Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is Committed Committed?

Some people don't think so because they think Christians shouldn't sing anything but overtly Christian or "sacred" songs. Because, they say, God cannot be praised any other way. But for the 2nd season in row, a group of Adventist guys are proving them wrong!!!

In the first season of NBC's "The Sing Off", an Adventist group called Nota with six graduates from Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico won the $100,000 cash prize and a recording contract with Epic Records/Sony Music [click here to read the Adventist Review article about their story]. Now, in its second season, the judges on the reality singing competition has whittled the acappella groups competing down to four and these graduates from Forest Lake Academy [Apopka, Florida] and Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama that comprise Committed are also in the running [click top pic for NBC's bio and middle pic for their Facebook page].

Whatever happens, they've promised to continue being committed to God and each other and to use their notoriety to tell others about Jesus. Click the vid below to hear them explain. And PTL that God is finding creative ways for His followers to WIN the right to be heard!!! Tune in tonight to watch Committed @ 8pm EST and don't forget to vote for them at the end of the show!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Truth About Poverty?

When we think of those in poverty, certain questions automatically come to mind. Why don’t they get a job?! Why are they so irresponsible?! Are handouts really all they want or need? What should a church know about serving those in poverty?

These are just some of the questions that will be answered after church potluck on consecutive Sabbath afternoons in January starting January 8 and continuing January 15 and 22 from 1-3pm.
Geared toward churches and organizations who are currently [or who are thinking about] working more intentionally with the poor, these classes teach participants what generational poverty is, the reasons why the poor stay poor, how to really help the poor, and how we can align ourselves with God’s heart for the poor.

Elijah Jones, long time Toledo resident with a wealth of experience serving the poor, will be teaching these classes and facilitating the follow up conversations. Elijah is a friend of Toledo First Church and serves on the Haven of Hope board. If you're at all interested in the next steps Connections takes to a possible storefront location downtown, please make these classes a priority!!!

Your response to these classes will help us determine whether we have the interest or "manpower" we need to proceed with a storefront. The classes are free and open to the public but RSVP @ 419.882.6200 is required.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Merry Christmas Card Quiz 2010?

1.) In January 2010, what was Mike’s fave part of being in Israel?
a. The Sea of Galilee boat ride
b. Floating in the Dead Sea
c. Worship @ Golgatha and Garden Tomb
d. All of the above [click here or pics above and below to see 30 more from Israel]

2.) In January 2010, what was Jackie’s fave part of being in Israel?
a. Seeing places the Bible describes “come alive”
b. Changing planes in Italy without seeing any of it
c. Menachem, our long-winded tour guide
d. Only A

3.) Which happened?
a. Joshua broke his adult front tooth
b. Joshua won the Daytona 500
c. Joshua won 2nd place in the Pinewood Derby
d. Both A and C

4.) What did Mike’s church do this year to show people that God loves them like crazy?
a. Raised money for victims of NW Ohio Tornado
b. Became the “American Family” for 9 International Students at University of Toledo
c. Nothing
d. Both A and B

5.) What else did Mike’s church do this year to show people that God loves them like crazy?
a. Gave away free Panera Bread every Friday morning
b. Went on a Mission Trip to America in McDowell County, West Virginia - America’s poorest county
c. Threw a Valentines for Africa banquet
d. All of the above

6.) What was Joshua and Lydia’s favorite movie?
a. God Grew Tired of Us
b. Waiting for Superman
c. Praying with Lior
d. Tangled

7.) Joshua [age 11] loves:
a. Designing tracks online
b. Feeding his albino constricting corn snake named “Peaches”
c. Cleaning his room
d. Both A and B

8.) Lydia’s [age 8½] loves:
a. Drawing
b. Singing in church
c. Hannah Montana reruns
d. All of the above

9.) Jackie and Mike...
a. Are still dating 20 years later [still happily married for 14]
b. Got no speeding tickets this year
c. Haven’t even started converting all their Hi8mm tapes to DVD or BluRay
d. All of the above

10.) Mike’s favorite books [click any title for more info] read include:
a. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
b. Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? by Alden Thompson
c. Who Stole My Church? by Gordon MacDonald
d. All of the above

>7 Fortunate—Cool as the other side of the pillow
>5 Unfortunate—Missing some grain in the silo
>3 A misfortune—Sharp as a marble

Answers: They're all D!!!

