You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2010.
Of course quality food means a lot. When it is tasty and reasonably priced, my attention is captured. There’s no use returning if the food is forgettable.
But, when great prices and excellent food combine with superb service, then, that restaurant is a winner. When the wait staff makes the meal a pleasant experience I take note. This might be the invisible part of a quality server but it serves the restaurant well. Good managers can spot this quality in prospective employees.
In a similar way servers in the church must have specific qualities that mark their lives. If they have abilities that will free up the Elders for spiritual duties, then they might be potential Deacons for the church. But, in spite of maintenance abilities or craftsman skills attitude is necessary as well.
The Apostle Paul writes that these special men must be worthy of respect. That means that people hold these men in high regard for the way that they live their lives. Offbeat criticism does not necessarily negate this quality.
They also have a track record of genuineness and moderation in life. There is clear proof that they know what the deep truths of the faith are and there is consensus that they order their lives according to them. This track record must precede holding any official church office.
Amazingly, the Scripture requires that if Deacons are married then their wives must have a good reputation. They must not be malicious talkers. Careless gossip or slander are practices of meddlers not Godly women.
Finally, they must be men who are devoted to their wife and family. They are deliberate in their initiative to manage their families well. When these qualities are personified in a man who serves the church, he will gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ.
Servers are not elevated into the office of Deacon because they want to serve. Nor are they given that title because they have good skills. These are practically beneficial. But the inner heart of a man must be reflected in his life. It is a matter of reputation. When, his life has a consistent track record of quality living, then he is the one to be recognized as a Deacon in God’s church.
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But, there is something very special about signing an agreement. When a proposal is negotiated in good faith and both parties agree to walk a path together, it is special. uncertainty and tentativeness are realities that we sometimes have to face, but they are just that: temporary.
Security or the feeling of it is so desirable for us humans. The peace of mind that comes is helpful for our tranquility. While trusting God for all of our needs, the endeavor to find steady work is a drive that cannot be ignored for long.
During the world-wide search for my next position, I was determined to continue taking care of my responsibilities. It is a part of my personal DNA. Real men take care of those that God has put in their trust. After seven months of introductions, personal analysis and the discovery of chemistry one conversation rose high above the others.
In my search I placed a priority on a divine calling. That would be the glue that will seal a deal. This would be the unifying point for a large group of people from different backgrounds, in varying seasons of life, spanning the total spectrum of spiritual levels to agree.
But, with prayers, faithful exploration, tons of faith, endless discussions, more prayer and loads of patience an agreement finally came to fruition. When I signed the agreement, some very special emotions emerged. Those were not surprises but welcomed old friends.
Relief was one of those feelings. Now by faith and with trust in God’s hand for a longterm ministry I could relax my concerns about tomorrow. It isn’t trading in faith for worldly security. Rather, it is the reality of living in a world based on tangible needs.
Trust is another emotion. It feels great when manypeople smile and say that they will trust me to shepherd them: protect, feed and nurture their spiritual lives. They have committed to me their belief that I will seek God’s best on their behalf. I will not let them down.
Hope is freshly saturating my heart and mind. My determination is to pour my gifts, experience, love and joy into the lives of people. I am expectant of all that God will do with this church family.
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Seven months ago I exchanged email with someone who at the time was a total stranger. It was the beginning of a long discourse of decisions and discovery. We each had a need and almost as many options to fulfill it.
Sunset Church of San Francisco needed a pastor. To fill that role they had many choices. Like so many churches with a pastoral position to fill, the parade of resumes was endless.
I had a need as well. My objective was to find a church to serve as their pastor. Contacts all around the world were fascinating possibilities.
Would God’s divine hand bring Sunset Church and me together? How could He make it clear to us both that He was orchestrating a wonderful partnership? Was He calling us together?
Email conversations turned into frequent communications. Telephone calls led to an invitation for a personal visit. I was excited to discover what this church was all about.
Have you ever felt like you were on a stage and everyone in the audience had an equal voice in the next day’s critiques? But, when love and hospitality dominate, there is something supernatural that happens. It is neither mysterious nor mystical. Rather it is a matter of discernment and wisdom.
My wife and I engaged as many people as we could in many different settings. Our objective was simple. Could we fall in love with these people? Would we be able to connect with the leadership team? We were strangers to each other. How could so many people make a collective decision and agree on a mutual decision? This was a dynamic that needed prayer and a move by the Almighty.
