Ted Video: Billy Graham on Technology and Faith

Just discovered this Ted video with Billy Graham talking about technology and faith. He’s humorous, engaging, and shares an interesting perspective about how to deal with technology in the future. He’s talking to a secular audience in 1998, but his words are still practical and helpful. The most encouraging part to me was to see the boldness of his talk in the midst of such a crowd.

Enjoy some time listening to this honored man:

Do you have a story or favorite memory of Billy Graham?

Changing a Heart versus Adding a Rule

I am often confronted with issues where one person has wronged another person.  At times people expect me, as the pastor, to enforce morals on people in order to change them.  Some how they believe if I talk to them, I can “force” them to change their ways.

I have learned one principle well.  Rules never change people.

It doesn’t matter how many you have, how strictly you enforce them, or even how loyal people are to obey them.  Rules alone never change a person.  Rules are often necessary to protect and bring order to chaos, but for people to change a heart has to change.

Heart changes change people, not rules.  Jesus working in a person’s life changes people, not more rules.

You may even be able to force someone to obey the rules…for a time, but compliance alone never indicates a true change of heart.

If you want me to speak to someone’s heart, I will.  If you want me to introduce them to Jesus, I would love to, but please don’t expect me to place rules on them that they will most likely not obey and that certainly will never truly change them.

Have you tried to change people with rules?  Did it work?

7 Actions for the Times God is Silent

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over 3 years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can only imagine the stress he experienced during those years. Something struck me recently, however, that seemed to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple NT passages, this “After a long time” was actually 3 ½ years. The famine was 3 ½ years long. For 3 ½ years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive, not speaking, even to His great servant Elijah.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is un-liked and unpopular; he’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent. God would soon do a miracle through Elijah, but during this period, all Elijah could do was wait.

If you have been believer for very long at all, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You don’t need much help doing that. The tough part of life is figuring out what to do during the years of silence; during the years when miracles are nowhere to be found.

What do we do during the spiritual dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God?

Here are 7 actions I encourage you to consider:

Don’t ignore the silence…
Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness; when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. Stay very close to God and watch for His power to be displayed.

Confront known sin in your life
This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, but the problem for the Israelites was that they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now, but if you have known sin in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.

Go back to what you know
Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it 100’s of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith. God is in control. He really is…even when it doesn’t seem that He is anywhere to be found.

Make a decision…Choose sides
You can’t adequately serve God and the world. Something happens in life, often sin, or busyness, or boredom, or a tragedy…but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your obedience, get back securely on the right side.

Trust More…Not less
Times of silence may be filled with fear, but these times will definitely require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. That’s not an indication to quit…it may be that God is using that time for something bigger than you could have imagined, but it will require a deeper level of trust.

Listen and Watch Closely
Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. Don’t miss them. He may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know that God is moving. (Read THIS POST if you need help discerning God’s will.)

Get ready to receive
God will break the silence some day…and when He does….it WILL be good. If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence.

Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?

The No Guarantee Principle

Someone recently pointed out to me a principle they had always believed, until it didn’t come true for them. They were disappointed in the principle. I had to remind myself of yet another principle. Principles are great, but they aren’t promises; they are principles.

I love principles. I believe in them. I write about them. I even attempt to live my life by some of them.

But principles of men aren’t guaranteed to come true.

You can count on the promises of God, but don’t expect the principles of men to work every time. The truth is that life happens…and sometimes life is more powerful than a principle.

Take one famous John Maxwell principle (I know…how dare I pick on one of his principles…and he’s one of my heroes of leadership…but just for example…please don’t tell him)

Principle: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

That is true…unless you are a detective on a murder crime investigation. If you find a witness, you don’t care how much they care…you just want to know how much they know.

Principles are excellent. I love them. I write about them. I practice them. As I observe life, I even write some of them.

But real life can overpower principles. Principles can’t always overcome reality. The environment, other people, and circumstances will play a part in writing your end story, in spite of the principle you live by.

Don’t base your life on principles of man. Base your life on the promises of God. In them, you’ll never be disappointed.

Can you think of other principles of men that may not always be true?

Soles4Souls Loves Haiti: Sustainable Housing Project

I love the ministry of Soles4Souls.  Their success in doing their mission has been a phenomenal achievement.  In fact, I understand a book is being released soon that chronicles their journey over the last five years.  I interviewed Soles4Souls founder and CEO Wayne Elsey previously. You can read that interview post HERE.  

