Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Some Weren't Sent ... But They Went

Shavuot was one of the three major pilgrimage festivals for which devout first-century Jews traveled to Jerusalem annually. It was also known as the Feast of Weeks, because you counted seven weeks, or 49 days, from Passover, and then held Shavuot on the fiftieth day. Most people know Shavuot by the Greek word for "fiftieth day": Pentecost.

Shavuot commemorated the giving of the Torah to Israel by God at Mount Sinai. So historically it was linked to the exodus-and probably the reason they held it so soon after Passover. The fact that Jewish males were expected, no matter where they lived, to come to Jerusalem for both Passover and Shavuot no doubt posed challenges for some people. If you lived in faraway Syria or Egypt or Mesopotamia (Iraq) or Parthia (Iran), you had to travel a long way and a long time to get to and from these events. No wonder not many folks made every pilgrimage every year.

Some indeed came from all those places, though; Acts 2 says so. Remember? The disciples suddenly turn up speaking the native languages of all these diaspora Jews, and the pilgrims say to each other, "We are Parthians, Medes, Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judah, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Jews by birth and proselytes; Jews from Crete and from Arabia...! How is it that we hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things God has done?"

Christians around the world celebrated the modern feast of Pentecost a little more than a week ago. What might the pilgrims who attended that world-shaking first Pentecost of the Christian era likely have been doing a little more than a week after the event? Probably traveling the road home. And there's something that intrigues me about that.

You see, right after His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples (John 20:21), "As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." But they didn't go right away.

Next Jesus took the disciples to a mountain in Galilee and sent them (Matthew 28), saying "Make disciples of all nations." But then He told them to go to Jerusalem and wait -- so they didn't go right away.

And on the Mount of Olives Jesus told the disciples that they would be His witnesses to the remotest places on earth (Acts 1), but again, He told them to wait in Jerusalem -- so they didn't go right away.

Then in Acts 2 we read about the pouring-out of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and the church being born when 3,000 people believed and were baptized. Still, we don't get a report of one of the disciples who had been sent by Jesus actually going anywhere until Acts 8, when Philip, followed by Peter and John, went to evangelize up the road in Samaria.

Yet in the very next chapter of Acts, we get the story of Saul traveling to Damascus, in Syria, to round up a whole group of believers. If by this point Jesus' disciples were only just beginning to move outside Jerusalem, where did these believers 1,800 miles away in Damascus come from? Well, how about from among those 3,000 diaspora Jews who had been in Jerusalem for Shavuot?

There's no question that Jesus sent His disciples -- but the first believers who actually went -- and shared the Gospel -- were probably those festival pilgrims.
Can this have meaning for us today?

Yes. Here's just one example. Close to two million people living in the United States are non-immigrant internationals -- many of them students. Most are here for a short time; most intend to return to their home countries. Often, when they discover that Christianity is not just a western religion, not just a religion for people of European descent, many want to know more -- and some come to faith in Jesus. And when they return to their countries, they carry the Gospel back with them.

It's like an international mission field right here under our noses.

Can you and I respond to this opportunity right now? Again, yes! Here are some things we can do:

* Be faithful to the Lord who sends all of us -- and to His message of salvation.
* Praise God for changing the hearts of many Shavuot pilgrims 2,000 years ago and then sending them back home carrying the Good News about Jesus.
* Watch and listen for when and where the Spirit might call us and send us.
* Trust God's promise that His Word will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.
* Pray. A lot.

Let the church's recent celebration of Pentecost remind you that each of us is sent -- some of us across oceans and continents, and some of us across the street or across town. Regardless where, there are people there who are hungry for the Good News we have to share.

"Then (Jesus) said to His disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest'" (Matthew 9:37-38).

Funny how things work out and how the Lord achieves His purposes -- sometimes in some very interesting ways.

You can share your comments by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Change Is Good

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a season and a time for everything. We live our lives as a testimony to the truth of these words as we move from one season of life to another, from one activity to another. Each season and activity prepare us for the next.

