No one gets into a relationship thinking: “This is going to wreck my life, alienate my family, friends, and leave me wounded (possibly for life”. Yet it happens all the time. Not all train wrecks can be avoided, but most can. It’s interesting that after the train wreck happens, people look back and say “I should have seen it coming”. Fact is, you did. At least parts of it, but you lied to yourself by thinking your situation was different.

I am not a counselor or psychologist nor do I play one on TV, yet in 22 years of praying and listening to people I have seen some familiar patterns emerge. I share this “straight from my gut” blog not because I’m an expert, but because I care. Before the wreck happens, consider eliminating the following three phrases from your life:

  1. What’s wrong with _________________________________________. (fill in the blank)

Most victims of relationship train wrecks said that phrase at some point.

I know I’m married, but, what’s wrong with a little flirting?

I know he has issues but what’s wrong with being forgiving? Aren’t we all imperfect?

I know she seems controlling, but what’s wrong with caring?

The problem with the “what’s wrong with” phrase is that it makes excuses for character flaws. If you have to spend time arguing with yourself or with mature people who love you, trying to justify the unjustifiable, you are probably treading in dangerous grounds.

Train wreck!

 

  1. I can save him/her.

People that like to play savior usually end up crucified by the exact same people they are trying to save. It’s interesting to watch this dynamic unfold. Many times, the satisfaction of getting attention overrides the potential for a broken heart and results in compromised values. There is something inside of all of us that craves attention. Starting and remaining in a relationship with an unhealthy person makes forget two important principles:

People are worse than you think they are.

The process of change is going to be harder than you think.

When you add to the mix an intimate physical relationship (very common in unhealthy individuals and relationships) you get a perfect storm. If you are wondering whether an intimate relationship with a person you are not married to is a good idea, think about this: Complete intimacy without complete commitment usually results in a complete mess.

Train wreck!

  1. This is perfect.

This is the balance to #2. You’ve probably heard it said, that if it’s too good to be true it probably is. There is no such thing as a perfect person or situation. If it seems too perfect, question it. Healthy relationships have disagreements and imperfections. There is a difference between imperfections and dysfunctions. These are three markers I use to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships:

Control- are they trying to help you become a better you or a different you?

Abuse- once it happens it’s time to get out.

Vomit- when someone you just started dating or just met shares too much information with you (they vomit on you) it should be a warning sign something is not right.

 

Some of you are seeing the signs right now that a train wreck might be at hand. Stop coming up with excuses. Train-wrecks seldom end well. Pray for courage and surround yourself with a couple of friends to support you as you jump off. Better a scraped knee than a busted head.

Sorry for the bluntness.

No more train-wrecks!

Do you know what you believe and why? Author Mark Mittlelberg shares six ways people arrive at their beliefs:

1) The Relativistic Faith Path,
2) The Traditional Faith Path,
3) The Authoritarian Faith Path,
4) The Intuitive Faith Path,
5) The Mystical Faith Path,
6) The Evidential Faith Path

Its a great resource. I highly recommend it.

In it he shares a quiz you can use with your church, youth groups, young adults, seekers. See the link below.

 

In the early 2000’s I was pastoring a large church, with two small children. I was enjoying life and ministry was hitting on all cylinders. One day out of the blue, Kathy came home and shared with me that she felt God was impressing her that we should consider being foster parents. Deisy was 15 at the time and had started attending the church we pastored.

We prayed and fasted and we said yes to God’s leading. A short time afterwards Yessenia, Deisy’s older sister also came to live with us. We followed the same process and welcomed her into our home.

It changed our lives. This is what we learned:

  1. We have understood that foster parenting was for us both a challenging and rewarding experience.

I do not remember any time, before or after, where we have prayed and fasted so much. Teenage fostering (is that even a word) was at times stressful. It required patience, prayer and perseverance. Now, if you fast-forward 10 years to the present day we can see the growth, the maturity, the connection and we thank God we did it. Foster parenting will test you but it will make you stronger. One of my two foster daughters has a master in Social Work. The other one has her own business. They are not perfect (what child is?) but we are proud of them. My greatest satisfaction?

They don’t hate God, church or religion.

They have a spiritual connection that they can pass on to their children. For that I am thankful.