Stay connected online [click any link below]

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Random Acts of Culture?

Random acts of culture by musical groups singing songs in public places have been popping up everywhere from a recent episode of Modern Family to this latest example Rachel sent me most recently. I think it's my fave because of the way it begins in a food court with the soloists braving the crowds all by themselves at first. Would you ever do something like this?

Retooning the Nativity?

Did you know that neither of the Gospel stories mention Mary traveling by donkey? That the Bible doesn’t mention an inn keeper? Or for that matter an inn? Click triangular play button below to see why.

Christmas Presence?

Last year during the weeks leading up to Christmas, we partnered with Toledo Junior Academy students and families in giving gifts to local families who could not afford to buy presents. We also raised some money for Serentity Farms — a local non-profit organization specializing in counseling services and therapeutic riding through the use of certified therapy dogs and special horses.

This year, as part of our Christmas Presence series of sermons preceding Christmas, we’re going to be partnering with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency [ADRA] using their 2010 Really Useful Gift Catalog to raise money each week in a special offering for goats! Why? Because item #43 says one breeding doe will give an impoverished family overseas additional income and access to milk for their children. And each goat costs only $70!!!

So when you come to church Sabbaths December 4-25, don’t be surprised to see “the poor man’s cow” tied up inside right beside the other Christmas decorations and manger scenes to help us remember how we can help impoverished families grasp the significance of Jesus’ Presence this Christmas. The wise men gave gold. We're giving goats to help families fight their way out of poverty!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Godly Guitars?

Duane Calkins is a shop teacher in the public school system in Roseville, CA. A member of the Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist Church, Duane works in a setting where he cannot talk about spiritual things. Yet through his authentic, caring witness, his students know they are loved [like crazy!!!]. Do yourself a favor and set aside 6 minutes to watch this vid. I think you'll be glad you did. WTG Duane!!!

Crafting Hearts from CSS Ministry Resources on Vimeo.

Drop and Shop?

Our church is a mile away from the mall. We're hoping some parents needing to go shopping without the kiddies will drop them off with us while they shop. Everybody does VBS in the summer. We're gonna do it in the winter [click pic for map and diretions]. One thing for sure: These won't be silent nights!!! I bet your church could pull this ordinary outreach off before Christmas too!!!

Enjoying Fall?

The Federal Pretrial and Probation Officers Association recently honored my friend Lewis Simpson Jr. as their Probation Officer of the Year in Supervision by the Great Lakes Regional District. In addition to doing a great job there, he plays bass in our praise team and together with his wife and daughter has adopted some UT international students as one of our fall ordinary outreaches. WTG!!!

Carla snapped this next pic from some fun we had at Gomez and Morticia's house [Emmett and Eniko] one recent Saturday night. We thoroughly enjoyed the mystery dinner. Even though Frankenstein [Randy] was pretty scary.

This one is taken in Joshua's room with his cousins Conner and Jessica and Maegan's friend Ena. Lydia is holding Joshua's new pet - Peaches the albino corn snake. Which is very docile and tame until Fridays when she snaps the thawed out once frozen mouse Joshua dangles from the top of its cage, constricts around it, and then swallows it whole. It's very national geographic.

Jeff archived this last photo for posterity of Joshua and his 2nd place winning Pinewood Derby car and trophy. No, he didn't get into a fight. The road rash on his face came earlier that evening from taking a face plant on the sidewalk outside the church while goofing around with some friends. He was wearing his other pair of glasses [goggles] at the time because he had broken his "nice" pair of glasses at school earlier. So now both are broken and one of his adult front teeth broke off into tiny pieces. It has since been replaced with a plastic tooth. But who knew he could again be singing, All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth...

Hope you are your families are well and enjoying the season. God is good. All the time!!!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Whose Works?