Meeting after meeting occured. I spoke several times. Many question and answer sessions filled my days with these wonderful people.
It might seem to an outside observer that I was running myself ragged during my visit. But, I was being energized. Engaging people on matters of theology, ministry and spirituality is exhilarating for me.
There was no doubt in our minds. We could easily see that we could love these people. Furthermore, there were numerous people that we could also sense the beginning of a reciprocal devotion.
There were more emails exchanged. Conversations flowed freely. Votes were taken. Finally, an invitation was extended and I accepted. God made it clear that we were called to be together. We are moving to California!
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Partisanship was a big part of the home team crowds. There was hunger in the cheers of both Indianapolis and New Orleans. Afterall, a win at these games meant a ticket to the “Big Dance” the Superbowl.
No player was holding anything back. There was nothing tentative or cautious happening on the gridiron. Tension, expectation, commitment, pride, loyalty were the only words dominating the minds of these highly trained athletes.
The Minnesota Vikings vs. the New Orleans Saints is the game that captured the attention of millions. So much intrigue in that match-up will now be a constant debate in sports history. In a game of inches or more to the point, a game of decisions, this play-off championship had its share of drama.
Yes, the refs got one wrong. That’s at least one call wrong. Some may argue for more but one call by the men in Zebra shirts had most football fans aghast!
Was that a yellow flag at the end of a pass play by New Orleans? With my loyalties to another team not on the field I thought I could be fair about the play. Naturally, the replays rolled across the TV screen.
I thought the pass was un-catchable. The ball wasn’t even in view of the camera. Instant re-replay confirmed this suspicion.
Furthermore, I didn’t even see a definitive pass interference infraction. It looked clean to me. At worst it was a questionable call.
Adding up two objective personal opinions, I saw an incomplete pass. I did not see any pass interference. If my phone rang and the ref asked me for a call, I would have waved it off.
But, the men wearing the Zebra shirts make those calls. Their decision is final. The only recourse available is to let history play itself out.
Those who are under the authority of referees have it tough. When the zebra stripes make a call, it is done. All of us who live under the authority of imperfect people have no recourse once “the zebras” have spoken. When they throw their yellow flag it’s no use whining. They will rarely retract. The stripes have spoken!
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Four blocks away our local theater was showing Jackie Chan’s latest film production: The Spy Next Door. Jackie Chan movies are a mixture of martial arts, silly ingredients that make you chuckle, several moments where life issues are deeply felt and of course the hysterical out-takes. This movie was vintage Jackie Chan. It is predictable, entertaining and plain fun.
Jackie plays international spy Bob Ho. On loan to the USA CIA, he is very good on every assignment in the world of espionage. He is a hero to those who watch him repeatedly risk his life. Conversely, the villains despise him and plan to eliminate him.
His cover is fitting. In normal life Jackie plays a geeky boring desk jockey. Nevertheless, in his cover he has begun a relationship with his next door neighbor, Gillian, played by Amber Valletta.
She is a single mom deeply committed to her children. An unfaithful husband abandoned her and their children for another woman. That desperate trauma fortified her devotion to her children. furthermore, it entrenched her resolve against the advances of men.
Jackie is honest, charming, funny and faithful. She sees these qualities. Naturally she is attracted to him. She wants to be happy again. Amber allows her heart to fall in love. But, his life as a spy is a secret that is not yet shared.
Amber flies to a distant city to care for her ailing father. She leaves her children in Jackie’s care. The adventure begins: spies, teenage tension, martial arts, cooking fiascos and stolen international secrets.
Amber is in love with Jackie. But, she will not go further in their relationship without her children being a part of it. They hate Jackie. But, the adventures that follow win their hearts and the ending is a happy one.
I am a Jackie Chan fan. He is winsome, entertaining, outstanding with his martial arts and his outtakes are as entertaining as the movie. Amber is wonderful too. But, I give the children a mixed review. They are featured in several scenes that are clumsy. If you are looking for an Oscar-class film, then this is not it. For me it was just for fun and that’s what it was.
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Loneliness is a major challenge for those who bear the title of pastor. Today the pressures on that key community person are enormous. The impossible demands push these remarkable servants into isolation and aloofness.
