Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Old, Old Story is Not New or Shiny

By Allen White

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. Colossians 2:8 (NLT)

Our attention spans are growing shorter by the day. Right now, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is getting old. We have been bombarded with 24 hour news coverage. Our television screens are filled with commentators commenting, experts expounding, oil gushing and no clear answer in sight. While, yes, this is one of the worst ecological disasters in history, it has been over 80 days now, and to be honest, we’re ready to move on to something else. We care. We’re just tired of hearing about it.

Are we jaded? Are we uncaring? No, we’re just oversaturated. Considering that we can’t actually do anything about the spill, it’s just too much to keep thinking about every day. Today, we can change the channel about 500 times and watch something else.

We’ve come a long way. I remember in the summer of 1973 sitting at the babysitter’s house with nothing to watch on all three channels (yes three) except the Watergate Hearings. No Price is Right. No Matchgame ’73. No Sesame Street. Just all Watergate all of the time. The nation was captivated by the downfall of a president. There was nothing else worth watching.

But, today, while every other nation in the world closes shop for the World Cup, we pause to consider purchasing a vuvuzela, then surf to the next channel.

In a society with a short attention span, it’s easy to be distracted by the new and shiny things. How do we center our lives on the Old, Old Story? It’s not new or shiny.

Everything new is not bad. It’s just too much. Once upon a time, news traveled slowly by horseback or by telegraph wire which would appear in the next day’s paper. Today, if the news channels don’t update election results quickly enough, then we can surf over to the Secretary of State’s website. More often than not, we read the breaking news on Twitter before we ever see it on TV or even CNN’s website.

The nature of our news has changed as well. We’re not just told what happen, we’re also told what to think about it. We don’t really have to think for ourselves anymore. The news commentators tell us what it means and why it’s right or wrong. We used to call this “yellow journalism” when opinion would bleed over into the news report. Today, we just call it journalism.

Who are we allowing to think for us? We certainly can’t think about all of the things that are thrown at us constantly. What used to be given as “food for thought” has in a large part become our thoughts. But, how much of it would be categorized as “empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense”?

No wonder it’s difficult to hear from God at times. We have so many inputs into our lives than we don’t need to hear from anyone else, including Him.

So, here’s a challenge: unplug. Probably not for the rest of your life, but for a week. If you’re headed out for vacation, leave your TV off and your laptop at home. Rather than listening to the “Great American Panel,” go for a walk and listen to our Deliverer.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thinking of this world. It’s also easy to become overwhelmed by everything that’s going on. Why not make your morning newspaper, news show, new site or twitter feed your prayer list? God can handle everything that’s thrown at us.





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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Geek Squad or the Genius Bar?

By Allen White

I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments. For though I am far away from you, my heart is with you. And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong. And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:1-7 (NLT)

Who is the wisest person you know? What makes them wise? Have they studied well? Have they been kicked around the block a few times? Have they produced a string of successes?

The wisest person you know only possesses a small segment of wisdom and knowledge compared to Christ. All of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge lie hidden in Christ. But, why are they hidden?

Wisdom and knowledge are only hidden from those who don’t belong to Christ. Once they belong to Christ, it’s no longer hidden. Unspiritual people can’t understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Bible also teaches us that fear or respect for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10).

God’s Word doesn’t tell us everything that we want to know, but it does give us everything that we need to know. Life confronts us with some big questions. Why do bad things happen to good people? (Hint: Bad things happen to everybody). If God is all-powerful and is good, why does evil exist? Good question. (You’ll need to sign up for The Truth Project at BrookwoodU for that one.) Did Adam have a belly button? We have a lot of serious questions.

Roots that grow down into Christ become mighty oaks. Lives built on the foundation of Christ prove to be unshakeable. Decisions based on God’s Word in a relationship with Christ help us succeed in developing godly character and building God’s Kingdom. But, don’t get me wrong, every decision that we pray about won’t automatically become a success. God is more concerned about Christ being formed in us than whether we turn a profit (Romans 8:28).

