Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Being Aware of Life Distractions

Important stuff versus the distractions of just stuff…

 

I seem to have this continual mental battle regarding what is the best use of my time. What builds life and love versus loss and fear? What is a good cause versus a great and godly cause? What is God’s will versus my will? What is secular, of this world, and what is of His kingdom?

 

It takes discernment and wisdom and it reminds me of a story I was reading in the Scriptures just the other day.

 

The disciple Peter was being questioned by Jesus and he was confessing Christ by his repeated answering of the question, “Who do you say I am?”

 

Then Jesus begins to speak of His coming death, how He must be killed. Peter takes Him aside and, get this, “rebukes” Him. Wow, that took some nerve, but I get that it was a desperate plea on Peter’s part. Of course, this is where (and it seems out of character) Jesus tells Satan to “get behind” Him and for Peter to stop being a “stumbling block.”

 

Following this dialogue there is this partial sentence in which Jesus expresses something significant. He said, “…you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (See Matthew 16:13-23.)

 

Bear in mind, Jesus had just told Peter that he was blessed and that his Father in heaven was revealing things to him. Apparently, this rebuke was not one of them.

 

Struggling with Which Cause to Fight For

 

It seems that every week or two our world has a new cause, a new band wagon, a new catastrophe to jump on depending on the crime or news attention of the day.

 

It is really easy to get caught up on social media with opinion, videos, responses and emotion. Perhaps we need to stop and reflect on Jesus’ words: what do we have in mind, the things of men or of God? Good things might not be God things.

 

And that’s where this word, distraction, comes in. Life is full of causes. Tomorrow and next week will be another headline. But as those who are called to reflect the mind and the image of Christ, we must seek first the kingdom of God and not be distracted by each and every cause of the day.

 

We do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone. Jesus also said that if we wanted to follow Him, we had to first deny ourself and then take up His cross. Many of the bandwagons of our day have no relationship with the cross.

 

Jesus’ final question in this passage concerning distractions was this, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

 

I do not think it’s the world’s gain or approval we are seeking.

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Why Money May Not Be Wealth

Our international economy is in such a disarray at this time. There has been a loss of jobs, businesses and products. Along with such losses, governments do not know how to fix the issues following a world pandemic. It’s easy to be an armchair critic, but what precedent do they/we have to follow?

 

Steve Forbes has said, “Money is not wealth, but it helps create wealth.” The U.S. government responded by creating several stimulus packages to help businesses, nonprofits and individuals. Most are happy that happened. It’s something called, “Quantitative Easing.”

 

It is said if you or I print money, it’s counterfeiting and counterfeiting is a form of theft. But if the government prints money, it’s generating stimulus or quantitative easing in the case of the Cares Act. It’s a short-term solution for a long-term problem.

 

Dirt or gold?

Andrew Carnegie came to America as a child from Scotland. He worked small, odd jobs as a boy but we know him as the largest manufacturer of steel in the United States. It is said that at one time he had forty-three millionaires working for him. (In today’s terms that million dollars would be comparable to twenty million.)

 

One day a reporter asked him how these men became so valuable in order to pay them so much money? This was Carnegie’s reply, “…the men are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold; but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for gold.”

 

Have you made a decision as to how you will come out of this season? For many it feels like someone has been piling on dirt. But there is gold in that dirt. Can a stimulus generate more rather than just being received and cashed? How can we mine gold and generate more from the losses we have experienced? If we sit around and just complain about all the dirt, we’ll never find the gold.

 

Bark or gold?

I know a story of a logging yard near my home that was losing money and threatening to shut down its business. A Christian business man was consulted and upon arriving on site he couldn’t help but notice mountains of bark, unused and unwanted bark removed from the logs. This man told them there must be something they can do with that bark. Out of those mountains of unwanted bark came gold. We know it today as bark mulch. Logging has not been their business for decades now, but rather bark mulch.

 

Let’s ask God for new and creative ideas to generate income, business, support for our local church, mission dollars and the like. Perhaps God in His wisdom placed gold in the dirt so we have to become creative in discovering it.