Most feel that they must refuse to admit these anxieties. Denial is common. The deep wounds are left to fester. They become a killer of spiritual calling.
On the one hand a pastor is expected to be a national class orator. People expect a weekly dissertation that will inform, teach, entertain and motivate. His communication skill must be first rate.
On the other hand a pastor is to be a leader, administrator, manager, counselor, trouble-shooter, confidant, cheerleader and anything else that a congregation desires. He is under the scrutiny of endless lives and his own personal opinion which is the most demanding of all. If he does not measure up to assumptions, he pushes himself harder and covers up the shortcomings with superficial cheer.
But, the busyness eventually catches up with shepherds. During moments of aloneness he sees a dark hole, a blackness that has no light. All that he has taught others fails to ring true to his own spirit.
Can help be found for these who give so much for so many? What can lift up these amazing givers? There must be a solution to prevent burn out and abandonment of this high calling.
One possibility is to unite the pastors. If they can form an alliance with each other, there is hope. Mutual encouragement by fellow shepherds is an elixir.
The pastors of Michigan are gathering to explore that possibility. On Monday February 1, 2010 night they will meet in Troy, Michigan. H.B. London will speak to us. He will bring his years of pastoral encouragement to give us all a boost.
Are you a pastor? Check out http://evangelicalpastorsnetwork.com It will give you all the specifics. Bring your wife and gather other pastors to join us.
It’s only $20 per couple. We can all use our Monday night off, catch up with 24 over the internet, and enjoy a great evening of encouragement and enrichment. That’s a bargain.
If you’re not a pastor, then make sure that your pastor hears about this. Send him the website address. Urge him to go and make sure that his wife is invited as well. They are a team. They will be blessed together. Both of them will be revived.
photo credit: brucefong photography
She pulled out a new frying pan. I wasn’t impressed. But, she said it is the latest and greatest in modern living. It was coated with teflon and claimed that it was latest in non-stick technology.
She washed it and turned on the stove. Then, she broke an egg and the sizzle crackled throughout the kitchen. But, this egg looked very different.
My mom didn’t use a spatula. Instead she just grabbed a plate. Then with an easy hand she tipped the frying pan and the egg slid off and on to the plate with ease. Now we were all amazed!
In the same way men who are qualified for ministry are like teflon. When criticism is raised against a man of God, those allegations don’t stick under an objective examination. Accusations will come. They can even be bitter, intense or vicious. But the presence of allegations are not disqualifying.
Also, a man of God is a one-woman kind of man. The vows declared at a wedding ceremony are honored for a lifetime. Family and friendships aren’t disqualifying of course but the exclusive devotion is without compromise.
Church leaders are also temperate, that is, even-keeled. They handle pressure well. Also, they are self-controlled. Their lives are marked with personal discipline.
Furthermore, they are respectable and hospitable. They have a reputation of favor among those who have interacted with him. He is also able to teach. This is more about clarity than pedagogy.
In addition the Christian leader is not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle. He is not quarrelsome. That means he is not a fighter. Nor is he a lover of money.
Just as importantly, he must manage his own family well. His oversight of his family is God-honoring. This is easily visible not by spying on his private life but look and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
Finally, he must be spiritually mature. This will prevent falling into disgrace. Also, he will not be susceptible to Satanic surprise attacks.
A Christian leader will not be perfect but consistent. His life and track record will stand despite wicked attempts to tarnish his reputation. He is worth following.
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It wasn’t long before they filled my screen with repeating messages. That insidious shield with the angular white stripe appeared in the lower right corner. The attack of the viruses was happening before my very eyes.
A warning about spyware and an invasion from external sources flashed on my monitor. Thoughts of dastardly past incursions came to mind. Once wicked people have violated your privacy and inflicted horrific damage, it’s nearly impossible to forget that horrible history.
No matter what solutions I tried my laptop was ailing. It shut down with the message that it was protecting my hard drive. My whole world was screeching to a halt.
It was too early to drive to my computer service company. They aren’t far from my home but the day was just getting started. Since the sun was not yet up, most likely the techies were operating on a skeleton crew.
I shifted my activities to keep my day productive. When the hue of a new day began lit up the horizon, I called my IT wizards. The 24 hour service technician invited me to stop by the shop.