Where do we find ourselves turning for answers? If we have a headache, we head to the medicine cabinet. If we have a computer problem, we call the Geek Squad or head to the Genius Bar. If we’re short on funds, we rely on our credit cards. If we need a job, we surf over to monster.com. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things in and of themselves. But, when do we turn to God?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33




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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Will You Sweat for God?

By Allen White

Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:24-29

Is there a cause that you would die for? Paul went to great lengths to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, and He suffered for it greatly. What would our commitment to Christ look like if we truly had to suffer for it? Now, I know that some believe that we are suffering under the Obama administration, but our current situation pales in comparison to the Roman government. The Romans weren’t Paul’s only concern. The Jewish leaders also caused a great deal of trouble for him.

We can sit back now and read Paul’s eloquent words and follow his journeys on the maps in the back of our Bibles, but the memory of the personal price he paid has been diluted over time. He recounts his beatings, arrests and other punishments in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), yet his constant ambition was to present the Gospel where no one had heard the message (Romans 15:20). Nothing deterred Paul. In fact, the persecution he faced helped him identify more closely with Christ.

How would we do under Paul’s circumstances? Would we face persecution for our faith? Honestly, most of us would debate whether to sweat for our faith let alone die for it. And, there’s a very good reason for our attitude: we’ve forgotten what it’s like to see someone cross from death over to life.

We go to church, yes. Some go to worship. Many go out of obligation. The rest are somewhere in between. But, have we forgotten that this mystery of the Gospel that the prophets longed to see is the greatest power in the universe? Have we become so accepting of others seeking their own path and going their own way that we’re comfortable with their personal preference to head straight to Hell?

I’m not an evangelist. I never liked knocking on doors or standing on street corners. I’d rather have a root canal. But, a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of praying with someone to receive Christ. Even though we prayed over the phone, to witness someone going from confusion and distress to overwhelming joy was something to behold. That next Sunday everyone from Guest Services to the Safety Team was searching for me. The gal I prayed with just had to meet me. It didn’t take much coaxing for her to cross the line of faith. She just needed to be invited.

What did that cost me? Well, a week of telephone tag, but that’s all. What did it give me? It gave me a glimpse at what I experienced long ago. It showed me what serving Christ is all about.

Your phone may not be ringing off the hook with sinners seeking sainthood. But, you can experience the miracle of new life at a baptism service (you might have to sweat outdoors though).

Beyond that, my challenge to you is to invite God to use you. When you are available to God, He will use you. When you’re not open, He won’t. Once you’ve made yourself available, pay attention to who God brings into your path. Their salvation is not up to you. That’s Jesus’ job. You don’t need to be the closer: “What do I need to do to give you a Savior today?” You answer their questions. You help them. You offer to pray for their needs. You let Jesus live in you and through you. Then, see what happens.


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Monday, April 25, 2016

Don’t Rock the Boat

By Allen White

[Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said.  Luke 10:39

After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."

 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means." John 13:21-24

John was the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” but John never refers to himself by name in his Gospel. The similarity between John and Mary is that they both just wanted to be with Jesus. They were both reclining next to Jesus. They’re not in a hurry. They’re not worried about everything else that’s going on. The impression is that they are pretty easy to be with. Not questioning. Not demanding. Just there.

I call this personality the Peacekeeper. I didn’t say peacemaker, you have to take pretty serious action to make peace. The peacekeepers motto is “Don’t rock the boat.” They are concerned about how everybody is doing. They don’t want to upset other people unnecessarily, which usually means that they don’t want to upset anyone at all.

I have a friend in California who is a wonderful Peacekeeper. She is well beyond retirement age, but just can’t retire. When we were planning a trip for our senior adults up to the gold country, I mentioned a certain Italian restaurant that I wanted to try. She recommended another restaurant. She won.

As about 30 of us sat around a big table, I heard my friend remarked, “Isn’t this nice? Everyone found something that they liked.” That’s the heart of a Peacekeeper. They want to make sure that everyone is included and that no one is left out.

