Monday, September 12, 2016

To all of my cracked pot friends

An elderly Chinese woman had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which she carried across her neck.
One of the pots had a crack in it while the ot...her pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walks from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the woman bringing home only one and a half pots of water.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments.
But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the woman one day by the stream.
'I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.'
The old woman smiled, 'Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?'
'That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them.'
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table.
Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.'
Each of us has our own unique flaw. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding.
You've just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.
SO, to all of my cracked pot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

10waya to be a miserable church member

10 Ways To Be A Miserable Church Member

#1 Forget that your pastor is a sinner. Yep. Dwell on the fact that he is not perfect as often as possible and make sure to meditate on all his faults.

#2 Forget that the entire leadership is made up of sinners. While you are thinking about all your pastor’s weaknesses be sure to look for all the weaknesses in all the leadership. Criticize their every decision and talk to others, but don’t ever go to them with your concerns. 

#3 Forget that your brothers and sisters in Christ are all sinners. This is a really important one. Go to church expecting everyone to be perfect. Get really upset when someone doesn’t notice you or someone offends you. Then leave the church and tell people you don’t go to church because it’s filled with hypocrites. 

#4 Forget you are a sinner.  Like numbers one through three instruct, focus on everyone else’s faults, but do your best to forget about anything you do wrong. And since you’re perfect nobody should ever wrong you. Expect the most out of everyone except yourself and get really angry when people don’t live up to your standards.

#5 Don’t be involved, but then complain that you don’t know anybody, and make sure to point out how your church is filled with cliques. This one is SURE to make you miserable! Make sure you are involved in the least amount of activities and events, but then make complaints like, “Nobody ever says hi to me” or “Nobody knows me.”Consistently whine about all the cliques in your church and how impossible it is to get to know anyone.

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#6 Get upset every Sunday about the music. Church bodies all over the world are divided over music; you can easily use this area to make yourself miserable. Make sure you criticize every song the music leader chooses and make fun of him if he makes a mistake. Bemoan how hard it is for you to listen to the hymns (if you don’t like hymns) and whine about how lame the contemporary songs are if you don’t like those. Be sure to do this with the leadership constantly. Forget about the fact that there is only one instance recorded of Jesus singing (and even then it was only one song), but make sure the music in your church is one of THEE most important issues. 

#7 Don’t ever invite people over to your house. Then be sure to get really upset that no one ever invites you over.

#8 Wait around for the leadership to do everything, and complain about all of your ideas that aren’t followed immediately. Come up with things your church SHOULD be doing, but don’t do it yourself and get really angry when your pastor says, “That sounds like a great idea! Why don’t you go ahead and head up that ministry?” Never offer to help serve in the areas you see there is a need. 

#9 Only come to Sunday morning service and then get mad because you and your family aren’t “growing.” Be sure to get angry that your church body (the pastor in particular) is not meeting your family’s spiritual needs when you only come to one service a week (maybe less) and are not looking for other ways to grow.

#10 Forget that the local church body is about Jesus and not you. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT AND VITAL WAY TO BE MISERABLE in your local church body. Forget that the church is for Christ and His honor, glory and purposes and make it for your honor, glory and purposes! Make church all about you!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

7 Ways Church Members Should Prepare For Church


Seven Ways Church Members Should Prepare for a Sermon

What if church members began their own form of sermon preparation?

For countless decades, we have heard about the role of pastors in sermon preparation. The number of hours they need to prepare. The priority of preparation. The role of prayer in sermon preparation.

But what if church members prepared for each sermon they heard? What if they believed their roles as recipients of the Word are also crucially important?

I can see incredible church revitalization taking place if church members took on their own responsibilities of sermon preparation. Here are seven ways members can actively prepare for sermons.

  1. Pray for the sermon. For a few minutes, the church member should pray for the upcoming sermon. That prayer might take place during the week, the night before the preaching, or the morning of the preaching.
  2. Pray for the pastor who is preaching. Pray that the pastor will understand God’s message for that text. Pray that the pastor will have no distractions. Pray that God’s Spirit will fill the pastor in both the preparation and delivery of the sermon.
  3. Pray for yourself as you prepare to hear the sermon. Pray that God will speak to you through the message. Pray that you will not be distracted. Pray for clarity of mind and an open heart to receive the message.
  4. Read the biblical text before the sermon is preached. If possible, read the text from which the pastor will preach. Read it thoroughly. Read it prayerfully.
  5. Take notes. Take notes as the pastor preaches. You will have a greater focus and greater retention. Review the notes at least once during the next week.
  6. Seek an application to your life. Ask God for discernment to help you understand how the sermon should change your life. Seek to understand the sermon not only in its biblical context, but in your life as well.
  7. Share with the pastor “one thing.” If possible, share with your pastor one significant takeaway from the sermon. Pastors hear countless “good job, pastor,” or “nice message, pastor,” but they long to know if God really made a difference in the lives of the church members through the preached word. If you are able to communicate just one takeaway from the sermon in person, by email, or in social media, your pastor will be greatly encouraged.

