Shootings in schools, movie theaters, shopping centers, and elswhere have traumatized the nation. But the face of violence is not just about shootings. Bullying in the schools, domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual abuse and other forms of violence are rampant. More…
Join us this year for a discussion of the question of human dignity and the gospel. So many roads, so much at stake So many dead ends, I’m at the edge of the lake Sometimes I wonder what it’s gonna take To find dignity. Bob Dylan
A small group of children see me taking photos of their school building and scamper to jump in front of the camera. More…
Spiritual Influence: The Hidden Power Behind Leadership by Mel Lawrenz (Zondervan, 2012). Hardcover. 212 Pages. ISBN 978-0310492702
“If you are in a position of positive influence, if you exercise leadership in any way, your faith in God gives you a power—a hidden power—that will allow you to make an enduring difference in the lives of other people and organizations. But how does that power work?” More…
Since influence is all about people, it only makes sense to explore the dynamics of our spiritual influence with other people.
“Circles of Influence” is a simple method anyone can use to take a few weeks and discover how to deepen one’s influence with friends, colleagues, or co-workers. “Circles of Influence” is an excellent team-building exercise. More…
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” -Luke 1:26-31
Can any of us fathom the immense amount of faith Mary was called on to have? She was young. She was a virgin. She was probably expecting to lead no more than an ordinary life in a no name Galilean town.
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20-21
Angel: 1). A spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God (Oxford English Dictionary).
What did Mary see when the angel Gabriel appeared to her? What kind of being came with foreknowledge of a supernatural conception and with words that would change her identity forever? “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Lk. 1:28). How would the shepherds have described the angel with the glory of the Lord shining about? How could they encapsulate “a great company of the heavenly host,” whose voices poured out a sudden tidal wave of sound, a booming chorus?: “Glory to God in the highest!” (Lk. 2:14). How would Joseph his own encounter with the angel? Or what would Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, say about their messengers? In the days leading up to the birth of Jesus, supernatural appearances and utterances were occurring like they never had before—an electric buzz of Heaven’s voices among us.
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:13-14
Peace is a noble aspiration at any time. In times of war or in times of harmony. When you find yourself at odds with someone, or when you are feeling pretty good about your relationships. When you feel in harmony with God, or when you feel a discord. It is always important to pursue peace.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” - Luke 2:10-11
Great joy? Is it almost too much to hope for?
Where did all the Christmas joy go? How did things get so complicated? So rushed? So squeezed and cluttered? A non-stop buzz of Christmas lights and weary shoppers, boisterous television specials and pleading children. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can choose to step aside, step into a quieter moment, and read the angel’s words that came on the night that changed the world: “I bring you news of great joy!”
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz on Friday, November 30th, 2012 and is filed in Posts.
Here is a great tongue-in-cheek video (explanation below)…
From Radi-Aid website:
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?
If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.
The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on.
The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
“By him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17).
This passage is speaking about Christ, making the point that the Son of God was present and involved when the universe was willed into existence. “All things.” Every physical reality and every spiritual reality exists because God created it.
In a mighty song at the beginning of the book of Revelation, four “living creatures” bearing the looks of a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle-covered with eyes, fitted with wings, moving about a throne before a sea of glass, focusing day and night on proclaiming the holiness of God-these four creatures representing the whole of creation, sing these words:
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz on Wednesday, November 21st, 2012 and is filed in Posts.
In America this week we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. I have always treasured this holiday because its intention is so clear and so right. It is not so cluttered with commercialism and busyness. It recalls the harvest of fields, and invites us to look for a harvest of God’s goodness in our own lives.
You may receive daily thoughts leading up to Christmas beginning next week either by email subscription at Bible Gateway (free) or as a Kindle eBook.
The Christmas season should be a time for personal spiritual renewal. A time of joy and celebration, light and life. Christmas Joy, a daily devotional for the month of December, has 25 daily readings to bring insight and inspiration into the Christmas season. Each daily reading unpacks the meaning of words like…
* and more.
The 25 daily readings of Christmas Joy begin Saturday, December 1.
“Universe” means “the whole thing.” It is shorthand for every world, every speck of cosmic dust, every rock, every four-legged creature, every human being, every gamma ray and photon that exist anywhere. Put it all together and you have “universe.”
It was God who put it all together. He “fashioned” it. He conceived it and then willed it into being. “Let there be light,” he said, “and there was light.” We all know the opening words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for “create” does not mean merely the rearrangement of matter. It is not the idea of a potter shaping clay or a woodworker building a cabinet. No construction worker ever said, “Let there be wood.” To create, in the most fundamental sense, means to bring into existence.