When we were young we longed for the day we could attend school. School days brought a desire to graduate to the "real world" of marriage, children, work, and responsibility. Those in the real world may wish to move on to an empty nest, and so it goes. Each season of life brought new challenges, more opportunities to fail, and expanded our ability to reach beyond ourselves and influence the world.

The same is true for our activities. When we were young we longed for the day we'd be employed and we rejoiced in our first job. But then our horizons expanded, and we moved to a different endeavor that provided more income, challenges, and growth. Each new occupation moved us closer to the day we'd retire and enjoy the fruit of our labors. Each time we began a new activity we had more opportunities to influence those around us for the LORD.

Lutheran Hour Ministries has a history of providing outreach seminars for congregations. Beginning in 1997 LHM offered Parish Media Teams (PMT) training. This provided congregations with opportunities to expand their outreach into the community.

In 2004 PMT training evolved into Equipping to Share (EtS) seminars. These offered in-depth instruction in personal outreach. This then morphed into MISSION U (MU) School of Outreach education in 2010.

I've been privileged to lead PMT, EtS, and MU classes over the years. I've been in front of thousands of people and humbled to hear reports from class members as they shared their faith, and I've watched the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the lives of others. I know the Kingdom has expanded because of these trainings, and I give all glory to God.

Earlier this month on May 6, I led the last MU workshop. Outreach training and support at LHM is entering a new season with a brand-new online course program rolling out this summer. Now, topical material will be easily accessible for individual and group study, targeting the needs and concerns of engaging in outreach in a 21st-century world.

In the end we do know that regardless of the method of training it's about the words of Christ as recorded in Acts: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Men, our task is clear: be His witnesses. In support of this, LHM will continue to produce and distribute relevant materials to help you get the job done even as He blesses your efforts to tell others of the wonderful grace He offers each of us, through His Son Jesus Christ.

As we all know, guys usually don't ask for help or advice, but the stakes are too high in this not to. So let me put three questions to you:

* What topics can LHM research and develop to help you in your outreach efforts?

* What areas of Gospel outreach would you like to see addressed?

* What can we do to help you communicate the Good News to someone else: a son or daughter, a friend, your wife?

Do you have other outreach concerns you'd like to see us take on?

If so, tells us about them by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Something Worth Remembering

As we close in on the Memorial Day weekend in a few short days, it's a good time to pause and recall how this special day has a somber edge to it. While it's often seen as a transition point between spring and early summer, the day is one of extreme significance in the history of our nation.

While Memorial Day may not have a personal connection to you due to self or family serving in the military, the fact that people do serve makes the military something that impacts all of us. All one needs to do is consider how important it is that men and women are willing to answer the call to protect our country. In so doing they sacrifice their time, their strength, and sometimes their very lives to defend us, which is something that affects us all right here and now.

It would be nice if it didn't have to be that way. It would be great if men and women didn't have to leave their families to go to war, to suffer physical, emotional, and mental trauma that can sometimes last a lifetime. It would be wonderful if no one had to give the ultimate sacrifice and never come home. But the evil of armed conflict is real, and chances are wars and rumors of wars will be with us for the foreseeable future.

That's why this coming Memorial Day we need to remember and honor those who made great sacrifices so we can live free. To honor them we need to make our lives count; we need to make sure their sacrifices weren't in vain.

And as we remember these valiant souls, it naturally reminds of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ -- the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. The deaths of the men and women we will honor this coming Monday protected our earthly freedom, but Jesus laid down His life to protect our eternal liberty, to pay the price for our sins, to guarantee us eternal life in a perfect world where sin, crime and the ravages of death will be no more.

What's Memorial Day mean to you?

Are there those you know who've paid a heavy price for their military service?

Are you one of them?

On Monday, May 29, Memorial Day, our nation honors the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. May God bless them richly.

