Search This Blog

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Power of No

Offers that seem too good to resist usually are. But not always. Since my wife and I were in our 20s (that would be many moons ago), we’ve attended several time share presentations. In the younger years, money kept us from serious consideration of a time share.

Later, however, we did manage to do a dumb thing and bought into a points-based time share program. Regrets are too many to mention. After thinking it over, we tried to back out. In not quite these words I was told, “You’re stuck, sucker!” Getting out of that legal relationship seemed almost as costly.

So here we are years later. Annually for our anniversary, we seek out a warmer climate to hang out for a week. That’s because it’s usually COLD in Chicago in January.

Rhonda found us a “deal.” We would pay this well-known hotel company an up front fee of $250 for three nights in one of their hotel properties. Our money would be refunded after we sat through a time share presentation.

Armed with the word “no” firmly planted on our lips, we took advantage of the offer and booked our hotel reservations in Orlando. We chose the place with the free breakfast. I mean, hey, if you’re getting free hotel, why not free food?

The hotel deal turned out even better than expected. Upon checking in, Rhonda mentioned it was our anniversary and the desk manager gave us a suite for the three nights! Sweet! A suite! With free breakfast including warm cinnamon rolls! Life is good.

On the third day (it sounds biblical), we attended our 8 AM appointment for the time share presentation. Having been a sales manager a few times in my life, I have great respect for those engaged in that work. They hear “no” more than “yes,” which is a tough way to make a living.

Our sales person was very friendly and asked about our lives for a few minutes. Then we boarded a golf cart and drove off to the sales center about a half mile away. Once there, more questions. Only these were tailored to our travel and vacation habits. How often do we vacation? Where? What is our dream vacation? And, of course, how much do we usually spend?

Then we watched a delightful short movie about all the wonderful places we could go with this time share plan. And we heard how lots and lots of happy people felt so good about their membership. Next, we were guided through a series of panels describing the great success and trustworthiness of the company. At one point, we were given a comparison of the ways we “waste” money by going on vacation like we usually do, compared to the brilliance of “saving money” with this company’s time share program. Boy, did I feel stupid now!

The final move before hearing anything about how much this would cost was to tour the well laid out units on the site. Beautifully furnished, these two to four bedroom units certainly looked a lot better than the hotel rooms we usually stay in. How could Rhonda and I ever go back to such a limited, unfulfilling hotel life?

Now it’s time for the “get real” session. We were presented the “most popular plan” by our sales rep. It was a mere $44,000 plus more than $1,500 in annual maintenance fees. (Excuse me while I choke.) After our well planned “no,” we were given a revised “lower cost” option. The answer was still “no.”

We were now introduced to the first “spirit”—the sales rep’s boss! (Her words—not mine.) Again, more options. Again, more “Noes.” So then another chap (the second evil spirit) shows up with more enticements. Our answer was still, “No!”

Last but not least, another fellow invites us to try out one of their luxurious properties. They wanted us to “experience” the benefits first hand. Well... not for free. That deal came with a “pay us $1,500 now and you can book your 7 day stay anytime within two years and get a $400 credit.”

How special. The answer was………“NO!”

So, we got our $250 back—in cash. We got on the shuttle and went back to our car. And continued to shake like we had just completed one of those Disney upside-down roller coaster rides. We had survived the time share attack of “an offer so incredible only the most stupid people would say no to!”

And as “stupid” as we are, we enjoyed three terrific FREE nights in a hotel suite. And free breakfasts. And $44,000 still in our pockets. (Plus maintenance fees.)

It’s the power of “no.”

Proverbs 3:5-6
“Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, but in all ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Shameful Differences

I guess you simply have to call them “irreconcilable differences.” The term that is reserved for the breakup of marriages can easily be applied to a pending upcoming split of a major Christian denomination—the United Methodist Church (UMC). Or shall we say, the “non-united" Methodists. We shall.

The UMC is one of the few remaining mainline denominations to hold their ground on the aggressive LGBTQ agenda. A great percentage within the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), United Church of Christ (UCC), and others have jumped ship on holding to the long standing biblical position on homosexuality. Within those groups, many of the “ministers” perform same-sex marriages. Some go so far as to appoint gay clergy.

