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By: James Smith
I'm trying to understand Mark 9. I have been examining every word spoken by the disciples and our Lord. We know that the disciples wanted with everything that was in them to be able to deliver the boy. Why else would they later risk criticism and His strong rebuke to ask why they had failed. We know that the Lord wanted them to be able to do the miracle because of the rebuke. So what went wrong? Why a prayer and no miracle.
I've been praying for the answer to that. I have always thought that if I prayed enough or fasted enough, the prayer would be answered. If I could somehow earn enough points by fasting, then a miracle was sure to come. But then I read IS 58. Here we find that it's not the fact that you are fasting, but rather the intent or purpose for which you are fasting. And so I have been praying and fasting with Isa 58 in my heart and mind. Lord help me to fast for the right reasons, to provoke Love.
Beyond Isa 58 though, I have found what I believe is a key to what I am searching for. "Compassion"
When I read the account of Mark 9, I was looking at what the Lord said. How could we not hear Him. "O faithless and Perverse generation, how long shall I suffer you?" Then I was looking at what the disciples asked when they desired to know why they had failed. But what I had totally overlooked was what the little boys father said to the Lord. Did you get it? "If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us"!
As a father, I have felt that man's compassion. I have held my sick children up to the Lord with tears of compassion for a sick baby. So, I think I understand the pleading and hunger he had in his heart when he asked the Lord to have compassion on them. When I read that I began a search on the word compassion.
It is in the Bible 41 times in 39 verses. The Old Testament is full of verses which tell how the Lord is "Full of Compassion".
- Mat 9:36 Compassion on the multitude...of lost people.
- Mat 14:14 Compassion caused Him to heal the sick of the multitude there.
- Mat 15:32 Compassion caused Him to feed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes.
- Mat 18:27 It was the lack of compassion which caused the servant to be given to the tormentors.
- Mat 20:34 Compassion caused Him to heal blinded eyes.
- Mat 1:41 Compassion moved Him to heal the Leper.
- Luke 7:13 Compassion made Him raise the widow's son.
- Luke 15:20 With compassion the father received the prodigal son.
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In the nightstand next to my bedside is a plastic baggie. Folded neatly inside is a small remnant of what remains of a little red shirt. The shirt was an integral part of two events that changed my life profoundly. One event was by tragedy, and the other by the delivering power of the Holy Ghost. Before this article is completed I hope to use that little red shirt to answer the following question for you, “What do you do with the things that the Holy Ghost hasn’t fixed?”
I must begin by exposing my soul to you the reader. My life has been deeply imprinted by a number of personal tragedies, only several of which I will mention herein. At the age of 19 months I was admitted to the hospital after a lengthy illness. The night I was admitted I died. My father fell across my bed weeping and calling upon the name of the Lord. God heard His prayer and restored life into my body, but I remained curled up in a fetal position, dark circles under my eyes, and the eyes were rolled back so that only the white was showing. My hands and feet were drawn and curled up. I lost 8 ½ pounds of body weight in a little over five hours! The transformation was remarkable and horrendous. My mother went home to rest that night because she was expecting her next child, leaving my father at my bedside. My death and transformation occurred after her departure. She could not recognize me when she returned to the hospital after going home for only a few hours. She actually thought I was someone else’s baby!
I spent much of that night in a bathtub full of ice because of the extreme fever that was destroying my brain by the minute. The next morning I was taken into surgery where four surgeons operated on me. The report to my parents was not good. My appendix had ruptured 3-4 days prior to the surgery. They were dislocated which required more extensive cutting. My body cavity, stomach, and intestines were filled with gangrene. My intestines were completely blocked by a growth necessitating the removal of much of my intestines. Eventually they gave up and simply sewed me together. The surgeons told my parents there was nothing they could do to help me, and that it was best for me to die. Their diagnosis was that my brain was completely devastated, I was a vegetable, and I never would recover. Even if I did, my organs would not work and body functions could not happen properly. The Catholic hospital administered last rights to me. I would soon just be another statistic.[ read more...]
(14) For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
(15) And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (16) Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. (17) And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. (18) But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. (19) After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (20) And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. (21) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (22) He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. (23) His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.(24) Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: (25) And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (26) His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: (27) Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. (28) Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. (29) For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (30) And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Here we have one of the most improperly quoted scriptures in the Bible. In fact, of the 24 years I have been in the church and of the 3700 or so messages I have either preached or heard preached in those 24 years I have heard this verse of scripture referred to many times, but never in the context in which our Lord intended it to be quoted.
Nearly every time I heard this scripture recited, it was in a message in which the speaker was trying to inspire the saints of the church to become soul winners or to work harder for the kingdom. However, the parable of the servants and the talents was never intended as a message to the saints, but it was a message from our Lord to the Pastors/Leaders of the churches. And a warning of the consequences of burying the potential that is in the people whom our Lord would place within our grasp and ministry.[ read more...]
