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Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Pat Williams, a leadership writer and also senior vice-president of the Orlando Magic, once wrote:

A leader is not just someone who takes charge. A leader is someone who takes charge and does the right thing. It’s not enough to make a decision; it needs to be the right decision resulting from strong character. It is not enough to take action; it needs to be the right action, prompted by strong character. (Leadership Excellence)

There are three illegitimate sources of influence people fall back on: Position, Power, and Prestige. None of those will “hold their weight.” When push comes to shove, they are nothing more than a house of cards.

In your mind, what is the single, most important character quality a leader (or anyone for that matter) can show? If you said “being a servant” give yourself an ice cream treat!  If you don’t like ice cream, I take gift cards. 🙂

Teams won’t be winning teams until they learn to serve each other.  As long as each player is in it for himself or herself, that team will not win. No pitcher has pitched a no-hitter without 8 other guys on the team. We should use our influence not to gratify or satisfy self, but to serve others. We take that very seriously here at OVCF and have worked hard to make that part of our church culture. This Sunday we have one service followed by a meal with The Connection (a church in town we have asked to join us) and then the two churches will spread out into the community doing free service for everyone who called to ask.  No strings attached…just service.

Your prayers for good weather (chance of rain) and for safety would be much appreciated.

Masquerade

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

This is not about the evils/horror/(take your pick) of Halloween.

I couldn’t sleep. No, it wasn’t because of some heavy weight on my heart. I took an inadvertent nap. After a very busy day I sat down in my chair to read. Next thing I knew: Bam! It was a 1/2 hour later. Way too close to bedtime to take a 20-25 minute snooze. Stop I stayed up (actually got back out of bed) to spend some time reading my devotions for today (Tuesday). They were about costumes.

Spiritual fakery is one of the chief tools of the enemy. It is one of the key ingredients of spiritual blindness. 

I don’t know if Paul David Tripp planned for his devotion to focus on costumes or not but there it was.  He writes: “The kingdom of self is a costume kingdom. This is because one of the enemy’s most useful tools is the ability of wrong to imitate right.” 

Hallloween is all about masks. Who can hide who they really are the best? Many followers of Christ are becoming or are already adept at hiding who they really are. Present company included. Wearing the clothing of the personal kingdom to hide the real me. Often wearing a costume to cover me. Sin does that. Since sin wants to reign in me, can I expect anything less?

I’m thinking that maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about the rightness or wrongness off Halloween, maybe we should concern ourselves with our own masks & masquerade.

What do you think?

Integrity

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

Part of my sermon Sunday was on being Authenticity-Minded. That brought in the subject of the title:

INTEGRITY

When I was studying I ran across a couple of quotes which said volumes to me and, of course, used:

Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. Mother Teresa

Another one came across loud and clear:

Integrity doesn’t come in degrees: low, medium, or high. You either have integrity or you don’t. Tony Dungy

It is never easy being real. Or honest. Or vulnerable. Or a person of integrity. Tragically we live in a world where people are more shocked by a display of integrity than the lack of it. More and more people are surprised when someone does something right or out of the ordinary to set things right than when someone fails.

Authenticity involves our integrity. Practicing integrity means our behavior matches our beliefs. But keep this in mind: personal integrity is not the same thing as your reputation. Your reputation is who other people think you are. Your integrity (or lack of it) is who you really are.

Craig Groeschel wrote a book called Alter Ego. In it he tells a story of when his golf coach caught him stealing a golf ball from a miniature golf course and kicked him off the team.  He said, “If you’ll steal a golf ball, you’ll steal other things.” After some pleading on Craig’s part, the coach took him outside to talk and said words Craig says he will never forget:

If you have integrity, that’s all that matters. And if you don’t have integrity, well…that’s really all that matters.

Wise, wise words. And in my mind, that about sums it up.  Any thoughts?

Awakened

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Several years ago I reviewed a book by an online friend. It was called Shaken Awake by Allen Madding.  Since it was before I met many of you here, you can read my review of that book here. Several weeks ago, Allen contacted me and asked if I would review his newest book, Awakened.

