Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wrong Questions Won't Get to the Right Answer

This Sunday I preached on Matthew 22:15-46 and the sermon was entitled "Wrong Questions Wopn't Get to the Right Answer." In this passage Jesus' opponents try to trap Him with three "wrong" questions and He responds with an exmaple of the kind of question they should have been seeking an answer to from Him. If you'd like to listen to it click here.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Not So Good Start

Our junior high basketball team lost their first game with me at the helm. They were leading early on but then just didn't play consistently enough at either end of the floor to hang on for the victory. It was a close game against a tough team (Turtle Lake-Mercer) but in the end we came up a couple baskets short. I told the kids afterward that it simply came down to us not meeting our team goals. We got outrebounded and turned the ball over too many times. At least it's still early on in the season and we now know there are some things we need to dedicate more time to working on in practice in order to be successful.

Last Thursday was the first session of the Horizon's LeadershipPlenty training. This is part of the economic development program that my wife and I are helping with in town. The twin goals of the Horizons program are poverty reduction and leadership development. After working to brainstorm how we can tackle poverty issues in Underwood, now we're embarking on the second goal of building community leadership.

The LeadershipPlenty program is nine session long and is aimed at sharpening current leaders, preparing future leaders and identifying potential leaders. One of the activities during session one was to create our "river of life" by identifying graphically key moments in our lives (good or bad) and how we grew as leaders or developed leadership skills through those events. I'm excited to take part in this program because I know I have room to grow as a leader.

On wednesday I accompanied my wife down to Bismarck as she had a monthly library meeting. During her meeting I went to Starbucks with my laptop and books to try to get some work done for Sunday. As I was working on our current Sunday school series on understanding and applying Scripture and reading the book "How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth," I struck up a conversation with a couple of fellow Christians sitting at a nearby table. They had both been part of Young Life in the Bismarck area and now continue to meet for accountability and bible study. It's amazing at how often that happens when I'm reading a "Christian" book in public. Suffice it to say, I didn't get much work done but did have some good fellowship!

By God's Grace, Jeff

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Actions Speak Louder than Words

This Sunday I preached on Matthew 21:23-22:14 and the sermon was entitled "In God's Kingdom, Actions Speak Louder than Words." To listen to the sermon, click here.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Faith NOT Religious Tradition is the Way to God

Two Sundays ago I preached on Matthew 21:1-22 and the sermon was entitled "Faith NOT Religious Tradition is the Way to God." If you'd like to listen to the sermon click here.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Friday, January 16, 2009

Did you hear the one about Olie?

Where I grew up, the "dumb" jokes were based on either the Polish or blondes. Now, I make a point not to use these jokes as they have a greater potential to tear down than to build up. However, in my pursuit of being a stute observer of my surrounding culture, I have noticed that instead of Polish or blondes, people in North Dakota use Norwegians in their "dumb" jokes. There were many Norwegian immigrants that came to North Dakota (along with Germans and others) and so for whatever reason, they became the punchline to jokes.

I had to laugh upon seeing a fellow blogger from the Chicago area report that the other day it was 15 below zero because early Thursday morning in Bismarck it was 44 below! Fortunately it is supposed to warm up into the low to mid 30s through early next week. Given what temperatures we have had around here that will seem like shorts and t-shirt weather! And by the way, the snow keeps pilling up. Even those who wanted snow are beginning to resent it.

I started junior high basketball practice last Thursday but because of the lousy weather have only had two practices as of yesterday! Practices were cancelled on Friday, Monday and Tuesday (there's no practice on Wednesdays). And if that weren't bad enough, our JV team had less guys come out this year and some injuries so whenever there's a JV game I lose four of my 8th graders for that day's practice. Despite these difficulties I am excited about coaching.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Suffering Servant Produces Servant Followers

This past Sunday I preached on Matthew 20:17-34 in which Jesus prepares His disciples for His impending death and resurrection, responds to the mother of James and John's request by teaching His followers the significance of service in the kingdom of God and modeled a servant's heart by healing two blind men despite the wishes of the surrounding crowd. The main point of the passage as I saw it relating to us is that the Suffering Servant produces servant followers. If you'd like to listen to it click here.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

