Monday, September 30, 2013

The Power of Praise - we just sound better (Psalm 33:1)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 33:1b (TM)
Right-living people sound best when praising.

The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied. "I'd give more praise," he said.

More words of discouragement, fault finding and criticism are heard today than praise. It seems that we live in a negative driven world. Turn on the TV, radio or pick up the morning paper … it is all negative.

Even in the sacred halls of our churches one can hear more about what is wrong with this group or that as well as a fault list on the pastor. We are quick the find fault and slow to praise.

It is also true in our meaningful relationships in our homes. We have a tendency to lean towards the negatives… what is not happening… instead of what is happening. Working with Robin and Dave through of the rough places in their marriage a suggestion was made to only speak a word of praise and thank you for an entire week. It turned out to be fun for them so they took the challenge on for a second week, then a third and finally it became their “life-style” in the relationship. A marriage had been saved.

Negative thinking is a trap. It will pull us all down. It spreads like cancer through the mind and spirit. Organizations can develop a DNA of negativism if we are not careful.

Praise initially takes work. It will require forethought and some planning. For some strange reason it does not come naturally. But we can re-train our spirit to be praise generators. It will lift our spirit and the spirit of the one we are praising. Praise is transformational.

Heard once about a church that really didn’t like their preacher even though the pastor was only in his 3-year. Then a prominent leader in the community simply asked a member what are some of the things that you like about your pastor. The comments were slow in coming, but come they did. Then the leader suggested that the person share them with her pastor, which she did. It lifted the pastor’s spirit. Before long others began to join the chorus of praise. The end of the story is that the pastor retired from the church after 29 years of service.

There is power in praise. God likes to hear it… and so do we!

May we be quicker to praise and slow to criticize. May we generate the attitude of praise among others. May we find individuals who have been burdened by criticism and life there spirit with a good word of praise. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ready to serve because of the authentic root system of our faith (Luke 12:35)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:35 (TM)
Be dressed for service and keep your lamps lit.

Kenneth A. Brown writes: Nat Wyeth, engineer and inventor, on his brother, artist Andrew Wyeth: Andy did a picture of Lafayette's quarters near Chadds Ford, Pa., with a sycamore tree behind the building. When I first saw the painting, he wasn't finished with it. He showed me a lot of drawings of the trunk and the sycamore's gnarled roots, and I said, "Where's all that in the picture?" "It's not in the picture, Nat," he said. "For me to get what I want in the part of the tree that's showing, I've got to know thoroughly how it is anchored in back of the house." I find that remarkable. He could draw the tree above the house with such authenticity because he knew exactly how the thing was in the ground. 
It dawned on me this morning that our level of preparedness is in direct proportion to how well we are grounded. If we are not anchored emotionally, spiritually and physically in our relationship with God then when the storms of life come our way, and they will, our life will be easily uprooted.

The people who see us, who come to meet us, know us for a short period of our earthly journey see only a small portion of who we are. Is what they see authentic? Is it real? Is it true to what we profess? Well, it really depends on how well we are anchored, how deep our roots go, how solid are we grounded.

To be ready to serve when the Master comes is in direct relationship to our preparedness to serve… to how well we are grounded. Norman Vincent Peale asks the question, “How big is your God?” A small God gets small results and is buried in defeat. A big God can take on anything and become victorious. The bigness of God goes to the heart of the root system of our faith. A strong root system results in a big God.

May we be ready to serve. May our lamps be lit, our bags packed, and our spiritual feet planted deep into the soil of a relationship with you. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Servant of the King (I Corinthians 4:1)

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 4:1 (TM)
So a person should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and managers of God's secrets.

