Grandmas and other excellent marketers

Are you old enough to remember the thrill that came with getting a letter in the mail?

Maybe it was a note from a friend or a pen pal.

Maybe it was a card from your grandma with a simple “I love you” and a five-dollar bill tucked into the crease.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s still fun to discover the treasure of a personalized, handwritten note among all the bills and junk mail.

Maybe your marketing strategy does not include sending out five-dollar bills in correspondence, but organizations could pick up a few tips from grandmas and other excellent marketers.

The senior pastor at the church my family attended in Missouri sent out annual birthday letters to every single member of the congregation. Yes, it was a form letter and the typewritten message was the same for each recipient. And while there was heartfelt love and appreciation in the main body of the letter, there was so much more near the bottom of the page.

It’s there that you’d find a simple, handwritten message to let you know you were appreciated — something like: “We sure love you, your wife, and your sweet boys, Eric!”

Simple. Personal. Meaningful.

I found myself waiting for that gift every March. After I ripped open the envelope, I always read from bottom to top, starting with the personal, handwritten message from my pastor.

Oh, another thing: Just like grandma’s cards, these birthday letters were never late!

(To any family members reading this…I know, I know.)

Why people are offended by Christ

Christ came to change the world.

He came to love people in a way they had never experienced.

He came to bring light to darkness. And He came to shed that light on our sins and, in turn, offer us grace, forgiveness and redemption.

So why are we offended?

Partly, I believe it’s because we are resistant to change — especially the kind that reveals our sins and our weaknesses. And when our sins are called out, we find it offensive and we dig in for battle.

But this is nothing new to Jesus.

He’s been dealing with our insecurities and our offense to His presence since the beginning.

When Christ was in His mother’s womb, that was offensive to the culture. An unmarried virgin Jewish woman who was pregnant at that time was probably not welcome in most homes.

As a little baby living in the squalor of a stable, Christ was offensive to King Herod. So much so that Herod sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all male children under the age of two to wipe out any thought or hint of another King — or, in this case, the Messiah.

When Christ began His earthly ministry in His early thirties, the Jewish religious leaders were offended when Jesus declared He was the Son of God. They were also offended because He healed people on the Sabbath. He also ate with tax collectors, talked to prostitutes, embraced lepers, and challenged authority.

Those in government and religious authority were offended when Jesus said things like “those who are last shall be first” or “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

People were offended by His humility. A leader who is a servant? A leader who doesn’t lie? How could that be?

His own siblings found offense in Him. They teased Him and, in the beginning, failed to recognize Him as the Savior.

His friends found offense when He called them out for their sins. Peter denied Christ, Thomas doubted Him, and Judas betrayed Him. And through it all, Christ loved them.

As He carried His cross to Golgotha, those who once cheered Him and praised Him changed their tune and began to spit at Him and hit Him and stone Him.

As Jesus was hemorrhaging and dying on the cross, His accusers and murderers were offended because He would not beg for His life — instead, He forgave them and loved them.

And three days after His death, Jesus Christ upended the world when He walked out of that tomb. And people have cried foul for more than 2,000 years!

So what is this all about?

Am I calling on Christians to offend people?

No way.

We’re called to be like Christ. And He didn’t come to offend.

He came to love. He came to serve. He came to offer everlasting life.

If we’re obedient to His commandments to pray, love others, serve others, and share the Good News of forgiveness, salvation and everlasting life through Christ, we’re moving in the right direction.

And, unfortunately, people will always find that offensive.

How will you be more like Christ today?

Expressing the ‘inexpressible’

The Apostle Peter writes:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

People see our joy when we get a new job. They see our joy when we celebrate a birthday, graduate from high school, or win an award.

Those are all great things and worthy of celebration.

Do they also see what Peter described, the inexpressible and glorious joy of our salvation?

There’s a catch to that question.

How do you express the inexpressible? Continue reading “Expressing the ‘inexpressible’”

Be joyful always? Yeah, right.

Are you thankful for right now?

Right this moment, can you look at your circumstance and be thankful?

For some, your answer is “Sure thing!” For others, you’re saying, “Thankful? For this?”

In  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul writes:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

That’s a tall order, isn’t it?

Always joyful?

With this job? With this marriage? With these bills?

Pray continually?

Who has the time to do that?

Give thanks?

For the pink slip? For kids who don’t respect me?

I love meeting people who can read this passage of Scripture and obey. Most of the time, these are people who’ve been through the fire and have seen God’s miraculous hand in some form or fashion. These are the people who let God carry them when they could no longer do it themselves. They testify to God’s goodness and His love. Their witness gives us hope.

For those of us who struggle with this (I imagine it’s the vast majority of us), and for those of us in circumstances that seem hopeless, let’s try something.

Let’s literally count our blessings.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write them down. All of your blessings. Everything you’re thankful for. Begin with the fact you’re breathing and move up from there.

Once you have your list, no matter how long or short it is, thank God for each and every thing.

Then do one more thing. Write “JESUS” in capital letters and focus solely on Him, and be thankful.

My prayer is for all of us to find joy in Christ today.


Lesson from Dad: The Handshake

My dad taught me at a young age that first impressions are lasting impressions.

He was a salesman. First impressions helped put food on the table.

“When you meet someone, you give a firm handshake and look them in the eyes,” he said. Then he practiced with me. Over and over.

Have you ever encountered that person who gives you a weak handshake and turns the other way when you say hello? That’s a bad first impression.

When you engage someone, be attentive. The handshake should be firm and meaningful. It should not, however, be intimidating.

I’m passing this information along to my sons and I “grade” them when I have the opportunity.

The handshake is a small gesture but it’s important.