Take a moment and let us know what Memorial Day and military service mean to you. You can do so by clicking here and commenting on the Men's NetWork blog.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Dismantling Our Defenses

Eight days. Eight long, maddening days. Over and over, the 10 apostles told their story: "We saw Jesus! He's alive!" Still no matter what they said, fellow apostle and consummate doubter Thomas refused to believe. Nothing was good enough to dispel his cynicism. For instance, here are a few of the indicators that pointed to Jesus' resurrection: left-behind grave cloths, angel words, detailed stories from women who went to the tomb, Peter's own personal visit from Jesus that Sunday afternoon, the excited comments of two trusted followers walking with Christ to Emmaus, and the admission of 10 of the 12 gathered in the upper room, where Jesus appeared to them.

Nothing.

In fact, it seems the more details they shared, the more Thomas dug in his heels. Toward the end Thomas was to the point of embarrassing himself. Perhaps it was anger, hurt and pride, but he clung to his skepticism: "Unless I see in His hands the mark of the nails and put my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into His side, I will never believe" (see John 20: 24-29).

Now that's someone who's determined to hang on to his unbelief.

Do you have a "Thomas" in your life? Is there a husband or wife - or girlfriend or boyfriend -- who doesn't believe? Is there a child who has wandered from the faith? Do you have a brother or sister whose mind is made up? How about someone at work or a close friend? Are they locking you out? How do you reach someone who refuses to be reached? What do you do with a doubting Thomas?

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- no, not the unbelief itself -- but for what that unbelief teaches us about sharing the Good News with others.

Have you ever shared your faith, only to see that doing so seemed to make that person even more resistant to Jesus' message? Did you feel like a failure? Did you ever wonder on occasion if sharing your faith was a mistake?

The other disciples teach us not to give up. They kept sharing. Perhaps, they even reminded Thomas of all the experiences they had shared together in Jesus' presence as well as all the miracles they had seen. There were all the blind who received their sight, the lame who walked, the deaf who heard, the lepers who were cleansed. Together they had seen Jesus multiply bread and fish. They could remind him of that fearful time on the Sea of Galilee when they thought the boat would sink and they would all drown, only to have Jesus wake up and speak a word, stopping the winds, stilling the sea, and bringing calm to the storm. They could remind Thomas of Jesus walking on the water to them.

Who could forget that?

They might have said, "What about those times we watched Jesus square off against death and defeat it? There was that young daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. She had just died when Jesus raised her. Then when we entered the town of Nain and met the funeral procession carrying the widow's son out to burial -- and Jesus raised him hours after his death. And how can we forget Lazarus, dead and buried four days, and yet Jesus was able to overcome death (and stench) and restore him to life? Is it really that big a stretch to think Jesus Himself could rise from the dead?"

When our friends reject the faith we share, we don't reject them. We keep strengthening the bonds of our friendship, watching and praying for the best time to share our faith again.

I always wondered why Jesus waited a whole week: eight long days to show Himself. Maybe it was to teach us it is not our job to convince or persuade someone to believe. After all, if it was in the apostles' power to make someone believe, shouldn't eight days have been enough for Thomas? Luther had it right: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him." And we cannot by our own reason or strength lead someone else to believe in Him.

All the disciples could do was faithfully share what they knew. All we can do is faithfully share what we know. Be patient, kind, and gentle. Build up that relationship and shake off frustration. Also, don't badger them as if it was up to us and our efforts to bring them to faith.

It was in God the Father's good time that Jesus finally came back to that upper room on the eighth day. No disciple could bring Thomas to believe. It was Jesus' visit and the power of the Holy Spirit that finally shattered his unbelief. "Thomas, put your finger in My hand, stretch out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting -- no, stop refusing to believe -- and believe!" (See John 20:27.)

Finally, the truth sunk in. "My Lord and my God!"

It was Jesus' visit that worked faith in Thomas, and it is His visit to our friends, coworkers, family and loved ones through the Gospel we share that the Holy Spirit works saving faith, even among those who seem most resistant.

