How To Simplify Any Problem

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Not Sure What To Do With This Money

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The worship service ended and, and usual, my family was the last to leave. I was already heading to the car when I heard my mother say, “We’ve already tithed and worked through our budget and savings plan. I have this money left over and I’m not sure what to do with it.”

I turned quickly to see the amount of money she was holding. I wanted to cry out, “I know what you can do with it! You can give it to me! Extra money is something I’m always willing to take.”

But then I saw she was talking to the pastor of our church.

She continued, “Can you put it into whatever area of the church where it’s most needed?”

“Certainly,” he said graciously. “Thank you.”

My mother smiled gently and handed him the money.

That happened over thirty years ago, and I’m so glad I saw it happen. Without realizing it, my mother was teaching me the importance of tithing, keeping a budget and savings plan, and then being extra generous with remaining funds.

This Christmas season, let me encourage everyone to be generous with what the Lord’s given you. It will be important in the moment and just might impact the generosity of the next generation.

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What I Often Forget About The Lord

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Have you ever overcomplicated anything? I’ve done that dozens of times, especially when trying to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I think this happens to Christians quite often because we forget one key component that, although simple, is essential.

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

Grace is so simple that it baffles the experts. 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.   

Father, please forgive us when we forget Your grace. It is both free and priceless. It is truly amazing.

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*Photos courtesy of Unsplash.com

My Tribute to George E.”Ted” Barton

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Dr. George E. “Ted” Barton was a great friend and mentor to me, although I don’t ever remember telling him so. I spoke to him in recent months when he and Margaret called to say they had read some devotions I had written. I wanted to thank him then for all he had done for Kathy and I. However, as usual, I was in the midst of something dreadfully important, and figured I had plenty of time to call him back. In not doing so, I missed doing what was truly dreadfully important.

So, in remembering Dr. Barton (I never could call him “Ted), I want to honor him in the way I heard him encourage others time and again, with an acrostic of his first name:

T = Let the “T” stand for Trustworthy. Dr. Barton kept his word in everything he did and kept your secret words in confidence. He was a great listener because you could always trust that he had your best interests at heart.

E = Let the “E” stand for Educated. He spent a large portion of his life educating others for the work of the ministry. He continued educating himself and others and I for as long as I knew him. Whenever I come across 2 Timothy 2:15, I always think of Dr. Barton for it says, Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Let the “E” also stand for encouraging. Dr. Barton tried to be encouraging in almost everything he did. He was always bragging on other people, hoping to spur them on to good works. Once, when Dr. Barton participated in a birthday celebration for me, he encouraged me greatly when he quoted John 1:6 which says There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. What he never knew was how much I held to that verse from that time on whenever I became discouraged in ministry. For that, I will always be thankful.

D = Let the “D” stand for devoted. Dr. Barton, of course, was devoted first and foremost to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Secondly, he was devoted to faithful wife Margaret, whom he compared with Queen Elizabeth in appearance and treated her as such. He was equally as devoted to his children and grandchildren, loving each of them uniquely. Third, he was devoted to his calling, whether it was in the classroom, the pulpit, or during hospital visitation. I always found it ironic that this true Canadian had found his way to pastor in the midst of a Virginia city filled with United States military personnel. But, Dr. Barton always seemed to make himself right at home, wherever he was at the moment, and he devoted himself to his new home and church.

As I said at the beginning of this tribute, I didn’t take the opportunity to say what I had intended to say to Dr. George E. “Ted” Barton and I regret that deeply. But today, if he could read these words as if they were a letter written personally to him, I’d congratulate him on being a great man of God, a devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. And then, I’d thank him for being my friend.

Repentance and Restoration Night of Prayer and Worship Outline

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Welcome and Opening Pastoral Prayer

  • Pray a “We need You God” type of prayer.
  • Posture – Have everyone raise their hands to the Lord in prayer and surrender.

Suggested Opening Song – We need you God type of song – Here’s My Heart, Lordhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xD-Wz6CWOw

Praying for Justice Section – Praying against murder, violence, racism, etc…

  • Posture – Have people pray in groups around the worship center
  • Suggested Scripture – Psalm 7:14-17 – The wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies. They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves. The trouble they make for others backfires on them. The violence they plan falls on their own heads. I will thank the Lord because he is just;  I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.
  • Suggested Song(s) – The Lion and the Lamb https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9ujBoud26k

Praying for Christians Section – Praying for all Christians to come together.

  • Posture – Have everyone in the room join hands for prayer
  • Suggested Scripture – 1 Peter 2:9-10 – But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.
  • Suggested Songs: I Need You to Survive by Hezekiah Walker  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5_7LEWnGaQ

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Praying for our Nation Section – Praying for our nation to turn to and follow Jesus.