In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of 'family.' We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about 'me' and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is 'their rights'. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little 'kingdom' or 'empire' in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building 'our kingdom' instead of building 'His Kingdom.' Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about 'me' and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. 'His Kingdom' begins to blend into 'my kingdom.' Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until 'my kingdom' becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
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Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of 'family'.
The origin of the Hebrew word for 'family' means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
I recall the story of the most famous of all the prophets. Elijah was one of the most powerful prophets of God. Nobody doubted his calling, his prayers brought results. When Elijah prayed, fire fell from heaven. When Elijah prayed, rain fell from the sky. Through his prayers, Elijah altered the course of an entire nation. He was one of only two men in scripture who did not see death. There is no doubt that Elijah was in the perfect will of God.
Having said that, the book of 1 Kings reveals a time in Elijah's life when it seemed like the all of hell was rising up against him. Israel had forsaken the ways of God, the altars had been destroyed, the prophets of God had been slaughtered. Elijah found himself all alone and began to wonder if God was still with him. He decided to run for his life, in fact it got so bad, he asked the Lord to take his life.
1 Kings 19:1-4
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
The wicked queen Jezebel had been threatening Elijah's life for some time. Now it was heating up. Jezebel had just informed Elijah by way of messenger that he would be dead by the same time tomorrow! This was a man hunt, she had people looking for him everywhere, he was a wanted man, dead or alive. Elijah could feel the heat and he couldn't take it anymore.
It is hard to picture the most powerful of all of the prophets backed into a corner by the enemy and running for his life. Often times that is where we find ourselves. Yet, in the midst of running, God sends an angel to feed him. That ought to be enough to confirm that God is with you Elijah. I know if an angel visited me, I would be ready to do whatever God asked of me. Still, Elijah kept running.
The meat the angel brought to Elijah sustained his life for forty days and nights. That might be a hint that God is with you. Finally he finds a cave to hide in and the word of God came to him there, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
God wasn't asking about Elijah's physical location, He was asking about Elijah's spiritual condition. God wanted to know why Elijah had given up. Listen to Elijah's response...
1 Kings 19:10
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.[ read more...]
1. Define and understand your own reaction to change in order to compare it to the reactions of others.
Even the happiest of changes may cause a feeling of loss for what existed before. As a leader, perhaps you see that the change will save the company, enhance the product, diminish costs, or make the organization more competitive. But what will occur that is outside your own comfort zone? To be a leader of change, you must identify how the change will impact your own personal situation. What stresses will you experience that you will either consciously or unconsciously pass on to others? Will you also fear for the future of your job or your department? Will you survive, but see many of your colleagues go? Will you have to learn a new skill or move to a new location? Only if you take the time to specifically define your own reaction to change can you put yourself in the shoes of those you lead who will have their own reactions, fears, and behavioral fallout.
2. Involve those people who will be affected by change in both the planning and implementation process.
When change is dictated, resistance is the automatic response to the stimulus. Leaders are able to gain much more cooperation when they invite others to join the plan. Include them in figuring out how to implement change, even when they are obvious in their opposition. Co-opting the opposition is the best way to get their buy-in. Leaders may even end up with some better ideas for making the change work.
3. Communicate the vision so others can understand and buy in to the change.
The benefit of the end state must become the driving force to persuade employees to work through the agony of change. There must be something better waiting, and it must be visible throughout the pain. Often leaders have a vision that makes great sense. However, this bright future may not be shared beyond the inner circle. Failing to understand, employees feel uncertain as to why they must change and where they are going. Uncertainty itself can be more painful than change.
4. Share all possible information about change with the widest audience possible. When you think you have spread the word, start over.
In the midst of change, the best advice is, "Communicate, communicate, communicate.' Unless information is proprietary or may be helpful to the competition and harmful to the organization's success, it should be shared widely. lf employees understand why actions are taken, what is expected, and how the change will lead through the steps toward the vision, they are much more likely to come along on the journey. When employees do not have information, they are more likely to resist or even sabotage change efforts that appear to threaten their stability and security. When Lockheed and Martin Marietta began the merger process, the leaders of both organizations traveled to every major site and talked directly to employees. The message was carried in videotapes, written documents, and personally by leaders at all levels.
5. Explain the impact of change on individuals more than on the organization.
When the status of one's job is in danger, an employee really doesn't care about organizational success. At a time when GE was downsizing, employees were attending training programs at the same time that they were wondering whether their desks would still be there when they returned to their offices. Corporate leadership was talking about the need to slim down for future financial success, but employees were used to a culture in which they were GE employees for life. Productivity was significantly degraded while employees wondered about the personal impact, not the organizational impact, of the change.[ read more...]
