Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Giant Ponzi Scheme?

I just got off the phone with my insurance company. They’ve insured my house and both cars for years. 

I asked, “Why is my homeowner’s insurance premium 25% higher this year?”

Here was the answer. “There have been a lot of claims in your area recently.”



Last month a storm brought hail and wind to our neighborhood. Several neighbors put on new roofs and new siding. I haven't made a claim. My insurance went up anyway.

Right now I’m calling other insurance companies for new quotes. I need to re-enter this Ponzi scheme thing at the bottom level.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

No Sign of Business

After saving all year for a home improvement project, I drove to the local business I planned to hire.

Pulling into their parking area, I spotted a flag flapping in the breeze outside the front door. It read OPEN. Then I noticed a CLOSED sign on the door itself. That sign hung right above the store hours, which stated it opened over an hour before.

Not bothering to check which sign was true, I turned around and drove to a competitor. Minutes later I left with an agreement for that business to tackle my project.

Open or not, signs matter.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Storage Wars

Back when I was born, the average house size was around 1,000 square feet. Today that average is more than 2,700 square feet, a 150% increase in size.

And yet, those bigger houses aren’t large enough to hold all our stuff. Americans have 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space. One out of every ten households currently rents a unit.

According to the Self-Storage Association, it's now "physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self-storage roofing."

We could get rid of all our crap and end homelessness all at once.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We excel at being dissatisfied with the present.

It is too hot or too cold…

not enough rain or too much…

too busy or not busy enough…

bored with the routine or don’t like all the changes…

too loud or can’t hear it…

can’t wait to upgrade to the newest technology, but then it’s immediately obsolete…

apartment-owners want a house, house-owners fondly remember carefree days of apartment-living…  

employees want to be their own boss, and bosses wish they could punch out after 8 hours and leave all the responsibilities behind.

In reality, something to eat, wear, and Jesus is enough. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You Aren't My Pastor

It happens, every time I meet a group of pastors. Today was typical.
“Hi, I’m John Beukema.”
“I’m Pastor Andrew Peabody.”
“Pastor Andy, the children like to call me.”
“Well, since you’re not my pastor, may I call you Andy?”
Reluctantly he allows it.

Or the woman wearing clerical garb who responded to, “I’m John,” with “I’m Reverend McGillicutty-Smithe.”
“Okay,” I said, “but your name is…?”
“Pastor Elizabeth McGillicutty-Smithe.”
“Do you prefer Elizabeth or Liz or…?”
“Pastor Elizabeth.”

What level of insecurity or desperate need for authority drives this kind of interaction?

No ordination I’ve seen issued a pedestal.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cliches, True and Tried

Just heard a political commentator describe the end of something as “match and set.”

Clich├ęs are bad enough, but when you are so oblivious to what they mean that you use them incorrectly, you should keep as silent as a mouse church.

Some purely fictional examples:
  • “Mate and check!” Turns chess victory into spousal identification, or a pregnancy test instruction.
  • “Miss and a swing.” Changes baseball futility into a young lady on a playground.
  • “Heavy and hot.” Transforms a passionate tryst into a July Weight Watchers meeting.
Some sayings are unaffected:
  • “Oranges and apples”
  • “Dangerous and armed”
  • “Tat for tit…”

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Four Twitter Follow Rules for Pastors

  1. Don’t follow the opposite sex. I stopped following women unless related to me or on staff. The ability to DM can be misused. I don’t trust myself.
  2. Don’t follow anyone underage. When teens from church follow me, I don’t follow back. That kind of direct contact can be misconstrued.
  3. Don’t follow those who vehemently disrespect views opposed to yours. Other viewpoints are great, but following those who degrade cherished beliefs, could imply approval.  
  4. Don’t follow anyone using the f-bomb as verb, noun, and adjective. This includes desperate-to-be-hip ministry leaders.
 These are my follow rules. Do they sound unreasonable to you?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Another One Bites the Dust

“Another one bites the dust.” Lyrics from a 30-year-old Queen song express part of my reaction upon hearing another ministry friend has imploded.

My less melodic response is “oh, crap.”

The news came moments before I preached from 1 Timothy 4: Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

This guy had the doctrine thing pretty much figured out, but bailed on life. If only he would turn around. But right now he’s in the death spiral of denial.

I’m powerless to stop his crash…but not mine. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Kittens, Skinny Jeans, and Other Questions from the News

Why don’t people save all the plywood they bought to protect their windows from the last storm? Plywood

How can someone’s motive for abandoning 19 kittens be a deep mystery? This was an act of horrible cruelty, but I’ve got a pretty good idea why it happened. Kittens

Why would banning skinny jeans for students sound like an important “line-in-the-sand” for school administrators to draw?  Jeans

Why can’t the U.S. be as commercially savvy as China and promote songs by Gaga, Katy Perry, and the Backstreet Boys? China

How can eyeglasses cost three times more than a flat-screen TV? Prices

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sexual Satisfaction

Psychology Today labeled monogamy “impossible.” Could fidelity in marriage be an unreasonable demand?

