Bringing Out the Best in Others

Bringing out the worst in people is easy. Walk into a room with a scowl on your face and the overwhelming look of disapproval. When someone speaks to you, be short in return. Better yet, cut them off and voice your opinion with disdain for their thoughts. If you do answer a question, be passive-aggressive and sarcastic. Let your words come forth with volume and force no matter what you are saying. You can walk into a room with another person or group of people and make them all upset about their day.

What if bringing out the best in people is just as easy? Walk into a room with a smile on your face and a tone of approval. When someone speaks to you, listen to all they have to say and validate their feelings. Do not be short in your response and use a calm voice, no matter how emotional you feel. Avoid passive-aggressive statements and sarcasm. You can walk into a room and calm everyone’s emotions and bring joy to their day.

This is true no matter what room you are walking into this day. It can be a room with your co-workers, boss, spouse, children, friends, or neighbors. You can be the thermostat that controls the feelings in the room by merely minding your words and demeanor.

Everyone makes people happy. Some make people happy when they walk into a room and others when they leave.

What People Did Not See

Because of the current situation in our country and state, much of the Church has gone underground.  Lately, we have not met publicly, and so much of what we do goes on under the radar.  You cannot see the people serving each week.  There is no conversation around the coffee pot about the impact being made on people’s lives.  The movements of God are hard to see without the public spotlight of our weekly meetings.

I want everyone who is a part of a Church anywhere to know; God is still working through his people.  His people are still serving in the name of Jesus.  Meals are still being provided for those in need.  Spiritual conversations are still taking place. People are giving of their resources for the work do the Lord.  Those with servants’ hearts are finding ways to serve outside of the Church building.  The kingdom of God is still moving forward like a mighty army. 

One thing I pray that this time of shutdown will do for people is to remind them that their work is for God alone.  Our service in his kingdom is to an audience of one.  You do not need people to be present for you to do something in the name of the Lord.  No one needs to hold the camera and capture you doing that good deed.  In fact, maybe our most pure form of Christian service is done when no one is looking.   

What people did not see is God working in and through you.

Trusting God During Shutdown … As a Pastor

The past few weeks have tested everyone’s faith. This is also true for every Pastor I know, including myself.

It seems like if you are a religious leader, you should approach this time with faith and confidence. At first, I felt like that was the case. When I thought this was going to last for a couple of weeks. Last year we survived missing three Sundays for snow, ice, and a power outage. I saw God show up and do a mighty work when we were not able to meet as a group of believers during that time, and I knew he could do it again.

Then the weeks continued, and we are not going to meet for ten weeks IF we make it back together in June. This is unprecedented. I have no point of reference for seeing God work in a situation like this one.

There are days my faith wains, and I start to give myself over to worry. When we meet again, will the people come back? What is this going to do to the new believers who have not had the support they need during this time? Will the finances ever recover? Will the Church I lead ever be the same? The list of questions that haunt my mind seems never-ending.

What do I do when these thoughts come? I do the same thing I tell my people to do. I lead hard into God. I pray. I read the scriptures. I find other Christians to encourage me. I search for the positive and push back the negative thoughts. I take a walk. I read a book. I cry out to God to show me where he is working. I look for stories that reveal how God is working on the internet and social media. I write in my “grateful journal.” I do all the things that I think will keep my focus on God.

There is no special feeling that God gives you when life is uncertain. There is no magic formula or specific prayer that makes everything seem okay. Instead, I find that God works in the little moments where we open ourselves up to him. Lean hard into God, and you will find he is trustworthy even when everything else is uncertain.

The Four Bibles Beside My Desk

Through the years, people have asked about my study habits when it comes to the Bible.  The essential tools for me sit right beside my desk on a filing cabinet.  They are literally an arm’s length away from me while I sit here and type.  Here are my Bibles, why I have them, and how I use them. 

  1. A Quest Study Bible – 2011 NIV (New International Version) edition.  This is a simple tool I use to read through a passage the first time.  The Quest Study Bible has questions with answers along the side.  They are not overly detailed but enough to get you thinking.  This is where I start to engage the Bible.  Read and ask questions. 
  2. A plain NIV – 1984 edition.  This is the Bible I grew up reading. I refer to this for differences in translations between 1984 and 2011.  There are no published notes, but I have several handwritten thoughts that I have put in the margins over the years.  It is like a familiar place I visit to get my back to my roots. 
  3. An Interlinear New Testament.  This is a Greek version of the Bible with the translation underneath each line.  I took three years of Greek in college, and the words make sense to me, without being an expert.  On the left-hand side of the passage is also the New American Standard translation of the Bible, and on the right is the New International Version.  This way, I can read the original language and translation, along with being able to compare it to modern English translations.    
  4. An ESV Study Bible.  Much of the Evangelical world is moving toward the English Standard Version of the Bible.  It is a good translation and handles the original languages well.  This also has hundreds of thousands of notes, maps, graphs, and every type of study tool included.  This is always the last source I look at for information. I want to know what I think it says without hindrance, then see what other people think of it. 

