Saturday, August 27, 2016

The World Needs More Encouragers

"When you're down and out, something always turns up," quipped Orson Wells, "and it is usually the noses of your friends."

Often, when people most need emotional support and encouragement, they are least likely to find it.  As the old proverb says, "Laugh and the world laughs with you.  Cry, and you cry alone."

We all need encouragement, and, as Chuck Swindoll says, "we die without it. , . slowly, sadly, and angrily."  Psychologist, William James adds this, "The deepest principle of human nature is to be appreciated."

So, with these things in mind, what is your E.Q:  Your encouragment quotient?  How often do you focus on building people up and expressing sincere appreciation?

There are plenty of "discouragers" in this world -- plenty of folks who are quick to criticize and find fault.  It doesn't take much intelligence to be a fault finder.  Encouragers, on the other hand, are a rare breed.  Wherever they go, they inspire hope and bring joy.  

We shrivel under the blistering attacks of discouragers -- but we blossom and thrive under the beams of loving encouragement.

Everyone has the ability to encourage.  We're hard wired for it.  However, our tendency is to let life's problems swamp us, and bog us down.  When that happens, it's hard to look beyond ourselves.

But do you realize that helping others is the best way help yourself?  Whenever you help someone climb uphill, you get closer to the top too.

Who is your greatest encourager?  Why?  What qualities does this person possess that makes him/her different?  Would anybody answer this question with your name?  How can you be a better encourager in all your relationships?

How are things going in your life right now?  Are you an encourager at home, or are you more of a battle axe, a nag, or a walking volcano, ready to erupt?

Being an encourager requires a daily commitment. If you aren't intentional about it, the gloomies will get the best of you. 

It takes intentional effort to focus on the good and beautiful rather than the bugs on the windshield.  Don't let the bugs bug you. 

Encouragers are the medics on the emotional battlefield.  They move from person to person with a healing touch bringing medicine called "comforting hope."  The very survival of some depends on these medics, and these days there is a shortage of them.

Why not sign up for a tour of encouragement duty?  The need is too great to delay.  You have the ability.  Are you willing to step ourside of yourself?  A hurting world needs you.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Wesleyan Apostolic Succession

I was ordained July 10, 1987, when General Superintendent, Dr. Earle Wilson, laid hands on me, shook my hand, and thundered, "Take thou authority to preach the Word!"

I was thinking about this a while back, and wondered how far back I could go with the succession of my ordination. So, I did a little research.

*   I was ordained by Earle Wilson
*   Earle Wilson was ordained by Pilgrim Holiness General Superintendent, William Neff.
*  William Neff was ordained by the Pilgrim founder, Seth Rees
*  Seth Rees was ordained by Nazarene founder, Phineas Bresee  (Note -- Rees was initally "recorded" as a Quaker, because they did not ordain their ministers.  Later, he moved over to the newly formed Church of the Nazarene, and I am taking a leap by assuming that when he became a Nazarene, they ordained him.  Rees was certainly worked beside Bresee as his contemporary.)
*  Phineas Bresee was ordained by Methodist Bishop, Levi Scott
*  Levi Scott was ordained by Elijah Hedding.
*  Elijah Hedding was ordained by Francis Asbury
*  Francis Asbury was ordained by a renegade Anglican priest named John Wesley
*  John Wesley was ordained by Anglican Bishop (of Oxford) John Potter.

*  From Potter -- there's a trail all the way back to St. Peter!  (You can see the Anglican list here.) (Potter is #163)

Now, how about that?

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Purpose of Theology is Doxology

"We should never forget that the purpose of theology is doxology; we study in order to praise.  The truest expression of trust in God will always be worship to praise God for being greater than we know."
--  Geneva Study Bible note

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

When You're Having Problems

Are you having problems?  Then be happy, because it means you are alive.  The only folks in town with no problems are those buried six feet under in Greenwood Cemetery.

 Any time you attempt something worthwhile, you're going to run into troubles.  They come with the territory of progress.  Forward movement always brings a bit of friction and resistance.  I think problems are in our lives to test our resolve and resilience.

 Here are a few principles to help you face problems when they arise:

 1.  Big problems are reserved for big people.  
 The person who desires to go forward with life and aim high will have bigger problems than the one who just sits around doing nothing and watching the world go by.

 2.  Big plans bring big problems.  
 God gives us the vision of what He can accomplish through us.  Sometimes, His vision is accompanies by big plans and big problems.  One guarantee:  If God supplies the vision, He will put a PRO in front of it and supply the provision.  He will give us all the power we need to overcome the obstacles.

 3.  Problems are often detours rather than stop signs. 
 If your first idea unravels, don't give up.  There must be a better way.  There's almost always more than one possible solution.  

 When faced with a big challenge, I often sit down and write 10 possible solutions.  I don't settle for three or seven -- I work until I get ten.  Then I look over the list and pray, asking God to show me which of the ten is best one to try first.

 If the first one doesn't work, I still have nine options to go!  

 Don't be blocked by a problem.  There's always a way around it.

 4.  "God is bigger than any problem I have."  
 My father had a sign in his office with this quote on it.  I believe it with all my heart.  My problem may be big, but my God is bigger!

 There is no problem so great that God cannot solve it.
 There is no problem so heavy that God cannot carry it.
 There is no hurt so deep that God cannot heal it.
 There is no grief so dark, that God cannot comfort it.

