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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fiery trials

In First Peter 4:12,13, Peter writes, "Dear friends, don't be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you."

When we experience trials, the spotlight is on all of us. During these times we have an opportunity to be an inspiration to other people in that one trials more than we could in a thousand days of ordinary living. When we have a trials, we can respond in one of four different ways.

We can respond irrationally by exaggerating the difficulty, or by hurting so badly we just quit, or by thinking about running away.

We can respond resentfully. Some people think, If there really was a God in heaven, he wouldn't let my child disappoint like this. He wouldn't let my spouse run away with somebody else.

We can respond creatively. We can use the difficulty to our advantage. I read somewhere that high heels were invented by a woman who got tired of her boyfriend kissing her on the forehead. Don't you love it when people look for creative ways to deal with their discouragement?

We can deal with them faithfully.

One author writes, "Ray and Judy Williamson found out on Saturday afternoon that their son had been killed. AT 7:30 A.M. on Sunday morning, I watched as they staggered into church. It was hard for them to be here, but they said, "We knew this is where God wanted us to be." Their faithfulness in the worst kind of adversity was an inspiration to everybody in that early service."

Fanny Crosby was a blind hymn writer who wrote hymns such as "I am thine, O lord," Blessed Assurance," and "To God be the glory."

When she was old, somebody told her that, if she had been born in that day, an operation could have restored her sight. Instead of being bitter, she said, "I don't know that I would changed anything. Do you know that the first thing I'm ever going to see is the face of Jesus."

I am inspired by that.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Resolving conflict

None of us like conflict - here's a great article that I read deals with conflict in the family - I trust it will be helpful to you today...

Resolving Conflict Constructively and Respectfully

Conflict is a natural part of life brought on by our different beliefs, experiences, and values. If not managed carefully, however, conflict can harm relationships. Here are seven steps adults can use to resolve conflicts, followed by five similar steps adults can use to help children resolve their differences.

1. Treat the other person with respect

Although respecting the other person during a conflict is challenging, we must try. Words of disrespect block communication and may create wounds that may never heal. Use your willpower to treat the other person as a person of worth and as an equal.

2. Confront the problem

Find a time and place to discuss the conflict with the other person. Choose a time when you aren't arguing or angry. The place should be comfortable for both of you -- away from either party's "turf."

3. Define the conflict

Describe the conflict in clear, concrete terms. Be specific when answering the who, what, when, where, and why questions.
Describe behaviors, feelings, consequences, and desired changes. Be specific and start sentences with "I," not "you."
Focus on behaviors or problems, not people.
Define the conflict as a problem for both of you to solve together, not a battle to be won.

4. Communicate understanding

Listen to really understand the other person's feelings, needs, and so forth.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Step back and try to imagine how the other person sees things.
Explain how you see the problem after you have talked about it. Discuss any changes you have made in the way you see things or how you feel.

5. Explore alternative solutions

Take turns offering alternative solutions. List them all.
Be nonjudgmental of other's ideas.
Examine consequences of each solution.
Think and talk positively.

6. Agree on the most workable solution

Agree to a solution you both understand and can live with.
Work to find a "win-win" solution.
Be committed to resolving the conflict.
7. Evaluate after time
Work out a way to check on how well the solution is working. Adjust the resolution when necessary.

Teaching Children to Resolve Conflict

Many parents feel discouraged when their children bicker or resist requests made of them. How do we teach children to cooperate and resolve conflict?

If we want children to stop fighting we must teach them new skills for resolving conflict. They need to learn problem-solving skills and develop avenues for generating socially acceptable alternatives for getting what they want.

Research has shown that a child's ability to get what he or she wants in an acceptable manner is directly related to the number of solutions or alternatives the child can think of in a situation. A child who can think of five ways to get what he or she wants will generally display more socially acceptable behavior than the child who can think of only one or two ways. Following are some general steps in teaching problem-solving skills to children.

1. Get the facts and the feelings

When children are upset, fighting, angry, or hurt, first find out the details. When questions such as, "What happened?" are asked calmly and non-judgmentally, children usually calm down and answer them.

