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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Win, Win Situations

It was a year ago that I had the opportunity to travel to my home state of Texas on business for the company I work for. It was a conference on Win Win Negotiations for purchasing agents, buyers, and salespersons. In this conference, we learned how to negotiate deals that would be a Win Win situation for all parties involved. Win Win negotiations is not just about saving companies money but it's about building lasting business relationships while improving business ethics and overtime saving money (which is the big to do at my company).

Over the past few months (and even more recently), I thought about the conference as it relates to the church and asked myself the question, How many times do we in the church create Win Win situations for all parties involved? Unfortunately, we don't in many cases! Instead, we use the voting system to resolve conflicts and make tough decisions. When in fact voting is not creating a win win situation. Instead, it creates a win lose situation that does more harm than good. Bob Sheffield a pastoral ministries specialists for Lifeway says;

"Church conflicts, which have resulted in strong emotional differences of opinions, are not resolved in a majority church vote. In a majority vote situation, the majority voters may leave the meeting declaring, “We won!” The minority voters may leave with a feeling of, “we lost … but we will get them next time.” The next time may be a month, a year, or longer. As a result of this type of “win-lose” vote, I have observed church families with long standing distrust and built up resentment. When this happens, every vote, no matter how insignificant, becomes a “win-lose” vote".

Let me summarize, Nobody wins in voting situations in the church!

Scripture is silent on the issue of voting as far as it's procedures, principles, etc. is concerned from what I can research. The only guiding principle for voting in the church is "Robert's Rules of Order" which in many churches today have more authority than the Bible.

As I thought about this, the text I'm studying to preach in a series of sermons, FGMBC F-I-R-S-T Essentials - Our commitment to Fellowship - Hebrews 10:19-25. The text exhorts the church to; "Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting to together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially that the day of His coming back is drawing near"(NLT).

Creating an atmosphere of win, win is thinking of ways to encourage each member in the church to love and good deeds. The guiding princples in these verses communicate:

First, The Mentality of Fellowship - The text is clear, along with it's many cross references, that we should protect the unity and fellowship of the church by protecting our mind from selfish agendas and impure motives. When we look for, join, and participate in the church, many people come with a mentality of what do you (the church) have to offer? It's on rare occassions when people join and ask, what can I do to help the ministry?

Secondly, The Ministry of Fellowship - Question, what is the goal of Christian fellowship? To encourage one another to outburst of love and goods. True genuine fellowship is more than just hanging out at the church. We come together for the express purpose of encouraging each other to become better Christians today than they were on yesterday.

Thirdly, The Meeting of Fellowship - We should not stop participating in the church with our talents, tithes, and time simply because things don't go our way. The church is not perfect (yet) because the church is filled with imperfect people, like you and I. But thank God, in all of the churches imperfections, He (God) still loves His church and has not giving up on His church nor should you.

Bottom-line: Creating a win, win situation in the church is protecting the unity and fellowship of the church by protecting our minds from selfish agendas, encouraging each other towards love and good deeds, and constantly meeting together in the general assembly of the saints.

Handling differences in the church is not easy and can be very frustrating. But we can overcome differences by creating a win, win attitude in the church. May God bless you until next time.

Remember, your tomorrow will be better than your today!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rest for the Weary

Jesus says in Matthew 11; "Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest". I took the advice of Jesus this weekend and rested with Him and my family. It's been extremely stressful, frustrating, irritating, painful, and down right unbelieveable for me in these last few weeks. So this weekend, I spent my time with the family. Saturday was fun. My and wife went to the Getty Center Musuem because she had to do a paper for school on some of the artwork. There was one section of the museum that caught my attention, "Imagingng Christ".

This exhibition features images of Christ in illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The images show the multiple ways in which Christ was understood: as the son of God and as God, as human and divine, as the sacrifice made for mankind, and as the divine judge who would save or condemn humanity at the end of time. The images in the exhibition, primarily from western European manuscripts, demonstrate how medieval and Renaissance faithful sought to participate in Christ's suffering and salvation through art and prayer.

