Thursday, July 31, 2014

Holiness and Soap

Holiness, like soap, doesn’t do much good until applied! You can keep it in a box, philosophize about it, and debate its merits at length, without ever getting around to using it. 

Soul cleansing is like taking a shower. If you skip a day, you’ll be the only one to notice. If you skip a week, your family will notice. If you skip a month, everybody will notice!

Using soap is, indeed, much better than merely discussing it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Take Time for the Important Stuff

Sometimes life seems like an exercise bicycle – we spin our wheels furiously and never seem to get anywhere. Often, we are caught up in a rat race of hectic schedules and deadlines. We become some busy with the urgent that we forget the more important things of life.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone, including you, would stop right now and appreciate the small, but precious gifts each moment brings? Take time for them and they will deliver much joy.

Take Time To Listen: Most of us are self-centered. We need to step back from ourselves and lend a listening ear to others. God has given you two ears and one mouth. They should be used in that proportion.

Take Time to Learn: Life is a classroom always in session. Never stop learning about your world, your God, your friends and yourself. A living brain is a learning brain. Keep the “learning switch” on all day long and you will make many exciting discoveries!

Take Time To Laugh: Laughter is medicine for the soul. Show me a person who doesn't laugh and I’ll show you a miserable scrooge. How long has it been since you've had a good laugh? If it’s been a while, I urge you to stop whatever you’re doing and “go hunting” for something to laugh about. Funny things aren't too hard to find if you look for them.

Take Time To Live: Some folks are so involved with the business of “surviving”, that they forget to live. We all need to relax and enjoy the journey. Take time for a wide variety of experiences. Meet new friends. Travel. Take a long hike. Join a new organization. Do something unusual every day. Live life to the fullest!

Take Time to Love: Loving and giving bring a sense of destiny to life. When we love, we are doing what matters most. Take time to express how much you cherish your family. Say “I love you” often. Time invested in building relationships is never wasted. The greatest waste is to live without loving.

Take the time for life’s most important matters, and your life will be packed full of joyful surprises! Spread love and cheer to others and they will return the favor.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Don't Let Troubles Trouble You

Don't let troubles trouble you. Problems are opportunities in disguise!

Some of us are blessed with dozens of such opportunities. Perhaps you would like give a few of them to somebody else.

We shouldn't really think it's strange when trials come. That's merely a part of the human condition. Trouble comes to everybody. Jesus Christ, himself, said, "In this world, you WILL have tribulation."

The more responsibility you have, the more difficulty you will encounter. If your life is full of struggles, it means you are doing something right. A wise old bard once said, "You know when you are on the road to success -- it's uphill all the way!"

The other day I thought I would drive to a place in town where there were no troubles. I couldn't go to the hospital -- problems there. I couldn't go to the bank -- problems there. Couldn't go to church either -- problems there. The only place I could find where the people didn't have problems was Greenwood Cemetery! The only way you won't have problems is if you're pushing up daisies!

Problems, then, aren't really problems at all. They're just facts of life. Let's just roll up our sleeves and deal with them.

How do we overcome the troubles when they come, instead of allowing them to overwhelm us?

1. Change Your Vocabulary!
Instead of calling them "problems", why not try "challenges". Instead of marriage problems, you simply have a few marital challenges! Instead of a "problem child", you have a parenting challenge. Instead of 'trouble at work", you have a challenging job! Somehow, it feels better to call them challenges instead of problems. The new term adds a fresh dimension of hope.

2. Get on the Solution Side.
Problems have a tendency to suck us into a negative cycle, draining away our emotional energy and strength. The best course of action is to get on the solution side. Instead of focusing on the problem, start looking for the solution. Any pea brain can point out the things that are wrong. Being a fault-finder is no sign of intelligence. Here's my challenge -- rise above the ordinary! Ordinary people point out the problems. Extraordinary people find the answers! You can find the answer if you are persistent and keep on looking!

3. Consider the Faith Factor.
I.O. + A.G. = U.O. Translated: Impossible Odds plus Almighty God equals an Unbelievable Outcome!

God is bigger than any problem you have! When you have faith, the "tight place" opens into the "right place."

Beware the pathway that has no obstacles. It won't get you anywhere. Nobody has ever coasted to greater heights.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Joy is Serious Business

Joy is serious business! It is the natural state of the soul. Joylessness is like a toothache, which indicates an internal cavity -- or worse.

When we realize the joy has evaporated -- it's time to do some inner heart examination. Where did it go? What toxins have entered my soul, resulting this negativism? What must I do to recapture the joy? Leaking seems to be a part of the human condition. We're all a bunch of "joy leakers!"

One lady tearfully prayed, “Please fill me with joy again!" Her husband, overhearing her request, prayed, "Don't do it Lord! She leaks!"

It might be a good idea to patch up the holes.  Perhaps we need a spiritual root canal.

Holding a small perspective towards life will drain the joy right out of your heart. As the hero in Red Badge of Courage stated, "elfin thoughts made cowards of us all."

Ancient desert fathers spoke of "logismoi", the dark thoughts -- the false thoughts and desires that lead us to despair.