So ever since I stepped foot into our parsonage and saw our large downstairs rec room, I knew this wouldn't truly be "home" until we got a table tennis table (it's not "ping pong" if you take it seriously). My wife agreed and so for about the last year we've been on the hunt for a reasonably priced table. In fact, I was supposed to get one for my birthday last year but we we're unable to find any used ones being sold in the Bismarck area or any affordable new ones at any of the stores. We found some good deals online but then you end up paying a ton in shipping costs. So at the end of our first year in North Dakota, the only ping pong we played was on the one in the church fellowship hall.

That has now all changed. My in-laws said they'd be willing to buy me a table for my upcoming birthday. So while shopping for Christmas presents at Target a few weeks ago, we noticed they had a SportsCraft table for $139.99 and there were three on the shelf. We decided not to purchase it then but to wait. So this past Monday we were at Target in Bismarck again and saw that there was only one table left and it was on sale for a third off. But the bottom of the box was ripped and we weren't sure if it was missing any parts. So we consulted an employee and she assured us that if anything was missing we could return it and since the box was in poor condition she called her manager for permission to sell the table to us for 75% off! We walked out of the store with a brand new table for $24, came home and found that all of the pieces were accounted for and now have a table tennis table.

I also realized that I haven't mentioned anything about pheasants lately. I posted a blog entry last year after one of the two times that we hit a pheasant during our first year in ND. By God's grace we have been saved so far from any further run-ins with our fair-feathered friends. However, due to the cold weather (and apparent lack of pheasant hunters!) they are literally lined up along US-83 from Underwood to Washburn (13 miles) and especially near the turn-off to the Ethanol plant where it seems they're awaiting spillage from trucks carrying corn. My wife assures me that these must be the more intelligent pheasants as they made it through hunting season, our cold/snowy December, and getting hit by cars so far. I'm not convince!

Junior high basketball practice kicks off this Thursday. Tomorrow we have Kids' Club after school. This Sunday (God willing) we'll finally be able to have an elder meeting (we've cancelled twice due to the snow). Please pray for our continued ministry in the church and town.

By God's Grace, Jeff

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Years Resolution: No More Snow!

Okay, I know I can't actually resolve for North Dakota to receive no additional snow this winter but it would sure be nice. On Tuesday we got hammered with about another foot of snow! That makes over 30 inches for December...the most for any month on record for Bismarck. It took me an hour and a half to shovel our driveway which had a snow drift of a foot and a half covering half of it. We now have snow cliffs surrounding our walkway. If we get much more snow I have no idea of where I'll put it! Apparently during the winter of '97, Bismarck received a record 101" of snow. If 30" looks like this I can't even begin to imagine three times that amount...and sincerely hope that I won't have to!

Well, enough complaining. Doesn't the Bible say to do everything without complaining? (e.g. Philippians 2:14) I guess that covers shoveling snow as well. I was initially frustrated at having to shovel so much snow this winter, especially for the couple of weeks in mid-December where it seemed to snow every other day. However, I realized that one of the blessings of being a pastor is that except for Sundays, I don't really have any regular morning commitments that hinder me from taking the time to shovel. So I got that going for me.

This week I've been helping out at the high school basketball practices as the regular assistant coach is on vacation. It's been fun reconnecting with the kids and getting back into a basketball mindset (though my wife would say it never left). Starting next Thursday I'll be officially coaching the junior high team. I am very excited about working with the 6th-8th graders. Our first game isn't until later in January so we'll have a good few weeks to work on the basics.

Well my college teams went 1-1 this bowl season. Notre Dame broke its 15 year bowl winless drought by crushing Hawaii but Northwestern (my ala mater) was unable to finish off Missouri when they had the chance in the Alamo Bowl. The last time Northwestern was in the Alamo Bowl was my senior year. A group of us drove down to San Antonio from Chicago (in one day!), watched NU get slaughtered by Nebraska and then got stuck in an ice-storm in Texarkana on the way back (ah, memories).

By God's Grace, Jeff