All Aboard!

Got your ticket to heaven? Well, it doesn’t do any good to get your ticket if you don’t get on the train! Following Christ is a journey not just a ticket. You can say yes to a ticket but it doesn’t mean anything until you climb aboard…

Have you prayed the salvation prayer? Unfortunately, the pews are full of non-Christians who have prayed the prayer. Unfortunately, many church leaders even teach the idea of trusting in your “salvation moment” for your security and place in heaven.

The bigger question is…are you following Christ?

As my wife (Kristin) says, “Christianity isn’t about riding the fence, you need to pick a side (the world or Jesus).” Stopping by the depot to get your ticket is not being a disciple. You have to get on the train and take the ride. FOLLOW CHRIST! That’s what a disciple is – someone who follows.

Christ warned against a mere pretention of following – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21 ff). He also said he will separate the sheep from the goats (saved and not-saved). What will He base it on? Not on what they say, but on what they do! (Matt. 25:31-46).

You see, what we do reveals what is really in our hearts. What we do shows who we really follow. You can say you have a ticket all you want, but if you are not on the train (following Christ), then you didn’t really decide to take that path.

You still can. You can get your ticket and get on the train and have the ride of your life – for eternity. The ticket is not for later – it is for right now and the price has already been paid.

All aboard!

 

E PLURIBUS UNUM

“Out of one, many.” This phrase in Latin can be found on the coins in your pocket. It is significant, indicating our acknowledgement that many come together as one. Today, it seems that many may have discarded that concept and, instead, are pitting diversity against unity. When we try to force everyone to be the same or when we try to divide over differences, we become weak. This is true for a nation and it is also true for smaller groups such as work units and families, and even marriages. And…unity of a nation begins with each one of us. Confucius said, “Everyone has a beauty, but not everyone sees it” and Matthew Arnold said, “The same heart beats in every human breast.” It is vital that we affirm our identity as one (we are all human) and our diversity (we have different strengths, ideas, talents, etc.)

In the Bible, there is an illustration of the Church as a body with the different parts of the body having different functions. The human body functions better with all the different parts, but all the different parts are all unified as one body. This illustration is appropriate, not only for the Church, but also for our families, communities, cities, and so on. Think about all the times in your past that you have benefitted from another way of looking at things. Or maybe there was a situation where you were weak but they were strong (and vice versa). It is awesome to witness a community project where a variety of people come together with their different abilities to accomplish a common goal such as building a house, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, or responding to a disaster. It is through our diversity that we truly can celebrate being one! Argus said, “You are unique in all the world.” That is true for each one of us. Don’t stifle the uniqueness in yourself or in others – we need it for the good of the whole!

I would like to challenge you to remember this when you, as a leader, are engaging in a task or mission. How can the individual differences of the people in the group best be used to solve problems or accomplish goals? You might be surprised to find that someone else on the team has a better plan or a better way! That’s ok!  In conclusion, variety in human characteristics is a fact of life. Having every person come from the same mold could prove to be very boring – and also much less effective! Each of us has a responsibility to help the other person become what he was meant to be…a unique individual with unique abilities. Parents, remember this as you raise up your child. Spouses, remember this as you support and affirm each other together. Leaders, remember this as you form your teams and cast vision. Our lives are enriched because of the beautiful variety and uniqueness in the people around us. “Everything is beautiful in its own way!”  Someone once said, “A friend is someone who leaves you with all your freedom intact, but who obliges you to be fully what you are.” Let us all be a friend…

Resolving Couple Conflict

Conflict is a part of life – and can be healthy when it drives us to improve our situation. However, it can also drive us apart if not handled properly! So, here are a few tips on resolving conflict within the marriage relationship. First of all, some wisdom from a few ancient proverbs…

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Abiding by this principle will go a long way to solving most conflicts within a relationship! We tend to lash out, get defensive, speak first and think later…you get the picture. How many times have you said something and then regretted it for days or longer? Slow down…take your time…breath deeply. Many times, just taking the time to listen and gather thoughts before responding will prevent a ton of conflict.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When you do respond to someone else, make sure you do it with kindness. Be nice! Treat your spouse with respect just like you would anyone else (hopefully, you treat others nicely!). We tend to treat those we love the most with the least amount of respect. Turn that around and treat them the best!

