Sunday, November 30, 2008

Today's Prayer

Dear God, please forgive me. I sometimes look at those I see and get frustrated by the way they are. Some are angry and act ugly and even curse. Others have no desire to do what is right. Some just want to "party" and live like the world all the time. Some are lazy. Some are hurting and holding on to bitterness. I don't always understand why they are that way. Then I, in my frustration, become angry and grumble.

Forgive me for my ungodly attitudes and complaining. I am sorry. Help me to see the potential in others and to pray for them more and criticize them less. I pray that through my prayers to you and through my Christian testimony and example and through my words and deeds, these people would come to know you or come back and lay their issues on the altar. I pray that we all will lift our burdens to you and drop them at your feet, so that you can take them away and guide us in the way everlasting. Please relieve our griefs and burdens and replace them with your peace. Please bless us as we serve you. Please help us and pick us help when we stumble.

Thank you for your mercies. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Paid in Full

After living what I felt was a decent life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a court house.

The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defense table. As I looked around I saw the prosecutor. He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen.

I sat down and looked to my left and there sat my attorney, kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him. The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence as He moved across the room I couldn't take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, "Let us begin."

The prosecutor rose and said, "My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this woman belongs in hell." He proceeded to tell of lies that I told, things that I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions that were once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed that I couldn't look at anyone, even my own attorney, as the Devil told of sins that even I had completely forgotten about.

As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defense at all. I know I had been guilty of those things, but I had done some good in my life - couldn't that at least equal out part of the harm I'd done? Satan finished with a fury and said, "This woman belongs in hell, she is guilty of all that I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise."

When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendor and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Savior.

He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, "Hi, Dad," and then He turned to address the court. "Satan was correct in saying that this woman had sinned, I won't deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this woman deserves to be punished." Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, "However, I died on the cross so that this person might have eternal life and she has accepted Me as herSavior, so she is Mine." My Lord continued with, "Her name is written in the Book of Life, and no one can snatch her from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This woman is not to be given justice, but rather mercy."

As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, "There is nothing else that needs to be done. I've done it all." The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips ...

"This woman is free. The penalty for her has already been paid in full. Case dismissed."

As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, "I won't give up, I will win the next one." I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, "Have you ever lost a case?" Christ lovingly smiled and said, "Everyone that has come to Me and asked Me to represent them has received the same verdict as you,

~ Paid In Full ~

Churches Burned - Over 300 Killed in Nigeria

More than 300 people have died in Muslim-Christian clashes in the worst sectarian violence in Nigeria since 2004, when some 700 people were killed.

Angry mobs burned homes, churches and mosques on Saturday in the central state of Plateau in the second day of riots, according to The Associated Press. Though initially a clash between supporters of the region’s two main political parties following the election, the violence was soon divided along ethnic and religious lines.

Tension began when electoral workers did not post the results in ballot centers, causing many locals to assume the election was going to be another fraudulent political event.

After riots broke out, a curfew was declared and the governor of Plateau state ordered troops to shoot on sight to enforce the curfew in neighborhoods affected by the violence, according to Reuters.

About 7,000 people in conflict areas have left their homes and are seeking refuge in government buildings and religious centers, the Red Cross reported.

Sectarian violence is not new in Plateau state, with more than 1,000 people killed in Jos – the state’s capital – in September 2001 due to Christian-Muslim hostility.

This weekend’s sectarian violence was the worst clash in the West African nation since 2004, when as many as 700 died in Plateau and over 100 churches were destroyed. The 2004 violence was said to be sparked by land disputes between members of the predominantly Christian Tarok tribe and Muslim Hausa-Fulani farmer.

Nigeria is split nearly evenly between a predominantly Muslim north and a Christian south. According to Compass Direct, religious conflicts between Muslims and Christians have claimed more than 10,000 lives since 1999.

[from The Christian Post RSS Feed by Ethan Cole]

Church Security Guard Shoots Man in Birmingham

A church security guard shot a man he believed was breaking into Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral this morning, according to Birmingham, Alabama police.

A South Precinct sergeant said the man who was shot is in critical condition at UAB Hospital while the guard suffered bruises to his head and face during a struggle.

The guard came upon the man as he patrolled the church at 307 19th St. South sometime before 7:30 a.m., the sergeant said.

Police have been called to the church on several occasions this week, but the sergaent said he did not know the nature of those calls.

[Posted by Jeremy Gray -- The Birmingham News]

U.S. College Football Ranking

BCS Standings:
1. Alabama 12-0
2. Oklahoma 11-1
3. Texas 11-1
4. Florida 11-1
5. USC 10-1
6. Utah 12-0
7. Texas Tech 11-1
8. Penn State 11-1
9. Boise State 12-0
10. Ohio State 10-2
11. TCU 10-2
12. Ball State 12-0
13. Cincinnati 10-2
14. Oklahoma State 9-3
15. Georgia Tech 8-3
16. Georgia 9-3
17. Boston College 9-3
18. BYU 10-2
19. Oregon 9-3
20. Missouri 9-3
21. Michigan State 9-3
22. Northwestern 9-3
23. Pitt 8-3
24. Florida State 8-4
25. Virginia Tech 8-4

Associated Press poll:
1. Alabama (62) 12-0 1,620
2. Florida (3) 11-1 1,516
3. Texas 11-1 1,488
4. Oklahoma 11-1 1,480
5. USC 10-1 1,355
6. Penn State 11-1 1,257
7. Utah 12-0 1,216
8. Texas Tech 11-1 1,197
9. Boise State 12-0 1,103
10. Ohio State 10-2 1,069
11. TCU 10-2 885
12. Ball State 12-0 834
13. Cincinnati 10-2 824
14. Oklahoma State 9-3 798
15. Georgia Tech 8-3 708
16. Oregon 9-3 630
17. Georgia 9-3 495
18. Boston College 9-3 482
19. Missouri 9-3 479
20. Brigham Young 10-2 385
21. Michigan State 9-3 312
22. Mississippi 8-4 280
23. Pittsburgh 8-3 241
24. Northwestern 9-3 190
25. Oregon State 8-4 122

USA Today coaches poll:
1. Alabama (58) 12-0 1,521
2. Oklahoma (2) 11-1 1,397
3. Texas 11-1 1,396
4. Florida (1) 11-1 1,385
5. USC 10-1 1,298
6. Penn State 11-1 1,176
7. Utah 12-0 1,153
8. Texas Tech 11-1 1,116
9. Boise State 12-0 1,044
10. Ohio State 10-2 999
11. TCU 10-2 836
12. Cincinnati 10-2 770
13. Ball State 12-0 765
14. Oregon 9-3 658
15. Oklahoma State 9-3 613
16. Georgia Tech 8-3 590
17. Missouri 9-3 470
18. Brigham Young 10-2 461
19. Georgia 9-3 440
20. Boston College 9-3 435
21. Michigan State 9-3 414
22. Northwestern 9-3 333
23. Pittsburgh 8-3 154
24. Oregon State 8-4 127
25. Mississippi 8-4 126

You Can't Please Everyone. That's OK.