  1. We decided not to make any differences between our biological and foster kids.

All of them went to private Adventist Schools. If one got ice-cream, all of them did. We treated them all as part of the family, and intentionally made them feel like they WERE NOT temporary visitors but permanent residents. The state gives an allowance for foster parents, but the expenses were higher, once you factor in Adventist Education. Since we are huge supporters of Adventist education that was a non-negotiable. I was proud when they graduated from PAA and one from WWU.

  1. We have concluded that it is worth it.

Whenever I am going through a hard time in an area of my life, I ask myself this question: is it worth it? When I look back 20 years from now, will it matter? Will I regret it? Being a foster parent was worth it. We aren’t able to help all the kids in the world, but we were able to help 2. When we get to heaven and see them and their families we will look back and remember that the effort and pain is well worth the reward and the pleasure of living with Jesus forever.

 

Maybe God is calling you to adopt or be a foster parent. It is not for everyone, but, who knows, it may be for you. If you want to talk more, we’d love to share more of our experiences. Just send us a message.

Interesting phrase, isn’t it? I picked it up from a great book on leadership I read last week. The title:

Fairness is overrated by Tim Stevens (http://www.fairnessisoverrated.com)

The concept is simple but not easy. The author makes the case for showing up to work every day not as an expert, know-it-all, almighty guru that has mastered all knowledge, but as a humble learner that makes the assumption that in the last 24 hours a shift may have happened that can dramatically and fundamentally change how effective you are.

Here are three reasons to show up stupid every day:

  • No one likes a know-it-all.

 

No matter how spiritual you are, don’t you feel at least a small sense of gratitude when that know-it-all fails at something? Anything? Believe me, we all know one that believes they are all that. We all have a know-it-all in our lives. If you can’t figure who among your friends/coworkers it is…it’s probably you! The major difference between leaders and know-it-alls is on how they make you feel. Leaders make you feel safe. Know-it-alls make you feel stupid.

  • By the time you have mastered it (whatever “it” is), it’s obsolete.

 

What took thousands of years to figure out, now takes seconds, maybe less. This generation can fact-check a sermon WHILE YOU ARE PREACHING IT, and with the availability of information, it is dangerous to the prosperity of an organization to say: Mission accomplished. You never arrive. There is no finish line. Like Donkey Kong, you just move to a higher level. Remember that the enemy of future success is past success.

  • The deeper your humility, the higher your tolerance for failure.

 

Showing up stupid means acknowledging the fact that failure is expected. You are not the master of the universe. You are neither the man nor the messiah. When you wake up today, understand that to get to that proverbial next level, you must accept the fact that failure will occur.

Only leaders that show up stupid every day will have the courage admit that in order to lead you must have the humility to learn how to.

North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists

Ministerial Convention – Austin, texas

Evangelism Shark Tank

June 28-30, 2015

Guidelines

1. Fifteen Evangelism Shark Tank proposals will be chosen, out of all the applications, by the Evangelism Shark Tank planning team. There will be five participants each night, for the 3 nights of the convention (June 28, 29, 30), each participant will receive an award:

 

1st Place: $20,000.00 (3 prizes)

2nd Place: $10,000.00 (3 prizes)

3rd Place: $5,000.00 (3 prizes)

4th Place: $3,000.00 (3 prizes)

5th Place: $2,000.00 (3 prizes)

 

2. Church members and the surrounding community must experience Jesus and a close relationship with Him through this initiative.

3. Community transformation must be an objective, something must happen outside the four walls of the church. Consultation with community leaders about the needs of the people around the church will be a big plus. 

4. Your church must demonstrate how congregational life will be enriched with this initiative.  (Internal value).

5. Your church must demonstrate how the local community will be enriched with this initiative.  (External value). This initiative must create an opportunity for great relationships between church members and the community.

6. Your church must demonstrate you have the vision, prayer life, organization, budget assessment, church board support, and human resources for your initiative (see application form) or click here http://www.nadministerial.org/article/969/public-evangelism-resources/resources/shark-tank-application-and-guidelines-for-120-000-giveaway  

7. This project must be something new or renewed for the Pastor and the congregation. Priority will be given to new/innovative ideas that can be replicated in other congregations.

8. Checks will be presented to the Pastors during the Closing Program on Wednesday, July 1, 2015; checks will be written to the Church; funds are only for the specific use of the proposed/winning initiative.

9. Pastor who applies to participate must be registered for the NAD Ministerial Convention. 

10. Participating Pastors must present the initiative in person to the Evangelism Shark Tank Panel and audience during the NAD Ministerial Convention.

