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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Living on Ladders


If you were in church this past Sunday, then you no doubt went home and talked about the service.  Maybe that is a little presumptuous...but when I preach from a 6 foot ladder in the middle of church, I am guessing that makes your conversation somewhere from the church doors to your driveway.

*Before you pass by this post, I think a few minutes of your time might be enriched by reading what is below.  If you not Christian, or a Bible dude, do not worry about it...I think there is something in here for everyone...

The text I preached from is as follows:

"Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’



13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee:The reason I was on the ladder preaching this past Sunday was because the Pharisee did not see himself properly; what better way to illustrate that point than by sitting on a ladder for short period of time?  The Pharisee in the above story spent too much time thinking about others and being critical.  In a real sense, he was on his "ladder" looking down on everyone.  In short, he assumed the role of the Judge & the Jury.  Just go back and re-read the way he prayed and the way he viewed the Tax-Collector.

The Tax-Collector:
On the other hand, the Tax-Collector had a much clearer view of himself.  He was humble and not arrogant.  If you notice, he was standing in the back of the Temple and not looking up (or around at anyone else).  This man was fully aware of Who the Real Judge was

John Calvin, the great theologian, said that in order for man to get a real understanding of who they are, they must have a clear picture of who God is.  This is true.  Only when the Pharisee stops looking horizontally and starts looking vertically will he stop his judging, climb down from his ladder of criticizing others and then give God his proper place.  When this happens in a person's life, salvation is on their doorstep and God is drawing them to Himself. 

Seeing yourself properly is all about perspective, and depending on who's or should I say, "Who's" you are looking through ,will determine on which end of the ladder you find yourself. 

  

V. 15"I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”




Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting Into the Game




Have you ever noticed who the most vocal people are at sporting events?  The people with all the right answers, all the right calls, all right suggestions?  This group of people likes to huddle together, dress warm, and never get dirty. The reason is Fans never do.
Fans sit on the sidelines and have plenty of time to be critical.  The reason is because comfortable chairs always leads to plenty of time to think. 

The players on the other hand are in the game.  Everything they have is on the line.  They are busy in the trenches getting muddy, sweating, and many times -weary from outside criticism.

I give the above analogy to bring up the service in church yesterday.  The youth helped participate in many areas: from ushering & greeting, to lay-leading & lighting the advent wreath, to running the PC slides & presenting the youth DVD on PowerPoint. 

I am so proud that our teenagers actually got off of the cushioned pews and into the game.  I am not sure about you, so let me speak for myself, I can say with assurance that when I was their age -I would not be caught dead leading a church service.  (Unless of course, you had some type of bribe).

Concluding this thought, there is a challenge for all of us.  In your life, are you sitting on the sidelines?
Nitpicking. 
Criticizing.
Looking for cracks in others and then waiting to zap them.

If so, this may be a sign that you are spending too much time in the bleachers and not enough in the game.    Has God laid something on your heart that you should go for?  Are you ignoring your passions, gifts and talents that He has uniquely designed you with? 

Wherever you are in life, it is never to late to suit up and leave the pews...or the bleachers and step onto the field.

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for their is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Death were you are all going."     
 -Ecclesiastes 9:10



Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Poor Family In Church


I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.


By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.


When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1.


We made $20 on pot holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.


Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.


The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change.


We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before.


That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.


We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet.


But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.
 When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20.


As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn't say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.

Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn't talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn't have our Mom and Dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.


We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn't have a lot of things that other people had, but I'd never thought we were poor.


-That Easter day I found out we were-


Friday, November 26, 2010

Meet You In My Dreams...

Last night when I went to bed
A funny thing happened when I thought about what you had said.

You said, "Go to bed my darling husband,
Go now and close your eyes,
So that I can meet you in my dreams on the other side."

So I did as you pleaded,
Hoping to meet you there...
I called out to you in the darkness, and there you did appear

At first I was afraid and then I felt scared,
But then you reached for my hand and told me,
"My love has followed you there"

You took me by the hand and held me so very close,
Then you led me through a beautiful garden,
Filled with the scent of a rose.

Christen, in my dream I can remember looking down at you,
Just gazing into the ocean of your beautiful eyes,
Thankful you had invited me in...
In to your dreams and there by your side


*I wrote this poem at seminary on Monday night, March 6th 2007 (Midnight). 
After a phone conversation with Christen, and being far from her.
There was only one place that I wanted to be....back in your arms.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Perspective on the TSA Shakedowns...

You can either deal with this...




OR

With this....

There is only 1 thing that is not Thankful on Thanksgiving Day...

The world has been combed over and only one species has nothing to be thankful for...

Poor Turkey!  

But YOU on the other hand can surly think of something. 

-Happy Thanksgiving-

May you and your family be blessed!

"In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ."
I Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Am Second Stephen Baldwin - Actor



Are you Second?