Spend some time focusing on feelings. Children see things primarily from their own perspectives. They may be completely unaware of how their behavior affects other people, except when another person interferes with their needs. To negotiate fair solutions, children need to know how others feel.

2. Help children see the goal

Generating ideas for solutions is much easier for children when they have a clear goal. Help children define the problem in terms of what both children want to happen. For example, "What can you do so you have room to play with blocks and Janine has room to drive her truck?" When the problem is phrased this way, children get the idea that the needs of both are important.

3. Generate alternatives

To help children resolve conflict, adults can help them stay focused on the problem. Adults can also act as a "blackboard." When children suggest alternatives, adults can repeat the ideas then ask them what else could be done.

Resist the temptation to suggest ideas, as most children might assume their own thoughts are not good enough. If a child needs new ideas, suggest them later or ask the child to imagine how someone else they know might handle the situation.

4. Evaluate consequences

After the children have generated all the ideas they can, evaluate the consequences. Ask them, "What might happen if you . . .?" or, "How might Matt feel if you. .?"

Resist the temptation to judge the ideas. Adults will not always be around to tell a child that his/her idea is not good and to suggest another. In the long run, adults are more helpful by encouraging children to evaluate ideas themselves and see why they are unacceptable.

5. Ask for a decision

When the children have completed thinking of and evaluating ideas, make a plan. Restate the problem, summarize the ideas, and let the children decide which idea they will try. If they choose an alternative you think will not work, be sure they know what they should do next.

The process of teaching problem-solving often seems tedious, and parents may be tempted to just tell a child what to do. But that does not allow children to gain the experience of thinking of what to do for themselves.

Good stuff.....

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Being humble and confident

Last Wednesday we had a great discussion about humility in our men's class. What is being humble?

Confucius said (yes I am quoting Confucius), Humility is making a right estimate of yourself. Knowing who you are.

I would amend that just a little bit. Humility is knowing who you are in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus Christ I am somebody. God takes my life, changes it, and restores to me not only a right relationship with God, but a right relationship with myself.

When I see me, as God sees me, I have no reason at all to live with a consistent feeling of inferiority. I've learned over the years that feelings of inferiority is just inverted pride.

One time in Matthew 16, the disciples were talking about who Jesus was. Jesus said, who do you think I am? They replied, "some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

But what about you, Jesus asked, who do YOU say I am?

Peter says, "you are the Christ the son of the living God."

And Jesus responds, "Yeah, you're right". (my paraphrase)

Jesus knew who he was in God, yet he humbled himself and endured the cross.

Peter writes, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." I Peter 5

We can be humble and confident today.

Monday, April 24, 2006

God hanging on to us

We all have those days were all we can do is to hang on to God shirt's tails for the ride. But more importantly than you or I hanging on to God, is the fact that God is hanging on to us.

God never abandons us. He doesn't have voice mail. He doesn't have an answering machine.

Sometimes all we can do is to cry "help"!

"Help, God!"

What we look at as impossible is possible with God.

May it be so in your life today.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

divine healing

I am teaching on the subject of divine healing sunday morning.

The week before I do this, I always struggle spiritually. The enemy attacks me with thoughts of "you can't pray for people to be healed, look at your own life, you have no business praying for the sick." Or, "what if you pray for people and they aren't healed, what will others think?"

Yet, every time, I overcome these thoughts and fears and pray for the sick, because, ultimately, I know that Jesus is the healer. I can't heal anyone. My responsibility is to pray - God takes up the responsiblity to heal in the way, manner and time that He sees fit.

I must admit, I don't always understand God's ways. His ways are not my ways as the scripture says.

I would like to walk through a hospital and as a group of us prayed as we walked down the hallway, people would rise up out of their beds and walk out - healed.

Yet sin and carnality keep this from happening.

Read with me this article by Jack it helps...

God heals in three different ways

Some people think if you’re going to believe that God heals, then you shouldn’t go to the doctor. That’s a serious mistake. But it’s amazing the number of people who know the Lord heals today, and yet when something goes wrong, the first thing they do is run to the doctor, as if the Lord wasn’t closer than the doctor.

It’s a challenge to learn to balance those things; how do I learn to call on the Lord first? One of the Lord’s promises to us is His presence and power to heal those who call upon Him in the name of Jesus.

God heals in three different ways:

By natural means — i.e., you get a cut and it just heals itself
By medical means — you went to the doctor or took some medicine
By prayer — when there’s nothing else but prayer
But let us make clear: When it’s any one of these three, it is God who does the healing.

It isn’t your body that heals itself; it’s God who made your body to heal itself.
It isn’t the doctor that makes you well; you’re healed by the principles that God has built into the system that the doctors help along.

It isn’t prayer that makes people well; it is the God that people call upon when they pray.

It is the Lord’s nature to heal. When Jesus came to show us the heart of God, if there’s anything that stands out, it’s that He is a healing Lord, and He loves to heal us.

Jesus heals today

Jesus heals today:

By being the same as ever
By keeping God’s promise to us
By using people as channels
(Luke 6:19; Matthew 8:16; 9:35; 12:15; 14:13, 34; 15:29; 19:1-2; 21:14) These are not stories of individual healings; all of these are cases where large groups came to Jesus and every time it says, He healed them all. If there’s anything that the Bible wants to make clear to us, it’s that it is in the heart of the Lord to heal.

The Bible says He was moved with compassion, and wherever people reached to Him and touched Him, they were healed. When people reach and touch Jesus, power flows from Him.

Jesus’ power never changes

It unfortunately has been said by some in the church that Jesus used to heal to prove He was God, but He doesn’t need to anymore because now we have the Bible that says He’s God. The sad reason this is said is probably out of their fear that it’s their job to heal people.

Not only does Jesus still heal today, but a lot of people will not believe in Jesus just because it’s in the Bible. But they will believe when the power of Jesus Christ touches them! And He is the same today. Why would anyone would want to make Jesus less today than He was when He walked on the earth?

Jesus’ power never changes and His love never refuses. He never turns anybody away.

The Lord wants to keep His promise to us

It was foretold that the coming Messiah will heal (Isaiah 53:5).
“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.”

Chastisement means the beating; He took the beating for us in order that we could be put together. Peace doesn’t only mean quietness inside you, but it means completeness or wholeness in all of you.

The devil beats on people; circumstances can break them apart. The Bible says that Jesus’ suffering was intended to take the place of our suffering. Just as Jesus died for our sins so we could be forgiven, He suffered for our sickness, so we could be healed.

Divine healing is not a matter of guesswork. It was prophesied in the Word that God would send a Savior who would not only forgive our sins, but bring healing to the human body. That’s the promise God made.

The prophesy that was made was fulfilled (Matthew 8:17).
Jesus was not simply healing because He cared about human need, but He was healing because He was keeping a promise that God had made to man centuries earlier.

When you ask the Lord to forgive your sins, He does it now because He paid for it a long time ago. When we come to the Lord and ask Him for healing, He is ready to do it now because He provided for it when He suffered for our sicknesses long ago.

The apostle Peter, writing to the Church of all history says by His stripes, your healing has already been accomplished (1 Peter 2:24). Healing is something that is already paid for.

What was foretold was fulfilled, and today, it’s for sure: The risen Messiah comes to bring healing to us now.
Healing comes from the power of God, not by an effort of faith

The healing of the Lord isn’t “faith” healing. The power of God gives healings; faith receives the healing. Faith doesn’t create healing. For example, when you get up Christmas morning and go to the tree, you don’t “believe” for the gifts; they are already there. Under the “tree” of Calvary, there are gifts of God’s healing for broken hearts, for broken minds, for suffering bodies. Your faith doesn’t “create” the gift.

Faith isn’t an exercise of your will in order to get what God has. When people get that mentality it becomes a more of an effort all the time to “get” the gift that God has for them because they are trying to earn it. Can you imagine parents inviting their kids to come get their presents under the Christmas tree, and having the kids just stand there, straining to “believe” for those gifts?