Here is a capture of a few art pieces I thought were very interesting:

"Invoking Christ In Word and Ritual" Catholic depiction of Christ by 6th Century Pope Gregory the Great

In medieval and Renaissance churches, gilded metal-relief sculptures of Christ and sculpted metal book covers gave physical form to the logos (word of God). These highly symbolic works of art reinforced the ways in which Christ was made present through church services.This figure was one of a larger group that likely covered the front of an altar in the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Ourense, Spain. An entire altar decorated with similar figures and surrounded by flickering lamps emitted a golden glow in the church, bringing to mind Christ's words from the Gospel of John, "He who sees me, sees Him who sent me. I have come as a light into the world."

There were many other artwork pieces that were very interesting and disturbing. The reason I say they were disturbing is because many people in time past, present, and the future feel the need to believe in God with visible signs and images. And all the artwork pieces just confirms my belief that we living times of visible faith.

Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:7, "We walk by faith and not by sight." And Jesus says to Thomas in John 20:29; "Thomas, because you have seen me you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe".

We see God in every aspect of life as we see His creation each morning we wake up. Thank God we can believe in God without shadows of His image.

If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved. - Romans 10:9

Remember, your tomorrow will be better than your today!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Missed Opportunity

I remember as if it was yesterday! I was chosen to preach at my home church next Sunday. I had a text that I was already studying. And to prepare, Monday I began to read selected text and context for accurate interpretation. I was riding the bus through Downtown L.A. with my Bible open reading my text. The bus made it's stop at 9th and Broadway. As I looked out the window, there was a man who looked homeless, hungry, and hurting. I thought to myself; "He's not about to get on this bus". And sure enough, he got on the my bus. The bus wasn't that crowded there were plenty of seats in the front and in the back but he decided to sit next to me. I did everything I could to discourage him from taken that seat next to me. It didn't work. He sat down with the smell of bad hygiene and alcohol and the bus started our journey that seem to last a life time. Normally, the bus driver would speed down 9th St but this day he decided to drive like a turtle. It seemed like it took 30 minutes to get to the next stop. It was my hope that my trusty travel companion would not be a trusty travel companion for long. And then it happened, he spoke to me; "What are you reading?" I responded with a bad attitude (I must admit), "The Bible!" "The Bible" he says. "Yes, the Bible", I responded. He began this quest of bad theology 101 and then he proceeded to tell me his life story. In a short time, I learned his profession, educational background, family history, and what caused him to be the position he was in. But none of that really matter to me. I had one thing on my mind, I have to preach this coming Sunday and he was interrupting my devotional time. I never said a word in hope that my silence would silence him but it didn't work, he kept talking.

Finally, my stop had arrived. I gathered all of my stuff with a quickness, pulled the cord, and said; "He excuse me, this is my stop". I got off the bus and it felt like my feet was stuck in cement, I couldn't move. As the bus pulled off, he and I made eye contact and the expression on his face was that of a man needing to know our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. At that point it came to me, YOU MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHARE CHRIST! Here I am preparing to preach for 100+ people when in fact the best sermon I could have preached that day was to one person who needs Jesus Christ in they're life. I'll never forget that day as long as I live.

Over the years principles were developed to insure that I don't miss opportunities like that again.

First principle, The Soveriegnty of God Presents Opportunities. It is my conviction that God is in control of everything even opportunities to share our faith. God strategically places people in our lives for the express purpose of sharing our faith with them much like He did with the man on my bus ride. We meet people in the grocery line waiting to check out. Often times, we think it's our personality that strikes up a conversation in the express line. Pay close attention, God can be opening a door for you to share your faith that specific person at that specific time.

Second principle, Discernment is Required. To take advantage of opportunities, we need to be aware of the opportunity when it's presented to us. This means, we must be constantly in prayer for the salvation of others. 1 Timothy 2 verses 1-4 says: THEREFORE I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. I must admit, I was not aware of this opportunity and now I can never get it back.