Credibility


Dwight Eisenhower once said,

"In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence. Hence, the supreme quality for a leader is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office. If a man's associates find him guilty of being phony, if they find that he lacks forthright integrity, he will fail. His teachings and actions must square with each other. The first great need, therefore, is integrity and high purpose"
(Dwight D. Eisenhower, Great Quotes From Great Leaders, ed. Peggy Anderson, Lombard: Great Quotations, 1989).

Guess what the top quality people mentioned as the most desirable for people in leadership?  If you said Credibility then your are correct!.  Which we all know is linked to integrity.  

Question:

Are you credible?
Do people have confidence in your leadership?
To make an impact in peoples' lives,  a person must be a credible leader.

Credibility Defined

Credibility is the "reasonable grounds for being believed." One who is credible is trustworthy. Socrates said, "The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be."  And many years latter, someone has repackaged what Socrates once said when they stated, "Just Keep It Real!" 

Have you noticed how many times you hear the above statement? 


Authenticity is the mark of someone that is confident, honest, and humble.  As a pastor, many folks try to put me on a pedestal and my response when this happens is, "If you cut me I will bleed."  And I am truly happy taking that position.  What would become of me if I didn't?  I'm sure the "pastoral khaki's", tucked in polo shirt, with the blazer would shortly follow.  Instead, I'll continue walking into church leadership gatherings with jeans, timberland's, and some sort of Springsteen shirt.  And yes, I get the stares and the side looks, but who cares!  In the end, I'd rather just be me rather than someone else's version of me.   

An important lesson:
I can remember one time helping my youth pastor move furniture and while passing the doorway, he smashed his finger and then let out some very choice words.  After a moment or two, he apologized and asked me to forgive him.  In that moment, I learned more from him than in any Sunday night youth gathering.  He was being "real" and that meant a lot to a teenager who was looking for a role model. 

So if you are a leader and you are asking yourself what is the most vital aspect of leading...Then you can stop your search now...it is one word. 

Authenticity.  Remember, at the end of the day, people do not follow positions they follow people!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Following Jesus: It's Just that Difficult.


Who in the world is responsible for coming up with T-shirt's like this one?

First, it is beyond cheesy.  The only less cheesy thing than this would be a bobble head Jesus.  And guess what?  Those are real too.  I have a poster of one outside of my office letting everyone know just how foolish these products are.

Second, the message on the T-shirt is totally false.  Since when did following the Person who demands your total loyalty AND not to mention...your life, become easy?  Maybe the person who came up with this shirt wanted something snazzy in order to draw people into the Christian faith?  But if you are going to take this approach, at least have the MESSAGE of the shirt match up with what the MESSENGER really said and taught.

This kind of teaching found in this shirt is prevalent in the Church.  You know what I am talking about: when people stand up and and tell others that belief in Jesus will wipe away every problem, fill their bank accounts, and God will heal everybody from everything.

Isn't it about time we stop getting things backwards?  The whole point of the Christian faith was for you and I to bend to God's Will instead of the other way around. 

If you are catching yourself staring at the screen for a prolonged period of time, I am guessing that the above statement may have been a jolt to your system.   The truth is, following Jesus reminds me of a quote I heard long ago..."Love is free, but oh how it costs"    

Maybe it is time for you to reflect on your view(s) of God.
Are you asking God to bend to your will?
Or are you trying to serve His?

-Let the soul searching begin-


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thou Shall NOT Facebook!?


NEPTUNE, N.J. — Thou shalt not commit adultery. And thou also shalt not use Facebook.
That's the edict from a New Jersey pastor who feels the two often go together.
The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples among the 1,100 members of his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have run into marital trouble over the last six months after a spouse connected with an ex-flame over Facebook.   

Because of the problems, he is ordering about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions. He had previously asked married congregants to share their log-in information with their spouses and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether.

On Sunday, he plans to "strongly suggest" that all married people to stop using Facebook, lest they endanger their marriage.
__________________________________________________________________________________

My Perspective on the above issue is that eliminating Facebook might be the solution for some people, but the problem lies deeper than a Facebook account. 

Could it be that the problem is within a person's heart?  

   
Remember, Jesus teaches that the outside actions of a person always follows the inside desires and thoughts.

-HOW to avoid these types of issue are not always the easiest things in the world, but during premarital counseling, I tell couples to avoid the relational "Bermuda Triangle".  That pretty much means that couples have to take steps to set clear boundaries within the relationship.  And when doing so, they need to sit down and talk about these kinds of issues that may destroy a relationship.     

This may range from friends, family, entertainment, and of course old relationships.  One thing to always keep in mind is the word RESPECT.  Respect is one of the greatest gift that you can give your spouse.  So whether on Facebook, renting a movie, deciding with whom to hang out with and and where...respect helps guide you when making these kinds of decisions.

