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!


Friday, July 28, 2017

"Slow to Anger"

My Presbyterian friend, Lloyd Ogilvie, likes to say, “Tell me what ticks you off and I will tell you what makes you tick.” Anger is a powerful emotion, it will not be repressed. When we repress anger, it emerges in some other destructive form, detrimental to the integration of body, mind, and spirit. When our needs are not met, anger is never very distant.

Happiness is one of our perceived needs. What is creative, good and right for us? When our needs are blocked or detoured in some way, anger begins to surge. Yes, we say, “It makes my blood boil.”

In the Psychology of Being, Dr. Abraham Maslow describes our basic needs in life – safety and security, belonging and affection, respect and self-respect, and self-actualization. Put a hold on any of these and up springs anger. It generally emerges in destructive imaging and behavior.

Can we alter the intensity of our anger? Yes, our greatest gift is freedom of choice. We do choose how we react to the denial of our needs. The Biblical insight found in James 1:19-20 says, “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

Through James, the Holy Spirit suggests to us three things; be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

Part of listening is prayer. Our candid prayers God can handle. Part of prayer is listening for the counsel of the Holy Spirit. What does the Lord want us to hear?

Slow to speak suggests we pause before responding and ask ourselves, what is the redemptive thing to say? Blurting out a crippling response is not therapeutic. There is a big difference between leveling someone and leveling with someone.

Slow to anger is a reminder that we are responsible for what we say and do. Are we respecting the other person as having been made in the image of God? Sin is to miss the target, fall short of God’s good intention for us and rely on our own ingenuity.

The expectation for the Christian is that we will be Christ-like.

Now, that’s a challenge!


Friday, July 21, 2017

"Lapsed, Loose & Lost"

I don’t think it is fair but somebody described the Body of Christ, the Church, as:

  • The Lapsed
  • The Loose
  • The Lost

There is a major difference between going to church and being the church. Church leaders today are not concerned with institutional maintenance but with missional effectiveness. They want the focus not on ministry in the church, largely confined to the membership, but rather on ministry by the church to the community at large.

George Gallup reported, “Church attendance makes little difference in people’s ethical views and behavior with respect to lying, cheating, pilferage, and not reporting theft. It was only among those who were committed to their church and activities beyond the worship service that the statistically significant difference was found in terms of truth telling, the absence of racial prejudice, and the ability to see beyond materialism.”

Lapsed, loose and lost are not accurate labels for Sardis Presbyterian Church. As I write this, four camps are being held on the Sardis campus; the basketball camp for boys and girls with Christian coaches and a Christian witness, the Preschool Summer camp, the Charlotte Mission Adventure for middle school students that serve non-profits in Charlotte, and Camp Holiday for Downs Syndrome students.

SPC – great job!


Friday, July 14, 2017

"The Human Will"

We are an amazing mix of knowledge, will, and emotions. The Lord knew that the unconscious mind needs supervision! The stifling power of sin is real. Your brain is so good it can handle 5-trillion chemical operations per second. Incredible!

The Apostle Paul respects our competence and says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” - Romans 13:14  We do have a choice to consider something other than self-aggrandizement. It is possible to choose something “good enough” and miss out on the best. To grow up spiritually means we must confront the living temptations of money, sex, and power.

Dallas Willard says there are three dimensions to the human will.
  • The Impulsive Will.  We know it as “I want.” Remember Thomas in the Upper Room.  He could not believe the resurrection of Jesus without the tactile experience.  “I want to touch the wounds of Jesus.”
  • The Reflective Will.  “I should.”  We have the option of focusing on what is acceptable versus focusing on what it means to be Christ-like.
  • The Embodied Will.  “I am.”  The irony of spiritual formation is that it involves body, mind and spirit – that’s where we live!  What sustains us? Not just the faith we share in God’s grace in Jesus Christ but also behavior that is Christ-like.

Thank God for the amazing mix of knowledge, will, and emotions.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"The Great Commission of Matthew 28"

There is a huge chasm between going to church and being the church. The church-going population is in decline. Nationally, only about 38% attend worship. For Millennials, born between 1980 – 2000, only 17% are connected to a local church. I know that Charlotte’s church attendance is higher at 52%.

Presbyterians suffer from analysis paralysis. However, there are four disturbing trends pertinent to the North American church.
  • The mainline denominations have become the sideline denominations. Non-denominational churches outnumber denominational congregations in attendance.
  • Millennials have little interest in local churches. We are losing this portion of America at an alarming rate.
  • Many churches are struggling with maintaining their operations or are able to do so because of a foundation of some type.
  • It is a struggle to replace aging clergy. It is true for Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Seminary enrollment for all flavors of theological discipline is down. Emerging leaders today are not concerned with institutional maintenance but with missional effectiveness. This preference is a focus on ministry by the church rather than ministry in the church that is largely confined to existing members.

Mission is our non-negotiable task. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 makes that very clear.