Faith is simply coming to what God has provided at the foot of the tree where Jesus suffered for us. We can come and receive the gifts of healing just as surely as the gift of salvation is ours.

The Lord wants His healing to be available to us. It’s fully available; He does heal today. He’s the risen Lord. He rose again to make it good for us now.

Jesus heals today through people

Healing does not float down out of the sky or come through the chimney. If it comes to homes, it’s more than likely going to walk through the door with you coming to visit someone who’s sick. Healing comes because you come with love like Jesus loves. You speak the words of the Lord Jesus. You offer His kindness and faithfulness.

There are a lot of different ways the Lord heals. These are four:

When you pray and ask with faith (John 14:12, 13) — The faith is in the Word of God. Jesus says that greater things are going to happen in you than ever happened in His ministry. It’s all His power anyway.
When you lay hands on the sick in Jesus’ name — “In Jesus’ name” is by the authority or privilege we’ve been given.
When you receive communion and believe — There is healing when we come to the Lord’s table.
When you ask elders to anoint with oil (James 5:14, 16) — You need to ask for somebody to come and pray for you. The Bible uses oil as a picture of the Holy Spirit and His being at work with power. We anoint with oil to welcome the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Bible says that the yoke, or what ties people up, shall be broken or destroyed because of the anointing.

May we see many healings Sunday morning!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Preserving the other person's freedom

What do you do when you hear someone say "no" to something you want?

Do you get mad, either inwardly or outwardly. You have an internal or external temper tantrum.

Do you judge the other person, thinking that they "should" do what you ask; you think they are selfish or don't care about you.

Do you go further than judging. Do you see the other person as really bad; or you don't see them as good at all. All you see is bad.

You emotionally or physically withdraw from the person.

You feel hurt or unloved.

You try to make them feel guilty, either to punish them or to get them to do what you want.

You become cynical about ever getting what you want in life or the relationship.

You turn into judge, prosecutor, and salesperson. You object to every reason they have for saying no.

You smile on the outside and hide your real feelings, going along as if it's okay when it's not.

What is essential in any good relationship?


If we are not free, we can't love.

If people feel that they can't say no to us and if they do things for us out of complusion, guilt, or feelings of obligation, they will resent doing these things. Freedom and love suffer, and even fulfilled desire can't fully fuflill because they are not given in love.

There are no magic words to show someone they are free to say no, other than telling them:

"I don't want you to feel like you "have to" do this, but could you give me a ride to work tomorrow?"

"I want you to feel totally free to not do this, so tell me if you don't want to. Will you help me move this weekend?"

"I don't want you to feel any pressure about this, so I want you to know that going in. Feel free to tell me no, okay? So here it is - I want you to join this committee with me and help me organize the Fall Event."

People who find it difficult to ask for things may find it helpful to say things like this to put the other person at ease.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Get out of my face!"

"Get out of my face!" Have you ever felt like someone was right up in your face trying to get you to perceive something from their point of view?

I know that I get a little uncomfortable if someone speaks to me "nose to nose."

We as Americans, especially appreciate "space" in our communications with others.

If a group of Koreans come to church they will all sit in a mass, huddled together. If a group of Americans come to church, they need as much space as possible, and generally sit near the back.

Joseph Myers, in his book, "A search to belong," writes that all human beings communicate and develop a sense of belonging in four relational spaces:

Public Space…………………….12 feet and beyond

Social Space …………………….4 to 12 feet

Personal Space ………………….18 inches to 4 feet

Intimate Space …………………..0 to 18 inches

All four spaces are where we connect, grow roots, and satisfy our search for community. And harmony among the spaces—all four of them—builds healthy community in individuals and organization.

The secret is to see all connections as significant. All of these spaces are important, real, and authentic in people’s lives.

People give us the gift of relational space. They want to connect and they give clues to how they would like to connect. If we try to connect in a different way, the person may feel attacked or unwanted.

