Saturday, October 31, 2009
Understand that I know many relationships are great and that the church in places is a life-saver to families. What I am saying is one need not possess a microscope to find societal trouble in getting along to be of crisis proportion.
Interpersonal bonds are suffering. Families are indifferent, hateful, and stubborn toward one another and others day after day. Fracture has become a way of life.
What can be done about it? Men and women must learn to build a relationship with God that is both preeminent and dominant. Individuals cannot treat another individual well on their own. They must know God and have God to pull off any and every successful connection with another.
Francis Shaeffer wrote, If man tries to find everything in a man-woman or a friend-to-friend relationship, he destroys the very thing he wants and destroys the one he loves. He sucks them dry, he eats them up, and they as well as the relationship are destroyed. But as Christians we do not have to do that. Our sufficiency of relationship is in that which God made it to be, in the infinite-personal God, on the basis of the work of Christ in communication and love.
This could sound terribly trite...or smug. But if one really wants to know what cures the bulk of society's ailment, it would be good men and women leaning more on God than each other. If not, the trend of shatter and destroy will eclipse the pace now being endured.
An odd thing about considering an article like this is how quickly one can think of someone else who ought to read this....rather than ponder it at length for personal evaluation.
Friday, October 30, 2009
If plans failed, I would be stuck in misery. If some spoke harshly to me; I would burrow into the safety of depression while rehearsing in my head their words coupled with their facial expressions. Should I encounter disappointment, I could not let it go. Rather, I replayed it with microscopic analysis.
I was dejected and my days were dismal. That affords little room for effective leadership, would you guess?
By His grace I began to learn how to turn those muddy waters into valuable assets. Give me one guess as to why you think I am so devoted to encouraging everyone I can? Would it be because I have a clue as to the height, depth, and width of great need for building people up? Is it any wonder God points out the reason for gathering is to BUILD ONE ANOTHER UP UNTO LOVE AND GOOD DEEDS?
So the solution to becoming unstuck is what? Bury the trash. Get rid of it. Go to your mind and note all of the junk you seem to focus upon and immediately hit "Delete". Let it go. Don't carry it around with you. Don't ponder how to get even or how to explain your side or how to manipulate others to come around. Drop it. Let it go.
To get out of being stuck, one would need to do what. MOVE ON. So? MOVE ON. Let the garbage go. Fill up your mind with all the good things going right in life. Philippians 4:4-8....is the perfect guide to move on. Do it.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Therefore, I write this post hoping to salute the good guys among us while possibly inspiring some mediocre ones to greater effectiveness as well as efficiency. Here are a few things to consider about the good guys:
- Every one of them learns something pertinent in becoming an elder in which they had been guilty of criticizing elders before they became one. Their understanding deepens.
- Members can find it easy to form major (even stubborn) opinions when they know little of how shallowly they speak.
- Elders spend days and night in tears over those in secret pain as well as those who find it easy to criticize. Their love for both is reflective of The One.
- The good elders are not jealous of one another. There is no power struggle.
- The effective elders refuse to be pigeon-holed in the foyer by a critic. They possess an uncanny courage to direct that dear member to the one with whom they have the problem and allow God to work it out. Too much division among us has been unnecessary because weak elders would not stand up to overbearing and outspoken members.
- The good elders are willing to stand upon their view of the Bible without fear of what other flocks may mistakenly assume or conclude.
- The closer a shepherd is to the cross the more he will be accused of wrong-doing as was the case with The Shepherd. Find it no accident that those in the "religious know" nailed the Chief Elder to the cross as a fake and weak leader. The good elder lives from his cross with neither defense nor complaint.
We are blessed to have the good guys on our side. To the good guys and to those who are becoming to good guys....we salute you!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
What is the battle? Staying young.
If not careful, older members will interpret staying young as going liberal. Such might be the case. However, often vigor and energy is sacrificed at the expense of keeping those who have been around happy. One doesn't need to be 80 or 90 for this affect to strike. It can happen when 40 and 50.
Churches are withering because they are stuck. They are stranded upon a verse that gives them great, but pseudo, satisfaction; many are called but few are chosen. Remember the narrow path....they say.
What are we going to do about these young people, older ones ponder. That's the wrong question. I'm in the older group; I'm 62. The question is what are we going to do to keep the older ones new?
Though the outer man is decaying, the inner man is being renewed, wrote Paul. The automatic church challenge is to keep the inner man from traipsing close behind the outer man's decay process. We who have been around the church block will find ourselves increasingly challenged to be attentive to God's leading of the entire church....not just the way we always done it before.
So yesterday I had a bit of health screening done. It was already scheduled, but since I've been feeling lousy it seemed to be perfect (maybe Yes) timing. I won't get the bulk of the results for another three weeks. But five results from blood work were immediate.
I did great on four....but the last one placed me in the worst of three possibilities for that category...high risk heart disease was the statement on the report card. So what do I do with that?
I do with that what I do with everything. Everything will be okay. Well, you might be sick. Maybe...and in that case God may have doctors and nurses out there just waiting to run into one of His kids.
