Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't Give Up

When You've Tried and Failed

When you feel you can't accomplish
what you once set out to do;
And you feel you are not abole
To press on and see it through;

When you've failed and tired of trying
And there's no use, so you think,
Struggling on beneath the burden,
When you've reached "Old Failure's" brink,

Take your burden to the Savior;
Put it in His hands, and say,
"I have tried, but failed completely,
Lored direct it in Your way.

What a wondrous transformation!
Such a glorious change takes place
When you follow Jesus' leadings,
Lifted up by loving grace.

Though we try, we are but mortals --
"'Tis impossible" we say.
Then comes Jesus to the rescue,
Showing us there is a way.

Just when we have gone our limit,
And the paths of failure trod,
Then we'll find that human failure
Does not mean defeat to God.
--  Ruth Shaw

Monday, November 28, 2011

Why and What If Thinkers

 There are two important kinds of thinkers necessary to lead any organization in a positive direction: "What If?" thinkers and "Why?" thinkers.

The "What If" folks are idea farmers who create new ways of doing things. They also usually have the energy to do them. Entrepreneurs at heart, they are always considering options. To them, every situation is loaded with potential. Every problem carries the seeds of its own solution.

While the rest of the world looks at the way things are and asks, "Why?” The "What Iffers" look to the way things COULD BE and ask, "Why not?"

"What If" thinkers always see the possibilities and seize the opportunities. They possess a positive bias for action.

However, the world would fall apart at the seams if EVERYBODY was a "What If" thinker. Every good idea produced by a "What Iffer", is accompanied by about twenty lousy ones. Often, the "What If" thinkers don't know the difference. They just keep coming up with more ideas!

That's the reason we need the other kind of thinkers too: the "Why?" thinkers.

"Why" folks look beyond the surface and aren't afraid to ask the difficult questions. "Tell me again, WHY are we doing this??" They think deeply and can see all the ramifications of a decision. Many times, even before the "What Iffer" is finished with presenting his grand idea the "Why" thinker has already identified at least seven potential difficulties and conflicts with the proposal.

"What Iffers" bring the energy -- but they can bring annoyance and wear out everybody else around them.

"Why" thinkers perceive deeply -- but prone towards negative thinking and the paralysis of analysis.

And THAT'S the reason why we need BOTH kinds of thinkers -- in every community, on every board or committee, at every workplace, in every church, and in every home.

Ever notice that "Why?" thinkers end up getting married to "What Iffers?" God has His good reason.
Here's a good equation for effective leadership: "What Ifs" plus "Whys" = WISE.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Guy Inspires Me

A few years ago, I met Shawn Cossin, who is one of the most inspiring pastors I know.  Check out his blog:  Live Sent.  

Shawn is a former Pennsylvania state trooper, turned pastor with a great passion for church planting and missional ministry.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Fourth Fisherman

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a complimentary advance copy of Joe Kissack's new book, The Fourth Fisherman, the other day.  This work is a powerful blending of two tales -- one of three Mexican fishermen who survived nine months adrift at sea -- and that of the author himself, a Hollywood executive who found himself lost and floundering in life.

In this book, Kissack gives an account of his unraveling, and subsequent quest to find faith and purpose in life.  Eventually, following a mysterious inner nudge, he found his life intertwined with the fishermen.

At first glance, a high rolling television executive and three fishermen from Mexico have very little in common.  However, as the story unfolds, we find they have much more in common that one would suppose.

The second half of the book, detailing Kissack's adventures in Mexico is especially engaging.  A great read -- which will be released March 2012.

You can pre-order here.

Pastor Holds Kissing Contest

Greet One Another With a Holy Smooch"

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 Things I'm Thankful For

My friend and colleague, Heath Davis, sent an e-mail to our church staff this morning asking us to list 5 things we're thankful for,  Here was my response, based off the beautiful Thanksgiving hymn, "For the Beauty of the Earth."