If you want to rekindle the joy, you have to declare war on "logismoi!" What false thoughts have been hammering your mind? How have dark thoughts clouded reality? The truth will set you free!

Gordon MacDonald, in "Monday Morning Restoration", spoke of the "Seven Deadly Siphons. These are the things that drain our positive energy, faith and joy.

1) Words without action.
2) Busyness without purpose.
3) Calendars without a Sabbath.
4) Relationships without mutual nourishment.
5) Personality without self-examination.
6) Natural giftedness without spiritual power.
7) An enormous theology without an adequate spirituality. 

From such things, Oh Lord, deliver us, and help us plug the leaks!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Go Fishing and Leave the Universe to God

"This day you and I will discuss the governance of the universe."said Philip Melancthon to Luther.

Martin Luther responded, "This day you and I will go fishing and leave the governance of the universe to God."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Measure Every Grief

A poem by Emily Dickinson:

I measure every Grief I meet
With narrow, probing, Eyes –
I wonder if It weighs like Mine –
Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long –
Or did it just begin –
I could not tell the Date of Mine –
It feels so old a pain – 

I wonder if it hurts to live –
And if They have to try –
And whether – could They choose between –
It would not be – to die – 

I note that Some – gone patient long –
At length, renew their smile –
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil –

I wonder if when Years have piled –
Some Thousands – on the Harm –
That hurt them early – such a lapse
Could give them any Balm – 

Or would they go on aching still
Through Centuries of Nerve –
Enlightened to a larger Pain –
In Contrast with the Love – 

The Grieved – are many – I am told –
There is the various Cause –
Death – is but one – and comes but once –
And only nails the eyes –

There's Grief of Want – and grief of Cold –
A sort they call "Despair" –
There's Banishment from native Eyes –
In Sight of Native Air – 

And though I may not guess the kind –
Correctly – yet to me
A piercing Comfort it affords
In passing Calvary – 

To note the fashions – of the Cross –
And how they're mostly worn –
Still fascinated to presume
That Some – are like My Own.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Advice for a New Pastor

A friend contacted me, seeking advice as he began the pastorate of a new church.  Here's how I responded:

1)  You only have four jobs:  preach, pray, lead and love -- not necessarily in that order.  Your prayer life is the single most important factor in your ministry -- you must maintain a robust soul, overflowing with Christ for effective ministerial service,.

2)  Loving people is the key -- and not just the people in your  congregation -- but the whole community.  That means intentionally going out to seek them.  By default, most pastors stay in their offices too much, when they need to be out where people are.

3)  Look for those who are suffering and bring love to them -- and better yet, take someone with you when you go.  This is a blessing in more than one respect -- and will multiply favor and blessing when you demonstrate the compassion of Christ.

4)  Don't get worked up about little things -- most issues aren't worth the fight.  Go with the flow mostly - -and save protests for the big stuff.

5)  Assume 85-90 percent of the responsibility for getting along with people.  (some are unreasonable -- that's why I don't say 100 percent) -- but if you "get along" with others, they will "go along": with you.

6)  Preach with stories -- illustration works far better than explanation.

7)  Schedule at least one connection with a non-church person each week -- more if you can.

8)  If you don't know them already, within the first week or so, make appointments with community leaders -- such as the mayor, police chief, school supt, postmaster, funeral director - -they need to know who you are and what you're doing.  When you meet them, make it brief - -without any requests or expectations.

9)  Mobilize your people to bless the community -- have discussions with them -- what are the dark placees in our community?  How can we light a candle in the darkness?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eight Ways to Make a Good Day

1. Determine to have a good day.

Make up your mind that you are going to make the best of this day, no matter what! A firm decision to live positively is half the battle.

2. Start your day with a prayer. 

Before you get out of bed, pause and thank God for your life and ask for guidance and wisdom.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. 

Isn't it funny how we can become so uptight about non-essentials? My friend, Eunice Walker, calls these petty frustrations "bugs on the windshield of life." Refuse to let minor annoyances get the best of you.

4. Look for postcards from heaven. 

Every day God sends postcards that say, "I love you." He hides them in the most unexpected places - and you have to search in order to find them. Each day is packed full of blessings for you to enjoy. Look again!

5. Release your resentment and regret. 

Some people are hostage to the past. Regret and resentment (the Siamese twins of misery) bind us up so we cannot enjoy the present. Yesterday is history. You can't go back and change it - but you can do something about today. Make the most of your moments - and do not allow bandits from your past to rob your joy.

6. Invest your life in service to others. 

One of the best ways to be happy and fulfilled in life is to be a blessing to others. Look for ways to help and encourage other people, and you will be rewarded with happiness. I've never yet met a generous grouch.

7. Always tell the truth. 

Honesty brings freedom to the soul.

8. Nurture your most important relationships. 

Be sure to cherish your faith, family and friends. Don't get so caught up in the hectic pace of making a living that you forget to make a life. The human heart is rich, indeed, when full of love.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday to John Calvin

Yesterday was John Calvin's 505th birthday.

Happy Belated Birthday to You!
Happy Belated Birthday to You!
Happy Belated Birthday Dear Johnny-Boy!
Happy Belated Birthday To You!

Q: What do get when John Piper drinks Mountain Dew?
A: A Hyper Calvinist!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

The rain had ended. The sun was shining. A beautiful rainbow arched across the sky.

"Isn't this a beautiful day?" the robin chirped contentedly.

"That, my friend," said the snail, as he raised his mud-soaked face, "is a matter of perspective."

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

When Life Feels Like a Pressure Cooker

When you are under tremendous stress, and life feels like a pressure cooker, then it's time to stop and evaluate what's happening inside of you.  Stress is like the red lights on the automobile dashboard.  It indicates a warning that something under the hood needs attention.  Here are a few questions to consider when you feel the tension rising:

1)  What symptoms indicate that I am stressed out?  

2)  What are the immediate and underlying causes of my tension?  Often, the thing that is "stressing us out", is just a symptom and not the cause.  Look beneath the immediate situation.

3)  Am I living at a sustainable pace?  Look back at your schedule over the past two weeks and ask yourself, "Is this sane?"

4)  Do I have enough breathing room between events and responsibilities?  If not, what can I eliminate from my life?

5)  Is this temporary or permanent?  Is there light at the end of the tunnel, or am I just digging a deeper hole?

6)  Am I operating out of my delight, passion and giftedness?  If not, is there a way to rearrange my duties to live more in the sweet spot?

7)  What do those closest to me feel about the way I'm interacting with them?  

8)  How has stress impacted my relationships?  

9)  How important is this?   Does it fit with my stated priorities?   Ask yourself this question before agreeing to anything new.

10)  What drains me?  Where and when are energy leaks occurring?  Can I do anything about that?

11)  How am I doing spiritually?  Is my soul well nourished?  If not, what can I do to replenish?

12)  Is there bitterness or resentment in my heart?  Unresolved anger is a primary source of inner pressure.

13)  Am I eating right?  Poor nutrition and unhealthy stress are partners.  People get crabby when they're not being fed.

14)  Do I have a schedule of exercise?  Physical exertion is a great way to reduce frustration and inner pressure.

15)  Am I a praying person?  Prayer builds faith, and faith reduces anxiety.

16)  Am I getting enough sleep?  With limited exceptions, humans require 7-8 hours of sleep per night.   Fatigue makes troubles seem bigger than they are.

17)  Are there relational conflicts that need resolution?  Is there anything I can do about that?  Am I humble and courageous enough to take the first step?

18)  What do I do for fun?  As the old saying goes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

19)  Am a taking time for sabbath?  We are wired to rest on a regular basis.  Take some time to stop working and rejuvenate and refresh your mind, body and soul.

20)  Am I thankful?  Gratitude and happiness are lifelong partners.  You can't find one without the other.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mary Schaller Endorses Purple Fish

To those who want to be Christ’s ambassadors in this needy world (and that should be all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus): make way for Mark Wilson and his purple fish lessons.  You’ll learn how natural it can be to talk about God and build relationships with those who believe differently through embracing our common humanity, encouragement and love.  And that is always good news! 
- Mary Schaller, President of Q Place

Purchase Purple Fish today!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Heaven's No!

Several years ago, I was deeply troubled with some issues at the church. Problems overwhelmed me.  Perplexities piled up. Life was hard, anxiety abounded, and everywhere I looked, misunderstandings multiplied.

In a discouraged moment, I decided to call my mentor, Loring Peterson. He'd know just what to do. Loring had preceeded me at the church, and I always could count on him for a good word of wisdom and encouragement.

"Hey, Mark!" he answered the phone cheerfully, "How are you doing up there in the frozen tundra?" (He'd retired to Florida.)

"Don't ask, Loring! It's just terrible! I have more troubles than I can count. Every time I turn around, new problems pop up. Loring, would you please pray for God to take away my problems?"

I was astonished when my esteemed mentor shouted, "NO! Heavens, No!"

"What? No? I thought you cared! I thought you understood! Why won't you pray for me?"

"I'll pray for you alright -- but I'm sure NOT going to ask the good Lord to take your problems!"

"W-w-why not?" I muttered.

Because, all those problems have to do with people -- right?  And if I asked God to take away all your problems, He'd take away all your people! Now, you don't want THAT do you?"

I gulped, "Well, I suppose not."

"So, Instead of praying that God will take away your problems, I'm going to pray that God will help you face 'em head on. I'm going to pray that you will endure the problems like a good soldier, that you will learn something valuable from 'em and that you will come through them all shining like gold!"

"I'll pray that God will help you love people, the way Jesus loves them, and that you will stay sweet, no matter what happens or anybody says or does against you."

"Now, if you'd be satisfied with that kind of prayer, I'd be happy to send one up on your behalf."

I accepted.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Fishin' with a Mission

"I'm fishing for men with a certain kind of bait, and the bait I am offering is not candy; it's a very specific thing that I'm offering, which is a deep gospel and a deep conversion." --  Larry Norman

Purple Fish:  A Heart for Sharing Jesus