Monday, July 1, 2019

Overcoming Fear



Flying into Boston’s Logan Airport, I could tell we were too low. We had just cleared a garbage scow hauling the trash out to sea with hundreds of gulls feasting on the cargo and circling as they sought additional treats. If our engines ingested a bird, we were dead.  We could see a variety of boats heading for home as a blanket of fog was quickly covering the area. I could no longer see the runway lights from my seat at the window. The Delta DC 9-31 turned sharply to port onto final approach to runway 27. I was worried. We are too low. We may not make it!. Now, the plane was now only a few feet above the inky black surface.

The plane suddenly veered to starboard then back on course. “Did we swerve to avoid something or was it merely a wind correction?”  

The runway must be just ahead. It looks like we will make it. It was a weird sensation, this commercial jet was being flown like a fighter aircraft attacking an enemy outpost. Giving my seat belt an extra tug, I braced for the inevitable impact. Then we hit something. Like fingernails on a blackboard, the screams of bending metal shouted out. Loose items flew around the cabin, oxygen masks popped out from their storage places. Someone screamed. While we were still moving forward, the entire fuselage split open directly in front of me.

Then everything stopped. Dead silence! At a sporting event, people pause for a moment of silence in honor of people who have died. Then as suddenly as it began the silence was broken. Passengers screamed, sirens blaring and lights flashing announced the arrival of first responders.

I checked myself and found I was unhurt.  Releasing my seat belt, I got up and walked past rescuers as they burst through the gap in the fuselage. 

Outside, looking back at the wreckage, I thought, “I had better take the train home.”

It always happened this way.


It was a dream, but so real that I could almost smell the smoke. To this day that memory is still vivid. I had this identical dream four times in one year. It always involved a commercial airliner in which I was a passenger, but different planes and in different cities.

This time the dream had a had greater significance. One week after I dreamt about it, Delta Flight 723, to Boston, landed short of the runway in poor visibility, striking a sea wall about 165 feet to the right of the runway centerline and about 3000 feet short.  All six crew members and 83 passengers were killed. I had taken this same flight to Boston every month for the past year.

After that crash, I took the train from my home in Northern Virginia to almost every destination on the east coast and only flew when absolutely necessary. Near misses often bring on great fear, but the odds of another crash at the same place are astronomical. Fear causes us to rearrange our priorities and our activities. Fear limits our ability to accomplish what God calls us to do and will keep us from reaching our destiny.

We all fear many things. I am afraid of heights, bridges, rejection, and failure. Once, I climbed the 897 steps to the top of  Washington Monument and then could not look out the tiny windows to see the awesome expanse of the National Mall.

As a child, I waited before crossing a bridge until a large truck drove across. If the truck made it safely, then I would sprint to the other side. In school, I was afraid to run for a class office in fear that I would not be elected. Fear causes us to avoid doing things causing us to waste the gifts God has given us.

Below is a list of Americans top ten fears for 2018 Chapman University study

  1. Corrupt government officials - 73.6%
  2. Pollution of oceans, rivers, and lakes. - 61.6%
  3. Pollution of drinking water - 60.7%
  4. Not having money for the future - 57%
  5. People I love becoming seriously ill. - 56.5%
  6. People I love, dying - 56.4%
  7. Air Pollution - 55.1%
  8. Extinction of plant and animal species - 54.1%
  9. Global Warming and climate change - 53.2%
  10. High Medical bills - 52%
The root of most of our fears is the issue of control. We are afraid because we are not in control. When I was young I took flying lessons and flew the company’s Cessna 172 on business trips from Chicago to Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. I was never afraid of flying in a small plane. It was only flying commercial that caused me a problem because I was not in the pilot’s seat.  If we are in control, we are not often afraid. It is when we are not in control that we begin to fear.

Think about it, 
  1. “When was the last time you were afraid? 
  2. What were the circumstances?”  

The intensity of fear is indirectly proportional to the feeling of being in control. That is; the more you feel you are not in control of a situation, the more fear you feel.

Since the issue of control is the root of most of our fears, there is a simple sounding solution. 

We can overcome all our fears by accepting the fact that we are not in control, and trusting that the One in control really has our best interests at heart. 

 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, 
because fear involves torment.
But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18 (NKJV)

Fear is a result of not trusting God!


As we come to the Lord and make Him Lord of our life, we relinquish control of our life. This is simple to say but the actual working out is very difficult. 
  • We have to really trust God. 
  • When we really trust God with all of our heart, we become a superhero for Jesus, 
  • and can accomplish all that we were created for.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

What Motivates one to Become a Disciple


What motivates people to be disciples –  followers of God!