“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Always try and have in view the idea of healing and repair as you talk and respond. The goal is to solve the issue, not tear each other down or win the argument. It is not a dual!

When you do have an issue to solve, here are some tips on how to have a healthy discussion.

1. Set a time and place. May times, we try to discuss issues on the fly when we are angry or in a hurry or tired. Not a good idea! Make a plan to talk when there are no distractions and you have plenty of time.

2. Try and come to a mutual agreement on what the issue is – agree on the problem so you can work towards a solution together.

3. How do each of you contribute to the problem. This is not a fault finding session but an exploration of how the problem evolved.

4. Brainstorm potential solutions without being judgmental or critical, then sift through the ideas and evaluate for solutions.

5. Agree on a solution and then discuss how each will contribute to the solution.

6. Set up a future time to get back together and evaluate progress. (Along the way, look for ways to praise each other for positive contributions.)

While the above process may seem a bit formulaic, it can really help if you are struggling with being able to handle issues in a calm, diplomatic way. As you engage each other in this way, it will become more intuitive and automatic over time. Sometimes we have to train ourselves to behave a certain way, especially if we are conditioned to handle things in an unhealthy manner.

Give it a try! Bottom line – treat each other with kindness and respect, respond appropriately, and be intentional about how to discuss and solve issues. Go for it!

One more ancient proverb – “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” – Beautiful!

 

Are you Shrewdly Innocent?

Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way…

We must be intentional (wise) about how we live our lives – God’s wisdom is the way to go! It works best every time. We live in the world but must be careful to avoid becoming the world.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” (Jesus)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (The Apostle Paul)

Jesus described living the Christian life as that of being sheep among wolves. That is a dangerous scenario for sheep! We must combine the wisdom and the peace of God to navigate through this treacherous journey called life. The principles of Godly living are transforming for our lives. Things tend to go better when we live by Godly wisdom.

The church must remember that we have what the world needs! Don’t give up! Don’t give in! Jesus sent the sheep out among the wolves for a reason – to show the way! Let us be wise in how we live so that we might enjoy the fruit of living out God’s wisdom for our own lives and for the power it will have in the world around us. We influence them – not the other way around!

Things in the church that are not ok…

Over the years I have accumulated a list of things I have seen in the church that are not ok. It is basically a list for Pastors and church leaders, but everyone should see it because you should not put up with these things! Unfortunately, I think at least some of these things are seen among church leaders as efficient ways to get things done and accomplish goals. But…they are not ok.

1. It is not ok to ask an already overloaded volunteer to do one more thing because you want it done and you know they will say yes. Not ok!

2. It is not ok to tell a person or group or congregation one reason for wanting to do something when there is really another reason and you have a secret agenda. Not ok!

3. It is not ok to be a poor steward of God’s money just because you have a big budget and a big congregation. Not ok!

4. It is not ok to ask someone to volunteer for an “easy” job when it is actually going to be hard and you know it. Not ok!

5. It is not ok to tell different people different things so that they all go along with your project or agenda. Not ok!

6. It is not ok to move numbers around to make statistics look better – ever. Not ok!

7. It is not ok to teach on personal financial stewardship when your motive is really just to get more money in the plate. Not ok!

8. It is not ok to give preferential treatment to someone in the church because they give more money in the plate or because they have more pull. Not ok!

9. It is not ok to tell your congregation to go without so they can give more if you are not willing to do the same. Not ok!

10. It is not ok to call for a prayer meeting when your actual agenda is to do something to boost morale or buy in. Prayer is actually supposed to be for prayer! Not ok!

11. It is not ok to teach something is a sin just because you don’t want people doing it and it is not ok to teach something is ok just because you want it to be ok. Not ok!

