Are You Ready For The Economy To Improve?

There are signs of encouragement and life returning to the economy.  The unemployment rate is a factor that usually lags behind other indicators, so that’s still very discouraging, but there are hints of better days to come.  How should we react during the waiting times like this?  Let me offer a few suggestions:

  • Now is time to dream.
  • Now is the time to plan next steps.
  • Now may be the time to start adding strategic staff.
  • Now is certainly the time to be preparing for the economies return to strength.

As discouraged and stretched as your organization may have been in the last 12 months or so, the economy will recover and your organization needs to be prepared when it does. When people start spending money again they will want some new and exciting ideas to of where to spend it. They will be cautious and want value for their dollar, probably more than in recent years, but let’s not forget, most of our consumers will still be Americans, so they will want it NOW.

Will you be ready? What steps are you taking now to prepare for the recovery period?

(Also, this post sounds like it’s geared strictly for the business world, and I’m sometimes guilty of living in my past, but this principle works for churches and non-profits also.)

What Does The Obama Girls New Dog Have To Do With Easter?

portuguese-water-dog1The Obama’s have a new dog. The dog is a six-month-old Portuguese water dog, named Bo, given to Malia and Sasha Obama by the Edward Kennedy family.  (This picture is not the actual dog, but it is a Portuguse Water Dog.) Apparently the dog wasn’t working out at the previous owner’s home, so they thought to give it to the Obama family.  I’m happy for them, knowing the joy an animal can bring a household.  Read the full story HERE.

Having read this story for the first time on Easter Sunday, my initial thought was one of grace.  This dog will never fully understand the privilege of “growing up” in the White House.  Surely the “first dog” will receive pampering beyond what most pets ever experience.  The dog will have direct access to the most powerful family in the world.

It reminds me of the principle of Easter. Jesus gave away His life on the cross, and because of His favor upon us, we who believe are given a family seat in God’s family in spite of our sins. Christ bore the penalty for our sins and we are given direct access to the Throne of God and the Bible says we can call God our Abba (Daddy).

I wonder if we even come close to grasping what it means to be counted worthy of receiving His grace.   At least for today, however, I’m reminded that without Him I would be nothing.

It’s Saturday, but Sunday’s Coming!

easter

I didn’t feel great yesterday. My head was clouded with congestion. In fact, I was so “thick-headed” that at one point I ate lunch…twice. (That wasn’t so bad though.) This morning I woke up feeling like a train has run over me. I am pretty sure it’s allergies, because it happens every year about this time, but I feel awful. I have a funeral this afternoon, I need to look at my message again, and Cheryl looks forward to this day every week. It’s really the only day we have together each week. I surrounded myself with some Scriptures to pick up my spirits, took vitamins and cold medicine, and decided to make the most of the day.

Then it occurred to me. It’s Saturday. It’s not just any Saturday, but the day before Easter. In my profession, that’s pretty much the biggest day of the year. We have prepared so much for the 3 services at Grace Community Church tomorrow. (Come join us at 8:30, 10:00 or 11:30) Every Sunday is important, but this one represents the pinnacle of our faith. Satan wants to get me down today, but we serve a risen Savior! Our God lives, and because He lives I can face tomorrow. (I didn’t make up that last part. I heard it once before!)

I’m also reminded that one Saturday morning some 2,000 years ago, surely there was a group of mixed-up, hurting, confused, sickly, tired, afraid, and desperate people. They had placed all their hopes in a man who claimed to be the promised Messiah. They were there when their hope was nailed to a cross. They watched their mentor and friend die a cruel death. What would they do now? What was next?

Are you feeling hopeless, afraid, confused, sick, broken or desperate today?

It’s Saturday, but Sunday’s coming!

Daylight Makes Darkness Disappear

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.  Psalm 30:5

My son’s headlight went out recently on his late 90’s Ford Ranger pickup.  I attempted to fix it one night and finally admitted defeat, convinced it was too difficult for me, a very non-mechanical person.  I had previously changed several headlights in various vehicles and didn’t think it was too challenging.  I even researched replacing them online.  Nothing helped.  I couldn’t figure out how to fix it on my own.

That is, until the morning came.  The night before it was dark.  I couldn’t see fully what I was doing. There was one bracket holding the light in place that when moved, made the headlight one of the easiest to change I have ever experienced.  I was driving his truck last week as he drove mine, so I was thankful for the headlight.

It was a great reminder to me, however, that things often look brighter in the morning.  I have had many sleepless, worried nights, only to find out the next day that my worst fears were exaggerated.  To carry the spiritual illustration even further, things look brighter when God sheds His light on the situation.

Are you going through a difficult time right now?  Perhaps your darkness has lasted longer than you anticipated.  Hold out for the light to shine. When He does, your situation will be clearer and your path will be bright.  (And you’ll get your headlight fixed.)

Matt Chandler: Jesus Wants The Rose



 

This blew me away when I saw it the first time.  This probably captures my heart for the church and church planting as well as anything I could say.  My heart breaks for the person who so desperately needs the Gospel, but has been bruised or even rejected by the church.  Christ would never reject you. In fact, He was rejected so that you could be received.  He loves you that much.

Isaiah 53

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; of my people he was stricken.He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, for the transgression nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will and he will divide the spoils

By the way, if your life is messed up, if you think you’ve made too many mistakes in life, we have a seat for you at Grace Community Church.  Jesus loves you and so do we.

What Does Grace Mean To You?

I’m thinking a lot lately, really the last few years, about the word grace. What a beautiful word!

According to Dictionary.com it means:

  • elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.
  • a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment.
  • favor or good will.
  • a manifestation of favor, esp. by a superior
  • mercy; clemency; pardon: an act of grace.
  • favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity.

