Oct 09

Bears, Chainsaws, and a Life that Matters…

Recently I found myself in Colorado on vacation. While visiting one of the mountain towns I noticed a man who had cut bears out of raw wood – with a chainsaw! I’ve always been fascinated by those that have such skills.

Not long ago one of my daughters asked a man cutting bears from raw wood how he did it….  He responded that it’s easy, I just look at a piece of wood and cut off everything that doesn’t look like a bear!

When it comes to living a life that matters I believe that the same philosophy applies… Take a look at your life and cutoff everything that isn’t adding value. Leaving a life that matters.

Life is too short not to be living a life that matters.

Are you allowing distractions to impede the bigger issues of life? Are small things tripping you up? Are you taking your eye off what’s really important? Are you getting caught up in the fray of life?

Or, are you living a life that matters?

If not why not?

Why not be honest with yourself and cut off the things that aren’t adding value to your life and start living a life that matters. One that you’ll be remembered for – in a good way! 🙂

Sep 07

Less Knowledge – More Motivation!

Last Sunday at the church I serve, our worship leader brought the message. It was a very inspiring message encouraging everyone to accept responsibility for growing the church and the kingdom of God for all the right reasons.

We were encouraged to take action, accept responsibility, for growing disciples. We were then reminded that we were responsible for the souls (not numbers) that should be in the empty seats in our worship space. We were reminded of the importance of the invitation to others to attend worship – as they were God’s children (my interpretation) and were important to God.

But when all was said and done I had a problem with the message. A huge problem with what was said. But not by our worship leader but with those of us saying amen and nodding in agreement to what he was saying – and rightly so – it  was an inspiring message. Yes, I too was nodding and saying amen!

So what was the problem? The problem was what has become an inherent problem, in my opinion, throughout the Christian church and Christianity in general…   Was all the head nodding and amening the only action that would take place as a result of the inspiring message? Or, would there actually be anyone to take the message  to heart and with the love of Christ actually invite anyone to worship this week and next and the next? Will anyone actually step up on behalf of Jesus and care for his sheep?

You see, the Christian church doesn’t lack knowledge. The majority of everyone present on that Sunday had heard the message before, from Jesus, from other ministers, and in other churches. What our worship leader did was  to remind us that Jesus is still calling us to reach others and invite them to church.

I recently heard someone say that most people already have plenty of knowledge but lack motivation.  People wanting to get into better shape know how to do it, they have the knowledge but lack the motivation.  If that weren’t true we’d all be rich and skinny. We all have the knowledge to do both but most are out of shape and would  like more money because we lack the motivation to do anything about it.

So what will it take to motivate you to take what  you hear on Sunday morning and go beyond  the action of amening and nodding to the action  of invitation and growing the kingdom of God?

My motivation is that Christ died for me and doesn’t want to see anyone not living the abundant life that  only he can provide. A message shared every Sunday in worship. A message shared to to many empty seats throughout the world.

So I decided to move past the amening and nodding and I’ve already invited several to be in worship this Sunday. Have you?

Aug 31

When people let you down – my thoughts on Joel Osteen

At the time of this post hurricane Harvey has invaded Houston, Texas.  Houston just happens to be the home of Lakewood Church, whose minister is Joel Osteen – maybe you’ve heard of him!

The internet is exploding on Joel Osteen saying Lakewood lied about being flooded and therefore weren’t letting any of the many homeless find shelter there – Lakewood holds around 13,000 people each Sunday.

Internet haters had a field day on Joel’s alleged hypocrisy.  Apparently this high profile minister had let them down.

So, here are my thoughts on the Joel Osteen, Lakewood Church and Hurricane Harvey incident…

First, I  do not  know the man. Secondly, I don’t know the church. Thirdly, I don’t know the real situation other than what I read and hear through news and the internet. If you have been living under a rock lately – spoiler alert – there have been recent accounts of less than true news.  I know, hard to believe – right.