A number of years ago, Dr. Waltke, a seminary professor, and three pastors, one of which was Charles Swindol toured the mother church of the First Church of Christ Scientist in downtown Boston. The four were unknown to the elderly lady who was going to give them a tour. They didn’t tell her who they were, at least not at first. She showed them several interesting things on the main floor. When they got to the pipe organ she began to talk about their doctrine and especially their belief about no judgment in the life beyond. Dr. Waltke waited for just the right moment and then very casually asked: "But, Ma’am, doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible, ’It is appointed unto man once to die and after that, the judgment?" The scholar could have quoted Hebrews 9:27 in the Greek, but he was so gracious and tactful. Swindol confessed he was thinking, "Go for it Bruce. Now we’ve got her where we want her!" Without a pause, the lady simply ask, "Would you like to see the second floor?" Dr. Waltke said, "We surely would, thank you." She smiled, somewhat relieved, and started to lead the men up a flight of stairs. Swindol recalled he couldn’t believe it. He was thinking, "No, don’t let her get away. Make her answer your question!" He pulled on the scholar’s arm and said in a low voice, "Hey, why didn’t you nail the lady? Why didn’t you press the point and not let her get away until she answered?" Swindol said he replied, "But, Chuck, that wouldn’t have been fair. That wouldn’t have been very loving, either- now would it?" Swindol said, "Wham, the quiet rebuke left me reeling. I shall never forget that moment. And to complete the story, you’ll be interested to know that in less than 20 minutes he was sitting with the woman alone, gently speaking to her about the Lord Jesus Christ. She sat in rapt attention. He, the gracious servant, had won a hearing by being kind.

When others think of us what image first comes to mind? What personality character? What noted trait? If they were to write a story of our life how would it start and how would it end? Would it start and end with the idea of being a servant?

Being a servant is never an easy path to follow. It can be extremely demanding and is often found to be filled with challenges beyond our capacity… and yet, that is the very role that God asks us to fulfill in this life. Hmmmm…

The “manager of God’s sercrets” we’ve got that. That particular portion of being a disciple is a lot easier. A job description can be written without much trouble. We can wrap our minds around that one without much forethought, but servant? Really?

It takes a graciousness to be God’s servant. It requires that we place everyone ahead of ourselves. It demands that we walk humbly through this world. If we draw attention to ourselves it is only for the sake of the King of the Kingdom.

When people think of us what is the first thing that comes to mind?

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free, Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be. I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand; imprison me with in thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.  “Captive,” servant … not much difference is there Lord. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In memory of Kofi Awoonor - one of the victims of the Kenya's Westgate Mall killing.

In memory of Kofi Awoonor, poet, author, teacher, diplomat, whose senseless death in the Kenya’s Westgate Mall killing this past weekend leaves the world less wise and longing for a voice that tried to make sense for all for all of humanity.

On this dirty patch

a tree once stood

shedding incense on the infant corn:

its boughs stretched across a heaven

brightened by the last fires of a tribe.

They sent surveyors and builders

who cut that tree

planting in its place

A huge senseless cathedral of doom.

P.S. And here is a warning before “those” emails start arriving in the in-box. The terrorist who brought on the massacre of innocent lives call themselves Muslims, but it obvious that they are not adheres of the teachings of the Koran.  We like lumping everybody together in one singular group. Parallel of sorts would be the Westboro Baptist Church who protest at veteran funerals and the like. I refuse to allow them to define Christianity for me. Their understanding of Christianity isn’t anywhere near my understanding of grace, mercy and love. Actually, it isn’t even in the same city let alone the same ballpark. So before we go off and lump all Muslims together with those who picked up guns and shot anyone who couldn’t recite verses from the Koran let us be determined to be one of those who are trying to change the dialogue of hate and misunderstanding between people of different faiths and religions. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Needing help from others and from God (Psalm 3:8)

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 3:8 (TM)
Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people!

William C. Schultz shares: People need people. Laurie was about three when one night she requested my aid in getting undressed. I was downstairs and she was upstairs, and ... well. "You know how to undress yourself," I reminded. "Yes," she explained, 'but sometimes people need people anyway, even if they do know how to do things by themselves." 
Admitting that we need help is hard for most people. We have a “can do” spirit imbedded in our psyche. From an early age we strained against the barriers of parental control. Every parent alive hears “I can do it myself,” and then… that child becomes an adult.

If we continue to carry that attitude of self-sufficiency, go-it-alone mindset, I-can-do-it-myself arrogance … we are going to be in trouble. God didn’t design us to be on our own. God desires to be involved in our life. God set up a set of parameters that should cause us to turn to him on a regular basis for help and guidance… the source of our real help.

Spiritual maturity is the discovery of the truth about God’s design for living. He designed us to lean on each other and on him. He created us to function as a village – not as single independent people, but as a people living in relationship with one another, caring, sharing, lifting … together. “Sometimes people need people anyway,” even when we know how to do something. 

It is obvious that we really do need you and if it isn’t make it obvious to us today.