The preaching of God’s Word is central to the life of the church. It makes sense that pastors should give it the highest priority.

But doesn’t it also make sense that church members should prepare as well?

(Written by Thom Rainer)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Guest vs Visitors

When you hear the words Visitor and Guest, do you consider them synonymous? Do you think we are splitting hairs by looking for a distinction between the 2 terms? I was very pleased to have responses from the attendees, with most if not all saying that “guest” was more:
> Relational
> Welcoming
> Personal
> Intentional (love that one for sure!!!)
Think about it in these common phrases.  Which ones feel right and which ones don't fit:
Guest of honor vs Visitor of honor
Guest blog vs. Visitor blog
Guest bedroom vs. Visitor bedroom
Guest bathroom vs. Visitor bathroom
Guest speaker vs. Visitor speaker
Guest Appearance vs. Visitor Appearance
Here is another thought...in many sports, you will have the HOME team and the VISITORS.  In this case, the visitor is actually your adversary. OUCH...not sure we want to consider those coming to our church for the first time as the adversary.
Below are “definitions” that I borrowed from some else…that I cannot recall, just don’t want you to think I was smart enough to come up with these on my own:
“Visitor” - is typically somebody who comes and goes without much preparation on our part or much thought afterward.
“Guest” - is typically a person who is cared for and has been intentionally prepared to attend. Most of the time, a guest is somebody who is a participant...a person looking for a specific experience.
For me it is pretty clear that if you are a church, you really are looking to have guests and not just visitors. We want people to feel a part…to feel welcomed…to feel as if we were expecting them to come and that we cared enough to prepare for them…and to follow up with them after.
To our guests…especially those that may not be believers or be far from God…these intentional shifts can make the world of difference. For the most part, we can make this adjustment to our “language” with little or no cost. Imagine that…a transformational change for little or no cost?!?!
Here are some practical ideas to help you implement this:
  1. Parking lot should have GUEST parking signs and not visitor
  2. Announcements…written or spoken…should address GUESTS
  3. Have a GUEST welcome area
  4. Possible have a GUEST reception area
  5. Avoid anything that references “members only”…this is polarizing
  6. Train your teams to identify and greet guests. Be creative, but not overbearing.
  7. Prepare your facility for a great guest experience…not just the “special” things (aspects I consider “Second Mile” hospitality) like a free gift card or t-shirt or free coffee or mints in the restroom. But also what I call the “First Mile” standards like:
    1. Adequate paper products in the restrooms. Is it more important to your guests to have mints or toilet paper? This is no joke. The lack of one will make a big impression!
    2. Clean facilities. This tells a lot to a guest as to what you value…and if you don’t value your facility when expecting guests, how can you expect them to think you will value them? This includes odors.
    3. Trash receptacles emptied regularly. Aromatic hand soap is cool in a restroom…I like it. But not if the trash cans are overflowing with waste.
    4. Things work. This is everything from the toilets, to sinks, to lights, to HVAC, to sound system, to TV monitors, to ­­­­________ (you fill in the blank).
These simple…but intentional adjustments...can transform your guest’s experience. If we believe that our “church” is actually not for those regularly attending but rather for those not here yet, then why would we not take steps to make this the best experience ever?

(this post was written by Tim Cool)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Not everything happens for a reason

Not Everything Happens For a Reason. By  


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Have you ever found yourself, in the midst of unimaginable grief, pain, heartache, or despair, wondering how you are going to make it through another day? Wondering where your next breath is going to come from? Your world has crumbled beneath you and you are left feeling shattered, empty, and hopeless.

And then a well meaning friend or family member comes along and drops the infamous “Everything happens for a reason” bomb. You smile kindly and nod- that’s all you can do to keep yourself from punching them in the face.

You can’t possibly imagine a reason for what just happened. 

The more you stew about a possible reason for your pain, the angrier you become. You try desperately to make sense of a situation that won’t ever make sense. You reach for answers but none come.

I spent years searching for answers, trying to find reasons that would bring an end to my pain. I thought that if I could find the cause, I could treat the condition. But what I found through years of searching, experiencing, and living is that often there is no reason for why tragedy has occurred.

Sometimes bad things happen for no reason other than we are human beings having a human experience. Pain, heartache, grief, loss, disease, and death are inevitable parts of the human experience. 

We hear people say “Life dealt me a crappy hand” as if pain and hardships are not the norm. We assume that life is supposed to be easy and when things don’t go our way, we feel like we have been wronged. Human beings seem to have an innate sense of entitlement. We think that we are owed a pain free existence.

