Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fishing for men... but how?

Welcome to some new friends who signed up for my blog at the Equip Conference last week.  Here's a thought I shared at one of my workshops there:

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  I realized recently that the mental image that pops into my head with that verse is probably not accurate.

Do we picture fishing for men like modern Americans fish?
  • one line, one hook, one worm
  • recreationally, if we have time
Or do we picture fishing for men more like a first century Jew would have fished?
  • big nets
  • you take time to fix nets
  • our very survival depends on it
  • you fish all night
  • you fish everyday
  • you sleep and eat so you can fish more
And probably the scariest question: Are you fishing for men like an American or like a first century Jew?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jesus' Teaching on Prayer

Here are some thoughts from Luke 11:1-13 (adapted from a sermon I gave recently) which resulted in a longer-than-usual post.

v2-4 "The Lord's Prayer" might be better called "the disciples’ prayer." It was for them to pray to learn how to pray.  It was a “training wheels” prayer.  A friend of mine described it like this: When you teach a child to answer the phone, how do you do it? Do you give them a ringing phone and just say "answer it"?  No, you give them the specific words.  (If you don't they might say: "He's sitting on the toilet" instead of "He can’t come to the phone right now" ... Maybe that just happens in my house.)
But just like you don’t want your child answering the phone to solely rely on your words the rest of his life, Jesus didn’t want his disciples or us to stay at only repeating back this exact prayer. This is a start, a guide, but not the whole of praying.
There are some key aspects of Jesus prayer we should repeat:
  • worship v2 
  • acknowledging/accepting/asking for God’s sovereignty 
  • asking for provision (notice the simplicity of the provision, how many times do my requests for provision get pretty complicated when maybe a simpler "provide what I need today" would be better)
  • forgiveness for you and asking God for help forgiving others 
  • protection from temptation 

How do do you do at including these things in your prayers to God? Which could you do more of?
v5-8  Is God like the neighbor or friend in this story?  Let emphatically say No.  What is Jesus teaching about in this entire passage?  Prayer.  This is a lesson for us to be persistent.  Just like we would be persistent with someone if we really needed help we should keep persisting in prayer to God.
Could we at any point say we might be “wearing God out” with our requests? (I know that we can’t wear God out… but are we even trying?)
What do you need to more persistently pray for?

v9-10 You'e probably heard this before.  But what about it... Are you asking? Are you seeking? Are you knocking? And what are you asking for? What are you seeking? What doors are you knocking on? As CS lewis says: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

v11-13  To Close, Can we have confidence and faith in God to give us what we need?  YES!  Ask and receive good gifts.  God takes the comparison of an earthly parent, acknowledges that we (his disciples and you and I) are EVIL (*Side note: how many teachers or preachers today would dare say that to their audience?), and let’s us know God will give us good things.
Remember that God’s good things for us might not be what we think our needs our. He’s a good enough father that he’ll refuse to give us what we ask for if he knows it’s not the best for us. And that’s where we need faith in God, the trust that he is working despite a seemingly unanswered prayer. He ultimately knows what we need and what is best for us.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Managing Your Time and Tasks

I'm facilitating a discussion on this at lunch today.  If you're reading this ahead of time don't spoil the surprise ending.*

"Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you." - 1 Timothy 4:14-16 (NLT)
Why is it important that we manage our time and tasks well?  I think the passage above speaks for itself on that topic.  We must handle the things we are called to do well, because the spreading of the Good News depends on it.**  We need to be brave enough to reflect on our lives and our tasks to see if we are truly doing the most important things... (Are you neglecting your spiritual gifts?)... but if we are truly involved in the correct tasks, then we need to do them well.

Three areas in which I think we all could stand to improve:

Email: Do it less.  Close your email until you need to send a message.  Respond to your email once each day.  I know many of you like to sneak email into spare moments of the day... I disagree.  Be present in the spare moments.  Plan to knock out email at a certain time and then leave it along after that.

Phones: Turn it off.  More often than you do now.  Use "Do Not Disturb" or similar often.  Remember, you're phone is supposed to help you in life and ministry, not distract you from it.

Social Media: Use it sparingly.  I've started using StayFocusd, an extension available to most browsers.  You can change your settings to fit what is best for you, but I use it to limit myself to 10 minutes on Facebook a day.  (I don't even usually hit that, but Stay Focusd is a great way to cap your social media time.)

