Friday, September 15, 2017

"How Important is Preaching?"

To be a successful pastor, one must have the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhinoceros.” - Stuart Briscoe

There are days in ministry when I am convinced Briscoe is right! There is a price to be paid emotionally, spiritually, and physically, to be a successful pastor. The confession of sin is a prerequisite for pastoral leadership. As leaders in the Body of Christ, we must be candid about our need for grace, forgiveness, openness, and flexibility. Pastors are constantly working on an accurate understanding of God’s calling, self, and circumstances. In ministry, we must remember that not all flack is routine criticism. In truth, it may be a gift, a fresh opportunity to reflect, retool and reinvigorate.

How important is preaching? There are at least three ways people absorb knowledge:              
1.  Visual
2.  Auditory, and
3.  Kinesthetic

Adults can listen with understanding for ninety minutes, but can only listen with retention for twenty minutes. Studies indicate that after three days, recall is down to about ten percent of the message. I always say that after Sunday’s sermon, by Tuesday, the congregants cannot even remember the humor or the illustrations.

What does all that say? The sermon is important! Communication is 10% words, 40% tone, and 50% non-verbal. To expect retention and application – that demands creativity and diligent preparation on the part of the pastor.

Yes, all of us pastors need your affirmation, counsel, and prayers.


Friday, September 8, 2017

"Getting the Ratios Right"

Rich Karlgaard said, “Success is often a matter of getting the ratios right.”  The creator of the universe certainly understood that.  Edward Wright, the astrophysicist from UCLA said the Big Bang would have fizzled in the first second had the neutron-to-proton ratio been just a wee bit more or less than it was.

Ratios are important to each of us.  Life is a matter of key ratios being exactly right.  We live with a perfect balance of water, nutrients, gases, gravity and solar radiation to sustain the inhabitants of planet Earth.  Those ratios must be precise.  We are just the right distance from the sun so that we do not freeze or fry!  Could it be that these ratios do not exist anywhere else in the universe?

Could it be that ratios are not only important for us economically but also physically?  We need to check our ratios regarding work-to-play, prayer-to-pace, calories-to-exercise, strength-to-weight, and isolation-to-community.

Sabbath rest is not just Biblical.  It is also logical.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"Danger and Opportunity"

As a student of leadership styles and materials, I have always appreciated fresh insights. One that has been around for a long time is this; the Chinese word for CRISIS combines DANGER and OPPORTUNITY.

We all face tough challenges. There are those experiences of emptiness. It puts us in CRISIS mode. Does every crisis bring an opportunity with it? Not necessarily. Some scholars suggest that the opportunity aspect of each crisis may be more akin to – how do I save my own neck?

There are 360,000 Christian congregations in America. Sixty thousand are thriving. Three hundred thousand are plateauing or declining. Does this crisis for the vast majority of congregations present both danger and opportunity? Maybe saving one’s neck is not the only option. Is there higher ground to be conquered in some new way? For many of the three hundred thousand congregations, it is difficult to even catch a whiff of optimism.

We focus on the three C’s; comfort, control, and consumption. Christians are no different from the culture protagonists all around us. We too are seduced by the consumer culture. Yes, we know consumption is bankrupt. Psychological enslavement to MORE is all too common.

Congregations need an epiphany. Maybe our focus needs to be less on money, sex and power, and more on courage, generosity, wholeness and wisdom.

Romans 12:19-21 says it all. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What a marvelous formula for CRISIS that embraces both DANGER and OPPORTUNITY!


Friday, August 25, 2017

"A Transformation"

If you visit Jericho today, the guides will show you a sycamore tree. Similar to the one that Zacchaeus climbed to get above the crowd in order to see Jesus. He was short of stature.

In Luke 19 we quickly learn two things about Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Tax collectors worked for the state and preyed on the Jews.He was viewed by the Jewish community as a traitor. His wealth came by skimming off his take for the state. Evidently, he was skilled at his trade.

