Boring, Dull Meetings? 10 Skills for Leading Groups

10 Skills for Leading Groups:

Boring, disorganized, disconnected gatherings and groups—no one likes them. One person monopolizing, someone rudely disagreeing, another stonewalling and pouting, discourage.

Thankfully, leadership can help. But some leaders don’t know what they are doing and make matters worse. Here are Ten Team Leader Skills to improve your meetings of two or more people. They work at home too!

  1. Facilitating. The root idea of facilitate is to make something easier. Communication is difficult! Good group facilitating makes communication easier. Good facilitators start conversations then, generally, talk less than the others. They are the guide from the side, not the sage on the stage.
  2. Sharing. We are taught to share toys and such as toddlers. Adults sharing is more often about words, information and power—threatening!

A skillful leader shares and encourages sharing. Extroverts may over share.  Introverts may under share.  Both need a wise, assertive, kind facilitator get everyone to play, and share, well together.

  1. Question. Good leaders draw others out and guide with thoughtful questions.

Open questions encourage participants to expand their answer. Using the “news reporter” words, Who, What When, Where, Why and How help create open questions.  “What would you like to talk about?” is an open question.

Closed questions can often be answered with one word. “Would anyone else like to share?” is a closed question. It can be answered with yes, no, or maybe.

  1. Listening. The late, great, M. Scott Peck, M.D, writes “Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work. It is because they do not realize this or because they are not willing to do the work that most people do not listen well.”

Leaders, if you ask a question, try to listen. Listening well is the surest way to build trust and genuine caring in any relationship. “Active listening…requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.”  (Wikipedia)  Meeting leaders and participants can easily get distracted from active listening.

  1. Courage. This is bravery from the heart. The French root caries the idea of sharing “what is in one’s mind or thoughts.” The group leader is helping everyone be courageous in loving ways. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) is the sign of healthy group.
  2. Accepting. Leaders teach group members not to gasp, role eyes, shake heads in disgust, or shout, “You’re wrong!” when we hear something with which we don’t agree. We are learning to happily accept each other as we have been “accepted in the Beloved.”(Ephesians 1:3)
  3. Believing. The leader believes in people and their worth. We teach and model this. We affirm the Scripture “love believes all things,” so we temper our reactions and judgments.
  4. Recognizing. Like a skilled auctioneer the group leader recognizes individuals in the group¾their contributions, questions and concerns.  The leader fosters appreciation for contributions and teaches the group do so as well.
  5. Willingness. This involves open-mindedness, willingness to truly listen and exercise consideration. The growing leader models graciousness. We are unwilling to put down, block, hinder or snuff out. We are willing to bind up, fan into flame and to encourage. (see Matthew12:20)
  6. Vision. The leader is patiently, persistent inspiring! We have a lot to learn but imagine how great it will be if we get a little bit better at communicating.

Giv’m Heaven!—John

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Get comfortable when you’re not! Think Mesopotamia!

mesopotamia-mapMesopotamia ancient name for the land that lies between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in modern Iraq), from Greek mesopotamia, literally “a country between two rivers,” from feminine of mesopotamos, from mesos “middle” (see medial (adj.)) + potamos “river” (see potamo).

“In the 19 century (1800s)  the word sometimes was used in the sense of “anything which gives irrational or inexplicable comfort to the hearer,” based on the story of the old woman who told her pastor that she “found great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia” [“Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable,” 1870].” (from the Online Etymological Dictionary…one of my favorites for word origins).

Now, next time you feel caught in the middle, you will be able, like the wise woman,  to testify, “You know I felt awkward, trapped, and even caught in the middle of the conflict (heated debate, opinion-fest, mindless argument, brouhaha). But lately I’ve been finding ‘great support in that comfortable word Mesopotamia.'”

The Bible verse that got me started talks about being “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation*.”

“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst (from mesos “middle” – see above) of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:13–16, ESV)

* generation — 1074. γενεά geneá;  i.e., a multitude of contemporaries. In NT Gr. geneá literally means space of time, circle of time, which only in a derived sense signifies the meaning of a time, a race; then generally in the sense of affinity of communion based upon the sameness of stock. (Strong’s Greek #1074)

Yes! “Think Mesopotamia” to get calm and courageous, then reply to John  Parker (DBA: me) with your fun thoughts!

P.S. Mesopotamia = Adam and Eve country!