It’s important to learn to “read” the space that people invite us into and to be at peace with whatever space people want to connect with us. We can have significant belonging in whatever space people invite us into.

May we be sensitive to the needs of those around us, sometimes moving ourselves—sometimes helping others move—to a space more comfortable, more harmonious and healthy.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Go or stay?

There are seasons in all of our lives whether where either by circumstances or by inner compulsions we are faced with the decision: go or stay?

It comes to all of us at various times. We live in such a transient society that the question has almost become a non-issue in some parts of our country. I read this week of a church in Southern California that has to grow by 30% each year just to keep its attendance consistent!

Are you thinking about leaving? Are you thinking about staying?

As the persecution of Jews increased during World War II, Austrian psychologist Victor Frankl had the opportunity to go to America and avoid the imminent threat of suffering. His parents were thrilled for him, but he struggled with the question: Should I leave my parents behind in Gestapo-controlled Austria? He asked God to give him a hint from heaven.

One day Victor's father, who knew nothing of his son's inner turmoil, brought him a piece of marble taken from a bombed out synagogue. It contained a small bit of writing that Victor recognized as being from the fourth commandment: Honor your father and mother.

This was the hint he had been looking for; Frankl decided to stayed. The decision was not without a price; he and his family were arrested and imprisoned. His parents died in concentration camps, and he himself spent years in Auschwitz. But he survived, and as a result he was able to provide strength and encouragement to millions through his writings-most notably his book "Man's Search for Meaning."

During this time a German theologian named Dietrich Bonhoeffer had the opportunity to take a teaching post in America. He, too, struggled with the decision. Ultimately he declined the offer, choosing to stay in Germany because he felt an obligation to be with his own countrymen during the time of national crisis. Bonhoeffer was eventually arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where he died shortly before the war ended.

Both men had the opportunity to leave; both made the decision to stay-and both paid a price for their choice.

Sometimes our best decision is to stay. Greener pastures may be calling us elsewhere, but our true calling is right where we are. Staying doesn't often result in glory and honor. In fact, it's more likely to result in suffering and hardship. And, yet, it is in choosing to stay that we most often do the most good.

The Apostle Paul wrote, Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1)

The race marked out for us. Many of us struggle with the question: How do I know whether it's time to stay or time to go? How do I know if this is the race "marked out" for me? The answer to that question can often be found in the answer to another: Are you running to avoid pain, or running to gain the prize? If your reason for wanting to go is simply to avoid something unpleasant, that might be a hint that God is calling you to stay.

In the race marked out for you, there will be times when you must take a bold step of faith into the unknown. And there will be times when you must take an even bolder step of faith into the known. And defiance of the call to the face of certain struggle.

Are you struggling with a stay-or-go decision? Ask yourself: which takes me closer to the prize? If you need a hint from heaven, God will provide one; just be ready to take an obedient next step in the race marked out for you.

I do know this: whatever decision you make will be the right decision.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

He is risen!

Peter writes, "In His great mercy, He's given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead."

In the New Testament, the word "hope" occurs one time BEFORE the resurrection of Jesus - in the book of Matthew. But, get this, it occurs 70 times AFTER the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, it doesn't take a genius to figure out where hope comes from! It comes from the resurrection. And where did the resurrection start with - a cross.

Hope begins in the darkest places of our lives.

What's the symbol of our faith? The cross. A lot of us wear a cross around our necks. It was an instrument of execution in that day. It'd be as if someone came in and saw us wearing a little electric chair around our necks. That would be just a little bit strange, don't you think?

Yet it's a perfect illustration of our faith.

The cross was a dark place and yet God turned it into a resurrection.

If you want an illustration of how God sends problems into the world to bring good into the world, don't look any farther than the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

He took that evil that was done on the cross and turned it into a resurrection that brings us light - there's the iillustration - the fact that He can bring hope.

The cross tells us that He not only understands our pain but that He can transform our pain.

