I am posting today from Panera Bread in Burnsville, MN. Letha and I are in town to help celebrate the life and home-going of a dear friend. On Friday, Marilyn Kliner went to be with God. Please pray for her husband and my close friend, Denny, as well as her entire family and circle of influence.

Any accusations of me being sentimental today would be correct. Just a thought: go ahead and take Tim McGraw’s advice. Live today like you may not have tomorrow.

God bless the Kliners and all who were touched by Mar’s remarkable life.

old school reminder

This morning, I brought out a old reminder of an ancient truth. While preaching about our positions as believers in Christ in regard to the current economic crisis in America, I reminded the people that, God is in control, by reading the lyrics (I did not sing!) of Twila Paris’ vintage 90’s hit .

Enjoy them and apply wherever applicable:

God is in Control

This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don’t lose the vision here
Carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His chilren will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control, oh God is in control

History marches on
There is a bottom line drawn across the ages
Culture can make its plan
Oh, but the line never changes
No matter how the deception may fly
There is one thing that has always been true
It will be true forever

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control, oh God is in control

congrats to brent and lindsey!

Brent Maloney and Lindsey Jones are getting married on Saturday! These are two really great people whom God has brought together. Their wedding is in Atlanta and they will celebrate their day with family and friends.

God bless the new Maloneys. Let’s pray for about 100 years of happy marriage for them.

say “yes”, say “no”

One of the most difficult to develop skills of an effective leader is learning how and when to say “yes” or “no”. How does one determine, is there a list of rules that we can follow that will help us decide what is important and what should fall by the wayside?

In my experience, most leaders have a tougher time with the “no” aspect. A productive lifestyle is usually full of activity and it is very easy to operate in the mode of “full-speed ahead”. This is cool and lots of fun but can sometimes be counter-productive.

I have developed a simple little list for you to consider as you move through your leadership day. Maybe this will be some groundwork to help us all know when to pull the plug or when to stay in high gear. It should at least start some wheels turning.

When considering the yes/no question, run through this list:

Considering the opportunity…

Is it crucial to the fulfillment of your vision? say yes
Is it part of your primary calling? say yes
Does it complement your particular gift mix? say yes
Does it have a multiplying factor? (doing the thing would have exponential results) say yes
Are you being pressured by outside forces? say no
Is it something that is being done, because it has always been done? say no
Would you be doing this simply to please people? say no
Does it take away from your ability to focus on your primary responsibility? say no
Is everyone, or anyone else doing it? say no
Is it fun? say yes
Is it a drag? say no

Obviously, there are qualifiers for all of these scenarios, but you get the idea.

Come on, use your good judgment. Say “yes” or “no” but whatever you do, get on with the thing God has called you to do!

true colors

On Sunday, we dropped by the mall for a few minutes. The early football games were over so there were several football fans there, celebrating a rare win. We saw lots of people wearing football jerseys, hats and various paraphernalia, all elated because their team is # 1, at least until next week. I saw one couple who were maybe a little tipsy from too much booze. He was wearing a jersey, she had on an old faded team t-shirt and a bunch of Mardi Gras -type beads. They walked by an Orthodox Jewish family who was dressed in traditional clothing. They were wearing black and the gentleman was wearing his kippa or yarmulke, the traditional skull cap. Keep in mind, this type of clothing is required by the Jewish religion to show respect and honor for God. It is part of their worship. This ritual is centuries old and has substantially deep cultural and religious roots. The first couple, clad in the football clothes looked at, pointed at and laughed at the Jewish family. They didn’t even try to hide their amusement.

What an obvious display of a culture gone ridiculous. The first couple was wearing ugly clothes, with colors that were based on a bad football team. They had the nerve to laugh at someone else who was not nearly as cool as they were, and were clearly very strange. They were superior, in part, because their team won today. The Jews were inferior because, well, their team didn’t even play today.

Jewish people have been around since the beginning of recorded history. This football team for about one generation. The Jews aren’t going anywhere. The football team could be gone as soon as a better offer from another city shows up. The Jews have loved God from the beginning. Football fans are as fickle as they come.

True colors, indeed.

1st Pres.

On Sunday, Letha and I had the opportunity to visit a small church in a small town. We were taking a few days away for rest and decided to worship in a completely different environment. It was a refreshing change.

The service was formal and fairly liturgical. There were about 60 people present. The pastor wore a very nice cleric’s robe, we sang all hymns (six of them!), the only musical accompaniment was a small pipe organ and we prayed from a pre-selected liturgy. The pastor preached an excellent message from Matthew 20 about the parable of the laborers. His main point was: many times we think that God is not fair because He does not give us what we deserve. If we think we deserve more than what we have been given, this reveals that we truly have no idea about fairness. We should thank God that He doesn’t treat us “fairly”, or else, we would be in big trouble with Him. I was ministered to by the message.

As we sat there and joined in the praise, I was ashamed of our arrogance, assuming that we know it all and presuming that our way is better. I thought about our church back home and how our services are so different (not better, just different). I thought about how many times we turn up our noses when someone dares to do things differently than we are accustomed to. I was humbled by the sincerity of the pastor, the worshippers and this great worship service. The experience will stay with me.

I found myself well able to worship God in that setting. We should be able to focus on God when things are different. When they don’t sing “our songs” or preach it the way we like it, we should be able to worship God nonetheless. Substance must supersede style.

I will be glad to be back home this Sunday, but a little part of me wants to wear a robe – and I don’t even own a bath robe!

heartbreaking hopelessness

Recently, I had the experience of escorting someone to court. This was not traffic court, it was for more serious offenders. It was a rather disturbing experience. It had been a while since I was among so many people who were so disrespected. These were mostly young people and most were minorities. The behavior of some of these individuals was a little surprising, considering that they were in trouble. I assumed that they would at least pretend to show honor to the court and judge but this was not the case.

I was struck by the despair in the place. While I am trying to create some optimism, some of these people are in no-win situations. Anything short of a miracle and many of these kids are headed nowhere fast. I do realize that much of the bravado is posing, what appears to be tough and hard hearted is really repressed fear and insecurity. My heart goes out to them. And I am wondering how in the world that people who know Christ can ever reach them.

I do know this – these are exactly the kind of people that Jesus hung out with. These were the people that Jesus chose as friends. So it is possible to reach them. And that is what keeps them from being hopeless. Now all they need is some time with Jesus. Or some of Jesus’ friends who are willing to do what He did.