Restart

RestartIn my day job, when I am asked to assist an employee with a problem, I often ask them a very important question. If their response is in the negative, I nearly always ask them to do this one thing before we go any further. This one thing has solved more problems in the type of work that I perform than anything else. Recently, as I asked an employee this question, she looked at me with a sheepish grin (one of those grins that said, “I know I should be doing this more often, but I’m not) and told me “no.”

Before I finish that story, I think the first time I remember seeing a verse next to his signature was during high school. You see, my dad’s company had gone out of business and for a period of 3-4 months, he had to go out-of-state for employment to provide for our family (if you only knew my dad – he is the best Christian I know). So, he got on a plane in Missoula, Montana and flew to southern California to work with my uncle in his construction business.

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They (the Olympians) Do It To Obtain a Corruptible Crown…

medal 2The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics ended last weekend. My family and I couldn’t get enough of them! For the most part, our family enjoys sporting events and when the Olympics rolls around every two years (summer/winter), we watch, cheer, and “oo & ah” on a nearly daily basis. You’ve got to hand it to the Olympic athletes – here are people who have trained much of their life for this moment (or in the case of the 50K cross-country skiers – an hour and 45+ minutes). I always feel bad for the skater who falls on her first triple-axle during the long free program or the speed skater who is nudged on the first turn and goes sprawling into the boards. They have trained for countless hours for this moment.

I admire the Olympic athlete in any sport. They train and train – countless hours are spent honing their muscles, their balance, their strength, their resolve – all with one goal in mind. They want to win to stand on the medal podium. Hear their nation’s anthem. Make their country proud. Win the gold medal. A very noble pursuit indeed. I applaud every athlete from this recent Winter Olympics.

But I couldn’t stop thinking of a certain phrase of Scripture in which the Apostle Paul refers to some type of Olympic Games in I Corinthians 9:25, Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible. Paul is not denying, denigrating, or demeaning the efforts of the Olympian. No, he just puts it into perspective. And what a perspective for the Christian! Verse 24 we are admonished to run, that ye may obtain! In verse 26, Paul tells you what he is going to do. Whether you join him or not he says, I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.

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Live For God’s Approval

If you choose your wardrobe upon what others might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to attend a certain leadership/ministry conference because of what some might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to post a helpful article or quote online that you just read due to the name of the author and what others might think of you, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose not to make ministry changes in your church due to what fellow brethren might think, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose to sidestep certain topics in your preaching ministry, you are living for man’s approval.

If you choose to elevate preferences above convictions, you are living for man’s approval.

Help Me Reach These Goals in 2014

j0439558I have been all over the map concerning resolutions or goals (I prefer the word goals) for a New Year. Some years, I set very concrete goals; others, I had no goals. And some years I had very generic goals (which are quite hard to measure). Closing out 2013 and charging into 2014, I have pondered the subject of setting goals for the New Year.

When I think of great men and women of the Bible, I cannot help but think that goals were a major part of the life of many of these people. Take Joseph, for instance. He had to be able to set goals and see those goals through to fruition as the second in command of Egypt while gathering grain and corn during the seven years of plenty. Solomon set goals for both the building of the temple of God and his own house. I am absolutely convinced that the apostle Paul was a goal-setter. He did not wander aimlessly going wherever his journeys led him. He was a man of passion for the Lord Jesus Christ and set high goals in starting churches and visiting the churches he started during the various missionary journeys he took. Philippians 3:14 is often quoted in support of setting a goal –  I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

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Halftime Is Important

Its-Half-Time

According to the most recent report (2011) by the World Health Organization, the average male in the United States lives to the ripe old age of 76 years. That is almost 10 years longer than in 1960. Now I realize that not everyone will live to be this age. That is the average – some will live longer and some will die much younger. The Word of God makes it very clear that our life is like a vapor (James 4) – here today and gone tomorrow. King David of Old Testament times stated that he realized “that there is but a step between me and death.”

Not long after I turned thirty-eight years young (yes – I am still young), I resigned the pastorate of New Life Baptist Church in upstate New York. I had pastored there for nine wonderful years. Due to several mitigating circumstances (that is for another post), I felt it best that I step away from full-time ministry. A young preacher friend of mine called and asked me some questions concerning my decision. I remember telling him the following: “Nathan, I am thirty-eight years old. I consider this to be the halftime in my life. The average man in the US lives to be somewhere around 76. There are some areas in my life that I need to make adjustments before I start the second half.”

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Pouring on Guilt? Or Administering Mercy?

Guilt

“You shouldn’t have done that…”, “If only you hadn’t cut it…”, “Of all the things you could have done, that was the worst…”, “I just can’t believe you did that…”

All of the above statements and more were made to me recently. The person speaking to me was our landlord. Currently, we are renting a house and I made a mistake. You see, the kitchen floor is covered in linoleum. It is in good condition. However, during the winter months, the edges started curling up under the cabinets and were covering the main heater vent in the kitchen. Being the consummate handyman that I am and not wanting to bother the landlord, I decided to “trim” back the linoleum. Unfortunately, I cut about three inches off of the linoleum and then stapled down the edges with a staple gun (I kid you not). Over the next couple of months, the linoleum started coming up and occasionally bits of food would fall under the flooring. Our dogs, with their finely tuned dog noses, sniffed out the food and would try to retrieve the food by clawing the linoleum. Needless to say, the edges of our linoleum are ripped in various spots and the whole thing looks like a disaster.

Back to the quoted statements…those were a few of the things that the landlord said to me when I explained to him over the phone the situation. Now, I can understand his frustration. Here he is managing many different homes and there are people like me (Tim the tool-man Taylor) trying to “help him out” by fixing things myself. I can understand his frustration. However, I do not understand why he continued to berate me over and over again on the telephone concerning the issue. I believe I counted ten different times he told me in no uncertain terms that I blew it, I made a huge mistake, this could have been fixed if I would have called him initially. I told him that I had good intentions and was trying to keep from having him employ someone to fix the situation. He put me down again and I finally interrupted him and said out loud, “I MADE A MISTAKE, I SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE WHAT I DID!”

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The Hard Path to Reconciliation

One of the best ways to show a genuine concern and love for others is to ask people questions about their family relationships. This past week, I asked a co-worker what she was doing to celebrate Mother’s Day. The question immediately evoked a visceral reaction. As happens all too often, this lady and her mother did not see eye to eye and she definitely was not going to see her or celebrate Mother’s Day with her own mother.

After apologizing and lamenting the current state of her relationship to her mother, I mentioned something to the effect that I always try to help people reconcile. She made it clear to me that she had attempted many times to reconcile in the past with her mother and it was clear her mother had no intention to reconcile with her. Thereby, no Mother’s Day celebration was going to occur for this lady on Mother’s Day!

While the above scenario is a quite dismal one, it is far from uncommon. Reconciliation is a difficult road to traverse and for too many, a road that is untraveled.

I love the first definition that Noah Webster lists for reconciliation:

RECONCI’LE, v.t. [L. reconcilio; re and concilio; con and calo, to call, Gr. The literal sense is to call back into union.]

1. To conciliate anew; to call back into union and friendship the affections which have been alienated; to restore to friendship or favor after estrangement; as, to reconcile men or parties that have been at variance.

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