When I read of this amazing wonder of life, I can't help but think of the time and effort we invest into our ministries, often without any evidence of growth or life. There have been many times I have personally invested my time, talent and finances into a person or ministry without evidence that it would pay off. There have been times, because of this, that I have given up on a person. Yet, there have also been times after giving up, that I have seen a breakthrough, and that person I worked with finally accepts a bible study. They finally come to church. They receive the Holy Ghost. Those years of hard work and effort finally pay off.
The Bible states;
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.[ read more...]
A few years ago, I hired a man to work for me who was from Africa. His family had brought him to the United States and he was in need of job skills. My small painting company was a great place for him to learn a trade. Frances was a pure joy to work with. He was happy every day. He would sing beautifully as he worked and often expressed his appreciation to me for giving him a job. He was fun and often told funny jokes. He was always ready for work on time. His attitude was perfect. However, I had to fire him.
Frances did not understand the value of time. One day he would paint 30 doors, the next day he would paint 2. After speaking to the family member who was his sponsor to the US, she told me that in Africa, time is of little value. She said, “people where he came from do not place a value on time. If something did not get done today, that’s ok, it can get done tomorrow.” Unfortunately, we in the US do not and cannot look at time this way. I knew how much Frances’s time was worth not only to him, but also to me. As his employer, I had to cause Frances to improve his time to show a profit or I would lose money on each job he did for me. Frances was unable to change his way of thinking regarding time and as a result I had to let him go.
The Bible itself begins with a reference of time, “In the beginning”. Time has always been important to God. A reading of the early chapters of Genesis shows God creating the world as sequential event. Christ Himself did not come to this world until His time was fulfilled and when it was time, he returned to glory. Time is important to God, and it should be important to His ministers.
Some people view time like Frances did. It simply did not matter. “Didn’t do it today? That’s ok, do it tomorrow.” The fact of the matter is, we only have one life. We are only allowed so many days, hours, minutes and seconds in this life. At some appointed second in time we will pass from this life.[ read more...]
A budget is the tool provided in accounting terms that gives us the proper indication of how we stand in our finances. Too often people refuse to prepare a budget because it seems cumbersome and boring. A budget can be implemented in most homes but give only 1-2 hours per month. That is not much time to have a clear indication as to where you stand financially. Not only will a budget give you a picture of where you stand, it will help you organize your bill paying so you don’t get behind and have to pay late fees, and it will show you the debt you have so you can pay it off systematically.
A budget is a guide that tells you whether you are going in the right direction so that you can expect to meet your financial goals. You may have goals and dreams but if you do not set us guidelines for reaching them and you do not measure your progress periodically, you may end up going so far in the wrong direction you can never get out of financial difficulty.
- A budget lets you control your money instead of your money controlling you.
- A budget lets you control your spending habits.
- A budget allows you to save in a systematic manner.
- A budget allows you to meet your goals.
- A budget will tell you if you are living within your means.
1. Tells you the truth – even when it hurts.
One man who has been one of my mentors for almost 18 years especially stands out because of his honesty with me. Early in my ministry and marriage, he pulled me aside and explained to me that I was not very respectful to my wife in public. He explained that the ladies of the church would not honor me as a minister for this reason. At the time I was offended that he would tell me this as I thought I was very good to my wife. However, years later, I see where he was coming from. I’m grateful that he was bold enough and honest enough to talk to me about a sensitive subject. Honoring my wife and publicly showing her affection has not only given me respect among the other ladies of the church, but has also been a blessing to our marriage.
2. Shows a good example for you to follow.
The old cliché “Do as I say, not as I do.” Does not work in mentoring. A lifelong mentor should be someone who is a model of who you want to become. Everyone is a little bit like the people who have parented them. Part of a mentor’s role is to let the protégé watch them closely in the work that they do. One of my mentors would often times invite me to sit in on important meetings that I had no experience in. I would never say a word unless asked my input. I understood that I was there to observe and to learn. I watched my mentor closely to see how he handled fragile situations that I had no experience in. I would often ask myself how I would handle these often sensitive meetings, but would then watch my mentor expertly handle delicate subjects with Godly wisdom.
3. Sees you as family.
Mentoring someone is a life long commitment. Your best mentors are not people who are only a part of your life for a short amount of time. A mentor sees you as a son or daughter in the Gospel. Paul who mentored Timothy referred to him as his son. Anything less than a family level commitment may prove to be a surface only relationship between mentor and protégé. Often times, subjects discussed in a mentoring relationship are sensitive and personal. A protégé needs to know that he is going to someone who is a father figure who only has the protégé’s best interest in mind.
4. Shows himself/herself to be open and transparent with you.
A good mentor is someone who is not afraid to talk to those they mentor about their failures as well as their successes. My father would often say to me, “Don’t make the same mistakes that I have made.” This is a good reason for mentors to be open with their protégés. You may save that person a tremendous amount of pain and numerous mistakes by revealing to them the mistakes you yourself have made along the way.[ read more...]