Pay Attention To The Ripple Effect

ripple effectThe decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had exacted harsh labor on the people. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. When we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of theripple effect 3 movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions.

Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel

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Fasting From Spending For A Year

buy buyAfter much thought, discussion, soul-searching and prayer my wife, Sharon, and I have decided to take a fast from spending for twelve months. As daunting and impossible as it might seem we are committed to shutting off the spending flow and sticking with it no matter what the urge, temptation or challenge might be.

EXPECTED REACTIONS

For some this might seem to be an insane decision. Such ones cannot even fathom the remote possibility of denying yourself the luci surprisedprivilege of spending for an entire year. Who would ever want to do something like that and why, why, why? We live in a culture of affluence. I mean, spending is what you do in America. Americans are the biggest spenders in the world. To fast from spending for an entire year is not only insane, it is just UN-American.

THE REASON: FOCUS SHIFT

So why in the world, or at least in America, the land of buying more, are we embarking on an adventure of fasting from spending? To begin with, this is going to provide an extended time of taking our focus off of stuff. It seems that most of life revolves around stuff and material possessions. From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to bed at night, much of our time is devoted to stuff. And much of that time is all about getting more of it. So our decision to go an entire year without getting any more of it gives us a whole new focus, at least for that year. Who knows where it might lead from there.

Materialism is the acquisition of stuff. It is get, get, get. It has been described as get all you can, can the rest and then sit on the can. What better way to break the grip of materialism then to take an extended time of not participating in the insanity of it all?

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS

Taking our focus off of buying and stuff will then enable us to focus on more important things. We can have a transfer of focus from buying to, most importantly, God. Fasting is for the purpose of turning our attention from one thing to another. In the case of eating it is to take our attention from food in order to place it on God. In the case of stuff, spending and buying, it is for the purpose of taking our attention off of these things and placing it on God for an extended period. It lowers the importance of stuff so we can draw close to him. It is a time to hunger and thirst for him rather than more of whatever.

no spendingTaking our focus off of stuff and spending also leaves us with more time to devote to other things that are far more important, like relationships. Instead of spending we can be serving. Instead of buying stuff we can to be devoting that time to being a better husband, better wife, better parents, better neighbors, and better friends. Buying is time-consuming. Not buying leaves us with more time to invest in others.

Then fasting from spending and buying will leave us with more resources to use in loving God and loving others. According to Jesus nothing in life is more important than loving God and loving others. And one of the most significant and practical ways we can express that love is through the resources we have acquired. A spending fast will provide resources that can be used to bless others and meet their needs. We serve others by transferring some of what we would spend on ourselves to meeting their needs.

And finally, fasting from spending will immediately leave us with more resources to give to God, his church and his mission in the world. Wow, what an eternal difference that will make for so many.

THE INVITATION

So, I would like to invite you to consider a similar fast, whenever the time might be appropriate for you. It might be for these reasons or for your own. This could be the most awesome and transforming year of your life. This could be the breakaway you have been needing.

Sharon and I went away for a few days and worked out some *guidelines that we will follow for our fast in order for both of us to be on the same page. I would love to share them with you, if interested.

The Power of Model

One more thing to consider. If you have kids still at home or even ones that have moved out of the house, imagine how much your model could communicate to them in a year about what is most important in life. Instead if it being stuff, spending and materialism they would see self-denial, self-sacrifice, generosity and service to God and others. This is one teaching opportunity they will never forget.

*As our personal guidelines will reveal, our fast is from new spending. Providing for upkeep and necessities is permitted, but only as detailed in the guidelines and agreed upon by both parties.

Your “Third Week Of March”

bathshebiaWhen Pope John Paul died, a man named Rogers Cadenhead quickly registered the web address http://www.BenedictXVI.com, thinking this might be the name chosen by the new pope. When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope, he did choose the name Pope Benedict XVI, causing some to question what the Vatican would do to get the rights to that domain name.

Cadenhead didn’t ask the Vatican for money. Instead, in a humorous manner on his blog he suggested a few things he would trade for: 1. Three days, two nights at the Vatican hotel. 2. One of those hats (referring to the bishop’s hat). 3. Complete absolution, no questions asked, for the third week of March 1987.1

Wonder what Rogers did the third week of March in 1987? Me too, but does it really matter? Most of us have at least a week for which we’d love to have total forgiveness.