1) For the Beauty of the EarthAlthough Wes and I haven’t seen any deer in our forest sittings, we’ve really been overwhelmed by the grandeur of God’s creation.

2) For the Wonder of Each HourTime is fleeting, but I’m thankful for the moments – the special moments we pause to treasure, sitting in the Thanksgiving Chair.

3) For Thy Church – in worship (holy hands above) and service (pure sacrifice of love).
I am so thankful for our church, and the outstanding leaders who serve with me.

4) For the Joy of Human Love – brother, sister, parent, child.
I am thankful for my beautiful family, and am looking forward to celebrating Thanksgiving with them. We will miss Luke dearly – but I’m thankful for Skype!

5) For Thyself – Best Gift Divine.God has been my source of strength and comfort. I find that fellowship with Him is sweeter as the years go by. In my daily quiet time, He gives me the spiritual motivation and strength to face whatever comes throughout the day.

Church Announcements

Bingo!  This is what I believe about church announcements.

When You Can't Beat 'Em . . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mystery of Dead Sea Scroll Authors Possibly Solved

Be Thankful

Be thankful for the pile of dishes in the sink, because it means you had plenty to eat.

Be thankful for the dog hair on the carpet, because it means you have a loyal friend who shows unconditional love.

Be thankful for the messes, because it means some living is happening in your home.

Be thankful for the difficult conversations you have with your spouse, because they mean you have a partner who cares.

Be thankful for the annoyances at work, because they mean you have a job.

Be thankful for paperwork, because it means you have been trusted with responsibility.

Be thankful for the light bulb that needs replacing, because it means you have electricity.

Be thankful for the leaves that need raking, because it means you have beautiful trees.

Be thankful for clutter in the living room, because it means you have a family.

Be thankful for a lawn that needs mowing, because it means you have yard.

Be thankful for your lumpy mattress, because it means you have a bed to sleep in.

Be thankful for the annoying talking heads on television, because they mean you have freedom of speech.

Be thankful for an empty gas tank, because it means you’ve been privileged to travel far.

Be thankful for tires that need replacing, because they mean you don’t have to travel by foot.

Be thankful for house repairs, because it means you have a home.

Be thankful for college bills, because it means your children are getting an education.
Be thankful for the extra six cents you pay on the dollar for sales tax, because it provides smooth highways and other needed services.

Be thankful for a busy, stressful day, because it means you have something important to do.

Be thankful for your health challenges, because they mean you’re still alive.

Monday, November 21, 2011

God is in Every Tomorrow

God is in every tomorrow,
Therefore I live for today,
Certain of finding at sunrise, 
Guidance and strength for my way;
Power for each moment of weakness,
Hope for each moment of pain,
Comfort for every sorrow,
Sunshine and joy after rain.

God is in every tomorrow,

Planning for you and for me.
E'en in the dark will I follow,
Trust where my eyes cannot see;
Stilled by his promise of blessing,
Soothed by the touch of His hand,
Confident in His protection,
Knowing my life-path is planned.

--  F. B. Meyer

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Are Extroverts More Godly?

From Scot McKnight:

"Even more dangerous is the tendency of evangelical churches to unintentionally exalt extroverted qualities as the “ideals” of faithfulness. Too often “ideal” Christians are social and gregarious, with an overt passion and enthusiasm. They find it easy to share the gospel with strangers, eagerly invite people into their homes, participate in a wide variety of activities, and quickly assume leadership responsibilities. Those are wonderful qualities, and our churches suffer when we don’t have those sorts of people, but if these qualities epitomize the Christian life, many of us introverts are left feeling excluded and spiritually inadequate."  (HT Steve Gerich)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Hunting Trip Went Bad

Pastoral Ministry Shifts

A wonderful post from my friend, Lenny Luchetti regarding how his understanding of ministry shifted as he grew and matured as a pastor:

1)  Methodology to Spirituality
2)  Programmer to Architect
3)  Church to Community
4)  Powerful to Empowering

You can find whole article unpacking these profound insights here at Wesley Seminary Blog

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Good Prayer for Those Who Preach

Lord, never let me tag a moral to a tale, nor tell a story without a meaning. 