The mainline holdout has been the United Methodist Church, but the internal fighting on this issue has often been bitter. The battles have intensified between the more liberal American Methodists and foreign members of the United Methodist Church—African congregations in particular.

The dividing line crystalized at the big UMC conference in 2019. On one side were those supporting the idea to allow local congregations to decide on whether to perform same-sex marriages and ordain gay clergy. The most liberal position embraced a proposal to allow same-sex marriages worldwide. The linchpin breaker came in a third option that passed known as the “Traditional Plan.” By vote, this locked in a continued ban on LGBT weddings and clergy. It went further—proclaiming harsher penalties for those who chose to violate the doctrinal policy.

What now? The irreconcilable differences appear to have divided the denomination. A mediation specialist was called in—Kenneth Feinberg. He’s skilled at bringing resolution to such difficult situations. The solution became an agreement pledging $25 million to a new “traditionalist” denomination. This group would no longer be part of what has been the United Methodist Church. If the parties agree, this new denomination would then drop any claim to United Methodist assets. Throw in another $2 million to any other new denomination that wants to exit the party.

Here’s the multi-million dollar question. Are church splits always bad? Almost three years ago, Jennifer Powell McNutt penned a piece for Christianity Today titled, “Division is not Always a Scandal.” As she boldly illustrated, the historic Protestant Reformation has yielded up 45,000 different denominations!

Why so many? As McNutt points us, “The explosion of Protestant denominations is mostly due to lay believers gaining greater access to Scripture, which ushered in an era of 'interpretive pluralism' that in turn led to a multiplicity of church structure.” Other reasons given included “local politics, the rise of the vernacular, and the doctrine of Christian freedom.”

But the key paragraph in this article surfaces near the end: “Denominationalism is not merely a product of Protestantism. But this does not mean that Protestant division is never a scandal. Those who have lived through a church divorce know what grief, hardship, and disillusionment it entails. Some churches never recover from the severing of relationships, the loss of trust, and the damaging of Christian witness.”

In my view, those broken relationships and loss of trust that have emerged within the UMC are no doubt painful. I’m more concerned about the “damaging of Christian witness.” The liberal wing of Methodism has drifted once again into the secular world view and become sympathetic to a lie. And that lie is that homosexuality is somehow a “blessing” of relationship open to God’s full acceptance. Only a “blind" Bible reader could conclude such.

Then again, as Jesus said about the errant religious teachers of His day, “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14, ESV)

It’s not like one day the truth will be revealed. It has been revealed. And a church body—the UMC—is paying the price over sin-driven irreconcilable differences.


That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Enjoy the new Moving People Forward YouTube program and podcast at and respectively.

For more information:

Monday, January 13, 2020

Rock Star Theology

The musical group Nickelback recorded a song a few years ago titled, “Rockstar.” The song devotes lyrics to the absurd world of fame and fortune that falls upon those who truly make it big in the music industry.

One of the verses goes: 

I need a credit card that's got no limit
And a big black jet with a bedroom in it
Gonna join the mile high club
At thirty-seven thousand feet.

And the chorus…

I'm gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I'd even cut my hair
And change my name
'Cause we all just wanna be big rock stars
And live in hilltop houses, drivin' fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
Well, hey, hey, I wanna be a rockstar.

(Rockstar lyrics © Warner Chappell Music, Inc)

It is an “absurd world” in that the extravagance is so extreme that most of us cannot relate. “Rock star" is a short course in hedonism—the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence.

The term “rock star” has taken on broader use in a much more positive way. Several years ago, I heard a well known business leader use the term “rock star” to describe some of his top employees. It was at an EntreLeadership course in Nashville led by the financial guide Dave Ramsey.

For Ramsey, rock stars put their talent on the line in the finest of ways. They are passionate. They do whatever it takes. They excel in their work. Unlike the hedonistic mindset, Dave Ramsey believes that passion and commitment also feed from a moral base. His rock stars need input from the world’s bestselling guide on moral excellence, the Bible.

Ramsey puts a lot of effort into praising his team members. He knows that an organization his size requires uplifting encouragement. True “rock stars” thrive on that encouragement.

I observed the same genuine energy to build others up in the life of the late Zig Ziglar. I sat in his adult Sunday School class in Dallas for almost two years. Also hearing him in seminars, his infectious winning outlook on life put a lot of people on the success track. Zig was always encouraging people.