So ultimately I don’t have an opinion on Joel Osteen and Lakewood church.

But I do have some personal thoughts… (What follows in no way is a reflection on my thoughts on Joel Osteen. Seriously, I don’t know him or the situation and if any of it’s even true!)

In general, when people let  me down in big ways (lying, cheating, stealing, affairs, etc..) and it’s legit, I always remember that people have been letting people down since the great storytellers uttered the words “In the beginning.”  (The bible was originally an oral tradition)

I don’t put people on pedestals, as people will always let you down at some point. I certainly don’t allow it to crush my faith when someone lets me down. As my faith is built on God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and not  people.

So if anyone has ever hurt you so much,  that you felt your faith was damaged, please realize your faith shouldn’t be built on that person or  that event.

God is still on the throne and His word is still true even when people  let us down in big ways. Make sure our focus is on Christ and not people.

Aug 03

Parenting – My 44 Thoughts

What you’re about to read  are just some of my thoughts – not all of them, just 44. So what’s the point going to be? Parenting is an art, the more you practice it, hopefully the better you become. But the fulcrum lies on how you define the art of parenting…

Technically, I suppose you could just go through the motions as a mother or father, and it would be considered parenting. But, not necessarily good parenting. I leave the definition of “good or bad parenting” to you.

So what I’m about to write are just my musings about parenting, as a parent. You can agree, disagree or be indifferent. I just hope you’ll take an inventory of your own parenting style. I hope you’ll think about areas in which you might enhance your own parenting style.

I’ll do this in a list fashion but in no certain order… I will also refrain from saying thinks like “I believe” or, “in my opinion”  every time, and just preface it with the fact that this should be understood – in other words this is just my take and nothing else – no science or studies are  involved. Some of my thoughts may inspire you to say things like, “What a prude”, and that’s fine, form your own opinion.

Here we go…

  1. Parenting is hard
  2. Parents are called to be parents and not best friends with their children. That’s why your title is “parent” and not “best friend!”
  3. A parent’s job is to teach their children what they need to know so one day they can leave.
  4. A lot of “right decisions” are  going  to make you feel terrible for some odd reason – they shouldn’t!
  5. It’s OK to say no if you have nothing more than a “gut feeling” that something just doesn’t seem right.
  6. Take your kids to church – they are depending on you and so is Jesus.
  7. Your children are God’s gift to you, so give thanks often.
  8. Teach your young men to open doors for ladies. If you’re a dad – model that behavior yourself.
  9. Teach your kids to say “yes sir, yes mam and no mam and no sir”. Maybe seems old fashioned but I believe it’s timeless.
  10. Teach your kids to say “thank you” and to say it  liberally.
  11. Tell your kids “thank you” often.
  12. Tell your kids “I love you” often and don’t take for granted that they know that.
  13. Don’t ask your kids if  they want to go to church – remember that you’re the parent. Lead like one.
  14. If there is an age level appropriate program for your children on Sunday mornings in church – make sure they attend it. They’ll learn more there.
  15. Teach your children to make their bed as soon as they are old enough and have them do it – everyday.
  16. Teach your children to cook and clean.
  17. Have them learn how to change a tire and check the oil.
  18. Teach them to tie a tie.
  19. If you say something will happen the next time they act that way – follow through.
  20. Spend quality time with your children – they grow up fast.
  21. Make sure they learn to eat vegetables – boiled okra and raw celery excluded.
  22. Teach them how  to wash and fold clothes.
  23. Have your sons mow the lawn as soon as they are old enough.
  24. Once they are old enough, make sure they have jobs, at least in summer and part time the rest of the year, when possible.
  25. Teach them the Apostles Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, so they will always be grounded in their faith.
  26. Teach them how to wash/dry dishes by hand.
  27. Make sure you know they have completed their homework.
  28. Make sure they are ready for school – the night before and early enough that corrections can be made without being up too late.
  29. Don’t take something your child has done wrong that belongs on the value menu and then supersize the discipline.
  30. When your child does something wrong, try asking yourself – will this make any difference a year from  now and discipline accordingly.
  31. Be careful when allowing your child to be in so many  extracurricular activities that it effects the family, finances, grades and church attendance.
  32. Explore the possibility of learning a musical instrument early.
  33. Model the behavior you want your kids to copy – they’re watching
  34. If you’re married, make sure you tell your spouse “thank you, I  love you”, etc – your  children are watching.
  35. Take your family on vacations – they don’t have to be extravagant.
  36. Love = Time- spend time with your kids. They will never forget it, and neither will you.
  37. Don’t scream at your kids – remember they are God’s gift to you. So, Discipline them appropriately.
  38. Teach  them how  to polish their shoes.
  39. Teach them what matches when it comes to clothes.
  40. It’s OK to tell them that certain clothes may not  be appropriate for them – goes for guys and gals.
  41. Teach your boys to be gentlemen.
  42. Teach your daughters to be ladies.
  43. Did I mention, take them to church, say I love you a lot, model the behavior you want them to copy?
  44. Teach them to keep their rooms clean. Keeping yours clean will go a long ways.

