“Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.”  So says, satirist writer, Arthur Bloch. “Enemies accumulate,” is the funny part. Sometimes, as we get older, it sure seems that way. Our physical friends: strength, looks, health and youth go and ...

 

Connections: Simple Church Success - 5 new articles

Enemies may Accumulate! But You Win!

“Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.”  So says, satirist writer, Arthur Bloch.

“Enemies accumulate,” is the funny part. Sometimes, as we get older, it sure seems that way.

Our physical friends: strength, looks, health and youth go and the enemies of weakness, wrinkles, and age come to stay.

Our relationship friends: marriages, families, children, and actual friends, go. They grow up, move on, pass away, or replace us. Enemies of loneliness, rejection, and sorrow come knocking.

Our location friends: neighborhoods, workplaces, towns, and groups go. The enemies of unfamiliar settings and situations show up.

That “enemies accumulate” laughter leaves us a bit nervous and exposed. Life is rushing on. Losing our gains, we wrestle with feeling disappointed, disillusioned and even disgruntled.

“There are no U-Haul trailers behind hearses!” Another dark joke that gets us to laugh. We all know we “can’t take it with us” but, still, it’s hard to face sometimes.  We see former things passing away. The new is becoming more of an enemy than a friend.

The Men’s Wearhouse TV ads a few years back always closed with founder, George Zimmer, looking us in the eye and declaring: “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”

His “I” with the word “guarantee” personally and powerfully assured us that George would stand behind his men’s clothing products. It was reassuring.

God gives reassuring “I” messages to us as well. He guarantees, “I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (Isaiah 46:3–4) And, “I have chosen you and will not throw you away. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9–10, NLT)

Thankfully, God outdoes George. He guarantees, I’ve got you through your old age when those silly enemies start their yip-yapping!

King David testifies with an old age “I” message we can use too. He declares, “Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” (Psalm 37:25, NLT)

Paul the apostle gives us an old age “I” message too. As a weak, old man in prison awaiting execution by the Roman Emperor Nero (great retirement!) Paul asserts, “I am suffering here in prison, but I am not ashamed of it. For I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NLT)

Do you have enemies accumulating? Follow God, David, Paul, and George by declaring “I” messages about your faith out loud and on purpose. Look those enemies in the eye and declare something like, “ I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.”

It works, I guarantee it!

“Giv’m heaven!”— John Parker

            
 
 

FAILURE, FRUSTRATION, CATASTROPHE! Your Keys to Success!

Failure, frustration and catastrophe are not part of our youthful dreams. No one dreams of someday getting a divorce; losing a job, career, or business; of bankruptcy or home foreclosure; or of death prematurely stealing a loved one.

When such failures, frustrations and catastrophes occur it’s easy to feel like a failure and not a success. That’s why Sumner Redstone’s quote is encouraging. The 93 year old media mogul declares, “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes its built on catastrophe.”

We smile at that, and think, maybe we can be successful too, in spite of all the junk we’ve been through! We smile even more when we realize that it’s the successful person’s ability to endure through failure, frustration and catastrophe that inspires.

Jesus is the King of Success! Did his life include failure, frustration, and catastrophe?  Yes! Yes! Yes!

Jesus failed. He was not able to do many powerful works in his own hometown. The locals knew him too well. Jesus explains, “It’s in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household that a prophet (person of God) is not received.” (Mark 6:5)

Jesus got frustrated. As he rides a donkey down the hill toward Jerusalem the crowd gets loud, shouting joyful praises implying that he is the promised Messiah.

Offended, religious leaders tell Jesus to control his fans. Jesus responds that, if he stops their cheering, the rocks will starting cry out for him instead.

It was then that frustration’s waves overwhelm Jesus. Gazing across the Kedron Valley at the Holy City tears start rolling down his face and he cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks but you would not let me do it.”

Like Jesus, when we try, and try, and try again and discover we can’t make things happen we get frustrated as well. When we see Jesus going through what we go through we experience what the Bible calls “the fellowship of his sufferings,” and we are drawn closer to him.

Jesus experienced catastrophe. That’s when everything falls apart beyond words and explanation.