Now Peacekeepers might have trouble making decisions because if they decide against someone, then they might hurt their feelings. Peacekeepers also need deadlines. Their relaxed, laid back personalities are prone to take their time.

Now don’t get me wrong on any of these personalities. No one is purely made up of any one personality type. In fact all of us have some combination of all four that I’ve mentioned this week. Attila the Hun can be kind because there is a little Promoter and a little Peacekeeper even in him. He might have to go lay down afterward, but he can do it.

Peacekeepers are wonderful listeners. But, we must be careful not to overload them. While they are very peaceful and easy to talk to, it’s also easy to overwhelm them with our problems and rock their boats internally. It’s important for Peacekeepers, just like everybody else, to maintain their boundaries and not take on everybody’s problems.

Who’s the Peacekeeper in your life? Are you rocking their boat? Are you listening to them? The Peacekeeper in a family or organization has a better grasp of how everyone else is doing. They know the temperature of the environment. Check in with them.


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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Are you Martha, Martha, Martha?

By Allen White

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.  Luke 1:1-4

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things.” Luke 10:40-41

Martha, Martha, Martha wanted to make sure that everything was done just right. She was so busy with the preparations, she couldn’t focus on spending time with Jesus. Now, my suspicion is that Martha wanted to be in the room with Jesus, but she couldn’t let herself sit down until all of the work was done. If Mary would just come in and help, the work would be done, then Martha could relax.

Luke was a physician. Even though Mark and Matthew had already written their Gospels, Luke set out to research everything for himself to “write an orderly account.” He also wrote The Acts of the Apostles as volume two.

I refer to this personality as the Planner. The Planner’s motto is “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  If your garage is immaculate or you have labels on drawers and cabinets describing what’s in them, you are a Planner.

Planners thrive on details. Where the Producer can say, “It’s good enough” and the Promoter can say, “Whatever, let’s have fun,” the Planner makes sure everything is done with excellence.

To encourage a Planner, mention specific things about what they’ve accomplished. Rather than saying “good job.” Say something like “I really like the way that you took special care in making sure that the colors matched or everything was organized so well down to the alphabetized name tags.”

The downside of the Planner personality is that they can tend to be negative and critical. Since they are striving for excellence, things that are less than excellent stick out like a sore thumb to them. This doesn’t give them permission to exercise some spiritual gift of criticism (there’s no such thing). Planners need to be cautious in looking at the world as if it’s a glass half empty.

Planners like a great deal of detail. While Promoters want stories and Producers want the bottom line, Planners want all of the information. In fact, when I teach about personality types, I usually have a packet of information that I give out at the end of the class to all of the Planners because I know that I didn’t cover things thoroughly enough for them.

If you have a Planner in your life, be eager to build them up. Be very cautious about criticizing them. They are critical enough of themselves already.

Who’s the Planner in your life? Take notice of the special care that they have put into what they have accomplished. Appreciate them specifically.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Are You the Driver?

By Allen White

It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else's foundation.
Romans 15:20

The Apostle Paul was a take no prisoners kind of guy. He zealously persecuted the church (Acts 22:3-5), and he zealously proclaimed the Gospel. Paul’s ambition was to break new ground. While he sent letters back to churches to address their problems, Paul didn’t visit many places more than once. There was too much to accomplish. In fact, if Paul had never been in prison, I somehow doubt that much of the New Testament would have even been written.

People like Paul are what I call Producers. When they say, “Lead, follow or get out of the way,” they really just want you to get out of the way. Paul had no patience for John Mark when JM waffled on his commitment (Acts 15:36-41). Producers want action. “Fish or cut bait.” (What does that even mean?) “Get to the bottom line.”

Producers are concerned about results. Now in the pursuit of results they also can steamroll over everyone else without even thinking about it. Producers will say that they would rather be respected than liked. But, it’s actually good to be respected AND liked.