We discover in The Story that David did. One day when the army is at war, David, who is the commander of the nation’s military, neglects his duties and stays behind. He sees Bathsheba, seduces her, gets her pregnant, murders her husband, and tries to cover up his actions by deceiving his general and soldiers. Then he marries Bathsheba and she bears their child.

It looks as if David will get away with all of this. But he doesn’t. God sends his prophet Nathan to confront David by telling him a story about a poor man with one lamb. David knows something about sheep and shepherds, so he listens. Nathan says that the poor man has a rich neighbor who needs to slaughter a lamb to feed a guest, but instead of taking one of his many sheep he steals the poor man’s one lamb.

David is incensed and says that man should be put to death. Nathan then declares, “You are the man!” At that moment David must have david repentswished he had bought a domain name that he could swap for absolution. He may have wanted to make excuses. Explain things away. Blame it on Bathsheba for taking a bath in broad daylight where he could see. But instead of making excuses, David confesses. “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:13).

And God did with David’s sin what he will do with yours and mine. He put it away (Psalm 103:12-13).

You can do what David did. Whatever your “third week of March” might be, sit down with it, yourself and God. Confess your sin. And then let another shepherd from Bethlehem forgive it. That’s better than any domain name you might secure.

EXCELLENCE

excellence 4Whatever you do work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Col. 3:23

 

If anything, those words call for excellence in everything we do, especially when it comes to working for the Lord, because, after all,  all we do is actually for the Lord. Excellence should be the passion of our heart-all the time.

 

Daisy Hepburn writes in “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” “Good, better, best, never let it rest—until your good is your better and your better is your best!” Nothing but the best should characterize what we do for the Lord, all the time.

 

Bob Russell, long time Lead Pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY says…

·           In everything-excellence.

·           Excellence is not valuing one ministry above another.

·           Excellence is not perfection.

·           Excellence is not being judged by the standards and opinions of others.

·           Excellence is doing your very best in whatever you do, especially for the Lord. Excellence is quality ministry. Excellence is going the second mile. Excellence is planning and preparation ahead of time. Excellence is first class ministry. Excellence is ministry flowing from a healthy, full relationship with Christ. Excellence is refusal to cut corners or just doing enough to get by on. Excellence is God’s call to every Christian.

Whether you sing a song…play an instrument…serve communion…greet…usher…teach a class…preach a sermon…read excellence 2Scripture…participate in drama…serve in the nursery…change diapers…change light bulbs…mow grass…facilitate a group…lead a ministry team…whatever you do, do it “with all your heart”.

 

I can think of two enormously important reasons why excellence is needed in everything we do for the Lord– all the time.

 

BECAUSE JESUS GAVE US HIS VERY BEST.  

 

Philippians 2:5-8 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!”

 

Why? Because His ministry on our behalf was a ministry of excellence.

 

Leonardo Da Vinci was once at work for a long period of time on a great masterpiece. He had labored long to complete this work of art and it was near completion. Standing near him was a young student who spent much of his time with his mouth open, amazed at the master with the brush. Just before finishing the painting, Da Vinci turned to the young student and gave him the brush and said, “Now, you finish it.” The student protested and backed away, but Da Vinci said, “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?”

 

Because He gave His very best he deserves the very best from us.

 

PEOPLE’S ETERNITY DEPENDS ON IT.

 

Everything we do in ministry and for the Lord effects the eternity of people who come our way. How you do your ministry will oftentimes be the factor that determines whether they will return or you will get a second chance. We are influencing people all the time. And that influence reaches all the way into eternity.

 

Darren Walter wrote a book called The People Magnet Church. Some of what he addresses applies to the first impression people, but much of it applies to everyone who serves the Lord.

 

“The good news is that because of the blood of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for me, I’m going to heaven by God’s grace, regardless of how people treat me in any church. The bad news is that there are people who do not know God’s grace and are unaware of Christ’s sacrifice. They are going to Hell. And they will make a decision to accept or reject God based on how they are received in His House, by you and me. I’m not trying to be over dramatic here. I truly believe that eternity hangs in the balance when a guest walks through the doors of your church. Those who volunteer their time to greet, welcome, usher, and answer questions of those visiting have some of the most important challenges in the entire church body. Many times we only have one chance to make an impression, one shot at showing our love for people.

 

The fact is -most guests make up their minds whether they’ll return for a second time in the first few moments of their visit. Long before they hear the sermon or the solos, they’ve decided if they’ll ever come back based on how we treat them.”

 

·           How we treat them is the first factor.

·           The second one is the quality and passion with which we do our ministry. How well we represent our Lord. If He really is the most important person in life to us then it will be seen in the excellence of our ministry.

 

In effect, people come with two foremost questions in their mind that they want an answer to.

1.         Do these people really care about me?

2.         Are these people really serious about this thing called Christianity?

 

excellenceThe quality with which we serve the Lord and do our ministry influences others and that influence can touch eternity. Never forget that. Engrave it on your soul

 

I know it is highly likely that you will not receive the response or recognition from people that you anticipate or desire or think you deserve. So what do you do? Do it anyway. Do excellence anyway.

 

Robert Schuller wrote. (I have altered it a little.)

 

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.

LOVE THEM ANYWAY!

 

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

If you are successful you win false friends and true enemies.

SUCCEED ANYWAY!

 

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.

DO GOOD ANYWAY!

 

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.

BE HONEST AND FRANK ANYWAY!

 

People favor underdogs but follow only the top dogs.

FIGHT FOR SOME UNDERDOGS ANYWAY!

 

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.

BUILD ANYWAY!

 

People really need help but may attack you if you help them.

HELP PEOPLE ANYWAY!

 

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.

GIVE THE WORLD THE BEST YOU’VE GOT ANYWAY!

 

From “Tough Times Never Last but Tough People Do” by Robert Schuller

 

Do it anyway because it’s not the response of the people that we are doing it for. It’s our love for Jesus that moves us.

 

So do it. Do it with all your heart, with your very best. And keep doing it regardless of the response we get.

 

Excellence Glorifies God and Inspires People.

 

Hold the spit!

spitting   This morning, as I came to the end of my run, I was in my cool down mode. I had just passed my house, when one of my neighbors, from across the street, backed out of his driveway. He saw me as I passed and cautiously asked, “I’m sorry, did I get too close to you?” “Of course not”, I said. He was not close at all.

 

As he drove away, I was in the process of clearing the thick saliva from my mouth, at the end of a 6 mile workout, and spitting it on the side of the road. At that moment, the thought came to me, “what if my neighbor thinks my spitting is a response to him?” You see, my neighbor is African-American. So I decided to hold my spit until he was well out of sight, and then I let it go.

 

As insignificant as this might seem, it was a wake-up call to me about how sensitive I need to be with my actions and reactions in today’s culture, especially when it comes to those of a different race or ethnicity. Racism is alive and strong today. Even though the Bible says God is no respecter of persons, we live in a culture that is charged with racist feelings and incidents. Some of these are intentional and calculated. Others may appear to be discriminatory but are anything but that.

 

One thing I don’t want to be is misinterpreted and seen as disrespectful or prejudiced in any way. There are times, though, when my actions might be misunderstood, so I have decided to hold my spit. In fact, here are a few other actions that I have decided to take when it comes to all people.

 

Equal Greetings: I want to welcome all people with the same kind of warmth. That means, going out of my way toprejudice greet and show acceptance. I will talk and interact with them. And there’s no better greeting than a good hug. So I hug those who are like me, and those who are different than I. I refuse to accept some and ignore others.

 

Equal respect: I will look at people when I talk to them. I will talk to them and not at them or past them. I will give my attention to them. Nothing is more aggravating and disrespectful than to deal with a person in a public service position, in a service sector job, who hardly acknowledges your presence. Respect means giving them my presence and attention.

 

Equal care: People get down and out. Times turn ugly rapidly. Ends don’t meet. Whether it is food, a ride, a little money for gas, clothes or whatever, I will see the need and not the color of the skin or the ethnicity of the person. And I will respond according to the need and my ability to meet that need whether they are like me or different from me.