Jesus’ catastrophe occurred on the cross. As his earthly life is bled and ripped away, he cries out, “Eli! Eli! Lama sabachthani!” meaning, “My God! My God! Why have you abandoned me?”

No one understands what he was saying. Most think he is crying out for the prophet Elijah to come and save him, or that he is thirsty, but they are wrong.

It’s catastrophic! Jesus the so-called Son of God, Son of David, and Messiah, endures the darkest depths of eternal hell as he cries out, “Why God? Why?” Torn away from direct communication with his true, eternal Father, he becomes sin for us. Earth quakes! Splitting rocks cry out! Hades rages!

And now, 2000 years later, we see Jesus, who, having endured the failure, frustration and catastrophe, now sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God, the true King of Success!

And we know that as we join with him, success is ours in spite of earthly failure, frustration, and catastrophe. “As we suffer with him we shall also reign with him!” Amen!

Giv’m Heaven!—John

John Parker pastors toward less formal more relational ways of being the Christian church. Locally, John facilitates Connections Simple Church 10 AM Sundays at Carty Center, 609 W. Robertson Blvd. Contact: john@simplechurchsuccess.com, or at (209) 564-7201.

            
 
 

John's Book: Chap.1. “And he fell among robbers…” Luke 10:30

Mary Martha Jesus OilMary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus a
Story about Neighbors and Anxiety
Chapter 1 by John Parker

“And he fell among robbers…” Luke 10:30

Seeing the man half-dead alongside the road and hearing his blood scream from the ground, “Murder! Robbery! Evil!” the startled Samaritan stirs with compassion. He becomes the neighbor when he steps toward the fallen one.

The priest is a non-neighbor. He is passing by on the other side. Nothing to see here. Got things to do. Systems of schooling, scholarship, standing, status, and strength swept compassion away long, long ago.

The man of well-born religious tribe is also a non-neighbor. He too is passing by on the other side. Nothing to feel here. Not my problem. Things to do. Places to go. Duty calls. No looking back.

The Samaritan is becoming the neighbor. While arriving as the other two did, at the same place on that road, for him everything is different.

He sees. He feels. He acts. He heals. Touching the bloody human, binding up the wounds, pouring his own precious oil and wine into the stranger’s pain – love is happening. Professional plans step aside. Personal safety waits in line. Generosity and patience ascend. Time is lavished on the broken vessel.

Lifting the dirty, beaten, bloody stranger onto his own animal this half-breed, despised, Samaritan leads a triumphal procession of his own along the road to an inn somewhere. And – since there are no shouting children singing praises – the rocks cry out to heaven in songs only angels hear, “Hosanna in the Highest! And on earth, Peace and Goodwill.”

The Samaritan continues to concern himself with the helpless man. Concern. Not anxiety. No worry. His calm, non-anxious, presence carefully tends to the messy man.

Did the Samaritan know the innkeeper? Did the innkeeper know him? Some how a deal was struck – all on behalf of the wounded, robbed, forsaken neighbor. “All expenses paid when I return!”

“Deal!” Agrees the trusting innkeeper.

“Which of the three,” Jesus asks, “do you think showed that he had become and continued to be a neighbor to the man who had fallen among robbers?”

“The man who showed mercy!”

“Yes! Now go and do that too!” Jesus said.

That’s the way it is.

Everyone falls among robbers. Everyone get beaten, stripped, robbed and left half-dead.

Everyone has a neighbor. Everyone gets to be a neighbor. Jesus calls love the greatest commandment:  Love God. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. It is the command commanding all commandments!

This is a story about loving our neighbors – seeing one and being one – as we are going along the way.

I see you. I am stopping. I am binding your wounds. I am pouring in oil and wine. I am lifting you up to go on a ride with me on this dear beast named, My Life, to the inn that has room for you.

You can simply – Rest. Wonder. Grieve. Hope. Rage. Remember. Forget. Listen for love. It is here with you now. Receive. Believe. Life Lives!

Copyright © 2017 by John Parker

            
 
 

Boring, Dull Meetings? 10 Skills for Leading Groups

10 Skills for Leading Groups:

Boring, disorganized, disconnected gatherings and groups—no one likes them. One person monopolizing, someone rudely disagreeing, another stonewalling and pouting, discourage.

