The Praetorium

So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned Him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Some of the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into their headquarters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on His head, and they placed a reed stick in His right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before Him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck Him on the head with it. (Matthew 27:26-30)

Some might call it the beginning of the end. Condemned by Pilate, the punishment of Jesus begins. The Roman soldiers take Jesus to the Praetorium where they bind Him to the whipping post, securing His hands over His head, and exposing His back. The soldiers proceed to lash Him with a three pronged, lead tipped whip for 40 lashes. Their intention is to weaken Him physically before His crucifixion so death will come sooner. To further humiliate Him, they fashion a crown of thorns and shove it down onto His head. They spit on Him. They slapped His face. They mocked Him by crying out, “Hail! King of the Jews!”

Interestingly enough, what the Roman soldiers thought was mockery was actually truth. Jesus was King of the Jews, but to the Romans, He was a criminal to be disposed of. Jesus did not respond to their mockery and He absorbed their blows without complaint. In doing so, He was fulfilling Isaiah 53:3-5: “He was despised and rejected- a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on Him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down. And we thought His troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for His own sins! But He was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.”  

Within this physical flogging and mocking, we catch a glimpse of how foul our sins are to God. What was justifiable for us, punishment for our rebelliousness, He, an innocent man, the Son of God, took upon His own body because He loved us. We cannot appreciate how foul our sin must be to the Lord. Reflect for a moment on the punishment Jesus received in the Praetorium. That is how detestable our sin is to God. Jesus, His Son endured the brutality of the Roman soldiers so that we might be made whole. He endured physical, emotional, and spiritual degradation for our healing. 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for Your grace and mercy. Thank You for enduring the lashes, the mockery, and the abuse for me.

*Photo courtesy of Mads Schmidt Rasmussen

The Christmas Carol That Saved Christmas Eve

Silent Night – The Christmas Carol that Saved Christmas Eve

It was Christmas Eve, 1818, and Pastor Joseph Mohr was getting nervous. For the first time in history, it looked as if it was going to be a Silent Night at the Christmas Eve service at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorff, Austria. Recent flooding from the Salzach River had put their church organ out of commission and he only had a few hours to come up with a musical alternative. He needed help, and he needed it fast.

Surely filled with anxiety, Mohr walked through the cold to visit his friend Franz Gruber, a school teacher and choir master, who lived in the neighboring town of Arnsdorf bei Laufen. With him, Mohr brought a poem he had written two years prior when walking through a peaceful snowclad forest. It was the epitome of peace to him at the time. Now, that peace was gone, but he had high hopes that Gruber could set the poem to music in time for that evening’s service. Gruber accepted the challenge and within a few hours had composed the melody for Stille Nacht or Silent Night. 

Because the church organ was out of commission, Gruber composed a simple arrangement  for guitar and voice. Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr traveled back to Oberdorff, where, after a short rehearsal, the two men stood before the people of the St. Nicholas Church and performed their original song. A local choir quickly learned the tune and joined the two friends as they introduced this new Christmas carol to the church, to Austria, and ultimately to the entire world. 

Just a side note: This is the original St. Nicholas Church building in Oberndorff, Austria. It and most of the town, were eventually forced to move or rebuild because of continual flooding.

Click here to hear a version of Silent Night by Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood, and Reba McIntire

Click here to hear Stille Nacht by the Dresden Choir.

*Image courtesy of Tina Witherspoon and Unsplash

The Christmas Carol That Helped Save A University

American spiritual songs are difficult to date because they were passed down orally without publishing or recording. Such was the case with the Christmas song Go,Tell It On the Mountain. It became a Christmas classic because of the efforts of John Wesley Work.

John Wesley Work was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. He studied Latin and history at Fisk University, but his great passion was music. In 1872, he was asked to lead the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a ten member touring vocal ensemble commissioned to save the University. In a bold move, the ensemble was sent on an eighteen month tour and was given the entire University treasury for travel expenses.

Go, Tell It On The Mountain and other spirituals were a regular part of the student singing at Fisk University, but were not part of the original repertoire of the ensemble. This is understandable because the songs were associated with slavery and represented recent history many of them wanted to forget. However, the school’s treasurer encouraged them to expose the world to the rich history of spirituals in this tour. The response was overwhelming and by the time they reached New York in December of that year, their concerts consisted primarily of choral arrangements of spirituals. 