Thank God for Thomas' unbelief -- but far more for his repentant belief.

Are there people in your life who flat out will have nothing to do with God's love -- or His promise of a better life through His Son Jesus Christ?

If you've had such an experience talking to people about Jesus, your faith, and the bigger picture, just click here and share your story.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Power of Our Good Deeds

It seems only right as this will be the last e-news blog before the Men's NetWork WORK DAY on Saturday, April 29, that a few words be offered on the event and the guys who have participated in it.

As you already know, 2017 is the fifth year for this gig. Originally, the Men's NetWork kicked off the WORK DAY as a way for guys to get their men's groups focused on work activities that would help others. While individuals of all kinds have benefited from WORK DAY projects, the event's thrust was to reach and connect with people who are outside the church.

To that end, the Men's NetWork WORK DAY has been an admirable success. Individuals and families have been blessed through numerous projects and the love of Christ has been shared in deed and word. This year as your men's group gets together to work on April 29, remember that those brush strokes you apply, those nails you drive, those mulch beds you rake, and those gutters you clean are expressions of God's love through your hands and feet.

Eleven days to go. It's an exciting time of the year for us at Lutheran Hour Ministries and the Men's NetWork. We look forward to seeing your pictures and reading your brief stories in the days ahead as you recap your WORK DAY efforts for us. Believe it or not, there is still time to get on board with a project this April 29. If you have something in mind but that specific Saturday doesn't work for your group, you can schedule some other day in the future. Other groups have done this in the past, and it works equally well.

For those who have joined in on past WORK DAYs, what are some of the personal benefits you took away as a participant? Was there anything that surprised you? Was there anything you would do next time to increase your experience? How did the people you helped feel about your efforts?

To share your thoughts, click here!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Shutting Things Out

Loneliness is a big problem for many people. Perhaps you struggle with it, too. When I was growing up and trying to understand what it was to be a man, I looked to my father who was very stoic and guarded about his feelings. To my young, impressionable mind, that was what it was like to be a man. When kids at school made fun of me, mom reminded me to say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me."

When I first heard the Simon and Garfunkel song "I Am a Rock," it really resonated with me. I think I can safely say it shaped the way I looked at other people for decades to come. Whenever I was hurting because of what someone did to me or said to me, I would put on that record, slip on my headphones, and sing -- almost shout,

"I've built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. It's laughter and it's loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island! ... Hiding in my room, safe within my womb. I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island."

That is one kind of loneliness -- being hurt to the core by some people. It's being so afraid of re-experiencing that kind of pain we shut everyone out to make sure we never have to go through it again.

That's what I did.

But then Lent came around, year after year. Each time I saw Jesus acting differently than I was acting. He knew the unbearable emotional pain that was coming: the mocking from Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders, the abandonment of His chosen disciples, Peter's vehement denial, and Judas' cold-hearted betrayal. Putting myself in Jesus' shoes -- and knowing what He knew -- I know I would have locked my heart against them.

We can go through life fearing heartbreak and doing everything in our power to shield ourselves from emotional pain. But that's not really living, is it? Instead, we can let Jesus' love transform us. Then we can live daring lives with hearts wide open to love and embrace all the people around us. We can be confident that Jesus will always be present; His Spirit will comfort us in our sorrows, and when we reach the end of our road, God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (see Revelation 7:17).

Many are the things that can shut us down inside: a hurtful and jilting relationship, a sharp critique from someone we respect, the bitter chastisement of a loved one. Experience one or two of these and it's easy to retreat where no one can find us. But at the end of the day, the old cliché rings true: "This too shall pass." Hanging on to that truth, however, can be very difficult sometimes.

What's your advice to someone who's been stung hard by someone else? You can share your thoughts by clicking here and commenting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Rare Bird

My family works with immigrants and refugees -- that's the kind of service God gave us to do. But occasionally that service takes a funny turn. I never thought pet re-homing would be part of our ministry, but that's how we got our "rare Vietnamese jungle fowl."