11. The NAD Ministerial (Evangelism) Department will follow up with the winning Pastors and churches as they implement the initiatives.  The initiatives will be published and followed so other churches can duplicate them in their context.

—————————————————————————————

The Evangelism Shark Tank is not designed to fund: salaries, stipends, major equipment purchases, building funds, on-line platforms, or web services.

This week we finish our three part series on being “other-centered.” That process is started by asking yourself two foundational questions every day:

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Growing up, I was led to believe that politics, politicians, or government in general was to be avoided, even feared. After all, you can’t really partner with someone who is going to persecute you!

Consider the following two points:

  1. The Bible, government and politics.

I wonder how the people in our churches who oppose Adventists running for office and being part of the government would feel with:

Esther- wife of a king. Not outspoken about her faith initially (prayer, God and church are words you never find in the book of Esther) was used by God to make avail of her political influence to avoid disaster for the Jews.

Joseph- second in command, was used by God to publically and enthusiastically share the meaning of dreams and saved a country from starvation.

Daniel- public servant, public faith. God rewarded his faithfulness to impact not one but two world empires.

The Ethiopian- worked for the powers that be, catalyst for Christianity in his country.

If working for politicians or being one was so offensive to God, why all the examples? I don’t know about you, but I prefer a person in office who shares my passion for changing systems to impact our community in positive ways while at the same time understanding that faith based organizations have in the past and should in the future have a place at the table for the betterment of the people.

 

  1. Ellen White and balance.

I don’t believe we should make worship services political rallies. I understand that there are dangers to the mix of politics and religion. At the same time, remember that ruthless pagan leadership was not a deterrent to the above mentioned examples of God fearing individuals getting involved in government. Just because I don’t endorse political candidates from the pulpit, does not mean I should not work with them for a shared cause. I feel very comfortable with Adventists speaking to, working with, and helping governments with issues that deal with the needs of the least of these. You are probably familiar with the quotes against any type of political associations. Here are a couple that bring balance to the conversation. Read them and draw your own conclusions:

“A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.” (Mount of Blessings 137)

 

God’s Word prohibits policies that will enrich one class of persons through the oppression and suffering of another class. The person who takes advantage of someone’s misfortunes for monetary benefit, or who seeks a profit through another’s AC 93.5

Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations. You may every one of you make your mark. You should be content with no mean attainments. Aim high, and spare no pains to reach the standard. (Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 82)

The advocates of temperance fail to do their whole duty unless they exert their influence by precept and example—by voice and pen and vote— in favor of prohibition and total abstinence. We need not expect that God will work a miracle to bring about this reform, and thus remove the necessity for our exertion. We ourselves must grapple with this giant foe, our motto, No compromise and no cessation of our efforts till the victory is gained…. (Gospel Workers, p. 387)

 

What breaks your heart?

What are you going to do about it?

How’s it going with your two questions?

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

If you are a local pastor or leader here are 10 things you can do to specifically start to address all 3 levels of social action. You can share this with your board and leadership team.

  1. Purpose

Start by checking you purpose. Is it clearly spelled out? Do you have an ‘elevator speech’ where you can articulate your community service vision in less than 2 minutes? At the end of the day, we serve because we love, not so we can be on the local news or go give seminars to gloat about how much we serve.

 

  1. Providers

There are already organizations that provide many services in your community. Instead of re-inventing the wheel as we often do, why not join worthwhile organizations in what they are doing? Here is a good starting point: http://www.voa.org/ Invite organizations that have purposes akin to yours.  We need to be cautious about who we bring in, and what their agenda is, but we have to realize that we did not invent the wheel.  There are community and religious organizations that have been doing at least some of what you are doing, usually for a longer period of time.  In an event at the Hillsboro church, we invited several organizations to participate, including a local Christian college counseling department as well as representatives from the local hospital and police department.  Just their exposure to our church ministries, opened many doors.  We got five hundred teddy bears, a grant for food, free cholesterol screening, more than forty computers for a lab, all free of charge.

 

  1. People

There are people in the community that do not belong to any organization but have foundations, personal initiatives that you can benefit from and help out in.

 

  1. Partnerships

In every community there are usually industries that work for community enhancement. Making a visit and introducing your vision can foster good will and give you access to funds. *Visit the local business association.

*Join the local ministerial alliance.

*Visit organizations like the Boys and Girls clubs of America.

*Visit your local food bank.