When Jesus came by, he spotted Zacchaeus in the tree and said, “Zacchaeus hurry down. Today is my day to be a guest in your house.” I would bet he practically leaped out of the tree. Wow! Jesus is going to spend some time with me! The crowd was indignant. Why is Jesus cozying up to a crook?

We do not know what Jesus was served at Zach’s place. We do not know what was discussed over lunch. What we do know is that a transformation of character took place during that brief encounter.  Suddenly life started to matter to Zach. He wanted his life to count for something more than negative recognition and materialism.

What evidence do we have of a transformation? He promised he would give half of his possessions to the poor, and those that he defrauded, he would pay back four times as much.

Then follows the blessing. Jesus said to Zach, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”  Luke 19:8-10


Friday, August 18, 2017


Guilt can make us physically ill, depressed, loaded with anxiety or mentally unbalanced. To stay balanced in life, we must come to terms with grinding guilt.  Forgiveness is God’s invention. Forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of grace.

Psalm 32 lets us get a glimpse into the heart of David.  “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” David speaks from personal experience. His adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and his attempted cover- up by having her husband Uriah sent to his death on the battlefield were cause for his anguish. No doubt, Psalm 32 was written after his confession, forgiveness by God and his peace of mind finally surfaced.

David uses the word transgression – we know it as intentional disobedience. He mentions sin – which means to miss the mark or fall short of the target God has set for us. Thankfully, David moved beyond self-deception and dealt with his sins. He arrested that downward spiral through confession.

Having had intimate conversations with thousands of people, I can attest to the fact that countless folks harbor hidden sins. Secret sin does not coexist with peace! We experience the peace of God only when we trust the acceptance of God, confess and experience forgiveness. The cross of Christ is the hinge of history. Then that peace that surpasses human comprehension is our experience. The joy of sins forgiven – what a relief.

Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly."


Friday, August 11, 2017

"The Effects of Gossip"

She is Executive Director of a large non-profit organization. I asked her “What are the tough things about your job that keep you awake at night?”
Without hesitation, she said gossip. In order to maintain a healthy environment in her organization, she declared, the leadership will not tolerate gossip. Gossip devalues people. The effects of gossip can be devastating. Before you repeat a story, ask yourself:

  •  Is it true?
  • Is it harmless?
  • Is it necessary?

The bottom line is – if it isn’t verifiable, then don’t repeat it!

People gossip for two reasons: First, fear of losing one’s job, making a mistake or fear of looking unimportant. The second reason is pride, wanting attention, wanting to belong or wanting people to think you have the inside track. The gossiper deserves confrontation. Gossipers hurt people.

Proverbs 20:19 calls a gossiper a babbler. Not very flattering. Ephesians 4:29 reads, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up as there is need, so that your word may give grace to those who hear.”

That is the Christian Standard!


Friday, August 4, 2017

"What Do You Want To Do With the Rest of Your Life?"

We were eyeball to eyeball when he said to me, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?" Tough question! My commitment to the Lord and ministry has meant that I have short-changed family time, vacations and sabbaticals. Yes, there is something of compulsion mixed into that.

All of us deal with that tough question. Is more of the same fulfilling? It is a faith question. To believe in God is basic but more importantly, we are invited to surrender our wills to the Lord so that the Holy Spirit can guide us in the use of our time, talent and resources.

The tough questions include – Do we have clarity regarding our goals? Do our lives display joy? Do people welcome our presence? Is our work fulfilling? Do we awaken to excitement for the activities of the day ahead?

At 77, I am very cognizant that life is short. There is still time for us to do the things the Lord has in mind for us. You don’t want to miss that!  James 4:14 says, “What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Once the sun rises and the wind blows, the mist disappears. I want more for my life than that. “To glorify God and enjoy him forever” is a worthy goal. I strongly believe that the Lord never asks us to do more than his strength will provide. God does not want us stressed out. “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in weakness. “Success is doing what God asks us to do. That’s liberation!