Say Yes to No. Here’s how.

Here’s a great post about saying Yes to No. Every busy person needs to read this.

Fashion Alumni

Remember the anti-drug ad campaign, turned catch phrase, in the late 80’s and early 90’s “Just say no!”? It went viral!

The message of  NO was empowering. It was a celebratory mantra promoting self-worth and a direct challenge to protect your future.

Today, NO is still a valid answer to issues that threaten our futures. The message of NO can be just as empowering today and can help you stay focused on reaching the goals that are most critical to your livelihood.


Here are 7 things you should say no to:

1. Say NO to time stealers. Some people will distract you simply to get you off your game. It makes them uncomfortable when you’re succeeding and surpassing their efforts. Stay focused.

2. Say NO to time wasters. Some things don’t deserve your time or attention. If it’s not critical to your current goal, skip it.

3. Say NO to…

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How to respond to the election. 


How should a believer respond to the election? Scripture gives us a few points to explore. Here’s a video Bible Study I shared yesterday on our church Facebook page. The scriptures I examined were from Romans 13:1-5 and 1 Timothy 2:1-4. I hope it helps to bring a godly perspective in your life. 

https://www.facebook.com/GFMBC/videos/1193406807393965/

How do you get what you want?

We have two dogs at home and they are pretty good at getting what they want. They get food, pats, play, fresh bones and walks. They never are aggressive and always loving. It does not matter what happens, they are happy to see you. They gently use love, cuteness and persuasion to get their way.…

http://attilaovari.com/2016/02/18/how-do-you-get-what-you-want/

5 Steps to Sermon Series Planning

Let’s talk a little about sermon series planning. This is the time of year when I’m seeking God’s guidance on what to preach next year. I realize that may be a new concept for some so let me explain. I typically preach in a series format that lasts anywhere from three weeks to six weeks. I’ve found that anything over six weeks and our people lose interest. Most times, the series will cover one month. For example, November has five Sundays so I’m preaching a five part series on spiritual warfare. 
  

In the last few years, I’ve settled in to planning three to six series at a time, meaning I plan three to six months at a time. How do I balance strategic planning with being open to the Lord’s leading? I’m glad you asked. Here is my process.

Step 1: Pray

Prayer is essential in every step of the process, but doubly so in the beginning. I invite God into the process but its more like I’m the one being brought into his plan. We must never forget preaching is what happens when God speaks his message to us so we can speak to his people. Preaching was invented by God, not us. Additionally, I prayerfully consider the condition of our congregation and ask the Lord, where he wants to take us in our spiritual development. I also ask him to open my eyes to the strategic possibilities that are naturally available to me. 

Step 2: Determine Key Themes

There are certain themes I will preach on every year. Those themes revolve around congregational needs and are an excellent way to add stability to our ministry. For example, I already know I will preach our vision (Love God; Love Others; Love the World) at least once a year. I will also preach on Generosity and our church purpose. These may be set up as series giving me topics for at least 3 months scattered throughout the year. Mind you, I don’t preach the same passages of scripture or have the same sermon titles for these topics every year. 

Step 3: Seize Opportunities

There are certain times of year when people have key topics on their minds. These are opportunities to impress scripture on their hearts, guiding their lives toward godliness. So I look at the calendar and note every holiday, season, and church annual day that gives a strategic opportunity to preach. For example, in February, everyone will have love on their minds because of Valentine’s Day. I may preach about love, relationships, intimacy with God, etc. During tax season or during the holidays, I may preach about generosity. In every case, I am asking the Holy Spirit to guide me to preach what we need in our church. Which means, I may not take the obvious route. One year, for example, I preached about loving the Word of God in February instead of relational love because the Spirit moved me in that direction.

Step 4: Make A Preaching Calendar

Each year, I make an Evernote file called Sermon Series. I type an outline of months and add in the series for each month. Under each month, I include any key calendar dates, the primary theme of the series, a series overview, the number of weeks, and the primary passage of scripture for the series. If possible, I will also give the sermon title for each sermon in the series. Here is November’s entry.