Product Details

Shaken Awake was centered around a snow storm which hit Atlanta and literally crippled the city. After all, since when has it snowed like that in Atlanta? You can read my thoughts on Shaken Awake by reading the review.  Allen follows on the heels of that book with a sequel, which he has entitled Awakened.

The sequel follows the soul-stirring result of Pastor Sam and one of his leaders, Phil, as they are both moved to the depth of their soul because of the snow storm. Not only that, Pastor Sam is deeply rocked by the death of a homeless man on the steps of the Peachtree Church which he pastors. The church is in dire straits financially, as well as morale, and “what will we do about our future?” Pastor Sam comes in contact and befriends Fred, Miss Gladys, Lewis Davis and other homeless people in his continuing journey to come to grips with the homeless population and how he can help. We also meet others who are not part of the homeless community- community leaders, movers and shakers- who take an interest in the homeless of their city.

Eventually Pastor Sam and Phil hear of a community in Austin, TX (a real-live one in real life) called Community First! Village and its corresponding outreach called Mobile Loaves and Fishes, which has done an amazing job of listening to and addressing the needs of the homeless in Austin. That real life ministry is led by Alan Graham. After a visit to Community First!, Pastor Sam and Phil know they have their work cut out for them. Community First! is a planned community designed to address homelessness. (I have Alan’s book in my Amazon cart).

I don’t want to say any more about the gist of the book because I would have to put up Spoiler Alert! all over the place. So let me just encourage you to buy Allen’s book. I had trouble putting it down, but forced myself so I could go to bed several nights in a row. My reading time was limited so finding the time to read was a real struggle but I made time after I started reading. 10 minutes here. Half hour there. An hour or two here. That is how caught up I was in this book. My emotions were all over the place. My mind raced to make application to my little town. I want to do something to change this whole situation. I believe you will also be stirred by reading this book and may even want to become locally active in addressing the homeless situation in your community.

Allen has written a great book and has presented a doable challenge to all of us.

Politics

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

I’m not big on politics. Frankly they turn my stomach. I simply refuse to preach politics from the pulpit. I won’t endorse any candidate from the pulpit and seldom say much on a more personal level of discussion. But while the following article from Chuck Swindoll might be speaking of politics to start, it switches gears quickly and speaks about an even more insidious cancer which eats away at pastors, churches, and people in general. Here’s Chuck:

I see it every night on the news. The politics of backslapping and handshaking and making sure “so-and-so” isn’t turned off—it’s maddening! (We call it “smoke-blowing” here in Texas.)

At the end of the political rainbow the pot of gold is “favorable public opinion.” Period.

If we’re not careful, we can let politics work its way into our churches. And even worse, into our pulpits. In fact, the pastorate is a breeding ground for this sort of thing—maybe more than most professions.

I love the way the apostle Paul keeps our motives clean and focus sharp:

For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4–5 NLT)

People-pleasing is a very tempting allurement, especially for people in ministry, because most of what we do gets done through people.

When needing volunteer positions filled—whether . . .

  • In the nursery
  • For a Sunday school class
  • Among the ushers
  • In our music ministry

It’s easy to massage our words and say more than we mean . . . or say something other than what we mean. (That’s called a lie.) The pastor must resist the temptation to flatter. We must refuse to play both sides against the middle.

Don’t go there. Why? Because once you start, it’s hard to stop.

When a pastor is a people-pleaser, he sits on the fence so as not to offend anyone. He remains neutral when he should NOT be playing it safe.

He tells people what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.

That’s not pastoring . . . that’s politics.

Look at the apostle’s words one more time. I find myself both challenged and refreshed by Paul’s transparency:

Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.

—Chuck

I spent way too many years as a people-pleaser, i.e. playing the political game. As I got older I realized that was a losing game. So today, while I try to be sensitive to people and their feelings, I also realize sometimes “politicians” can be the biggest hindrance to the church being the church.

