Monthly Archives: January 2012

Wheel Of MisFortune

It was with anticipation that my granddaughter and I rounded the corner of Gottschalks at Sierra Vista Mall to catch a glimpse of “The Wheelmobile.” I was planning to sign up for a chance to be on Wheel of Fortune. Then we saw the crowd; at least 300 people lined up and waiting.

So we decided to get some lunch in the mall and when we came back the line had increased to 500 people or more. So we joined them. It didn’t seem long before the line started moving. I soon got an application, filled it out, and dropped it in the large container.

About two weeks later I received a letter to report to downtown Fresno for a tryout. There were 200 people there, waiting in line again. Then came some test runs, forms to fill out, etc. They said they may pick 20 people or they may pick no one and they would notify us by mail if we had been chosen.

In two weeks I received another letter saying to report to Sony Studios in L.A. on a certain date. Even then it wasn’t for sure.

Our family made the trip to L.A. (Culver City) and started what was about to be a long day. I was taken to a small room along with 15 other contestants and we were told the rules of what we could or could not do. I thought I was on jury duty. They recorded all five shows in one day and showed them at a later date. I was on the third show. I felt comfortable, since I’d been on stage many times in my life for singing, etc. And then the show started.

When it came to my turn I got a few letters and had almost $5,000, but then lost a turn. The gal next to me solved the puzzle. And so it went. Before I knew it, we were done and I received the lovely parting gift, but no cash. The gift was really nice; matching his and her Jaguar watches worth about $900.

When we got home, I had a hard time watching Wheel of Fortune for a while because I would think about what could have been. I even wrote an article in the Bethany News and Views about the “Wheel of MisFortune.”

Not everything in life turns out the way we dream it might happen or how we want it to turn out.

Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”

1 Timothy 6:6 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

These are such good reminders for me.

Pastor Ed Willems

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Mr. Smiley Face

Given the state of our world right now, it can be easy to become discouraged. A bad economy, strange weather, political turmoil, and other difficulties can make finding encouragement difficult.

If you’re looking for encouragement, look no farther. I’ve found what you’re looking for. It’s called “Mr Smiley Face,” and it is guaranteed to bring a blessing to your day. 🙂

Mr. Smiley Face is a round plastic ball with a window at the bottom. When you need cheering up, just flip Mr. Smiley Face upside down and read the encouraging message that floats up to the window. Feeling low? Mr. Smiley Face gives you encouraging words such as, “You can do it,” “I believe in you,” “Who said you’re stupid?” and more.

The problem is, when you or I are discouraged, we really need human touch and connections rather than the “encouragement” from a plastic toy.

When I started as youth pastor at Vinewood Church in 1985, Bruce Porter, the associate pastor, recommended that I get a file folder and put any encouraging items inside. I’ve kept that file and now it’s full of cards, pictures, and clippings. When I feel a bit discouraged, I get the file and take a few minutes to flip through it.

Thinking about encouragement reminded me of a couple passages of Scripture.

Isaiah 50:4 says, “The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.”

When I read this my thoughts quickly shift from “How can I be encouraged” to “How can I be an encourager?” Do I take the time to listen to the Lord so that I can have a word to sustain the weary? This isn’t rocket science; it’s saying to someone, “hang in there, you can do it” or “I’m praying for you” (and you really are).

This passage also got me thinking about Joseph in Acts 4. You may not know Joseph, at least not by this name. Joseph was a Christian, a convert from Judiasm. He was from the family of Levi, the priestly line, and came from the island of Cyprus. Still haven’t heard of him? We know Joseph a lot better by the nickname that the Apostles gave him: Barnabus, which means Son of Encouragement or “the encourager.”

I want to be that kind of guy. One who is known as a man of encouragement. How do I get there? By thinking about each conversation and each interaction as an opportunity to bless others with a word that lifts their spirit. By listening to God’s voice for a word that sustains the weary.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” If I’m trying to be an encourager, then I want to watch my speech and look for ways that benefit those to whom I speak. .

A personal word of encouragement is so much better than Mr. Smiley Face. But just to confirm, I check the plastic ball one more time and it says, “Your breath is so minty.”

Pastor Rick Bartlett

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Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow.  Unless you have been living under a rock (or don’t watch any TV) you know that he is one of the biggest names not only in sports, but in the social media as well.  While Tebow is the quarterback for the Denver Broncos, he is also a Christian who consistently proclaims his faith with boldness.

If you watch ESPN (like I do) you’ll know that people either love or hate Tebow.  Shows like “Sports Nation” talk about Tebow almost every episode and it shows that most fans love him because he is a competitor and because he knows how to win football games. However, many people believe that he will not even be a quarterback next year in the NFL due to his lack of consistency in throwing the ball. For huge sports fans like me, here is a fun stat to support this belief: during the regular season, his passer rating, was the 28th best passer rating, which is the equivalent to being in the bottom 15% of throwing quarterbacks.