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Challenge, Children, Encouragement, Healing, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership

Do Black Lives Matter? My Story

The sign in front of church read, “We know no strangers, only friends we haven’t met.” My closest friend from my military days told me years later, “You know, Steve, that sign was not true for me.” I asked him what he meant. He said, “I was the wrong color.” While I knew there were no black persons attending this southern state local church, I had no idea why. He told me he endured negative comments and prejudice for years.

 

I asked Wayne why he never told me and why he kept attending as he endured racism among his Christian brothers and sisters. He said, “You were my friend and I was there with you and for you.” I had no idea. But then, I remembered something…

 

It was 1975 and Mary and I had just been married. That same year our pastor came to us and asked if we would start a Sunday School bus ministry. We asked him what that was. He sent us to a training, we bought a bus, painted it red and white and hit the road every Saturday morning. We filled that bus with unruly, unchurched but extremely happy kids. We played games, sang songs and had contests to and from Sunday School.

 

We visited, with a pocket full of candy, those kids faithfully every Saturday and we knocked on new doors as well. Soon we filled a second bus and then a third. Parents even began to come with us and then we received some alarming news.

 

Our pastor called Mary and I into his office. He, with great uneasiness said, “We have a problem with the bus ministry.” He went on, “The board is complaining of the costs; your kids do not tithe.” And then he added the most shocking words, “As well, your kids are the wrong color.” We had no words. The bus ministry was in question and perhaps on the chopping block of this local church board and congregation.

 

Finally he said, “They have given me an ultimatum; it’s either Steve and Mary’s bus ministry or them, their tithe and of course me being able to continue here in ministry.”

 

We truly thought it would be the termination of our outreach to those wonderful kids, “our kids.” Surprisingly, the pastor then spoke these bold words, “So, here’s what we’re going to do. Rather than bringing the buses into the back of the church and unloading, we’ll now bring the buses to the front parking lot. We’ll unload directly to the main auditorium, placing your kids and your helpers (lots of helpers) in all of the front rows you can fill. We’ll then begin Sunday School classes for the first ten minutes there with a general opening. Every congregational member will be forced to sit behind your kids and look at them each Sunday morning.”

 

This courageous step meant certain death to our pastor’s job and the ministry we loved. He ended our conversation with a few words we’ll never forget, “We will give every reason in the world for the members who do not want this ministry to continue the opportunity to leave this church!” What a brave man of God taking such a brazen step because lives matter. We grew in our respect of this godly man who would place his ministry on the line for an integrated church and we learned a great deal about Christ-centered leadership that day.

 

Our kids were of black, brown, Latino, Asian, Caucasian and mixed races and we often sang, no screamed, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves…”

 

Decades later we visited that church. It is now a mega congregation with numerous Sunday morning services. There is no bus ministry, but as Mary and I sat in the balcony overlooking the crowded seats we noticed something. I leaned over to my wife and quietly remarked, “Are you seeing what I am seeing? Do you think the bus ministry of decades ago planted a seed for this?”

 

Later in talking with the current pastor, we asked him the demographics of his congregation. He unashamedly stated, “Our demographics are exactly the same as the demographics of our community.”

 

We went to lunch with my friend Wayne that day. Even though we left this church years earlier to move back to PA, Wayne stayed. Today Wayne is the prison ministry chaplain for the church, a church that perhaps now knows no strangers, only friends they haven’t met.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Training

The Two Sides of Integrity

Integrity has two sides: that which you will not do and that which you will do.  The latter is often forgotten when it comes to integrity.  Integrity is adhering to principles that you or your ethical and moral side hold as truth and of value to follow.  Integrity by definition is being “honest” and walking in, “soundness of moral character.”

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Challenge, Encouragement, Leadership, Marriage, Men, Premarital, Women

Becoming a Mentor Couple

We have come face-to-face with so many different life problems while involved in pre- and postmarital counseling with engaged couples.  For example, a young woman’s sexual abuse as a child; a young man’s addiction to pornography; pregnancy; extreme debt; the recent loss of a parent and more.  These couples found themselves facing huge life challenges before saying “I do.”

