Are You In Control Or Are You Growing.

Rick Warren, the pastor of the famous Saddleback Church, said, "You can structure for control, or you can structure for growth, but you can't do both."  That is so true.  Let me share with you a few principles.

#1 - Structure is your plan for your future.  If you have a healthy diet, you structure what and when you eat.  If you are on a weight loss program, you structure your exercise and diet.  If you want your kids to be smart, you structure their education.

- The reason why you struggle with your money, your marriage, your career and so on is that you don't know how to structure them.

#2 - You can be in control.  If you want to keep your life on the safe and secure path, then work very hard to keep everything the same.  Don't change anything.  Just do what you have always done and you will get what you have always got.

- The problem here is simple.  Everything changes.  You've got to change with it.

I really don't want to admit the following.

As a young child, I remember my grandmothers old crank telephone that used a party line.  If you don't know what I am talking about, Google it.  I remember that phone being replaced by a rotary phone.  (Again, Google it.) I remember when phone numbers started with letters.  I remember when rotary phones gave way to touch tone.  I remember when answering machines used cassette tapes.  (Google, Google, Google.)  I remember when cell phones looked like bricks.  (I owned one.)

What if I refused to use all these "new-fangled" phones?  Well, I would be in control of nothing because I couldn't talk to anyone.

#3 - You can grow.  Growing is risky.  Always has been, always will be.  If you are going to grow financially, personally, relationally or spiritually you're going to have to take some risks.  Now all of us have, and we've all felt the pain of our mistakes and failures.  That might motivate you to be in control, but someday your old crank telephone is just going to sit there and do nothing.  You will wonder, "What happened?"  Life left you behind, that's what happened.

2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Life was meant to be learned.  Jesus teaches you how to live it.  He want's you to grow.  He is the one is in control.  If you can learn that simple principle, it will change your life forever.

When Sacred Cows Moo!

What is a sacred cow?  It is something that is loved so deeply that it will be protected and defended.  Sometimes to the death.  It can be a tradition, an object or even a belief.  The problem is, change happens and if the cow doesn't change it can become steak.

Zig Ziglar often told the story of the time he won a country ham in a sales contest. When he got home, he handed the ham to his wife, who mmediately cut the end off the ham and placed it in a pan. Zig asked, "Why did you cut the end off my prized ham?" "Well, that’s how you bake them," she replied. "That’s how my mama cooked a ham." When Zig asked why she said, "I’m not sure, let’s call Mama and ask." So they called Mama, and she said. "Well, my mama always did it that way," So they called Granny.

"Granny, why do you always cut the end off the ham? "Well," Granny responded, "I don’t know why you two did it, but my pan was too short!"

“Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

As you approach this Christmas season, you may wonder, "Why do we do this?"  If the response is, "It's because that's the way we've always done it." you may want to reconsider. 

Jesus changed everything.  Read the Gospels he upset the religious elites and their take on the Law of Moses.  In the Sermon on the Mount, He sets the record straight.  I bet there was a lot of mooing after that!  

Here are a few you might consider this season. 
- Why do we always have to go into debt every Christmas? 
- Why do we have to run ourselves ragged trying to do everything during the holidays? 
- Why does our house have to be lit so bright they can see it from outer space? 

#1 - Establish what Christmas is going to mean to you and your family this year.  Share it with the rest of the family and get them to agree. 
#2 - Build your holiday celebration around that purpose.  If you decide to make Christmas about others who need help - volunteer at a local soup kitchen or sing carols at a local nursing home. 
#3 - Don't be afraid to say NO.  I know there are some things you have to do, but you don't have to do everything. 

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, let this season be more about my faith in you than about my money going to Amazon.  AMEN  

I Got A Polite Rebuke Today

The phone rings at the church.  I pick it up.  A lady at the other end tells me her name and that she lives locally.

For the next few minutes, she politely tells me that we are wasting our church sign.  That it would be more appropriate to put inspiring or encouraging statements rather than the witty remarks.  She also informs me that she isn't the only one who thinks this, that there are others who agree with her.

Some of you who don't live in the area might be thinking right now, what did they put on the sign?  Here are a couple of examples.

Now Serving Pumpkin Spice Communion.  Just Kidding.  A local pastor busted out laughing at that one.  A missionary in the area also told me that he loved that sign.

When the local river was overcome by algae causing all sorts of problems we posted.  Even Jesus Wouldn't Walk On Our River.   Local politicians and environmentalists came to take a picture of that sign and post it on social media.

I politely told my caller that our decision how to use our sign didn't come lightly.  First of all, we are trying to reach people who would never pay attention to our church.  Secondly, we are trying to speak the language of a younger generation.  Thirdly, marketing surveys have already informed us that people don't read the old worn out sayings that churches have been recycling for decades.

In her last attempt to sway me, she questioned whether or not it was wise to use marketing principles to justify how we use our church sign.  I informed her that there was a book in the Bible named Numbers.  That God measures success and that He would desire for us to be good stewards of what He has given us.  