Yeah, but you might die. Oh. Well in that case I'll just ignore the report? Nah. I will deal with this regardless of light weight or heavy. But I will be watching for God to work His wonderful "yes" material into the fabric. The opportunities are endless.
Even while waiting for the tests, I was sitting with strangers who were awaiting the call of their names. So I made new friends. The local sheriff was among them.
I first inquired how long they had lived in our neighborhood only to ask a follow-up of, Have you ever visited my church? They inquired as to its location with a response of no. And then I came back with, How in the world have you let that happen? All laughed....but I see it as more. I see it as a seed embedded without them knowing such. One day it may sprout from the waters of tears due to crisis......or it may sprout because it is Easter Sunday.
I do think, too, that when I returned from behind the thin screen from my first test only to join all my new friends in the waiting area (as all were called back and forth for the next test) that when I announced the nurses at the first station had just declared me to be one hunk of man.....this evidently lifted the spirits of the somber room! Laughter broke out. Why? I wondered.)
Either way, I had a Yes event going on before I got the results. It will continue so because this is the nature of God. He doesn't waste one crumb of our life....so why should we?
Besides...I got an email from Mark McGwire this morning....so I would say I am having another good day!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
When one moves in spiritual leadership it is not unusual to be out on a limb with no tree attached. The limb suspends alone and there we sit. When this goes on, either God is there or He is not. Our calculation was to have determined He is there ahead of time.
Walking by faith is not for the silly, nor the cowardly, nor the fleshly. It is for the assurance-filled that God knows how to both protect and provide.
The flesh will cry out for calculation, explanation, and organization. The spirit will trust. "Blind faith", you charge? Friend, there is no "sight faith". We walk by faith...not by sight. We are out on a limb committed to God. With Him we fall or soar...but we are with Him in His mystery operating on His timing.
We often find ourselves out on a limb...with no tree connected for security.
Monday, October 26, 2009
What is your church like? What is any church like? It is like what it is wherever it is.
Foreign concept to you? "Huh?" is your response? What your congregation is like is whatever it is like wherever it is.
Tendency is to measure such a group from its Sunday morning assembly. If it is warm and energetic, then we believe we have a lively church. Should it be small in number and terribly weak in skill....well, we feel we've possibly drawn the short straw for churches.
But I warn you against measuring your level of importance by the Sunday morning thread. Instead, consider what you all are like wherever you are on any given day. What is your song leader like when waiting in line at the pharmacy? What are your deacons' attitudes when treated unfairly? How is your youth group when asked to serve in less than desirable conditions?
Churches are to be alive where they are....gathered or not....Sunday morning or Tuesday evening. Paul and Silas really didn't have a good worship service planned; yet they sang Jailhouse Rock and you know the rest of the story.
I am spoiled blessed. I get to gather on Sunday mornings with the cream of the crop. Our singing is heavenly as Shane Coffman works diligently to take us the direction of God's throne. When Larry White reads anything he sounds like God's voice might sound.
Not all congregations have that expertise. Be mindful we aren't called to be professional churches. We are called to be mighty in heart. Yes, the world is drawn to professionalism of any sort. But professionalism doesn't save and it can fail to inspire.
Rather than the song selection, it may very well be the warmth of greeting from pew to pew and aisle to aisle. Rather than great sermon delivery, it might be the penetrating verses of scripture shared. The lost and the struggling are not professional sinners. We are people...good people...who need eyes and faces to act like we are valuable.
Whether a congregation of 48 or 614, we all face the same challenge. Do we have it in us to motivate one another to love and good deeds? Churches of 500 can be cold and indifferent...even if the goings-on appear to be professional.
The heart of God connected to the hearts men, women, and children....these are what makes a church of any size really live!
One of the things love does is combat fear. Faith isn't the opposite of fear; love is. When we love God and love people we can move into frightening situations....without the fright. Love believes, hopes, and endures.....all three. It believes all things will work out all right, possesses a certainty that God is able, and does not think of giving up. That's what love has to do with it!
Fear wishes to portray wisdom and insight. It doesn't. Rather fear contains blurred vision and absolute deafness. Love is the possessor of real wisdom and insight. It is amazing how love for people (including the enemy) shifts perspective. Love melts anger. Love thaws strained relationships. Love dissolves anxiety. That's what love has to do with it!
Be encouraged. Be absolutely encouraged. God works. He owns the mystery of us all. Our best shot is to build up our arsenal of capacity to love. It has everything to do with success.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Be encouraged. I live surprised. I expect to be surprised.
I had one set of grandparents who were poor. The other set appeared rich by comparison, but they were most likely poor as well. Every time the latter pair went on a little jaunt to visit one of the relatives, my brother and I could always count on them bringing us a surprise. Sometimes it was 25 cents worth of toy soldiers in a small bag. Another time it might be cheap hats from a tour of a paint factory. I knew one thing when they got back they would have a surprise for us.
I was never surprised that they had something for me. I knew it would be coming. The surprise was, What would it be this time?
I live expectantly surprised while working alongside God. I know it's coming from God; I just don't know what it will be. He is generous with gifts. We sow seed....forget about it due to working on the latest and greatest project...and surprise! God has responded to something we did years if not decades ago with enormous fruit; conversions or restorations or reconciliations or breakthroughs. You name it. God surprises us right on target!