 "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory." Phil. 4:19

Monday, August 01, 2016

Still Carrying Her

Two monks were walking to church one day along a winding, wooded path.

As they rounded a bend, they came upon an elderly, heavy-set woman standing at the edge of a mud puddle in the middle of the road.

“Oh dear! Oh dear!” the old lady worried, “How am I ever going to get past this puddle without getting my shoes and dress wet and filthy? I just don’t know what to do!”

Then, her eyes brightened as she saw the two priests approaching. “Excuse me! Is there any way you fine gentlemen could help me get over this puddle of water?”

Brother Bob, the younger monk, smiled brightly, “Sure! We’d be glad to help! Wouldn’t we, Fred?

Brother Fred, an older clergyman, glared at his friend, cleared his throat, and grudgingly replied, “Uh… Sure, Uh… I,,,. I guess so.”

After a quick assessment, Brother Bob put an action plan together. “Brother Fred, Let’s carry her across! You take her left side, and I’ll cover the right!”

“Uh,,,Yeah. . . O.K. , , , If you say so Brother Bob.”

“One, two, three. . . LIFT!”

The two ministers picked up the heavy lady, and struggling, sloshed through the puddle. They deposited her safely, clean and dry, on the other side.

“Good! Good!!” the woman gushed, “I didn’t get a bit muddy!” Then, without at word of thanks, she scurried on her way.

For the next twenty minutes, Brother Fred fussed and fumed about what had happened.

“I can’t believe you volunteered us to carry that lady through the mud puddle!!” he muttered, Then, the angry minister proceeded to give a litany of complaints:

“My shoes are muddy!”
“My socks are soaking wet!”
“My pants have mud all over them!”
“My back hurts!”
“Why in the world did you agree to something stupid like this?”
“She didn’t even say thanks!”

To this, his good hearted friend replied, “For twenty minutes now, you’ve been griping about helping that dear old lady over the mud. You obviously didn’t want to carry her from the very beginning. The funny thing is, I sat her down as soon as we got her across the puddle. But, you, Brother Fred, YOU’RE STILL CARRYING HER!”

(Adapted from an Anthony De Mello tale)

Monday, July 18, 2016

My Money Says Trust God

I was stewing over a financial concern recently, when a sales clerk recently handed me a dollar in change. I happened to notice the little inspiring message on the back: “In God We Trust.” It's exactly what I needed to remember!

Do you realize your money is a statement of faith? There it is in plain sight -- stamped on George Washington's backside --  this inspiring declaration --  in God we trust! 

Using money is like passing out little gospel pamphlets:

In God We Trust!
In God We Trust!
In God We Trust!
Your wallet’s full of ‘em!

Even atheists don't refuse them.

Buy a Big Mac at McDonald's or a Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen, and you’re telling the clerk to trust the Lord!

How ironic! We have such a hard time trusting God with our money, when all along our money is telling us that’s exactly what we should do!

It is far better to trust in God than in possessions. Jesus said you cannot serve both God and mammon. If we look to money for security, significance and survival, we will be sadly disappointed.  We get far too uptight over little pieces of green paper with pictures of dead presidents on them.

Money doesn't buy happiness.  The most precious things in life are free.

If we don’t have enough money, we’re afraid we won’t survive. That’s simply not true. We will survive somehow – regardless of our financial situation. I don’t know anybody who stopped surviving due to a lack of cash.

In the poorest places I’ve been in my life (Nicaragua, Egypt and Ethiopia ) people still figure out a way to survive. So, it proves to me that, in the big picture, financial troubles won't do us in.

We may need to cut back a little – but we’re going to survive just fine!   With some adjustments, we’ll make it!
My father had a sign hanging in his office: “The Lord Never Panics.” We should take our money at face value and trust in God! If we do so, we won’t cave in to panic.

Instead of tossing and turning in bed, give your problems to God. He will be up all night anyway!

Friday, July 08, 2016

Prayer for a Wounded Land

Dear Lord,

The brutal events which unfolded across our nation in recent days reveal how torn and divided we are.  The soul of America is desperately wounded and needs healing that can come only from your hand.

We pray for the families of those who were slain so senselessly this week:  Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minneapolis, and the five police officers, (Loren Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa.) -- That you would grant them comfort in this dark hour, and strength to face the painful days that lie ahead.

We remember those who were wounded in Dallas, and those who witnessed the violence in Louisiana and Minnesota firsthand. We remember the children who are being raised in communities where gun violence is commonplace. Please overshadow them with your presence and keep them safe.

We pray for those who serve in law enforcement, as they place themselves daily at risk to serve and protect the vulnerable.  Please grant them discernment and understanding for these perplexing situations.  Help them to always cherish life, and to value all people as equals, created in God's image.

We pray for our African American brothers and sisters, as, once again, they suffer violence from the very hands of those who are called to protect them.  May men and women of peace in the African American community arise to provide strong, non-violent leadership.  May they find a pathway to healthy partnership with law enforcement for safe communities and equality for all, rather than viewing them as an army of occupation.

Help us all to remember and apply these words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:  “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

Heal our hearts, O Lord.  Heal our land.  Help us to reach out across the divide, that we may learn to understand and embrace each other.

For Christ’s Sake and in His Name,