Can we not be grateful for the cross and for the resurrection this Easter!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Last night at our T-group we watched a Nooma video by Rob Bell concerning church and church life. What is boils down to is that we wrestled with reasons for coming to church and fulfilling our spiritual disciplines.

The answer? Our relationship with God is based on love. As a husband giving flowers to his wife out of duty or habit is almost meaningless, so a follower of Christ fulfilling his "duties" with Christ can become as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, "meaningless, everything is meaningless." (Now that's a cheery thought for the day).

However, we can't use a relationship with God based on love as an excuse for laziness in the kingdom.

As I have taught, we act our way into a feeling, we don't feel our way into an action. Sometimes I don't feel like coming to church (especially when the Cowboys are on T.V.), sometimes I don't feel like doing my devotions.

But I do. Because I know that the moment I do, God honors that commitment and blesses me with the feelings that leave me connected with Him.

There is such a balance between license and legalism. God forbid that we become bound by rules and regulations, but by the same token, we don't want to become so based on our own feelings and emotions that we only participate in kingdom activities (both personal and corporate) when we have the time or when we "feel like it."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The cruise

Debbie and I had the wonderful opportunity and privilege of going on a cruise last week to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.

We had a great time. My favorite moment was standing at the back of the ship at sunset, watching the sun go down with my arm around Debbie. She is truly a wonderful woman and I love her a lot.

While we were on a day trip to Jamaica (the ship had two stops), we were on our way back to the ship in a taxi. We had to be back on board by 3:00 P.M. The taxi driver picked us up about 2:40. Debbie, especially, was a little bit worried about us making it back it time.

The taxi driver basically said, "No problem," (which is their country's motto). And to make matters more anxious, he stops for gas! Waving at his friends, talking with others.

As we continued on our journey he expressed, just a great philosophy on life. He asked what I do and when I told him, he said, "oh, you leave helping people with their problems to come down here to get away from your problems."

Well, yeah.

And then he went on to say, "you need to come down here for a week and understand our philosophy of life. Don't worry. Stay easy. No problem. Be grateful for what you do have. Don't worry about what you don't have."

Great stuff.

Also...We spent the day in Miami waiting on our flight which left at 8:18 P.M. at night. So, we went to a mall. What I noticed was how international the city is. A couple of salespeople I met in the mall didn't speak any English!

If I was younger I would definitely learn to speak Spanish.

So, don't worry! No problems!

Monday, April 10, 2006

persistent prayer

I love to pray. It's an innerconnection with God that stokes a relationship with God that I love.

There are different kinds of prayer. One of them is "intercessory prayer," or praying for the needs of others.

Listen to this:

"Intercessory prayer is widely believed to influence recovery from illness, but claims of benefits are not supported by well-controlled clinical trials,” states the American Heart Journal.

So, fueled by a 2.4 million dollar research grant, a 14 day study was designed to see if prayer works. 3 congregations – 2 Catholic and 1 Unity – received first names and last initials of a few hundred heart patients and were told to pray for their recovery. There was also a control group for whom, presumably, no one prayed.
The results of the study: “Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.”

What a waste of 2.4 million dollars. The power of prayer is not something that can be scientifically measured, it can’t be tied to a 2 week timetable, and It really annoys me that people who are smart enough to have access to two million dollars aren’t smart enough to figure this out.

Rick Warren says that he has been praying for the same thing every day for the past twenty something years. If it’s 30 millions books in print, I’ve got good news for him: he’s almost there. I think, however, his unspoken request is something more personal and more serious. He tells about this long term petition to make a point: You keep praying until you get an answer. Sometimes we see results in a few days. Sometimes it may take a lifetime. If it’s worth praying for, it’s worth your persistence.

Luke wrote, “Then he spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1) I’ll write specifically about the parable someday, but Luke’s summary is important enough for now.

Jesus says keep praying, “and not give up,” as the NIV says. Even after 14 days, or 14 years, or whatever type of time limit we’ve tried to oppose on God’s ability to answer, we need to keep praying.

Whatever your long-term request is: Don’t lose heart. God has promised to hear."

Good stuff.