These four Bibles are right beside my desk and have been there for almost six years. They are not the leather Bible I preach from each week.  They are not the software that I use to help me dig deep into a passage.  These are the tools I use to read the word of God and understand it on my own. 

I suggest anyone who reads the Bible get a couple of different translations to read.  You need one with no notes.  Finally, a study Bible will help you get answers when you have questions about your reading.  With these two or three Bibles in your hand, I think you can understand over 90% of the Bible with no other help.    

Bibles are not always cheap, but investing in the right tools will help you over a lifetime. 

Marriage Real and Raw

This week I start a new sermon series at the Church I lead.  It is called “Homewreckers,” and I will be looking at the six most significant issues I find in marriages.  If these things are left unaddressed, they will wreck a home and hurt the people inside of it. 

The topic of marriage is near to my heart.  My wife and I have worked hard through the years to develop as a couple.  We both have a burden for other couples we have met and the struggles they are going through each day.  We have both counseled numerous people both professionally and in private conversations since the beginning of our marriage. 

There is one phrase that keeps coming back to my mind as I have been preparing for this sermon series and thinking about the people we have helped.  It is “people need to have ‘real and raw’ conversations about marriage.”

They need real conversations that require total honesty.  In our culture, being real usually means being vulnerable and sharing your flaws.  One tendency of couples is to define their problems in terms of the other person’s behavior.  “If they would do this or they would not do that, everything would be better.”  A real conversation is the opposite.  It means saying, “I have this problem, and I need to work on it.” We need to be real in our marriages.

The second type of conversation needs to be raw.  For me, a raw interaction is one that requires you to talk about touchy subjects.  The topics for raw conversations are unlimited, including things like abuse, pornography, sex, libido, anger, forgiveness, past sexual partners, living together, finances, budgets, your in-laws, parenting, and even religion.  These discussions need to be held to get at the issues even when they feel uncomfortable to talk about with anyone, including your spouse.

This upcoming sermon series is called “Homewreckers,” and the subtitle is “real and raw conversations about marriage.”  My hope is not just to talk about the problems we face but to get you and your spouse having real and raw conversations at home. 

So I invite you to join us online at this Sunday and every week for the next eight weeks.  I am praying this will be exactly what your marriage needs to help it improve. Feel free to start working ahead.

It is Only a Problem

If you do not address the issue.

Everyone has issues. We all encounter setbacks, struggles, unexpected challenges, disappointments, detours, disagreements, derailments, and problems. These things throw all of us out of our usual patterns of thought and behavior.

These things happen in our jobs, with our children, while dealing with our parents, and even in our marriages. They come at us out of the blue and changed our outlook.

The key to a happy life is learning to address the issues. When something happens, we cannot sweep it under the rug and ignore it. We must face it head-on and handle it. Talk it out, even if the conversation is hard. Make the necessary changes. Find a different road and move forward in confidence.

Right now, I can bet you have one issue in your life that is driving you crazy. It keeps you up and night while you toss and turn. You dread the thought of the confrontation it brings. With every day you leave it alone, it gets bigger and more frightening.

I know you do not want to deal with it because you are scared, tired, and worry about the outcome. The harsh reality is that the only way to conquer it is to address it. Maybe today is the time to get the monkey off your back and get things headed the right direction again.

It is only a problem if you do not address it.

So why not today?

Making it YOUR Church

There is a difference between attending a Church and being a part of a community of faith called the Church.   

In one, a person sits to watch other people worship, and in the other, the person worships with people of like faith. 

In one, a person allows others to use their gifts to serve them, and in the other, the person uses their gifts to bless others. 

In one, a person wants other people to give of their resources so that they can have the programs to meet their needs, and in the other, the person gives their resources so that other people might be blessed through them.  

In one, a person expects people to be friendly to them, and in the other, they are a friend to other people.

In one, a person expects other people to make decisions that make them happy, and in the other, they take a risk by becoming a leader of other people. 

The list of comparisons is long and often subtle.  The difference between going to Church and being the Church is usually a change that cannot be seen without careful examination.  For a community of believers to become “your” Church, there are adjustments that need to be made.  It is not just a change in language but a difference in attitude and actions.