I once heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Well I’d like to add a second definition: trying to please everyone. Trying to make everyone happy ranges from difficult to impossible and the only guarantee you have is that you’ll wish you never tried. We face this problem with leaders, clergy, business owners, managers and even with our friends and family.

The bottom line is that we’re all unique – for better or for worse – and therefore the one-size-fits-all mentality rarely applies to real life situations. To further complicate things, just as there are some folks that are easy going and easy to please, there are others that are downright grumpy and find fault with everything. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle where we have reasonable expectations and as long as an effort has been made to meet those expectations, we’re satisfied.

So what is one to do? Give up? Live in a cave? Of course not. You simply need to set the expectation that not everyone will go along with what you plan/say/attempt/etc. If everyone does go along with it and they’re happy, then great. If they don’t, you’re not surprises, or worse, disappointed.

Politicians deal with this each day. Sometimes they start with 40-50% of their electorate in opposition to them. Additionally, they have factions within their own party that voted for them not because they were the best choice, but because they were a better choice than the person from the other party. This is true for anyone in any position of leadership or authority and the higher you rise on the ladder of success, the more people will oppose your ideas, actions and decisions. Even if you have two or three folks working with you, you’ll have times where you make a decision that one or more of them may disagree with.

The trick for handling this is doing what’s best for the group or the organization that you’re responsible for pleasing. That’s a bit of a loaded sentence so I’ll give some examples. If you’re the leader of a church or ministry, you need to do what’s best for your church as a whole so that it can survive and thrive. Sometimes it’ll upset the majority, but keep in mind that the number one goal of a church is to succeed.

With family and friends, things are a bit tricky because pleasing the majority can mean that someone with different tastes and interests might feel a bit left out. Again, you need to do what’s best for the group so things like selecting a date or set of dates for an activity have to be based on the majority the first time and then cater to the minority that couldn’t make it, yet is still interested, the next time.

Anything that costs money needs to consider the majority as well and what affects both ends of the spectrum. If someone in the group has expensive tastes that the majority of the group can’t afford, then it makes sense to pick a more moderately priced activity or accommodation. On the flip side, if you’re planning a trip to a particular destination such as a foreign country and one member of the group can only afford to travel to the nearest major city, then he or she might need to wait until the next trip.

Family and friends are more difficult to deal with because the good of the group often translates to something for everyone. As a picky eater, I’m often the most difficult to please when selecting a restaurant but I often put the responsibility on myself to eat beforehand or find something I can customize on the menu to meet my tastes. With that being said, if I were on vacation with friends or family and had to do that at every meal, I’d be a bit annoyed. But it wouldn’t be fair for me to expect everyone to forgo their favorite meals to meet my needs by eating only at places I liked, so everyone needs to understand that everyone has to give and take.

Trying to make everyone in a group happy can be challenging and not an absolute necessity. It’s up to you to judge your own situation and determine what the best course of action is. Just keep in mind that there are people that have become extremely successful by only pleasing a slim majority of their intended audience.

[from Overnight Sensation by James]

Tis a very, Merry Christmas!

Three years ago, a little boy and his grandmother came to see Santa at the Mayfair Mall in Wisconsin . The child climbed up on his lap, holding a picture of a little girl.

"Who is this?" asked Santa, smiling. "Your friend? Your sister?"

"Yes, Santa," he replied. "My sister, Sarah, who is very sick," he said sadly. Santa glanced over at the grandmother who was waiting nearby, and saw her dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "She wanted to come with me to see you, oh, so very much, Santa!" the child exclaimed. "She misses you," he added softly.

Santa tried to be cheerful and encouraged a smile to the boy's face, asking him what he wanted Santa to bring him for Christmas. When they finished their visit, the Grandmother came over to help the child off his lap, and started to say something to Santa, but halted. "What is it?" Santa asked warmly. "Well, I know it's really too much to ask you, Santa, but ." the old woman began, shooing her grandson over to one of Santa's elves to collect the little gift which Santa gave all his young visitors.

"The girl in the photograph ... my granddaughter well, you see ... she has leukemia and isn't expected to make it even through the holidays," she said through tear-filled eyes. "Is there any way, Santa any possible way that you could come see Sarah? That's all she's asked for, for Christmas, is to see Santa."

Santa blinked and swallowed hard and told the woman to leave information with his elves as to where Sarah was, and he would see what he could do. Santa thought of little else the rest of that afternoon. He knew what he had to do.

"What if it were MY child lying in that hospital bed, dying," he thought with a sinking heart, "This is the least I can do."

When Santa finished visiting with all the boys and girls that evening, he retrieved from his helper the name of the hospital where Sarah was staying. He asked the assistant location manager how to get to Children's Hospital.

"Why?" Rick asked, with a puzzled look on his face. Santa relayed to him the conversation with Sarah's grandmother earlier that day. "C'mon ... I'll take you there" Rick said softly.

Rick drove them to the hospital and came inside with Santa. They found out which room Sarah was in. A pale Rick said he would wait out in the hall. Santa quietly peeked into the room through the half-closed door and saw little Sarah on the bed. The room was full of what appeared to be her family; there was the Grandmother and the girl's brother he had met earlier that day.

A woman whom he guessed was Sarah's mother stood by the bed, gently pushing Sarah's thin hair off her forehead. And another woman who he discovered later was Sarah's aunt, sat in a chair near the bed with a weary, sad look on her face. They were talking quietly, and Santa could sense the warmth and closeness of the family, and their love and concern for Sarah.

Taking a deep breath, and forcing a smile on his face, Santa entered the room, bellowing a hearty, "Ho, ho, ho!" "Santa!" shrieked little Sarah weakly, as she tried to escape her bed to run to him, IV tubes intact. Santa rushed to her side and gave her a warm hug.

A child the tender age of his own son -- 9 years old -- gazed up at him with wonder and excitement. Her skin was pale and her short tresses bore telltale bald patches from the effects of chemotherapy. But all he saw when he looked at her was a pair of huge, blue eyes. His heart melted, and he had to forcehimself to choke back tears.

Though his eyes were riveted upon Sarah's face, he could hear thegasps and quiet sobbing of the women in the room.As he and Sarah began talking, the family crept quietly to the bedside one by one, squeezing Santa's shoulder or his hand gratefully,whispering "Thank you" as they gazed sincerely at him with shining eyes. Santa and Sarah talked and talked, and she told him excitedly all the toys she wanted for Christmas, assuring him she'd been a very good girl that year.

As their time together dwindled, Santa felt led in his spirit to pray for Sarah, and asked for permission from the girl's mother. She nodded in agreement and the entire family circled around Sarah's bed, holding hands. Santa looked intensely at Sarah and asked her if she believed in angels. "Oh, yes, Santa ... I do!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I'm going to ask that angels watch over you." he said. Laying one hand on the child's head, Santa closed his eyes and prayed. He asked that God touch little Sarah, and heal her body from this disease. He asked that angels minister to her, watch and keep her. And when he finished praying, still with eyes closed, he started singing, softly,"Silent Night, Holy Night ... all is calm, all is bright ..."