Make me respect my material so much that I dare not slight my work.  Help me to deal very honestly with words and with people for they are both alive. 

Show me that as in a river, so in writing, clearness is the best quality, and a little that is pure is worth more than much that is mixed. 

Teach me to see the local color without being blind to the inner light. 

Give me an ideal that will stand the strain of weaving into human stuff on the loom of the real.  Keep me from caring more for books than for folks, for art than life. 

Steady me to do the full stint of work as well as I can; and when that is done, stop me; pay what wages Thou wilt, and help me to say, from a quiet heart, a grateful Amen.

-- Henry Van Dyke, Presbyterian pastor, author, and composer of "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee".

I love the way Van Dyke embraced both ministry responsibilities and an appreciation for the outdoors.  His delightful little book, Fisherman's Luck, is one of my favorites.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fishermen who Don't Fish

I just read that 63% of pastors have not led one person to Christ in the last two years, and that 49% of pastors spend NO time outside of the church ministering during the week.

I think it's important for fishermen to remember they won't catch any fish unless they go fishing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to Witness for Christ

W -- Witness with Humble Love

          You are called to be a witness, not a judge.

I -- Inquire with Good Questions.

          "Tell me, what are your spiritual beliefs?"
          "To you, who is Jesus?"

T --  Take the Common Ground

         Look for the things you have in common.  The Gospel flies best on the wings of relationship.  Find your point of agreement, looking for a connection rather than an argument.

N --  Negotiate the Terms

         Be honest and respectful.  If they don't want to have a spiritual conversation, respect them,  They are people, not projects.  nobody wants to be someone's project.

E  --  Explain your Testimony (Faith Story)

         Nobody can argue with your own personal experience. 

         You'll never experience this conversation: 

         "I felt such forgiveness, love and joy!"

          "No You didn't!"

S --  Stick to the Main Issues

         Don't get caught up in doctrinal debates and arguments over sideline stuff.  Keep the main thing the main thing.  What's the main thing?
  • Love
  • Brokenness
  • Redemption
  • All summed up in one word -- one person -- Jesus!
S --  Spirit Dependence is your Power!

          Go the direction the Holy Spirit nudges.  Follow His lead and He will take you to the people you re to bless and encourage.  Go with the flow!

(I adapted this from Shatter the Silence for a course I'm teaching on How to Share Your Faith.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bruins Surprise Serviceman's Parents

This brought tears to my eyes.

Encouragement and Personality

“We live by encouragement,” said actress Celeste Holm, “and we die without it – slowly, sadly, angrily.”

Every person you meet needs encouragement.  It’s part of what it means to be human.  All of us need a boost from time to time, and nobody lives constantly on the mountaintop.  We need each other for regular upliftings.

Most of us recognize this responsibility, and have a desire to encourage others, but often our attempts misfire.  Perhaps this is because personalities differ, and what encourages one person may not encourage another.

Authors such as Joyce Littauer, Gary Smalley and Tim LaHaye, have identified four basic temperament types:

  1. Sanguine – “Let’s have fun.”
  2. Melancholy --  “Let’s go deep.”
  3. Choleric --  “Let’s get moving.”
  4. Phlegmatic – “Let’s get along.”

Personally, as a sanguine, I’m inspired by inspiration.  Just give me an uplifting quote or idea, and that will pump up my spirit.  Positive thoughts help me combat a sagging spirit.  I peruse books and other resources regularly, looking for a good, positive thought that will brighten my day.  It helps me to keep on the sunny side.

Sometimes, I mistakenly believe everybody else will be uplifted by the  same things that encourage me.

However, when a melancholy shares a burden, I’ve discovered the last thing they need is a trite pep talk, “No worries!  Everything’s going to be just fine!  You’ve just gotta believe!”  Those responses aren’t helpful at all.