Be encouraged. God's ways are higher than ours....all the time....every day. We will assert ourselves responsibly and then the Book says He will do more than we could imagine or think.
Don't be surprised that living in the church is one big wonderful constant.....SURPRISE!
Stress is. The push and pull of it can eventually become so distracting one can hardly function in the normalcy of any given day. The mind prefers to enter the ring of a wrestling smackdown hoping to conquer....something.
I'm there. First, I have two books in the works; one is a new manuscript and the other is a rewrite of an earlier book. Second, I have two publishers; one for each. One publisher was in a freak accident at a major east coast airport. Something fell from above while he was waiting for his ride and broke his neck. He is in rehab. The other publisher has become very ill and is bedridden with no ability to focus on my book or anything else.
I am not well. I have been sick for about ten days and it's all I can do to function about the bare necessities of any day. A hefty segment of our congregation is engaging in great discussion regarding key elements of our future. Sometimes those repeated meetings become touchy.
What do I do?
I thank God when I pray! Who wouldn't want to say they sit in my chair day after day? Who wouldn't wish to write one book; let alone two? Who wouldn't want a congregation stressing over advancement and possibilities? I'm not wasting one moment of all of this bemoaning poor me. I'm not poor! I'm richly blessed!
And so are you. Trouble? Conflict? Uncertainty? Good grief....get a faith. Do you really think your God has suffered shoulder surgery and can't reach your part of life? Of course not. Your God is endlessly creative! Your God hears and He hears well. Everything is worked out and we simply wait for His revelation as to what it is.
My point is obvious. Yes, serious matters impose themselves upon our radar. Take them seriously. Then be sure to thank God for them and thank Him for His provision and eventual arrival. Our God makes every day a really good day. Evidently Paul and Silas thought so. They made lemonade out of the lemons. We do the same: we want, we can, we will.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Here's what I found in googling Group Think. It might...no, it will help some of you as you address topics of importance in your work. Here's what I found.
Groupthink is a concept that was identified by Irving Janis9 that refers to faulty decision-making in a group. Groups experiencing groupthink do not consider all alternatives and they desire unanimity at the expense of quality decisions. Learn more about groupthink and then complete the interactive exercise at the end of the discussion.
Groupthink occurs when groups are highly cohesive and when they are under considerable pressure to make a quality decision.
Some negative outcomes of groupthink include:
Examining few alternatives
Not being critical of each other's ideas
Not examining early alternatives
Not seeking expert opinion
Being highly selective in gathering information
Not having contingency plans
Some symptoms of groupthink are:
Having an illusion of invulnerability
Rationalizing poor decisions
Believing in the group's morality
Sharing stereotypes which guide the decision
Exercising direct pressure on others
Not expressing your true feelings
Maintaining an illusion of unanimity
Using mindguards to protect the group from negative information
Some solutions include:
Using a policy-forming group which reports to the larger group
Having leaders remain impartial
Using different policy groups for different tasks
Dividing into groups and then discuss differences
Discussing within sub-groups and then report back
Using outside experts
Using a Devil's advocate to question all the group's ideas
Holding a "second-chance meeting" to offer one last opportunity to choose another course of action
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Pleasing people is a gigantic problem; especially for any who like people. This is an exceptionally difficult zone for me to maneuver. But, I'm learning.
Here's what you need to know. If any like you/accept you for any reason other than mercy, you need not bother with jumping through their hoops. You will eventually miss a hoop and you will be toast. So, if you are going to be toast with some....don't you think you might as well get it over with? Go ahead and put them out of your misery.
Our spirits beg from within not to attend certain functions. We know we "need to go" so one or four will be happy. Friend, if your non-attendance will cause them displeasure toward you, believe me you will eventually give that one/those a really bad mood. Performance-oriented relationships are not of the kingdom of God.
Refrain from arrogance as well as stubbornness. Simultaneously, I encourage you to realize you simply aren't going to make everyone happy. Furthermore, Jesus leveled against doing so.
If being liked by everyone is your goal, you have a very selfish and unbiblical concept cooking. I know. I fought it for decades! It has been important that everyone like me. I gave it repeated good shots. I failed. I miserably failed.
Bitterness cannot be a part of my heart. Disappointment is. But I surely began to experience a new kind of life when I mustered the courage to tell those who loved me as long as I jumped their hoops, "I can't hold up under that pressure anymore".
It is my choice to like everyone. It is their choice to choose. I will fail. Thanks to all who have kept me in spite of myself. Everyone is valuable. Not everyone can be pleased. As hard as we try, we can only please some of the people part of the time.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Josh is one of those young guys that exudes all the right kingdom stuff: humility, eagerness, hunger for truth and freedom, and a fighter for survival. I really believe in him and these young guys like him.
Josh was trained in one of our schools to be an effective arguer and debater. Enmeshed in rules and law, he set out on a course to arrest the religious world. But that community began to shrivel as law always kills and the Spirit gives life. He found himself yearning for more of the Christ and less of personal performance.