One man has proclaimed the good news of Jesus to more people in the world than any other person in history. Over a period of six decades, he has been sought by the men who have been president of the United States. He walked through open doors of foreign heads of state, leaders of industry, and religious leaders of every sort. Hundreds of millions of households knew him through the television screen. And all this happened because Billy Graham is a most ambitious man. Continue Reading…
You have said in your word that whenever we know we need wisdom, we should ask for it, and that you will give it generously. As we take the extraordinary step to vote for our local, regional, and national leaders, we pray for your wisdom that comes from above. Continue Reading…
We will perish in foolishness if we do not grow in wisdom.
We elected you to office to do near-impossible tasks: to defend us in an unsafe world, to structure the basic services of an ordered society, to protect those who are vulnerable. We ask you to govern, but with our consent. We plead with you to address major social and economic problems, but we know that our culture often works against solutions. Continue Reading…
I was just with two friends from Cuba who waited anxiously to hear from their families whose towns were devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and now the monster storm bears down on the U.S.
Big storms are ominous. They arrest our attention. They remind us how small and powerless we are.
In the Bible the storm is a symbol of many different things.
(satellite view of Hurricane Sandy)
Non-destructive wind is an apt picture of the presence of God because God is powerful, yet unseen (John 3:8; 4:24). When God’s Spirit came at Pentecost the accompanying sign was the sound of “a mighty rushing wind” (Acts 2:2).
Time and again people responded to Jesus’ words with speechless astonishment. Perhaps as they listened to Jesus’ teaching, they occasionally found themselves turning a corner and stunned by a vista of reality that was bigger and grander than they had imagined.
Not everyone who heard Jesus became believers because we all have personal agendas that can hold us in disbelief. But everyone who did hear had to grapple with the power of what he said, and they had to decide what to do with the authoritative voice with which he spoke–an authority that did not come from a booming microphone or spotlights or banners, but from the ring of truth in the words themselves, backed up by every action he performed.
If we want to pursue wisdom for our life and work we must reach beyond the circles we normally move in to find people who have the same questions we do, but whose life experiences are different than ours. This past week I’ve had the extraordinary privilege of guiding a diverse international group of leaders into a learning community, exploring the ways we can make an impact in our families, our churches, and our communities today.
The fifteen guests for this year’s session of The International Center sponsored by Elmbrook Church come from Malaysia, Nepal, India, Iran, Paraguay, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Brazil, Belize, and Cuba. Fifty years ago this week the Cuban Missile Crisis was unfolding–and now we have with us three pastors from Cuba. Continue Reading…
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 and is filed in Posts.
Several countries in Southeast Asia celebrate the regional new year with a water festival. Traditionally, people sprinkle each other with water as a sign of respect and blessing, but many people intensify it with wild, joyful, boisterous dousing of anybody and everybody with water. Walk or drive down the streets during those days and you might be accosted with garden hoses, water cannons, water pistols, or even bowls and cups filled with water. It is raucous. It is fun. It is vivid. Everyone knows it is out with the old, in with the new.
For months now we have been preparing a special online learning experience for you that will help you make a greater impact in your work, your leadership, your family, your church, and your life.
I have done the “Deepen Your Influence” seminar now with many groups in the U.S. and overseas, and I am genuinely enthused to engage with you in an online version of it which will spread over 8 weeks beginning the week of October 15. With everyone’s schedules being so full, we’re glad to offer this learning experience you can engage in from the convenience of your own home or office.
I have just returned from Hamburg, Germany, having spoken at a conference sponsored by the Evangelical Free Church of Germany and doing two days of workshops. The interactions were lively and engaged as we looked at faith in a postmodern world.
Hamburg is a beautiful historic city in the north, the second largest port in all of Europe. It is prosperous, cosmopolitan, and influential. The Beatles became a real band in the clubs of Hamburg, setting them up to be discovered in England. Some of the 9/11 terrorists came from a cell based in Hamburg. Continue Reading…
This post was written by Mel Lawrenz on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012 and is filed in Posts.
********** TONIGHT! **********
Expand your world… by hearing from our special guests for this year’s International Center session in a special open forum, Wednesday, October 17 from 6:30 to 8:15 in the Chapel.
Join Mel Lawrenz who will draw out the stories of our guests from Malaysia, Nepal, India, Rwanda, Cuba, Paraguay, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Brazil, Belize, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHAT: International Center Open Forum (free and open to the public–hear compelling stories from around the world)!
WHEN: Wednesday, October 17, 6:30 to 8:15pm
WHERE: The Chapel at Elmbrook Church, 777 South Barker Rd., Brookfield
WHO: Mel Lawrenz moderating panel of guests from around the world
WHY: When your world gets bigger, your heart gets bigger! Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from these special people!