The definitions continue under the heading of “Theology”:

  • the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
  • the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
  • a virtue or excellence of divine origin: the Christian graces.
  • the condition of being in God’s favor or one of the elect.
  • moral strength

The founders of Grace Community Church and I have received so much grace we even put it in our name. Yesterday I was reminded how much our staff is a product of God’s grace. We’ve all needed lots of it. (Everyone we decided except for maybe Ben. Of course, he probably just hides it well.)

Lately though my thoughts have been on how we abuse grace. We take it for granted. We attempt to cheapen grace. We failed to accept it. We try to add to it.

Today, at least for the moment I’m typing it, I’m just going to be overwhelmed with the amazing grace my Father provides for me.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

What are your thoughts about the word “grace” today?  Have you needed lots?  Has lots of grace been given to you?  Think carefully about this next question:  Are you abusing grace?

Pastor Fred Winter’s Widow Shares Her Testimony (Faith Example)

I have covered the tragic murder of Pastor Fred Winters because I was encouraged by the attitude of the pastor towards faith and vision.  I wish I had known him, because I’m sure he would have inspired me even more.  Much has been written about his family and I’ve shied away from that subject not wanting to sensationalize their grief, but then I found this video.

Last Sunday I preached a message on the difference in having circumstantial faith and in trusting God completely even when everything around us screams otherwise.  (You can watch that HERE.)  Cindy Winters, the widow of Reverend Winters, is a perfect example of this kind of steady faith.  She takes a tragedy and uses it as an opportunity to share her faith in Jesus Christ! Wow!  Listen to her story. She gives the recipe of going through the worst times of life.

Tips For Managing Stress

Recently I wrote this post about the increase in stress as our church continues to grow. Several responded via Twitter and Facebook that said things like “You don’t seem to get stressed about anything” or “I wish you would give us details”.

Well, first I need to explain that perception is not always reality.  People are surprised to hear I’m an introvert or to know that I still get nervous when I preach.  I am and I do.

Often it seems the demands placed on us exceed the strength, wisdom and resources we have to meet them.  Philippians 4:13 seems to indicate otherwise, (I can do all things through Him who strengthens me) but I still struggle at times to try to handle things on my own.

Getting to the place where we don’t allow stress to control us or keep us from being effective in life is a process.  I have found it improves some with age and maturity.  You come to realize some things just don’t matter. In some people’s case a lot has to do with personality.  My 20-year-old, a “P” on the Myers Briggs Temperament, rarely stresses about anything.  Most of us, however, need a little help dealing with stress.

As a teacher, and because I was asked repeatedly, I will share some tips I have found effective in battling stress.

  • Prayer.  God really does answer this request.
  • Time management.  Most times a good schedule will greatly diminish stress.
  • Exercise. This may be my best secret for battling stress. The more stressed I am the more I need to run.
  • Disciplined life.  There are activities and habits that add to stress.  If you stay up way too late and never get enough rest, your stress-factor will increase.
  • Balance. You have to learn to say “No” to some things and balance your time between all the things that pull for your attention.
  • Not allowing problems to build long without addressing them.  If a relationship is causing stress, the sooner you deal with it the quicker you will find relief.
  • Asking for help.  When I am really at my wits-end with stress, I am not too proud to tell someone.

What tips do you have for people to lower their stress?  What do you do to handle stress?

When Will the Economy Improve?

Did you know Detroit is printing its own money?  Karen in our office sent me an article today that made me think about our economy.  Apparently some small business owners in Detroit, a city which has been devastated more than most by the current economy, have taken things into their own hands.  They are printing their own currency.   Read the story HERE. 

 

I guess it would work in my neighborhood also.  If I print some cash from my study to pay my neighbor to mow my lawn, he might accept it if the market down the street would accept the homemade dough to pay for his groceries. The grocer could then use this money to shop a neighborhood yard sale.  Our neighborhood economy would be instantly improved, all with a good computer and some high quality ink. 

 

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not making light of a serious situation.  I know firsthand people who are looking for work and struggling to meet their obligations.  My poor attempt at humor is to illustrate a point.  The basic key to a capitalistic economy is perception. The dollar is worth what people perceive it to be worth.  When working people begin to feel better about their current situation they will spend money again.  The economy will improve when people’s perception of the economy improves. 

How To Make Better Use Of Time

clock

Most of us would love a few extra hours each week or to make better use of our time.  There may be a way to achieve that, but it will require a little effort on your part.

I have heard financials advisors suggest people keep track of every dollar they spend for a month, looking for the areas they need to change. Several years ago I decided to try this with my time.  For one week I kept a journal of everything I did with my time in 15-minute increments.  At the end of the week I was able to see places I was wasting valuable time and place which needed more time allocated to them.

As a pastor, for an example, if I spend 30 minutes of my time alone in the car everyday, that’s a fairly good opportunity to catch up listening to sermons I try to hear each week, freeing other time when I’m in the office.  If 30 minutes of my week is spent responding to questions about the same subject, perhaps some alignment needs to be made in the systems we have in place.  At the same time, if I find that I spend only an hour a week investing in my staff, then I probably need to rearrange some things in my schedule.

Try this for a week and see what you discover:

1.    Journal every activity of your week in 15 minute increments.  (You don’t have to be legalistic about it; don’t write down every time you take a drink of water unless that’s consuming huge parts of your day.)
2.    Don’t try to review your list daily, wait until the week is complete.
3.    Review your journal at the end of the week circling places where the bulk of your time is spent and looking for anything you see unusually allocated or missing, based on what you want and need to accomplish in a week.
4.    Be willing to alter your schedule and habits, if needed, to make more productive use of your time and create more time margin.

I know, some are thinking “that’s a lot of work”, but the results of a more productive schedule will be worth the week-long investment.