We worked on study habits, authors to consider, development in prayer, and faith to believe God works when no other positive signals are at hand. What I like most about him is he has shed the taste for legalism and now walks with a heart toward the cross. He wants to know....more about Jesus.
I was blessed today to sit in the presence of just one of how many remarkable men and women does God have mobilized on this earth to redeem His beautiful creation? For me? I look forward to a great friendship with a young guy I already count as important to my heart. Because of you young leaders among us, I am most privileged to get to be where you are in the search for the Greatest Treasures.
Why is it that grace is suspect by some in the religious marketplace? The need for grace is diminished because the power of sin has been arrested. If sin isn't realized as a major dark force in our lives, then we are free to believe we've conquered the culprit on our own. Therefore, we don't want others getting off the hook so easily through grace. If we worked our way into correction, so can they.
Romans 7:13 makes a meaningful statement: through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. Have we become oblivious to this magnificent lack in our modern day assessment of sin? Has sin not shifted from utterly sinful to just about the norm?
No wonder the church in places is very lackluster about grace. It has lost its depth perception of sin. Sin is no longer utterly sinful. Rather it has become explainable, manageable, and recoverable. Why would anyone need much grace if there just isn't that much sin?
We have grown accustomed to our erroneous lifestyle of sin just not being all that sinful. It is. The Crucified One begs us to believe it. We must not continue oblivious to our magnificent lack.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Earth-world is bombarded with leadership. Complexity and opportunity keep the leader-board scrambling for the newest, the biggest, and the brightest. This can be intimidating to the Christian who operates in invisibles. Charting our success is not....well it doesn't chart.
But what we do is lead the discouraged to the hope. That is a pretty fascinating work. Christian leadership puts the meaning, the endurance, and the life into all other leadership. In actuality, we put---in what makes things work---the tick. We may feel irrelevant most of the time as awards are seldom handed out for holding people together. Yet, such is our career.
Henri Nouwen wrote, The leader of the future will be the one who dares to claim his irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows him or her to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success and to bring the light of Jesus there.
The leadership of the future? It's the same call as has always been for the Christian. Let your light so shine before men....that they want to follow....Him.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
There is one thing which has brought me much relief and happiness. I no longer need to be in control. I had no idea how badly that issue flawed my work; my life. I had to be in control. The less I was in control, the more I fought for it. Now, to fight for control you have to fight people.
This fight left me at the end of many days discouraged and depressed. I couldn't get staff or elders or church....or all....to make decisions the way I wanted. They could not seem to catch the slightest glimpse of my brilliance. My mother seems to be the only one who has really noticed.
But I was double-troubled. When I could not gain control and insisted (inwardly) that I have it, I could not discuss with others my opinion...because for them to not see the obvious made me mad. I was mad at them for daring to debate my obvious vision of how things should be. I know my mom could have seen it.
When I let control go.....I let arguing go. I learned that others might be right. Too, I learned I might be right and they might not see it. But it made little difference for God runs the show and everything will be just fine. He does....and it always is.
That part of us that just must go is our nagging insistence that procedures proceed the way we envisioned. They don't. They won't. That part of us needs to go anyway.
I know of nothing that distracts the heart like upset. Our minds rehearse our worst-case moments. We ping what she said and pong what I said only to ping and pong endlessly...else we start a new game.
Harmony isn't about evening any score nor getting satisfaction. Unity and peace is chosing to drop the injuries. Toss them to the wind.
I've offended as well as have been offended. I would guess the assaults would be pretty equal. Therefore, my walk with God and people could be perpetually neurotic....except for His style.
The merciful God has taught me to drop both issues. Let things go and quit getting them back out to thumb through the photos. Drop them. Think about bigger things which really matter...even toward the person whom I've hurt or who has hurt me. Think a lot about the goodness and loveliness of each. It is there to behold.
Colossians 3:12-15....I just used this passage as I performed the wedding of a young couple. He is 90 and she is five years his junior. When peace doesn't rule it is not up to both parties to get matters settled for such to arise. It is up to you to rest your restless mind, think on the good life....and begin to walk down that path.
Friday, October 16, 2009
The body of Christ has suffered amputation which has cost more than we can measure. Regarding government spending, media reports soaring numbers in the billions and trillions of dollars....and my mind can't figure higher than larger thousands. So it is (escalated, untrackable) great loss I believe we suffer due to a mistaken amputation in the church. The damage soars into the inability to calculate both height and depth.
I speak of women. I'm not a women's libber. I don't like the attitude for one thing. The body of Christ is not suffering due to failing to let strong-willed women participate. That's not my point. We are suffering because we won't let humble women serve.
Specifically, I believe churches are finishing in the loss column when we will not let our women pray in gatherings. We gather as brothers and sisters (we say); yet it seems to be a suit 'n tie affair. Such formality evidently discards women from this process. A shift from intimate and warm family to official organization seems to transpire.
Women are to keep silent....in that acceptable silence all know to be the Bible kind of silence...whatever that is.
Can they greet one another? Yes. Can they sing? Yes, we beg you. Can they lean over and ask if a friend has a pen she can borrow? Yes. But she can't say anything to God in prayer in front of people because she would be offensive? To whom?