It was late spring, and I had been trying to find a parrot for my husband Chau's upcoming birthday. He'd been talking about getting one for years, and I thought I'd surprise him. But we were on a budget, and parrots are expensive. I hadn't found anything yet when the phone rang.

"Hello?" It was a church member on the other end, very upset. "Our landlord says we can't keep pets in our apartment. But we don't know what to do with our bird. We love him so much; we don't want him to die."

"A bird? What kind of bird?" I asked.

"Oh, it's a red bird, good-sized. A rare Vietnamese jungle fowl."

I called into the living room. "Sweetheart? Have you ever heard of a rare Vietnamese jungle fowl?"

No, my husband hadn't. But he was willing to have a look.

Twenty minutes later five people came through our door, dabbing at their eyes and blessing us for saving their darling pet. They were holding an ominous brown box with a rope leading into it.

I bit my lip. This was not going to end well.

"So let's see the rare Vietnamese jungle fowl," my husband said. Mr. B opened up the lid and out stepped ... an American rooster. Cock-a-doodle-doo!

"Thank you, thank you, for saving our pet," they all said at once. "We know you'll find the perfect home for him. And absolutely you won't let anyone eat him, will you? Oh, thank you, Pastor, thank you, Kari ...." We couldn't get a word in edgewise. At last the family left, still blessing us, and we got the rooster settled downstairs in the laundry room, leashed to an old wooden chair.

Upstairs my husband and I eyed each other. "So what are we going to do with him?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Beats me. We can't make chicken pot pie out of him, we promised. And who wants a rooster?"

A crow came from under the floor.

"Right," Chau said. "No eggs. Just noise."

Another crow. The bird was laughing at us.

"Well, at least it's Holy Week," I said. "If our neighbors hear him, they'll just think he's a prop for the Passion play."

Chau groaned.

Over the next four days I called everybody I could think of, trying to find a home for the rooster. The rotten bird had no sense of time. We had happy crowing morning, noon, and night -- clearly audible three stories up, even in the attic. It was driving us nuts. Sooner or later, one of the neighbors was going to call the police.

Then our vet called me back. "I think I may have a home for your rooster," he said. Apparently someone raising chickens out in the county would take him and promise not to eat him. Thank God! I got the bird out of the basement and into the car faster than he could crow again. An hour later, he was on his way to a new life, and our house was wonderfully quiet.

God has a funny sense of humor. What kinds of odd turns has your own Christian service taken? Share your stories by clicking here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Actions Overcome Hate

In the middle of the dark night vandals broke into Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, a Jewish graveyard in St. Louis, Missouri. Their objective was a small-minded one: spread a message of hate by toppling headstones and desecrating graves. As daylight dawned on the 170 headstones that were pushed or knocked over, the question on everyone's mind was "Why?"

The answer to this question would have to wait as those who committed this act of ignorance remained at large. As the search went on, others spoke again those words heard all too frequently in these kinds of situations: "prejudice," "hate crime," and "anti-Semitism."

Two days after the devastation, Eric Greitens, Governor of Missouri, called for volunteers to join him at the cemetery with the message, "Whoever did this slipped into a cemetery in secret to break things. We will stand together in the open to rebuild them, stronger."

Rich Cohrs, former LHM employee, contacted Don Hugo, a member of Zion Lutheran Church, with the invitation to join in with the community in an act of love. They donned their Men's NetWork caps and headed to the scene.

They were not prepared for what they witnessed. Hundreds of people responded to the call. Police were forced to block off streets and local businesses gladly relinquished their parking lots to accommodate the crowd. Vice-President Mike Pence and Governor Greitens addressed the group and then rolled up their sleeves and started raking the area clean.

Rich and Don joined the throng, waited in line to be searched by the Secret Service and finally entered into the cemetery to their assigned task of cleaning and polishing headstones. The Men's NetWork hats gave them a talking point with some they met. They spoke to Muslims, Jews, Christians, and some non-Christians as they labored side by side.