 

  1. Politicians.

Many times we have been reluctant to engage politicians, sometimes with good reason. One of the first things I do when new in a district is finding out and meeting with the mayor, council members, and representative. It’s also not difficult to contact the governor and senator. Why should we connect with the powerful in our community?

*They can point you to need areas.

*They can point you to other organizations.

*They can provide resources, volunteers and funds. This can get tricky, so tread softly.

I usually introduce myself and tell them that we have an interest in improving our community through a holistic approach that includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I ask them 3 questions:

*What are the greatest needs of this city/town?

*What organizations or people would you suggest I talk to?

*Are there any initiatives you are implementing that we should take a look at?

I have always found them ready to talk and willing to help. Even secular mayors like the one in Portland was touched by the actions of Christians in the community.

 

  1. Survey

The best people to tell you what the community needs are…the community! Use a very simple survey (at the appendix) or email me for an electronic copy. Talk to the people around your church. Let their needs drive your action plan.

 

  1. Sermons

Preach on service, study it in small groups, and speak about it in the board meetings. What gets highlighted gets done and funded. Use your influence and your example to show the benefits of service, that it not only benefits the people we serve but also the people we serve with.

 

  1. Subsidy

Actions validate vision. You can’t really say community service is a high value when it has no budget and is relegated to a musty room with 3 senior citizens and a once a month feeding. It’s interesting how funding follows vision, so see #1.

 

  1. Sustained

One of the complains of people in developing countries and here in the states as well are Christians that show up, do some work, take a picture and leave. Any type of significant involvement in the community must be a sustained involvement. That is why it’s better to start small and steady than it is to try and join every organization and do every service project.

 

  1. Serve

Don’t plan anymore. Don’t try to get it perfect. Don’t wait till you have all the people, the funds or the plans. Just serve. Make it a way of life.

 

In the last part of this blog series, we want to share with you a 40 Day Campaign called SOS (Season of Service). We encourage you to look at it as a good starting point or activating activity for your community involvement.

 

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Coming up:

Next week, some balance on the intersection of politics and religion.

Every day you wake up, you should ask yourself two questions:

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Ask any church whether we should do community service and your will get almost universal agreement in a “yes” response.  We want to help people. We know we should. Do we?

Churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

  1. Charity- This level focuses on providing assistance for immediate needs. I would venture a guess that most churches expend their efforts and budget in this level. Examples are:

*Food bank

*Clothes closet

*Utility or rent assistance

*Funeral expense.

Jesus said we will always have the poor with us, so it is perfectly biblical for churches to “do good”. We don’t want to eliminate charity, but we do want to enhance and expand it. I must question whether I am doing enough, when the same people come back week after week for the same needs. In order to break that cycle, consider two other levels of involvement.

  1. Certification- A smaller percentage of churches provide training that can help a person improve their situation. ESL classes, job training, job fairs, computer skills are all examples of certification. The objective here is that the people that are in need can acquire skills and connections that can help them go to another level.
  2. Change Systems- An even smaller percentage of churches work in this third level. This level works through word and deed to address systemic deficiencies that if improved or transformed can increase opportunities and decrease the probabilities of people continuing in vicious cycles of poverty, abuse and neglect for generation after generation. While we don’t tell a hungry person to wait 5 years while we change some laws before we can feed them, we also don’t isolate ourselves from lawmakers and systems that can hinder the possibilities and lives of real people.

Neglecting our social responsibility and using our influence and voice to address the abuse, injustice and system dysfunction is, I believe, not just an option but a mandate.

Consider this quote:

“A religion that leads men to place a low estimate upon human beings, whom Christ has esteemed of such value as to give Himself for them; a religion that would lead us to be careless of human needs, sufferings, or rights, is a spurious religion. In slighting the claims of the poor, the suffering, and the sinful, we are proving ourselves traitors to Christ. It is because men take upon themselves the name of Christ, while in life they deny His character, that Christianity has so little power in the world. The name of the Lord is blasphemed because of these things.”  (Mount of Blessings 137)

Remember, churches that have the biggest impact in their community serve in 3 ways:

Level one: Charity- We want to give a person a fish. (sorry vegans, it’s just an illustration!)

Level two: Certification- we teach the person to fish.

Level three: Change systems- we work so that it possible that the person can own a lake. With fish in it.

When you look around your community, how would you respond to the two questions posed at the beginning of the chapter?

What breaks my heart?

What am I going to do about it?

Coming up:

Over the next weeks I will share how to go about doing this in your local church, and how to impact your community in all three levels.