Agree, disagree, or be indifferent, but maybe just one on the list may resonate and create action. These are my 44 thoughts – for now.

Jul 26

Speed Reading Pt. 2

Hopefully you’ve already read Speed Reading Pt1. and have practiced a little! If not, that’s OK keep reading.

What I’m about to tell you will hopefully help with your comprehension as you read at the speed of light (not sound! Light is faster than sound!)

Books

  1. Read the entire index first. This helps get an overall direction to where the author is about to take you.
  2. When you begin each chapter see if there is a chapter summary – if yes, then read it first. Some authors provide a bullet list for you.  If you’re in a bind for time, this may suffice in lou of reading the entire chapter. If a chapter summary  doesn’t exist, then try reading the last paragraph as it’s probably a summary in itself.
  3. After checking to see if a summary exist,s then see if the chapter includes highlighted/bold words. Again if they exist, the author has done the work for you. They’ve told you what’s important. So read those before reading the chapter.
  4. Before or after reading the book you might also find a summary of your book already available on the internet.  Just search to see, then speed read your book. Your comprehension should improve.
  5. When reading, don’t read a sentence more than once. We often read a sentence more than once which slows your reading – quit going back over stuff you read until you’re finished with the chapter.

Remember, some material doesn’t lend itself well to speed reading but most does.  Try these new tips to help you speed read with better comprehension.

Jul 18

Stop the Fade – Staying Strong in Spirit and Church

The problem? Fading in your spiritual growth and blaming others! Yup – I said it. As a minister I see this all the time. Many seem to place unrealistic expectations on the church for their spiritual growth. When these unrealistic expectations aren’t met they begin to fade – attend less and less in many areas of church life – especially in worship.

The solution? Simply take responsibility for your own spiritual growth. I recently read that there are no bad teams but only bad  team leaders. In a spiritual sense you are the leader and the church is the team, so to speak. While there are pockets where this isn’t true, almost all churches offer multiple ways to assist you in growing spiritually. If, you take the mature responsibility of using them.

It’s my belief that the more involved in your church you become, the less likely you’re going to fade in your spiritual growth and worship attendance.

At the church I currently serve, we have at least 4 areas that we deem important.  It’s my belief that getting involved  in as many of these as possible is crucial to stop any potential fade in the future…

  1. Worship –
    1. Making a commitment to be physically in worship each Sunday
    2. Become enthusiastic/excited about worship
      1. Get into Worship
      2. Sing out loud using your outside voice
  2. Growth Track
    1. Starting Point 101 – Church history, past, present and future. Sacraments, Mission/Vision, what it means to be a disciple, Christianity as a lifestyle, etc…
    2. Essentials 201 – Spiritual growth assessment. This helps you gauge potential areas in your spiritual growth that you might want  to enhance. No one sees the assessment but you! Then, suggestions are offered to assist you in those areas.
    3. Discovery 301 – Spiritual gifts assessment. Discover your spiritual gifts then learn where you might use  them by serving both inside and outside the church.
  3. Life Groups
    1. Meet with people that will become some of your best friends ever!
    2. Meet at various times and places.
    3. These groups hold you accountable for our spiritual growth and service.
  4. Service
    1. Serve inside the church
    2. Serve outside the church