November
5 weeks
Spiritual Warfare Advanced Training (SWAT)

Spiritual Strength
We have strength given to us by God. We have spiritual power.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Spiritual enemies
There is an enemy and it is spiritual.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Spiritual courage
God gives us the ability to stand in the face of adversity.
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Spiritual armor
The armor provides defense and offense in a spiritual battle.
“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:14-17‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Spiritual perseverance
While we have the armor on, we must endure with prayer. Communication with the commander in chief, Jesus.
“praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The outline is always incomplete and that’s good. This way I have to constantly seek God for his guidance throughout the year. I must also study and prepare each week allowing God to shape the sermons. I may have several sermon series ideas but they are not all on the calendar. Instead, I group them together at the bottom of the calendar in my Ideas section. This November 2015 series on spiritual warfare was an idea a few years ago that God has finally released me to preach this year. 

Step 5: Share The Calendar

Can you imagine what worship would be like if everyone was on one accord? Let me tell you, it’s beautiful and has incredible impact. We achieve this at our church by sharing the sermon series ahead of time. Literally, there are key leaders who have access to my sermon file year round. They have been given instructions to tailor their portion of the service to line up with the sermon series. For example, the praise team will begin the service with words of encouragement and songs that match the theme. The words of exhortation from the pulpit each Sunday match the sermon of the day. The choir will sing at least one song that goes along with the sermon. And when the announcer gives the thought for the week, it usually matches the sermon. So if I’m preaching about courage, as I did on Sunday, our members will hear about courage throughout the service, reinforcing the importance of the topic.

Conclusion:

I hope this helps anyone who is considering preaching sermon series this year. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I may not have all of the answers but I will do my best to help you.

Who Will Protect My Handsome, Brilliant Son?

Thank you Dru for your point of view on this pressing issue. Please read and share.

Dru Ealons

A few of the cherished pictures of my son! A few of the cherished pictures of my son!

With the recent “death by cop” news on South Carolinian Walter Scott, I am reminded of one of my previous blog posts – Black People: Let’s Stop Pointing Fingers. In that post, I focused more about starting a social media campaign to raise awareness. However, today I want to ask the question, who will protect my handsome, brilliant son? This question burns deep within about all black boys/men and girls/women.

I, like lots of mothers and fathers, feel my son is handsome and brilliant! Everywhere I go with my little guy, there are always nonstop compliments that validate his handsomeness and his brilliance, from all ethnicities. But what is painfully clear, the older my son gets the more society will fear him and believe him to be a threat, based solely on the color of his skin. His smooth…

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Shun’s Eulogy

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On Saturday, I was blessed and honored to eulogize my uncle, Shun Bishop. For my family and friends, I’d like to share that message with you today. May it bring hope, comfort, and encouragement to us all.

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10 NKJV)

Exclesiastes is written by King Solomon. King Solomon was the son of King David. When he became king, God visited him in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted. Solomon asked for wisdom to lead God’s people. 

Because he didn’t ask for money and fame, God blessed him to be the wisest man who ever lived and the wealthiest man who ever lived. Truly his fame was world wide. Kings and rulers from all over the world heard tales of his great wisdom and visited him. 

He is the principle writer of the wisdom books of the bible which include Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. But Ecclesiastes is probably the most unique of the three. 

In this book, Solomon gives details on his search for wisdom and fulfillment in life. He went into the world with all of his resources and influence and tried to find true meaning in all the things a man can do. 

He tried drinking until he got his fill and found it was vanity. 
He tried chasing women and found it was vanity. 
He tried eating and found it was vanity. 
He tried seeking knowledge and found it was vanity. 
He tried finding fulfillment in his work and found it was vanity. 
He gained great wealth and found it couldn’t make him happy. 

In the end, He declares vanity of vanities. It’s all vanity and grasping at the wind. 

But here in Ecclesiastes 11, Solomon speaks a word of encouragement we all need to hear today. 

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; Walk in the ways of your heart, And in the sight of your eyes; But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity. (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10 NKJV)

It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, we should learn to rejoice in the life we have and allow our hearts to cheer us while we can. 

We’ve got to learn how to live. 

We’ve got to learn what it means to be truly alive. 

One of the things I admire about Shun was the way he lived. He didn’t live with uncertainty. He lived with conviction and vitality. It showed up in everything he set his heart to do. 

