Archive for Family

Summer of Sabbatical

I have been given the gift of a pastoral sabbatical this summer. For this I am extremely grateful. My sabbatical will last a little over nine weeks and begin on July 1.

What is a sabbatical? It’s a good question, not least because ‘sabbath’ is a lost practice in our day. We all get vacations and “time off,” but a sabbath is something altogether different. Sabbath is a time to stop, to rest, to delight, to play, and to be renewed by the Creator and Sustainer of all things.

A sabbatical is meant to be an extended sabbath. Some may wonder if there is any sin, frustration with the church, or desire to move on to another ministry assignment. The answer is no. Some have asked if I am taking this time to focus on my doctoral work, or to write a book. The answer is no. I had considered starting my doctorate soon, but opted to wait until another season, and I have had a couple of book ideas on my mind, but don’t feel like the time is right to develop those yet. Although I will be reading and journaling…a lot. The point is to have an extended sabbath—a holy space to rest and be renewed.

For pastors, the practice of a sabbatical becomes particularly important because of the role we carry in the church. The weight of spiritual leadership is hard to explain or quantify, and yet it can take a very tangible toll on a leader’s soul. Many leaders don’t stop because they don’t feel that they can for fear that the church may fall apart without them. But I believe that Jesus is the Head of the Church! I think you agree.

Jesus withdrew in silence and solitude, even when the crowds were pressing in. Therefore, it’s important that pastors do that too. A sabbatical obviously is no substitute for regular rhythms of rest and renewal. And yet, our church council was so gracious to give me something extra, something longer, something special as a gift. This gift is really the gift of time. Thank you.

So, what will Denise and I do on my sabbatical?
We have intentionally crafted the weeks to make space for rest, recreation and renewal. There will be times for just Denise and I to be together, as well as fun memory-making adventures with the kids, cherished moments with family and friends, as well as some solitary blocks of time with just me and Jesus.

During this summer, we will be commemorating a number of milestones:
• My 45th birthday
• My 25th year as a licensed Foursquare pastor
• My 7th year as the lead pastor of West Salem Foursquare Church
and finally (and most amazingly)…
• Our 25th year of marriage (the result of the grace of God and a good lady)!

So, we’re gonna do some wonderful things, but there are also things we will NOT do. For my sabbatical, the things I will deliberately cease from are:

• Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (checking and posting)
• Email (all my addresses are being forwarded to my assistant)
• My phone (I’m shutting it off often, using it sparingly and not for business)
• Content-creation (no sermon writing, blogging, planning, etc)
• Speaking at any churches, camps or conferences

The things I will intentionally delight in are: family (including our sweet grandbaby), friends, reading (lots of fiction, mostly soul care books and a few theological ones), walking, working out, riding bike (I just bought a bike and am excited to start riding it…gotta get ready for the new bridge to Minto Brown park!), and watching The Olympics (The Fehlens really love watching the Olympics together!).

What about West Salem Foursquare Church?
Well, as you know we have an amazing team of staff, elders and servant-leaders! Our Navigational Team will continue to oversee our staff and day-to-day operations. Each Sunday service will have great communicators sharing the Word of God. Along with our staff, we have a number of incredible friends and partners in ministry that will be joining us throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 26th, will be my last Sunday before the sabbatical. I will be back in the pulpit on September 11th.

Pray for us. Pray that the Lord would surprise us with joy in beautiful ways, and that our hearts would be drawn closer to Him and to one another as family during this time.

The Best is Yet to Come,

John

Ride On…Q&A with Joseph Fehlen (Part 2)

josephfehlen-cover-thmbJoe is my brother (and he’s not heavy). Recently I had a Q&A with my brother about his book “Ride On: A Motorcycle Journey to Awake your Soul and  Rediscover it’s Maker.” It’s available on Amazon: As well, you can purchase his book at his blog (www.agrowingfamily.com), or at West Salem Foursquare Church on the weekend of July 6/7.

