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Easter 2016

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Tuesday, September 27th 2016

2:24 AM

Dare to Dream

After building up momentum over the last couple of months, I ended up missing last week for blog posts because of the busy week I had.  Well, now that I am a little less busy this week, I hope to get back on track with posting.  I just hope that you noticed that I missed last week and you want me to post this week!  Ha-Ha!

Once again, I was watching an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, and I was inspired to write this post.  In this particular episode, David Silver was practicing his music in his parent’s cabana at the beach club.  At this point, he has transitioned to cool guy because of being Kelly’s stepbrother and Donna’s boyfriend, but he was just beginning his career with music.

He was playing the keyboard, singing and dancing to the beat when Steve showed up.  Steve really liked the music but he did not want to admit it, so he played it off and said that it was rough around the edges.  He was listening to the demo tape in the car when Kelly pulled up and told Steve to turn it off.  She said that she was tired of hearing it because David keeps playing around all day long.

Nobody took David seriously at first, and it took a few years before he finally made progress as a professional musician.  The reaction of his friends and family during the episode I was watching reminded me of the typical reaction people give to dreamers.

Some people don’t want a dreamer to get his hopes up, so they try to bring that person back to reality.  They say things like “It is hard to make it in the music business” or “Playing for the NFL is like winning the lottery” so the dreamer is left with a choice to make.

When faced with a critic, you can either fall back and quit or push forward and win.

Unfortunately, many dreamers end up quitting because they allowed the critics to discourage them to the point where they end up doubting themselves.  Of course, some dreamers need a dose of reality, and that is why honesty is the best policy.  Just remember that an honest dose of reality should include the fact that hard work can pay off and sometimes, dreams really do come true if you set your mind to becoming the best you can be!

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting down with my wife, a high school friend and his wife.  We were reminiscing about the “Good ole days” and the old high school band “One Nation” came up.  We had a blast talking about our concerts and joked about having a reunion tour so we could go back to those 5 churches in Fairburn GA.  Good times!

We joked about our band, but the reality is that we did become successful in our own way.

My friend is now a music minister, and another friend/member is a worship leader in Florida.  Although I am a preacher, I am using my musical skill to help with the worship service here in Greenwood.  We did not make it big as “One Nation” but we grew from those experiences and became great musicians for the Lord.

We had supporters who did not crush our dreams and that made it easier to come back down to earth when we were ready to grow up.

As much as we need to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground, we do need to have the freedom to dream big so we can stretch ourselves beyond our perceived boundaries.  This can also apply to the church.

A church that is not allowed to dream big will never be able to grow beyond their 4 walls of mediocrity.

What if a man never wondered what it would be like to travel without a horse?  It would take much longer to travel from Greenwood to Atlanta because there would be no car to drive.  What would happen if nobody bothered to look up in the sky and watch the birds?  One of the announcers for a college football game on the West Coast last Saturday night was in Knoxville TN that morning.  He was able to make it to the game on time because the Wright Brothers were allowed to dream about flying.

Can you imagine what would have happened if our kids were not allowed to play “Church” during the week using the bulletins from the previous Sunday?  We see empty pews while they play “Church” but if they are like me when I was their age, they were preaching to a packed house in their minds.  At this point in their lives, it is ok if they are not thinking realistically because they are stretching their minds beyond their perceived limits.  For this reason, I say dream on!  We need dreamers to move us forward so we can reach levels we never thought were possible.

Sometimes it takes a dreamer to open up our minds to the fact that there is no limit to what God can do.

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Thursday, September 15th 2016

11:57 PM

Friendships that last forever

As the proud owner of the Beverly Hills 90210 DVD collection, I am not ashamed to admit that I am presently going through my third viewing of the episodes.  In this particular episode titled “The Next Fifty Years,” Scott Scanlon had a birthday coming up, and his mom was trying to get his best friend David Silver to help her plan a surprise party.  Unfortunately, what she did not realize was that David and Scott were not best friends anymore.

Their friendship did not survive the transition into high school because they were in 2 completely different worlds.

When they entered high school during the first season, Scott and David were the Freshmen who looked like fish out of the water because they were no longer at the top like they were in middle school.  Now they were starting over and they had to make a name for themselves if they wanted people to accept them.

High school has a way of destroying friendships that are not grounded in the reality of the here and now.

For David, he was ready to grow up and find a new group of friends to hang out with.  He tried his best to fit in and eventually ended up inside the cool circle because of his dad dating the mother of the popular Kelly Taylor.  He was now in the place where he wanted to be, but his best friend Scott was left behind.  Unfortunately, Scott did not develop socially and remained an outcast in high school.

