Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Prayers of Chuck Colson

Some times you read something that says what you have been thinking but much better than you can express it yourself. Today's Breakpoint Commentary by Chuck Colson is an example. Here is that commentary, I have only deleted one paragraph in which Colson speaks of praying for his family. May it stir your heart as it has mine.

In my devotions over the last two or three months, I have started my prayer time by concentrating on the Church. I pray—actually, I plead, the Lord would wake us up, cause us to repent, turn from our own false idols. I pray God’s Spirit would fill us with a burning desire to love Him and advance His kingdom.

It was on my knees a few months ago that God hit me like a 10-ton truck about the priority praying for the Church first. We can’t pray for our nation to be revived, to be saved, to receive God’s mercy; we can’t pray for our leaders to make wise decisions unless we first pray for the Church.

When it comes to the economy, our nation has dug a hole for itself. And sure enough, we are continuing to dig. At a recent meeting with President-elect Obama, the nation’s governors had their hands out, asking for federal dollars. The President-elect was all too happy to oblige. But South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford knows better. In a statement in front of Mr. Obama and his fellow governors, he said “We don’t believe economic problems that were in large measure created by too much debt will be solved by more debt.” Amen, and hallelujah! Finally somebody spoke the truth.

Our nation is in this crisis precisely because we’ve traded in a Christian worldview of work, thrift, savings, and prudence, and instead have embraced the false worldview of consumerism—of leisure, debt, and instant gratification.

That’s a false worldview, and it leads to the worst kind of idolatries. And it will also lead to our self-destruction. And insofar as we Christians have abandoned our heritage and have bought into the idolatry of consumerism, we have betrayed not only our God, but the nation we love. I want to put it in the plainest terms I know how: This nation cannot be saved unless the Church is first revived. Renewing the Church is the key to saving America.

I no longer know for sure that America has a special place in God’s sovereign plan for the world. I could argue that we have in the past. No other nation has played such a positive role—from helping the poor to defeating tyranny to stopping the spread of disease (just like we’re doing in Africa today in the fight against AIDS).

But we will be unable to continue to be a force for good in the world if we are bankrupt. The fact is, we are bankrupt today, neck-deep in debt, and our people have become self-indulgent. And it starts with us: the Church.

I truly believe my prayer priorities are correct. Pray that God will inspire us, His people, to reorganize our priorities. That we will reject the idolatry of consumerism, that we will reject the therapeutic gospel, and seek holiness. And that we will serve our neighbors in charity, that we will use this economic calamity as an opportunity to teach the culture what matters most—a relationship with God.

For if the Church continues to embrace the ways of the world, I don’t see how America can maintain it place in the world—much less survive in it.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good for a Laugh or Two

Even during down economic times church offerings tend to go up during the last two weeks of December. Tithe checks can have some interesting memo notes on them. Enjoy this Top Ten list of Tithe Check Memo Notes from holyobserver.com.

10. Gross, not net—as usual!
9. Hush Money
8. Casino winnings!
7. For voice lessons for worship team!
6. Thanks for last night…
5. This equals 12%
4. Don’t cash before Wednesday
3. $1 less for every minute past noon
2. Please don’t spend on crack, again.
1. NOT for children’s ministry!

Also, from the same website, I saw this picture of a church sign.

We church people usually mean well, we just don't always think well! But we get some good laughs at each other's expense!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Peace On Earth and In the Home!

It’s that special time of year again. I always try warn couples going through pre-martial counseling about this special time of the year – the holidays. This is the time when we get to “connect” and spend HOURS, or even DAYS with families. This is the time when we hear a lot about peace on earth but can’t find it in our hearts or our homes. So what is the answer? Here is a video that offers one possibility.

But I have a better suggestion. Read these thoughts from Tara Barthel: “As we walk through the clamor of the holidays, our relationships may reflect a ‘peace’ as weak and flimsy as a sheet of thin gift-wrapping paper from the dollar store. How can we get past the fa├žade of fake holiday happiness and truly wrap this season in a blanket of grace, joy, and love?”