"The family joined in, still holding hands, smiling at Sarah, and crying tears of hope, tears of joy for this moment, as Sarah beamed at them all. When the song ended, Santa sat on the side of the bed again and held Sarah's frail, small hands in his own. "Now, Sarah," he said authoritatively, "you have a job to do, and that is to concentrate on getting well. Iwant you to have fun playing with your friends this summer, and I expect to see you at my house at Mayfair Mall this time next year!"

He knew it was risky proclaiming that to this little girl who had terminal cancer, but he "had" to. He had to give her the greatest gift he could -- not dolls or games or toys -- but the gift of HOPE.

"Yes, Santa!" Sarah exclaimed, her eyes bright. He leaned down and kissed her on the forehead and left the room.

Out in the hall, the minute Santa's eyes met Rick's, a look passed between them and they wept unashamed. Sarah's mother and grandmother slipped out of the room quickly and rushed to Santa's side to thank him. "My only child is the same age as Sarah," he explained quietly." This is the least I could do." They nodded with understanding and hugged him.

One year later, Santa Mark was again back on the set in Milwaukee for his six-week, seasonal job which he so loves to do. Several weeks went by and then one day a child came up to sit on his lap.

"Hi, Santa! Remember me?!" "Of course, I do," Santa proclaimed (as he always does), smiling down at her. After all, the secret to being a "good" Santa is to always make each child feel as if they are the "only" child in the world at that moment. "You came to see me in the hospital last year!" Santa's jaw dropped. Tears immediately sprang in his eyes, and he grabbed this little miracle and held her to his chest. "Sarah!" he exclaimed. He scarcely recognized her, for her hair was long and silky and her cheeks were rosy -- much different from the little girl he had visited just a year before. He looked over and saw Sarah's mother and grandmother in the sidelines smiling and waving and wiping their eyes.

That was the best Christmas ever for Santa Claus. He had witnessed -- and been blessed to be instrumental in bringing about -- this miracle of hope. This precious little child was healed. Cancer-free. Alive and well. He silently looked up to Heaven and humbly whispered, "Thank you, Father. Tis a very, Merry Christmas!"

Death Notice - Rev. George M. Docherty

The Rev. George M. Docherty, credited with helping to push Congress to insert the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, has died at 97.

Docherty died on Thanksgiving at his home in central Pennsylvania, according to his wife, Sue Docherty. She said her husband of 36 years had been in failing health for about three years. "George said he was going to live to be a hundred and he was determined," she said in a telephone interview Saturday. "It's amazing that he was with us this long."

Docherty, then pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, just blocks from the White House, gave a sermon in 1952 saying the pledge should acknowledge God.

He was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was unfamiliar with the pledge until he heard it recited by his 7-year-old son, Garth. "I didn't know that the Pledge of Allegiance was, and he recited it, 'one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,'" he recalled in an interview with The Associated Press in 2004. "I came from Scotland, where we said 'God save our gracious queen,' 'God save our gracious king.' Here was the Pledge of Allegiance, and God wasn't in it at all."

There was little effect from that initial sermon, but he delivered it again on Feb. 7, 1954, after learning that President Dwight Eisenhower would be at the church. The next day, Rep. Charles G. Oakman, R-Mich., introduced a bill to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. Eisenhower signed the law on Flag Day that year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

There Must Be A Better Way

1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 - So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it. And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love! Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.

In spite of numerous Scriptural injunctions otherwise, an obnoxious spirit of evil is permeating our society, and perhaps even the church. From national politics, to communities, to ministry organizations, there is a resurgence of a haughty judgmental spirit. To the point that politics are as prevalent in the church as out.

Yet, the Scripture is clear. There should be a spirit of encouragement among God's people. An intent to build one another up, not tear one another down. Even when conflict must be resolved and wrongs must be righted, there is a Godly way to do so, and an ungodly option to be consumed with a bad attitude.

There should be a spirit of helping one another along way. But the church has come to be very quick on the trigger to assassinate their wounded. What happened to the spirit of appreciation, love, and esteem?

Any ministry consumed with an attitude of judgemental legalism is in trouble. That ministry will implode and the Kingdom of God will be damaged.

If it isn't love, it is not of God. Even discipline must be done in love. Nothing excuses an ungodly attitude. May God help us to adopt the Spirit of Christ as we enter the Advent season.

Congo Conflicts Increase

Church-related aid agencies are assisting civilians displaced by the eastern Congo conflict as the U.N. special envoy made another effort on Friday to arrange peace talks between Congo’s government and Tutsi rebels.

More than 250,000 people have been forced to flee their homes to escape the intensified fighting in recent weeks, adding to more than one million who have already been displaced by the conflict.
Among those of particular concern are the some 300 displaced pregnant women and children in the rebel-held territory north of Goma. These vulnerable women and children had fled the violence with nothing with them except the clothes they were wearing, the aid group reports. Many of the women are said to be traumatized by the experience.

“A silent war has been waged against women and children,” said Sue Mbaya, World Vision’s Africa advocacy director, at the U.N. Security Council Arria Formula briefing by NGO’s on Tuesday.

“Women and girls in the hundreds have been targets of opportunistic and brutal rape, while children are also being targeted for recruitment or re-recruitment as child soldiers,” Mbaya explained.

According to the World Vision survey, 120 girls under the age of 17 reported being raped in October among the six displacement camps run by the ministry, compared to only five reported cases in 12 Child-Friendly Spaces between April and June.

Another finding is that children as young as 7 years old are being forced to fight.

“Some children are being abducted and others are joining armed groups voluntarily because they lack food and access to education or vocational skills,” Mbaya said.

World Vision has distributed emergency items, including blankets, plastic sheeting, sleeping mats, soap, cooking equipment, and mosquito nets to more than 20,000 displaced people, and hopes to reach more than 200,000 people with its program in the next two months.

As aid groups take care of victims on the Congo conflict, the United Nations is trying to put together peace talks between the two warring parties. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo plans to meet President Joseph Kabila on Friday on a second mission trip in two weeks to try to end the conflict in eastern Congo, according to Reuters.

A ceasefire between the Tutsi rebel General Laurent Nkunda and government forces is currently in place, but the rebels are still attacking pro-government militias.

On Friday, a Ugandan Army spokesman said the rebels have captured two more border posts and another town in eastern Congo, according to The Associated Press.

The U.N. Security Council recently agreed to increase its peacekeeping troops in Congo with an additional 3,000 soldiers and police officers to be added to its current mission of 17,000. It is unclear when additional troops will arrive.

Church Shooting Suspect Confesses After Arrest

The gunman in the NJ Church shooting has been arrested in Monroe GA. He confessed to the shooting and stated that he wished he could have killed more people as he blamed them for keeping his wife away from him.


[from Church Security Member by Jack Justice]

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Advent Reflection

It is truly a humbling experience to read back through the Old Testament and see how frail and imperfect all the "heroes" actually are. Abraham, the coward who cannot believe the promise. Jacob, the cheat who struggles with everybody. Joseph, the immature and arrogant teen. Moses, the impatient murderer who cannot wait for God. Gideon, the cowardly Baal-worshipper. Samson, the womanizing drunk. David, the power abusing adulterer. Solomon, the unwise wise man. Hezekiah, the reforming king who could not quite go far enough. And finally, a very young Jewish girl from a small village in a remote corner of a great empire.