Over the course of their 18 month tour, the Fisk Jubilee Singers grew to a full choral ensemble. Led by John Wesley Work, they performed a host of spirituals to both white and black audiences across the United States and Europe, including William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Ulysses S. Grant, William Gladstone, Mark Twain, Johann Strauss, and Queen Victoria. This phenomenal tour resulted in both the school and the musical style earning an international reputation. Fisk University was saved financially and Go, Tell It On the Mountain was on its way to becoming a Christmas staple.

Click here to hear Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of Go, Tell It On The Mountain. 
Click here to read more about the history of Fisk University.

What If This Is It?

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Everywhere you look, people are searching for what’s next.

What’s the next career for them where people will pay and respect them like they deserve? Where’s the next place for them to live that will suit them perfectly? Who might they meet next who will become their perfect mate for life? What next step might they take personally that will equal God’s will for them in the future?  What person, place, or career might be next for them and be the ultimate thing that will finally give them the fulfillment they are looking for?

People everywhere want to know what’s next. But what if it doesn’t work that way.

What if what’s next is right in front of you? What if the next step for you is not found in searching the world to see what it might hold for you? What if the secret for your success and contentment is found in what you can bring to the world right where you are?

What if this is it?

What if the perfect job for you right now is the one you currently have? What if the home you’re living in is the one that can be perfect for you? What if you’re already serving the organization that will propel you to greater heights of success? What if you’re currently married to the person who is right for you now and will still be right for you in 50 years? What if God’s will for you is to be right where you are?

Think about it. If you knew for sure that where you are right now is exactly where you should be and is the catalyst that will launch you to greater things in your relationships, career, happiness, satisfaction, heck, your whole life… If you knew this for sure, what would you do differently? How would you treat people? How would you invest in yourself and others around you? How would your habits and attitudes change?

What if this it – your shot, your chance, your destiny, your opportunity to do and be something in this world? Whether you believe it or not, acting as if this IS it will move you forward in all of these areas because it will change your actions, your behaviors, and your results.

It’s your move. It’s your turn. You’re up to bat. It’s your big break.

What are you going to do about it?

*photo courtesy of Eric Parks and Unsplash

With the Lord’s Help, She Did It

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Carol was in the top ten of her high school graduating class, but some life setbacks prevented her from enrolling in college. Four years later, she took a job cleaning restrooms at the local hospital. She never thought of herself in that line of work, but she needed the money. She prayed, then looked in the mirror and said, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this. Who knows? Maybe I can make a difference.” 

Carol learned her job quickly and worked hard. Her supervisor noticed Carol’s strong work ethic and the care she showed patients as she entered their rooms. She encouraged Carol to complete the training to become a Nurse’s Assistant. Carol had never thought of herself in that line of work, but helping patients sounded good to her. She prayed, looked in the mirror and said, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this. Who knows? Maybe I can make a difference.”

Within a year, Carol had completed the training, and began working directly with nurses and patients. She learned her job quickly and worked hard. After two years on the job, Carol’s supervisor called her into her office. 

“Am I in trouble?” asked Carol.

“Not at all,” replied her supervisor. “In fact, I’ve noticed your strong work ethic. I’ve seen your interaction with the patients and staff as you clean. You treat everyone with respect. I think you would make an excellent LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse). You can keep your job here while in school and when you’re finished, I would love to hire you.”

Once again, Carol gave her supervisor’s suggestion consideration and prayer. She looked in the mirror and said, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this. Who knows? Maybe I can make a difference.”

It wasn’t easy to balance work, family, and school, but Carol finished her LPN training in two and a half years. She learned her job quickly, and worked hard. She took advantage of every training and continuing education opportunity. It paid off. In a couple of years, Carol’s supervisor once again called Carol into her office.

You can probably guess what happened. Carol was encouraged once again by her supervisor to learn and grow. Once again she prayed, looked in the mirror, and said, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this. Who knows, maybe I can make a difference.” Four years later, Carol graduated once again as an RN (Registered Nurse). 

A few years later, with more encouragement from her superiors, more prayer, and more time in front of the mirror, Carol realized she wasn’t finished growing. She went on to earn a PhD in Nursing. She is now the Chair of Nursing Department in her alma mater. She is often asked to speak to nursing students at pinning and graduation ceremonies. She tells the students to learn their job quickly and work hard. She encourages them to take advantage of every training and continuing education opportunity that comes their way. She tells them to pray about every decision, then look themselves in the mirror and say, “With the Lord’s help, I can do this. Who knows, maybe I can make a difference.”