 

This is part 2 of a Q&A with Joe.  Enjoy.

 

JOHN:   I feel in Ride On you left me with a cliffhanger. I was wondering if you would ever come back? Are you working on a sequel? 

 

JOSEPH: Yes, I do come home but I just take the long way! I got ideas in the works for two other books. One called, Rebuild: When your life and your bike seem beyond repair.  I am rebuilding a 1974 Honda CB360 that was my father in law’s bike back in the 70’s. He sold it in the early 80’s and two winters ago we found it buried in several feet of pine needles and with a five-foot pine tree growing up through the frame.

It is now in my garage and we are trying to get it restored…but I don’t know what I am doing. Which makes a great premise for a book. I got some ideas for a third one but don’t want to get too far ahead of myself because I am currently writing one about hunting.

 

JOHN: Hunting book? You don’t know anything about hunting.

 

JOSEPH: Yes, that’s correct. Another hobby I took up in earnest in my late 30’s and I am fumbling through it.  I am tracking along and hope to have it ready to go to the editor early 2014. My working title is, Nine Arrows: A Hunters life of patience, practice, perseverance and utter failure.  It has been really fun to write and I hope it will be an encouragement to others that are thinking about quitting.

 

JOHN: Wow that is great… One last question.  Many in my church make fun of me for riding a Vespa. When you come out here would you ride with me on a Vespa to let them know they are cool also? 

 

JOSEPH: I almost purchased a scooter instead of the motorcycle and have a chapter about that dilemma. Because my motorcycle is not huge, and not a Harley, I have a lot of love for any two wheeled vehicle. All of what I talk about in Ride On is applicable to scooter riders as well as those that peddle around on two wheels. So, yes, I would be proud to ride with you on a scooter.

I will, however, not wave to you when I am on a motorcycle and you pass me on your scooter. That is reserved for those on real motorcycles.

 

Ride On…Q&A with Joseph Fehlen (Part 1)

josephfehlen-cover-thmbI have one brother.

I call him Joe.

But now that he’s kind of a big deal author, he likes to be called “Joseph.”

I refuse.

Joe currently is the associate pastor at Grace Foursquare Church in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

Recently Joe wrote a book called “Ride On: A Motorcycle Journey to Awake your Soul and  Rediscover it’s Maker.” It’s available on Amazon: As well, you can purchase his book at his blog (www.agrowingfamily.com), or at West Salem Foursquare Church on the weekend of July 6/7.

 

I want to introduce you to Joe and his writings through this two-part Q&A. Enjoy…

 

JOHN:  As your brother, I know that you know nothing about mechanical things and you are not a gear head. What inspired you to write a book about motorcycles?

 

JOSEPH:  Yes, you are so true. The first thing you need to know is that Ride On is not a handbook on motorcycles maintenance, a travel book or an ‘I survived the Hell’s Angels’ memoir (I can neither confirm nor deny that I was a mole in a hard core gang). There are great reads out there on those topics.

Ride On is my story, which I tried to write in a fairly whimsical manner, yet straightforward story-telling mode, that explores my entrance into the motorcycle community and what I learned about life, faith and things that really matter. I was new to the community, in my mid thirties, and my eyes were aware of things that many may had forgotten after years of riding. Many had forgotten how and why they began riding.

It was at that point that I started to make these links between Jesus and motorcycles. The motorcycle became my vehicle to share the person of Jesus to others and give them tools to share Him with their friends. There were so many links that seemed obvious to me, but as I communicated them verbally to others they seemed to miss them. I knew at that point that I needed to write this book.

It was the bikers that followed Jesus that inspired me to get this on paper and ultimately to this point of a published book. They were asking me to help them share their faith in a real way to a community of people that many had pushed aside. So I immersed myself into the world and community of motorcyclist and kept my spiritual ears up for truths that could help them in their faith walk.

 

JOHN: What is the main point about the Christian faith you hope people would get from Ride On?