God has His own way of evaluating so called “rock stars.” The Bible teaches us that man looks at the outward things, but God looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

When God evaluates our lives, He’s looking for top performers, too. All of us have imperfections. But how we deal with those, and change our ways, will set us apart.

The Bible names a number of God’s rock stars. Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Moses, whom He called to lead His people out of the wilderness. King David was praised as “a man after God’s own heart."

God has His eye on you as well. So today, take the gifts God has given you and perform at the top of your game.

Following this year’s Sugar Bowl, the sports reporter Holly Rowe from ESPN interviewed winning quarterback Jake Fromm. His optimism brimming, Rowe called Fromm the “world’s most positive person.”

But notice what Jake said causes him to be so optimistic. He told Rowe, “The Holy Spirit in me. I’m trying to live out the most godly life I can do. I’m trying to influence others and hope they can see Christ in me.”

It nearly brought Rowe to tears.

You may face some real giants in the year ahead. Learn from King David, who as a boy changed his world with a slingshot…and five smooth stones.

I guess that makes him a classic “rock star.”

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

For more information:

Monday, January 6, 2020

Spousal Enemies and Aaron Rodgers

There are lots of good quotes about how to deal with enemies. Here are a few:

“Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” ~ Napoleon Bonaparte
“A man with no enemies is a man with no character.” ~ Paul Newman
“He will never have true friends who is afraid of making enemies.” ~ William Hazlitt

Now that we’re on the subject, how many enemies do you have? Probably more that you think. One dictionary tells us an enemy is “a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.” Well, I’m convinced that we all have some ”enemies” who may be quite passive.

We live in a new world of making enemies. Social media has introduced us to many of them. For example, people we believe are Facebook “friends” may suddenly turn on us after we state our views or “like” something they find objectionable. Some go so far as to “unfriend” us. So if I’m no longer your friend, what am I? I think it starts with “e.”

If you want a quick path to developing a host of enemies, run for political office! You don’t even have to win. Just run. Haters will come out of the woodwork!

One thing for sure. You don’t have to do anything wrong to have enemies. Just show up. And it starts early. Maybe even in pre-school. Definitely by high school. And some of the most popular kids also have the most enemies. Maybe they’re the best athletes. Or have the best voices. Or are simply too good looking. Grrrrr!

Here’s the thing. You may try your hardest to not have those enemies. It doesn’t matter. That’s because the evil that lurks in bitterness and resentment is not easily fixed. Sometimes we are unable to get past our deepest feelings and so taking it out on others becomes the way we deal with pain.

Truth be told, I don’t like the Green Bay Packers. At all. I really don’t care much for that Aaron Rodgers guy. Even as I am a loyal State Farm customer, I zoom past any commercial that has Aaron Rodgers in it. How did these men become my enemies? Easy. I’m a Vikings fan and have been one since 1961. I’ve died painful deaths in those 58 years. And Aaron Rodgers has caused me much grief.

But how about this? If you are married, should the enemies of your spouse become YOUR enemies? A recent article in New Yorker magazine raises the issue. It’s titled, “My Wife’s Enemies are Now My Enemies, Too.”

I thought it all might be tongue-in-cheek. But maybe not. Author Josh Gondelman says his wife taught him “the fine art of having enemies.” After marriage and allowing for time, he writes, “Your friends become each other’s friends. Your families become one another’s families to whatever extent is desirable or possible.”

But what about the flip side? Josh believes you also “acquire an increasingly vast assortment of enemies. Enemies-in-law, to put it more precisely. Childhood bullies. Estranged best friends. Snotty adult cousins. Professional nemeses. Celebrity grudges. Unaffectionate neighborhood dogs. These may be your partner's enemies, and if you’re devoted, they’ll become your enemies too.”

Hmmm. Hadn’t really thought about that. Probably truer than I realize.

Abraham Lincoln tried his best to deal with enemies kindly. He once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Where would he get such a crazy idea? Maybe from….Jesus! It was His radical approach that shocked crowds when He instructed them (and us), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? (Selected verses from Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Well, it’s a new year…2020. Time to get things on the right track. Like learning to love your enemies.

But be patient with me. I’m still having problems with those Packers. And Aaron Rodgers.

That’s Forward Thinking. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

For more information: