Friday, January 30, 2015

A Great Definition of Worship

"To worship is to quicken the conscious by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination with the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God." 
 -- William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Want to Be a Great Leader? Start Serving!

If you want to be a great leader, start by being a great follower.

Some people want to lead before they learn to follow. Non-followers make terrible leaders. They are self-absorbed and don't deal very well with people in general.

Occasionally, folks will come to me and offer their services in some leadership capacity. My usual response is "You can start your leadership journey by jumping in and assisting others. Be a helper, and then we will see about leadership."

Sometimes, they walk away with a sniff. "I'm happy to be up front leading, but how dare you ask me to serve behind the scenes? Aren't you aware of my tremendous gifts and abilities?"

Yes -- and I am also aware of your over-inflated ego.

Samuel Brengle graduated from college and signed up as an officer in the Salvation Army. Excited about his new role, he looked forward to providing visionary leadership for the cause.

He was dismayed to discover his first assignment of the new position was to polish a room full of boots -- filthy, worn, ugly, scuffed up boots!

"I can't believe they're doing this to me!" he grumbled, "Don't they know that I'm here to lead? I am an officer for heaven's sake! I've just graduated with honors! Why on earth would they give me such a lowly task? I didn't apply to be a servant!"

Then, the truth dawned on him. Leadership is servanthood.  To lead, we must follow. There is no task too small for a great leader. If you think a job is "beneath" you, it shows you aren't ready yet. You are beneath the job.

The best leaders are servants. From underneath, they lift up those around them and possess a "whatever it takes" attitude.

Getting along with others is a golden rule of leadership.  Do you want to become a better leader? Start serving!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

He Has Loved You Too Much to Cease Loving You

Be persuaded, timid soul, that He has loved you too much to cease loving you. ~ Fenelon

O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Treasure Hunt Every Day

What if we viewed each day as a Treasure Hunt?  What if, in our early morning prayers, God revealed little clues leading us to people He treasures -- sort of a Divine Treasure Map?  What if we went forth eagerly to bless, encourage and serve?  What if we went forth boldly, filled with Holy Love?  What if we viewed life as a daily adventure with God rather than a burden to be endured?  What if the chance meetings along the way were really Divine Appointments?

Wouldn't that make a difference in how we act and react?  Wouldn't that change our attitude?  Wouldn't the world be a better place if all Christians had that perspective?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Playing it Safe

The Packers beat themselves yesterday.  Green Bay lost the NFC Championship yesterday because they chose to play it safe.   Instead of playing to win, they played not to lose, settling for field goals rather than touchdowns.  They chose to sit on first half points instead of going for broke throughout the entire game.  They attempted to win small by preservation and playing out the clock.

Many church leaders do the same thing.

Last week, I was in a seminar with John Maxwell and Kevin Myers where they discussed momentum.  They said, if you are not meeting expectations, work smarter.  If you are meeting expectations, work steady.  If you are exceeding expectations, work harder.

"When things are going your way," Maxwell said, "for heaven's sakes, don't let off the gas!  That's not the time to take it easy.  Give it more!  Ramp it up!"

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Servant of God, Remember

Servant of God, remember the stream thy soul bedewing (moistened from morning dew);
The grace that came upon thee anointing and renewing.

The cross dissolves the darkness, and drives away temptation;
It calms the wavering spirit by quiet consecration.

To God, eternal Father, to Christ, our king, be glory,
And to the Holy Spirit, in never ending story.

The lyrics of this beautiful hymn, "Servant of God, Remember" (Cultor Dei Memento), was written at the dawn of the 5th Century by Aurelius Clement Prudentius, who, after a distinguished career as a lawyer and judge, retired at age 57 to write sacred poetry.

Several of his writings have been preserved in the form of hymns translated into modern languages.  The beautiful Advent hymn, "Of the Father's Love Begotten" is one of those

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

How to Find a Solution to Your Problem

If you're facing a difficult problem, the following questions mayl help you find the solution:

1. Is this a problem - or is it a fact of life?
You can do something about problems. You can't do anything about facts of life. If you can't change it, you have a fact of life, not a problem, No need to stew over it.

As Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer states,.  "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

2. Is this problem really the problem?
It is easy to be sidetracked by the painful symptoms and neglect the deeper, more important, issues. Make sure you are dealing with the main thing. Recurring negative situations usually have a common thread. It  pays to look deeper and discover it..

3. What is the bottom, bottom line?
What do you want? What outcome do you desire? Why is this a problem in the first place? Think it through. People think "to" a difficulty, but seldom "through" it.  Instead of focusing on what's wrong, put your energy into discovering how to make it right.  I heard a leadership consultant say you should ask "why?" five layers down.

4. Have you prayed about it?
God grants wisdom to face any uncertainty. If it's big enough to worry about, it's big enough to pray about,. If your problems are deep-seated and long standing - try kneeling!

5. What are ten possible solutions?
Most of our problems have at least ten possible solutions - the trick is to think creatively and discover them! I have used this process many times with good results. Write them down! Don't quit until you have ten. Refuse to settle for just one or two. Expanding the solutions can remove the blinders from your eyes. You will be able to see the whole thing in a new way.

6. What do your wisest friends say?
If you listen to wise people who love you and heed their advice, you will spare yourself a ton of regret.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Profound Thoughts on Kindness

I went to another burial today. Seems like all my social outings lately are all death-related. Somebody needs to invite me to a party of a different sort. I need to remember what it feels like to laugh with abandon. I think I’ve forgotten.
I did not know the young man being buried but I know his grandparents. When I was the Oregon Bureau Reporter for the Tri-City Herald, I rented office space from the young man’s grandfather, an insurance agent here in town.  It was a good office staffed with cheery and affable people. They always made my day better just by being in it. The young man’s grandfather is a particularly light-hearted fellow. He has the greatest laugh, a laugh that always reminded me a little of Dick Van Dyke.
He is a kind man. I like that in any person. Kindness.  I wish kindness was as highly valued in our society as is athletic skills or porn. I can’t tell you why it isn’t. Maybe you have some ideas?
I used to think a person was either born kind or they weren’t. Now I believe it’s a skill that can be taught and learned. Some people might come by it naturally but anybody can learn to be more kind.  (HT Scott McKnight via my friend Steve Gerich)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

How Are Those Resolutions Coming Along?

This piece, from my friend, Ron McClung, is shared with his permission.  I hope you receive encouragement from it:

How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? Enthusiasm waning? Ready to throw in the towel? If your resolutions are positive, I hope you’re still going strong.  May I suggest a few ideas to keep in mind for the New Year, based on an article written by Dale Foster some years ago?

1.  Travel light. 
If you are like most people, you experienced your share of failures, disappointments, perhaps even resentments during the past year. Don’t drag those into the New Year with you. Instead, travel light.

2.  Live one day at a time. 
People often fail to enjoy each day for one of two reasons. Either they put off decisions they should make today and clutter up the future with procrastination. Or they borrow trouble by worrying today about what may happen tomorrow. Either method is unproductive. Live each day as it comes.

3.  Be generous. 
There’s a great deal of need in this world. Not all of it is material and physical. Much of it is spiritual as people reel
under bitterness, prejudice, and critical attitudes. You can alleviate a lot of this by being generous with your praise and your positive comments.

4.  Face your problems with faith and courage. 
You have other options, of course. Some people run from their problems. Others resent them. Still others cower in fear. But we can face each day with courage, by God's help.

5.  If you cannot change your circumstances, change your attitude.
Life comes at us with increasing speed, it seems. Sometimes we find ourselves in tough situations – some of our own making, and some not. Either way, we can have a positive attitude and face life with determination
A college girl finished tacking a new calendar to her wall, turned to her roommate, and said, “This is going to be a beautiful year!”

“How do you know?” her friend asked.

“Because I am going to take it a day at a time and do my best to see that every day includes something beautiful.”

Monday, January 05, 2015

Fight Back With Joy

Margaret Feinberg's new book, Fight Back With Joy is delightful, challenging and inspiring.

Through vulnerable storytelling, extraordinary wordsmithing, and rich reflections, Feinberg provides the reader with fresh understanding of what Scripture says about joy and how to apply it to real life.

While researching the biblical references to joy (there are 400), Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This book chronicles her journey to embrace joy as a weapon to battle this daunting disease.

I especially appreciate how Margaret shares candidly about her cancer experience, and the various aspects of treatment.  As a veteran pastor, I've visited many parishioners in the oncology ward, but never really comprehended what they were going through until reading Margaret's account.  Because she is such an excellent writer, the reader vicariously lives the moments with her.

I ran into a friend at church the Sunday after I finished Fight Back With Joy.  She's undergoing chemotherapy.  I told her about the book, gave her a hug and said, "I had no idea what you are dealing with, but I understand better now."  She smiled and cried.

I highly recommend this book for anybody -- but especially those whose lives have been impacted by cancer, and those (i.e. pastors) who serve as caregivers.  It gives a good dose of reality with humor blended throughout.

A six week Bible Study Kit is available.

Purchase via Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Secret of Generosity

This morning, I spoke on the Secret of Generosity, drawing six principles from 2 Cor. 9.

1.  OWNERSHIP -- Give to Keep a Right Perspective.  God owns it all (Ps 24:1) and we get to use it for a while.

“He supplies seed to the sower & bread for food” v. 9

2. GRATITUDE -- Give to Say Thank You.  Everything we enjoy is a blessing from God's hand -- so we give to express our thanks.  The beautiful thing is that we can't outgive God..  He gives -- we respond by giving back -- and then he blesses us with more!

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” v15

3. LOVE --  Give to Show Your Love.  When we love deeply, we desire to give.  I experienced that at Christmas.  Shopping for my wife was a delight because I love her and desire to express that by giving.

“Not reluctantly or under compulsion” v 7

4. JOY: Give Until it Feels Good  Some folks say "Give until it hurts" -- but don't do that -- Give until it feels good!  At first, the decision to be generous may be difficult -- but if you follow through it will bring great joy!  The happiest people in the world are the most generous.

“God loves a cheerful giver.” v7

5. MISSION: Give to Make a Difference.  Together, we can accomplish much more than any one of us can do alone.  As we give, we make a difference for eternity.

“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God.” v13

6. TRUST: Give as a Statement of Faith.  Do you really believe God will provide for you if you follow through with his plan of generosity?  He has never failed anybody yet, and he will not start failing with you!

“Whoever sows generously will reap generously” v. 6

What is the Greatest Gift You Can Give?  Yourself!  You Give your Best When You Give Yourself!

And that's what Jesus did for us.  He gave himself completely!  John 3:16

Jesus Is The  Indescribable Gift! (v. 15)

He is the greatest example of sacrificial generosity. . .

Ownership -- “I must be about my Father’s business” --“Not my will, but your will be done.”

Gratitude -- 1 Cor 9 -- Cup of Thanksgiving -- participation. 1 Cor 11:24 -- “Given Thanks Broke it and said -- This is my Body Broken for you”

Love “He showed them the full extent of love” John 13

Joy: “For the joy before him endured the cross"  Heb 12:2

Mission: “I Have come to do your will Oh God” Heb 10:7   “Seek & Save the lost.

Trust: “Father, Into your Hands I commit my spirit.”

Jesus gave His All for You.  Will You Give Your All for Him?

Friday, January 02, 2015

How to Handle Post-Stewardship Sermon Poundings

This Sunday, I'll preach my annual stewardship sermon.

This is my 24th January in Hayward.  My first two years  I was too chicken to talk about financial generosity. The closest I got was "God is nice to you, so it would be nice for you to be nice back." And all God's children scratched their heads and said, "Huh?"

The first time I ever preached on financial stewardship, a rotund lady with a red face stormed up after the service and reamed me out. "Money! Money! Money!   All you preachers every talk about is money!"

I had gone over 120 weeks and not mentioned it once -- and then I got clobbered for "money grubbing."  She must have watched way too many television evangelists.

For the next few years, I dreaded the January money message, because some touchy person might be offended and blow a gasket.  Then, I finally figured it out. It's not my problem!

I am called to preach the whole counsel of God,  and that includes how to handle money. Jesus, himself, spoke more about money/ possessions than he did about heaven and hell combined. It's the topic of 16 of his 38 parables.

There are 500 verses in the Bible about prayer, less than 500 about faith, and over 2000 about money. So, it's reasonable for a pastor to bring it up once a year on Stewardship Sunday.

I've found a way to approach it, where people don't flip out and yell at me after church.

I preface my annual stewardship sermon with something like this:

 "I'm just going to share what God's Word says about giving. The love of money can twist our hearts, and distort our thinking, so we're not seeing straight. If you get offended by what I say this morning, and come up to rant at me after the church service, that only proves my point. It shows me you have an inordinate affection for money, and you need to surrender it to God. It proves that you are not mature -- because mature people are unselfish, generous and don't react that way."

Since I've started saying this, I'm happy to report, there have been no further "post-stewardship sermon poundings."

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Good Prayer for the New Year

A few years ago, my friend, Elisabeth, sent the following New Year prayer written in 1883 by the pastor of St. Lamberti Church in Munster, Germany. Elisabeth translated it into English.  I pass it along to you with slight modification and a "Happy New Year."

Lord, set limits to overly high spirits and let those limits be unnecessary.
Let the people not make false money, and let not money make false people.
Take the last word from the wives, and remind husbands of their first.

Give to our friends more truth, and to the truth more friends.
Improve leaders and workers who are doers but not good doers.
Give the government better citizens, and the citizens a better government.

Lord, please make sure we all go to heaven, but not right away.