As far as the media goes, he is the person to talk about.  He was recently voted the “Most Popular Active American Athlete” by an ESPN sports poll. Because of Tim, many people are now participating in the act of “Tebowing”.  What is “Tebowing”?  According to, it is “to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.”  There are thousands of people who are “Tebowing”.  High school students in Long Island even got suspended for “Tebowing” because they would be “Tebowing” in the hallways between classes, making it difficult for other students to get to class. Actions like “Tebowing” have caused Tebow to be referenced recently in a Saturday Night Live skit where “Jesus” suggested that he “take it down a notch” in regards to how he always speaks openly about his faith.

            With all of that said, it is easy to see that Tim Tebow is making a profound impact on the world. Whether you love or hate him, something exciting happened.  To start you should know that Tebow’s favorite verse is John 3:16, which his black eye tape referenced in college. John 3:16 also seemed to be the theme of his first playoff start. In the game, not only did he complete 316 yards of passing, but the offensive coordinator who was calling the plays was named John, his receiver who caught the final touchdown pass was born on Christmas, in the final quarter the overnight TV rating was 31.6, the only interception was thrown by the other quarterback was on 3rd down and 16 yards, and lastly, four of the referees were named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Because of this people all over Twitter and Facebook began talking about the “coincidence” or “divine help” and were wondering if God helped Tebow and the Broncos win the game.  But that wasn’t the only thing.  The best thing that happened was that by Monday morning the number one Google search was John 3:16.  That means that hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions read these words: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life”.  Now I don’t actually think that all of those people accepted Christ because of this, or even that 1% did, but Tim Tebow is planting seeds in the lives of millions of people.  He was blessed with a gift and he is using his gift to glorify God in everything he does.

You might be able to tell by now that I am a big Tim Tebow fan.  There are few players in sports who are as compelling to watch as him.  Not only that, but there are even less sports figures who claim to be followers of Christ that live it out.  I know I will never be able to play in the NFL and will probably never have the type of platform that Tebow has to speak into the lives of people everywhere, but I pray that I will use the platform I do have every single day to impact as many lives as I can.

Pastor Jason Kinzel

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Consuming Youth

I’m a pastor.

I haven’t always embraced this title, but I’m doing so now.

How did I become a pastor? It has a lot to do with Bob Clayton and Carman Ruggeri. Bob was the Senior pastor and Carman was the youth pastor at Mountain Christian Center in Oakhurst — the church where I grew up. Bob and Carman literally called me into ministry. I’m sure God was also involved, but as I look back to those adolescent days, I remember these men speaking words of affirmation and encouragement to me as the catalyst for why I’m in ministry today.

Calling young people into ministry is why I’m excited to have been a part of the writing of Consuming Youth. The message of the book is my story. I do what I do because of people like Bob and Carman. In the same way this book challenges adults to take the same interest and oversight of teenagers today. Consuming Youth offers an alternative reality, a different story to inhabit; one that calls youth and adults to consider their identity as vocation and calling first.

One reader of Consuming Youth summarized it in this way, “Culture tells youth to find identity through consuming; the Church should tell youth to find identity through their calling.”

Unfortunately, as we know, this isn’t often the case. Culture defines youth as:

  • Consumers — value comes through what is owned or possessed.
  • Self-absorbed — the message that teenagers only care about themselves to the exclusion of others
  • Rebellious — that they are walking bundles of out of control hormones at war with adults
  • Only peer -oriented — no room or desire for adult interaction

Consuming Youth offers a different narrative. One that challenges youth and youth leaders to create communities that represent:

  • Called — with a unique purpose
  • Others oriented — youth can come alive through service
  • Resourced — that there are caring adults available to walk alongside these teenagers.
  • Community — part of a larger story.

The feedback we’ve received since the December 2010 release has been very interesting. This book is striking a cord with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of life stages. Older adults are rediscovering the power of vocation and are finding themselves reenergized to spend the rest of their lives pursuing God’s vocation for their lives. Youth leaders are investing themselves in ministry that takes seriously the need for a different narrative to live by, one that moves us beyond the dominant message.

One of my favorite stories from the book is about a youth pastor friend of mine who was responding to a program I was involved in that sought to implement the values spelled out in the book. When the high school students returned to his youth group, he told me they were “ruined for normal.” They were no longer able to fully participate in North American  teenage consumer culture because they had been touched and transformed by the power of vocation and call.

I thought of Pastors Bob and Carman as I listened to my youth pastor friend, and all I could do was smile.

Pastor Rick Bartlett

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