 

  • Posture – Ask those who are physically able to kneel and bow before the Lord.
  • Suggested Scripture – 2 Chronicles 7:14 – Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

 

Praying for the Church Section

  • Posture – Hands outstretched toward one another
  • Being salt and light in the world – Transforming the culture from within
  • Suggested Scripture – Matthew 5:13-15 – “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
  • Suggested Songs – This I Believe – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtUNQpu2b7Q

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Praising God Prayer Section – Praising the Lord, thanking Him for who He is.

  • Posture – Ask everyone to clap after the scripture is read.
  • Suggested Scripture – Psalm 97:1-6 –  The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice!

Let the farthest coastlands be glad. Dark clouds surround him. Righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire spreads ahead of him and burns up all his foes. His lightning flashes out across the world. The earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory.

 

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Closing Song(s) – Powerful upbeat song(s), thanking and praising God!

 

My Favorite Illustration Giving Talk

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One purpose of the offering introduction, or giving talk, in a Christian worship service is for ongoing stewardship education. Those words may sound dry, but the giving talk doesn’t have to be. In fact, the more interesting a giving talk is, the more likely the listener is to hear the point and apply it to his own life. In this type of giving talk, illustrations are important because they draw the people in.

Here is my favorite illustration giving talk I’ve seen to date:

Illustration Giving Talk – Wind Farms

We’re about to receive our offering. Many of you have already given online and we appreciate that. While the rest of us prepare to give and our ushers prepare to receive, I like to show you a picture.

(Show picture of wind farm)

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Wind farms like these now produce almost 3% of the world’s energy. Many of you have probably seen farms like these in your travels.

Have you ever wondered how windmills are able to capture the wind’s energy? Here’s a brief explanation: A wind turbine blade works like an airplane wing. Blowing air passes around both sides of the uniquely shaped blade. The uneven pressure around the blade then causes it to spin. The blades are attached to a shaft, which turns about 18 revolutions per minute. This doesn’t seem like much, however the shaft is connected to a series of gears, which increases the movement to about 1800 revolutions per minute. At that speed, a generator can produce a lot of electricity as long as the wind is consistent.

You may be thinking, “This is all very interesting, but what does that have to do with my offering?” Sometimes, people think that the amount they give can’t make much of a difference. Like the large shaft that only turns 18 times a minute, it seems like their gift is insignificant. However, God blesses the offerings given by people and allows the church to connect them with the gifts of others, multiplying it a thousand times over in various ways that then produce amazing results.

However, as with the wind and the windmill, the secret to this occurring is faithful and consistent giving.

Let’s pray.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing examples of giving talks which serve other purposes. I hope you will join me. In the meantime, if you have a favorite giving talk, feel free to comment or contact me personally.

Tribute to W.O. Traywick

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One of my favorite people on the planet, W.O. Traywick, passed away on March 14th.

When I first met Mr. Traywick, he scared me to death. I was short for my age while he was a man of great stature with a strong deep voice. Even though he wore large, thick glasses, he had the ability to stare into your very soul. He was a staunch Democrat who taught Civics to me, a young Republican, during the Reagan Administration. 

Mr. Traywick also had a reputation of being good with a paddle. When he took a student into the hall for a discipline session, the entire school heard and counted the licks. One year, the school paper even dedicated the Dazz Band song Let It Whip exclusively to him.

By the end of my high school career, I had taken Public Speaking, Drama, Civics, and U.S. History from Mr. Traywick. I also had the honor of acting in nine plays he directed, including the classics Our Town and The Crucible. Later, when I had the opportunity to act in my first play at Ouachita Baptist University, his alma mater, he brought a group of students to watch. That meant so much to me.

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Mr. Traywick also served in the youth ministry at First Baptist Church, where I was a member. He once taught us about John the Baptist by serving us actual locusts dipped in honey as our refreshments. He taught my Sunday School class for a couple of years and once helped me clean the floor after I had vomited in front of my friends. That summer, on the night I made Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior, Mr. Traywick prayed with me. I’ll never forget that.

Years later, long after Mr. Traywick’s retirement, I visited him in the hospital, hoping to bring him some form of comfort. Instead, I was the one who was encouraged. From his hospital bed, in a voice that wasn’t nearly as deep as I remembered, he told me he was proud of the man I had become.

William Arthur Ward once said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Winifred Otis Traywick was a great teacher. He inspired me and for that I will always be grateful.

One of the Most Important Weekly Investments For Pastors, Worship Leaders, Speakers, and Prayer Counselors

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Churches spend thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars on quality sound systems and hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on worship facilities. Worship leaders and speakers also often invest thousands of dollars in training, instruments, and resources, not to mention countless hours in sermon preparation, worship rehearsals, worship planning, and prayer. All of this time and money is dedicated to honoring the Lord, reaching the lost, and empowering the church.

However, one small weekly personal investment can help pastors and worship leaders when it comes time to make real connections with people.

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No matter how great our upfront preparation is and will be, if we speak personally with people and they are offended by our breath, we will lose vital opportunities to share the gospel, encourage the timid, or recruit vital leaders and volunteers.