It never ceases to amaze me why God could not have chosen "better" people to do His work in the world. Yet if God can use them, and reveal Himself through them in such marvelous ways, it means that He might be able to use me, inadequate, and unwise, and too often lacking in faith that I am. And it means that I need to be careful that I do not in my own self-righteousness put limits on what God can do with the most unlikely of people in the most unlikely of circumstances. I think that is part of the wonder of the Advent Season.

The Spirit of Advent

Advent begins November 30 this year as the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world, first expressed by Israelite slaves in Egypt as they cried out from their bitter oppression. It is the cry of those who have experienced the tyranny of injustice in a world under the curse of sin, and yet who have hope of deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!

It is that hope, however faint at times, and that God, however distant He sometimes seems, which brings to the world the anticipation of a King who will rule with truth and justice and righteousness over His people and in His creation. It is that hope that once anticipated, and now anticipates anew, the reign of an Anointed One, a Messiah, who will bring peace and justice and righteousness to the world.

Part of the expectation also anticipates a judgment on sin and a calling of the world to accountability before God. We long for God to come and set the world right! Yet, as the prophet Amos warned, the expectation of a coming judgment at the "Day of the Lord" may not be the day of light that we might want, because the penetrating light of God’s judgment on sin will shine just as brightly on God’s people.

The season of Advent has come to be celebrated in terms of expectation or anticipation. The anticipation of the Coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament and Judaism was not in connection with remembrance of sins. Rather, it was in the context of oppression and injustice, the longing for redemption, not from personal guilt and sin but from the systemic evil of the world expressed in evil empires and tyrants. It is in that sense that all creation groans for its redemption as we witness the evil that so dominates our world (Rom 8:18-25).

While some church traditions focus on penitence during Advent, and there remains a place for that, the spirit of that expectation from the Old Testament is better captured with a joyous sense of expectancy. Rather than a time of mourning and fasting, Advent is celebrated as a time of joy and happiness as we await the coming of the King.

So, we celebrate with gladness the great promise in the Advent, yet knowing that there is also a somber tone as the theme of threat is added to the theme of promise. This is reflected in some of the Scripture readings for Advent, in which there is a strong prophetic tone of accountability and judgment on sin. But this is also faithful to the role of the Coming King who comes to rule, save, and judge the world.Because of the dual themes of threat and promise, Advent is a time of preparation that is marked by prayer. While Lent is characterized by fasting and a spirit of penitence, Advent’s prayers are prayers of humble devotion and commitment, prayers of submission, prayers for deliverance, prayers from those walking in darkness who are awaiting and anticipating a great light (Isa 9)!

The spirit of Advent is expressed well in the parable of the bridesmaids who are anxiously awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom (Matt 25:1-13). There is profound joy at the Bridegroom’s expected coming. And yet a warning of the need for preparation echoes through the parable.

May you be filled with joy as we anticipate the soon return of our Lord.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dr. R. Lamar Vest to Become President of the American Bible Society

Rev. Dr. R. Lamar Vest, the executive vice-president of the American Bible Society, will serve as the organization's next president beginning January 1, 2009, according to an announcement this past week.

The announcement of Vest's acceptance of his new position comes five months after the Board of Trustees determined not to bring back former president, Dr. Paul Irwin, whose contract was set to expire on June 30, 2008. Irwin had been suspended amid an investigation of possible financial irregularities at the organization.


How Safe Is Your Church?

What's your responsibility to your peoplefor their safety? Do you have ex-offenders who attend your church? Don't they matter to God? Many of them have experienced life transformation by the work and wonder of the Holy Spirit and their cooperative steps in community, study, and surrender. But, transformed or not - when an offender has harmed a child, sexually transgressed another person ... what then?

Does your church have a security team? Are they trained and competent? Is that enough? What's the awkward but appropriate mix of grace and boundaries? How do you decide who should have background checks and who doesn't? How do you treat people who matter to God? What's your responsibility to the individual seeking new life ... or seeking new prey? What's your responsibility to the people who could be harmed?

Bob D'Ambrosio at Church Solutions says:

Imagine your worst-case scenario. You discover one of your youth ministry volunteers hid a history of sexual abuse and you never knew about it until it was too late. You didn't think it could ever happen, at least not at your church. According to GuideOne Insurance, in a typical year one in 100 churches will experience an allegation of sexual misconduct.

The days of thinking that nothing like this could happen at your church are long gone. Churches weren't asking these questions just a few years ago. But recent attention to clergy sexual misconduct has forced the church to not only ask the questions but also to act with diligence to protect the people it serves. Paul warned the Ephesians to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5: 11). Background checks have become the new screening tool of the church to expose the darkness.

A survey conducted by Church Law and Tax Report found that church volunteers commit 50 percent of all incidents of sexual abuse in churches; paid staff commit 30 percent; and other children commit 20 percent. Many risk-consultant professionals agree that the church is now the pedophiles last refuge because screening doesn't exist in many churches. In a recent Barna study, only 57 percent of the pastors who were polled said their church conducts background and reference checks on those who work with children and youth. Failing to screen out a potential predator may not only bring harm to those in your care but also cause damage to your reputation in the community, in addition to the financial strain of a potential lawsuit. (The average jury award for negligent hiring is more than $8 million.)

The courts describe an organization's screening responsibility as "due diligence," meaning you did everything expected in the screening process to demonstrate you weren't negligent in placing someone in a position where he or she could harm another person. This would apply to those who work with vulnerable groups, such as children, youth, and the elderly and disabled.
So, how do you implement the process of background checking? Here are steps to get started:

- Create a written policy.
- Determine whom to check.
- Include screening requirement in ministry descriptions.
- Start at the top.
- Consider your budget.
- Work your plan.
- Keep Records.

You'll never have a 100 percent guarantee that conducting background checks will prevent all bad things from happening at your church, but it will help to reduce the risk. Make safety a priority in your church as Paul warned the Ephesians and reap the benefit of a secure and caring community.

[from Mark Waltz ...because People Matter by Mark Waltz]

What you doing to a safe environment at your church?

Meal Ideas for Thanksgiving

January 1-21 Prayer and Fasting

According to the Bible, there are three duties of every Christian: give, pray and fast. Fasting takes a lot of discipline and strength – strength which you can only receive from God. Your private discipline will bring you rewards in Heaven, says Matthew 6.

Several years ago, I had a meeting with Pastor Jentezen Franklin which happened to be during his 21 day Fast. I will never forget the powerful Spirit that I sensed which I later attributed to an on-going 21 day Fast. As we embraced, I also could not help but notice the frail skeleton of a Godly man disciplined to fasting.

January 1-21 is the best time of year to conduct a 21 day Fast. It will certainly set the tone for the year and I encourage everyone reading this Blog to join in the spiritual discipline.

The kind of fast you choose should be based on the leading of the Holy Spirit and your particuluar circumstances. Generally, I would encouarge you to embark on a food fast of some form. When the Bible speaks of fasting (as it does consistently) it is almost always referring to a fast regarding food. There is a powerful spiritual release when we deny ourselves in this fundamental way.