Wisdom literature calls the husband to permanent captivation with his wife’s body and love. Such fascination releases an overflowing fountain of sexual satisfaction, (Proverbs 5:15-23). She is more than enough to satisfy, but she must be cherished.

Failure to cherish, understand, and desire her, leads to other attractions. These reduce sex to a business transaction: buying porn, lapdances, or prostitutes, (Proverbs 6:25-26).

Sexual expression outside of marriage is life-draining; inside it is life-giving. 

Marriage is a reservoir of sexual satisfaction; a fresh-flowing, spring-fed well.

Effort is required.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why I Turned Down a Pay Raise

Today, I start the process of telling 30 staffers their salary for next year. Everyone gets a cost of living increase, and I deliver the news with the performance review. 

These salary decisions aren’t mine. They are determined by Compensation, confirmed by Personnel Relations, approved by the Board.

There won’t be an increase for me…by my own insistence. Why?

I am already well-compensated.

The salary gap between me and my direct reports is wide enough.

Additional compensation won’t further motivate me.  

I struggle enough with Jesus’ words to give up everything and follow him.

I follow him, and get paid.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Names You Might Never Include in Prayer

Have you ever prayed for one of these names?
Actor Charlie Sheen?
Celebrity NeNe Leakes?
Billionaire Bill Gates?
Atheist Christopher Hitchens?
Dictator Mohamar Ghdaffi?
Rapper Jay-Z?
Businessman Donald Trump?
Singer Rihanna?
Movie star Angelina Jolie?
Congressman Anthony Weiner?

They may not come to mind for prayer, yet Scripture urges us to make all kinds of prayers for all people. Not being narrow, small, local, nationalistic, elitist, or racist in prayer is challenging. Move beyond the circle of personal and probable to remember rich, poor, black, white, Democrat, Republican, Afghans, Iranians, royalty and rednecks.

Enlarge your prayers to embrace the world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

One Simple Question Enables More Effective Ministry

In serving Jesus, we take “customer” satisfaction seriously. Understanding expectations is key.

I could be satisfied with a tough steak from a place offering it all “for around $10,” though unacceptable at an expensive restaurant. It’s about expectations.

I’ve learned to start interactions initiated by others with:
“What outcome are you hoping for?”
“How are you hoping I can help you?”

Knowing expectations helps position your service in the most satisfying way possible. Often complainers haven’t thought about outcome. Expressing it helps both of you.

Discovering they simply want to be heard saves you from trying to fix things. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Would You Die for Her?

Jason was 30, divorced, with two little boys when Jesus transformed him. Jason told everybody. He influenced many lives, especially his old friend Jimmy. When Jimmy got out of prison with no one and nothing, Jason took him in. Jimmy met Jesus too.

Jason brought his boys to church. He told his ex-wife, “Just come to church with me. That’s all I want.” She refused.

A motorcycle accident ended Jason’s life at 31. His Good Friday funeral was unbelievably powerful.

Jason’s ex-wife has been in church most every Sunday since.

What a price.

We miss him.

Glory be to God.

A Church Planter's Lie

While guest speaking at a conference, I heard a church planter’s presentation.

He said, “There is no gospel witness in many US cities.”

That got my attention. He repeated.

“Many of our biggest cities no longer have any church that preaches the gospel.”

Afterward, I told him I personally knew many great churches in his target city.

“They’re good,” he replied unconvincingly.

Apparently churches not using the right Bible version or in the wrong political camp don’t really count.

I’ve heard the “no gospel witness” phrase from missionaries my whole life. I wonder. Did any of them also distort reality?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Squabbling Church Disproves Christianity?

After a troubled church in Middletown, Pennsylvania had four pastors in eight years, the denomination sent a new guy to "clean house." It's not going well. 

In his July 10th sermon, the pastor said, "if you aren't  willing to accept my authority, there's the door." Some stood up declaring he should leave, calling him dangerous, and voicing other complaints. 

The arguing and name calling have spilled into the community and onto the internet. One non-Christian commented: "This fragment of idiots is more evidence of...how untrue Christianity is."

What an egregious spiritual collapse. Only God can resurrect ministry from such death.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

5 Signs Your Church Promotes Controversy

1. You love to speculate on what might happen.

2. You are always looking for new and different teaching.

3. You take a minor point and make it major.

4. You take a major point and make it minor.

5. You focus more on what not to do than on what Christ has done.
Church people can turn life into lists of ‘dos and don’ts,’ leading to pride when you keep the rules, and despair when you don’t. But knowing what is right and the power to do what is right comes only by loving Jesus.  

We don’t need more controversy, we need more Jesus.

Are You Addicted to Unkindness?

Author and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin often asks audiences if they can go 24 hours without saying unkind words about, or to, another person. Invariably, a few raise their hands, signifying "yes." Others laugh. A large number call out, "no!" 

Telushkin responds: "Those who can't answer 'yes' must recognize you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. If you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words about others, then you have lost control over your tongue."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vacation Decimates Social Media

Normal life is a frantic cycle of content creation. Articles, books, blogs, emails, policies, posts, reports, and sermons. Not in that order. Social media takes a back seat to life’s more important duties. 