“A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.” (Genesis 2:10–14, ESV)

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Thanksgiving Sail! No Discounts! Lots of Rewards! It’s a Dream!

lady-washington-tall-shipMy Dream: (early this Thanksgiving morning) I was organizing an event.

My Observations: The dream was Positive. The event prep work was Unfinished. I  asked for…

Papa God’s Interpretation: I believe I heard something like:

Receive Our Peace. Things are always unfinished on earth—the wind, the sea, water running, grass growing, relationships changing. I AM the Father of lights…(and I heard this verse) “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from Me, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

And Papa joyfully continued:

I AM without variation in my good gifting! I change not!

I AM without any shadows, in my purpose for you!

I AM the One who loves you with an everlasting love, stronger than death!

I AM the One who sent your Lord, Jesus, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever!”

I AM the One who sent Kadesh Ruach, Holy Wind, Hagios Pneuma—Holy Spirit—who in perfect stability blows with Holy Wind and you experience the marvelous mystery of not knowing…not knowing from where it is coming and where it is going. So is everyone who has been born out of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

Then I heard:

YOU ARE managers of mysteries. (! Corinthians 4:2) You are stable in the instability of this everything-always-changing world. “And after you have suffered (being blown around by every other wind (Ephesians 4:14)) a little while, I, the God of all grace, who has called you to my eternal glory in Christ, will personally restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)

Finally, I, John, I see that…

You and I are on the Lord’s ship. Papa is on deck along side us at the helm calling us to steer. Jesus is napping! (Hey, that’s what I see! Okay? 🙂 LOL!) And I feel Kadesh Ruach, the Holy Wind, filling the sails (more, or less, and sometimes not!) with surprises moment by moment!

So let’s…

Rock…and Roll…in his Righteous, Royal, Rule and Reign!

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Save the Worms!

lowly_wormSave the Worms!

“Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. I’m going to go eat worms,” says the taunt against feeling sorry for ourselves. However, eating worms may make good sense.

Laura Agadoni, in her article, “Worms As a Food Source for Humans,” reports, “The reality is that humans in almost 90 countries eat insects and worms…in some parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, people regularly eat worms.

“Some restaurants in the United States have jumped on the bandwagon to offer something different to patrons who consider themselves “foodies” or who want to claim bragging rights to their friends. Eating worms once in a blue moon in a restaurant, however, and eating them on a regular basis as part of your normal diet are two different animals. In fact, people who eat insects regularly as part of the culture typically do so out of necessity. Once people enter the realm of the middle class, their worm-eating repertoire will likely fall by the wayside…” (

Worms do give us a clear picture of a lowly life. In a Bible prophecy, the coming Messiah cries out, “I am a worm and not a man.” (Psalm 22:6)

If worm-ness is good enough for the Messiah maybe it’s okay for us too. In fact, Lowly Worm, the pleasant, helpful and well-dressed worm in Richard Scarry’s illustrated children’s stories is an inspiration. He drives an apple car and has only one leg (his tail!). Still, he is always a positive, encouraging role model.

“Worm Jacob” is God’s nickname for the patriarch Jacob. God says, “Fear not, Worm Jacob,…I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:14)

Nicknames are interesting. I love my late father’s full name—Marryat Fletcher Teale Parker, Jr.—but he hated it because his schoolmates called him Mary. Dad tried shortening his middle name to Fletch and using it, but that didn’t work either, he said.

Finally, while in the Navy during World War II someone called him, Mickey. Dad grabbed it for dear life and was known as Mickey thereafter! Although everyone in his family, including Mom, called him, Parky. Another, pretty cool, non-Mary, nickname!

Rock, or Rocky, is the nickname Jesus gives Simon at their first meeting. He declares, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Rock” (Cephas, in Aramaic; Peter, in Greek; John 1:42)

Joseph, is nicknamed Barnabas, or “Son of Encouragement” by his church friends. (Acts 4:36)  Saul, the Jewish Pharisee, eventually uses his Roman, and more global name, Paul, as he becomes the apostle to the nations. (Acts 13:9)

“LittleFaith,” is a nickname Jesus gave his disciples. In the original Greek, “little faith,” is a vocative noun, which is actually, a nickname. We miss that in English and read it, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

“Worm Jacob” I often adapt for myself as in, “Fear not, Worm John…I am the one who helps you.” While I don’t want to “go eat worms” sometimes I do feel lowly, weak and worm. Happily, when I claim worm status, I feel comforted, safe, and strong. It’s then that I let go of my own power and sense God assuring me, “I am the one who helps you.”