*Photo Courtesy of Taylor Smith of Unsplash

A Question We All Must Answer

Charles Plumb, young

Charles Plumb grew up on a farm outside a small town in Kansas. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. His dream became a reality in the United States Navy. Charles graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1964. In November 1965, Plumb earned his Navy Wings, becoming a Naval Aviator. In a move that would make Tom Cruise jealous, Plumb then reported to Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, where he made his mark helping to develop the Navy Fighter Weapons School, more commonly referred to as “TOP GUN.”

Charles Plumb and others

Captain Charles Plumb was then sent to serve in Vietnam on the Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk. He had completed 74 successful combat missions and was shot down on mission #75. Charles ejected from his plane and parachuted into enemy hands, where he was captured and tortured before spending six years in a Vietnamese prison.

Years later, while dining with his wife in a Kansas City restaurant, a man approached his table and said, “You’re Captain Plumb!”

“Yes, Sir,” Charles replied.

The man energetically continued. “You flew 74 successful missions over Vietnam from the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier.”

“That’s correct. I did.”

“You were shot down over North Vietnam and spent six years as a Prisoner of War. 

Charles Plumb scratched his head and asked, “How in the world did you know all of that?” 

The man looked smiled and said, “Because I packed your parachute.” 

Captain Plumb, then a professional speaker, found himself speechless.

His parachute packer reached out, grabbed his hand, and shook it vigorously before saying, “I guess it worked!” 

Plumb laughed and replied, “Indeed it did, my friend, and I’ve given thanks in my prayers a million times for your nimble fingers. If the chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Captain Plumb looked at this man who had served him so well and wondered how many times he might have seen and completely ignored him because he was a fighter pilot and the stranger was just a sailor. He smiled at his parachute packer and asked, “What about you? Do you keep track of all of the parachutes you’ve packed? Do you know how many lives you’ve saved because of the excellence of your work?” 

The man smiled and replied, “No, I don’t keep track. It’s enough for me to know that I’ve served.”

Now, several years later, Captain Plumb inspires thousands of military and non-military personnel alike by asking one simple question: Who’s packing your parachute?

In our lives, be it personal or work related, we must realize that we are not alone in our endeavors. Others are always there, and have always been there, working faithfully to ensure our success.

It’s time we give them the thanks and the credit they deserve.

Charles-Plumb

To hear Captain Plumb’s story in his own words, click here.

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

How To Simplify Any Problem

Catching a cloud

It was the early 1970’s. 8-tracks, pet rocks, and waterbeds were all the rage. The Jackson 5, Led Zeppelin, and Bread were playing on the radio. And Irish Spring from Colgate-Palmolive, with its green stripe of freshness, was top of the soap charts. Meanwhile, the marketers at Procter and Gamble were working hard trying to create a copycat product with it’s own green stripe of freshness.

Irish Spring

After several failed attempts, creative manager Min Basadur suggested that his team at Procter and Gamble weren’t asking the right questions. Instead of asking, “How can we make a better green stripe bar than Irish Spring?” he asked the question, “How might we create a more refreshing soap of our own?”

 

This led the team to explore other themes of freshness including that which comes at the seacoast. From this came the coastal blue and white striped soap named “Coast.”

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Min Basadur went on to become a consultant who has taught the concept of How Might We to companies over the past four decades. The question is key in what has become known as Design thinking, which is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions.

Here are some steps we can use to help us better understand the question of How Might We?

Step 1: Define the area you want to explore, whether it is a current problem or an anticipated problem.

Example: This meeting is going to be boring.

Step 2: Reword the statement into a “How Might We?” question.

 

  • How suggests that we do not yet have the answer. It helps us explore a variety of possibilities instead of acting on what we suppose the solution should be. It pulls us out of inactivity and helps us begin thinking.
  • Might emphasizes that our responses are only possible solutions, not the only solution. It also allows for exploration of multiple possible solutions instead of merely settling on the first that comes to mind. It allows for any idea to be brought to the table, no matter how outlandish.
  • We immediately brings in the element of a collaborative effort. It suggests that the solution lies within our collective teamwork instead of within one person’s influence and creativity. 