Instead, the way to encourage melancholies is to understand them.  They need a caring friend who will truly listen, empathize, and comprehend the depth of the situation.  The encouragement comes from not feeling alone.

The best way to encourage a choleric, on the other hand, is to do something!  They become discouraged and frustration when people sit around flapping their jaws without taking action.  Hashing in circles is the way to drive a choleric up the wall.  They interpret inaction as apathy.  The encouragement comes from getting things done.

Finally, phlegmatics are encouraged by peace.  They are disheartened by quarrelling, arguing and negative nitpicking.  Gary Smalley compares them to the golden retriever, loyal and easy going.  For them, encouragement comes when people work together in harmony for the common good.

This brings me to three important points:

First, if you only use your natural encouragement style, you won’t hit a bulls eye with 75% of people.  Nobody connects naturally with everybody.  It takes understanding and hard work.

Second, if your effort to encourage someone backfires, pause and ask if it might just be a personality collision.  You might need to make adjustments.

Third, the best way to encourage others is to speak it in their language.  The more deeply you know a person, the more likely you will know what they need.  This requires paying attention, careful listening, and a willingness to step outside of the comfort zone.  It helps if you remind yourself that this encouragement is for them and not for you.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Dead Skunks

The sad situation at Penn State serves as a solemn reminder that dead skunks don't smell better when you hide them under the bed.

Roach Stomping

"Most of what people do all day is roach stomping.  The little tasks that distract us from the act of the work, that slow us down and wear us out." -- Seth Godin

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Something and Nothing

"If I am something, then God is everything; but when I beome nothing, God can become all."
-- Andrew Murray in Absolute Surrender

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Fence of Trust

Build a little fence of trust around today.
Fill the space with love and work, and therein stay.
Look not through the sheltering bars upon tomorrow.
God will help you bear whatever comes of joy or sorrow.
-- Mary F. Bulls

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sermon Preparation

"Prayer must carry on our work, as well as preaching.  He does not preach heartily to his people who does not pray for them.  If we do not prevail with God to give them repentance and faith, we are not likely to prevail with them to repent and believe.  Paul gives us frequently his example of praying night and day for his hearers." --  Richard Baxter

For power in the pulpit, pastors must devote at least as much time to prayer as sermon preparation.

The first step in preparing sermons that speak deeply and directly to the hearers' hearts is the preparation of the preacher.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Tourist or Pilgrim?

Heath Davis, our pastor of Spiritual Formation, wrote this insightful article:

The Tourist
Growing up in a beach community in Delaware there were locals, and then there were the tourists. During the safe summer months when the sun was shining, the beaches were pristine and the waves manageable, the tourist saturated the seashore, like ants at a picnic.

Tourists are always associated by crowds, prime real estate and main attractions. The tourist carefully selects the times and seasons of his arrival through the grid of comfort and convenience. During November when the nor'easters stir up an angry Atlantic, the beaches are always bare and no tourist can be spotted. (To the local, November is one of the best times to comb the beach and visit the pounding surf.)

By definition the tourist avoids the tough, the painful and the messy.
Growing up I despised the tourist. I always wanted to buy that infamous bumper sticker in Delaware that read, "You've seen the beach. Now leave!" The tourist didn't truly know or love the land or the landscape. They simply consumed what they wanted and jumped ship when weather was less than ideal.

Now, that I'm older, I recognize my own tourist tendencies. In my ongoing discipleship, I want God on my terms. His terrain looks good during the mild seasons of blue skies and sunshine. But when trouble hits and the clouds start forming, I'm the first to look for a new place to set up camp. I want formation in Christ my way, at my pace and never at my own expense.

The Pilgrim
The metaphor that more accurately describes the life of discipleship is the pilgrim. The pilgrim above all else is committed to the final destination and gets there no matter how difficult the trek or what it costs. She keeps her eyes on that path which is most straight and direct to her destination and gives little thought to how narrow or difficult the way. The pilgrim does not waver or jump ship during the difficult times, realizing the reward that awaits her at the end.