Don't get me wrong. It would be a huge stretch for me if a woman went to the microphone to pray this coming Sunday. It would be my problem. But even this is not what I'm addressing. Our small group is a dynamic one. It is vigorous. One thing would wound it severely....requesting that only the men pray.
The church's power lies within its women. Women possess an inside track to the heart of God in ways men are clueless. It shows up in their tenderness as they pray. If I had to pick my druthers (one over the other), I would say the church would be more alive if the women were doing the praying and the men sat down and shut up.
That's an opinion. But since it is my blog...I felt I could get to say it. The body of Christ lives amputated because it has shut the women off from praying where men are gathered.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
As a kid I knew nothing of self-helps. I could have used the information. I didn't know attitude and confidence were so vital to our daily routine. They are!
A Dale Carnegie course opened a new world to me. I learned the marvel of potential and the magic of possibility thinking. I was introduced to a brand new kind of world on the very street where I lived.
While the self-help works are effective in leading many like me out of the basement of trying to get by in life, there is an eventual ambush awaiting around the corner. I believe the ambush is imperative. It will happen.
Eventually self will run into a matter where it finds itself bankrupt of ability to handle the moment. If we do not find the next stage of assistance we will live in depression topped with guilt for we will have failed....ourselves.
What is the next step? The Spirit of Christ....I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me...Phil. 4:13. And such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God....II Cor. 3:4-5.
Self indeed may be helped, but eventually self has got to have someone else bear the load for we will hit a wall....a very big wall. At that point, if the Spirit of Christ is not with us, we will find this self we have been grooming to be ambushed. We will be taken captive by our own failure unless we wisely place self in the center of the one who broke the bonds of death.
Death? There will be no self-help when it comes to raising from the dead. All will do well to live in the confidence of Christ from this day forth. This is the only way we can avoid the ambush.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Then there was the time when in grade school that I pulled the ice tray from the freezer compartment. It had that smoke-like steam rising so I told my brother to put his tongue on it to see what might happen. Well.....I might ought to tell you a lot happened!
Years ago we got a new-fangled copier in the church office. I was standing beside it for the longest time when the secretary finally inquired as to what it was I was doing. I was doing what the copier said....standing-by. And....I was serious.
You can see how it is I would put the snow chains on the rear end of a front-wheel drive car.
I guess one of my stranger moments was just last week when I was in the break room. I set the micro-wave on 30 seconds and pushed "start" while I held in my hand the coffee to be warmed. It doesn't work that way.
Distracted...or what? Ah, it's just good to find reason to laugh at ourselves on occasion.
I shot an email of congratulations to my friend this morning. He should hear from me.
A winner of a Peace Prize? A promotion? A nation reached? Funds raised? None of those.
Billy Joe is found to have cancer.
What an incredible opportunity for the very work this man does. His entire life is given to shine the light that God might be glorified. If I know Billy Joe, and I do, this cancer will not serve as a bulb burnt out but yet another light added to bring clearer focus to God.
Everything is a "Yes" and cancer is one of them. I know. It looks/sounds so strange. But God uses every crumb of life to advantage the believer. Billy Joe just became even more advantaged....and such is worthy of our congratulations.
Believers? What for? Because we think God runs the show....and every issue can be transformed into opportunity for even more glory! My friend....he is a believer!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
We have to be determined to think. We have to deliberately use our minds; renew our minds that we may prove the will of God for us personally.
Man is stuck with a mind whose wheels no longer turn. We are too easily swayed by rote, routine, and rigorous bias. Ads have ruined us. Rather than thinking creatively, as well as openly, we have slipped into the comfortable trend of non-thinking, non-study. We just go with the proverbial flow.
But....not you! You want to sort. Dive into the options and decide for yourself just what you believe. That would the the will of God....Romans 12:2. I'm impressed with a level of learners among us--mixed in age--who seek Truth over popular opinion. Religious people have to be among the worst of being dishonest regarding research. We tend to bend the stats to fit our preconceived idealism.
Good for you....students of the Word of God. No one has come close to cornering the market on understanding God. The more we let the Bible look into us, the more it reveals we have weakness to improve and wobbliness to stabilize. Fear not. God can lead us to the fresh waters of Truth. Sort through the distractions. Conclude the simplicity of faith.
How is it the Holy Spirit links a speaker's words to a listener's ears? Why is there such ideal understanding shared by some? The speaker gets it and the hearer gets it. I don't know nearly all I would like on this topic....but it is important we keep improving regardless of age or style.
Let me give you two really great recommendations for books that have a lot of good to say on this topic:
- Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones
- Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Neither of these books are new on the market. I've recommended them before. Yet, new readers come on board and.....sometimes we miss a recommendation here and there.
Speak well. Speak effectively.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Faith may hit everyone as that sweetness of acceptance like that of a newborn. But such just isn't the case. The church struggles with faith. Why? Because it requires risk. Jesus said the work we are to do for God is to believe...John 6:29. But isn't faith a step? No. Faith is a daring walk and many would rather talk the talk.
Recall the Israelites thrill over their release from Egyptian bondage? There was no thrill. There was no gratitude for God's miracle. They were peeved. They were mad at the whole silly mess. They wept in sore bitterness just wishing they could go back into slavery. Because why? It was easier.