 

Example: This meeting is going to be boring…How might we make this meeting interesting?

Using How Might We questions helps us take a negative statement and turn it into a positive question which helps us find a solution. 

Step 3: Use brainstorming techniques to come up with as many solutions that you and your team can imagine to your How Might We question.

Examples:

  • We might make the meeting more interesting by involving the attendees in discussion?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by utilizing visuals in the presentations?
  • We might make the meeting more interesting by limiting the length to one hour?

Step 4: Prioritize the best ideas, build on them, and work them into next steps, sometimes involving their own How Might We questions.

Example: How might we actively involve the attendees in our meeting in interesting and lively discussion?

How Might We? is a question which can help simplify and bring clarity to almost any problem. Granted, it might simply bring more questions to the table, but most often, those questions are relevant questions.

So, next time you encounter what seems to be an unsolvable problem, try developing it into several How Might We questions. If you do, you’ll suddenly be thinking from a positive viewpoint, pointing yourself towards solutions instead of dwelling on the negative problem.

* For further study on How Might We, including the full story of Coast, see The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use article by Warren Berger from Harvard Business Review.

 

Valentine’s Day: The Real Story

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Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve loved the yummy chocolates, pretty flowers, chalky tasting hearts, and fancy dinners associated with February 14th. Those things pretty much sum up Valentine’s Day, right? Well, no, not really.

Here’s how it all started: In the 3rd century, Roman Emperor Claudius released an edict which prohibited the marrying of young people. It was his belief that unmarried soldiers made the best soldiers because they weren’t concerned with a wife and family. Because of this, young men and women often chose cohabitation outside of marriage. Many others, however, opted for more free, open relationships with allowed for multiple sexual partners.

However, as more and more young people in this time period gave their lives to Christ, they desired the commitment and unity found within the confines of marriage. Not knowing where to turn, they turned to Valentine the priest, who began to secretly perform Christian marriages.

valentine

In time, Claudius learned of Valentine’s actions, had him arrested, thrown into prison, and tortured for his actions. Eventually, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution involving beating, stoning, and finally decapitation. Legend has it that he sent a note to a young lady before his execution, signing it with the words From Your Valentine.

So, today, we celebrate the memory of Saint Valentine, as we now call him. He is the patron Saint of true lovers. However, much more than a title, he gave his life because of his love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the love that is found and exemplified within the institution of Christian marriage.

Upward, Inward, Outward, Forward Night of Worship Outline

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Pre-Service

Welcome

Opening Worship Set

  • Lion and the Lamb
  • Here For You
  • Powerful Pastoral Prayer – Asking the Lord to guide us as we work through this time of worship and prayer
  • Great Are You, Lord

Upward Section

Scripture Reading – Psalm 100

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before Him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

Expounding Possibilities for Psalm 100:

    • When was the last time you shouted before the Lord?
    • We are to serve the Lord with gladness. Why is this so hard?
    • Let us come before Him with singing…
    • We didn’t make ourselves. He made us…
    • His mercy continues to all generations…

Prayer – Praising God for who He is and for all He has done.

Song Suggestion – Never Gonna Stop Singing

Inward Section

Scripture Reading – Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Expounding Possibilities for Psalm 139:23-24:

    • God knows our every thought, so…
    • The Lord can examine us better than we can examine ourselves…
    • He knows when we are anxioius…
    • We need to place ourselves before Him and ask Him to help us evaluate ourselves…

Personal Confession Prayer – Give people time to pray their own prayer of confession to the Lord, before leading them in prayer.

Song Suggestion – O Come To The Altar

Outward Section

Scripture Reading – Acts 1:8

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Expounding Possibilities for Acts 1:8:

    • Where is your Jerusalem?
    • Where is your Judea and Samaria?
    • How are you impacting the uttermost parts of the earth?

Group Prayer For Our Cities, Nation, and World – Let the people circle into small groups to prayer around the worship center.

Suggested Song – Here As In Heaven

Forward Section

Scripture Reading – Philippians 3:13-14

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Expounding Possibilities for Philippians 3:13-14:

    • We need to keep moving forward. There’s always more to achieve.
    • We forget about what has been and press on toward what lies ahead. What does this mean?

Pastor Led Prayer – Lead the people in a powerful prayer helping us all move forward.

Suggested Song – Here’s My Heart

Closing

Closing Words

Closing Song Suggestion – Unstoppable God