Are you feeling weak, lowly, and down? Let the God, the One who helps worms, be there for you too! “Fear not, O worm ________(your name)…I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:14)

“Giv’m heaven!”—Worm John

John Parker helps leaders who want to facilitate small groups toward rebuilding functional practical-family style events. Interested? Let’s talk. Contact me at (209) 564-7201 or at

More about John at LinkedIn.

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God can slip through our hands; but we can’t slip through his. Nice!

hands-lamb-sheep“Lend me a hand with the groceries, please.”

“Give them a big hand for the fine job they’ve done.”

“I had a hand in that too.”

“You won, hands down.”

“Get your hands off me!”

Hands matter! Jesus promises us that we are held in his hand and also in his father’s hand. He claims that no one can ever steal or snatch us out of their hands!

Describing himself as our shepherd and us as his sheep he asserts, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”” (John 10:28–30)

That’s good news! Tragically, the religious leaders present miss that good news. Instead, they attack Jesus over a theological point and try to kill him.

“Jesus responds, ‘At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?’

“They replied, ‘We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.’

“Jesus replied, ‘It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.’

“Once again they tried to arrest him, but Jesus slipped through their hands and left them.” (John 10:31–39)

“Jesus slipped through their hands!” Smart, strong humans couldn’t grasp and hold Jesus, spiritually or physically.

Believers, so-called believers, and unbelievers often think they know better than God about how things work. That’s when God slips through our hands.

We try make God fit into our little boxes of religion, knowledge, customs, beliefs, education, atheism, agnosticism, science or legalism. But none of that stops God! The more we think we’ve got him figured out the more he slips right through our fingers.

This is for our own good. Thank God we can’t control God!

The really good news is that we can’t slip God’s hands. No one does, especially his sheep.  Fact: his sheep hear his voice and follow him; will not follow a stranger; and no one will be able to snatch them out of God’s hand.  (John 10)

Perhaps, he has slipped past your plans, expectations, will and understanding. Perhaps you feel let down by God.

If so, this is a great time forgive him and “baa” after the good shepherd; listen for his voice, and follow him with fresh faith. Jesus go out after the sheep baaing that’s lost. When found, nothing can snatch that sheep away from his love, forever.

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

John Parker serves with Connections Simple Church of Chowchilla meeting 10 AM Sundays at Carty Center, 609 W. Robertson Blvd. Learn more at: or contact John at (209) 564-7201

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Casey and the Son-shine Band!

casey-priestHe left his mother the gift of God’s Son-shine. She found it the third morning after he passed. My friend, Casey Flanagan Priest, “crossed over to be with Jesus, August 17, 2016.”

Brother Casey was only 33. He had a health condition that took him suddenly and quietly in the middle of the night.

Casey was an active member of the Merced Cowboy Church. He listened carefully whenever his pastor, Sharene May, taught the Word of God.

On that third morning after Casey had crossed over his devoted mother, Peggy, was feeling very distraught. She eventually ended up in Casey’s room just to be near him in spirit. It was then that she noticed some folded papers that she had not seen before.

The papers were carefully and neatly written in Casey’s own hand. The first paper seemed to be a note about Jesus from what Casey heard at Cowboy Church. It reads: “As he is in heaven so I am in this world.” (1 John 4:17)

Wanting to know more, I called Pastor Sharene to discover why Casey would have written this verse. She explained that she would often say to Casey, and his brother, Kelly, “As He is in heaven…” and that they would finish the verse responding, “…so am I on earth.”  Then Sharene would joyfully declare to the young men and all the congregation, “Jesus is not deficient in any area and neither are we in this world!”

Isn’t that great? Declaring, “As he is in heaven so I am in this world,” teaches our spirit to believe, accept, receive and grow up into all Jesus has planned for us. It reinforces his bold promise, “You will do greater things than me.” (John 14:12)

It is thrilling for me to know that my friend, Casey, embraced this truth to the point that he wrote it down on a note at home. Let’s embrace it for ourselves for the “greater things” Jesus wants to do though us! That’s what he did through Casey’s note.

On Casey’s note pages Peggy also read, ”I know that my redeemer lives, and he will stand on the earth at last.” (Job 19:25) Second he wrote, “The Lord took pity on his people who were troubled, burdened and suffering.”  Amazing Son-shine from her son!