Bartel offers three focus points:
1) Remember the Prince of Peace
2) Embrace defeat! Your holidays will not be perfect
3) Unpleasant people? Destroy ’Em-with Love

I would suggest that you read her entire article, “Walking in Peace amid Holiday Strife” by copying and pasting this link: www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.1247127/

Monday, December 15, 2008

Lessons for Churches from the Airlines

Todd Rhoades recently noted all the up-charges that the airlines have been passing on to customers. From paying for the first checked bag, to fuel surcharges, to purchasing soft drinks, they have really socked it to the consumer with all the new charges. This got him to thinking about how churches could learn from the airlines during these tough economic times. He developed a list of ways that churches could increase revenue. In that spirit of crisis management I now offer my own list.

--First cup of coffee free; each additional cup is 75 cents.
--Back three rows of pews are designated as premium seating with a $20 per week up-charge.
--Usher provided parking: $20 plus tip
--Use of Pew Bible charge: $10
--Cell phone ringing during service: $25 for each offense
--Late to service fee: $10/per person
--"Please sing my favorite song” request: $20
--Baby Sitting Service in Church Nursery: $10 per child
--Sunday School Book Fee (Quarterlies): $5
--KJV upgrade to NIV: $15
--NIV upgrade to NLT: $10
--Hit job on the drummer or organist (rates vary per city/church)
--First Sunday of the month tithing discount rate: 8%
--Turn the Heat Up fee: $20
--Turn the Heat Down fee: $20
--Get out of church in one hour or less charge: $10

What would you add?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Playing with Palindromes

I love to play with words. Why? I had no friends to play when I was growing up. Seriously, finding the right word or words is important for successful communication and motivation. To better use words it is OK to have fun with words. When was the last time you spent some time playing with palindromes?

A palindrome is a word or sentence that is the same spelled forward or backward.

Examples and Occupational Applications:
Restaurant Staff > stressed no tips (spit on desserts)
First Couple > Madam, I’m Adam
Math Teacher > Never odd or even
Honeymooners > Niagara, O roar again
Zookeepers > Panda had nap
Philosopher > I saw I was I
Animal Lovers > Step on no pets
Cowboy > Too bad, I hid a boot
Theologians > Do geese see God?
Pastors > Dennis sinned
Church Attenders > We panic in a pew

Now, let’s return to some important thoughts about the words we use. In his recent book, Axiom, Bill Hybels writes, “The very best leaders I know wrestle with words until they are able to communicate their big ideas in a way that captures the imagination, catalyzes action, and lifts spirits. They coin creeds and fashion slogans and create rallying cries, all because they understand that language matters. … I often take long walks around our campus in search of one key word for a leadership talk I am working on. One word.”

Take some time to play with words. The more you play with them the better you will learn to use them as a powerful tool to communicate your ideas and motivate others to action.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Ever Felt Abandoned?

I am a member of the WITH (Wolfpack In The House) club. Club members really enjoyed the recent NC State and UNC football game when our Wolfpack put a whipping on the Tar Heels. One of my friends in the club sent me this photo of the Carolina stadium near the end of the game.

After this past Sunday’s church service I know how the UNC football players feel. About 1/3 of the people who were present when the service started left before I even got up to preach. I’ll let you in on a secret – that kind of thing really works on the preacher. Here is how we lost 1/3 of the people about half way through the service.

NGWC has an annual tradition of having the 4 year olds from the Child Development Center do a little program during a church service on Sunday morning. When we started the service the place was packed but I had been told that some of the crowd would leave after the program so that they could attend their own church services (our service starts at 10 am). The children did their thing at the beginning of our service and went to the exit door to “high five” them as the left for doing a good job. Almost all their family members followed them out and I shook their hands as they were leaving. One man even suggested that I should preach on the exodus. I then had to go back into the sanctuary to preach.