If apart from Christ, we can do nothing [John 15:5] but with Christ we can do all things [Philippians 4:13], whose works are we really talking about when the Bible writers repeatedly refer to them? [cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6 etc]. Ours? No. Christ's! That's the only way the brightest minds throughout the history of Christianity have made sense of the verses about "our" works in the Bible. It's why Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

"The law of God is still in force (Romans 3:31), and still demands fulfillment. And the only way to fulfill the law is by doing good works. But ultimately there is only one good work; the work of God in Christ Jesus...all our good works are the works of God" [The Cost of Discipleship, p.296]. That's what this video my friend Phill sent me reminded me of recently. Enjoy!!!

Connections Under Construction?

On September 25, the snacks and beverages were laid out for the last time, the praise team played our all-time favorites, and memories and testimonies brought us back through the years. Although it was Connections last service in our building, the message was loud and clear this is not the end of this ministry. Because the church is leaving the buildilng!!!

We still believe God is calling us to a shared ministry in a downtown storefront similar to the one our church first operated in 1899. And we will proceed if God raises up a core team of committed volunteers willing to contribute their time and talents. If you are interested or willing to serve in such an outreach, please contact me @ 419.882.6200 or Ron Szczechowski @ 419.866.8951. Stay tuned to Fortune Cookies for more information. And click the triangular play button below for a little trip down memory lane. Video courtesty Ryan Warner

Ordinary Outreach Galore?

Fall has provided numerous opportunities for us to show people that God loves them like crazy!!! While local musician Johnny Rodriguez was belting out live 50s and 60s tunes at the 4th annual Kidz Crazy Car Show [click car pics to see more],
I met a guy who invited me to do his wedding the following Saturday night. Which I did and now we're doing post-marital counseling. Another lady who recently relocated to Toledo was pleasantly surprised and thoroughly impressed. And I gave a young family of four looking for a church that lives nearby a tour of the daycare and church. They were thrilled to find a church so close to home they really like and have already asked me to do pre-marital classes with them and their wedding too!!!
Partnering with the University of Toledo International Student Office, six of us were introduced to twelve new friends from the University of Toledo as part of the Toledo International Hospitality Program. We carved pumpkins and played games and since then have enjoyed trips with them to church, our homes for a meal, the art museum, and the bell choir concert. Serving lunch at Cherry Street Mission is also a highlight for the students @ Toledo Junior Academy. Thank you for shouting the Gospel with your lives!!! [to read why ordinary outreach has no hooks or strings attached see Matthew 10:42 and Luke 6:35]
Photos courtesy Shawn Flack and Steve Bills

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why Did Mike Stop Blogging?

Some of you realized I haven't posted anything on Fortune Cookies since the end of August 2010. Thanks for your encouragement and kinds words. It's good to be missed!!! No, I haven't stopped blogging because everyone already knows God loves them like crazy flaws and all. No, I wasn't on vacation. And no, I'm not sick or in the hospital [although my mom has been in twice in two months...she's better now PTL!!!].

Yes, I'm still convinced based on research inside and outside the Adventist church that meaningful Bible study and worship, active ordinary outreach, and grace based churches are three of the most influential factors that help young people and the increasing number of unchurched Americans all around us develop a positive outlook about God and lasting interest in the church [click here to read more].

So why should we continue to spend ourselves for the sake of the Gospel? Because there are plenty of people from Chile to Holy Toledo and the rapidly growing mission field where you live that are far from God!!! So let's exhaust every avenue and media to show them grace and live the love that still astonishes a watching world. That's what the rescue of those 33 trapped miners reminded me of recently. [BTW, I stopped blogging because my PC died. And my temporary replacement lacked the muscle needed to upload pics and vids. But I've got a MBP now so Fortune Cookies is good to go!!! In the meantime, click the triangular play button below to hear Toledo native Crystal Bowersox belt out her hit "Holy Toledo" and see you in two weeks!!!]

Photo courtesy: Hugo Infante / Government of Chile
From the San José mine, Copiapó, Chile

Film Fest Nominations?