Rom 5:21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our goal is this.  We want to put a smile on someone's face.  You will never change the world with "Love One Another" on a church sign.  But you can change the world if you love people enough to brighten their day.  You can change the world if you cause a generation that has written off the church to pay attention to one of those churches that will love them.  

To end the conversation the lady and I agreed to disagree, but I did let her know this.  "I'm not worried about your relationship with Jesus.  I'm not posting the sayings on that sign for you.  I'm trying to reach people who need Him." 

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, may people know that Jesus is in my heart.  May they want what I have.  May I help them discover You today.  AMEN  

PS - No nasty remarks on Facebook.  This dear lady was sincere and polite.  I don't hate her or her faith.  

Is it Breezy or is it Windy?

It poured this weekend.  When I got to work this morning, it looked like the aftermath of Noah's flood.  We are supposed to be in the dry season.  We are anything but dry.

So, over the weekend, a friend of mine told me a story about how someone asked them the word for "a lot of wind."  Obviously, English wasn't their first language.  So my friend said you can say either, "windy" or "breezy".  Windy made sense to this person, but breezy!?!  They had never heard of such a word.

This caused another conversation among some of my friends.  Is there a difference between, "windy" and, "breezy"?  Some said yes (citing that, "windy" is stronger than, "breezy") while others didn't seem to think that there was that much of a difference.

So all weekend I've been going around asking people, while outside, "Is it windy or breezy"?  As you might guess, I got a lot of strange looks.  But the common answer I received, while their hair was being messed up by the wind, was, "I don't know."  The thought of having to choose between one or the other left some dumbfounded.

Matthew 5:37  Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

My mom used to tell me, "Say what you mean and mean what you say."  In other words, don't manipulate your conversations to your advantage and be clear about what you intend to say.  Jesus, in Matthew 5:37, is saying the same thing.  

Jesus didn't want His followers to be known for manipulation or hidden agendas.  He wanted them to be recognized for their love.  He wanted them to love one another and to love the world.  He knew that they couldn't do that if they appeared, through their conversation, to be hiding something or sound unsure of their faith.  

Jesus taught us in Matthew 12:34 that from the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  So what are you going to sound like today? 

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, let people hear my love and faith today.  AMEN  

Thanksgiving Is When?

I know when Thanksgiving happens.  I know that it is the same time every year.  I know that the Sunday before we have a big service and afterwards enjoy Thanksgiving dinner together.  I know all of this.  So why did it suddenly occur to me yesterday that Thanksgiving is only 12 days away?

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

The Bible says it again and again and again.  Time Flys.  We think we have all the time in the world and then we don't.  We say things like, what happened?  How did I get so old?  When did they grow up?  

Time is precious and we need to spend it wisely.  We've got to get some sleep.  We've got to go to work.  Do we really want to reach the end of our life and say, "I wish I hadn't worked so hard."  Or "I wish I had spent more time with my kids."  Invest time like you invest money.  Put it somewhere it will bring back a return of joy, life and happiness. 

PRAY  Dear Jesus, let me spend my time wisely today.  AMEN  

P.S. For those of you in the area reading this - this Sunday, Nov. 19th is Thanksgiving Sunday.  We are going to enjoy a wonderful service followed by a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  Bring your favorite side dish, salad or dessert to share with others.  The church will provide the turkey and ham.  

It's Beginning To Look At Lot Like . . . .

I can't do it.  I've been trying to get into the "Christmas spirit" for the last week, and all I can muster up is a Bah Humbug.

But that isn't a bad thing.

There is the Christmas spirit that seems more like being possessed by a demonic elf who is bent on blowing up your life with tinsel, Christmas cookies, and credit card debt.  This spirit makes the power company happy with all the Christmas lights you put on your house and your neighbors angry because everyone in a 50-mile radius wants to drive by every night.

There is the Christmas spirit whose only goal is to cast the demonic elf out of everyone and everything.  They say things like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" and "Having a Christmas tree is evil."  They mean well but just come off being mean and uncaring.

There is the Christmas spirit, oh sorry, holiday festive, cheerful person who wants to eliminate the Christ out of Christmas.  They are offended at the religious overtones that this season embraces.

There is the Christmas spirit who revels at the thought of what they are going to get this year.  The new iPhone?  How about a laptop?  Those new shoes you were oohing and awing at the mall.  Maybe a new truck!

There is the Christmas spirit that wants to enjoy the holidays without having to wait in checkout lines, deal with holiday traffic and find a good parking place everytime you go to the store.  Oh, wait - that's all of us.

Luke 2:13 - 15, 20 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
There it is!! That's what I've been looking for.  Thanking Jesus for laying down His Divinity in heaven to be a human just like us.  He came as a child because that's the way we arrived at this planet.  We identify with Him because He lived His life just like us.

Yea I guess my sarcastic nature is a bit off the chain. But then again, "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . . No, No, No. Gloria in Excelsis Deo (Latin for "Glory to God in the highest")  Why do we celebrate Christmas?  To worship our Savior and Lord Jesus.

PRAY:  Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to earth.  You lived, died and rose again for me.  AMEN