When their Freshman year was over and summer break began, Scott went to visit family in Oklahoma while David hung out at the beach club with the gang.  The next school year began, and Scott returned with Country and Western CDs, some guns, fireworks, and a big Stetson hat that David despised.  David became a cool kid while Scott embraced his country roots and became an even bigger outcast than he was as a Freshman.

The next few episodes presented the contrast between David and Scott that drove home the point that David grew up while Scott remained in middle school mode.  Scott wanted to hang out at all the old spots, play the old pranks and games, but David was ready for something new.  The point where the friendship entered the awkward stage was when David moved on while Scott never accepted the changes that came with high school.

Just like high school, life has a way of destroying friendships that are not grounded in the reality of the here and now.

I lost contact with most of my friends from high school for many different reasons.  Some of them moved away from the area, attended different colleges, basically went down different paths that have never led them back to me.  Others did not agree with choices I made so they severed the ties in an attempt to “shake the dust” off their sandals.  Looking back at the way I acted during those years after high school, I can see why they never made an attempt to stay close.  I had friends come and go, but there is a small circle of close friends who are still here.

        “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24 ESV)

That small circle of close friends is like family to me because they have seen me at my worst, and they still allow me to be part of their lives.  Well, I guess you could say that my small circle of close friends is smaller than a small circle, since it is really a circle of one.  I have one friend who has been here since our Junior year of high school, and I consider him to be my brother from another mother.

Does this mean he was the only friend in my life?

I used to think that he was my only friend from high school, but over the past couple of years, Facebook brought me to some other friends who would have been there for me if they were not in different states.  I also reconnected with friends through sad circumstances like the funeral for the Godly woman we all called mom during high school.  Those friends were on different paths, but they still want to stay close, so we are rebuilding those relationships today.

Now that I am reconnecting with friends, how can I make sure it lasts?

The best way to make sure a friendship lasts forever is to keep it grounded in the reality of the here and now.  What I mean by this is that we need to be realistic about our circumstances, flexible about the time we spend together, and respect the paths that we are traveling through life.

If we cannot accept the fact that we have grown up, there is no way our friendships can mature beyond what we had in high school.  We have to be realistic and understand that the days of the midnight runs to Waffle House are over, but we can still have dinner with our families when we are near each other.  And that brings up the flexibility point.

Since most of my friends live in different states, I cannot expect them to drop everything to visit me, and I cannot drop everything to visit them either.  However, there are road trips, vacations, and other events that can bring us together, and those are the moments when we can laugh at ourselves and enjoy the time we have before going our separate ways.  And when we go our separate ways, we need to respect those paths because we cannot manipulate geography especially when we are living exactly where God is using us for His purpose.

If we want to remain friends forever, we have to make sure that God is still in charge of our lives.

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Wednesday, September 7th 2016

11:34 PM

Is the church acting like the IRS? (Part 2)

One of the most annoying parts about my communication with the IRS was the fact that I was clueless while they had all the answers, and they were not giving them to me.  I was often given the standard, scripted answers which were just as useful as a screen door would be on a submarine, as a purple jersey would be at Lambeau Field, or an air pump for the footballs Tom Brady used for the game against Indianapolis.

Would it hurt the IRS to just give me an honest answer?  After all, it wasn’t like I was trying to get them to disclose the location of the troops overseas.

When a Christian is faced with a friend who needs Jesus, what is the response?  More often than not, the response is something learned in Sunday School or whatever evangelism class that was given.  It would be a list of Scripture passages that end with a plea for a decision.  For those who may not have been at a church with these kinds of classes, you may not be familiar with this, but most church folk are clueless when witnessing because the classes they attended did nothing more than hand out scripted answers that may or may not work.

The church needs to get better at equipping the people, and it begins with a custom approach to evangelism.

When somebody has questions about God, the church, and salvation, they don’t need to hear scripted answers that lead to more confusion.  What they need is somebody who can sit down beside them and study the Bible so they can learn about this beautiful gift of grace we have been given.  They need a friend who will study the Scriptures instead of a salesman who will fake his way through a friendly chat.

When equipping the people for works of service, the best approach is to teach them how to fish.

Like the old Chinese Proverb said, “Give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day.  Teach a man how to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.”  What our people need above all else is to learn how to study the Scriptures so they can be ready to answer questions.  How many Christians understand what context is all about?  How many know about the Gospel narrative, the history of the Early Church, the purpose of the letters, or the difference between the old and new covenants?  Do they know why we have an old and new testament?  Do they know why Jesus had to be a human while remaining fully God?  Do they even know the significance of the resurrection?

When witnessing to a person, the most common questions usually have nothing to do with the plan of salvation.