Please use the SHARE links below to let others know.
One of the boldest things any human being can do is to stand in front of someone else and say, “This is what I believe.” We listen, whether we are inclined to believe the same thing or not. It is bolder still to act on what we believe. Continue Reading…
Bill Lenz, pastor of Christ the Rock Community Church, recently informed me of a leadership development program called “Transformation of the Heart.” I’ve known Bill for many years and respect their ministry. And this opportunity in beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin, looks fantastic. Go HERE for more information, including two videos that explain their program.
“Transformation of the Heart is a journey designed to promote life change in the hearts of Christian leaders, pastors, and their spouses. When you look at an iceberg, only the top 10% is visible above the waterline. Many churches are struggling because efforts are focused on the visible 10% of our lives which are externally visible, butdo not seem to help transform our emotional and spiritual core-the 90% of our being that is not externally visible. At Transformation of the Heart, God moves individuals and church communities to examine and transform emotional and spiritual health in a facilitated small group model. It is for church communities which hunger for a way to engage the underlying brokenness and sinful patterns in our hearts and to allow God to redeem and transform them. This has been the pivotal path through which Christ the Rock Community Church has discipled hundreds of new and old believers for over 20 years.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:28-29
Faith is a calling. It is backed up by a universe of tangible facts about the goodness and greatness of God. Yet faith is still an extension of trust outward so that we are certain of what we do not see.
Imagine you could go to any expensive restaurant any day and the owner would insist that you didn’t have to pay. Imagine you could pick any new car on any lot and it would be given to you. Imagine you could decide in a day to run for the U.S. Senate, and you were guaranteed a win. Or that you could offer to give a speech to any audience–to thousands in an auditorium or tens of millions on television–and the microphone would be handed to you. Imagine you could ask to meet with any head of state at any time to offer your opinions, and the door would fly open. Imagine fame, power, and wealth.
No exaggeration here: that is the life that one of the most famous men of the 20th century could have had, if he had wanted it. By being the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong did something utterly unique. None of the other eleven men who walked on the moon captivated the attention of billions of people from virtually all the nations of the earth. That first step, the “small step” Armstrong spoke of, only happened once, by one man.
In future weeks Everything New will include practical advice on how we can be positive spiritual influences in the lives of the people around us or the organizations we are part of. At work and in life. There is an exciting new movement today of believers wanting to be used by God to “make everything new” in the lives of others.
For this week, we’ll begin with a 2-minute quiz/survey that will tell you something about yourself. Comments about it coming next time.
We will perish in foolishness if we do not grow in wisdom.
We elected you to office to do near-impossible tasks: to defend us in an unsafe world, to structure the basic services of an ordered society, to protect those who are vulnerable. We ask you to govern, but with our consent. We plead with you to address major social and economic problems, but we know that our culture often works against solutions.
In short, we ask you to do those things that do not come naturally to human beings. But we need you to try.
We all must grow past the foolishness of naivety, irresponsibility, and cynicism. And we need leaders who will lead the way. We call on you to seek a higher wisdom in your leadership.
You have power, but the corruptions of pride and arrogance will ruin your integrity.
You have authority, but you need to develop moral authority to have an enduring and honorable influence.
You have responsibility to speak truth, but there are powerful forces compelling you to spin, obfuscate, and lie.
We need you to be intelligent and learned, but with wisdom. We need strong leadership that comes not from force of personality and will, but from the strength of truth. We do not need you to dictate what we should do, we need streams of wisdom so that we will all understand what we may do and should choose to do.
Above all we need respect. We need you to respect all people in every part of the world regardless of their station in life because the dignity of human beings bestowed by God the Creator is the foundation of a civilized society. (1)
The “unalienable rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness need to be balanced with the responsibilities of justice, equity, and generosity.
We need you to come up with good ideas that are based on great ideals. We, the public, understand that disagreement, debate, and tension are all part of the process of governing. But we implore you to find consensus for the vexing problems of our times.
We have elected you to do near-impossible tasks. That is why you need “the wisdom from above” which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (2) If your work is infused with that quality of wisdom, there is no telling how much you might accomplish.
Carry out your tasks by modeling what is required of all people: “to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” (3)
Winning is not enough. Dominance is empty. Common sense is not at all common. We pray that you will have the the courage and selflessness of Solomon who said to God on the day he became a leader: “give me wisdom… to govern this great people.” (4)
On and off over the years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching students in Bible and doctrine classes, and those classes tend to take on different personalities. I remember one class that was dominated by lively, energetic believers who were always pushing me ahead, always asking the questions that were just a step or two beyond my preparation. They were smart enough to know when I tried passing off an answer as more simple than it was.
