She was Staring Right into Me

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I left the college talent show audition with my head down and walked across the crowded conference center. Not really wanting to see anyone I knew, I found a secluded patio and decided to lay low and nurse my wounds. I had never done well with rejection.

Trying to work through my feelings, I sat on one of the benches, leaned my head back, and closed my eyes. After a couple of minutes, I sighed heavily and opened my eyes. To my surprise, an older woman was right in front of me, staring right into me.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” she said with a British accent, “May I sit for a moment?”

“Sure,” I replied, wondering if that was the best course of action.

She sat and smiled. “There’s something God wants you to know.”

“Ok,” I replied cautiously.

“You are unique and loved by God. He has very special plans for your life.”

She smiled once again, stood, and walked away.  Suddenly encouraged, I left to find my friends.

That evening, while sitting with 2,000 college students, I watched as that same lady was introduced as the main speaker for the evening.  Slowly she walked to the front of the stage, looked slowly across the audience, and said, “I am here tonight to tell you something very important. You should never forget it. You are unique and loved by God.”

I have long since forgotten the name of the woman, but her words remain. I think of them often when I feel discouraged. They’re true for me and true for you as well.

You are unique and loved by God.

Photo by Averie Woodard, courtesy of Unsplash

 

 

Steps to Improving Spoken Transitions

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It was the early 90’s. I had big hair, a mustache, and huge shoulder pads in my sports jacket. In the midst of our worship set, I was verbally transitioning to the old praise song Behold the Lamb. I had planned to share about how John the Baptist pointed to Jesus and proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

It was going well, so I took it further than I had planned.

Big. Mistake.

Here’s what I ended up saying:

“Jesus is the Lamb of God. He’s the only person who has ever lived who has lived a totally sinful life.”

And then, without realizing my mistake, I said it once again.

Spoken transitions, no matter where they fall, are extremely important for the flow of a worship service. If one goes badly, the worship leader or preaching pastor may never fully re-engage the people.

Here are 3 steps I believe can help us all improve our spoken transitions:

Think. Take time to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Think about the words you are going to say. Think about the people who will be hearing your words. Think about what is coming after the transition.

Script. Take time to script out what you are going to say. Then, tighten it up by shortening it as much as possible. Remove unnecessary or repeated words and phrases.

Practice. Take time to rehearse what you’ve scripted out. Start by reading your what you’ve written aloud. Chances are, you’ll make a small adjustment or two. Then, stand in front of a mirror and practice until what you are saying feels more natural to you.

These 3 steps all have two words in common.

Take Time.

If something is worth being said, it’s worth taking the necessary time to make it as good as possible. Hopefully, by doing so, you can avoid telling your congregation that Jesus lived a sinful life.

Mourning the Loss of a Giant

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I was sitting alone in a cafe, waiting for my friends to arrive, when I read the news for the first time. As I scanned the headlines on my phone, I read about further resignations of pastors, elders, and leaders from a ministry I once held dear (and still care about). Even though I continued with my day, I must admit that a haze clouded my day. In my own way, I suppose I was mourning for people I had never met personally, but who nevertheless had a deep impact on my life and ministry. I was also grieving the damage that has been done to the church of God.

I know it sounds weird to think of it, but many of those involved have, at one time or another, been my heroes in and of the faith. It reminds me the song Show Me The Way recorded by the group Styx recorded many years ago:

Every night I say a prayer in the hopes that there’s a heaven

But every day I’m more confused as the saints turn in to sinners.

All the heroes and legends I knew as a child have fallen to idols of clay

And I feel this empty place inside, so afraid that I’ve lost my faith…

Now, I haven’t lost my faith in God, but my faith in others, especially Christian leaders, has been shaken a bit. I’m still going to follow the Lord, and serve Him with all that I am, but I am mourning. I do feel an empty place inside. So what do I do?

I’m going to pray. James wrote the following in James 1:5 – If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. I need wisdom and God is ready and willing to grant my request.

I’m going to forgive. In Mark 11:25, Jesus said, But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in Heaven will forgive your sins, too. The Styx song above makes many points, but it’s got the order wrong in the first verse. Granted, some saints are considered to be sinners, but as Christians we know that we’re all sinners that have been transformed into saints only by the grace of our Lord.

EI’m going to refuse to put people, even Christian leaders and teachers, on a pedestal. I read an article this morning suggesting several up and coming Christian leaders to follow in the wake of the latest fall. It’s probably a timely article, but it irritated me that it’s just suggesting new human replacements for hero gaps that should really be filled by the Lord. The Apostle Paul wrote the following in Colossians 3:1-4 – Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all His glory.