 

JOSEPH: I wanted to reintroduce (or introduce) people to a person named Jesus that we read about in the Bible. The problem is that for 2000 years we’ve added so much to Him and what He is about. I want to strip it back to the simplicity of who he is, what he did and what he said. Jesus is not some unattainable philosophy or a person that we have to completely figure out before we accept Him. He walked this earth telling people about His father and what life in this world is and should be like. He spoke in stories that had both practical and spiritual implications. So everyone that heard got something that could help them… and that is what I tried to do in Ride On.

You will notice in my writing I don’t have any direct quotes or indented scripture references. When I reference Jesus, He is just a continuation of the story I am telling. He is part of my story and I think He can be part of other’s stories as well. I endeavored to share about Him in a natural way because most people, when talking to their friends, don’t recite Scripture. No, we just tell the story of what Jesus did and what He is doing in our lives today. [I do have endnotes if people want to look further into what I am saying.]

So I guess the main point is… Jesus. Not religion, not rules, not your grandma’s church, but Jesus. He is the one wire we need to hook into to get our life on (or back on) track.

 

Be watching for Part 2 of this Q&A coming soon.

Jesus Did It. Shouldn’t We?

Solitay confinement“At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place…” Luke 4:42

“Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Luke 6:12

Jesus knew how to take timely breaks to replenish his soul. He was the master at balance. He purposefully took time off, not based upon the calendar but for the condition of his soul.

From the above passages in the Book of Luke I see a pattern of health for the Christian believer.

Withdraw…in Preparation for…in the Process of…and Prior to!

First, notice the context in which Jesus withdrew in preparation for ministry to people (Luke 4:42).  This happened to be a time when his popularity was growing and his name was catching on. People wanted to be around Jesus – therefore he knew the value of first being with his Father.

Secondly, see how Jesus got away in the process of intense ministry (Luke 5:16).  Crowds, sick people, and draining ministry situations are all reasons to step back and quietly connect with God.  What are the pressing issues that you are facing right now?  Before going any further – go be with God! It will make all the difference.

Lastly:  Jesus took extra time with his Father prior to making a large decision (Luke 6:12).  Before he chose the twelve disciples he went away for an extended time to get the “mind of God” on that significant issue.  He ended up spending the entire night in prayer.  Do you have a large decision to make?  If so, follow the model of Jesus by getting away to pray prior to making that decision.

I encourage you to take some time to carve out a solitary place with the Lord.  It is a great way to prepare you for a season of ministry or hard work to come in the future. If you’ve been in the middle of a trying time, then perhaps a time away to pray and be refreshed is in order. Or maybe you have a large decision that needs to be made and you need wisdom from the Lord…find a solitary place to get his heart for your next steps.

Jesus did it. Shouldn’t we?

Kick Me

18.1n003.kickme2--300x300Do you remember those crazy kick-me signs. Perhaps you were the bully that  put them on other people’s backs unaware. Worse yet, like myself, you may have be the recipient of one of those not-so-gentle reminders. (I’m not bitter or anything)!

The Bibles says this in Hebrews 10:24-25: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Have you ever noticed how much Jesus hangs out with people? As I read through the Gospels, I’ve been struck with the value Jesus places upon significant relationships.

Simply being together.

Oh sure, he needed to get away once in a while like all of us do, but for the most part those were brief times of prayer and rejuvenation with the Father. Even the Son of God found it valuable to ‘steal away’ to a secret place, but those times were brief and served as ‘fuel’ for the journey of relationship.

Don’t we tend to function just the opposite? Heavy on the isolation and light on the fellowship?

Dear ones, Christian community is not forged by osmosis! It doesn’t just happen, but rather, it is harvested. One must tend and nurture relationships for them to be healthy. Before Jesus ever performed any miracles, his first desire was to get a group of guys around him.

Relationships before responsibilities.

People before programs.