12. It is not ok to preface your statement with “God led me…” when He really didn’t. Not ok!

Ok – I will stop there for now. Maybe I can post part 2 down the road a piece as I give this some more thought. There are plenty of scriptures to back all this up – honesty, integrity, etc. I don’t think people would argue that these things are ok – they just do them anyway. Not ok!

Let me know if you have anything to add to the list!

Hallowed or Hollowed? The Christmas Difference

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'” (Luke 2:13-14)

We love Christmas for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason for celebrating Christmas can get lost underneath the silver and gold of the holiday season. The birth of Christ brought peace! It is “good news of great joy” for everyone – that includes me! That includes you! Christmas is a birthday: the birth of Christ. That lowly birth was an amazing display of love and grace in that the creator of this world entered into our lives to demonstrate love beyond all human understanding. We cannot fathom such a great love! He loves me in spite of myself and sent His son to die for me. That is why Christ was born. He was born to die. His death and resurrection paved the way for me to have peace.

Look around. Do you see a lot of peace? I don’t. I see a lot of strife and lot of people looking for peace but never finding it. People turn from the only true place of peace and try to find it in other ways. Ironically, substituting God’s peace with other options, not only falls short, but actually drives one further away from what is sought. People turn to inappropriate relationships. People turn to Drugs and/or alcohol. People turn to thrill seeking. People turn to career advancement. People turn to materialism. But all they find is emptiness. A hollow feeling inside. Do you feel it? An emptiness that craves/desires to be filled. But people can’t fill it because you can’t have the peace of God until you have peace with God. People fight against it when all along it is actually what they really want – humans long for reconciliation with their maker.

Those that have found the hallowed ground of Christ in their lives know true peace. Peace with God brings the peace of God. That painful void is filled with peace, with God’s presence, with a calm that others cannot understand. Even though the storm rages, there is a calm inside. Even though there is striving on the outside, there is rest on the inside. No need to seek fulfillment in the empty promises of fleshly desire because there is contentment. There is peace.

This Christmas, take some time to consider the peace of God. It really is the whole reason for the season. Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

The greatest gift ever!

Are you seeking peace where it cannot be found? Are you aching to fill a void in your life that won’t go away? Are you afraid? From shepherds to Magi, there was only one to seek; one to find; one to rely on; one to turn to; one to find peace in – His name is Jesus. A savior is born.

Merry Christmas.

Heaven on earth

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.” (N.T. Wright – Surprised by Hope)

As Christians look forward to heaven, let us not give up on earth! We have our kids to think about, and their kids, and their kids…

Wright also says, “The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth…”

Let us engage our culture – not turn our backs on it. Let’s be a light on a hill – not hidden.

Who you gonna call?

“The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians, and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes- a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low.”
― Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives

A timely challenge for all Christians. The world and the world system can only be fixed by the wisdom of God. Who is going to spread the healing light of Christ into the world if not Christians?

Are you a reservoir?

“If then you are wise, you will show yourself rather as a reservoir than as a canal. A canal spreads abroad water as it receives it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, and thus without loss to itself it shares its superabundant water.” (Bernard of Clairvaux)

Are you taking care of your self? Is your tank full? Physically, mentally, spiritually?

In a passenger airplane, if oxygen masks are needed, you are instructed to put your mask on first. You can‘t help those around you if you are weak. Make sure you are strong. Then you can help others.

CEO, Mom, Pastor, Friend, Dad, Husband, Wife, Deacon, Soldier – the best way to serve others is to make sure you take care of yourself. From this wellspring will abundant waters flow issuing forth sustained nourishment.

Imprisoned Spirit?

“So, it becomes the devil’s business to keep the Christian’s spirit imprisoned. He knows that the believing and justified Christian has been raised up out of the grave of his sins and trespasses. From that point on, Satan works that much harder to keep us bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in our own grave clothes. He knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage…we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead.” (A.W. Tozer)