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The Hillside Strangler
By: David Church
Without fail, every time I fly, I am amazed at what I can see from the window of an airplane. Whether it is scenic mountains and lakes or large cities, I love to see the view from above the world.
I live about forty miles from Chicago and I drive the Chicago highways quite frequently. What a horrible mess they are. Often it takes two hours or more to get from one side of the city to the other. Many times I have sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic wondering what the problem is and promising myself that I will never drive that highway again. Yet, when I fly over the city I can see all of the highways at the same time. I can point out all of the trouble spots in just a few moments. I can see the bottlenecks, I can see the accidents. New perspective is gained.
If you have been through Chicago more than once, you have probably heard of the 'Hillside Strangler'. It is a notorious section of highway near the town of Hillside where two interstates and a road merge into a single lane to enter the Eisenhower Expressway. It has long been dubbed one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the world. It will literally stop you dead in your tracks where you won't be able to move for a long, long time. A few years ago they spent over a 100 million dollars to fix the problem. They widened the entrance to three lanes. However, after all of the time and money they spent to fix this, the traffic flow is only slightly better. People are just as frustrated as before. When you see this area from above, you can see that the congestion has only been pushed further east. The problem is easily seen from the sky, three lanes are not enough for this traffic merger, and they need more lanes stretched out over more distance. The estimated cost to rebuild this section of highway is now well over one billion dollars.
It is amazing how crystal clear the answers are when seen from above. The perspective one can receive from the skies is like receiving new revelation.
During a time of terrible persecution and uncertainty, the Apostle John was banished to the Isle of Patmos. There was no way out. Facing the darkest hours of his life, John had many questions on his heart. He couldn't think his way out. He couldn't see his way out. Though he lived to an old age there, he didn't know he would do so at the time.
However, Jesus knew some things John didn't know. Jesus was about to invite John up into the heavens. Jesus wanted to give John some new perspective and some fresh insight.
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What basic leadership skills make pastors effective in their ministries? Here are 9 essentials.
- Leaders do lead. Many people in positions of religious leadership simply don't lead. The fact is that true leaders do lead. They chart a course, garner the necessary support and resources, and work to succeed.
- Leaders lead from a spiritual center. Men and women engaged in ministry are careful to ask God to help them lead from a spiritual center. Today's spiritual leaders must also take the time they need to quietly seek guidance.
- Leaders compromise creatively. As soon as a vision is articulated and plans are established, obstacles and roadblocks will occur. They'll seek ways to compromise creatively so that the end goal will still be accomplished.
- Leaders deal constructively with conflict. Whenever someone provides leadership, conflicts will arise. Effective leaders learn how to deal constructively with conflicts and maneuver around them.
- Leaders are willing to listen. Strong leaders know that listening to others helps them in two ways. First, by hearing what others say, their own vision for the future can be clarified, modified, and intensified. Second, when leaders listen respectfully, even to criticisms, they not only gain additional insight, but often receive the support of the speaker. When leaders listen, people rally around.
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As pastors and spiritual leaders we have many things on our plates. We have schedules, deadlines and appointments to fulfill. Our calendars are filled up with church meetings and conferences before we even get a chance to plan a family vacation. We run out of room to write in our daily planners. We are busy with Kingdom work. We are constantly about our Father's business. It would be all too easy to just quit and justify our quitting with being "burnt out." However, if we could see with our spiritual eyes just how close we are to reaching our final destination. If we could know exactly how close we are to the coming of the Lord, we would work faster and harder than we have ever worked before. We would load up on Bible studies and go teach our whole neighborhood the Word of God. If we could only see!
In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off of Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She'd already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn't until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, "All I could see was the fog... I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it."[ read more...]
Fourteen years ago I began a career as an investment advisor. After spending weeks studying for the state and federal securities exams, I began a very successful, though brief, career. Successful, because I was landing sales of which most security brokers only dream.
After spending years as a house painter, I felt that I had found my calling. I loved the idea of helping people find ways to invest their money to achieve the greatest amount of profit for the least amount of investment risk. The idea of making money with money thrilled me. Imagine, making money not only during the 9-to-5 work day, but also making money while asleep.
After only a few months in my new career, I attended a securities symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana. For a full week, investment firms presented their funds, boasting their returns as far back as 20 years. For several days, I sat thru presentation after presentation from some of the largest and most prominent investment firms in the world.
Using Power Point presentations, each firm showed annual returns that all seemed to point upward when it came to opportunities for investment. With a room full of some of the most successful sales advisors, these firms worked to convince us that their funds were the best investment for our clients.
By the time I headed home from the symposium, my head spun with excitement. I knew that some of these investments were exactly what many of my clients wanted and needed. That night I went to bed still excited about what I learned and the potential to help my clients increase their savings.
After I slept several hours, a loud booming voice awakened me saying, “The kingdom of God is the best investment!” The voice frightened me. I looked over at my wife, expecting her to be fully awake and as startled as I was. But she was sound asleep. “Did you hear that? I said, nudging her awake. “Hear what?” she mumbled. I realized it was the voice of God, reminding me that His kingdom was the best place to invest. It pays the highest dividends and interest and, best of all, there are no penalties or risks of investment loss.[ read more...]
Have you ever thought of the various motivators in your life?
Early in my life I found my father to be a great motivator. His way of motivating is not one I would quickly recommend. I remember one morning when my brother and I were making a little too much noise, a little too early in the morning. Dad wanted to encourage us to “Quite Down!”. His way of motivating us to a more docile nature was to cause our heads to come together with such force as to render us almost unconscious. This was one of the more unkind ways my dad had of motivating his kids.