Jesus was the ultimate pilgrim. He lived one stride at a time, constantly orienting his life in the direction of his destination. He was presented tourist traps along the way, yet recognized that quick-fix solutions and seductive escapes only impeded his progress on the journey.

Yes, Jesus is the true pilgrim. And he has been calling his followers to follow his footsteps ever since. The writer of Hebrews said it best: "Do you see what this means-all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running--and never quit! No extra fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in." (Hebrews 12:1-2, The Message).

Ultimately, we will become one of two kinds of people in the spiritual life: The Tourist or the Pilgrim. Like any journey setting out on the path with the right expectations and proper preparation is half the battle.

Are we producing tourists or pilgrims in our churches?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

We Dream of a Church. . .

My friend, Lenny Luchetti, shared this inspiring post in Wesleyan Life:

We have a dream of a church that sees human beings not based upon the level of that person’s income or education but based upon their value in the eyes of God . . .

A church that is unashamedly committed to Christ and because of that commitment is radically dedicated to loving all kinds of people with all kinds of issues in all kinds of ways . . .

A church that is not consumed by petty deliberations about the color of the sanctuary carpet because she is too consumed by the mission of love Christ has called us to live . . .

A church that sees overwhelming needs in our community and world and instead of turning away in fear and defeat runs right toward the needs by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and caring for the sick, the addicted, and the depressed . . .

A church that helps seekers become servants of Christ, a church that is led not by perfect people but by people perfectly submitted to the Holy Spirit and guided by the Holy Book . . .

We have a dream of a church that is not content to simply share a pew together but is open to share life together, a church full of people who refuse to hold grudges because they’re too quick to forgive, who refuse to gossip because they’re too busy extending grace, who refuse to judge because they’re too busy loving . .
A church where people can worship by clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and raising their hands or being still, bowing their heads, and closing their mouths, a church that sees true religious devotion not as mere ritual but as love for the orphan and the widow, the successful and the struggling, the friend and the enemy . . .

A church who measures the level of their success not by how many people show up on Sunday but by how many people are living out Christ’s mission on Monday . . .

We have a dream of a church that refuses to put limits on what God can do because she has the fearless, reckless audacity to believe that God has the power to do absolutely anything!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Farewell Andy Rooney

I was saddened to hear of Andy Rooney's passing, and grateful to have caught his last broadcast.  I loved the way he could turn a phrase.

In memory of our departed reporter, here are a few of his quotes:

"Happiness depends more on how life strikes you than on what happens."

"Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.”
"Elephants and grandchildren never forget."

“I've learned .... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.”

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly."
“The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.”

“Nothing in fine print is ever good news.”

“Writers don't often say anything that readers don't already know, unless its a news story. A writer's greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew. Or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.”

"I've learned that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.”

“It's paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn't appeal to anyone.”

“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.”

"I've learned .... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.”

"Computers mae it easier to do a lot of things, but most of the things they make it easier to do don't need to be done."

“The 50-50-90 rule: anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.”

"Death is a distant rumor to the young."

"Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.”

Thank you, Andy Rooney, for making us stop and think.

Go Where Grace Entices Thee

"Then keep thy conscience sensitive,
No inward token miss,
And go where grace entices thee,
Perfection lies in this."
-- Faber.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Communication Breakdown

In every communication, there are at least eight communications:

1)  What I think.
2)  What I feel because of what I think.
3)  What I speak because of what I feel.
4)  How I speak  (tone, body language, etc.)
5)  How you perceive  (tone body language, etc.)
6)  What you hear
7)  What you think because of what you hear.
8)  What you feel because of what you think.

A breakdown can occur at any point along this perplexing maze.  No wonder there are so many mis-communications.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Our Task at Hand

With faith in Christ we walk each day, Accepting all that comes our way. So let us view each task at hand, As being His divine command. -- D. De Haan

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

One of 7 Billion

Yesterday, the world's population reached the seven billion mark. Here's a fascinating NPR report on how this occurred.