 

Equal restraint: That means, as I began this post, refraining from any action that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood. I will hold my spit, turn after them instead of in front of them, be courteous and let them go in line in front of me even though I  am starving or in a big hurry. The Bible says to “abstain from all appearances of evil.” That could just as well say “abstain from all appearances of prejudice.”

 

racismEqual encouragement: Everyone needs encouragement. Life is hard. We get knocked down. Sometimes it is totally unexpected. Other times it is just what we deserved. It is easy to encourage those of our kind. It is also easy to encourage those who we know will encourage us back. It is maturity, being like Jesus, to encourage those who are different than us. After all, that woman that Jesus met at the well, who found the water of life in him, was of a different race and nationality that he was. He reached out and gave to her what no one else had ever offered, acceptance, encouragement, and new life. I will commit to doing the same!

 

So check the temperature, your outfit, your hair, your wallet to make sure you have money, the gas in your tank, the weather forecast, your schedule, and 1000 other things. But above all else, check your attitude about other people, other people who are different than you whether it be gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or whatever. May we be devoted to removing every hint of favoritism, discrimination and prejudice in how we act toward ALL PEOPLE. Hold the spit!

Making the most of the summer season

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summerSummer is a time in which we think about doing all the things we wanted to do during the rest of the year but were not able to do so for one reason or another. The reason might have been that our kids were in school and therefore limited our ability to travel. Another contributing factor might be the weather. Winter weather conditions just flat out limit activity. Summer weather conditions open up limitless opportunities. There’s the mountains, there is the beach, there’s the park, there’s all of the outside things that we thought about doing all winter long.

So summer gives us this long awaited opportunity to enjoy so much more than during the other seasons of the year. We can have more family time, more vacation time, more recreation time, and just more time to do more things.

Here’s an idea. How about using the summer months to not just think about the things we would like to enjoy but also to think about and look for ways that we can connect with people who are living far away from God. If the summer gives us rich opportunities to do things we couldn’t do the rest of the year, it also gives us special opportunities to do things with other people we might not be able to do the rest of the year. So how about looking at using the summer as an increased opportunity for Jesus and the church?

Here are just a few ideas of ideas you might consider:

  • Sponsor or throw a street or block party. Invite all your neighbors within a certain distance and just hang out with them and get to know them.
  •  Invite a specific neighbor to your house for a cookout. Just enjoy the time together. Get to know them better and let them get to know you better.
  •  Exchange childcare with a friend or neighbor. Give them a chance to get away and do something they have been wanting to do.
  •  Serve someone who has a specific need that you have been thinking about helping with but just haven’t gotten around to it. The excuse no longer works. Just do it.
  •  Begin an exercise program with someone you would like to build a relationship with. Not only do you get the relational benefit you get the health benefit as well.
  •  Go to a sporting event together.

The whole idea is to take advantage of the summer season when it comes to developing relationships and serving others. Everything about following Jesus has to do with relationships and serving the needs of people. No other time of the year gives us the opportunity to do that like thesummer 2 summertime.

And then when the opportunity to talk about spiritual issues might arise venture out as far as the Holy Spirit lead you. Or when the door is open to invite them to a church gathering step through that door and extend the invitation.

However, the rule is, you must build a bridge before you can cross the bridge. Summer is an excellent time for bridge building. Let’s use it for that purpose. Let’s not look back when the fall arrives and say, “I wish I had…” Let’s be able to look back and say, “This has been the best summer I can remember in a long time.”

A Quarter of a Million Dollars

Before you go any farther take a minute and watch this video clip of the revealing of the Capital Campaign totals on Sunday, May 26.

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Thanks be to God, NVCC has had $245,581given or committed to date to our capital campaign. What a tremendous response we have seen.  Though this is short of our overall goal it is enough to continue with the plan to purchase the 5.9 acres of land and begin the process of developing our own ministry campus.

 

Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has given or committed to this faith venture. You are so appreciated.  

 

Gifts are still being sought and are still coming in. Since this morning the total has increased to $250,011. We especially need gifts toward our down payment due in by July 31. Anyone who would like to help us push on to the overall goal of $300,000 is greatly appreciated. Gifts can be sent to NVCC, PO Box 73311, Richmond VA 23235.

 

Thank-you again. Please continue to pray for us as we use what God has provided for HIS glory.

 

Overjoyed!!!