I’ve learned from Ecclesiastes that there’s a time to mourn. I’m still doing that today. But I’m not going to let what’s happened destroy my relationship with the Lord or keep me from His people or from worship services or small groups. I’m pressing forward, holding tight to Jesus.

He is still God.

Jesus is still Lord.

And I will follow Him.

We can never be Superman, but we can be Iron Man

I meet with a group of guys every Thursday morning at 7. We joke a lot, eat breakfast, study the Bible, and pray for each other. We serve together feeding the homeless on a monthly basis. Our group is classified on the church database as Just For Men, but we don’t like that name because it reminds us of a hair coloring product. Instead, we just call it our Men’s Life Group.

This past week, we were looking at a passage of scripture in Ephesians which talks about putting on the full armor of God. During our discussion, we had a realization that could only come out of a men’s (or boy’s) group.

We can never be Superman, but we can be Iron Man.

Let me explain, in Ephesians 6:13-17 (NLT), Paul writes the following:

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of the truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Being guys, this led us to thinking about Iron Man’s body armor which covers his whole body and is connected to his shoes, belt, and helmet. We figured he would have to borrow Captain America’s shield.

The point is, people today like to think of themselves as Superman. We can do everything ourselves. We’re faster (or as fast as) the Flash, we can fly faster than Wonder Woman’s invisible jet, and we have the strength of the Hulk. But the real truth is, even with our gifts and talents, we are defenseless without the full armor of God. If we’re going to make it, we need the suit. To take it even further, the armor only works because of a renewed heart.

Kind of cool, huh?

Maybe we should call our group the Iron Man Life Group. What do you think?

What D.L. Moody realized at the end of his life

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D.L. Moody was a shoe salesman turned preacher, evangelist, and publisher who often spoke to crowds from 10,000 to 20,000 people. It is said that in his lifetime, he presented the gospel, by voice or literature, to at least 100 million people.
This great evangelist spoke mainly to adults around the world, but neat the end of his life, D.L. Moody said:
“If I could relive my life, I would devote my entire ministry
to reaching children for God!”
Wow. He understood what we should all understand.
If we reach children for Christ, they can live their entire lives knowing Jesus.
If we disciple children, we can impact an entire generation for Jesus.
If we help children grow closer to the Lord, they will seek after Him for a lifetime.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Then, Jesus “placed His hands on their heads and blessed them…”
It’s time we all remember how important it is that all children, red, yellow, black, brown, and white, are precious in the sight of the Lord. Jesus loves them. He knows what they need. He wants to bless them. He wants to know each of them in a personal way.
*photo courtesy of Joshua Coleman of Unsplash

What Makes Christianity Different

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Once, during a British conference on comparative religions, experts were discussing if there was any belief truly unique to Christianity.  Creation, incarnation, and resurrection were quickly eliminated because of examples in other religions. C.S. Lewis wandered into the room and enquired as to the topic of conversation. When the debate was explained to him, without hesitation, Lewis replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

Grace is so simple that it baffles the experts. Grace is what makes Christianity unique. Because of it, we have the opportunity to know Jesus as Savior and Friend. Grace helps us understand the difference between happiness and joy. It allows us to conquer all of our fears. There is nothing we can do to earn grace and there is no way that we can destroy it. In Ephesian 1:5-6, the Apostle Paul wrote: He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.  

Grace is free and yet it is also priceless. It truly is amazing.

Since such grace has been given to us, we should always strive to treat others with grace. In doing so, we are imitating our Heavenly Father.

*Photo courtesy of Alina Strong from Unsplash

 

Confessions from Birthday #49

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The rumors are true. Yesterday was my forty ninth birthday. I prefer to think of it as thirty nineteen.
As usual, I was in my annual birthday funk, outwardly appreciating the people who reached out to me with birthday wishes, cards, gifts, and food, but inwardly dreading the thought of getting older.
It’s not just adding a year to my age that’s bothersome, it’s the thought that I have lived another year without fully doing and being what and who I feel I need to be.
Basically, on my birthday, no matter what birthday, I’m usually disappointed with myself and where I am in life. In those times, I usually feel that everyone feels the same way, including the Lord.
But today, finally removed from my day of self torment, I remember His character, I remember His grace, and I remember His love. In Jeremiah 31, the Lord was quoted as saying, I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself. 
His love for us, including me, is everlasting. He has loved me with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31). God so loved me that He sent His only Son. (John 3:16)
God demonstrates His love for me in this, while I was still sinning against Him, Christ died for me. (Romans 5:8)
This is real love-not that I loved God, but that He loved me and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away my sins. (1 John 4:10)
He loves me so very much. He loves you in the same way, with an everlasting love. He loved you so much that He sent His only Son. He demonstrated His love for when Christ died for you while you were yet a sinner. This real love is not because you loved Him, but that He loved you and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away your sins.
However odd it may sound, I can sense Him speaking to you and I by singing the lyrics of this song by the late Fred Rogers:
It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear.
It’s not the way you do your hair,
But it’s you I like.
The way you are right now,
Way down deep inside you.
Not the things that hide you.
Not your toys, they’re just beside you.
 