As they were leaving, Don had the opportunity to greet the Governor. This was a special moment for Don; he was Greitens' high school principal.

Men, it doesn't require an invitation from a governor to do acts of service and compassion in your community. Opportunities abound in the wake of tornadoes, storms, fires and, sadly, even stupid acts of vandalism and bigotry.

This April's upcoming Men's NetWork WORK DAY is a great example of a time when you can come together to serve those around you. The mere act of service is a witness of love to the community. Wearing the Men's NetWork cap provides an opportunity to jump start conversations.

Men, when the best of us step up, our community stands a little taller.

Hopefully, your community doesn't have to deal with fools who topple tombstones or cast hurtful slurs against racial or ethnic minorities. Still, your community may have its own set of issues it needs to address.

As you consider a possible service project for your community, remember you can turn a men's group effort into something extra-ordinary for this year's WORK DAY on April 29. Does anything out of the ordinary come to mind when you think of what your group might do this year?

If so, tells us about it by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Retro Vision

It seems easier than ever to get lost in the reverie of yesteryear these days. I was looking at some old snapshots (remember those?) going back to the 70s. They were of my uncle Jim standing behind the counter of a neighborhood delicatessen he owned and operated on Chicago's South Side: Jim's Finer Foods. Together with my grandmother, they ran this store for years, living upstairs in a building that ranged from the questionable to the decrepit. One picture I saw had the photographer shooting out the store's front door. The photo was of the gas station across the street and some trees. The station and trees are long gone now. My uncle and grandma are too.

As you can imagine, that Chicago neighborhood has changed a bit over the years. Like my relatives and that streetscape, the store is gone, leveled to make way for two-story apartment buildings that are also showing their age and decay. A half century is a lot of water under the bridge when it comes to the march of civilization. Almost 50 years ago astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were bopping around on the lunar surface. If you're old enough, you remember the grainy black and white TV images of them near the lunar module, planting the U.S. flag, and becoming the first two men to set foot on the moon. And what about 50 years from now? Where will we be then? It's hard to say, but I bet we'll still be pining away (at least at times) for the good ole days of yesteryear.

I suppose that why retro TV is taking off around the country. Television programmers realized there's a huge market of 50-plus folks out there who still love the programs they grew up with and watched as young adults. Now, even without cable, viewers can watch shows like Mayberry R.F.D., Columbo, Perry Mason, Mary Tyler Moore, M*A*S*H, Mangum P.I. and a few dozen more, on stations wholly dedicated to these golden oldies. With the world in flux around us and times unsure as they are, it's nice to bask in the silly nonsense of Hawkeye and Trapper's latest gag on Frank Burns or tune in while Lt. Columbo outwits and unnerves his suspects in his grinding search for the truth.

Looking back can give us a chance to catch our mental breath during times of turmoil and uncertainty.

Where do you go when you need to step back from it all? Do you have a favorite retreat you retire to? How about a hobby? Is there something you engage in when you want to get away and refresh your perspective?

Have you received any sage advice from a mentor or peer you can pass along? If so, you can share your insights by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

When the Brain Won't Do

"I can't wrap my mind around that." The first time I heard that phrase I didn't like it. I wondered what was wrong with the good old, tried-and-true admission: "That just doesn't make sense"? But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. It portrays the drive we humans feel to make sense of our lives and our world.

We don't like to pass by unsolved mysteries. Wise Solomon had it right when he wrote, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out" (Proverbs 25:2). Most people want to know the reason things happen, and the more unclear the matter is, the more annoyed we feel, until we have a rational solution.