I am mostly a Producer personality. So, here’s the funny thing: God took someone with the personality of Attila the Hun and gave him the spiritual gift of pastor. It’s unusual. It’s ironic. But, here’s the beauty of it—when God uses me to direct or encourage another person, I know for certain that it’s God working in me and through me. It doesn’t come naturally, that’s for sure.

While Producers can be driven and often impatient, our natural personality is not an excuse for bad behavior. As we allow God to work in us, then verses like Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” don’t seem so impossible.

If you have a Producer in your life, do your best to get to the point. They want the straight stuff. You don’t need to beat around the bush. If you do take a circular path, they will spend the whole conversation trying to figure out what you’re getting at or just stop listening altogether and start thinking about something else until your done.

When I was in seminary, I worked as a front desk clerk at Howard Johnson. I still crave those clam strips every once in a while. One Christmas we did a gift exchange with the staff. A bellman had my name. He gave me a mug that said, “If you’ll state your business and walk away quietly, then no one will get hurt.” That was a Producer’s mug if I ever saw one.

Please don’t misunderstand Producers. They want to help. They want to work for the good of other people. Sometimes other people just get in their way. Don’t allow them to get away with bad behavior, but also don’t frustrate them.

Who’s the Producer in your life? What do you understand about them now that you might not have understood about them before?

For more information on this personality type and how God can use you to serve others, I would encourage you to check out our P.L.A.C.E. class: http://www.brookwoodchurch.org/place.
To make a tax deductible donation to Galatians 4:19 Ministries: http://joytotheworldfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_crowdfunding&view=details&id=1149-galations-419-ministries&catid=8-operating-projects&Itemid=10



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Are You the Life of the Party?

By Allen White

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."  Matthew 16:21-23

Peter was an impulsive person. He was the one who jumped out of the boat to walk to water (Matthew 14:28-31). Peter’s the one who raised his sword to cut off Malcus’ ear at Gethsemane (John 18:10). Peter was the one who wanted to build a shrine at the site of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4). Jesus said that Peter was a rock (Matthew 16:18). Really, Peter was more of a flake. Then just a few verses later, Peter the rock was a stumbling block.

In this passage, Peter boldly proclaimed that he would never allow the religious leaders to take Jesus and kill Him. Peter wouldn’t stand for it. Everything in Peter wanted to take a bold stand for Christ, but he ended up denying Jesus three times in the courtyard (Matthew 26:69-75).

Something happened to Peter on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, we see that when the people from various nations wanted an explanation for the miracle that they had just witnessed, Peter jumped up and began to preach. He didn’t worry about creating an outline or handing out sermon notes. Peter just opened his mouth and went for it. Three thousand people were saved that day. It was the right bold move on the right day.

I call this personality “The Promoter.” He is the life of the party. She has an idea a minute. He’s never met a stranger. She has great ambition, but has trouble following through.

The Promoter gets accused of being flakey, because when they are expected to act on the first idea, they are already thinking about the next idea. Promoters bring great energy into a situation. They excel at brainstorms. But, they have trouble following through.

If you have a Promoter in your life, don’t bore them. Tell them stories. Don’t just bark out orders. If you want something done, they will need a deadline. If they still have trouble producing, they might need some help.

While we need to have understanding of each other, a personality type is not an excuse for bad behavior. “Well, Promoters are more social, so they socialize a lot and don’t get their work done.” We all need accountability. We are all responsible to fulfill the things that we’ve committed to. Maybe we need to take a Promoter’s commitments with a grain of salt.

Every person, regardless of their personality, has plenty of room to grow. As we surrender our whole selves to God, He will strengthen our strengths and challenge us in our growth areas.

Are you a Promoter? Who are the Promoters that you know? What new insight do you have into these folks now?

If you would like to discover more about core personalities, I would recommend a book by my friend, Vicki Barnes called The Real You.

To make a tax deductible donation to Galatians 4:19 Ministries: http://joytotheworldfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_crowdfunding&view=details&id=1149-galations-419-ministries&catid=8-operating-projects&Itemid=10