But the truth is that human beings are not exempt from the human experience. And struggle is an innate part of the human experience. None of us are exceptions to this rule. We all struggle. We all suffer. We all experience pain, heartache, and loss. And sometimes, there’s just no reason other than we are human and pain is a part of the process.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was struggling to find peace with “God’s plan” for her life including the recent death of a loved one.

“How could this possibly be God’s will?” she asked.

Here’s what I’ve come to know about God’s will:

God’s will is not the path we walk, but rather how we walk the path.  

God’s plan is never for someone to have cancer. God’s will is not for an innocent child to be brutally murdered. God’s will is not for a teenage girl to be raped. God’s will is not chronic pain, illness, disability, or death.

God’s will is not an event that happens to us, it’s how we respond to what happens. 

God’s will for us is to walk with Him through the cancer. Through the abuse. Through the death. Through the illness. God’s will is for us to draw close to him in the midst of pain. God’s will is for us to use our painful life events to carry his message of hope, grace, forgiveness, and mercy. 

God’s plan was never for pain to be part of the human experience. His plan was for us to live in peace and harmony with Him. The human experience became painful when sin entered the world. Our own free will weaved threads of tragedy, loss, heartache, and pain into the human experience

God is not responsible for our pain. We are not responsible for our pain. What happened in the Garden of Eden is responsible for the human condition. And the human condition is hard wired for pain and suffering. God is not causing us to hurt. He is hurting with us. What we do with our hurt is what matters. How we handle tragedy is what brings purpose into our pain.

There’s hardly ever a justifiable reason for the bad things that happen in life. Tragic loss is not laced with inherent specs of good. I used to get so mad when people would say, “you can find good in every situation.” That’s just not true. There was nothing good about being raped. There is no good in murder or abuse. We have to create the good. We have to choose to respond in a way that brings good into an impossible situation. We have to choose to give purpose and meaning to our suffering.

Not everything happens for a reason. But in everything that happens, there can be a reason to bring hope and healing to others. God can use our pain for a greater good if we choose to let Him in. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Family and Church Attendance

I Won’t Force My Kids To Go To Church

closed door

My parents forced me to eat three times a day growing up. No joke. Three times. Every. Single. Day. And it wasn’t always stuff I liked, either. Matter of fact, I complained a lot about what my mom made. ‘Ewww, gross! Meatloaf? Seriously? Mom you know we hate this stuff!’ So as I approached adulthood I made an important decision. Since my parents forced me to eat while I was growing up, I decided I was done with meals. Oh, here and there I’ll eat out of obligation. I mean, family traditions like Thanksgiving and Christmas, yeah, I’m there. But daily eating? No way. I’m done.

Set in any other context, excuses people make for not going to church sound completely ridiculous. But set in the context of Christianity, people say these things in all seriousness while others nod sagely in somber agreement.

My son told me a few weeks into school that he didn’t like the teacher. He wasn’t getting excited enough about learning, and he didn’t really feel connected to the other kids in his class, so I told him he never had to go back to school again. Who wants to waste their time going somewhere they aren’t being fulfilled?

We’ve never forced our daughter to stay off the road when playing. We don’t want to restrict her imagination. We allow her the freedom to make her own choices in life.
– Ruth Meyer

Now maybe the above analogies sound ridiculous. Maybe you’re thinking, “No loving parent would let their kids decide whether to go to school or not, and they definitely wouldn’t let their kid play in traffic. That’s endangering their lives.  Its a matter of life or death.” And that is exactly the point. This is a matter of life or death for your child. Eternity is at stake.

In our family, church is a non-negotiable. Its a non-negotiable because we understand that how we raise our children, and what we teach them (or don’t teach them) about Jesus carries eternal consequences. And as parents we have a responsibility to share with them what God has done in our lives through the love of Jesus. So we read the Bible together at night and we pray together. We got to church. We talk about God at home and in the car and at the park. Will they always be excited about getting up and going to church? I hope so, but I doubt it. But regardless, my wife and I still make them go because we are their parents and we know whats best for them. And so, when they complain we will tell them why gathering together is a non-negotiable. Just like when they complain that we serve them healthy meals we explain why we eat vegetables and not just cake. We take them to school every morning; no matter how much they complain or bellyache. And we explain why school is so important. We set boundaries and limits while they are playing outdoors. We tell them to look both ways when they cross the street, not because we said so, but because to do otherwise means possibly being hit by a car. We do these things because we love them and we are looking at the long term outcome, not what will make them happiest in any given moment.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Will all of that insure that they turn out to be the model upstanding citizens that my wife and I hope? No. Its even possible for children to be brought up in a loving Christian home and still turn away from Jesus later. That is out of our control. As parents, our responsibility is to teach our children about the world and about God. We teach them how God created this world perfectly. We teach them how the world became broken through that first sin of Adam and Eve. When their own brokenness shows itself, we point it out, and then we point to the One who came to heal that brokenness; Jesus. And they are never too young to begin learning these things. Each of our children learned to pray while still in highchairs. Our responsibility as Christian parents is about so much more than just taking our kids to church on Sunday mornings.