 

Every couple we have ever faced presented new issues, new challenges.  Walking them through these life challenges was our privilege as premarital counselors.  We were not serving them as professionals, but rather as a mentor couple, and spiritual parents.  What an honor to walk with them, to pray with them and then to see answers to our prayers together.  It was a learning experience for them and for my wife and me.

 

Life has its twists and turns, but when you are able to walk alongside someone else serving and supporting them through those times, you are actually helping them to make it, to be successful and to grow toward maturity.  Our book, Called Together, is a resource to enable other couples to do exactly this.

 

If you and your spouse have a heart to enter this type of ministry, we have a suggestion for you.  You can take our free four-part training found on YouTube or you can attend our live training scheduled for February 22 at Westgate Church in Ephrata, PA. I will leave the live links on the bottom of this blog.

 

We have been involved in this ministry for many years and find great satisfaction and challenge in it.  Walking couples through their histories, their likes and dislikes, their hurts and their joys, all the while, moving toward marriage is simply a satisfying venture.  Helping to build a firm foundation for their future in the areas of communication, finances, sex and so much more brings with it a certain satisfaction.  As well, we schedule several postmarital check-ups with them after they say “I do.”  Follow-up is, as they say, where the rubber meets the road.

Mentoring training 

Called Together resource(s)

 

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Challenge, Encouragement, Leadership, Women

God Designed You for More Than You Know; You Can Make a Difference

Do you know who Mary Kay Ash was?  She worked at Stanley Home Products at one time and even though she spent many years there and trained many others, she was continually overlooked for promotion.  She ended her job and wrote a book.  That book was written to help women in business.

 

Born May 12, 1918 in Texas, she began her own cosmetic business at age 45.  Her initial investment was $5,000 in 1963.  The company turned a profit the first year.  Today there are 1.6 million salespeople working for Mary Kay Inc.  The rule she ran her company by?  The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you want to be treated.”  Annual sales now exceed $2.2 billion.  Mary Kay once said, “One person can make a difference.”

 

Mary Kay believed that it was her job to make others feel important.  Her life slogan was, “God first, family second, career third.”  She knew that encouragement was crucial in relationship.

 

Who do you need to encourage today?  Send them a text of encouragement.  Tell them they are worth far more than they know.  Tell them God had a specific design in mind when He created them.  You can make a difference in the life of another today, because, “One person can make a difference.”

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Challenge, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Men, Women

A Question for Pastor John F. MacArthur

Dear Pastor MacArthur,

 

Your comments concerning Beth Moore and women like her seem shame-filled, judgmental and clearly challenged by the word of God and the life of His Son while on the earth.  Please consider these scriptures found in the book of Luke concerning those who supported Jesus’ ministry.

 

 

 

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from who seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others.  These women were helping to support them out of thier own means.  (Luke 8:1-3)

 

These women were brave, courageous, supportive and bold.  They were unashamed to walk with Jesus and serve Him in His earthly ministry.  God’s word does not leave out their love and dedication to Him within public ministry and what an amazing example and inspiration to all women they become.

 

So, here’s my question for you Pastor MacArthur:  Should Jesus have told these women to “Go home?”

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Challenge, Encouragement, In the news, Issues of the Day, Leadership, Prayer

Election Day: A Few Political Core Values to Consider

As we approach election day here in the USA on November 5, I thought I would pass along to you some really healthy and sound advice/political values from Kris Vallotton.  Kris is a well-known author and pastoral staff member at Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  I think what he writes is worth considering and sharing.  But first, let me share some of the best advice from God’s word found in I Timothy 2:1-10 from The Passion version.

 

1-3 The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.

4-7 He wants not only us but everyone saved, you know, everyone to get to know the truth we’ve learned: that there’s one God and only one, and one Priest-Mediator between God and us—Jesus, who offered himself in exchange for everyone held captive by sin, to set them all free. Eventually the news is going to get out. This and this only has been my appointed work: getting this news to those who have never heard of God, and explaining how it works by simple faith and plain truth.

8-10 Since prayer is at the bottom of all this, what I want mostly is for men to pray—not shaking angry fists at enemies but raising holy hands to God. And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.

