh?

As for me, I love the number '9.' I'm '49' right now, and wish I could just keep that '9' at the end of my age - but alas, the odometer will soon roll over.

Keep the faith.

And be blessed.

Monday, September 7, 2009


I'm taking the day off today, but thanks for stopping by.

Come on back tomorrow.


And be blessed.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Today was a spectacular day. After great morning services, we headed to Lake Andrea (pictured) for a church picnic and water baptism. Ninety-four people walked into the water to be baptized this afternoon. That is amazing. Two people that Pastor Jason and I had the privilege of baptizing came to faith that very morning. Way to go.

A day to remember.

And be blessed.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I took a trip by myself into Chicago today to get to the IKEA store --- something I NEVER do. I had to pick up some new office shelving for my digs at the church and Joelene had 'stuff' to do, so I went alone.

If you've never been there, it's really an amazing store. Actually, my son-in-law, Samuel Thulin, was born in Sweden and his family now lives in Almhult, where the IKEA headquarters are stationed and the very first IKEA story is located. Here's some more unknown 'skinny' on the place ...

Did you know the IKEA cataolgue is bigger than the Bible? It is the company’s greatest weapon. It is practically a 300-page missionary text and it goes out to over 180 million people in 27 different languages. Each year, there are more copies of the IKEA catalogue printed than the Bible. True. The catalogue has a bit of a cult following. Their most earnest readers, I hear, look out for hidden messages in the pictures, such as running references to Mickey Mouse and weird, obscure books on the bookshelves in the pictures. Whatever.

Also, despite early stumbles here in America, 20 years later, the store has so ingrained itself into our society that a trend among urban hipsters is to host dinner parties at the stores. A meal of lingonberry jam and meatballs at the cafeteria for the host and guests, and the living room set ups and displays make perfect venues for a round of Taboo or Pictionary.

A blog posting chronicling the first IKEA party in Sacramento, California led to a string of copycats across the country. So far, IKEA management doesn’t seem to be complaining.

So, next time you're there with a group of friends, go ahead and try that. In fact, I give you permission to order some food from the cafeteria (which isn't half bad) and haul it to one of the little living room displays - plop down in the chairs and sofas with a deck of UNO cards - and hang out for 2 or 3 hours. See what happens.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Today was the most amazing, interesting day. I had the opportunity to visit Federal Court in downtown Chicago. The Federal judge is part of our church. He had invited me down to see him in action and it was cool to watch him work.

I was so impressed with his gentle demeanor and care for everyone in the courtroom, while at the same time sentencing a bank robber who had wielded a gun in the process. I was proud to be associated with him -- and him with our church.

I got quite an education, listening to him work his way thru the legal process with the various people who came before him today. Fascinating.

How great to have people of that stature and influence so committed to the Kingdom of God. It sure made me even more eager to pray for him after seeing what great responsibility he holds and the potential he has to impact our society.

Just a very cool day today.

And be blessed.