Thankfully, leadership can help. But some leaders don’t know what they are doing and make matters worse. Here are Ten Team Leader Skills to improve your meetings of two or more people. They work at home too!

  1. Facilitating. The root idea of facilitate is to make something easier. Communication is difficult! Good group facilitating makes communication easier. Good facilitators start conversations then, generally, talk less than the others. They are the guide from the side, not the sage on the stage.
  2. Sharing. We are taught to share toys and such as toddlers. Adults sharing is more often about words, information and power—threatening!

A skillful leader shares and encourages sharing. Extroverts may over share.  Introverts may under share.  Both need a wise, assertive, kind facilitator get everyone to play, and share, well together.

  1. Question. Good leaders draw others out and guide with thoughtful questions.

Open questions encourage participants to expand their answer. Using the “news reporter” words, Who, What When, Where, Why and How help create open questions.  “What would you like to talk about?” is an open question.

Closed questions can often be answered with one word. “Would anyone else like to share?” is a closed question. It can be answered with yes, no, or maybe.

  1. Listening. The late, great, M. Scott Peck, M.D, writes “Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work. It is because they do not realize this or because they are not willing to do the work that most people do not listen well.”

Leaders, if you ask a question, try to listen. Listening well is the surest way to build trust and genuine caring in any relationship. “Active listening…requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.”  (Wikipedia)  Meeting leaders and participants can easily get distracted from active listening.

  1. Courage. This is bravery from the heart. The French root caries the idea of sharing “what is in one’s mind or thoughts.” The group leader is helping everyone be courageous in loving ways. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) is the sign of healthy group.
  2. Accepting. Leaders teach group members not to gasp, role eyes, shake heads in disgust, or shout, “You’re wrong!” when we hear something with which we don’t agree. We are learning to happily accept each other as we have been “accepted in the Beloved.”(Ephesians 1:3)
  3. Believing. The leader believes in people and their worth. We teach and model this. We affirm the Scripture “love believes all things,” so we temper our reactions and judgments.
  4. Recognizing. Like a skilled auctioneer the group leader recognizes individuals in the group¾their contributions, questions and concerns.  The leader fosters appreciation for contributions and teaches the group do so as well.
  5. Willingness. This involves open-mindedness, willingness to truly listen and exercise consideration. The growing leader models graciousness. We are unwilling to put down, block, hinder or snuff out. We are willing to bind up, fan into flame and to encourage. (see Matthew12:20)
  6. Vision. The leader is patiently, persistent inspiring! We have a lot to learn but imagine how great it will be if we get a little bit better at communicating.

Giv’m Heaven!—John

            
 
 

Get comfortable when you're not! Think Mesopotamia!

mesopotamia-mapMesopotamia ancient name for the land that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern Iraq), from Greek mesopotamia, literally “a country between two rivers,” from feminine of mesopotamos, from mesos “middle” (see medial (adj.)) + potamos “river” (see potamo).

“In the 19 century (1800s)  the word sometimes was used in the sense of “anything which gives irrational or inexplicable comfort to the hearer,” based on the story of the old woman who told her pastor that she “found great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia” [“Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable,” 1870].” (from the Online Etymological Dictionary…one of my favorites for word origins).

Now, next time you feel caught in the middle, you will be able, like the wise woman,  to testify, “You know I felt awkward, trapped, and even caught in the middle of the conflict (heated debate, opinion-fest, mindless argument, brouhaha). But lately I’ve been finding ‘great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia.'”

The Bible verse that got me started talks about being “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation*.”

“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst (from mesos “middle” – see above) of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:13–16, ESV)


* generation — 1074. γενεά geneá;  i.e., a multitude of contemporaries. In NT Gr. geneá literally means space of time, circle of time, which only in a derived sense signifies the meaning of a time, a race; then generally in the sense of affinity of communion based upon the sameness of stock. (Strong’s Greek #1074)

Yes! “Think Mesopotamia” to get calm and courageous, then reply to John  Parker (DBA: me) with your fun thoughts!

P.S. Mesopotamia = Adam and Eve country!

“A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10–14, ESV)

            
 
 
 
   
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