Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Advice for a New Pastor

A friend contacted me, seeking advice as he began the pastorate of a new church.  Here's how I responded:

1)  You only have four jobs:  preach, pray, lead and love -- not necessarily in that order.  Your prayer life is the single most important factor in your ministry -- you must maintain a robust soul, overflowing with Christ for effective ministerial service,.

2)  Loving people is the key -- and not just the people in your  congregation -- but the whole community.  That means intentionally going out to seek them.  By default, most pastors stay in their offices too much, when they need to be out where people are.

3)  Look for those who are suffering and bring love to them -- and better yet, take someone with you when you go.  This is a blessing in more than one respect -- and will multiply favor and blessing when you demonstrate the compassion of Christ.

4)  Don't get worked up about little things -- most issues aren't worth the fight.  Go with the flow mostly - -and save protests for the big stuff.

5)  Assume 85-90 percent of the responsibility for getting along with people.  (some are unreasonable -- that's why I don't say 100 percent) -- but if you "get along" with others, they will "go along": with you.

6)  Preach with stories -- illustration works far better than explanation.

7)  Schedule at least one connection with a non-church person each week -- more if you can.

8)  If you don't know them already, within the first week or so, make appointments with community leaders -- such as the mayor, police chief, school supt, postmaster, funeral director - -they need to know who you are and what you're doing.  When you meet them, make it brief - -without any requests or expectations.

9)  Mobilize your people to bless the community -- have discussions with them -- what are the dark placees in our community?  How can we light a candle in the darkness?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eight Ways to Make a Good Day

1. Determine to have a good day.

Make up your mind that you are going to make the best of this day, no matter what! A firm decision to live positively is half the battle.

2. Start your day with a prayer. 

Before you get out of bed, pause and thank God for your life and ask for guidance and wisdom.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. 

Isn't it funny how we can become so uptight about non-essentials? My friend, Eunice Walker, calls these petty frustrations "bugs on the windshield of life." Refuse to let minor annoyances get the best of you.

4. Look for postcards from heaven. 

Every day God sends postcards that say, "I love you." He hides them in the most unexpected places - and you have to search in order to find them. Each day is packed full of blessings for you to enjoy. Look again!

5. Release your resentment and regret. 

Some people are hostage to the past. Regret and resentment (the Siamese twins of misery) bind us up so we cannot enjoy the present. Yesterday is history. You can't go back and change it - but you can do something about today. Make the most of your moments - and do not allow bandits from your past to rob your joy.

6. Invest your life in service to others. 

One of the best ways to be happy and fulfilled in life is to be a blessing to others. Look for ways to help and encourage other people, and you will be rewarded with happiness. I've never yet met a generous grouch.

7. Always tell the truth. 

Honesty brings freedom to the soul.

8. Nurture your most important relationships. 

Be sure to cherish your faith, family and friends. Don't get so caught up in the hectic pace of making a living that you forget to make a life. The human heart is rich, indeed, when full of love.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Happy Belated Birthday to John Calvin

Yesterday was John Calvin's 505th birthday.

Happy Belated Birthday to You!
Happy Belated Birthday to You!
Happy Belated Birthday Dear Johnny-Boy!
Happy Belated Birthday To You!

Q: What do get when John Piper drinks Mountain Dew?
A: A Hyper Calvinist!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Matter of Perspective

The rain had ended. The sun was shining. A beautiful rainbow arched across the sky.

"Isn't this a beautiful day?" the robin chirped contentedly.

"That, my friend," said the snail, as he raised his mud-soaked face, "is a matter of perspective."

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

When Life Feels Like a Pressure Cooker

When you are under tremendous stress, and life feels like a pressure cooker, then it's time to stop and evaluate what's happening inside of you.  Stress is like the red lights on the automobile dashboard.  It indicates a warning that something under the hood needs attention.  Here are a few questions to consider when you feel the tension rising:

1)  What symptoms indicate that I am stressed out?  