During our phone call, Pastor Sharene made three keen observations about God’s love and care in Peggy’s note discovery.  First, the notes were found on the third morning which speaks of resurrection and new life!  Second, God works through and  beyond the realm of time—weaving the past into the present and the future. And, third, Casey is ministering to his mother and the rest of us from the other side, from when he was still on this side!

Casey: the mighty servant that God can use from both sides of the grave to help his kingdom come and his will be done on earth as is in heaven. That’s Casey’s Son-shine!

Casey penned a final comment on his notes. He wrote, “Accept: means to approve of or to receive willingly.” I hope each of us will “approve of” and “receive willingly” for ourselves what Casey declared: “As he (Jesus) is in heaven…so I am in this world.”

Go “Casey and the Son-shine Band!” Now ministering live, in heaven, and on earth!

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

John Parker serves with Connections Simple Church of Chowchilla meeting 10 AM Sundays at Carty Center, 609 W. Robertson Blvd. Learn more at: or contact John at (209) 564-7201

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“…flowery beds of ease” What’s you sleep number?

flowery-bedAre you struggling and fighting discouragement? Take heart. That’s the normal battleground of a true believer.

“This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.” (Ephesians 6:12, The Message)

The old hymn asks, “Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease while others fight to win the prize and sail o’er (over) bloody seas?” Then it bravely answers, “Sure! I must fight if I would reign. Increase my courage, Lord! I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy word.”

Hymnologist, Amos R. Wells, reports, “Isaac Watts (1674–1748), who wrote this hymn, was the father of hymn-writing in the English language. Isaac’s own father was not a member of the state church, and was twice thrown into jail for opposing it. When Isaac was a baby his mother often carried him in her arms to visit his father in prison.”

Like his father, Isaac Watts chose to stay in the fight for the kingdom of God. Writing new hymns got him in trouble with the established Christian church. Still, Watts pressed on, in spite of the opposition, to write over 200 popular hymns!

In Jesus’ day, John the Baptist was locked up in prison for taking a stand for moral righteousness against the local governor. About John’s suffering, and anyone else that seeks to serve the Lord, Jesus asserts, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent people take it by force.” (Matthew 11:12)

In others words, if you are a true believer, plan on doing battle! Our earth-bound side believes the glories of modern advertising and longs for those promised “flowery beds of ease.” Our born of God, heaven-bound side responds, “I must fight if I would reign. Increase my courage, Lord!”

Paul, the apostle, makes it clear that the fight will come to us if we seek to do good and serve the Lord. He writes, “So I find this law at work: when I would do good, evil is right there with me.” (Romans 7:21)

Just so, David, the Goliath-slayer, returned with his army to the village where they camped, found it burned to the ground with all their wives and children kidnapped. “David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” winning the battle in his heart first, then leading his men to rescue everyone! (1 Samuel 30)

Our battle is not with people or circumstances, but against false imaginations, worries, fears and negative thoughts that try to separate us from trusting God. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5) Our battle is against spiritual wickedness, this present darkness, and spiritual forces of evil in the invisible heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) Discouragement, Depression and Death-Thinking are chief adversaries against God’s love, grace and peace.

Are you discouraged? Run to Jesus! Receive your gift* of righteousness which he bought for you on the cross! Then take refuge in him and his name.

“The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous (*the gift openers)  run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)  Run, Believer, Run!

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

Please reply!  To say, Hi! Or, Why? Or anything in between.

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The Big Bang Way!

big-bang“Bang!” and the universe began.

On April 24, 1992 we read that the “Big Bang” had been confirmed by scientists. They were thrilled to believe they had found the beginning of the universe.

“A Very Big Bang,” is what Patricia and Robert Mondore titled their follow-up article. Using the Bible they showed us God’s version of the Big Bang. “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made…For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:6,9). God speaks with “A Very Big Bang” when he wants to!

John, Jesus’ disciple, writes in his first letter about the Big Bang “beginning” of God’s Good News. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” (1 John 1:1–2)

Later, John writes in his Gospel about God’s Big Bang sound as “the Word.” The sound that leads to sight and light.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1–5, TNIV)

God’s Big Bang sound begins visible creation! God speaks, “Let there be light, and there was light!” (Genesis 1:2)

Later, Jesus used Big Bang technology when he said to the raging sea, “Peace! Be still!” The water obeyed.