Are you a people-pleaser? Is your pastor one? Are you part of the reason he is? Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Progression?

Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

I’ve been using Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp during my morning Quiet Time in addition to my Bible reading and New Morning Mercies. I read one devotion per week, rereading it each day, looking for something new to ponder.

This week’s is entitled “Sinners and Unafraid.”  I’m not exactly sure why that title but it is the first line that I read which gave me the thought for this post.

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. (p.53)

Hmmmm. What exactly does that mean? Maybe this will help. “When you’re young, you’re excitedly launching to worlds unknown…But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward.” (p.53)

That makes sense to me. Like most ventures, the life of being a follower of Jesus is initially something exciting. Like putting on clothes just purchased, or a new car with that “smell,” or finding ourselves heading out for a first-time foray, there is something exciting which happens inside us. We are like an astronaut seeing things for the first time.

But then life hits. We get older and life is no longer like a box of chocolates. (I wish). As life hits, we begin digging into our past, sometimes looking for that missing piece of puzzle. That one thing which will help explain why we are as we are. Why we react the way we do. Why we are making the choices and decisions we are making. Why does this make me happy or sad?

I confess to having done some archaeological digging in my own life.  It’s almost a necessity these days to figure out how we perk. But it definitely reminds me I share something with every other person on this planet. It is called a sinful nature and no matter how I try, I cannot become perfect or sinless. I have also learned something else, something much more important: I must rely on God’s grace to accept me, that it is not based on my performance, my past (no matter how good or bad), my upbringing, or my “religious efforts.”

Progression comes when I become more steeped in God’s magnificent grace.

Humbling

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

On this Labor Day weekend I salute all who work, those who labor honestly and do all they can to take care of their family. But in all our work there is also something we need to be aware of. It is in this story:

When George Mallory was once asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously answered, “Because it is there.” But in a personal letter to his wife, Ruth, he revealed even more about what drove him. “Dearest…you must know that the spur to do my best is you and you again…I want more than anything to prove worthy of you.”  George left a meaningful legacy that proved worthy of history’s remembrance. But George’s son John wrote something that has challenged me. Proud of his father but sad too, John wrote, “I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.  (copied from The Imperfect Pastor by Zack Eswine- page 78)

Sadly, we live in an age where “making a living” or “making a name for ourselves” seems to be much more important than making a name with our children. The mountain “was there” but so was his son. It is far more important in my eyes to be a successful father in my daughters’ eyes than to be rich, powerful, or well-known.

Take time this Labor Day to reflect on what you have been blessed with. Work hard at what you do. But don’t forget there are people whom you come home to who don’t care if you are a CEO or a common laborer. Being a hero in their eyes is the prize worth pursuing.

Rebel

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Or maybe you think Radical. Or maybe neither.

I guess it would depend on your perspective. Monday was the day everyone had been talking about for weeks, even months. Some saw it as an historical moment they didn’t want to miss. Others, like my daughter, Tami, saw it as an opportunity to teach her students the value of moments. She went out and bought glasses for all her children and planned a celebration with Moon Pies and CapriSun drinks. How ingenious is that? She is soooo creative! Well…her school system put the kabosh on viewing the eclipse (can anyone say kindergarten students and liability?) so they live-streamed it and still ate the Moon Pies and drank the CapriSuns.  🙂

So…I confess. I did not view the eclipse. I know. I know. How could I? Easy. I didn’t buy any glasses. I prefer to see for the rest of my life. PLUS I don’t think it would be wise staring at the sun/eclipse while driving. I consider that a slightly smarter thing than going blind or having a wreck.  Some will question my sanity. How could you not view something which only comes around once-in-a-lifetime? How could you pass up seeing a wonder of God’s creative genius? Easy. I don’t need proof for that.