It was easier.
Do you get that church? The daunting task of faith is to dare tread where so many don't and won't. It is easier to remain in church bondage---no change, no study, no effort, just opinion debating opinion---but at least it is easier.
When the church hits a crossroads it will often be a conflict over faith versus easy-street. One of the things that drives me is the rough terrain. I don't love it but I do see the grace and mercy of God in it. If everything was perfect with little trouble I would either be out of a job or living in the cemetery.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Brains want proof. God won't give it. Creation? Parting of the Red Sea? And the Jordan River? God will not show His hand as to how He did any of these. Brains can't figure it so they conclude it all a hoax.
But God is God because He had the ability to create brains...and then baffle them! Read I Corinthians 1:20-31. Note those called and the "not many called". Brains...can't figure God so they work to dismiss Him.
Jesus spoke in parables in order to clearly be misunderstood unless one proved to be simple-minded. Brains can't measure Him; can't possibly chart Him. God is ridiculous to the syllogistic equationists. He won't fit into either because He is much smarter.
The kingdom isn't difficult.....unless one operates from brain-strategy. This is why elders are not a board of directors. They are believers in the unexplainable. This is why pastors aren't CEOs of the church. They are believers in the far-fetched mysteries of the Invisible and Living God!
Why is the kingdom of God so difficult? It isn't.....unless you are using man's intellect to track the mind of God. And then? Good luck on that one. It will be difficult then.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
What I like about the kingdom of God is that even when the last out is made...it isn't over. The opposing team just thinks it is. Remember Lazarus? God was late. He let the last out take place and even let the opponents have a period of extra celebration. Lazarus was good and dead!
But then there was God. He showed up....in Jesus form of course. He had something to say about the rules of the game, the game itself, and the assumed results of the game. He reversed the decision and declared dead Lazarus not dead after all. He was found living.
What a story! What a God! What a resurrection power we have. When you think the story is told--is complete--and the bad news has won, maybe you should read Romans 4:17-25 once again. We know the God who knows how to overwhelmingly conquer.
With God, even when the game is over and done with....it isn't over. For my Cardinals, the year is done. For our participation in the greatest system on earth (the kingdom) we never do anything but win.....even if the umpires declare it a loss! Good for us!
These spiritual times call for some (many if He can get us) to open our spiritual eyes. We must pray for wisdom and then watch for it to fall from heaven...James 1:5 and 3:13-18.
We churches must awaken to the truth that the thousands are not leaving us because they are worldly. It is because we are. We have slipped into insipidism but called it spirituality. We have loaded our people with reason to suspect all who don't believe precisely as we, but have failed to groom them to want to draw together in the harmony for which Jesus prayed.
In spiritual dire we must find our way back to each other. The devil is picking us off one at a time---not because the world isn't being reached but--because when we reach the world we are not keeping these good people because they didn't find anything new when they were with us.
The body of Christ is a garment that blankets the earth. Satan prowls to find just one thread here and there to unravel the many who have been knitted together in the sweetness of Jesus. We must continually awaken to our own doctrinal wackiness, our appetite for lukewarmness, and our vain excuses to reject our religious neighbors.
Humanity may be in unrest; but Jesus is the hope of the world. We must not only go out with his message but we must make sure our faces look like and our voices sound like there really is something new about us when just one soul is brought in.
May we be determined to offer gigantic and thrilling peace to a corporate world which hungers for it from someone somewhere. Let is be us!
Friday, October 09, 2009
Oh, I know how that sounds but hear me out. I am a good preacher and for good reason; God makes the weak powerful. On the front of my Bible stamped in gold is the phrase Power is perfected in weakness. That passage in II Cor. 9 lifted me to the level of acceptability. Weakness is my pass at the preacher-door. Weakness lets me in to this ideal fraternity of men I otherwise would never get to know.
What makes a good preacher? Weakness; fumbling, dorky, nerdy, stammering, and even failing weakness makes us good preachers. Who else but God would turn what works so upside-down that one as myself (and hundreds of other nobodies) could get to function in one of the greatest roles on earth.
What I had to learn was to accept His offer; bring my weakness to the table. I bring my weakness to work with me. Every one of my elders knows a secret about me that isn't a secret to anyone; I am about as weak as it comes. Yes, I mature some. I get better at some matters. But when the day is done it is one thing that makes me pop as a minister...only my weakness.
Weakness is the battery-pack, the electrical outlet, the dynamo of a preacher. Power God says is perfected in one and only one thing....it is perfected in weakness.
Why would I ever want to give up? Too weak. Why would I ever be tempted to walk away? Weakness. But God shoots my excuse to smithereens by saying, Yes my friend, you are all of what you think you are. You are a lousy mess....and lousy messes are who I use. Look at mousy Moses, delinquent David, and pouty Peter. You think I don't know class? Friend, you are first-class lousy....and you will make ME look so good because you---young man---must have help....Mine.
Be encouraged. The very thing we believe curses us---weakness---is the only pass that gets us through the preaching gate. Don't forget it.
(A note to self. This is really a good post. Way to go me!)