To say, as a parent, “I won’t force my kids to go to church. I’ll let them decide on their own.” sounds so enlightened. But its the most dangerous thing a parent could say. It would be safer for you to let your children play on the highway in rush hour traffic than to let them decide whether or not they wanted to go to church. One of those options carries temporary consequences (if you let your child play on the highway in rush hour traffic they will die); and the other carries potential eternal consequences.

Church isn’t just one good choice among many. Church isn’t a building. Church, properly understood, is the body of Christ; the gathering of believers in a specific place. And as such, it is a place where we all belong. We are all equally sinful before God and equally in need of a Savior. Church isn’t just a place you go to. Its not a place that you go to feel better about yourself. Its not entertainment. Its purpose is not to give you ten easy steps to fix your marriage. Church is the gathering of believers to receive what God has come to give in Jesus.

Jesus himself said, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” – Matthew 18:20

So when we come together we confess our sins. Then, having confessed our brokenness and need, we hear words of forgiveness. We hear that, though our sins are many, God in Jesus has forgiven them. We hear God’s word spoken to us as Scripture is read, and we speak those words to each other through various parts of the service. We sing songs and hymns praising and proclaiming what Jesus has done for us. We hear hear sermons that proclaim the good news of forgiveness in Jesus.

Don’t give up and don’t give in to those outside voices that tell you how much more important sleep, or schoolwork, or band, or sports, or anything may be than church. Instead, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25)

 

Is God Angry Anymore

Is God Angry Anymore?  

 by Jim Elliff

When I was in public high school, we had to read part of a famous sermon called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, by Jonathan Edwards. He graphically pictured sinners as spiders dangling by a thread over the fire of Hell. He also asserted that God is angrier at this moment with some who are living than with others who are already in Hell.
Do you believe that? Is God angry? I don’t believe my teacher thought so. When I later studied the Bible on the subject, I was surprised by what I found.
I learned that God’s anger is pure. The biblical command, "Be angry and sin not" reminds us that there is an anger that is justified. God always has this kind of perfect, holy anger.
The Apostle Paul said, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…" Romans 1:18a
King David said, "God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day." Psalm 7:11 (NKJV) And the Apostle John said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him." John 3:36
Note that these verses teach that God is not only angry with sin but also with the sinner. Since God sees everything (Hebrews 4:13), He evaluates perfectly. Whenever God is angry it is for holy reasons.
Sometimes we think of God as a judge sitting on the bench who passively issues sentences to guilty persons. But is God like this? The original words used for God’s anger are passionate words. Why? Because, unlike our court judges, God Himself has been sinned against.
Notice the emotion in Nahum 1, where God is identified as jealous, avenging and filled with wrath (verse 2). Verse 6 is even more pointed. "Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him."
However, even in the midst of His fury, God is self-controlled. The Bible teaches that He is slow to anger (Nahum 1:3), and most of us learned long ago that God is love. But while a loving God certainly is willing to hold off His judgment, it is just as certain that He will judge sin.
Romans 2:5-6 describes it this way: "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’" In verse 16 of the same chapter it says that this will occur "on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."

Why is God so angry? There are at least three reasons.
1. Because of the sheer number of your sins. If you were to sin only 10 times a day for one year, you would disobey God 3,650 times. But if you sinned 10 times a day for 15 years, you would sin 54,750 times! You are a professional sinner! Yet, how many times did Adam sin before he was cursed by God?
2. Because you have sinned against such an infinite God and high command. There are different levels of sin and punishment (Luke 10:12; 12:42-48). A crime is weighed according to the seriousness of the command and the stature of the person who is sinned against. It is one thing to disobey your coach at school. It is another thing to disobey a judge. It is one thing to turn in a late term paper. It is another thing to murder the president. The highest command is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength." The greatest being is God. Each time you sin, you commit the highest crime against the greatest being! God ought to be angry.
3. Because you have sinned against God’s greatest act of love. Christ was sent into the world of men and women out of love (John 3:16). But many of your friends, and perhaps you also, have rejected Christ up to this very moment. This rebellion is a sin against compassion. Is it any wonder that God is angry with those who think little of His love?
How can you be rescued from this holy anger? Only through propitiation. But what does that mean?
The word "propitiation" (pro-pish-ee-ay-shun; sometimes translated, atonement) means this: Jesus fully satisfied the just anger of God for people like you by dying in your place, taking on himself all the wrath you deserve. We learn about this in Romans 3:24-25 and Hebrews 2:17. God’s just fury, indignation and anger for sins were poured out on Christ for every sinful person who will come to him by faith.
And that is great news!