During the fall and winter, we host a Film Fest once a month at church. Here's some we've watched [or will be watching soon] then discussed so far [for public showings, you must secure permission from the film's distributor and often pay a group viewing fee]. Care to add any nominations? Make plans to be here NOV 20 @ 7pm and bring some friends [click pic for address and directions]. We'll provide the snacks. Which one do YOU want to see first? Click titles for more info.

Amazing Grace

A Man for All Seasons

Born Into Brothels

Boys of Baraka

Brother Sun Sister Moon

Chariots of Fire

Elephant Man

End of the Spear

Encounter Point


God Bless the Child

God Grew Tired of Us

Les Miserables


Napolean Dynamite

Pay It Forward

Praying With Lior

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Ruby Bridges

Schindler's List


Super Size Me

The Adventists

The Least of These [2002]

The Mission

Waiting for Superman

What Would Jesus Buy?

Culturally Aware?

Is it important for churches to be culturally aware?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Do Dogs Love Like Crazy?

Some friends introduced me to this short tune by Wendy Francisco that millions of others have already heard. Already a book and a bazillion other things are being produced with this logo on it [click pic for more info]. As well they should be. Because these lyrics remind us that God [and often our dogs] love us like crazy!!! Here's some pics of Barkley [because I thought he would bark a lot!!! He actually doesn't] as a puppy. Click triangular play button below to enjoy!!!

Why Do Hurt People Hurt People?

Author and Dr. Sandra Wilson says hurt people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt in large or small ways. But God can help us break that cycle of hurt by offering us His healing and hope. On Wednesday, September 8 @ 6:30pm, we begin our fall Community Book Discussion and YOU are invited! The class is free but books cost $10. Bring some soup for Soup for You @ 6pm followed by discussion of this book [click pic for more info]. Get help for healing your own hurts from friends and spouses, leaders, followers, worshipers, parents, and forgivers. Everyone whether you're Christian or not believes in some kind of life after death. Come learn how to have a relationally healthy and abundant life before as well!!!

Back to School and Mission Field?

Recently in church I shared how the New Testament book of Acts teaches us that the Holy Spirit comes when we pray [Acts 1:14], when we start using our spiritual gifts [Acts 2:5], when we listen for God [Acts 8:26-29], share more about Jesus [Acts 8:35], and treat where we are as the mission field [Acts 8:36-40]. Click pic to watch / read / listen to me make those points or click the triangular play button below to laugh with J. John, a Canon in the Church of England, describing the first point about prayer. He is LOL funny!!! The audio is perfect, but the video isn't always. Enjoy anyway!!!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Prepared for Adolescence?

Our son is turning 11 years old in a few days. He "borrowed" my deodorant the other day because he said "his pits stink." I mock-thanked him for sharing [TMI!!!] and seriously-thanked him later for taking more responsibility of his life [now, if he would only take as much interest in cleaning his room before I make him on Fridays!!!]. I share this [with his permission BTW; BIG thanks and WTG to Josh for letting me blog this!!!] because he has become increasingly aware of who he is as a pre-teen recently thanks to an audio book by Dr. James Dobson entitled Preparing for Adolescence [click pic to buy your own].

We stumbled onto this resource a few months ago and have been working through its contents together ever since. With CDs just for parents in addition to CDs for you to listen to with your child, the content will prepare you for "the sex talk" in addition to bravely answering difficult questions about sexuality [such as those surrounding masturbation which Christians usually ignore or leave shrouded in guilt]. Nothing is out of bounds. And everything is answered for boys and girls thoroughly, kindly, and [I believe] Biblically.

Dobson suggests listening to this content on a long road trip over one weekend culminating in a father / son [mother / daughter] fun day s/he picks. We're still going to do that "just us" weekend, but what we're doing before then is listening to 15 minute segments of each CD at night before Josh goes to sleep. We turn all the lights out and lay on his bed and listen, pausing when necessary, to laugh, talk, or wonder about what was just said. The number of questions and honest reactions to the content I thought too complicated for him to understand has staggered me. It has not only given Josh a clearer understanding of what is happening now, it has diminished some of the fears I didn't even know he already had about the future! And it has drawn us closer together. Lydia doesn't know what adolescence is all about yet, but she's already looking forward to it [!!!] so she can go on her "mother / daughter" weekend as soon as she and Jackie finishes the CDs too!!! [PS - This material has been re-packaged and updated recently. The new pic looks like the smaller one above]

Glamorous Warehouse Volunteers?