After many years of knowing about God, I began to read biographical books of Christians disciples in the workplace. Often these people faced with difficult problems in their secular jobs and asked God to help them. The testimonies were impressive. How could Jesus know about astrophysics or electronics?

Several years ago while doing research for a book, we conducted a survey to investigate what motivated people to follow Jesus. Here are the questions we asked:

·         When did you realize there was more to your faith than just attending church?
·         What were the circumstances that caused you to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus?
·         Was there another person who modeled maturity or challenged you to seek more from God?
·         How did that person help you grow?

Motivated by Need

The responses were interesting in that most respondents were motivated by need. Less than 20 % were swayed in a church service, a revival, or special events. Continuing support for a deeper walk with God resulted from the ongoing care of a small community such as a home group. In almost every case a mentor or faith community continually challenged each to continue to grow.

In the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel, we see an encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus in which Peter realizes that Jesus is more than an itinerant rabbi. Simon had followed Jesus around for several months as his ministry spread in Galilee. He watched as Jesus turned the water into wine at a wedding in Cana. He had seen Jesus heal people of all kinds of diseases and cast out several demons.

So when Jesus was teaching at the Sea of Galilee he didn’t mind letting Him use his boat as a platform from which to teach. Then, when Jesus finished and the crowds dispersed, He turned to Peter and offered him a gift.


“Simon, take your boat out into deep water and let down your nets.”


“Nobody fishes in broad daylight in the Sea of Galilee.thought Simon. “This Rabbi grew up in a carpenter’s shop. He may know theology and wood-working, but he sure doesn’t know fishing. But I’ll humor Him.”

In spite of Peter’s doubts, they caught so many fish that their nets were about to break. So Simon called James and John to come and help pull in the greatest catch of their lives.


Realizing now who Jesus was, Simon fell to his knees and begged Jesus, “Oh Lord, depart from me for I am a sinful man.”

Peter, a fisherman, had a need for fish to provide support for him and his family. Apparently, Jesus knew more about fishing than Peter realized! 

Jesus merely replied, “Come and follow me.  I will make you fishers of men.”


My Sea of Galilee experience came when asked to investigate a problem on one of the Navy's newest and most complex ships. As an electronics engineer, I understood the principles of electromagnetics and had worked on a variety of avionics equipment, but had never been aboard a ship larger than my cousin’s ski boat. My escort led me to the radar room - filled with electronics equipment lining all four walls and more racks down the center of the compartment. 



As we approached the malfunctioning navigational system I prayed out of desperation, “Lord, help! Now!”

 The technician explained what the equipment was supposed to do and what it wasn’t doing. Miraculously the issues became clear in my mind and I began to clearly understand the source of the problem.  After asking pertinent questions and getting good answers, the solution became obvious. It did not come to me as a result of superior intelligence or expertise in these matters.  It came to me from the creator of the universe who knows all things sees all things and rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

The total time that it took to come up with the solution was thirty minutes. However, it took three years of bureaucratic battles before total implementation was obtained. During that time others proposed alternative solutions that were subsequently tested and rejected because they did not work. Finally, the solution the Lord proposed was finally accepted.

It was at his time that I realized that following Jesus was the answer to all of my needs. 

Over the next decades as an executive in the aerospace and military electronics industry, the Lord never failed to guide me to the proper solutions.

If God can help fishermen make a major catch, engineers to solve serious naval ship problems, and transform human lives, He is relevant today despite what secular humanists say.

Making Disciples is not part-time work.

Discipleship programs often fail because the pastor or leader is unwilling to devote the time to work with individuals. Too often a program is set up to try to disciple many people at one time. Successful disciplers commit time to understand the needs of the person with whom they are working and commit to becoming a mentor.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Resolve the Conflict in DC




What is the problem?

I try not to watch the evening news anymore! That’s a strange feeling for someone that has been a news junkie all his life. But times have changed. The elephants and donkeys are at war, fiscal conservatives can’t get along with social conservatives, and progressives are fighting moderates. 


I understand that conflict is inevitable but reasonable heads need to deal with it properly. If an organization is going to move forward (or backward) there is bound to be some who object to the direction. Centuries ago Sir Isaak Newton developed basic physical laws of motion. To paraphrase Newton;


“Whenever there is a force on a body that puts it in motion there 
will be an equal and opposite force opposing that motion.”


Friction is the equal and opposite force that opposes moving bodies. Therefore, any individual, organization, business, or church is will encounter serious friction when they begin to move. Friction, in turn, will result in heat - the more movement, the greater the heat.


In any organization, poor leadership can lead to conflict. Over the past half-century, there has been a decided lack skilled leadership in the Whitehouse, Congress, and our political parties. Instead of leaders, we have had politically motivated individuals placed in the top positions.