2)  What are the immediate and underlying causes of my tension?  Often, the thing that is "stressing us out", is just a symptom and not the cause.  Look beneath the immediate situation.

3)  Am I living at a sustainable pace?  Look back at your schedule over the past two weeks and ask yourself, "Is this sane?"

4)  Do I have enough breathing room between events and responsibilities?  If not, what can I eliminate from my life?

5)  Is this temporary or permanent?  Is there light at the end of the tunnel, or am I just digging a deeper hole?

6)  Am I operating out of my delight, passion and giftedness?  If not, is there a way to rearrange my duties to live more in the sweet spot?

7)  What do those closest to me feel about the way I'm interacting with them?  

8)  How has stress impacted my relationships?  

9)  How important is this?   Does it fit with my stated priorities?   Ask yourself this question before agreeing to anything new.

10)  What drains me?  Where and when are energy leaks occurring?  Can I do anything about that?

11)  How am I doing spiritually?  Is my soul well nourished?  If not, what can I do to replenish?

12)  Is there bitterness or resentment in my heart?  Unresolved anger is a primary source of inner pressure.

13)  Am I eating right?  Poor nutrition and unhealthy stress are partners.  People get crabby when they're not being fed.

14)  Do I have a schedule of exercise?  Physical exertion is a great way to reduce frustration and inner pressure.

15)  Am I a praying person?  Prayer builds faith, and faith reduces anxiety.

16)  Am I getting enough sleep?  With limited exceptions, humans require 7-8 hours of sleep per night.   Fatigue makes troubles seem bigger than they are.

17)  Are there relational conflicts that need resolution?  Is there anything I can do about that?  Am I humble and courageous enough to take the first step?

18)  What do I do for fun?  As the old saying goes, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."

19)  Am a taking time for sabbath?  We are wired to rest on a regular basis.  Take some time to stop working and rejuvenate and refresh your mind, body and soul.

20)  Am I thankful?  Gratitude and happiness are lifelong partners.  You can't find one without the other.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mary Schaller Endorses Purple Fish

To those who want to be Christ’s ambassadors in this needy world (and that should be all of us who claim to be followers of Jesus): make way for Mark Wilson and his purple fish lessons.  You’ll learn how natural it can be to talk about God and build relationships with those who believe differently through embracing our common humanity, encouragement and love.  And that is always good news! 
- Mary Schaller, President of Q Place

Purchase Purple Fish today!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Heaven's No!

Several years ago, I was deeply troubled with some issues at the church. Problems overwhelmed me.  Perplexities piled up. Life was hard, anxiety abounded, and everywhere I looked, misunderstandings multiplied.

In a discouraged moment, I decided to call my mentor, Loring Peterson. He'd know just what to do. Loring had preceeded me at the church, and I always could count on him for a good word of wisdom and encouragement.

"Hey, Mark!" he answered the phone cheerfully, "How are you doing up there in the frozen tundra?" (He'd retired to Florida.)

"Don't ask, Loring! It's just terrible! I have more troubles than I can count. Every time I turn around, new problems pop up. Loring, would you please pray for God to take away my problems?"

I was astonished when my esteemed mentor shouted, "NO! Heavens, No!"

"What? No? I thought you cared! I thought you understood! Why won't you pray for me?"

"I'll pray for you alright -- but I'm sure NOT going to ask the good Lord to take your problems!"

"W-w-why not?" I muttered.

Because, all those problems have to do with people -- right?  And if I asked God to take away all your problems, He'd take away all your people! Now, you don't want THAT do you?"

I gulped, "Well, I suppose not."

"So, Instead of praying that God will take away your problems, I'm going to pray that God will help you face 'em head on. I'm going to pray that you will endure the problems like a good soldier, that you will learn something valuable from 'em and that you will come through them all shining like gold!"

"I'll pray that God will help you love people, the way Jesus loves them, and that you will stay sweet, no matter what happens or anybody says or does against you."

"Now, if you'd be satisfied with that kind of prayer, I'd be happy to send one up on your behalf."

I accepted.