Jesus used Big Bang technology when shouting, “Lazarus! Come forth!” And, Lazarus came forth from the grave!

Jesus cried with a Big Bang on the cross. With a loud voice he shouted, “It is finished!” And the work of paying for and removing our sins was complete!

He teaches us to use Big Bang skills saying, “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and do not doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen, it will be done for you.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”” (Mark 11:20–25, TNIV)

Got a mountain blocking you? Big Bang it! Speak and tell it to move out of the way.

Got a need, or desire, or a “whatever”? Big Bang it! Ask God for it. Then praise him by faith for the answer.

Got a blockage of unforgiveness toward anyone—God, another person, or yourself? Big Bang it! Purposely, specifically, forgive. Then your load of unforgiveness will be removed and you will be set free!

Say it! Believe it! Then see it!

That’s the Big Bang way!

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

John Parker serves with Connections Simple Church of Chowchilla meeting 10 AM Sundays at Carty Center, 609 W. Robertson Blvd. Learn more at: or contact John at (209) 564-7201

The Chowchilla News Pastor’s Commentary by John Parker for Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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ASHAMED? No longer!

martin-you-should-be-ashamed-of-yourself“You ought to be ashamed of yourself!” Tragically, this reprimand is considered appropriate.

Adults speak it over children. Religious leaders speak it over their own followers. Political leaders do the same. Many of us speak it over ourselves as we accept years of judgment and cultural conditioning. 

These words are not from God. God isn’t shaming us. Satan is, however, in order to separate us from God into shame and darkness.

“Do not be ashamed!” is Paul’s theme in the following Scripture passage (abridged). See if you can find the three (or four) times he writes about not being ashamed.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News…

“That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return…

“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me. May the Lord show him special kindness on the day of Christ’s return. And you know very well how helpful he was in Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 1:7–18, NLT)

Did you find the “do ashamed” references?

The first one is, “so never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him.” This helps Timothy the young man whom Paul is writing.

It may be tough to remain unashamed when people accusingly ask Timothy, “Why is you leader, Paul, rotting in jail? I thought he knew God? Your God must be very weak.” Paul bolsters Timothy by reminding him that the gospel involves suffering, rejection, and looking foolish in the world’s eyes at times.

The second one is about Paul himself. He writes. “I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust…”

If you are in a situation where you may feel foolish and ashamed, heed Paul’s words. Get closer to Jesus.

Knowing Jesus, the one who suffered the ultimate shame of the cross, but who did so without being ashamed, is our inspiration. (Hebrews 12:2) Paul was not ashamed as he sat in jail because he knew Jesus suffered and won. Paul knew he would too.

The third instance is about Onesiphorus, who, like Timothy, is a friend of Paul. Paul brags about him, “He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.”

Likewise, the Lord has people around us who are not ashamed of us even when shame surrounds us.  If you feel ashamed watch for them. They are the true Jesus’ people.

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

First published in The Chowchilla News “Pastor’s Commentary” by John Parker for Wednesday, August 3, 2016


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Pain and Gain

no-pain-no-gain“No Pain, No Gain!” proclaim the athletes.  Going through hard times is essential to growth and success, they believe.

Jesus and his main followers believe it too. “Train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7–8)

Jesus emphasizes letting go of what seems important in this life in order to gain real life. He asserts, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.” (Mark 8:35)

Jesus values losing in order to gain. “Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, will be repaid many times over in this life, and will have eternal life in the world to come.”” (Luke 18:29–30)

Jesus warns against illusions of gain that may seek to avoid pain. He cautions, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:19–21)

Jesus’ followers and key writers, Peter, James, and Paul each praise pain for gain. Don’t seek it out but don’t avoid it when it arrives either. The pain of suffering grows us up in God’s grace and love and other lasting gains.

Peter writes, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world. If you are insulted because you bear the name of Christ, you will be blessed, for the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:12–14, NLT)

James tells us that suffering is cause for great joy. He writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be mature and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2–4, NLT)

Paul testifies with many scriptures that pain brings gain. The following one promises that suffering brings hope and love.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3–5, NLT)

Do you have spiritual, social suffering? Rejoice! Great gain will follow!

“Giv’m heaven!”—John Parker

John Parker serves with Connections Simple Church of Chowchilla meeting 10 AM Sundays at Carty Center, 609 W. Robertson Blvd. Learn more at: or contact John at (209) 564-7201

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