So often in life, especially in our relationship with God, that is what we are trying to do. We want to figure out why God has allowed difficulty, sorrow, loss or grief in our lives. We want to wrap our minds around something our minds aren't big enough to get wrapped around. I remember an eighth-grader in confirmation class who was bound and determined to figure out the Trinity. She wasn't satisfied with the glimpse of the three Persons in one God. She tried to shrink God down and fit Him into a nice, little box she could wrap her mind around. The trouble with that is if simple creatures like us can figure out God, He wouldn't be much of a God, would He?

I often hear people try to understand what God is doing in the events in their lives. They ask, "Why is God treating me this way?" or "What is God trying to tell me?" That's a really dangerous game to play, especially when we try to wrap our minds around things that are so complex, and we have such a limited point of view.

God put our mind-wrapping quest in perspective when He said, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8). There are times when we need to put down the box, stop trying to stretch our minds, and simply trust Him like a child. Let God be God -- and praise Him that He is, and ask Him to remind us that we are not.

Humans are born to ask questions, it seems. From these we learn and navigate our way through life. What are some things you've tried to wrap your mind around? You can give us your comments by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Sweet Sound of ... Service?

With the turn of the year and the prospect of moving toward spring, there's a definite sound of service in the air. You know the sweet strain: the crackle and crunch of raked leaves put into trash bags; the splash of sudsy water tossed onto concrete surfaces to be cleaned; even the wispy sound (evident only to specially trained service ears) of paintbrushes laying down another coat to spruce up that garage or aging fence.

What do you have in mind as you set out in 2017 for service projects -- either for yourself or for your neighbor? The rationale behind the question is twofold: one, we're already amping up for the 2017 Men's NetWork WORK DAY and, two, we'll soon be releasing a new video Bible study focusing explicitly on the service we render as Christians -- and how we can do more of it. The study is called Live the Six: Living Life as an Everyday Missionary. The "six" in this case represents the six days of the week beyond Sunday: most people's standard church day.

From the responses we've received over the years from WORK DAY volunteers and from the interview comments you'll soon be hearing in Live the Six, doing stuff for others is a blessed thing, with plenty of benefits going to the doer as well as the receiver. And isn't that the way it is with God? After utilizing our meager service in the aid of another, He takes what we offer and turns the blessing back our way, filling us with all those wonderful intangibles such service-work brings: deep satisfaction at the wise use of our time; a sense of being vital in the life of another; a pleasant awareness that we're just plain doing the right thing, and an abiding happiness at knowing we're part of the solution to somebody's dilemma.

As 2017 unfolds before you, be sure to take time to help out -- around the house, around your workplace, around your neighborhood. After all, doesn't such real-time service speak the love and care of God to others in way that our words sometimes lack?

What is there about our doing that's so much louder than our speaking? Perhaps it's the tangible work we leave behind. Perhaps it's our willingness to step into people's lives.

You know what we're talking about.

Tell us about your experience(s) helping others and how good it makes feel. Send your comments to us by clicking here and sharing your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Big Stage, Big Speech, Big Deal

Before you read the next Men's NetWork blog, there will be the no-small-matter of the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. On January 20, Donald John Trump -- real estate mogul, television reality star, and come-lately presidential candidate -- will take a solemn oath as our nation's chief executive at the U.S. Capitol Building.

Undoubtedly, Trump will have a few words to say.

Here are a few opening day remarks from days gone by:

"Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America" (Barack Obama, First Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009).

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" (George W. Bush, Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 2005).

"Our democracy must be not only the envy of the world but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America" (Bill Clinton, First Inaugural Address, January 21, 1993).

"The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man" (John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961).

"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance" (Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1933).

"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations" (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865).

"And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people" (George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789).

Words ... each and every one ... delivered at a time of hopeful anticipation that renews every four years in our nation's history. No matter the person in office, God is in charge. No matter the circumstances of our country or the world we live in, God is in control. Let us remember that as we move forward -- whether the candidate who assumes the Office of the Presidency on January 20 is your man or not.

Well, one thing's for sure. The days of overblown political hyperbole are behind us -- at least for a while. Let us know what you think about this passing of the baton. You can do so by clicking here.