What do you think?  Is there any other suggestions you would like to make?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

10 Year Makeover

I have heard it said that the only difference between where you now and in 10 years will be determined by:
1.  The Books you read
2.  The People you surround yourself by

I believe this to be true.

Just reflecting on my life, I have grown into a more mature man by choosing to suround myself with people who have high standards, goals and purposes.  This was an intentional action on my part.  And I believe it has paid off.  In science, they talk about "gravitational pull" and this also applies to your relationships.  I have seen so many people hang around folks who simply do not share any common values with them and in the end, they are "pulled down" to a lower level. 

The Bible talks about "not being yoked together with unbelievers."  And I think the main idea can be found in the word, "yoke."  

A  yoke is used to keep two animals working closely together (say plowing a field in unison) that in any other case, would not be doing so.  So the Apostle Paul, urges Christians not to be yoked or joined together with unbelievers.  This may sound strikingly old fashion or odd today, but if you think about this, how many problems have you experienced simply because you did not listen to this advice?  I know many married couples, where one is a believer and the other is not, where constant friction occurs in the household.  The reason is not found on the surface level, but below it. It has to do with their individual belief system and your belief system is where you get your values, morals, ethics...

Right now, reflect on your life.  Who are you surrounding yourself with? 
-Do they share your values?
-Do they bring you down?
-Or do they lift you up?
-Is it time you start making some life choices that will point your life in a better direction?

Remember, when in a healthy relationship, that person will bring out the best in you and will challenge you to be a better person. 

In the beginning of this blog, I noted that there are two things that will make the difference between you now and in 10 years.   The other is what you read.  You just accomplished that element while reading this!  So you are off to a good start!  Keep it up! 

And always, I am open to suggestions, questions & comments!

Monday, November 15, 2010

baby shower #2...


Hot Mamma!




Family & Friends!

Confession of a Dad (to be)


 
Christen and I just got through a weekend with TWO baby showers.  After the first one, my house looked like a herd of angry Buffalo's taking the liberty to graze in it and after the second, something much worse was taking place...my parents were over to visit. 

Lets go over some of the interactions yesterday just to qualify the above statement:

DAD's Advice on setting up the crib:  "Set it up far from the window -just in case a hunter shoots and the bullet strays.  You don't want the baby right in front of the window...it is less protection." 

MOM's Advice on (just about anything):  "Do you want macaroni's AND chicken or just macaroni's."  Mind you, this is taking place while carrying 100 lb boxes of baby stuff.

CHARLIE'S Advice:  Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Chirp, Bark, Bark, Chirp...you get the idea.

OK, so all 3 leave, and I am left setting up the crib.  As this event is taking place, a thought floods my mind.     
'This baby is not even here and it is already taking over my life!'

Panic sets in, so I have to ignore it and dig down and continue my job as crib architect.

See, setting up the crib was a big event for me.

The reason is, I have a history of destroying objects and failing Shop Class.  And believe me, these thoughts were right behind me, sneaking up and letting me know that I am terrible at these kind of things ... all of this left me feeling a bit insecure.

Regardless, "I am about to be a dad" I thought, and if I can read Hebrew and Greek, then I could read the instructions for my baby!  So 3 (or 4) hours latter...tada! 

The Crib is up and ready for the baby. 

                                      The question is, will I be? 

Friday, November 12, 2010

5 Elements of a Great Leader [Do you make the Cut?]

When it comes to defining leadership, no one does it better than Kouzes & Posner.
In their excellent book titled, "The Leadership Challenge," they outline the 5 aspects that make a leader go from average to great.  Below, I summarize their key points. 
Enjoy! 


Leaders establish principles concerning the way people should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. Because the prospect of complex change can overwhelm people and stifle action, they set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action; they put up signposts when people are unsure of where to go or how to get there; and they create opportunities for victory. 
Anthony's Summary:  Leadership first starts with the leader.  In order to lead, you must first "be" before you can "do."

 

Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Through their magnetism and quiet persuasion, leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.
Anthony's Summary: Leadership is about creating a preferred future.  The Bible says, "Where there is no vision, the people will perish."


Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organization. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.
Anthony's Summary:  A great leader challenges assumed constraints and seeks to remove roadblocks that stand in the way of healthy change.


Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.
Anthony's Summary:  Let's get real, if you want to accomplish anything of worth in this life, you will need at least one other person to join you along in the process.  Teamwork is essential for the leader because they know that anything worth doing is worth doing with a great group of people. 


Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.
Anthony's Summary: I know far too many so-called leaders that "wield the hammer" over their workers.  This is not a mark of great leadership, rather it is a telling sign of incompetence.

Anthony's Challenge
Stop looking out of your window and judging those around you; a mark of an authentic leader is self-reflection. My advice is to step away from the window and stand in front of a mirror.