It’s my belief that when you become actively involved in the life of your church (past just attending worship) you lessen the likelihood of the dreaded fade. Because otherwise, you’re probably going to fade, maybe it takes a year, 3 years, 5 years, but you’re more than likely going to experience the fade.

I want to encourage you to take responsibility of your own spiritual growth. Most churches like ours offer a plethora of opportunities to choose from. Get involved, take responsibility, make your Christian faith  a lifestyle! Call your church today and register for something they have to assist you in your spiritual growth, get involved, serve, so you avoid the fade!

You got this!

Jul 17

Methodist History and the Trial of 1737

The Trial of 1737 is a trial that I’m sure John Wesley (founder of Methodism) would like to forget.  It seems that while in London he had been introduced to James Oglethorpe who had apparently started a new colony in America. That colony would be what we now know as Georgia. Wesley would be encouraged to go to America and would take up a short residence in Savannah, Georgia.  And that’s how the Trial of 1737 begins. It’ll involve what appears to be 2 jealous lovers, Wesley being one, an angry Husband being the other and an an episode centered around Communion.  If you’d like to read more about Wesley’s potential conviction then read all about it here.

Jul 11

Speed Reading Pt.1

Several years ago I was challenged to become a prolific reader by my leadership coach. For me, that meant I wanted to read at least 2 books a month – and not just thin ones. That was on top of other reading that I’d be doing. In order to do that, he also challenged me to learn to speed read.  Yes, speed reading is a real thing, so I set out to learn to speed read. Over time I have taught others to do it as well. Recently I was asked to teach others once again to do the same. So, I thought I’d write a few tutorials that have worked for me.

2 points you need to be aware of:

  1. Speed reading may not  be for you. There are times when I read at a regular pace. Most times I don’t.
  2. Some reading material lends itself to speed reading better than others.

Tips to get you started:

  1. Start practicing by reading silently without saying the words in your head. For now read at your regular speed.  Did you know that you even did that? Most people read by saying the words in their heads when they read silently. Your brain does not  need this to process the material. Saying words in your head can slow you down when you really start to increase your speed.  As you practice this you’ll get better at it. It will be a hard discipline to learn because you’ve been doing it all your life. Some people are able to master this but still prefer to say the words in their heads. But, in my opinion it will eventually be faster if  you  can learn to do this.
  2. As you start practicing number 1, start using a pointer. There are a lot of options for this technique. This is  not rocket science but will increase your speed over time. Start by just using your index finger as you read by placing it below each word you are reading. As with all pointers you should use a smooth sweeping motion. In other words, no hopping or stopping on words, just a calculated sweeping motion under each sentence. Your eyes  will slowly learn to focus on the pointer. Another choice of many is to  simply use a writing pen or pencil. But here is the wildcard that some people love – a 3×5 note card. This technique requires you to just see one line at a time as you slowly slide the card down the page from top to bottom. Some believe this allows more focus and can increase speed.

Give these a try and I’ll give you even more tips in future tutorials.

 

Jun 29

Breath of Fresh Air!

What a breath of fresh air when I heard Derek Carr’s (Now the highest paid NFL player) words when asked,…. I’ll get to that in a minute as I need to set this up…

Over the last several years NFL QB’s have not had the best of press. Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel are two that come to mind. I truly hope that they get things worked out in their lives as there is so much talent in both.

So when the reporter asked Derek Carr what he would do with his 125 million, he said,

“The first thing I’ll do is pay my tithe like I have since I was in college,” Carr told CBS Sports. “Giving $700 on a scholarship check. That won’t change. I’ll do that.”

