Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00

Answer At the Door

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Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by prayer?  Last week my wife, Judy, and I closed on the sale of our home in DeRidder.  Our intent was to sell this property, which was in town, and buy a couple of acres in the country.  In recent months we have driven most every road in our area seeking a piece of property.

As we waited on the sale of our home we located several pieces of property, only to have them sold before we could make arrangements.  In addition, nothing seemed to match our dreams.  These two factors caused a bit of frustration.  I know none of you ever feel this way.  However, God sent an answer to the door of our home.

Several Saturdays ago a real estate woman brought the lady who purchased our home for a final check.  Judy and I cleared out to give them room.  While they were looking, Judy and I rode by a piece of property we had been watching for three years.  There were no “for sale” signs on the property.  We returned home and found the realtor and home buyer with several unanswered questions.

Friday, 09 May 2014 00:00

Quad 2 Living

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A few years back, Steven Covey wrote a popular book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book provides helpful concepts in life management.  Among the concepts Covey advocated was Quad 2 living.  Covey divided daily activities into four quads:

1. There are things that are urgent and important.  These are the crises events you cannot avoid, such as the death of a family member.

2. There are things that are not urgent but important.  These are life’s vital activities, such as our relationship with God, relationships with friends and family, personal growth and recreation.  These activities contribute to a stronger life and help you move beyond crises events.

3. There are things that are not important but urgent.  Some meetings and some phone calls would fall into this category.

4. There are things that are not important and not urgent.  Browsing the internet and watching television would be examples.

Quad 1 activities (crises) cannot be avoided.  Quad 3 activities deplete you because they must be fulfilled, but you do not get excited about them.  Quad 4 activities are time wasters or activities that we run to after Quad 1 events.  They help us chill out, but do not contribute to our productivity in life.

This brings us to Quad 2 activities.  These are the proactive activities.  These contribute to our growth and development.  These help us avoid many Quad 3 activities and a dependency on Quad 4 activities. All four quads are a part of life.  However, our aim should be to prioritize Quad 2 living.  This will make us stronger physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Lynn Pope could recite the seed varieties of every truck crop known to man. Billy Martin was acknowledged as the authority on beef cattle. Doyle McCullar knew more about fishing and the Brooklyn Dodgers than anyone we knew. Doyce Bailey specialized in lumber, Sonny Musgrove in corn, and J. L. Rice in carpentry and guitars. You get the idea. I envied none of them. What I did care about was picking cotton.

Not that the act itself was of any particular enjoyment. Cotton picking was hard work designed to give back-aches and poverty to anyone taking it seriously. However, all the other areas of expertise required years of experience to master. One could rule as the champion cotton picker by one day’s concentrated effort.

Each teenage claimant to the unofficial cotton-picking championship produced numbers such as 230, 285, and 290. I kept quiet, recalling that 175 was the best I had ever done and my daily average was more like 145. Just to lay on the class a respectable number like 225 was my goal. That’s why I hurried down to Junior Roman’s as soon as word came that he was hiring. And that’s why I began picking at noon.

By the sundown weigh-in, I had picked 140 pounds, my best afternoon ever. The fever had struck by now and I stayed after everyone else left, picking until the dark made it impossible. I ended the day at 165.

The next morning, I arrived in the field soon after sunrise. When the noon bell sounded, I weighed in at 150 pounds. In one afternoon and the next morning, I had gathered 315 pounds of cotton. Having done what I had come to do, I turned in my sack and walked home, eager to tell the world what I had accomplished.

Friday, 25 April 2014 08:55

Too Complicated! (Part 2)

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This is the second in a series.  Our ability to manage the issue of church complication may well affect our health and effectiveness in the ministry.

Second, we are guilty of “layering.”  At some point in history churches began to layer new programs and new ministries in an effort to strengthen our churches.  We added Sunday school, discipleship classes, brotherhood or men’s ministry, women’s ministry, various music groups, three or four children’s ministries, VBS, nursery, committees, Wednesday night activities, and the list goes on.  All the activities I mentioned are good.  There is not a bad idea among them.  However, as the layers build up so does the complication.

An example of layering occurs in children’s ministry.  If a church conducts Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night activities they feel obligated to provide children’s activities during each of the time periods.  That is a noble gesture.  However, the problem is, there are only so many people who are gifted, willing and able to work with children.  Parents and church leaders desire to provide children’s Sunday school, AWANA (or a similar) ministry, mission organizations, VBS, and other children’s activities.  All of these are “good,” but they put a strain on children’s workers.  In order to get the needed workers a church ends up asking people to fill two or three ministry positions or use people whose hearts are not into children’s ministry.  In this scenario the issue is not what is “good” but what is “best.”