I know that’s simple and maybe simplistic and some will even use the word “simpleton’ to describe me. 🙂  But I guess I don’t need to see an eclipse to know of God’s handiwork. I don’t need an eclipse to know that His creative genius was at work when He created the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1). I see His full display each day I look in a mirror or see a fellow human.  I am not downgrading the thousands who took the time to witness a rare event. I guess I’m not a “fad” person.

I’m a rebel I guess. I just wish all those who witnessed the eclipse could somehow realize the WHO is behind it all and give Him the glory He deserves. It was a beautiful sight, without a doubt (the pictures I saw proved that). But personally, I can’t wait to witness Him face-to-face in all His glory.

Now…if we can only get those idiots who predicted the end of the world and this or that off the airwaves and out of the news that would be something worthy to celebrate as well!

Change

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

I’ve written about change a lot. As a pastor, the church is often being challenged to change. Status quo just doesn’t work any more. This is not a slam against churches which prefer hymns as opposed to more contemporary worship. This is not a slam against churches which prefer King Jimmy versus the ESV or some more easily understood translation.

Instead, I want us to take a look at the “why” change is so difficult-for churches-but specifically individuals. I’m seeing this first hand to be honest. My recent back surgery is filled with “Don’ts.” Don’t bend over at the waist. Don’t exercise. Don’t ride a bike. Don’t twist and bend. For 30 days they are asking telling ordering me not to do certain things. Do you know how hard it is to change some ingrained habits? I even went so far as to call them and ask if I could go to the Y since I was bored not being able to exercise. But then my hip and calf started aching so I answered the question myself: I wasn’t ready. So I went for a longer walk than I had before. Yeah…it was too far. I guess they know more than I do?

Change is hard, in all things. What makes change so hard, I think, is the fear of failure. What happens if…? We fear becoming a failure or being seen as one. That is a lie though. Failing to make a change does not make us a failure. That is not who we are. Failure is not getting back up after falling down. We need to stop believing the lie we can’t change. Our enemy wants us to stay entrenched in concrete. The last thing he wants to see is us moving in the power of the Spirit as we allow Him to change us.

I’ve been working on a tentative sermon schedule for 2018 under the working theme of “Accept the Challenge.” Can you guess what one of the series might be on?  🙂

I may be incommunicado for a couple of days. Jo & I are heading to Ohio for Monday and Tuesday. Our grandson, Braden, starts school on Wednesday. He was supposed to come Labor Day weekend to visit but that has changed and if we want to see him before Thanksgiving or Christmas, this is the time.

Enjoyment2

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

In my last post I reviewed the first three books in my blogging friend, Martha Orlando’s, Glade series. You can read that review here. I’d like to review the final three (for now) in her series which she titled Adventures in the Glade.

This series picks up where the other three left off. Jim, Davy’s step-father, has a cousin who was introduced in the first three books. Martha fleshes him out a lot more in these three books, as well as his family and those whom Cousin Ronnie is in league with. Yeah…that’s a Spoiler Alert because I’ve just told you that Cousin Ronnie is rotten to the core and his master plan is to not only take over the house but also the property, which houses the Glade (better known as the place where the Old Ones live).

What I won’t tell you is how it turns out for all the parties. The Old Ones run into some difficulty, especially “Reverend” (the Owl renamed by Davy). Racer, the Grey squirrel (also renamed) plays a prominent part in all three novels as well.

I got into these last three so much I wanted to keep reading. I found myself wondering how this was going to be solved and how that was going to be straightened out. I was surprised (as was Jim) with a certain revelation which comes to light in Book 3.  No Spoiler Alert here because I’m not going to spill the beans. These last three were a thoroughly enjoyable read and a fitting conclusion to the series. Although…like all good writers Martha has left the door open for maybe at least one more book.  I’m hoping she finds the inspiration to do so.

Note to Martha: You did a fine job crafting a good and entertaining series.

Note to you, the reader: check these out. If you have children they would make great stories to read to them (any age) or let them read themselves (I’d say above the age of 10). Like Davy, your children may find a world of fascination not in a video game, a Gameboy, or a TV/DVD, but in books.