A Grand Time!
September 25th, 2012
For the 3rd year in a row Debbie and I are speaking at the Servants Retreat on Mackinaw Island at the world famous Grand Hotel. This great conference is for preachers and their wives. Dr. & Mrs. Don Green are speaking with us to over 30 preachers and their wives. This is truly a delightful time at one of the world’s most delightful places. Dr. & Mrs. Jim Green are the host for this annual conference. Preachers need to get away from time to time and refresh their spiritual and emotional batteries. Once again this year’s conference has truly been A Grand Time!

This conference is a time for ministry and marriage enrichment. I would recommend this get away to any preacher who wants to spoil his wife for a very affordable get away. I believe the dates for next year’s Servants Retreat are, September 30th-October 2nd, 2013.

As I was pondering the blessing of both ministry and marriage I jotted down these questions this afternoon. Some good food for thought - Are You A Great Marriage Partner? (1) Do You Give Your Spouse A Hug And Kiss Each Morning? (2) Do You Look For Opportunities To Express Your Love? (3) Do You Surprise Your Spouse With Compliments And Gifts? (4) Do You Let Go Of Passing Annoyances Or Differences That Could Turn Into Conflicts? (5) Do You Periodically Do It His Or Her Way? (6) Do You Take Time To Have Heart To Heart Chats? (7) Do You Truly Listen To Her? (8) Do You Sometimes Say “I’m Sorry”? (9) Do You Allow Your Spouse To “Lose It” Every Once In A While? (10) Do You Pray For Each Other Regularly? (11) Do You Show Your Love Even When You Don’t Feel Like It? (12) Is Your Insecurity Destroying Your Relationship With Jealousy And Mistrust? (13) Do You Have Eyes Only For Your Partner? (14) Do You Share Your Dreams And Talk About How You Can Make Them Come True? (15) Do You Frequently Say “I Love You”?

If you can answer these questions properly I believe it will lead to A Grand Time!

Are You Better Off?
September 17th, 2012

We are just 50 days away from the 2012 Presidential election. The question is being asked, especially by those who believe that our current President needs to become our former President, - "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" I for one think the answer to that question is more than just a financial issue, it is also a spiritual issue.
Isaiah 55:2  "Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness".

Everybody wants to have a better life. That has become the slogan of of not only this election season, but our society in general. Everywhere we look there are a multiplicity of suggestions on how to live and have a better life. There are pills, exercises, and diet books to help us lose weight so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are lotions, treatments, and surgeries to help us look better so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are cell phones, computers, and televisions to keep us connected and entertained so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There aere social media tools such as facebook, twitter, youtube and a host of other technology gadgets to help us live a more fufilling and happy life. There are cars, clothes, and fancy homes to keep us feeling wealthy so we can live a more fufilling and happy life. There are also jobs, cash, and credit cards to keep us spending for all of these things so that we can one day, hopefully, have that better life we dream about.

I want a better life too, but I don’t think that any of these things will help me find it. I have tried some of them over the years and while they may make you feel better for a moment they don’t bring you the lasting happiness you're looking for. I have found that the only way to Have A Better Life is to Live A Better Life, and only way to give your children a better life is to show them how to live a better life as well.

How do you live a better life? You start by living more for your soul and less for your wallet. You spend more time hugging and less time buying. You turn off the television and take a walk with your children. You smile more and worry less. You spend more time with your loved ones and less time at the office. You laugh longer and more often. You look in your heart more and in the mirror less. You make your first job spreading joy rather than earning money. You realize just how much God loves you and you spend your days sharing that love with everyone you meet. No wonder "...he that winneth souls is wise." You and I must never forget that our life is a gift from God and how we live it is our gift back.

The Right Reaction To Criticism

September 4th, 2012

The only people who never receive criticism are those folks who never do anything. Criticism is a natural thing and part of life. We shouldn’t be surprised that people - even close friends and family would criticize our methods, our goals and even our motives. Whether the criticism is deserved or not really isn’t the question. The way we handle or deal with criticism and critics shows a lot about our Christian character.

Criticism is something none of us like to receive it, but it will come anyway! Regardless of how well we live our life or try to conduct ourself in front of others, there will always be those around us who will find something to criticize.
Who can forget the life of Job? Here was a man that the Lord called "perfect and upright, and one that feared God and escheweth evil." Yet, when various calamities fell upon his life and Job's friends came to be with him, all they could find to do to Job was to criticize him. Notice what they said about this man of God, They called him "a hypocrite" in (Job 8:13). They called him "a windbag" in (Job 8:2). They said "You're just getting what you deserve" in (Job 5:8-15). They told him that he had "a bad attitude!" in (Job 5:17). Yet, through it all, Job stuck with the Lord and never turned on God. As a result, he was restored and blessed by the Father.