Surely vacation would provide a time to respond to Twitter friends, write fascinating blogs, post pictures of relaxing activities. Wrong.

Vacationing leaves me even less time for social media endeavors. The mind blurs at the thought of content creation of any sort. The fun event is over before the idea of announcing it to others crosses my mind.

Must stop...wife is pushing me to walk the beach.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Internet Connectivity Hell

Visiting my extended family means good food and stories from the past in a bucolic setting. The rural location also means spotty cell phone service, and little internet connectivity. As a result:
·        I learn about the resignation of a staff member two days after it happened.
·        All the questions that come up in conversation cannot be answered by a quick Google search.
·        I can’t live-stream our worship services.
·        The text message keeps failing until I hold the phone above my head on high ground.
Two days without access is challenging. Do I miss times of prayer and Scripture as much?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Can Every Sermon Be Delivered with Passion?

Some texts are more exciting than others. Some themes resonate more deeply than others. But every biblical sermon must be about God and about human need. If the preacher’s passion is not stirred in delivery, it is because the sermon has failed at one or both of those objectives.

Truth about Christ and truth about the human condition are subjects that cut to the heart of what life is all about. Addressing both through the lens of Scripture is the heart of preaching.

My lack of passion signals a lack of understanding about where theological truth intersects with real life.

When I Take Credit

I always take credit for anything bad when a member of my team was responsible. Ultimately the blame is mine anyway. Why not accept it right up front instead of pointing fingers? The team member needs grace. I can address the situation one-on-one without the help of an angry mob.

The only time I take credit for anything good is if the only one involved was me. It’s not that I duck credit. As the leader I don’t need to claim the glory. Glory filters upward, so if credit is deserved, I eventually get some anyway.

All credit is God’s. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why I Hate Golf

Too many pastors play it. And I am a pastor.

Golf is a game of excesses. Excessive time, money, space, rules, and humiliation.

Golf shouldn’t make you bleed. I have been the bleeder and the cause of others bleeding.

I am funny enough already. Props are not necessary.

You meet few poor and disenfranchised people while golfing, and I already know my share of wealthy white guys with poor sense of fashion.

I always need more balls…in every sense of the word.

I do not curse.

After 9 years of golf abstinence, I’m being forced to play on Thursday.


Ten Reasons Why I Read Anonymous Notes

1. Curiosity. Those who say they never read them lie, or aren’t able to spot a learning opportunity.

2. Didn’t know it was anonymous until I got to the end.

3. Sensitizes me to stuff I’ve been blind to.

4. Some unsigned notes are compliments.

5. Only half of them are actually about me.

6. Identifies what needs more clarity. If one person misunderstood, someone else did too.

7. A few have contained money.

8. This may be the only truly honest reaction I hear.

9. They may be right.

10. It came from a real person, who is loved by God.

Why Conference Giveaways Make Me Queasy

Go to a conference, and get some swag. Register, and you might win an iPad, golf clubs, flat screen TV.

Most of those kinds of prizes probably come from sponsors happy to promote their company or product. I guess that’s okay. But there are gifts that probably don’t. Thousands of footballs to keep the crowd entertained. Shirts shot out of a cannon. Bicycles as door prizes.

What portion of a conference registration goes to the freebies? Is there a big moral difference between that and a lottery ticket?

I ponder this, and then sign up anyway. Maybe I’ll get lucky!

When the Flag Obscures the Cross

Deep down, most Christians admit nation worship is wrong. Yet many don’t realize they do it. Patriotism gets equated with faith. Freedom’s refreshing breeze gets mistaken for the wind of the Spirit.

As a result, America receives glory belonging to God. “My native country, thee…Thy name I love.” Other commands get ignored, such as “honor the king.” Instead, some who are passionate about their Christian country seem bent on praying abuse upon the king currently in office.

When the state of our nation is condemned with more vigor than the name of Jesus is exalted, we have lost our way. 

How I Failed as a Dad

We have two daughters. One is married and a mom. The other daughter is a senior in High School.

I failed as a dad. I gave far more attention to the church than to my family. I sacrificed for everyone but them, time and again. My “yeses” to others meant “nos” to them.

Still, by God’s grace and with a wonderful wife, I managed to be the best dad ever. Both girls love Jesus, love being PKs, love the church, love me, and are beautiful inside and out.

That doesn’t make my failures right. It just makes God great. 

Why Our Bastardized Version of Church Is Still Amazing

We’ve all bastardized the church. 

Every church and denomination holds on to stuff that isn't rooted in Scripture. Whether it is policy or doctrine or tradition or just the way we do things, we all have practices that fall short of perfection.

Despite that, the church is still amazing: when the gospel breaks the power of drug and porn addiction; relationships reconcile; the weak become strong; racist attitudes change; the proud are humbled; and the dead in sin are raised to new life.

Unless of course, none of that ever happens in your church…then only part of the word fits.