Thursday, October 08, 2009
I'm not a good judge on this one, but it is worth addressing. I try to evaluate myself. Tenure isn't the mark. Delivery skill isn't. Bible knowledge? Social prowess? None of these are the big markers.
I would look at Rick Atchley, Mike Cope, Randy Harris-type men. These, and many others, possess a Spirit about them that are not from earth. This Spirit fills them with a love for God, a compassion for all, and a courage which causes them to be dependent upon no one.
What makes a good preacher? I don't think it's his skill. I think it's his gift. God pours himself into our men if our men will allow. A good preacher doesn't feel compelled to be slick in delivery nor lean toward the need to entertain. He is sure about one major item....Jesus of Nazareth.
But who can stand the test of the famous ones listed above? We can. They are where they are because of their deeply embedded humility as much as anything. Therefore, I salute the Larry Wishards and the Jackie Chestnutts and the Bob Herndons and the Gayle Thorntons of our era. Men like these may not do the keynotes at our university lectureships, but they've inspired the brotherhood for several generations without complaint....well with little complaint, anyway.
What makes a good preacher? I imagine God. Period
I believe the hope of the individual congregation rides on the faith and courage of the elders. Resist that if you will, but the elders do oversee the flock. The preacher can go nowhere and lead very little if the elders do not endorse, promote, envision, and support. The preacher can ruin what the elders try to accomplish, but he cannot take the church any direction the elders will not lead. The elders get the last word and they should. Thus, the importance of Spirit-fed, Spirit-led men as they are to get their orders from the Commander.
Faithfulness to a brotherhood college or paper will kill a church. Playing it safe was never the style of the Chief Shepherd. Losing his life in conflict was. Elders who live to see that the church lives in peace have developed a philosophy contrary to scriptures. Such peace and tranquility are found sprinkled above America's ground. They could be known as Cemetery Churches.
Trouble-makers you accuse? Hardly. The simple and sweet nature of Jesus will rub the tradition-hearted members to a frantic frenzy. II Peter 4:12.....life in the church is not an easy, Sunday-school, flannel-graph movement.
The church needs good elders. Of course it needs good preachers, good families, as well as good vision, etc. But it must be regarded the elders of any flock set the tone and the personality of their congregations......whether they want to or not. The whole church looks to them for leadership. The question is, Is it getting it?
Therefore, the church is calling for brave men who will dare buck the tide of us. We need men who can see beyond the safety-net of the weekly contribution and the attendance figures. We need men of faith who believe God can create something from nothing and can give life to the dead....Romans 4:17.
While we are fully aware elders are mere men, they are specially-assigned-forces mere men. They must protect the flock from the Trojan wolves of safety-first and everybody-get-along-second. Jesus was the Chief Shepherd for he dared defy the logic of those who knew all about the Word but were clueless about the needy, hungry hearts.
What makes a good elder? The possession of the brave heart burdened to see that all people receive opportunity to hear the good news. This doesn't happen by having Elders' Meetings. It happens because good leaders are intentional to resist the multiple voices of the flock in order to hear the courageous guidance of the Chief.
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
The called ones are those I now address. What makes a good one. While multiple responses would be appropriate, I address only one. Fearlessness is such a blessing to any flock. Courage to follow God regardless of opinionated pressure is the mark of a true, faithful, and kind presbyter.
When an man oversees the congregation and is afraid of none of the members, you have a good elder. However, if he fears another elder, or the preacher, or the big donor, or his own wife, he's ruined. He may stay in the position, but his decisions will be warped. Imbalance, as well as dwarfed fruit, will follow.
My guys are people. One thing that I've long admired is every decision is based on what they think God thinks. This is such good news to the staff as well as the congregation. These men have other important big-career-job responsibilities. Yet, they make tough decisions regardless of the attack and misunderstanding such may create.
Elders are people. Sure, they are likely to misread God at times. What human doesn't? Thus, a congregation may take two steps forward and one step back. But the idea of a church leader operating from pressure of any of the flock is catastrophic to the body health. Too many elders hold their position while trying to lead from the fetal position of fear; somebody might leave, someone might hold back their check. Good elders care more for the over-all flock than pacifying the one or two critics.
What makes a good elder? I think that anytime a congregation finds men who are brave enough to stand alone on their decisions regardless of support, we have diamonds in the rough. A lot of elders set themselves up for criticism because they are able to be faithful to God and keep their mouths shut from unnecessary (even protective of another) information.
May they be highly exalted! May they be pleased to serve the upside-down, inside-out concepts of God when so many times such opportunities just don't make sense.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
I'm in that mode at present. I'm uncertain about some of our directions. What do we do when we don't know what to do? Great question, Terry!
What we do is believe. We believe God knows both what and how. He knows what is needed and how to get it done. This would be called assurance.
What we do is believe. We believe everything is perfectly all right before we ever arrive at the understanding we think we need. We can be sure everything is okay. This gives us room to enjoy any process rather than fret. Everything is handled....everything.
What we do is believe. We believe His ways are higher than ours; His understanding is richer than ours. Therefore we relax on a dime. We are free to discuss, debate, and deliberate. Simultaneously, we are free from worry. Anxiety has no place in our faith walk. Security does.