We have all the answers to the questions people ask.  The problem is that we are not trying to answer those questions.  Instead, we have provided scripted answers for the questions we want them to ask, and that leads to the same kind of frustration I experienced with the IRS.  Do they need to know the plan of salvation?  Of course they do!  However, the plan of salvation will not do any good until a person is ready to listen.  How do you make sure a person is ready to listen?  Answer their questions first, then ask them your questions next.

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Wednesday, August 31st 2016

1:32 PM

Is the church acting like the IRS? (Part 1)

 

Tax season is always an adventure.  Every year, people go through the piles of receipts, forms, and multiple cups of coffee so they can stay awake long enough to complete the process and mail the overstuffed envelope to the government.  Tax season ends on April 15 for the majority of American citizens, but for the lucky few who end up with issues that need to be corrected, it could be months before an issue is settled.  For example, I submitted a form during the middle of April, and I did not receive the check until a couple of weeks ago.

If you owe the IRS money, they will not stop until they get what is coming to them.  If they owe you money… well, let’s just say that you better not depend on that check for anything important!

My adventure with the IRS was ridiculous.  When I tried to call, I had to wait for an hour before getting a person to tell me that they have no information for me.  When I was told that they would have an answer in 6-8 weeks, I called during week #10 only to find out that they changed the rules so they had until week #14 before they had to give me an answer!  And their website… I deposited their check when I received it a couple of weeks ago and their website still shows that they are processing the form and the check has not been mailed yet!

The IRS is an example of what happens when the government refuses to acknowledge their own faults.  Having said that, there are times when I wonder if the church may be acting like the IRS.

Setting aside the obvious “Money” joke, here is what I mean by acting like the IRS:

Trying to get an update from the IRS was like pulling teeth, and their website was pretty much useless after you receive the basic information that applies to everybody.  In the same way, the church prayer list can be an effective communication tool unless it is not being monitored.  I know of a church where the people prayed for somebody who had died several months before the list was finally updated.  If the prayer list is not monitored, how will we ever know when to stop praying, or change our prayers to praise for God healing the person we were praying for?

The church website can also be a source of embarrassment if it is not monitored.  Traditionally, the church has always been a few steps behind the rest of the world from a technological perspective, but when they create a website that contains information about a minister who left 4 years ago, we are basically telling the world that we are clueless and lazy in cyber space.  It would be better to provide general information that does not change instead of allowing outdated information to hang around anything that is seen by the public.

Along with the prayer list and the website, bylaws are often neglected to the point where a child can be born, born again, married, have children and those children be born again before somebody decides to dust off the old copy of the bylaws to see if anything needs to be changed.  And when the bylaws are updated, some major changes that are needed could get overlooked because the people making the changes are not paying attention.

A recurring theme for this is the dreaded spending limit for the Board.  In some cases, the Board is required to consult the congregation before approving a purchase of more than $500, and I have seen a couple of sets that stop the board at $100!  Obviously, that was written during a time when $100 was a large sum of money but if we enforced that policy today, we would need to have a congregational meeting every time office supplies were going to be purchased.  Either that or we would be forced to go to the store several times in one week so we could keep our purchases under $100.

If we want to avoid acting like the IRS, we need to make sure we monitor what needs to be updated and stay proactive so we don’t send out a message that we do not want people to receive.

Staying up to date with information is important, but there is something else that we need to be careful about so we don’t end up acting like the IRS.  To be continued…

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Monday, August 22nd 2016

12:24 PM

Buying a used car part 2

Looks like we have a bonus post this week!  LOL!

Yesterday, I wrote about how searching for a church is similar to buying a used car.  Every church will have problems and those who admit this are the churches that will have an easier time attracting and keeping the people who visit them.  Like I said, we don’t need to air the dirty laundry or have “Family discussions” every week so people can see the problems up close, but we do need to be real and make sure we are not trying to make ourselves look better than we are.

A realistic view of our church will produce real members who will help us improve.

This is why we must “Keep it real” when reaching out to the community.  Having said that, I believe that it is still important to put our best foot forward and lead with our strengths.  We just need to make sure that our strengths are the actual strengths and not what we want our strengths to be.  The popular phrase “Fake it until you make it” is a terrible strategy for growing a church.

Now that we are “Keeping it real,” let’s make sure we “Keep it positive” too!

Nobody likes a church that is constantly complaining about what is wrong.  Nobody wants to attend a church that keeps talking about why we can’t do this or why we don’t reach that group.  Nobody feels motivated when a church looks more like a wounded bird instead of mounting up with wings like eagles from the renewed strength of the Lord.

We should never try to make the church look greater than it is but we should avoid giving the impression that the church is suffering from a fatal disease.

Whether the church is rebuilding from several years of decline or if it is growing by leaps and bounds, we should stay optimistic because the Lord is in charge, and He will not abandon His children!  That should put a smile on our faces and that smile should be seen by those who live near the church.

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