When church leaders cannot get enough workers they tend to criticize church members for being uncaring.  The problem, many times, is not uncommitted people but “layering.”

Sunday, 20 April 2014 21:21

Too Complicated! (Part 1)

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Do you ever feel that church is “too” complicated? If so, this article is for you. I first realized this truth when I was thirty-one. My awareness of this truth developed in the following way. I was serving a church in rural Mississippi. We typically averaged 100-150 in worship on Sunday mornings. As a young pastor I thought I had to visit each church family once or twice a year and every prospect who visited the church. In addition, I was preaching three sermons a week and teaching a discipleship class. Plus, I visited every person who was in the hospital, I was available for counseling, and I performed all weddings and funerals. Add to that list, deacon’s meetings, church leadership meetings, budget meetings, personnel meetings and the like. Plus, I was the only full time staff member in the church. I enjoyed all of these activities. I enjoyed being a pastor. However, I soon learned I was not superman. I began to feel empty. I began to lose the joy of ministry. Where did this come from? The technical name for my condition was burnout.  The burnout was induced by a complicated lifestyle. When church becomes so complicated that you do not enjoy church, something is wrong!  (I refer you to Dr. Thom Rainer’s book Simple Church.)

The story of Mary and Martha helps put this concept into perspective. “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Jesus and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42 NKJV)

Saturday, 12 April 2014 09:48

How to Handle the Chronic Critics in Your Church

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Every church has ‘em.  The Chronic Critic…the person(s) who simply can’t be pleased.  No matter what you do, they have something negative to say.

You are not alone when you face chronic critics. Nehemiah, perhaps one of the greatest leaders of all times, was on a mission from God.

Yet he faced chronic critics. They could have derailed his God-given mission. They didn’t. And here’s what he did.

Complete this statement:

The last time I was criticized by someone in my church I…

Reacted, blew up, screamed, cussed, stayed silent and drove my anger inward, became defensive,

felt embarrassed, listened and learned from the critic?

Criticism never feels good. Sometimes it’s warranted. Sometimes it’s not. Nehemiah’s criticism from Sanballat and Tobiah was not warranted, yet Nehemiah wisely responded with the 5 P's below.

Saturday, 05 April 2014 13:30

Hard Steps to Follow

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A girl’s high school basketball team from our area recently won their eighth consecutive state basketball title. Today I was thinking, “I would not want to follow in that coach’s steps. He will be a hard act to follow.”

In following Jesus I sometimes feel the same way. I feel as if it is hard to follow his example. A passage from Isaiah 53 shares one such example. “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” (Isaiah. 53:5-7)

Saturday, 29 March 2014 10:10


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One of the most profound TV moments happens in The Office when Michael glances at the camera.

It is a satirical way of reminding us that a reality show isn’t actual reality. People aren’t real when the camera is on. No one is truly himself when he is being observed.

America’s celebrity-driven culture is fun and interesting. But there are inherent problems. One of them is that we see our famous “friends” for an hour each week and assume this is the “real them.”

We watch our actors, singers, athletes, politicians and preachers during their most glorious moments. We stand in awe of them, and then we feel dissatisfied with our own ordinariness. But we are comparing apples to oranges: their scripted and prepared public presentation to our normal human existence.

If you want to see the real persons--famous or not--spy on them while they are changing diapers, visiting a sick friend, mowing the lawn, responding to a request for charity from a homeless person, “discussing” issues with spouse or children, performing redundant or menial tasks at their vocation.

Saturday, 22 March 2014 09:17

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

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Have you ever shot yourself in the foot? This old saying refers to an action or attitude that causes you personal harm or problems.  As ministers of the gospel we can be guilty of shooting ourselves in the foot. We often do this with the best of motives and purest of intentions, but they cause us harm nonetheless.  A few personal examples might help clarify the picture for you.

I remember an occasion when I got upset with a group of leaders because they failed to fulfill my expectations. Rather than sharing my disappointment with the group and letting that be the end of the matter I closed up and stopped communicating. This caused the leaders to close up and stop communicating. When all was said and done I shot myself in the foot. My self-justification blinded me to my part in the problem.

There were other occasions when I shot myself in the foot with my preaching. What preacher has not used words that came back to haunt him.  For example, we might think that stern words will “correct the flock” and cause a wave of repentance. I found that stern words usually discouraged the faithful who were working hard and burdened those who did not need such a burden.

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