And it you I like,
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings,
whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember,
Even when you’re feeling blue.
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself, it’s you.
It’s you I like.
God doesn’t just like us, He loves us more than we’ll ever know.
He loves us with an everlasting love, even on our birthday.
#photo courtesy of Unsplash

Sound Booth Sabotage

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“There must be a culprit in the sanctuary,” I thought.

The video equipment had been set up and taken down by the same faithful volunteers for close to a year and a half without any problem. Now, each week, throughout the service, the video system would suddenly lose connection for a second or two and then return to normal. It started happening once every five minutes or so, then the problem grew steadily worse.

Pastors, leaders, technicians, and volunteers were all baffled over the situation. Over the course of several weeks, different teams tried updating the presentation system, double checking the connections, updating the computer, using different computers, checking the multiple adapters, replacing a converter, checking the temperature of the equipment, and checking the stress on the cabling, all to no avail.

In the end, I wondered, “Could someone be sabotaging the system?”

Finally, the entire system was setup during the week by a small group, determined to double check every connection until the issue was discovered. However, when everything was setup, the problem could not be reproduced.

Fortunately, one of the team members received a text message, and the problem occurred. Testing a theory, he sent a text message, and the disconnect happened again. Then, the technicians realized that a phone could simply be placed near certain connection points and the glitch would occur. The team found a thicker, more insulated cable and retested the system, placing cell phones over the cables and sending text messages back and forth.

No glitch.

The culprit in the sanctuary had been found. Unseen frequencies, which had previously not been released for cell phone use, had been steadily increasing in the room as people had updated their phones, thereby causing problems in the wired video equipment.

Crazy, right?

Thank the Lord we were able to purchase higher grade, better insulated cables. We’ve since learned that this will become more of an issue for sound and video systems overtime, so we’re taking steps to make the necessary equipment replacements ahead of time. It’s either that or make everyone check their cell phone at the door and I don’t see that happening.

8 Reasons Why You Should Never Ask A Woman if She Is Pregnant

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Ok, just in case you don’t know this already, never, never, never, never, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant.

  1. If she isn’t pregnant, it tells her that you think she appears to be in that condition, which simply translated means that YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  2. If she is pregnant, she may not be ready to make it public yet.  The moment of her revealing her condition is her choice, not yours.    
  3. She may be pregnant, but in the very early stages of pregnancy.  Your asking translates to her that YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  4. She may be pregnant but be sick of talking about it.  Everything in her life is changing, not to mention the changes that her body is going through.  She may need a mental break from discussing her condition.
  5. She may be struggling with infertility and taking meds that cause bloating or swelling of the ovaries.  Your asking reminds her of the problem and confirms to her that the world is aware of the physical side effects.  In other words, YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE THINKS SHE IS FAT.
  6. She may simply be overweight, which makes your comment extremely insulting because YOU THINK SHE IS FAT.
  7. She may have just miscarried, which makes your comment extremely insensitive.
  8. It’s none of your business

Basic rule to follow – If she brings it up, talk about it all you like.  If she doesn’t bring it up, don’t mention it.  Save her the embarrassment and yourself the possible black eye.

I Ain’t No Professional Ain’t Cuttin’ It No More

JohnJFrady.com

I saw a sign in a restaurant the other day proclaiming “The Only Thing Worse Than Our Food Is Our Service.” Unfortunately, I’d already ordered the pancakes.

reverse-marketing-tic-toc-dinerBy the way, the sign was right.

“I ain’t no professional” is a phrase I’ve heard once too often in my life in various capacities. I think it’s safe to say that if “You ain’t no professional then there ain’t no need to say it. Everyone already knows.”

The difference between the amateur and the professional is simple. The professional is willing to roll up his sleeves and go to work.

photo-courtesy of Unsplash - Matthew WiebeThe word professional is defined by Google dictionary as someone engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” This means the person is serious about it and is willing to work hard.

My profession for most of my life has been ministry. In…

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