You are heavily encouraged to participate in what is commonly known as a "Daniel" or partial fast. The focus here is not on a complete abstaining from all food, but on the restriction of one's diet. Generally, this highlights a fast from meat and seeks instead to focus on fruits and vegetables. Another form of the partial fast might include omitting a particular meal each day, thus limiting the quantity of food consumed.

Jentezen Franklin Calls for 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting

For many years now, friends like you have joined me in a 21-day corporate fast to seek and honor God in January for the New Year. "I beseech you therefore; brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). By starting each year with a corporate fast, we have found that God meets with us in very unique and special ways. His presence grows greater and greater with each day of the fast. Without fail, He always shows up!

Corporately fasting in January is much the same precept as praying in the morning to establish the will of God for the entire day. I believe that, if we will pray and seek God and give Him our best at the first of the year, He will bless our ENTIRE year! "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

Fasting is a principle that God intended for everyone to be able to enjoy. It's not a punishment; it's a privilege! By making fasting a way of life, you can get closer to God and grow in your spiritual walk like never before. Fasting is one of the most powerful weapons God has given us for our daily lives. Through fasting, you can experience a release from the bondage of sin ... restoration in your relationships ... financial blessings ... spiritual renewal ... supernatural healing and so much more! Another reward of fasting has to do with your future. God has given you a vision, a divine dream for your life. When you fast, you open up the blessings and opportunities He has provided for you to pursue that dream. As you fast, pray for God's direction and guidance. Focus your faith on your dream and God will show you how you can turn your vision into a reality. Begin pursuing your divine dream today and make the rewards of fasting part of your lifestyle.

Jentezen Franklin

For more information, click

The International Center for Spiritual Renewal Announces 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Imagine what would happen in America if millions of believers united together in denying their flesh, pushing back their plates, and crying out to God for mercy?

21 Days for a New Awakening is a simple, sincere call for leaders, churches, and believers across America to begin 2008 in a season of radical fasting, intercession and repentance. From January 1-21, join with thousands of other believers and numerous denominations and ministries across our nation as we seek God for a Christ awakening in our day.

To learn more or to commit to participate in this fast, click here:

General Overseer Randall Howard Calls the Church of God of Prophecy to 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting

It has been a great strength infusion over the past two years to begin the New Year with 21 days of fasting and seeking God for His blessings over our efforts to answer His call and carry His gospel forward in the world. This year I cannot imagine beginning the year without such a season of seeking and hunger for God. The most pronounced lesson that we have learned over the last two years has been that Christ is the head of the church and that we can do nothing without Him. Amazingly the most simple lessons seem to be the ones that keep returning as new revelations along the journey. Just as our flesh bodies are the frail temples for our soul and spirit to use, the church here on earth is the frail vessel for Christ to fill and then work through to accomplish His will in the world. I know of no better way to welcome and to empower Christ's filling and working in the church than through fasting and prayer.

So this January we are looking forward to another wonderful season of setting aside our desire for food and lifting high our desire for His will to be done and His presence to lead our ministries fresh and new. Fasting has always been a means of pressing our flesh cravings down, a form of crucifixion, and seeking Christ's presence and power. In a real way we are joining Christ in Gethsemene saying, "Not my will but thine be done." With this understanding that we are the vessels and Christ is the treasure that fills us and empowers us, we can all declare that we need God in our areas of outreach and ministry.

[By Bishop Randall E. Howard]

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Your Thanksgiving Card


What Every Child Should Know About Thanksgiving

Second only to Independence Day, Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday. And as an American holiday, it is rooted deeply - like our nation - in faith in God.

The earliest Thanksgivings were celebrated by Americans who were keenly aware that their blessings - like their rights - came from God. In times of hardship unimaginable to us today, they took time to give thanks to their Creator.

Throughout early American history, when they suffered from drought, famine or war, Americans paused, not to seek vengeance or to question their faith, but to give thanks to God for the blessings they still had.

At a time when the economic news seems to get worse every day, it's important to remember the humble faith of these early Americans. They didn't just give thanks when times were good, they gave thanks when times were bad - especially when times were bad.

Not only have many Americans forgotten or never learned the historic origins of our Thanksgiving - to pause and give thanks to God for our abundance - but radical secularists are intent on removing God and faith from our national life altogether.Many of the entertainment and political elite seem to be threatened by religious faith. Others seem intent on denying or whitewashing the central role that religious faith has played in American history, such as the attempt to whitewash God out of the Capitol Visitor's Center (view the video petition). These radical secularists seek to portray those who acknowledge this historical fact as theocrats intent on imposing their religion on others.

In fact, to acknowledge the centrality of God in American history is to acknowledge America's great freedom of religion - the freedom to worship and the freedom not to worship. Many Americans have taken advantage of this freedom by drawing closer to their Creator. They understand, even if so many of our media and political elites don't, that religious freedom is the cornerstone of all of our freedoms.

Click here to continue reading ...

[by Newt Gingrich]

Thanksgiving at My House

Church Humor

Monday, November 24, 2008

Today's Quote

"An idea is salvation by imagination." ~ Frank Lloyd Wright

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gunman Opens Fire in New Jersey Church

A gunman entered a northern New Jersey church during Sunday services and shot three people in the vestibule, killing his estranged wife and injuring the other two before fleeing, authorities said.

Police were searching for 27-year-old Joseph M. Pallipurath of Sacramento, Calif., after the shooting at St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Clifton. He was last seen driving a green Jeep Wrangler, police said.

Detective Capt. Robert Rowan told The Star-Ledger of Newark that the victim, 24-year-old Reshma James, had recently moved from California to escape an abusive marriage and had filed a restraining order against Pallipurath.

When he came to into the church, Pallipurath said "I came to take my wife," a witness told The Star-Ledger. Authorities believe he acted alone.

About 200 people were attending services in the sanctuary of the church, whose members are mostly first-generation Indian immigrants and their children.

The victims were taken to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson, where Mr. Pallipurath’s wife, Reshma James, 24, died about 4 p.m., the police said. The other victims, both listed in very critical condition, were identified by church members as Ms. James’s relative, Silvy Perincheril, 47, of Hawthorne, N.J., who is the principal of the church’s Sunday school, and Dennis John Malloosseril, 23, a church director.

“It was very scary,” Anna Manimalethu said. “My kids are still scared.”

The Clifton police described Mr. Pallipurath as armed and dangerous, 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds. They said active restraining orders had been issued in California and New Jersey against him after domestic violence complaints by his wife, who had moved recently to New Jersey. Detective Capt. Robert Rowan said it appeared the gunman had driven from California to try to force her to return with him.

Members of the church gave a more elaborate account of the woman’s hardships, citing an arranged and abusive marriage that had left her terrified. A family friend, Aniyan Panavelil, said Ms. James, a registered nurse who grew up in India, had wed Mr. Pallipurath, an American, in India a year ago in an arrangement made by their families.

It was unclear if they had met before their wedding. Mr. Panavelil said the husband returned first to the United States and she joined him in Sacramento last January, but soon became a victim of domestic violence. Mr. Panavelil said the couple returned to India for a month to try to work things out with counselors, but the effort failed.