I have experienced my share of criticism. Maybe you’ve been there too. Or soon will be. Undoubtedly, people are watching our lives. They are making judgments about us. We can’t change that— but what we can do is control how we react. Recently a preacher friend called me for some advice. He was being criticized by some folks who had left his church. He was very hurt and disappointed. I tried to encourage and advise this good man of God. When the conversation was over I got out a pen and paper and reevaluated the steps to follow to have The Right Reaction To Criticism in my own life and ministry. The following are a few of the practical thoughts I have contemplated and heard others teach that I jotted down. 

1. Carefully Examine The Source Of Every Criticism. Some may be valid, but many are not! Ask yourself, "Who is the one saying this thing?" Very often, critics are so caught up in themselves, how they feel, what is happening to them and how they are being affected that they cannot see things objectively. The best way to deal with this is to do what Jesus did that is mentioned in Acts 8:32 - He opened not His mouth!  Criticism often has the effect of injuring the critic more than the one criticized! One fellow put it this way, "If criticism had has any real power to harm, the skunk would be extinct by now." The danger of being criticized is that it can cause you to develop a spirit of bitterness toward the criticizer. The surest way to fuel the fire of criticism, as well as the speculation that the critic may be right, is to go on the defensive. The best response to criticism is no response at all!
2. Control Your Emotions. Don’t react with haste. Remember, feelings are not your friends. In fact, one of the most important fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible is “temperance” or self-control. If our emotions are in control, we will likely react wrongly to criticism. Unfair and unjust criticism always has a way of striking you right in the heart. It is painful, when you have done your best, to know that someone is observing your life to find fault. It is natural to be bothered by criticism. However, criticism should never be allowed to control your life.

3. Decide Not To Take Criticism Personally. Look at it objectively and try to learn from it. Ask yourself, "Is there any truth to this?"  When criticism comes our way, one of the main things we need to ask is, "Is this true?" Instead of reacting defensively against our critic, we should try to put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and try to see the issue through their eyes. It may be that they are right, at least to a degree. Give them the benefit of the doubt.

4. Reject False Criticism. Sometimes we are criticized with no justification. This is a painful experience. But, potentially we can deal with it more easily than criticism which is justified. If we don’t react to the criticism we give it no credibility. If we feel the necessity of fighting it – in a way, we give it more importance than it deserves. By remaining silent we maintain a dignity that others will come to respect.

5. Respond With Kindness And Graciousness. Sometimes we fall into the trap of “fighting fire with fire”. We want to make sure that our words are as ’hot’ and volatile as those fired at us. This will not lead to success or a good outcome. All that does is ‘heat up the problem’ even more.  (Proverbs 15:1) Respond to the suggestions not the tone of the criticism. The problem is that people may make valuable critical suggestions. However, there tone and style of criticism means that we respond not to the suggestions but remember there confrontational manner. In this respect we need to separate the criticism from the style of criticism. Even if people speak in a tone of anger, we should try to detach their emotion from the useful suggestions which lie underneath.

6. Value Criticism. The problems is that quite often, we only value praise. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people criticize we feel miserable. However, if we only received insincere praise and false flattery, how would we ever make progress? If we wish to improve and develop we should invite constructive criticism and appreciate their suggestions. Keep An Open Mind - As much as we might not like to admit it, our critics can sometimes be right... and we would be well served to listen to their criticisms. You don’t have to ‘agree’— just listen.  If there are some errors in the facts, graciously point out the ‘real truth’ in the situation as you see it, without criticizing the ‘attacker’ or trying to defend your actions. If you find you are ‘wrong’ in the situation, be quick and certain to offer an apology.

7. Let The Criticism Make You Better. Abraham Lincoln, said that ‘the best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend.’ That is not always possible. But it is possible to deal with criticism wisely and productively. In the end, the critic may not like you or ever see it ‘your way’. So be it! How we respond to criticism goes a long way toward defining who we are.

Colonel George Washington Goethals was the primary supervisor responsible for constructing the Panama Canal. This feat of engineering called for the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico to be linked by a canal dug across the country of Panama. Since its completion, ships have saved millions of combined miles by being able to go through the canal and avoid the trip around the tip of South America. While the work was being done, Colonel Goethals had to endure severe criticism from back home which predicted that he would never be able to finish, what his critics called an "impossible task". This man refused to listen to his critics and pressed ahead with his work.
One day a subordinate asked this question, "aren't you going to answer your critics?" "In time", the Colonel replied. "How?", the man asked. The Colonel smiled and said, "With the canal!" His answer came loud and clear on August 15, 1914 when the Panama Canal opened to traffic for the first time.