Good leaders would have confronted conflicts before they reached the impossible stages. But issues have been stuffed and solutions postponed. When major issues are not handled properly and timely we end up with the problems we have today in Washington.


Let’s take a look at how minor conflicts can eventually destroy reasonable discourse. Without intervention, conflict can spin out of control in a downward spiral. At each stage, the conflict gets worse and becomes more difficult to resolve. Therefore conflict needs to be confronted early before it falls into the next stage.


Stage 1. The Remedy Stage. - “Fix the problem”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Recognition that there is a problem.
  2. But there is disagreement on how to solve the problem.
  3. Parties want the problem resolved and can make a commitment to solving it
  4. There remains a belief that the problem can be solved.
  5. There is still honest communication between parties involved.

If the problem is not solved conflict at this stage it will move to stage 2.

Washington has passed this milestone decades ago.

Stage 2.  The Re-Positioning Stage

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. The focus is beginning to shift from solving the problem to protecting one’s self.
  2. People are nervous.
  3. In discussions, they begin to speak in generalizations. “You always are like that.”
  4. The level of trust between parties has dropped to “Low.”
  5. Now communications is guarded and cautious.
If the problem is not solved in this stage conflict moves on to stage 3. Again, we are past this stage.

Stage 3 Rights Stage - People declare their rights.  -  “I’m right so you must be wrong.

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. Each side believes they are the good person that has the only possible answer to the problem.
  2. Each side of the conflict now seek others who agree with them and everyone has to pick which side they are on.
  3. People become labeled.  (Carnal Vs Godly) His side or Her side
  4.  The solution shifts from resolving the problem to winning.  “Whoever can recruit the biggest team will win.”
  5. Communication becomes exaggerated and distorted.

If the problem is not solved at this stage the conflict will move into the Removal stage. 

It looks to me we are way past this point.

Stage 4. The Removal Stage  - “Get rid of those people.”

Characteristics of this stage:
  1. People are no longer satisfied with getting their own way.  Now they have to get rid of the opposition.
  2. The Goal is divorce.
  3. Other people are now in respective camps.
  4. There is a clear leader in each camp.
  5. Trust is now gone.

If the problem is not solved in this stage it will move into the “Revenge” stage. 

Aha! We are getting close!

Stage 5. Revenge  Stage  - “Make someone pay.”


Characteristics of the “Revenge Stage.”
  1. People are not satisfied with resignation.
  2. People have now become fanatics.
  3. The conflict has become a personal God issue.
  4. They feel it is immoral to stop fighting.

The conflict has now gone way out of bounds.

It appears to me that the conflicts in our government today are somewhere between Stage 4 and Stage 5. There is still hope if cooler heads can bring the sides together.

Constructive Conflict Management

It is time for someone to step up and take charge and set the tone for resolving the current mess! Use good conflict resolution methods! 

  • Agree on a time and place to talk it out.
  • Assertively, honestly express your feelings
  • Depersonalize. Focus on the problem, not on the person
  • Select a neutral referee
  • Develop a positive mature attitude
  • When something goes wrong, search for a solution.
  • Focus on specifics and simplify the situation.
  • Be open and available
  • When problems arise, work them out.
  • Listen, wait and learn
  • Forgive and forget

Please forgive my shamful plug [see below] for my latest book, but the book was inspired by the present political climate in Washington. 

Check out my new book, "Conflict Resolution for Dummies."http://www.aslanpress.com/conflict-resolution.html

Bill Johnson

Monday, April 29, 2019

Leadership of Small Groups




Small Group Leadership

The most critical aspect of a successful small group ministry is the identification, training, and releasing of leaders. The leadership team of each group will normally consist of a facilitator, host or hosts, and worship leader/s. The facilitator is the team leader and will preside over the meeting.

The best facilitator is able to bring out the best in others. Facilitating a small group requires the ability to listen and acceptance of others.

Listening

Listening does not come naturally. It is a skill that is developed through practice. Making eye contact and maintaining an alert posture is helpful in our ability to listen. Listening requires the capacity to hear through many wrappings--listening beyond the outer layer of spoken words; this involves risk and courage if you are to respond worthily.

Good listeners guard against the judgment of the speaker, against labeling the speaker, and listens with openness, honesty, acceptance, and interest. They listen with expectancy so as to evoke the fullest reality and capacity of the person speaking. They listen to be involved in what the person is relating.

Acceptance

Acceptance is like fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming, Unacceptance too often closes people up.; makes them feel defensive, produces discomfort, makes them afraid to talk or to take a look at themselves. Of all the effects of acceptance, none is as important as the inner feeling of the individual that he is loved. To accept another "as he is" is truly an act of love. To feel accepted is to feel loved.