“He said he couldn’t do it anymore,” Mr. Panavelil said. As for Ms. James, he said, “He was torturing her too much.” The couple separated when they returned to this country, Mr. Pallipurath going to California and Ms. James to New Jersey, where she took refuge with Ms. Perincheril.

Ms. James began attending services with Ms. Perincheril at St. Thomas Knanaya, where some 60 families — first-generation Indian immigrants and their children — worship in a Christian tradition that traces its heritage to Abraham and its culture to Jews of the Aramaic-speaking regions of Israel and Syria, who migrated in 345 A.D. to the Malabar coast, in what is now the state of Kerala, in southwest India.

In recent decades, thousands of Knanaya people have migrated to North America, starting churches in Canada, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and elsewhere. They preserve many customs modeled on Jewish traditions, including the menorah, unleavened bread at Passover and wedding canopies, and they practice endogamous marriage.

The parish of St. Thomas Knanaya was founded in 1987 as part of the Universal Orthodox Church, with allegiance to the Holy See of Antioch. Most members formerly belonged to St. Peter’s in Yonkers, and the congregation met in rented spaces. But in February 2000, it bought the building at 186 Third Street in Clifton, set on a residential block in a working-class neighborhood 10 miles west of Manhattan.

What does your church do about security for your congregation? Do you feel that church security is becoming more of an issue?Click "comments" below and leave your comments.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Per Diem Rates Adjusted for Ministerial Travel

The IRS has released revised per diem rates for high-cost localities and some other localities.

The high per diem allowance rate increases from $237 to $256, and the low rate increases from $152 to $158.

There have been several changes to the list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method. Revenue Procedure 2008-59.

Click here for more information.

An Audio Presentation on "Strategic Thinking"

CLICK: Listen now to "Strategic Thinking for a Preferred Future "

[By Bruce Winston, Dean, Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship, Editor of the Journal of Strategic Leadership, Consultant, Trainer, Educator, Entrepreneur]

Tax Help For Pastors

If you are a minister, you can get your U.S. taxes professionally done for FREE!

Check out this site for more information: Tax help for ministers.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pastor's Thanksgiving Poem

[Click on image to enlarge it.]

Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success

Motivational teacher and bestselling author John C. Maxwell suggests several ways how to seize the day. He offers twelve daily practices to help you control your daily agenda, make time for people you love, and find success:

- Today's ATTITUDE Gives Me Possibilities
- Today's PRIORITIES Give Me Focus
- Today's HEALTH Gives Me Strength
- Today's FAMILY Gives Me Stability
- Today's THINKING Gives Me an Advantage
- Today's COMMITMENT Gives Me Tenacity
- Today's FINANCES Give Me Options
- Today's FAITH Gives Me Peace
- Today's RELATIONSHIPS Give Me Fulfillment
- Today's GENEROSITY Gives Me Significance
- Today's VALUES Give Me Direction
- Today's GROWTH Gives Me Potential
- Focus on making today the most important day you have.

You know its going to be a bad day when ...

Church Related Shooting at Seattle Church

Gang violence appeared to have spilled over to a Seattle based church event for teens resulting in one shooting death and the arrest of three men. Apparently, four men were involved in a confrontation outside the youth center involving staring, vulgar gestures and threats.

When the men walked into the community center and wanted to fight, the incident became deadly resulting in one man being fatally shot.

Preaching Conference

Hundreds of ministers are registering for the January 14-16, 2009, North American Conference On Biblical Preaching (Houston, Texas). Both the experienced and inexperienced minister will learn bridge-building concepts to connect and communicate in this present culture, PLUS will receive $595 of preaching tools including books, DVD’s and sermons. Register TODAY while the unbelievably low rate of $89 lasts!


Jentezen Franklin to Minister on Live TBN Television Special

Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Pastor of Free Chapel (church) in Gainsville, GA, and Executive Council Member of the Church of God (Cleveland, TN), will be hosting the TBN television program live, Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 6:00 PM EST.

Everyone is invited to attend the worship service at TBN's Atlanta Studios at 1550 Agape Way, Decatur, GA. For further information or directions, contact Mary Jo Castro at 404-288-1156.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pentecostal Press Leaders Meet

The Church of God (Pathway Press) and the Church of God of Prophecy (White Wing Publishing) jointly hosted the biannual meeting of the International Pentecostal Press Association Board of Directors on Monday and Tuesday, November 17-18, 2008. The Monday morning session was held at the Church of God International Offices, with greetings from Bishop Mark Williams, assistant general overseer, representing General Overseer Raymond F. Culpepper. The afternoon session was hosted by the Church of God of Prophecy International Offices. Tours were conducted of the headquarters of both hosting organizations.

On Tuesday morning, the delegates met at the Church of God of Prophecy International Offices, were greeted by General Overseer Randall Howard, and then made an excursion to rural Monroe County, Tennessee and Cherokee County, North Carolina, where they visited many historic sites shared by both Cleveland-based organizations. Sites visited included Barney Creek, where the Church of God formed as the Christian Union in 1886, the Shearer Schoolhouse site where the Holy Spirit baptism was first received by the group in 1896, the J. C. Murphy Home, where the first General Assembly was held in 1906, Fields of the Wood, and the grave of Richard G. Spurling, Jr., in Turtletown, Tennessee. Tour guides were Paul Holt, Heritage Ministries director for the Church of God of Prophecy, and Dr. James M. Beaty, retired missionary, historian, and professor at Lee University and the Church of God Theological Seminary.

The International Pentecostal Press Association is a fellowship of editors and writers from various Pentecostal denominations throughout the world, and receives its spiritual covering from the Pentecostal World Conference. The board of directors members are: Ken Horn, president (Assemblies of God); Clyde Hughes, first vice president (International Pentecostal Church of Christ); Virginia Chatham, second vice president (Church of God of Prophecy) Shirley Spencer, Secretary-Treasurer (International Pentecostal Holiness Church); and James E. Cossey, member at large (Church of God). The next meeting of the board of directors will be in March 2009 in Eugene, Oregon in conjunction with the annual meetings of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches in North America (PCCNA) and the Society for Pentecostal Studies.

Free Stuff For Church Planters


The Art of Forgiveness

Having a great deal of experience with offenses, being deeply hurt by heroes and fellow-laborers, the question always comes up; when do we confront and when do we overlook? My natural response to to confront. As a "fixer," I am immediately tempted to fix the situation. However, many times a still small voice encourages me to just overlook people and go on. When should we do which?

To answer this question, I am going to follow, roughly at least, the logic Chris Brauns uses in his excellent book Unpacking Forgiveness (I highly reccomend it).

1. Examine Yourself

Before you do anything else, you will want to examine yourself. You will want to see if there is some log in your eye that you have missed in all the fixation on the speck in your neighbor's eye (Matthew 7:3-5). You will want to examine your motives to determine why it is that you may desire confrontation (or perhaps why you desire to avoid confrontation). Are you angry and seeking revenge? Do you harbor a grudge against the person and feel like you can only ease this burden by telling him of his offense against you? Will you only feel better after you inflict guilt upon him? As you focus on your own sin and on your motives, you may find that the desire to pursue confrontation fades in the light of God's holiness and in the darkness of ungodly motives.