Once I arrived the phones and conversations were buzzing. My laptop sat on the service desk while call after call sounded very similar. Viruses were attacking many of their clients.
There was a lull in this world-slice of IT ER. The service tech shrugged his shoulder assuring me that my computer would be fixed. He pointed to the five screens that he had on his desk. Many of his company’s clients were having the same problems.
I left my laptop with the first-responders of cyberspace ills and drove off to work. My company desktop computer was functioning. It was slow and cumbersome but it was working.
Adjustments marked my day. Thoughts of frustration and technical choices occupied my routine as well. What would I have to do to keep pressing forward in the days to come?
Late in the day the tech called. He said that my computer was now working. I arrived, picked up my machine, brought it home, turned it on and initially it looked fine. But, clicking on the operating systems was a disappointment. Nothing worked! Maybe it’s time to switch to a Mac.
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Trailers of upcoming movies are fun for me to watch. My wife and I will turn to each other and give a trailer a thumbs up or down. Whenever we both like a movie promotion we try to remember to add it to our list of movies to watch.
When the trailer of The Book of Eli splashed across the screen, I was very curious. Afterall, Denzel Washington is an outstanding actor. He gives quality to just about any film where he has the starring role.
Yet, I couldn’t get a sense of whether I would like to see it. Certainly, I was curious. I read the synopsis when it was posted.
Neither the movie promotions nor the published synopsis satisfied me. But, they did keep me wondering. Something else drew me. It was an unknown attraction.
My wife and I were planning on a matinée during a day off. She was open to any movie, leaving the final decision up to me. I chose The Book of Eli.
As the show began I wondered if the experience would be too dark. Would it be filled with harsh scenes that were built on conflicting thoughts confusing right and wrong, hero and villain or good and evil? My concerns were unfounded.
Eli has a book in his possession. His mission was to deliver it. Who receives it is a mystery.
His adventure is marked by men enslaved by wickedness and evil. Sin is their lives. Eli is a contrast to those who are selfish, brutal and animalistic. He must face this dark world with courageous self-defense. He does that with skill and blazing speed.
The book is coveted by a ruthless villain. He lusts for the book as a tool to control people and gain influence for his own selfish purposes. Through treachery he secures the book. But, he learns too late that it is the message of the book not the physical pages that is important.
Eli makes it to his destination. By faith he reaches his destination. Also, he delivers the book with stunning surprise.
When the delivery began, I was amazed. All sorts of images flashed in my mind. It was the kind of surprise that I was not expecting.
The book was an unexpected delight. How it was delivered was even more intriguing. Eli’s quotations from the book was very satisfying.
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My responsibility was comprised of two one-hour sessions. I had been invited to address the topic of a believer’s identity in Christ. This assignment was in addition to my regularly weekly duties.
I studied my calendar and felt the stress rising. The very next day I would also have to speak at church. This busy weekend was on my schedule for months. Yet, life is life and time is always a precious commodity.
Everyone who makes a living as a public speaker knows the two most important values in our craft. One is preparation. The other is experience. I would call on both to get me through these two days successfully.
Well prepared and with decades of experience I woke up on Saturday eager to mix it up with the Wolverine grad students. I was briefed in advance. On my hour-long journey I rehearsed all the information that I was given.
When I arrived, the students were filing into the living room of a beautiful and comfortable home. One at a time I met student after student. I was fascinated by the variety of conference attendees.
Students had gathered for this half-day retreat from Asia, Europe, Africa and of course the good ol’ USA. We laughed, thought, shared and universally enjoyed the family pet Shih Tzu, named Bailey. Food of course accelerated the fellowship.
What was more fascinating than the backgrounds of so many varied students was their purpose. These students had a common denominator. They were all very bright. The brainpower in this collection of humanity was amazing.
All of these intelligent people had their bachelor’s degree. Most were working on their Master’s degree. Eight were working on their doctorates.
This was my audience. They had information in their brains that were described by words that I could not pronounce let alone understand. Yet, I was there to speak to them.
My field of theology fascinated every one of them. At the heart of each of these gifted thinkers and researchers was their desire to be followers of Christ. As curious as a reaction in a lab or approval by a professor overseeing the gathering of data, these brainiacs were hungry for spiritual truth. these were smart people in pursuit of the smartest choice of all.
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