Third principle, Faith is the Key. Faith is trusting God to do His part as we do our part. Evangelism is a partnership between us and God. 1 Corinthians 3:1-6 says (paraphased); "Some plant, others water, but God gives the increase." Take risk for God in sharing your faith, it works.

Remember, tomorrow is brighter than your today.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

How To Minister To Those Who Don't Like You

I received a rather interesting email devotional today from Building Church Leaders. All of us have dealt with difficult people in our lifetime be on a job, in our homes, at school, in the church, or just driving down the street. But according to Gary Preston author of "Dealing with Difficult People", he says; "Being a leader is hard enough. But what about leading those who don't like you? I'll take a step further, being a Christian, ministering to those who don't like is tough as well. Here are few pointers to overcome the difficulty of ministering to difficult people:

Resist What Comes Naturally- In ministry, doing what comes naturally is often the best approach. That's not true, however, when it comes to minstering difficult people. One of our natural responses is to distance ourselves from difficult people. But, we must learn to make it a point to seek out difficult people and spend a few moments talking together. Even if our contact with the person doesn't solve the problem, it builds a bridge rather than a wall between us. There is something positive and healing about face-to-face contact with people at odds with us.

Invite Talks About Sensitive Subjects - It's important to let people know that even subjects of conflict can be discussed; they don't end the relationship.

Keep Private Battles Private - Gary Preston illustrates this point; "One person had battled me repeatedly about my emphasis on evangelism. At a business meeting, the subject of evangelism came up, and several people expressed excitement about how the church was finally reaching out. I took the opportunity to point out that one of my most vocal critics was part of a shrinking minority. I had scored a major victory on this issue, and a public one at that—or so I thought. Ultimately, the statement came back to haunt me. Just as a negative political ad campaign can generate sympathy for the opponent, so too can a public attack against someone in the church. Even though people didn't agree with this man's position, they disagreed even more with my public attack of him. Some things are best left unsaid". Don't make private battles public. It's easy to go public with personal battles from the pulpit and on the phone. But often times it does more harm than good.

Practice Kindness - It is amazing what acts of kindness can do to build bridges to people.

When Best Efforts Fall Short - Of course, no approach to dealing with difficult people will be successful with all the people all the time. But, the more we seek to love difficult people, the more God uses them to refine us into the image of Christ. After all, learning to love people is one of the ways we become like Christ.

Thanks Gary Preston.
I pray you today is better than yesterday.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My First Blog...

This is my first blog. I've followed blog content for the last year or so to determine it's benefits. I must admit that from the content I've read over the last year, blogging is very therapeutic in a sense especially for pastors. However, my express purpose for blogging is evangelistic. This is my attempt to create a line of communication for unsaved people who otherwise will not enter the church for whatever reason to meet a loving God who desires to see them saved. The Great Commission does instruct us to "Go, make disciples of all nations... (Matthew 28:18-20)". Being a bi-vocational pastor affords me the opportunity to share my blog with co-workers and their families. While door-to-door evangelism is an effective means to reach lost people. The internet is even more effective for evangelism because it reaches the world in addition to our immediate surroundings.

While my primary reasoning for blogging is to reach lost people. I, too, want to create an avenue of effective communication for our Christian community to encourage them to be fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. I'm discovering more and more recently the importance of networking among Christians in the work of the Lord. Ministry is hard work! One person cannot do it all by themselves. Plus, there is encouragement, strength, and knowledge when speaking and/or reading about other ministries who strive for ministry excellence. For instance, my church is faced with many challenges (no opportunities) that I would not have been able to handle, prayerfully, had it not been for prior experiences to reach back and draw from. And when speaking to others in ministry further confirms my need to network with others who experienced some of the same challenges. I told you therapeutic!

So, I pray my blogging efforts will glorify God and edify the church through internet technology to advance the kingdom of God for His glory alone.

Be encouraged for tomorrow will be better than your today.