2. Examine Yourself Again: Are You Right?

You have now established that your motives are pure and that you are not overlooking a similar sin in your own life. Now you will want to examine yourself to ensure that you are right in this matter. Have you looked for Scriptural principles to determine if you have truly been sinned against? Is there clear violation of a Scriptural principle here, or are you dealing with a gray area? If you find that this is a gray area where there is no clear definition of right or wrong, it may well be best to simply put the matter aside.

3. Determine the Importance

If you have passed through the first two filters and still believe this is an issue worthy of confrontation, you will want to consider just how important a matter this is. Are we dealing here with a matter of preference or a matter of objective right and wrong? Is this an issue that will have long-term ramifications or something that will not much matter one way or the other? Are you making dogma out of personal preference? If, upon examination, you determine that this matter is not of great importance or that it is more about preference than anything else, just let it go.

4. Look for Patterns

There are times that we sin in a way that is out of character for us. For example, you may be consistently punctual but then, one day, show up late for an important meeting. In such a case it would probably not be worth my while addressing this offense. However, if you are constantly showing up late for even the most important meetings, this may be a matter I should address with you. It may still not be an area of sin (perhaps traffic is wildly unpredictable or you have a young child who is waking you up all night long, making it difficult for you to spring out of bed). Either way, we often do better to confront patterns of sin or offense than isolated incidents (though, obviously, with more egregious offenses we may need to confront them immediately).

5. Be Sensitive

Before approaching the person who has offended you, ensure that you are being sensitive to his or her unique situation. There may be stresses or strains in that person's life that are causing him or her to act out in ways that are atypical. In such a situation you are not excusing the person's sin but, rather, understanding that difficult times can cause even the finest Christian to act out in ways that are unusual for him. Adding the burden of confrontation may not be the wise or sensitive thing to do at that moment.

6. Seek Counsel

It may be valuable to seek the counsel of other mature Christians before pursuing confrontation. You will want to ensure that this is not simply an opportunity to gossip and vent, after which you will feel better and let the matter drop. But discreetly seeking wise counsel may be a very good way of "error-checking" your assessment of the previous steps.

If, after such an assessment of your own heart, the offender, and the offense, you still feel confrontation is necessary, you will want to pursue forgiveness and reconciliation in the way Jesus outlines in Matthew 18.

However, far more often than not, I think you will find it is wise to let the matter go. And here you will need to release your pride and outrage. You will need to be willing to let the matter well and truly drop, not telling others about it and not letting it fill your mind and outrage your heart. It is the glory of a man to overlook an offense; it is a foolish and prideful man who feels every little offense is worthy of confrontation.

[from "Culture Shift" by Dr. Albert Mohler]


(By Andy Stanley)

- Momentum = forward motion fueled by a series of wins.
- In the business world, a company that doesn’t have momentum takes quick action.
- In the church world, we put up with lack of momentum for a long time as long as we can still pay the bills.
- In the church world, momentum is not the norm. It is very disruptive, unsettling and uncomfortable.
- If you have momentum and you don’t know why — you are one stupid decision away from killing it.
- If you lack momentum, you need to understand why.
- Anything new creates momentum.
- Momentum is never triggered by tweaking something old. It is triggered by introducing something new.
- Complexity kills momentum. The process of tearing down complexity is painful, but must be done.

[from LeadingSmart by Tim Stevens]

The Impact of Hope in Strategic Plan Implementation

I had the privilege to work with several colleagues on an instrument to measure hope in organizations. It is published in the inaugural edition of the International Leadership Journal housed at Thomas Edison State College. The article is entitled: "An Instrument to Measure the Impact of Hope in Strategic Plan Implementation." by Bruce Winston, Corné Bekker, Karen Cerff, Doug Eames, Martha Helland and Delicia Garnes.


This research study presents a 13-item instrument to measure the level of hope in employees relative to their belief in the positive outcome of strategic plans. The singlefactor scale has a Cronbach alpha of .912. The premise of the research is that people may be unwilling to invest time and effort into the implementation of strategic plans if they do not have hope/faith in the success of the plans. Theoretical support comes from Vroom’s expectancy theory, means efficacy theory, Porter’s value chain, and Snyder’s hope theory. The practical application of this study lies in the notion that it may be beneficial for leaders to understand the level of employees’ hope in the success of strategic plans before implementing those plans.

For the full paper see:

[from Inner Reflections on Leadership by Corné J. Bekker]

Friday, November 14, 2008

University of Alabama Teams With Cottondale Community Church

After the single largest purchase from the West Alabama Food Bank in its history, students from the University of Alabama and volunteers at Cottondale Community Church have been working frantically under the leadership of Pastor Ron Martin nearly all week for the first “CARE Day” at the church Saturday.

Denise Cleveland, the research administrator for the UA social work school, a graduate student herself and also a native of the unincorporated Cottondale area east of Tuscaloosa, Alabama said the university’s Center for Community Based Partnership provided a grant for several teams of grad students to initiate projects in various parts of Tuscaloosa County.

Before the class settled on the food drive, the class organized a community meeting attended by State Rep. Gerald Allen, a Cottondale member of the Alabama House of Representatives, County Commissioner Gary Youngblood and representatives from area churches and businesses including Pastor Ron Martin of Cottondale Community Church.

“We went over a lot of problems that the community has, like roads and sewers,” Holden said. “But we knew there was nothing we could do about sewers, so we settled on partnering with the Cottondale Community Food Pantry.”

The two-month old food pantry, a project of Pastor Ron Martin’s Cottondale Community Church, had just gotten off the ground, he said, and has served about 20 families.

“But we knew the need was much greater,” he said. “And the social work class was a perfect fit.”
By the time the students had fanned out in the community, getting donations from businesses and churches as diverse as Food World, Catfish County restaurant, Cottondale First Methodist Church, the local VFW post and even the Oasis bar, $3,500 had been raised. Most of it went to purchase discount food from the West Alabama Food Bank.

“We are expecting at least 100 families and people to show up, based on what the church has told us and the flyers we have put up all over the Cottondale area as well as the outreach the churches and social agencies have done,” Cleveland said. “For some of the families who have young children, we also have ‘CARE packages’ that include things like diapers, toothbrushes and toiletry items.”

CARE Day will end at noon, but since it is anticipated that only a fraction of the food items will be dispersed, the church’s food pantry should find its shelves well stocked for the future when people in the community find themselves in need.

“Part of our class assignment was to help create something sustainable,” Holden said. “Not to just do something and not come back. And we think getting all these various business, churches and agencies involved with the project will do that.”

Pastor Martin, whose church has about 120 members, agrees.

“This is really going to be a tremendous boost,” he said. “We started out our food pantry real small, mostly because our church is not that large,” he said. “So when the students came to us with the offer to help it was something we just couldn’t pass up.