Prerequisites for the facilitator.


  • Character: The facilitator should have a track record of displaying the "Fruit of the Spirit," faithful to the ministry, and free from personal ambition
  • Commitment: The facilitator should be in agreement with the philosophy, values, goals, style, and priorities of the church.

    New facilitators would be selected from an existing small group.

    They must be willing and able to commit to the time requirements of leading the group - both training, and ministry.

    They must have demonstrated consistent giving of time, energy and financial support to the church.
  • Gifting: Filled with the Spirit and able to teach.
  • Maturity: One seeking God, worshiping God freely, Teachable - not defensive, Loyal to the pastor and the church and its leadership.
  • Call: Senses a call from God to facilitate the group, is approved by the pastor, and affirmed during an evaluation period.


Facilitator's job description


  • Maintain a personal walk with God
  • Be commitment by consistent attendance at church meetings, monthly leadership meetings, special seminars, and further training.
  • Develop the team - Host or hostess and worship leaders. Reproduce yourself by developing new facilitators every 6 to 12 months.
  • Lead meetings: Schedule the best time to meet for the group. Maintain general outline for the meetings. Schedule time for fellowship, worship, sharing, teaching, prayer ministry, outreach activities, and fun nights and invite new people.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Small groups 3 – What should happen in your small group?

What should happen in your small group? 

It depends.........What is your principle purpose for your small groups?
  •  Developing closer relationships between church members,
  • Assimilating new people,
  • Numerical Growth'
  • Spiritual growth,
  • Equipping opportunities,
  • Developing new leadership,
  • and/or Maintaining accountability.

The format and content of your small groups will be determined by your purpose and your church’s values and priorities.

Over the years we have initiated small group ministries in several different churches - often with different values and priorities - but most of the content was consistent and based upon Acts 2:42. 

After Pentecost, the followers of “The Way” gathered together on a regular basis.

Acts 2:42 (NIV)  They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

It is always important for the meetings to begin on time and to close on time. The fastest way to kill a small group is to start late and end late. Life today is jammed with important activities and people are hesitant to commit to a new activity unless they realize its value.
  • Open on time: Group leadership generally includes the leader, hosts, and worship leaders who need to arrive early so the meeting can begin at the prescribed time whether or not anyone else is there. 
  • Closing is a little trickier. Almost always there will be ministry to individuals that cannot be stopped at the closing time. It is important that those not directly involved in ministry be released to go to another room for snacks or go home.
  • We normally started the sessions with the singing of praise and worship songs to provide a transition from a hectic worldly schedule to a more relaxed, worshipful, and spiritual mood.  
    When groups are new and people do not know each other well we have found “Ice Breakers” useful to learn more about one another. You can find any number of “Ice Breakers” in youth ministry resources. They are great to get for adults loosened up!
    It is best to break the ice after all have arrived – after the worship time.
  • Then it is time for an opening prayer.
  • Sharing of scripture: This is not a time for a lecture, sermon, or even a homily. It is important that each person has an opportunity to interact with the scripture. 
    The leader is a facilitator, rather than a teacher. As such, he/she must have an overall direction as to where he/she will guide the discussion, through questions to which others will respond.
  • Sharing of needs: At this point, everyone is encouraged to share what is going on in their lives and to share prayer needs. Be careful here, because there will always be some who feel a need to dominate this time week after week with the same issues. Leaders must understand how to handle this with grace and firmness.
  • Individual Prayer ministry. 
  • Closing prayer and dismissal
  • Snack time and fellowship after the closing. [this was optional as some would have to get home.]


Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions below!


Monday, March 25, 2019

Where are you going? Where Have you been?

If failure was not an option and money was no problem, what would you do with the rest of your life?

Deep down inside, there lies a hidden desire which is stuffed away because we are afraid to even think about it - let alone go for it. We have so suppressed it that we often do not even remember that we ever had the desire. 

We bury these desires for a number of reasons: We are convinced that it was only a childish dream, it is too incredible to even consider, or we are afraid to hope because we are might fail. We do not want to be disappointed again,. People will laugh at us. 

So we stuff the dream and convince ourselves it was mere foolishness to even hope. We say to ourself, “Get a life and find a real career.”\

The dream dims and eventually dies. It is shoved so deep that we totally forget about it and go on with our lives. 

Unfortunately, we may have missed God's purpose for our life.

That abandoned dream that you just remembered may be the Lord calling you into your destiny.

