Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Mark of the (Beauty and the) Beast

Who doesn't love Disney World? They have exceptional customer service and the experience is incredible. This summer, our family vacationed at Walt Disney World for the second time. It was an absolute blast! The lengths Disney goes for the customer to have a memorable experience is sensational. Other organizations can learn a thing of two from them. 

One of the changes Disney made since our first trip was the introduction of the MagicBand. The MagicBand is a bracelet (complete with the trademark Mickey ears) for each member of your family. For those staying on Disney property, the MagicBand serves as your room key and tickets to the park. It also is used for your fast passes and dining plan credits. When you have a fast pass scheduled, you walk up to the fast pass line and scan your MagicBand (by touching the Mickey Ears on your band to the Mickey ears on the Kiosk.) When you are ready to eat, you place your order and scan your MagicBand. If you want a souvenir, scan your MagicBand at the gift shop and it charges your purchase back to your room. It was more convenient than the credit card type ticket/room key we had on our previous trip.  

The first time we rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, a new roller coaster in Magic Kingdom, I noticed a camera flash midway through the ride. This is not uncommon because Disney has several cameras on roller coasters to snap your picture. After we got off the ride, I began to look for the picture kiosk to see what the pictures looked like. There was no kiosk as on the older rides. I left the ride and thought maybe we had missed it somewhere. Later in the day, we were passing by the ride and I asked the cast member (what Disney calls their employees) about the pictures and where could I go to see it. He said it was already on my Disney PhotoPass account. I pulled the PhotoPass account up and there our picture was. Amazing! How did they know which cart we were in?

On our final day, we ate lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant inside Beast's castle. The food there is exceptional. You must try the Grey Stuff, but I digress. At lunch time, the Be Our Guest restaurant is a Quick Service restaurant. A Quick Service restaurant is Disney's way of saying "Fast Food." We walked in and placed our order. I touched my MagicBand to the Mickey Ears. The cast member instructed me to find a table and leave my receipt out. Since there were no seats available in the West Wing, we walked through the ballroom to the quiet dining room. After several minutes, a server came by and grabbed the receipt off the table. Then, they immediately gave us our food. I was fully expecting them to get my receipt, go back to the kitchen and bring us our food. No, they had the food with them when they came to get the receipt. I was stunned. I asked "How did you do that?" The server smiled graciously and replied, "Magic!" I smiled back and said, "No, MagicBand." From that point on, I referred to this little technological wonder of a bracelet as the Mark of the (Beauty and the) Beast. 

It truly is amazing technology. Disney knows your whereabouts and how you spend your money. They can even tag your account if you've been kind or rude to a cast member. I left Walt Disney World with a greater sense of what customer service is all about. However, I also left there with a renewed understanding that we are living in the End Times. The technology to pull off End Times events has evaded our world for centuries. I don't think Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney either one is the Antichrist. However, I do believe their technological advances proves our generation can experience the events of Revelation. Is a microchip under the skin or a MagicBand type bracelet the mark of the beast referenced in Revelation 13? I can't answer that nor can anyone claiming to be an expert in eschatology. Only God knows that. I do know we need to leave each day as if this were the last one on earth. That means we love God more than we ever have and we do our best to reach as many people with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When you see those little Mickey Ears, I hope you remember Jesus is coming soon and we have a responsibility to fulfill the great commission. I am looking forward to that day. How about you?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How To Be a Low-Maintenance Church Member

Yesterday, we celebrated the life of my Great Aunt Velma Pecht. She was one of a kind with an infectious laugh. As with most celebration of life services, the ministers shared a variety of funny stories, cherished memories and noble qualities of Aunt Velma's life. There was one description in particular that peeked my attention. Aunt Velma and my late Uncle CJ were described as "low-maintenance church members." I listened attentively to hear what this meant. There were several qualities that stood out. 

1. Presence - They were there. They attended regularly and usually sat in the same spot. It is important if you are going to be a part of a church family that you attend regularly. In our hectic culture, it is easy to decide that we need the extra rest and stay home. However, we need each other. We need the encouragement from one another. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray with us. We also need to encourage others and be there for them. 

2. Friendliness - I referenced that Aunt Velma and Uncle CJ sat in the same place. According to their Pastor's wife, they did that strategically. It was a seat on the left side of the sanctuary, three rows from the back and on the aisle. That location allowed them to greet people as they came in and left. A low-maintenance church member reaches out to others and is friendly. Church should be the friendliest place on earth.

3. Givers - A Low-Maintenance Church Member invests into the Kingdom of God. Aunt Velma spent a lifetime investing in the Kingdom. Malachi 3:10 (NLT) states, "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!" The storehouse is your local church. As a member of the church, you should be a faithful giver.

4. Servant - As a member of the church, we should always look to give back as much as we receive. When I talk to pastor friends, the common needs of their churches are more money and more workers. In scripture, the church is referenced as the body of Christ with each part having its responsibility. As a Pastor, my job is to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. I can only fulfill that commitment if people are willing to serve. Your Pastor can only fulfill his God-given assignment if you are willing to serve. As a member of the body, you have a part to play and a place to serve. 

As a Pastor, it made me smile to know my aunt and uncle were a blessing to their pastors, their church and the Kingdom of God by being low-maintenance church members who attended regularly, were friendly to others, gave and served. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Talk Now and Later

Parenting is one of the most rewarding, yet difficult tasks. As a parent, my role is to mentor, disciple and train my children. When they were younger, it seemed easier to have those teaching moments. Of course those teaching moments were limited to things like: "Don't put that in the electrical plug!" and "Get that out of your mouth!" Now that they are older, the conversations are shifting to more difficult life topics. How do you handle the difficult subjects, like sex and tragedy?

In his new book, Talk Now and Later, Brian Dollar addresses how to talk to your kids about life's toughest topics. Brian uses his own experiences as a parent and a veteran Kid's Pastor to give valuable insight and wisdom to today's parents. In the book's introduction, he writes, "Don’t wait until something happens in your family to have these conversations. Have them early, have them often, and have them wisely. Then, when a crisis occurs, you have a track record of communication about the topic." Brian addresses how to talk to your kids about:
  • God
  • Death and Tragedy
  • Sex
  • Self-Image
  • Making Wise Choices
  • Divorce
  • Friendships
  • Money
  • Bullying
  • Restoring Broken Relationships
There are a lot of parenting books out there, but very few that deal entirely with communicating with your children. It is such an important and necessary topic. Brian Dollar has written a masterpiece on communicating with your kids. I encourage you to pick up a copy of this new book. It will encourage you and help you. It will also be a resource that you can use for years to come as you continue to lead your kid's through life's difficult moments.

You can order a copy of the book here.