Monday, July 06, 2015

Let's Learn from our History

The following observation of the Wesleyan Church by historians, McLeister and Nicholson, is fascinating:  "It is significant that our greatest losses occurred in those periods when our church was debating questions of reform; and our greatest gains occurred in those periods when our church was most zealous in promoting holiness evangelism."   Perhaps we should learn something from our history.

(Ira F. McLeister & Roy S. Nicholson, Conscience and Commitment: History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America, 1976, p. 643.)

Friday, July 03, 2015

Fishing for Opportunities

The other day, while casting a line, I began to think about how fishing and discovering opportunities are alike.

If you want to "land" a few golden opportunities -- you have to go fishing! Whether at home, work, church, or civic organization -- you can catch a few golden opportunities, if you apply certain laws of fishing.

1. Go where they are.
Nobody has ever caught a fish in the bathtub or the backyard wading pool -- and you won't catch opportunities by waiting around for them to come to you. The chances of catching a fish increase greatly when you go fishing. How much energy and time are you investing in future possibilities? How often do you look for the opportunities around you? Where do you want to go in life? Does the path you are currently following lead to that destination?

2. Keep your eyes open. Good fishermen are always watching for signs of a hungry fish. Often, a causual observer will not even notice -- but an angler will see the slightest indication. When fishing for opportunities -- keep your eyes wide open! Some folks wouldn't recognize a good opportunity if it bit them on the toe! What opportunities are before you right now? What are you going to do about them?

3. Think possibility! Whenever I take my kids out fishing, we expect to catch something wonderful this time. We talk about the record muskies and the beautiful walleye we're anticipating. Even if we don't land any, it's fun to dream. When fishing for opportunities, you will maintain enthusiasm as you think about what could possibly be. Are you settling for small thoughts, or are you stretching you brain with big possibilities? Are you content with catching minnows, when you could be landing muskies?

4. Keep casting. If you get skunked, keep casting. many novice fishermen decide that fishing's just not for them because they don't catch anything right away. That happens with opportunities too. You have to keep plugging away. Keep looking for new, creative ideas. Keep your mind open -- and sooner or later, the big one will sink the bobber. Are you discouraged? Tempted to quit? Don't give up! Keep casting!

5. You can't catch all the fish. Don't mope and pout about missed opportunities. Every great fisherman has stories of the "one that got away." Missing an opportunity should simply be motivation for catching the next one. Are you spending too much time bemoaning the opportunity that passed you by? Bait your hook, and go fishing again!

6. Use the right bait. Different kinds of opportunities require different approaches. What kind of opportunity are you trying to land? Are you going about it the best way possible? If you are not landing the right kind of opportunities, perhaps you are going about it in the wrong way. Think again! Evaluate!

7. Take someone with you. Fishing with friends is a lot more fun than fishing alone. As you go after new opportunities, be sure you take others with you on the journey. Who is in the boat with you?

8. Timing is everything. The fish bite better at certain times than others -- and the same thing applies with potential opportunities. What are the natural "windows of opportunity" in your situation? How are you making the most of them?

9. Celebrate! Celebrate! Catching a wonderful fish is cause for great celebration -- and landing a great opportunity is too. Take a moment to rejoice -- and then toss out the line again!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Fires Bring Blueberries

Strong winds blew down a swath of trees -- leaving jagged trunks jutting from the earth.

 Driving by a few days later, we shook our heads and sadly recalled how beautiful the land used to be.

 I grumbled against the wind.

 Good hearted loggers tried to clean it up a bit -- by clearing some of the windfall. Their honest efforts, however, seemed more an invasion of nature than a healing. Their cuttings left deep scars, cold and stark.

 I drove by, shook my head, and grumbled against the loggers.

 The burning followed. How the fire started is still a puzzle -- perhaps a lightening strike, an engine spark, or a careless cigarette. Regardless of the start, it took the firefighting volunteers a full effort for the finish. Acres of charred stubble marred the landscape.