Jesus didn’t die for an organization, he laid his life down for his friends and family.

Do you have friends and family…really? Or are you living in isolation? That’s not God’s purpose for you.

So…who are you spurring on to love and good deeds?

Next question is: Who is doing that for you?

We all need a “kick-me” every once and a while!

 

Free Download of “Intentional Impressions”

Screen Shot 2013-02-07 at 6.04.51 AM

A few years back I wrote a simple and short book for fathers. I only have a couple of physical copies left, so here it is for free download. Enjoy and pass it on.

 

Click this link to download: Intentional Impressions For Future Generations

 

Blessings,

John

Below the Waterline

I love the Word of God.

is so powerful.

It is so applicable to our lives.

It is so…well…alive.

Hebrews 4:12 instructs that “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

It penetrates soul and spirit.

It judges thoughts and attitudes.

Of course, it can only do that which we allow it to. The Word of God is not gonna jump up off the coffee table and into our souls. It’s not gonna speak to our hearts if we are not willing to listen. We need to give it permission, preference and position in our lives. Never has this been more of an issue than with our material possessions. It seems as if we (myself included) let the Lord have access to many aspects of our lives, but not our money. I’m reminded of the cartoon in which a man was being baptized in water. Every part of his body was brought below the waterline…except his wallet!

As I’ve been reading the Book of Mark in my daily devotions, I have noticed a number of times the Gospel directly or indirectly deals with the topic of our resources. I first recognized it in chapter 12 regarding the story of the Widow’s Offering, but then I went back and saw that every other chapter in Mark tackled the topic of our possessions (chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16). Over the next few weeks I want to unpack these findings.

Let’s begin with chapter 2 with Levi the Tax Collector.

Jesus began teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galilee because it was a popular place for people to hang out. Therefore it made perfect sense that Jesus would utilize its backdrop as an outdoor pulpit. It also made sense that Levi would set up a tax collecting booth. Whether you’re a preacher or a tax collector, you want to be where the crowds are!

It was here that Jesus the Messiah connected with Levi the Money Man. Mark 2:14 records that Jesus said, “Follow Me.” In response, Levi got up and simply followed him. He left his booth, perhaps his revenue as well. This was more than a passing decision, it was a new way of living. The Money Man became the Messiah Follower. Wow. What obedience and surrender!

I contend that it’s easy to follow Jesus when little is demanded of us. It means next to nothing for us to “get up and follow him” when we are leaving next to nothing. But what about when it involves the possessions that we have worked so hard for?

I believe that when Jesus says “follow me” he is referring to the entirety of our lives, including our money. He wants us to loosen the grip that our hands have upon our money so that our hearts may do the same. The Bible says, “where your heart is there your treasure will be also.” In other words, what our HANDS hold tightly to so will our HEARTS.

In the Old Testament, the Tribe of Levites (named after Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob), were the main caretakers of the temple. They were the lead worshippers. Fast forward to Levi the Tax Collector in Mark 2 and ask yourself these questions:

Are you worshipping God with your money?

Are you taking care of the temple of the Lord?

Are you following Jesus in every areas of your life, including that of your possessions?

If not, then allow the Word of God to penetrate your soul and spirit and judge your thoughts and attitudes.

What We’ve Learned from Eileen Fehlen

Since the sudden passing of my mom, Eileen Fehlen, I and the rest of my family have received literally thousands of messages, calls, notes and…the most prevalent of all…Facebook messages! We love Facebook.

Each message and memory posted has been special, but there was one that really captured the essence of my Mom. If you knew her then you’d probably agree with this list. If you didn’t then it’s a great glimpse of a great gal. The following was on Mom’s Facebook page from a wonderful woman named Molly Holknecht, who is a leader at Stanwood Foursquare Church.