Wayne has taken a personal interest in Haiti.  He’s crying out for Americans to see the need.  He’s going to Haiti monthly.  Recently Wayne shared a plan he has to help with the tremendous housing problem they have.  I thought it was worth sharing here.  See this powerpoint presentation on Soles4Souls Haiti project.  For more information, contact Soles4Souls through their website.

Soles4Souls Project Haiti

If you can’t see this, you may need to open it in another browser type, or click on the link. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/47961120/Soles4Souls-Project-Haiti

Have you heard of Soles4Souls?

Amazing Grace: A Story from Sierra Leone

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… I have always loved that song. As one who has experienced so much grace in my life, no other song better captures my heart when I think of God’s love for me.

Chances are good you know the song and love it equally. Did you know it originated in Sierra Leone?

I learned during our time in Sierra Leone that the song was written in this country, actually on an island called Plantin Island. If you are familiar with Ellis Island near NewYork City, where immigrants were processed upon entry into the United States years ago, Plantin Island was apparently the equivalent in reverse. Slaves were kept there while they waited for extradition to other countries where they had been sold.

If you have heard the story of the song, Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, once a sailor working on a ship participating in the slave trade. He fell in love with Sierra Leone, was later converted and became a pastor, and wrote the familiar song, understanding personally the amazing grace of God displayed in his life.

The people of Sierra Leone are proud of this part of their history, in spite of the tragedy of slavery it represents. They recognize the importance and popularity of the song and embrace its origins in their country.

Considering the atrocities of slavery that I know from our country’s history, Amazing Grace has even a richer meaning to me than before I came to Sierra Leone. I’m praying the people of the great continent of Africa more and more understand the true meaning of the song and receive the grace of Jesus Christ, which is truly amazing.

The older i get, the more depth of understanding i have that God’s grace is amazing.

Are you still amazed at God’s grace?

Advice for Men after the Wife Says the Marriage is Over

I hope you don’t need this post. It is for a select audience.

After I have answered a question too many times to count, I figure more people have the same question. One of the issues I see frequently is what happens to men when their marriage caves in around them and their wife no longer wants the marriage to work. This could be because of simple neglect over the years or an affair, but she wants out and he wants her to stay. When this happens, a man often becomes a vulnerable puppy of a man and literally doesn’t know what to do next. (I’ve sadly seen it so many times, especially recently.) It could be his fault or her fault, but at this point, the man just wants to save his marriage.

Here are a few suggestions I gave a while ago to a man in this situation. Although this is a personal reply to one man, I believe it may have application for many man in this situation. One thing needs to be clear, however; you must own your decision. You know your situation far better than anyone else. These suggestions are based on experience with dozens of marriage situations, but they are simply my opinions and not designed as professional advice.

If you are in the immediate days and weeks after your wife has indicated she thinks the marriage is over, this is what I suggest:

1. Don’t beg. You are likely much more broken and emotional right now than normal, but women are attracted to a man’s strength, not as much his emotional side. (Even if they say they are…over time they want to see strength.) She needs to know you are hurting, but not see you as weak. That balance is hard to strike, but important to find.

2. Sometimes writing a letter works better than talking in person, because you can share your true heart, think through your words, etc, without all the emotions being involved. When the relationship is especially strained, we tend to say the wrong things, which backs the other spouse into a corner, causing defenses to rise and emotions to take over the conversation. Read THIS POST about how to write this type letter.

3. As hard as it is, after you’ve told your spouse your heart and what you want, you have to give her some space. Honestly, she’s probably feeling crowded right now. After a woman has wrestled through this as long as she has, when she’s done, she’s done. That doesn’t mean her heart can’t change later, but for now she feels smothered almost to be around you. I’m not trying to add to your hurt here. I am simply giving you the reality from what I have seen many times. That’s why she may talk about one of you moving from the house. Chances are this was a very long process for her and you just found out how severe it is for her. That’s typical.

4. Build yourself up physically, emotionally and spiritually as much as trying to save your marriage. You’ll need that in days to come regardless of what happens and it will make you more attractive. In these days, you should draw closer to the heart of God than you ever have before.