God prepared you from the very beginning. He has been steering you toward your destiny. It is God who wants to give you the desires of your heart. He is the one who put them there originally. It could prove informative to look back at your life and see how the Lord has been steering you and what He has already accomplished in you.

Landmarks

Jeremiah 31:21 (NKJV) "Set up signposts, Make landmarks; Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went.

The literal translation of the word “landmarks” means to pile up rocks or stones to make a landmark. After Joshua led the Hebrews across the Jordan River, the Lord commanded them to take rocks from the river and put them in a pile to commemorate that important event in their history.
Landmarks of our lives represent places we have been and the experiences we have had which have affected our lives. As we look back on our lives and identify specific events that have affected our progress, we will find signposts pointing us toward God’s purpose for our lives.
What has God been doing in your life?
Answering this question requires serious and objective analysis of your life up to now to see where the Lord has taken you.
Realize that you have been on a spiritual journey, sometimes programmed by God and sometimes going your own way. You will want to identify landmarks that show where you have traveled.

Try this Activity

Draw your spiritual timeline highlighting experiences when you felt exceptionally close to God, when you heard from Him, and the times you felt that you had a particular sense of His power.
List the period and the event. It may be helpful to find someone with whom you can share your spiritual walk.




Friday, March 8, 2019

Why your church needs small groups

Why your church needs small groups.        

Studies have shown that visitors come to your church for three main reasons:
  • A few, 6 - 8 %, just walk in because the church is in their neighborhood and it is connected to their background either denominationally or theologically.
  • Some 8 -12% have heard about the Pastor on the radio, television, or through the community.
  • But most, 70 -80 %, come because they were invited by a friend or relative.

That’s how they get in the first time. But what is it that makes them want to come back and perhaps become active members? 

Relationships! 

They either have a relationship with someone in the church or they expect to be able to develop relationships with people in the church.
Then, after they are in the church for about six months, they may question their commitment: 
  • Am I needed? 
  • Can I make friends? 
  • Where do I fit in?

Then after they have been there a year they might ask a different set of questions:
  • Is my work appreciated? 
  • Are my friends in church as good as my friends in the world? 
  • Does the church fit my needs?

Small groups provide the means to respond to these concerns and even avoid them entirely. 
The normal person can know about 70 people on a social level.  It is possible to be close friends with up to about 14 - 17 people.  And we can be deeply close with only a few. 

There are three primary levels of personal relationships;
  • community,
  • social
  • and intimate. 

Notice that Jesus had three deeply close disciples, twelve that He knew intimately, seventy that were part of His ministry team, and hundreds of followers. 

Community

Community gives us an identity and the realization there are others like us. It provides opportunities to be with others who share our interests.  Communities are usually established based upon a common background. 

If our church commitment never moves beyond community it is unlikely that relationships with fellow church members will ever grow beyond a casual nod once a week on Sunday morning.

Social

The second level of relationship is social and is generally made up of groups of people who are socially acquainted.  Each person knows everyone else, generally by name.  It is almost impossible for an outsider not to be immediately identified.  

In churches, social relationships are encouraged through Sunday school classes, Men's and Women's fellowships, the choir, committee meetings and social events such as potlucks, bowling or softball.  Any newcomer who is willing has the opportunity to enter into the group and get acquainted.  These groups actually become small congregations and are useful in satisfying the need for assimilating new members into the body. 

For many of us, our life is filled with social obligations.  We spend time running from one event to another from one meeting to the next.  We run to choir practice, to Boy Scouts, to Little League practice, to the neighbor’s party, etc.  

But even with all these activities, people are still lonely.  So they sign up for new activities hoping that will satisfy their loneliness.  Yet the more social events they attend, the lonelier they become.

Intimacy

Years ago the need for intimacy was satisfied by the extended family, those close friends and family members with whom we had developed trust and confidence.  

Today with our transient, fast-paced and troubled society, families are spread across the country, people are too busy to really get to know their neighbors and too fearful in some areas to go outside. 

As a result, the lack of intimate loving relationships has become one of the chief contributors to problems of sexual immorality, mental health and substance abuse as people search the wrong places for meaningful and loving relationships. 

To paraphrase Jesus, "the greatest commandment is to love God completely, and your neighbor as you love yourself. This implies intimate, honest and safe relationships.

We are called into relationship with God and relationship with others. Both relationships must be more than a superficial, social relationship. The relationships need to be loving and above all trusting where we can be honest, objective and fearless.  It is impossible to develop these deep relationships in large groups.  That is why social activities generally fail in drawing people close together.  

Small groups provide the opportunity for people to develop intimate, trusting, and honest relationships, vertical with God and horizontal with others.

They provide the glue that will hold a body together.

Send us your comments.