If Shun wanted to cook, he cooked. He didn’t stumble around the kitchen. He cooked. 
If he wanted to travel, he went. He didn’t make excuses and talk himself out of it. He went. 
If he wanted to play basketball he played. It didn’t matter who was guarding him, if he decided he wanted to take you, he shook you. 
If he wanted to ride out, he rode out. 
If he decided you were his friend, then you were his friend. 
If he decided to love, he loved deeply, and passionately, without pretense. 

He was alive and allowed his heart to cheer him even when there was cause for sadness. He had a strength and resolve about himself that kept him anchored even in the midst of the storms of life. 

He would want you to know that you’re alive. “We are alive!” While we have life, we have to learn to live. Let your heart cheer you in the days you have right now. 

While we’re living …

We’ve got to learn how to live with our eyes opened. 

Solomon says we need to “Walk in the ways of our hearts, And in the sight of our eyes”. We should live each day seeing the beauty that God has created and being moved by that beauty. 

Too often we pass through life with our focus too narrow. We have tunnel vision. We are  looking at what we want. We only look for our next good time. We’re looking for the next big thing. 

We look at our work because we think it gives us meaning. 

Some of us can’t see much in life because we allow our vices like alcohol, immorality, and foolish pride to put blinders on our hearts. 

We fail to see the beautiful life that’s passing us by. We fail to pause long enough to see the truth of our actions and the path on which we’re headed. 

We should live with our eyes wide opened like Shun. He was very observant. He watched and studied everything. He watched people. He didn’t always say a lot because he was always looking. He wanted to see how things worked. 

Christmas Story
One Christmas Eve when I was around 6 and Shun was 10 he wanted to see how Christmas worked. We watched the news and saw a report that Santa was spotted on radar over Birmingham. Since we didn’t have a chimney, Shun wanted to know how Santa was going to get into our house. So we got out of bed and hid in the kitchen cabinet so we could see into the living room. 

After some time we saw the front door open and “Santa’s Helpers” began bringing in our new bicycles and gifts. We stayed until “Santa’s Helpers” had gone outside and made our way back to bed. 

Shun was always looking for the next thing he could learn. He knew there was more to life than just Hooper City. He knew there was more to life than just running the streets. He was comfortable with new experiences and places. 

If he could speak to us today, he’d tell us to chase after the sight of our eyes. Live making memories that won’t fade. Don’t miss the beauty that’s surrounding you right now. See the world in glorious color and be dazzled by the complexity of life. 

In every moment, in every circumstance, live with your eyes wide opened. But never forget we must live with God. 

We’ve got to live with God. 

Solomon encourages us to live and enjoy life. But he also gives a word of caution. He says “But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment. Therefore remove sorrow from your heart, And put away evil from your flesh, For childhood and youth are vanity.”
 
God is watching. He’s not watching like some mythological Zeus, perched on a cloud with lightening bolts ready to strike us down. No, God is watching us live. The bible says he knows our rising up and sitting down. God is looking at our actions. He is observing our thoughts. He’s weighing our hearts. 

God is omnipotent, meaning he is all powerful. 
God is omniscient, meaning he is all knowing. 
God is omnipresent, meaning he is everywhere. 

There is not one thing we can do that God doesn’t see and understand. 

In Psalm 139 Solomon’s father King David said…

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. (Psalms 139:7-12 NKJV)

When you live your life in the dark, you may be able to hide from me, but you can’t hide from God. 

The persons who are responsible for this loss can’t hide from God. 
The people who who saw what was happening and turned their faces away can’t hide from God. 
Those who wouldn’t even lift a finger to help can’t hide from God. 
The people who failed to speak up when they were asked if they saw anything can’t hide from God. 

God saw their jealousy. He saw the covetousness. He saw the malicious intent. He saw the hatred. He heard their words. He saw what they stole. He searched their hearts. He knew their thoughts. And their deeds are written in the book that holds the record of their lives. 

One day they will have to give an answer for the things they did. 
One day they will have to own up to the things they whispered in secret. 
One day, they will face something worse than justice. They will face judgement. 

In the book of the Revelation John said…

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15 NKJV)

Every single deed we perform and every word we speak is being recorded in heaven. If we fail to live this life with God, we will be judged according to those deeds. In the end, anyone who’s name is not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire. 