What a breath of fresh air – he will pay his tithe – like he always has since college.
This resonated with me on many levels. Mainly, because that’s when I started tithing (in college) and have never stopped. Because I started tithing early you might think it made it easy to tithe the rest of my life… I think you’d only be partially correct. Yes it did make it easier but not because I didn’t make much money, but because I remained accountable to God. The amount doesn’t always matter because it’s still 10% for everyone, Tony Johnson making minimum wage at Olympia Sporting Goods or Derek Carr making 125 million, it’s still 10%.  Either feels like a chunk of change at the time!  Secondly, it sounds like he didn’t hesitate or question what he’d do with it. You receive income – you tithe. There came a day when I quit questioning whether I would or should tithe, I receive income, I tithe.
What a breath of fresh air to hear about a sports figure in the news for something positive. Even better though is it tells others about his conviction to Christ.
At least that’s the way I see it.

 

 

Jun 27

Why People Leave Churches – My Current Take

What I’m about to say is just my take on why people leave churches, your mileage may vary. As an addendum my thoughts are not all inclusive.

Let’s begin… I believe that there are 3 types of church growth: Biological (new babies), Conversion (new Christians – what Jesus was very interested in) and Transfer (people church hopping).

It’s the third I’d like to focus on. Some transfer growth happens when someone moves to a new town, but most transfer growth happens when people get disgruntled with their current church. Usually this is couched with various reasons – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me”, “I couldn’t find a place to fit in”, etc… Then they move to a new church, it’s the one they have always been looking for – then guess what? Over time that same church becomes the one where they begin to say – “I’m not getting fed”, “there’s nothing here for me” and “I can’t find a place to fit in” etc…

Case in point… I received an Email years ago from a church  member (we now call them partners at my current church) that listed all the great reasons they decided to join. Then about  4 years later I received an Email  from that same person listing reasons why they were leaving.  Oddly enough those reasons were almost identical to the one they said were the reason why they loved the church so much. What?

People leave churches, and they always have, and they always will. My prayer is that somewhere we become honest with ourselves as to the real reason why we are leaving.

Real reasons why people leave – my take…1.  We fail to be honest with ourselves and think that it’s all about me.  It’s not, it’s really about impacting others on Christ’s behalf. A by-product of that, is that we do get something out of it. We must be taught, trained, we must grow in our faith. But many times this is the school we go to with the end goal of impacting others in our community. 2. We fail to take responsibility to get  involved in service and  small group learning environment. We encourage you to serve both inside and  outside the church. This reaffirmsyyour important role as part of the body of Christ – the church. Small groups, not corporate Worship, is where the real learning can take place. This group often becomes a second family. This group is the one that looks after you and holds you accountable to your Christian life – which should be becoming a lifestyle. 3. The grass always looks greener on the other side. It’s that way in all of life, why should the church be any different?

Here is what I know, that I want you to know. Some things are worth sticking around for. Your church community, I believe, is one of them (if you ever contemplate leaving for any of the above reasons). In my experience the majority of those that leave have never really gotten past just corporate Worship. Many didn’t get involved in other events the church offered – never served much, never attended other events, didn’t serve much in the community, etc… But many who leave because they believe the grass is greener eventually realize that all grass eventually has to be cut just like the old.  These people, if they’re not too proud eventually find there way back home and are there to stay.

Recently I read some ideas from Sebastian Junger (NYT best selling author – The  Perfect Storm, etc…). When asked, “What would  your 70 year old self  advise your current self?” Here is what he said, “The world is this continually unfolding set of  possibilities and opportunities, and the tricky thing about life is, on the one hand to have the courage to enter into things that are unfamiliar, but  also having the wisdom to stop exploring when you’ve  found something worth sticking around for.”

I think, if we’re honest, most church communities are worth sticking around for. The church I serve now is one of them.  This church is impacting our community like no other church I’ve served.

But that’s just my take.

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