5. Seek professional help. You probably aren’t as capable right now of making wise decisions. Find someone to help you do this. Ideally this would be professional Christian counseling with you and your wife, but could be a mature friend or minister. Regardless, get personal help if your wife will not go with you.

6. Do your best not to make stupid mistakes during this time. It’s hard to do, because you are vulnerable, but you don’t want the marriage set back further than it is. Spend time in personal reflection, asking God and yourself what you did to contribute to this situation. If you already know your blame, seek God’s forgiveness, your spouse’s and anyone else you have injured.

7. Surround yourself with a few other men you can trust. Be accountable, open and honest with them. It’s especially helpful, and they are plentiful, to find men who have walked where you are walking and survived.

8. Realize that any change of heart in your spouse is going to take longer than you would hope it would. A woman’s heart usually changes slower than a man’s heart. Be patient. Pray that God brings the right people and influences in her life and that her heart changes towards you.

Please know I’m praying for you as I type this. My prayer is that your marriage will be saved, your wife’s heart will change, and the two of you will grow a marriage that glorifies God. Also, again, this post is not professional counsel. You didn’t pay me to receive this, so don’t hold me accountable for it’s success. I can’t stress enough that every situation is different. I would suggest, although, that these situations often have similar characteristics. Hopefully some of this will help.

Men/Women, what would you add to this?

In Africa, I’m An Old Man

I’m a senior citizen….at least for now, Seriously. It’s not a joke. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m only 46 years old, but for the next couple weeks, I’ll be considered “old as dirt”. And, it won’t be because the 20 something year olds traveling with me will be making fun of me either…even though they might. In fact, they may go through a mid-life crisis, because they’ll be considered middle-aged.

In case you missed yesterday’s post, I’m headed to Sierra Leone. The life expectancy there is only 43 years old. I couldn’t believe that when I first read it. I will literally be an old man there. It reminds me that life is relative to the context in which you live it sometimes. It also makes me sad for that country and more passionate about ministering to the people of Sierra Leone.

I know this also. Not only will I be even more intentional there; knowing that life is so short, perhaps it will shape how I view life here, because life is short in the United States too, isn’t it? Regardless of how long a person lives…

I would appreciate your prayers. It would be great to get home and see comments that you were praying for our group. I suspect that I will feel those prayers, so let me thank you for them now.

Have you ever been to Africa? Have you been on a mission trip? Did it change your life? Tell me about it…at least where you went.

Cast Your Bread Upon the Waters: Doing Good

Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again. Ecclesiastes 11:1

I had an interesting situation occur last Sunday after one of our services. I was greeting people as they left the service as I do every week and a man waited to speak with me. He has been attending our church about six months, but wanted to share with me what brought him to Grace. Apparently years ago, probably close to 15 years now, I was in the insurance business and he was in real estate. He said that every time he achieved any recognition as a realtor he would get an encouraging note from me. He was so encouraged each time that he began keeping up with me in my community involvement and my online activity (I’ve been attempting ministry online since 1996). He said he decided if I ever pastored a church he would attend. He only recently learned I was at Grace.

I don’t share that story to make myself look special. Honestly it was mostly marketing driven activity at that time. I share it because it illustrates a bigger principle; the one the verse shared at the beginning of this post illustrates The principle is that when we do good things; the things that invest in people, encourage them, make their life better, we may not see the immediate results of those actions. Sometimes it may not even seem to make a difference, but after many days…well…after many days only God knows the good that you and I may see.

It reminds me of a couple other principles from God’s word:

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

Do the good you know and see to do today. “Cast your bread upon the waters.” You may get no recognition for it. No one may even seen to care that you did…oh but one day…you’ll find that bread again…and when you do...that’s some good bread. Trust me!

Have you had a stories of doing good things and not hearing of it later?

I’d loved to read your story. It may encourage others…and me.

10 Confessions I Need to Make

Office scenes (prayer)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:16

I look good online. I appear to be all the things I’m not. Here’s the truth you need to know:

I can be greedy…
I can be prideful…
I can be arrogant…
I can be stubborn…
I can be lustful…
I can be unforgiving…
I can be judgmental…
I can be egotistical…
I can be selfish….
I can be uncaring…

There’s my list…Thankful, as always, for His grace…

I don’t want my prayers hindered in any way because I’m pretending to be someone I’m not. I feel better letting you know who I really am some days.

What do you need to confess today?