 I grumbled against the fire.

 But passing time has a way of healing scarred soil and human hearts. From blackened ground, new life emerges.

Twelve seasons later, quite by accident, we happened upon the barren place and were amazed to find bushes loaded with raspberries -- and a new patch of wild blueberries growing near the earth!

We joyfully filled a couple of ice cream buckets with sweet treasure.

 Before dinner that evening, we bowed our heads, thanked God for the berries and

Blessed the wind,
Blessed the loggers and
Blessed the fire.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Following Jesus Hard or Easy?

“Only the one who follows the command of Jesus single-mindedly, and unresistingly lets his yoke rest upon him, finds his burden easy, and under its gentle pressure receives the power to persevere in the right way. The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.”  

-- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Four Secrets for Effective Communication

Communication is to love what blood is to the body. When it ceases to flow, love dies, and rigor mortis of resentment sets in.

The ancient prophet, Amos, asked the rhetorical question, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?"

Bob, walking by his neighbor's house, saw him struggling with a couch halfway in the front door. He walked up to his friend and asked, "Hey Fred, need a hand?"

"Sure!" came the reply, "I'm glad you stopped by. This has been a real challenge,"

So, he grabbed the end of the couch and started pushing -- but it wouldn't budge an inch. For about twenty minutes, both men struggled and strained as hard as they could, but made absolutely no progress.

Finally, dropping the couch from exhaustion, Bob said, "You know, Fred, this is just crazy! I can't understand why it's so hard for us to get this couch into the house."

"Into the house??" Fred replied, "I've been trying to push it OUT of the house!!"

When we don't communicate we often end up working against each other. We can't walk together unless we're going the same direction.

None of us are mind readers, so the only way to go the same direction is through clear, loving communication.

Doesn't communication cause fights? What if the things I need to communicate are hurtful? Isn't it better to just shut up and bear it?

Certainly, unwise and thoughtless communication can cause fights, but the lack of communication causes far more fights -- a hundred times more! It's better to communicate even the unpleasant things, rather than bottling them up inside, if you want your relationships to thrive.

The secret here is to practice the fine art of "disagreeing agreeably." This is mostly a matter of keeping a right attitude and sweet spirit as you tackle challenging issues.

All relationships require give and take. Great relationships require give and give!

1) Give In. You don't have to always get your way to be happy. Sometimes, the best and most loving thing is to submit to the other person's point of view, even if it's not your preference.

2) Give More. Can you give more love, attention and energy to this relationship? Make it your aim to outdo one another in love.

3) Give Way. Allow the other person some latitude and space.  Honor and respect the unique individuality of the other person.

4)  But Don't Give Up! You can't truly love somebody until you've been through some difficult times together. Don't quit when times are tough. Instead, dig in deeper, and discover the riches of loving forbearance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prayer Doesn't Bring Revival

Samuel Chadwick is one of my favorite holiness authors.  His little book, The Way to Pentecost, is a classic.  Lately I've been pondering this observation from Chadwick: "Prayer doesn't bring revival."   At first glance, that doesn't sound right. Anyone who knows anything abour revivals says that prayer is essential to every great movement of God.  

But, prayer, alone, does not bring revival.  If it did, then the Pharisees would have been the greatest renewal leaders in history -- they prayed a lot. However, their prayers were mostly perfunctory.

The secret is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then they shall hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin and heal their land."

So, there we have it -- some important things that need to go along with our praying if we are to experience significant spiritual breakthrough.
1) Humility (Realizing our utter dependence upon our Savior)
2) Seeking the Face of God -- His Lordship -- saying "yes" to His will.
3) Turning from Wicked Ways -- to renounce sin (not just DE-nounce it, but Re-nounce it -- turn away from it!)

Seek God in humble obedience. turn from sin and then look out! Big change is on the way! The Lord wants to do something wonderful in your life!