Needless to say – we will be discussing in staff meeting this week how to better handle this situation next year. I know that some of the folk did go on to their own church after they left us but I wonder how many? It is good for our regular church folks to see the child care kids and their families but does it discourage them to see them all leave instead of staying for the rest of the service? I have some ideas but perhaps you can help us as well. What would you do differently next year if you were in our place?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Church Is ... (Part 3)

The Church is the Bride of Christ. Seldom is the groom as interested in the wedding as the bride, but Christ is one groom who is vitally interested in both the wedding and His bride.

Both the Old and New Testaments speak of the relationship that God has with His followers like that of a bride and groom. Note especially Ephesians chapter five and the prophet Isaiah. The book of Revelation speaks of the marriage supper of the Lamb as being like the reception after the wedding ceremony. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 22:1-14 that depicts what this wedding in heaven will be like.

Here are some points to ponder about Heaven’s wedding:

1) Heaven is preparing the wedding banquet for the bride.
“A King who prepared a wedding banquet”

2) The bride needs to be preparing for the wedding banquet.
“His bride has made herself ready” – Rev. 19:7

3) There is an open invitation to the wedding banquet.
“Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find”

4) Many who are invited will have excuses not to attend.
“They paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business”

5) Anyone who rejects the invitation will reap the consequences.
“Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside into the darkness”

There is one last thing to remember about Christ and His bride. Like most grooms, Jesus doesn’t appreciate people criticizing and complaining about His bride. So, we need to be very careful what we say and how we say it when we are talking about His church.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Christmas Gift List

Warning: This is a transparency post! You have been warned and apparently decided to keep reading. By doing so you are becoming part of my accountability group on the following conviction. If you stop now you can still opt out. If you read any further you are in the group.

“The final principle for responding to a stubborn opponent is described in Romans 12:20-21: "On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Here is the ultimate weapon: deliberate, focused love (cf. Luke 6:27-28; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). Instead of reacting spitefully to those who mistreat you, Jesus wants you to discern their deepest needs and do all you can to meet those needs. Sometimes this will require going to them to show them their faults. At other times there may be a need for mercy and compassion, patience, and words of encouragement. You may even have opportunities to provide material and financial assistance to those who least deserve it or expect it from you.” – The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

Since I try to be an organized person I always make a Christmas spending budget with a list of those for whom I plan to purchase gifts. As I look over that list I see that every name is either a family member or friend. I don’t have a single enemy or stubborn opponent’s name on the list. Is that because I don’t have any enemies or opponents in my life or because I have reached this level of living as a peacemaker?

Jesus said, “"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

I am going to take some time this week to rethink my Christmas gift list. I will ask God to show me any enemies or opponents to whom I should show kindness or favor. Do you need to review your Christmas gift list as well?

Our Bodies Are Weak (Thank God, we will get new ones)

Last Wednesday I promised the final installment of my "The Church Is ..." series. Let me explain why it has not been posted yet. My sermon notes are at the office and I have not been back to the office since Sunday morning.

The reason for my failure to return to Asheboro so far this week is that I have lost my voice and Pam has been found to be with kidney stone. Late last week Pam began to have symptoms that indicated something was wrong with her kidneys or bladder. The real pain did not hit until Monday night. After spending Tuesday at the doctor's office and hospital, she had the kidney stone surgically removed Tuesday night. I am now waiting to get her back home from the hospital.

While Pam was getting this stone I was losing my voice. I developed a head cold and sore throat late last week as well. I am a preacher so I preached Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon I had no voice left. It is three days later and I am still trying to get it all back. The cycle will probably run like this - voice back by Sunday, preach on Sunday, lose voice on Sunday, voice returns during the next week. About every 3 or 4 years this happens to me.

Bottom line: say a prayer for Doug and Pam if the Lord calls us to your minds during the next few days.