Here it is:

• Everyone needs Jesus

• Pie and prayer restore body and soul

• When you see a need, find someone to meet that need

• Meatloaf can be edible

• It’s OK to come to worship with pink hair and a leather jacket

• When in doubt, call everyone “Honey”

• Expect the unexpected, then watch God work

• Hugs are always appropriate

• Love never fails

• Buy yourself a red, Mustang convertible for your birthday

• If you have leftovers and a package of noodles, you have dinner

• The garage is the perfect place to butcher a deer

• We were created in a garden, so plant, grow, harvest and eat

• The Good Samaritan is not a myth or theory, but something to be lived out

It’s the Mormons. Don’t Hide.

I had an encounter that is fresh in my mind (as of only 10 minutes ago), so I want to jot it down in this blog post. It has to do with my conversation with two Mormon young adults at my front door. Before I go any further…I am making no statement (direct or indirect) regarding Mit Romney’s bid for the presidency of the United States. I have no comments to be made to that end. This is only a retelling of a simple story with interesting implications.

I saw two similarly dressed young men walking on my street while I was washing dishes (yes, my wife is away this week but that’s besides the point…I DO wash dishes!). Immediately my defenses rose up and I gave thought to hiding and ignoring the knock on the door. I even told my kids to not answer it (don’t judge me…we’ve all done it before). Minutes passed with no knock. I thought I dodged a bullet.

Then two figures darted in fronts of my kitchen window, bounding towards my front door.  They saw me! Uggg. Knock. Knock. I know who’s there.

Rather than ignoring it though, I opened the door and greeted them kindly. We talked about the erratic weather and then they introduced themselves as Elders So-and-So. If they are the “elders” then I don’t feel so weird being called “Senior” Pastor.

Before they could launch into their presentation, I invited them in for lunch (I was just making a sandwich). They had already eaten and declined. I then asked them if they were a part of the “Ward on Eola Drive” Yes, indeed they were. I went on to describe that my church is right across the street from that Ward and that I am the pastor. I love what transpired next.

They said: “You are the pastor of the Foursquare church?”

“We know that church. Wait, you’re the pastor?”

Yes.

“We hear that’s a fun church.” the young man said.

I replied: “Yes, it is. We kick it up.”

“That’s what we hear. There must be a lot of people that go there because so many folks we talk to on our walks say they attend that church.” said the other young man.

“Well, yah, lots of folks come to West Salem Foursquare and we do have fun together.” I replied.

Our conversation wrapped up with them asking if there was anything they could do for me. I should have mentioned that my wife is out of town visiting family, and that the laundry was piling up something fierce, but I didn’t.

I thanked them. Smiled, and then sent them on their way to knock on the doors of other West Salem Foursquare folks (ok, that’s wishful thinking…but we do want to reach our entire city, right?!?).

If they should knock on your door, keep these few things in mind:

• They are people loved by God.

• They want to serve and be helpful.

• They are on a mission to communicate a particular message. I believe that message is contrary to the whole of the Bible. But, they are not the devil so don’t treat them as such. Show love. Invite them in for a sandwich if you are comfortable and strong enough spiritually to have tough theological conversations.

• They are trained to refute, debate, and argue specific points and you and I may feel like we’re ill-equipped to do that without getting buried. If you’re new to Jesus, I don’t recommend getting into those discussions – you’ll probably loose or feel stupid.

• If you say “I’m a Christian” then they are told to say, “Us too” and attached themselves to a number of key tenants of our Christian faith. That’s all fine and dandy, but there are simply too many aspects that don’t line up with Judeo-Christian beliefs to say “We’re the same.”

• Be kind. They will know we are Christians by our love, not by the way we snarl and slam the door on them. I have to bet they get a bunch of them on any given day. Don’t be that person.

• Lastly, I love how they defined our church as “fun.” That made me smile. Grace should look and feel like that.

At the end of Route 66

Here we stand at the very end(or beginning) of Route 66. Drive 2448 miles on this road and you end up in Chicago. This reminds me that life is a journey, and these are the people I want to make the trip with most!

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