Thank God that all the people in my life weren’t so barbaric in their way of motivating me.
I remember Mrs. Klewer. She was my 8th grade English teacher who motivated me to learn to read. She allowed me to get a passing grade if I would read a short story of about 20 pages. The reading material was probably on the 1st or 2nd grade level. However, she knew that even this was a great challenge for me and encouraged me in my struggle. As soon as I finished the short story, she put another one in front of me. And so on and so on, until I was getting straight A’s in her class and found a love for reading which I never knew I had. Throughout my high school and college career I would get straight A’s in English because of the gentle nudging (motivating) of someone who could have overlooked my potential but didn’t.
Motivators, some times they come in the form of the Policeman who writes the citation motivating us to “slow down”. In other times they are the kind hearts around us who cheer from the sideline of our life, “You can do it!”. We are all motivated by something. Money. Recognition. Love. Personal Ambition. This list could get very long and would change depending on the person making it.
I wonder though, how often I have allowed God’s Purpose be my motivation. His Purpose takes me beyond my personal goals. Why do I want to be a good preacher? Is it to be heard of men and recognized as such? Or is it so I may persuade men and women to come to the Lord?
Why do I want to be a good father? Is it so my children will call me blessed and so I would have the respect of my neighbors as being a good father? Or is it so my children will learn of my example that their Heavenly Father too is One who can be trusted to keep them and minister to their needs.
What is God’s purpose in my life? I want to find it. I want to know it.[ 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...]
Here is a question every leader of people asks himself/herself at one time or another.
When Jesus looked out over the masses who followed him, I wonder if He asked himself this same question. As He counted, in His mind, the healings and considered all who he helped, I wonder if he pondered how many would come after him.
Of course they would follow him to the next miracle. They would follow Him to the next free dinner. They would be there to hear him preach again, but would they follow him all the way to the cross.
People are fickle. Have you noticed this? It doesn't take much to turn their heads. You can spend all your energy helping them and teaching them, but when something/someone flashier comes along, off they go
It's no wonder we are likened to sheep in the scriptures. Sheep are wanderers. If the shepherd is not watchful, his sheep will simply wander off. They don't mean to leave the shepherd really. They just found a patch of grass that is greener and so off they go.
I look at the ministry of Jesus and I am dumfounded at the throngs of people he could gather. So many on the sea shore that he would have to launch out on a boat to talk to them. Thousands were there the day he multiplied the little boys lunch. They pressed against him. They cried out to him from the edges of the crowds. They climbed into trees to see him. They tore the roof off of houses to get to where He was at. Yet I believe he had one question in His mind every time he saw them press in. "How many will follow?"
Each time you get in front of the group you minister to, do you ask yourself this question? How many will follow me? How many will live the way I teach? How many will stay strong to the faith? How many will be saved?[ read more...]
You cannot consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way you see yourself. Think about it. It's a fact of life that people spend the most time doing what they believe will benefit them most.
When you realize that people treat you according to how they see themselves rather than how you really are, you are less likely to take personally their behavior toward you.
If you're willing to stand apart from the crowd, you're putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Count on some degree of criticism.
People withhold their best efforts when they see little or no relationships between what they do and how they are rewarded.
The key to relating to others is putting yourself in someone else's place instead of putting them in their place.
Confidence is contagious.[ read more...]
Pastor Philip Harrelson has contributed a fantastic sermon series titled, “The Little Foxes" to www.PreachIt.org.
We all have spiritual vineyards that we are to be the steward over. The first vineyard that Rev. Harrelson mentions is that of the soul. We also have the vineyard of our family and the church. These are vineyards that we have been chosen to watch over and maintain. However, there are little foxes that are working to destroy our vineyards.
In this encouraging and instructive series, Rev. Harrelson goes into detail and explains how to efficiently “improve the soil of these vineyards.” He describes how we need to meditate on God’s Word every day and pray throughout the week as just a couple of the ways to “water” our vineyards.
Every Pastor, ministry team member and saint of God would greatly benefit to read these messages and apply these life lessons. This is a series that needs to be taught to every church and every team member.
Here is the first paragraph of the first lesson in this series:
Every person has a vineyard. We may not perceive that we are keepers of vineyards but there are responsibilities that we all have for our vineyards. First, we have the personal vineyard of our own soul. It is perhaps the most important vineyard of all that we are to take the most care of. Our soul is the most valuable possession that we have according to the Word of the Lord (Matthew 16:26; 10:28; Ecclesiastes 12:7). The care of the soul is a very tedious and challenging process. It involves the careful work of plowing, planting, cultivating, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Just as a farmer is in a joint venture with God, to care for our soul will have to be a joint venture with God. We cannot do it all alone! We must have God to intervene with Spirit and Word to accomplish His will for us.[ read more...]
Here are some simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life:
- Ask yourself the question, “Will this matter a year from now?” Is what you are worked up over going to matter a year from now? If not, don’t let it destroy you today.
- Practice Humility. The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peace inside.
- Remember that you become what you practice the most. How do you spend your time? What you do is what you become.
- Every day, tell at least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them. Telling others that you appreciate them takes almost no effort, but pays enormous dividends.
- Choose your battles wisely. Every circumstance or problem is not worth the fight. There will always be things and people that don’t do right.
- Life is a test. It is only a test. When you look at life as a test, you begin to see each issue as an opportunity to grow.
- Remind yourself that when you die, your “In Basket” won’t be empty. The purpose of life isn’t necessarily to get it all done, but to do the right things.