Death and hell will also be cast into the lake. Death is gonna die and hell is going to a place that’s worse than hell. Judgement is coming to those who fail to live this life with God. The only way to make piece with God is to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord of your life and savior of your soul. There is no other name under heaven by which men might be saved from destruction. 

Conclusion

Earlier this week I asked Auntie Wander a question. She and Shun had visited our church and Shun heard me preach for the first time. She said Shun believed our church was headed in the right direction and that he enjoyed the sermon. 

Then she told me something that gave me hope and joy. She said Shun had professed his faith in God. He prayed often. In his adult life he had read the bible cover to cover three times. He believed in the power of prayer and that God answered prayer. 

I believe somewhere in heaven, in the book of life, eternally written in the blood of Jesus is the name Shun Bishop. I know we will see him again. We will miss him now, but we will rejoice with him again in glory. We may shed tears because he’s gone but he’s waiting to see us one day on the other side. 

We must come together as a family and strengthen the bonds between us. We must live together in peace with each other. We must lay aside petty differences and realize how blessed we really are. 

We must live with joy in our hearts. We must live and make memories that won’t fade. We must live remembering the good times we shared. We must live seizing the moments given to us. We must live full of life like Shun did. We must live with passion and conviction. We must live because life is a prescious gift. 

We must live because tomorrow isn’t promised. We must live and learn to love again. We must live looking to the hills from whence cometh our help. All of our help comes from The Lord. We must live knowing the that this light affliction which is but for a moment works in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 

We must live believing all things work together for good for those who love The Lord and are the called according to his purpose. We must live knowing weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning. We must live breathing in every experience, feeling every emotion, thinking new thoughts, and holding on to our hopes and dreams. 

We must live with God as our guide and heaven as our goal. 

That is what makes life worth living. That is where we find our hope. 

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand. 

Generosity (8/21/13)

Another perspective on generosity.

THE RIVER WALK

Read: Job 1:1-3:26, 1 Corinthians 14:1-17, Psalm 37:12-29, Proverbs 21:25-26

Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give! (Proverbs 21:26)

White Castle

Relate: I did an internship in the Bronx a good 15 years ago or so. There was a White Castle nearby and it was my first experience with that sliver of grease they claim to be a burger. Love at first bite. I made a point of going by at a certain time each day to grab three for the ridiculously cheap price of a buck fifty or whatever they were going for.

There was this homeless guy who had set up shop about a block away and after a couple days of going by without doing anything I started giving him that third burger. I did this for a couple days before deciding to go a little further. The next day I bought three for…

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Good Things Come Back to Us

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Let me tell you what God did last night at Medieval Times. I’m not the kind of person who likes to buy things for himself. But last night I started looking at swords and my wife, Melissa offered to purchase one for me (she’s awesome). I’m guessing since you must be 18 to buy a sword, and the cashier looked younger than 18, she had to get the manager to complete the transaction.

As we began the transaction I thought about how I’d like to ask the manager for a discount. At that moment a woman with two kids interrupted us and said she needed to return an item (a pink sparkly princess veil) because she didn’t have enough for the cab. Melissa asked how much the veil cost and we were moved by the Spirit to purchase the veil for $10 so the little girl wouldn’t be sad and the family could get home. The woman was surprised and said “God bless you and thank you”.

When the woman and her children turned to leave the manager returned the blessing. He said “that was a great thing you did and since you helped them, I will take $45 off your sword.” I was floored. The Manager went on to say “that’s how it is. When we give and do good things for others it always comes back to us at some point.” Because of our obedience in that moment God provided the discount I desired. A $10 seed reaped a $45 harvest.

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38 NKJV)

Successful Choices

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Today, I’d like to share a guest post from my lovely wife, Melissa Manuel.

#Success tip series… An officer standing just outside Dave & Busters in Marietta,GA shared this uhhhh…Public Service Announcement?” I was inspired… after all, he was promoting an important element of success…making good choices. So many times in life’s situations we don’t count the costs before making decisions that may change the trajectory of our personal life and/or career. If you are currently faced with a potentially life-altering decision, push ego aside and thoughtfully consider the long-term consequences; both good and bad. You probably shouldn’t write it on your car though 🙂 think.create.breathe.repeat…MBM