A chill went up my spine when I got home from church on Sunday and heard about the shooting at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just miles from where I live. I was stunned because the shooting was taking place at the very time I was preaching at Elmbrook Church on Psalm 46:9: “He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.” I had said in the message: imagine if today the suicide bomber’s detonation device shorted out, all tanks and artillery stopped working, all AK-47′s in the world (75 million of them!) suddenly jammed. All M-16′s and M-4′s turned to dust. In the light of the future judgment when God brings all violence to an end, how can we not commit ourselves to being peacemakers in whatever ways we can?
At times like this we ponder (or at least we should) what Scripture says about violence. Much, of course.
But today I find myself going back to a foundational truth in Genesis 9:6: “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.”
This is basic, essential, core. We instinctively know senseless murder is wrong, but besides our instincts, there is a real reason: if we violate the image of God we are violating God. Human identity is centered on being made in the image of God. Human dignity is an unalterable truth because we are made in the image of God. Reverence for God compels us to respect our fellow human beings. Reverence and respect. Those two principles keep us on track in life.
And respect for people because they are made in the image of God not only makes murder wrong, but hatred of every kind. That’s why Jesus said “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21).
As prayers are said around the world in response to the shooting, may God compel us to have reverence for God and respect for those made in his image.
We all know we live in a world that is wrong in so many ways. How can we influence things in order to make things right? Here is the inspiring story of a young man in a position of influence who did the unthinkable, William Wilberforce.
(photo: Bewilderment at the scene of the shooting.)
The tragic murders that took place in the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, just a few miles from where I live, raises the question, just who are the Sikhs, who constitute the fifth-largest organized religion in the world? One interesting thing: the word “sikh” means “learner.” Same meaning as “disciple.” Here is a short piece by The Gospel Coalition.
In the past year many thousands of people have been captivated by the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as told in the new biography by Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. He stood up to the power of Hitler, he spoke prophetically to the church of his day, he focussed on Christ.
All of us wrestle with the expectations that other people have of us. The only expectations that matter, ultimately, are God’s expectations. If we live up to those, with God’s help, we will be fulfilling the reasonable expectations others have.
The prophet Micah said, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). God has shown us what is good. He has not left us in the dark. We don’t need to invent or reinvent the mission of God. Continue Reading…
To be human is to believe, holding in your consciousness a whole galaxy of realities that include the visible and the invisible. Not to believe, or being unwilling to believe, or thinking that believing is far too much to ask, is to tear out the heart of who we were made to be. It is to limit life to a kind of closet where facts are sorted on hangers and racks, instead of living that life in wide-open spaces that connect to unseen reality.
Some people think that one of the great debates in life is whether you are going to live your life by reason or by faith.
Here is one definition of faith: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is not a catalog of things we know because we accumulate knowledge of them through our eyes or ears or touch, but it is the knowledge of things that can slip past the eyes, that are sometimes mere whispers in the ear or a brush along the shoulder. When the disciple Thomas went down on his knees upon seeing Jesus raised from the dead, voicing the absolute statement of trust, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe” (John 20:29). So, on the one hand, there is the evidence of things that “we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched,” as the disciple John put it regarding his experience with Jesus. Then there is faith that reaches across a distance and stands on truth. “Blessed” are those who believe in the God who is beyond our eyes, but whose works flood our vision everyday.
When we think of the great leaders of the past, we may remember their accomplishments, but just as likely we remember some great idea–a seminal idea–which dominated their lives and drove them to accomplish the great thing. Seminal, from the Latin word for seed, means something so compelling that it has a profound influence on others. The seminal idea sprouts and grows, and then it bears fruit. It gives life. The seminal idea spreads its own seed in hidden places. It infiltrates. It may subvert. It has the potential to prevail.
Abraham Lincoln was compelled by the seminal idea that the union of the states could not be broken. Winston Churchill championed the seminal idea that tyranny should not be tolerated under any circumstances. Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal idea was that all people are owed the same respect because they have the same God-given dignity.
When faith happened in my life it was like the irrepressible onset of dawn.
I love watching the sunrise on the horizon of Lake Michigan, and it always reminds me of the dawning of the new life of faith. The black-painted sky gradually thins and stars lose their sparkle against the graying morning. On the horizon, where the sun hides low, the darkness melts before the advancing, red-tinged light. A fire is coming. And then it shoots out across the landscape–just a small ray–but the darkness has no chance against it. Then the brilliant arc advances. By the time the full orb rides on the horizon, its heat is already drying the night air and warming my face.