“This will probably quadruple what we had on hand even after Saturday and it will certainly help us to continue our pantry and even expand the number of people we can serve.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jesus as Agent of Change: Transformational and Authentic Leadership in John

Leadership is preemptive to the reality of human existence. Leading change is one of the most important, and still difficult, aspects of leadership. This paper utilizes a socio-rhetorical analysis of the twenty-first chapter in John’s gospel to explore the Johannine figure of Jesus as an agent of change and guidance. The data is extracted using the inner textual aspect of the model, which does not consider the translation of the words used in a context, rather the placement of the words to derive communication intent. The data is then compiled using two different, yet similar, models for change. First, is the Gestalt model for a cycle of experience. Second, is the still popular force field model postulated by Kurt Lewin in the 1950s, which defines behavior as a function perception experience. The textual data also supports that Christ’s function, as an agent of change, is representative of two emerging trends of leadership theory: transformational and authentic. Bass and Steidlmeier argue that truly transformational leaders are grounded by moral foundations, and that lasting change is representative of the moral development of the followers. The data presents practical implications that effective change agents, such as Jesus, also exist among the elusively high stages of moral development.

download/print article

Vision Casting

Six Steps to cast your vision:

1. Go somewhere alone to think it through. I recommend you spend an entire day without a phone. Just God, you, a pen and pad and your Bible. Worship for a while and let the creative juices flow.

This is the best method I know for goal setting and vision definition. You can't rush your destiny! Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God!"

2. After you set your goals, get a team of trusted confidants around you and get their input. See if they catch the vision with you. If they do, everyone else will catch it too. If they don't, keep working on it. They will help you fine tune it.

Proverbs 15:22 "Without counsel , plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established."

3. Sell it to your leaders first! If your leaders don't by it, it will not live past the first month. If they buy into it, the vision will last as long as you keep speaking it into the atmosphere.

Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit."

4. Pick a theme to sell the vision. If you can build a sermon series around it, your momentum will increase tremendously.

5. Find creative ways to drive your point home!

Here are some ideas:
- Play video clips from movies, GodTube, Wingclips or Sermon Spice.
- Do dramas, skits and human videos.
- Special music from the music department.
- Use props and/or pictures in your sermons.
- Ask the children's department to do a special presentation.
- Think of a way to make your messages memorable and engage the congregation.

6. Don't let it die. You have to keep speaking it out and giving it life until it lives. A vision starts out as a dream and a great idea. It's like a child. You have to feed it, nourish it and give it time to grow. Sometimes it gets sick and you have to make it well. When it grows up, it becomes a REALITY.

The most common mistakes pastors make is preaching ONE sermon and calling it a vision.
Ask every ministry in your church to do something that will enhance the vision. It takes time for a vision to catch on, but once it does, look out.

Habakkuk 2:2 "Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry."

Now the vision is plain and someone can RUN WITH IT!

[By Brian Cutshall]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pastoral Leadership

The following are pastoral leadership quotes from Pastor Dwight Mason, lead pastor at New Pointe Community Church in Dover, Ohio, a large and growing congregation of around 3,000 people.

- Nothing happens without leadership.
- There is nothing more powerful than an example.
- If there is no one leading, then everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes.
- Most problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership.
- It is always easier to blame others rather than take responsibility.
- We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.
- If you don’t like your church, take a look at who you are.
- It’s amazing to me how many people leading churches don’t like people.
- When we are driven to perform or please, we become controlling and we don’t lead well.
- My value is not because I’m a pastor. My value is because I’m a child of God.
- This book rocked my world: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.
- You are as sick as your secrets. You don’t need to tell everyone, you just need to tell somebody.

Connecticut Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

The Associated Press has reported that a judge cleared the way today for gay marriage to begin Wednesday in Connecticut, a victory for advocates stung by California's referendum that banned same-sex unions in that state.

Couples immediately marched to New Haven City Hall to get marriage licenses, and less than two hours after the final court hearing, Peg Oliveira and Jennifer Vickery were married in a brief ceremony next to New Haven City Hall.

"I feel so happy," said Vickery, a 44-year-old attorney who has a 3-month-old baby with Oliveira. "It's so much more emotional than I expected."

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 on October 10 that same-sex couples have the right to wed rather than accept a civil union law designed to give them the same rights as married couples.

Connecticut and Massachusetts have legalized gay marriage so far. The unions were legal in California until a statewide referendum to ban gay marriage narrowly passed last week. The vote has sparked protests and several lawsuits asking that state's Supreme Court to overturn the prohibition.

What Lies Ahead For America?

How long will it be until the following happens in America?

- Same sex marriage - legalized
- No more “See you at the pole” now illegal
- Boy Scouts disband rather than accept homosexuals
- Elementary schools include compulsory gender identity classes
- No more religious broadcasting
- Doctors who don’t offer artificial insemination for lesbians are fined
- Churches cannot legally refuse to host homosexual weddings
- Open homosexuality in the military
- No more churches renting school facilities
- No more Campus Crusade or Intervarsity
- No more pledge of allegiance in public schools
- Nurses cannot refuse to be involved with abortions
- FCC drops obsene language and nudity regulations from broadcast television
- Porn openly displayed in public stores for sale
- Illegal to privately own a gun in 8 states
- Home schooling has been severely restricted
- Terrorist bombs have exploded in four US cities
- Government now provides all healthcare
- People older than 80 have no access to healthcare or hospitals
- Restrictions on Christian books
- Prosecution of Bush Administration employees

What do you think? Click "comments" below.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lack of Effective Strategic Planning Hinders Small Churches

Small churches often get most of the equation right when it comes to making progress, but the one major mistake they make is poor planning, according to a recent study.

An overwhelming majority of pastors of small churches (94 percent) say they see the need and problems in their community that the church has been called to address, and eight out of 10 say they share with their congregation a clear and compelling picture of what God is calling their church to look like in several years, LifeWay Research's latest study shows.

But 67 percent of pastors of small churches say they are frustrated with how slow progress is being made at their churches.

"The effectiveness of local church ministry often is jeopardized by poor organization," diagnosed Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research. "Understanding God’s calling and the context of the church is important, but leadership requires knowing where you are, knowing where you need to go and knowing how to get there. Most pastors of small churches actively pursue the first two, but many struggle with the third."

LifeWay surveyed 350 Southern Baptist pastors of congregation that average fewer than 100 in primary worship attendance.

Many pastors openly admitted that they do not know how to lead their churches to achieve their goal.

Only 29 percent of pastors of small churches strongly agreed that they had a clear plan to transform their churches into what God wanted them to be.

But a significantly higher number of pastors expressed confusion about their plan and the problems along the way. Forty-four percent of the surveyed pastors agreed (somewhat or strongly) that they often do not understand why things do not work out, while 30 percent agreed that they are confused about where they should invest their own time and effort.
The survey revealed that although 70 percent of the pastors said their church budget was enough to fund current objectives, 40 percent agreed that their church rarely has time to reflect and plan properly.

For instance, two-thirds of the small churches rarely change the person in charge of certain work or responsibilities. And less than six in ten churches regularly review methods and results of events and programs.

"The survey clearly indicates that smaller-membership churches need to stop and evaluate what they are doing and who is doing it," McConnell said. "Leaders need to develop effective plans for carrying out the work God has called their churches to do."

He added, "Pastors who candidly assess their own strengths and weaknesses can surround themselves with leaders who have the talents that they lack.

"Each local church should seek out and utilize members gifted in organizing people and processes while still encouraging each other to desire the greater gifts of faith, hope, and love."

[from The Christian Post RSS Feed by Jennifer Riley]