Charity. Generosity. Stewardship.

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Today’s quote is from Francis Quarles, an English poet who was born May 8, 1592 and died September 8, 1644: “Proportion thy charity to the strength of thy estate, lest God proportion thy estate to the weakness of thy charity. Let the lips of the poor be the trumpet of thy gift, lest in seeking applause thou lose thy reward. Nothing is more pleasing to God than an open hand and a closed mouth.”

These are powerful statements, each of which is corroborated by the following equally powerful Scripture passages:

Luke 6:38: Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you … For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

1 Cor. 13:3: Paul wrote, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

Luke 21:2: Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Luke 18:9-14: The Pharisee boasted about his tithe but the tax collector dared not to lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.” Jesus said, “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2 Cor. 9:7, 11: “God loves a cheerful giver … You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.”

God bless your generosity through charitable giving, demonstrating your faithful stewardship of the blessings he has entrusted to your care!

The Head. The Guest. The Listener.

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Today’s quote is from Confucius: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”

All-knowing Wikipedia says Confucius was born in 551 BC and died in 479 BC.  He was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher who emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, and sincerity.

In addition to being quoted frequently in Chinese fortune cookies, Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, emphasizing common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives.

He also recommended family as a basis for ideal government and espoused the well-known Golden Rule principle, stated a bit differently from the more familiar rendition: “Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

Better than the words of Confucius are the words of the plaque on the wall of my childhood home: “Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener to every conversation.” Wouldn’t it be great if that plaque were hanging on the wall in every home?

And how about what Jesus said to the man who asked, “Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

If those who looked at the words on that plaque and who held the words of Jesus in their heart would take them seriously, putting the world in order would be not only possible but also feasible and attainable.

That’s a big “if” in our world today! But we have to start somewhere. How about in your home and heart … and in mine? Love Jesus with all you are and all you have! Invite him to be The Head, The Listener, The Guest in your home!

Listening and Understanding

listeningToday I have two quotes:

  • “A good listener is not only popular everywhere but after a while he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner
  • “It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.” – Anatole France

One of the difficulties most people have when listening to another is the tendency to stop listening and to start thinking about how to reply, especially if the reply is a rebuttal. The problem that develops is that the listener may not truly understand the speaker’s perspective and rationale, which leads to greater difficulty in reaching a point of agreement between the two.

Years ago I learned a technique simply called “active listening.” In an Effectiveness Training seminar, participants were divided into teams of two. One participant was given a written script with directions to read the script to the other participant, verbatim. The listener was instructed to try to repeat as nearly as possible the exact words that had been read.

While the exercise seemed rather sophomoric at the time, it worked quite well. The listener repeated the words of the reader, who instinctively nodded his head in appreciation for the fact that the listener actually listened. The reader went on to speak in greater detail about the topic of the written script. Before long there was a greater sense of mutual respect, simply because the listener was actually listening and understanding instead of trying to formulate a response.

While not a magic wand, the art of active listening is essential to understanding. Agreement often comes from understanding, even if it takes the form of agreeing to disagree.

God is glorified when people communicate with one another with love and respect. Listening and understanding are essential components of that process!

Maturing Oaks and Mighty Trees

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Last week’s quote was from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” In my article I listed some new parachurch organizations that had recently been created within The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). This week I’ll add two ministries that could be described as “maturing oaks” and two others that could be called “mighty oaks.”

“Maturing oaks” are Pastoral Leadership Institute and Grace Place Wellness Ministries. “Mighty oaks” are Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and International Lutheran Laymen’s League.

Pastoral Leadership Institute and PLI International – PLI was begun nearly 20 years ago by the vision of eight LCMS pastors who developed a brochure designed to train pastors in the art of leading large and growing congregations. Hundreds of LCMS pastors and spouses in the United States and 12 countries worldwide have been led to lead through PLI, which is devoted to “empowering pastors, spouses and other church leaders for wider influence for the sake of the gospel in their communities and effective leadership in their congregations.” http://www.plileadership.org/

Grace Place Wellness Ministries – Grace Place was founded in 1999 by Dr. John D. Eckrich, a St. Louis physician who provided health care to many pastors, teachers, seminarians, and their families for more than 35 years. During his practice he observed a recurring pattern of stress related illnesses among many workers and families he served. Through retreats, workshops, and programs, Grace Place’s mission is “nurturing vitality and joy in ministry by inspiring and equipping church workers to lead healthy lives.” http://www.graceplacewellness.org/

Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – The Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) is the official women’s auxiliary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. For almost 75 years the LWML has focused on “affirming each woman’s relationship with Christ, encouraging and equipping women to live out their Christian lives in active mission ministries and to support global missions.” Also known as Lutheran Women in Mission, LWML will celebrate its 75th anniversary June 22-25 in Albuquerque. In its history LWML members have contributed “mites” equaling millions of dollars for mission work in and around The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod! http://www.lwml.org/home

International Lutheran Laymen’s League (ILLL) – Also an official auxiliary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, ILLL is comprised of dedicated supporters and volunteers “active in ministry domestically and around the world.” Its ministry is currently expressed through “a wide range of Christ-centered outreach efforts under the name of Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM).” Originally called the Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL) upon its formation in 1917 (now 100 years old), the organization was renamed the International Lutheran Laymen’s League in 1972 “to reflect its growing impact globally.” The LHM ministry proclaims the gospel to millions around the world. https://www.lhm.org/

It’s my hope and prayer that the terms “maturing oaks” and “mighty oaks” are seen as complimentary, which is my intention. Terry and I have been involved with and supportive of each of these organizations for many years. I am happy to commend all of them for your prayers and support.

Creativity

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Today’s quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

While those few words could take a thoughtful person in many directions, I’m content with one simple illustration. In recent years the creativity of pastors and people in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has resulted in the origination of numerous parachurch ministries, including:

  • Best Practices for Ministry – “A FREE conference for those who love the local church, the unchurched and the LCMS” – https://www.facebook.com/BestPracticesForMinistry/
  • Pastor 360 – Making life and ministry better for pastors, congregations and families –pastor360.com
  • Mission of Christ Network – Making known the light, love, and peace of Jesus Christ to people around the world – https://missionofchrist.org
  • J2e3 – Jesus to…Everyone. Everywhere. Everyday. – j2e3.com
  • Five Two – Christian entrepreneurs passionate about reaching those who don’t know Jesus – fivetwo.com
  • MinistryFocus – Making student loan debt repayment grants to professional LCMS church workers – ministryfocus.org
  • Dwelling 1:14 – Joining Jesus on His mission – https://dwelling114.org/

There may be other newly created ministries. These are ones with which I am familiar, all begun within the past several years by someone in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Although the one acorn reference in the quote above might not fit exactly with these examples, I thank God for the thousands of people (thousand forests?) whose lives are touched by the creation of these ministries and of additional ministries that will surely follow.

St. Paul wrote: “I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Cor. 9:22-23)

Achievement

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Here’s the quote for today: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

My way of saying that is: “Leaders always disappoint someone!”

It took me a while to figure that out. In my initial days of leadership I thought it should be possible to please everyone with my achievements. I soon discovered the fallacy of that thought.

If one does nothing, he displeases those who think he should be doing something. If one does something, he displeases those who think he should be doing something else.

Jesus displeased people in the church of his day. Luther displeased people in the church of his day. They both achieved results that even now impact life for time and for eternity!

In our day, Pastors displease people in the church and politicians displease people in the country. It’s not wise for leaders to go out of their way to displease their followers. But displeasure often goes hand in hand with courageous leadership and frequently precedes significant achievement.

So here’s my advice, dear fellow leaders. Put on your big boy britches, buckle up your boots, get on your knees in prayer, exercise your God-given gift of leadership, anticipate disagreement and disappointment from those around you, and achieve much for the world and for the church!

Sufficiency

bernard-baruchFor centuries many famous and quite a few not-so-famous people have uttered words of wisdom. At least several weeks I plan to share with you some of their observations, counsel, humor, and musings. At times I might offer a specific application that connects these words to a scriptural or spiritual principle. On other occasions I may simply let the quote speak for itself.

Some but not necessarily all of those I’ll be quoting are Christian. Wisdom and common sense are not possessed only by those who confess the Christian faith. Here’s today’s quote:

“There is not much difference, really, between the squirrel laying up nuts and the man laying up money. Like the squirrel, the man—at least at the start—is trying to provide for his basic needs. I don’t know much about squirrels, but I think they know when they have enough nuts. In this way they are superior to men, who often don’t know when they have enough, and frequently gamble away what they have in the empty hope of getting more.” Bernard M. Baruch (1870-1965)

Baruch also said: “To me, old age is always fifteen years older than I am.”

God bless your day!