What we do is believe that if God can send a complete son through virgin channels and later raise that same dead son from a stone grave....He must be able to handle our lesser challenges.
I would say that when we don't know what to do we can be sure He does...and nothing about Him has atrophied.
We will do well to remember such pain as such need is called upon for each of us to say to our students, "We celebrate you!"
By Michael Y. Park
(People.com) -- There's nothing funny about Tyler Perry's latest work: a revealing account of the horrific abuse he suffered as a child.
Tyler Perry is the executive producer of the well-received new film "Precious."
"I always thought I would die before I grew up," the comedian writes in an uncharacteristically somber letter to fans on his Web site.
After watching a screening of the lauded movie "Precious," about a 16-year-old girl who is physically and emotionally abused, the New Orleans native, 40, best known for his comic Madea character, reveals a flood of memories came back, and that "a large part of my childhood had just played out before my eyes."
Beginning with his mother's failed attempt to leave his abusive father, Perry recounts a horrific list of beatings and hardships he suffered.
"My father came home, mad at the world," he writes. "He was drunk, as he was most of the time. He got the vacuum cleaner extension cord and trapped me in a room and beat me until the skin was coming off my back."
Perry goes on to relate accounts of being seduced by a friend's mother at age 10, to being molested by another friend's father, to finding out that his own father was molesting a friend. And he tells of how his grandmother made a bizarre attempt to rid him of his allergies.
"She said she was going to kill these germs on me once and for all," he says. "She gave me a bath in ammonia."
But seeing "Precious," he said, helped him realize once again that he had survived it all.
"It hit me so hard, I sat there in tears realizing that somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through," writes Perry, who signed on as an executive producer on the film, which was also produced by Oprah Winfrey. "My tears were tears of joy, being thankful that I made it."
And the most important lesson of all? Learning to forgive, he says.
"I know that there are a lot of people out there with stories far worse than mine but you, too, can make it. To those of you who have, welcome to life. I celebrate you," he said. "We're all PRECIOUS in His sight."
I love the "God-whispers". They go on all day long day after day. God-whispers are those fleeting moments when He causes something to occur which either heightens awareness of something significant or boosts our understanding by reversing our thinking.
God-whispers are those nudges of God when we are listening to a sermon or reading a book. The deliverer is speaking of one matter and God explodes that thought exponentially...to me that's a God-whisper.
Anytime I hear of one extending a hand to the poor, God whispers. When I learn of an act of courageous faith, God is whispering to my heart. When an elder volleys an idea which challenges my inadequate comment, I've learned to abort the tempting resentment and capture the God-whisper.
Watch your walk. Note those divine surges which lift you instantly as if you were a two year old tossed into the air by your dad. It takes your breath away and your immediate response is do that again.
When God whispers, we love it so much---benefited so much---we immediately wish He would do that again.
God-whispers.....they excite me!
Monday, October 05, 2009
At ZOE a woman stood before the group of us and spoke. That makes me uncomfortable. What makes me most uncomfortable is I can't put a scripture to its wrongness. Women are to be silent. Yes, I know but what do I do with the women who are singing? What do I do with the women who are complaining? Just where does that silent zone begin and where does it end? If it ends not in the Word but where we begin to fidget, we are most silly in our convictions.
And then Sunday morning at Woodmont, wouldn't you know it, two women served communion along with six men. I was hearing from a liberal preacher in 1975 that it was all right for women to pass communion trays, but I couldn't buy it. Yesterday I saw it and I want to say, Hey don't you know you can't being doing that? Don't you know it is profane.....to see a woman....pass a tray....standing up? Don't you know it's scriptural for a woman to pass the tray from side to side sitting down, but she can't do it walking around. It's just not.....you know.....
I surely don't mean to mock either of these experiences. But I wish to convey I hit points I'd rather not have to think about because I can't come up with sufficient reasons why I want my reasons to stand. In the meantime, the world is rushing past us to the bars and the casinos looking for someplace to belong; to be accepted.
It must be one of our goals to discard any barriers between us; certainly those God did not erect. It would seem right that we speak where the Bible speaks and not add to the Word to fit our expectations.
Uncomfortable? Yes. But I want to grow more uncomfortable with the unknown millions going to hell without a Savior than I want to pacify my dis-ease of needing to feel good about church when I'm there....and I think it would be a good bench-mark for you.
My friend Greg Taylor is a part of the brains and heart behind this event...and what a great job he does. He's the perfect personality for this gathering. The worship was awesome. The keynotes were revealing of God's greater heart. And, the riches will never leave me.
Frank Viola was the big-deal speaker and he was wowed by our singing. He begged us to adopt him....and we did. Of course Randy Harris and Mike Cope were stellar and Jeff Walling is always going to be one of our main men.
I walked away with so many special blessings; too many to list. But hearing Sally Gary speak of same sex attractions was really special as I want to help minister to such a special people. And then Teresa Newsome was a complete joy to watch as she signed for the deaf. What a glory she is!
I hope God lets me go back next year. And....I hope you consider making the trip. It is the perfect break after an intense summer of service and travel.