Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What makes writers different from other people?

We met an interesting young woman last evening, a school employee who was fascinated with the game we were playing. It is a Scrabble rip off. Charlene invited her to sit with us and we talked a good while. Eventually the conversation turned to my books and I gave her one. She kept exclaiming that she had met a writer. What I didn’t tell her was what a writer had told me once long ago.

He asked if I knew what was different about writers that separates them from people who aren’t writers. Of course, I didn’t, so he told me. He said, “Writers write.” If you want to be a writer, you can. You just need to write. It can be in a diary with a pencil, in an old-fashioned notebook with a pen, on your laptop, or on your phone, but you need to write. What do you write, you ask? Whatever is on your heart, but write. Write something every day. You have a unique view of the world. You are different from everyone else. Write down what you see and what you think about it.

Or make up a story and write it down. Maybe it is a sentence today and 14 paragraphs tomorrow; but write. When you have something written down, then you can worry about editing it and decide whether you want to publish it.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Don’t Be Put Off by Put Downs

Have you ever been referred to as a “Do Gooder”? How about as a “social Justice Advocate”? Someone who puts social justice over evangelism? These references can be discouraging.

Charlene and I keep sacks of goodies in the car for anyone we see who is panhandling. That is, standing beside the road with a sign. The bags have several food items, along with a toothbrush, a small tooth paste, a pair of new socks and two dollars. Recently a friend said, “You know what they are going to do with it.” But we don’t really know, do we?

On Christmas Eve we and some of our friends and family go from place to place where people are working and give them plates of cookies, many of them hand decorated Christmas sugar cookies. Places include the police and fire departments, where our tradition started. We now also stop at convenience stores and fast food places.

We are not na├»ve. We are not new in this game. I was the Social Service Director for the Minnesota county that includes the capitol city and I held similar positions in Florida. But I am mindful that The Hebrew writer said, “2Always remember to help people by welcoming them into your home. Some people have done that and have helped angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). And Jesus was put down, doubtless with a sneer, by religious leaders who called Him a “friend of sinners.” He was not turned aside from His endeavors by the put downs and we should not be either. As my granddaddy might have said, “Take the bit in your teeth and plow on.”

 'Getting ready to deliver Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve to police, fire, drug stores, and McDonalds.'

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Nothing But a Child

Here's a Christmas song you probably won't hear on a local radio program. One of my favorites:
 Image result for christmas baby\
Once upon a time, in a far off land
Wise men saw a sign and set out across the sand 
Songs of praise to sing, they traveled day and night
Precious gifts to bring, guided by the light
They chased a brand new star, ever towards the west
Across the mountains far, but when it came to rest
They scarce believed their eyes, they'd come so many miles
And this miracle they prized was nothing but a child
Nothing but a child could wash those tears away
Or guide a weary world into the light of day
And nothing but a child could help erase those miles
So once again we all can be children for awhile
Now all around the world, in every little town
Everyday is heard a precious little sound
And every mother kind and every father proud
Looks down in awe to find another chance allowed
Nothing but a child could wash those tears away
Or guide a weary world into the light of day
And nothing but a child could help erase those miles
So once again we all can be children for awhile

Friday, December 14, 2018

Encouraging a Small Church, Part 2

I made it to Roseville to preach last Sunday and my friend, Richard, is now back in Nigeria. He is due home next week.
Here is what I came up with to encourage this little group. Maybe it will encourage you and your group as well.

How Do You Fix a Discouraged Church?
A lot of small churches are discouraged. In fact, a lot of people in large churches are discouraged as well. Do you ever get discouraged about church?

What can be discouraging about church?

  •        Some people there are discouraging
  •        People are always disagreeing
  •        Someone there doesn’t like me
  •        It’s cold in there
  •        It can feel oppressive
  •        People there are negative
  •        I go there to be encouraged but am discouraged instead.
  •        Sometimes I feel inferior because everyone there looks like they have it all together
  •        So many needy people drain me
  •        Sometimes the sermon leaves me feeling accused
  •        We can’t raise enough money to pay the church’s bills
  •        I have problems no one there wants to hear about. They can’t or won’t help me.
  •        And on, and on, and on…

You know, some of us may want to be discouraged. Being discouraged is our happy place. So, if that is you, you may want to put your earbuds in and listen to some discouraging music, because I am going to tell you how to become an encouraged church – how to be a happy church.