During the early morning hours of June 6, 2010, NW Ohio was hit by the one of the most devastating tornadoes in years. Immediately, organizations and churches kicked into gear to help including ours who raised nearly $1,200 on Father's Day weekend. Since then, the tornado and its aftermath has ceased to be front page news, but the ongoing need for help remains. Which is why my pastor friend Roy Nelson and his friends at Adventist Community Services [click graphic above for more info] secured a warehousing location in Wood County to continue to help victims of the tornado.

In the video below [there's a short commercial first, click the tiny triangular play button in the lower left of the box], Roy explains how important it is to continue to reach out to the community long after the immediate need is obvious. If you have time, whether you're a member of Toledo First or not, please consider heading over to east Toledo and volunteer a couple hours to organizing the contents of the warehouse with Roy by calling 740.381.7703. It's not glamorous, but it is appreciated!!! To read the CBS 11 News story click here. Video courtesy Toledo CBS 11.

Can Christians Love Others Well?

Samir Selmanovic, pastor and author of "It's Really All About God" [click pic for more info], grew up in a culturally Muslim family in Croatia. He converted to Christianity as a soldier in the then Yugoslavian army, and went on to become an Adventist pastor at a growing young congregation called Cross Walk in southern California. But a few years ago, he left that congregation [but not Adventist Christianity] to start a "community of communities" in NYC [called Faith House, click logo for more info] to show the world that we can live together on this fragile earth as authentic believers in our own religions without becoming isolated, incoherent, or hostile toward others who do not believe the same way. We can learn to love well [like crazy]!!!

Samir will be coming to Toledo AUG 27-29, 2010. He will be signing copies of his book at the Family Christian Bookstore [4015 Secor Road] @ 7pm on August 27 and will be making presentations August 28 in the Toledo First Church at 11am and 5pm. In addition, he will also be speaking at the Washington Church [3925 West Central Avenue] on August 29 @ 9:30am. You will not want to miss this!!!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Time to Tour?

Last Tuesday I left Family Camp @ Mohaven to host the Toledo Area Ministries Summer Houses of Worship Tour. About 150 people who visited Toledo First Seventh-day Adventist Church on Tuesday left with new insights and understanding of the denomination as well as a "kindness to go" goody bag. Aside from bragging about our church and answering questions, it gave us time to sign people up for our next community book discussion Hurt People Hurt People. A reporter and photographer from the The Blade was there too and did a good job covering the event on the front page of the Religion Section in last Saturday's edition. Click either pic to read the article.

Photo courtesy The Blade / Amy E. Voight

A Delightful Picnic with Purpose?

BIG thank you and WTG to all of you able to spend some time at the park last week during our Picnic with Purpose. Aside from a fantastic meal, we enjoyed Corn Hole, Ladder Ball, and new this year: Water Tic Tac Toe. Additionally, we gave away over 160 cups of lemonade with connection cards and invitations to visit us at church. Reactions overheard include: "This is so cool!!!" "Thank you so much for doing this!!!" "Can I have another one?" "Who are you guys?" "What's this all about?"
There weren't as many canines this time [it was pretty hot], but we managed to give away quite a few doggie biscuits anyway too. Some friends from Parkwood Church joined us giving away free blood pressures. And the mostly musical Connections service in the park did in fact connect us with a guy named Vince. Who wandered up to our pavilion with his guitar and, playing by ear, started playing all the songs with us even though he'd never hear them before!!!

Afterward, he introduced us to his friends at the table nearby all of whom are music students in Toledo and unconnected to any church. Of course we invited Vince to play in the praise team next week at church too [he's really good!!!] so please pray for him and all his friends. Thank you for making last Sabbath a delightful day. And setting aside AUG 14 for our next and final 2010 Picnic with Purpose.