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

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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.

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.

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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.