*Just kidding, there isn't a surprise ending.  But still, don't spoil it.

**God changes hearts, not us... but he chooses to use us in the lives of others.

Monday, February 17, 2014

3 Months Later

It's harder to believe that exactly 3 months ago Washington, Pekin and East Peoria were hit by tornadoes and suffered massive destruction.

My challenge for you today is to find someone who was affected by the tornadoes and ask them how you can help them.  We're past the point of the emergency responders.  But that doesn't change that 3 months ago hundreds or thousands of homes were literally blown away.

Needs run deeper than emergency medical attention and short term financial loss.

Maybe all you can do is pray for them.  Maybe that's what you should do.

Regardless, here's your challenge: Find a central Illinois tornado victim and ask how you can help them.

PS.  I'll be reminding us about this again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Saying Thank You

I haven't circled back around to this in awhile:

I wrote a book on Raising Money.  It's called Partner Like Paul: A Guide to Fundraising Biblical & Practically.  It's free and you can find it by clicking here.

One big part in Step 5 of my plan is "Saying Thank You."  I had this thought just yesterday*.

When I say thank you to someone -  normally through a thank you card, but also through messages, emails and face to face - when I say thank you... am I doing that because I am actually thankful or because I feel that I have to?

It's a sad state of affairs if I'm not truly thankful for what's been given to me.  If I'm not thankful, then Saying Thank You becomes a means to an end, just another step in the fundraising process.

It's time to be thankful first, then say thank you second.

*I had this thought while being truly thankful that someone was helping me with snow removal.  That was yesterday from when I wrote this, not posted it.  But it also snows all the time this winter so it might as well have been really yesterday. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saving Lives

This is not mine.  It was written by Church Swindoll in "Seasons of Life" (p 98-99).  But it's exactly the sort of reminder I need from time to time.  I hope it helps you.

On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat . . . but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn't altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club's decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were black and "different" from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims . . . ("it's too unpleasant, it's a hindrance to our social life, it's opening the door to folks who are not our kind"). As you'd expect, some still insisted upon saving lives, that this was their primary objective---that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club's beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club . . . and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself . . . and if you visit that coast today you'll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care . . . so very few.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Stranger on the Road to Emmaus

I just finished Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross.  If you're interested you can find it free (click here) in several different formats.

What I Liked:  This book gave a good overview of the Biblical narrative.  It covered the major stories of the Bible but more importantly connected them to the major themes of redemption, atonement and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  The book traced Jesus, or at least connections to him, throughout Scripture.

What I Didn't Like:  Overall I thought the book was a little wordy at times.  (They type of book that talks about what it's going to say instead of just saying it.)
Also, the author quotes scripture throughout, which is a good thing.  But he uses multiple different translations.  Put this one in the "annoyance but not that big of a deal" category, but when one page in the book has verses from four different translations it can make it feel like the author is trying to get the Bible to say what he wants instead of letting the Bible speak for itself.  I think the book was true to Scripture, but the translation distraction probably didn't need to be there.

My 2014 "You Should Read This" Ranking:#
1. Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross

#  Previously I did a "personal impact ranking."  I'm switching to this thought: If I had to recommend the books I read this year to you (my readers), this is the order I would do it.  (Note: You might want to wait until I add a book or two more.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Teaching Continuum

On the left side of the continuum it states that "Only fully prepared and rehearsed individuals share."

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The right side says "Everyone and anyone can share anything at any time regardless of preparation or organization."

In most teaching scenarios, we seek to limit and control the sharing as much as possible.  We find ourselves way on the left side and then wonder why no one else wants to contribute when we ask a question.

Being fully on the right doesn't really work either.  It's just plain chaos.

Like with most continuums, the best case scenario is to be somewhere in the middle.  Prepare and rehearse, but also look for input and dialogue from those who didn't pre plan what they were going to say.  I think nearly every time I teach and let other people do share and talk someone in the group says something better or smarter than me.  (If you're afraid of that happening, better stick with the left side.)

PS.  Ben Getz called the Seahawks over the Broncos with a total score of 54 points.  Josh Elliott did the same but with 48 points.  The total points scored of 51 means that they tied.  So I flipped a coin.  Ben Getz wins!!