First, understand that your discouragement comes from within you. It is in your head. The bad news about that is that if someone like Mary Poppins comes along and fixes all those discouraging things I listed in the beginning, you would still be discouraged.

Another way of saying that is that your discouragement is a reflection of your relationship with God. Do you really trust Him? He made a promise to Israel that extends to us. He said:

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you. Isaiah 46:3-4

God is our loving father and he will protect us. Yes, bad things do happen to good people. At least things that we interpret as bad, happen to good people. But God sees all eternity and all of geography at the same time and He knows so much more than we do. He will take care of us.

Yes, but how do we overcome our discouragement?

First, Become an Encourager

1.   Paul told the Thessalonians:

“Therefore [h]encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

2.   Make it your business to encourage everyone you see. Intentionally avoid the self-checkout line so you can speak to the cashier and encourage her or him. In the parking lot, on the bus, at work or school be encouraging. It may be a simple “Have a good rest of the day,” or “God bless you,” or it may be a quick story, but brighten the day of everyone you meet. Make that a part of who you are.

3.   And especially at church, look for someone who looks like they need to be lifted up, like the people God spoke of in Isaiah 46, above, and find a way to encourage them. Don’t belittle their problems, acknowledge that their issues are real, but give them hope.

4.   And if enough of you take on that challenge, eventually the balance will tip, and you will be a part of an encouraging church. 

Second, Make a Joyful Noise

Psalm 100 

1Earth, sing to the Lord!
Be happy as you serve the Lord!
    Come before him with happy songs!
Know that the Lord is God.
    He made us, and we belong to him.
    We are his people, the sheep he takes care of.
Come through the gates to his Temple giving thanks to him.
    Enter his courtyards with songs of praise.
    Honor him and bless his name.
The Lord is good!
    There is no end to his faithful love.
    We can trust him forever and ever!

He speaks of His gates and his courtyards here, and we know He is talking about much more than His old testament temple. The world is His footstool. When you enter His world each morning (or evening is you are on the night shift), make a joyful noise. It may be a simple “Good morning!” to someone, if you say it like you mean it. Or it may be a song. Rich Mullins’ “Our God is an Awesome God” or “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” or “I’m happy today”.

And don’t let anyone bring you down. If someone calls you a Pollyanna, just own it and continue on.

Third, Pray a Lot

Talk to God about being encouraged and about being an encourager. You can even start off your prayer by saying something like “Lord you know about all my problems, we have talked about them a lot and I am going to leave them in your hands. Let’s talk about you giving me more courage so I can encourage the people around me. Especially the people at church.”

I knew a man, a working man, an humble man who prayed every night that the next morning God would lead him to someone he could help and would give him the skills to help them. And that’s how he lived his life. He was not a prominent church member but was one anyone could rely on. He was very special.

And Fourth, Remember That Our God is a God of Rescue.

When He met Moses at the burning bush, God told Moses that He had heard his people crying out to Him and He had come down to rescue them.

The Bible is a book of rescues:

  •        He rescued Cain from his enemies by putting a mark on him
  •        Noah and his family from the flood
  •        Isaac from becoming a sacrifice by Abraham’s hand.
  •        Joseph from being killed by his brothers and again from prison in Egypt
  •        In turn God used Joseph to rescue his family from starvation (and picked up Egypt in the bargain)
  •        And in the second most dramatic rescue of all time he rescued the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt after protecting them from each of the ten plagues in turn
  •        He rescued Jonathan from the hand of his father, David, when he ate the honey because he didn’t know the rules
  •        David speaks repeatedly in the Psalms of God as his rescuer

·       God rescued.
  • Daniel from the lions den
  • Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo from the furnace
  • Jonah from the whale

·       Using Esther he rescued the whole nation from annihilation at the hands of Haman

·     29 times in the 21 chapters of Judges it speaks of the deliverance of Israel from their enemies

And all of this was just the preface for the greatest rescue of all time:

Luke 2:8-11 says this:

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [e]Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

And it isn’t over yet. On a Sunday morning, Jesus got up and walked out of the grave, proving once and for all that there is nothing in this world we need to be afraid of or discouraged about. And He is coming back.

I will close with these words from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18:

16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a [m]shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [n]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound….”