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Oct
29

THINK Before You Speak

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This is certainly not original, but I was reminded of this principle recently and wanted to share it. It’s titled, “THINK Before You Speak,” and works as an outstanding guide to help remember some important guidelines for conversations.

Before you speak, ask these five questions:

Is it True?

Is it Helpful?

Is it Important?

Is it Necessary?

Is it Kind?

The apostle Paul would say it this way. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)

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Aug
28

Pray for Houston

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Father in heaven,

Be present in Houston today:

For those who suffer,
For those who are displaced, and
For those whose lives will never be the same.

We pray that family and friends who are separated will be safely reunited.

We pray for the leaders of the communities that are impacted, for the leaders of the state of Texas, and for those who guide and direct federal assistance.

We pray especially for those who are first to respond and the last to leave.

May your mercy and grace abound.

Amen

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As many of us are reeling from the events that have unfolded in Charlottesville, VA – with stories, images, and reports whirling about and yet developing – words can be tough to come by. When there is so much that can be said, indeed, that must be said in the light of tragic events such … Continued

Source: A Congregational Prayer for Churches After Charlottesville – Missio Alliance

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Jun
26

Helpful Quote

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My sister shared the following quote as an introduction to a prayer she offered during worship yesterday. I liked it enough to share it with you today.

“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to make a difference that you lived at all.” — Leo Rosten

I hope it will inspire you today as it has me.

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Jun
19

When to Say “No”

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Last week I was presented with two requests within two hours. Within two minutes of each one, I said the word, “no.” Let me explain.

The first request came from a man who came to my office requesting permission to rent our facility for a four day conference that would welcome between 600-800 people. “Six to eight hundred?,” I said. “Yes,” he replied. I then responded by saying, “Our sanctuary only seats 500. I’m sorry, but we cannot do that. You’ll need to find another venue.” “But your building is so tall!, he pressed. I smiled and said, “Unless you plan to stack them, you’ll need to find another venue.” We shook hands and he left. This no came from a place of inability. We could not accommodate the request, so the answer was easy. “No.”

The second request came from a missionary who was looking for financial partners for his family’s call to serve overseas. He had left a voice mail stating his desire to present his ministry to our congregation. So before I returned his call I did a bit of research. I had looked at his statement of faith on his website, and within 30 seconds realized his personal theological values were significantly inconsistent with our church’s theological values. I returned his call and quickly expressed that we were not interested in partnering with him, wishing him the best as he solicited supporters. This no came from a place of inconsistency. His ministry’s mission and values were inconsistent with our ministry’s mission and values, so again, the answer was easy. “No.”

The point is that when you know what you can and cannot do, you can easily say no. And when you know what you believe and value, you can also easily say no. But if you’re not sure of your personal ability, or what you believe and value, you’ll continue to struggle with saying the word “no.”

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For almost a decade I served a denominational youth camp as the leader of a group of students who were either going to be seniors or who had just graduated from high school. Those experiences were always the highlight of the summer! The worship was outstanding, and the speakers that presented each evening dynamic beyond belief. Students developed new relationships with others. They also strengthened their relationship with God. For each of us it felt like one of those “mountaintop experiences.”

Though the curriculum was strong throughout the week, the most important lesson I taught was the last one, scheduled immediately before students would depart for home. The lesson was brief, only 30 minutes or so, and was simply titled, “Re-Entry.”

The point of this most important lesson was to remind the students that though they had just completed a transformational experience of meaningful growth, complete with emotional and spiritual high points, they were going to return to families, friends, class mates, and churches who had not been to camp. In other words, just because they had been away at camp did not mean those at home had experienced similar things. They needed to be prepared for that truth. Just because those at home had not enjoyed the same journey in no way invalidated the journey. They just needed to know that they were responsible to feed and fuel the next 51 weeks of their journey.

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Jan
01

Welcoming 2017!

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Today is New Year’s, so I imagine many of you have either set goals or made some form of resolution for 2017. One of the problems we encounter with setting resolutions is that each resolution is accompanied by some kind of statement like, “I’m off to a fresh start,” or “I’m going to turn over a new leaf,” or “I’m going to begin a new chapter.”

The problem with these statements is that they are not real. There are no new chapters in life. Only next chapters. Edwin Friedman rightfully said it this way in his book Failure of Nerve: “Just because a page is torn off the calendar doesn’t mean that unit of time no longer exists.”

We can’t behave as though life hasn’t happened. But we can learn from each experience and move forward. The success we achieved cannot become our ceiling, and the failures we encountered cannot become our identity. So we’re faced with the choice to either move on as though things didn’t happen or matter, or to move forward with a growth mindset that is willing to learn, adapt and apply. I choose to move forward. I hope you do as well.

Happy New Year! Here’s to the next chapter of our lives!

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Dec
25

Why Do We Envy the Wicked?

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I came across this blogpost and thought it was exceptional. We generally don’t think of ourselves having this struggle, but given the frequency that Scripture discusses it must mean the problem has been around for a long time. If you have a few minutes, I’d encourage you to read it. If it doesn’t help you directly, I’m certain that this is a helpful tool that you can put into the hands of someone who could benefit from it. You can find the article by Tony Reinke HERE.

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Nov
07

Decision 2016

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Within a few short hours Americans will make their way to their precincts to cast their ballot for the next President of the United States. I have not missed a presidential election since I became eligible to vote 35 years ago. At no time during my brief allotment of ballots have I sensed this level of anxiety among the electorate. This election has dominated both our television screens and our personal conversations. As I have listened to people I have become increasingly concerned with the observation that this high level of anxiety is no different among people of faith as those who do not have any religious leanings.

To the people of faith who may stumble upon this simple post, I offer the words of Old Testament King David, who penned these words:

“Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.”
(Psalm 20:7, NLT)

On Wednesday, November 9, we will awaken to our alarms and discover that the sun has still risen. And more importantly, God will still be on his throne.

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Aug
09

Shade

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Back at the first of June we obtained one, female German Shepherd puppy. Needless to say, our summer has been busy, but limited. Puppies are a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. One of the things I’ve noticed about her is that she doesn’t care to be outside in the heat of day. Summers in Iowa are not renown for intense heat and humidity, but we have had several days of 100 degree heat indexes. On those days she immediately seeks shade when outdoors.

Shade is something that makes summer what it is. It is a place where we find rest from the heat of the noonday sun. There are times when we have to be in the sun, but its nice to have some shade available.

There isn’t really much about shade in the Bible, but recently I’ve been thinking of the story of the Exodus. When God led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, he provided his presence and guidance through the form of a cloud. The fleeing children simply had to keep an eye on the cloud to know the path to the land of promise. Interestingly enough, the same thing that provide them with guidance also provided them comfort, for those who followed the cloud walked in its shade.

The same thing is true today. Following God provides some marvelous benefits, including his comfort. The more closely we walk with God, the more we sense his comfort. The Psalmist understood this principle far before I did. Psalm 121:5-8 says, “The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.”

So next time you see a park bench under a shade tree, remember that the Lord is your spiritual shade, provide rest and refreshment from the noonday sun.

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