From Kris:

  • I can deeply love people in whom I strongly disagree with. I refuse to demonize any politician who is made in the image of God.
  • I have enemies and Jesus gave me power over them on the cross, but my battle is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • When you call someone by an evil name…you have decided that you know their heart. But, the Apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge the servant of another?”
  • Associating with, or serving political people, should not be confused with embracing their ideologies. All political offices deserve to be honored according to Romans 13.
  • I am commanded and called to pray for my leaders. If you don’t pray for them, then you don’t have a right to critique their success or failure.
  • My first allegiance is not to a political party but to the kingdom of God.
  • I cannot separate my spiritual views from my political views because the government of this world is being affected and infected by the invisible realm.
  • Great government doesn’t take away the right of people to sin. That’s sharia law.  It does however, protect people from sinning against others and teaching people to do so.
  • It’s not the responsibility of government to Christianize the world. That’s the church’s job.  Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He leads the church with a shepherd’s staff.

Let’s prayerfully walk this election out like our first allegiance is to the kingdom of God and not to a political party.

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Challenge, Encouragement, Leadership

Nehemiah Did So Much More Than Build a Wall

The Old Testament man of God called Nehemiah was a king’s cupbearer turned leader of Israel.

 

He is well-known and honored for his obedience to leave a very comfortable position serving king Artaxerxes to return to his people, the Israelites, to rebuild the walls and gates around Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, but Nehemiah continually spoke faith-filled words like, “The God of heaven will give us success.”  The assignments were handed out and the walls were being rebuilt even through opposition.

 

But were the walls his most meaningful feat?  I actually think there were others that were just as important – perhaps more important.

 

First, Nehemiah saw something amazing happen in Israel as they went to work on the walls together. In chapter nine we are told the Israelites, under Nehemiah’s lead, gathered together to fast and pray.  The result?  Repentance.  They confessed their sin and the wickedness of their forefathers.  Then in chapter ten, we are told what followed confession was a new-found desire to once again obey God’s commands.  They took an oath to follow the Law of God, given to them by Moses.

 

Following this, the Israelites started tithing again, including a tithe of their crops and a tithe of the tithe to the treasury.  They would stop neglecting the house of their God!

 

Finally, Nehemiah reestablished the Sabbath.  With repentance, with obeying God’s commands through His Law and with tithing, Israel would also find rest in God’s Sabbath principles.

 

Nehemiah’s Initial response challenges me, “When I heard these things, I sat down and I wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”  (Nehemiah 1:4).  Am I hearing God’s commands for me in the midst of my day?  Am I willing to step out and obey?  Am I willing to do something that others see as radical?

 

But perhaps most important for each of us, this story causes me to think that Nehemiah’s obedience and passion require a profound question: what breaks my heart; what am I weeping over?

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Challenge, Encouragement, Issues of the Day, Leadership

God Knows He’s Not Getting a Perfect Leader

In a vision the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, has (Isaiah 6:8), God asks who He should send as a prophet to His people.  Isaiah immediately responds in two sentences and five total words, “Here am I.  Send me!” Have you ever said, “Here am I, send me” to God or have you hesitated, knowing He just might take you up on it? When I was a parent of younger children and asked who was available for a job, my kids would tend to make themselves scarce quickly. That reaction to a voice of authority is not uncommon.

 

However, leaders, like Isaiah, do not wait to see if anyone else is going to step up when something needs to be done.  Leaders initiate, take initiative.  They are raising their hands and are not hesitant to stand and speak up.  Leaders make decisions to lead and are willing to take the jump at short notice. Leaders obey God and know when to step aside and leaders obey God and know when to step in.

 

True Holy Spirit led leaders also know they are not capable within themselves to lead, they walk in a Holy sense of inadequacy.  At the same time, leaders who know the voice of the Spirit, walk in a confidence that their adequacy is from the Lord only.

 

I have been a leader for a long time.  I’ve wanted to be a leader and have been committed to growing my leadership skills.  I have never been a perfect leader, but often felt like a mistake- ridden one.  It goes with the territory.  But when you as a leader respond to God with, “Here am I. Send me,” God knows He’s not getting a perfect leader, but rather a leader He is perfecting.

 

Leaders need grace like everyone does, especially when making a mistake.  There is no perfect leader, only leaders our Father is perfecting.

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