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By: James Smith
Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The writer of this Psalm understood that if he was going to be a happy person, he was going to have to encourage himself. Who knows what all this person was dealing with at that moment of his life? The day he penned these words may well have been the worst day of his life. His determination however was that he was not going to allow his circumstances to determine his outlook on life.
Only you can decide for you if you are going to be a positive and happy person. There is much in the world to worry and be sad about, but that does not mean that you have to live a sad or worried existence.
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While in Bible College many years ago I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Chorale. It was a big thing to make the Chorale. We were to go on a two-week tour during the summer break. It was the highlight of our summer. I don't know why, but recently one of the songs we sang during that summer tour has been on my mind. I can't remember much of the song except the main line of the chorus, which was also the title of the song. It was called, "Shut up and March".
The theme of the song centers around the idea that talk can only do so much good. There is a time to quit talking and a time to get on with the business at hand. I frequently tell my employees, "A little less chatter and a little more clatter, please." I think you get the idea.
When Israel fled from Egypt after 400 years of slavery they thought they had gained their freedom. The Pharaoh had finally relented and allowed them to go. On their very first night of freedom, they set up camp on the shores of the Red Sea. I can imagine how their spirits were soaring. They were looking forward to a bright future. However, in a moment's notice, their freedom was taken from them again. The Pharaoh had changed his mind. He had assembled his mighty army and come to take Israel back. When Israel saw the Egyptian Army they panicked and began to cry out to God. They began to curse Moses for leading them out.
When this barrage of words came against Moses, he responded with some of the most inspiring words in Scripture;
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.[ read more...]
Don't you love them? They add so much to a church or organization. Their destructive attitude is so encouraging. They build faith in all who fall prey to their vile contempt. They're such a blessing!
It is funny though, how some people hate to hear a complaint, but love to be the one complaining. I suppose there are many reasons why a person complains. However, I doubt anyone realizes the full impact of it's destructive ability.
Several years ago, I was working on a job with a fellow leader in the church. We were working the midnight shift in a factory. As the night went on, I found myself complaining to this brother about my situation. At the time I felt justified because it was late and I was tired. I was also hurting emotionally and felt that people in the church should be more sensitive to my families needs. I had a list of reasons why it was OK for me to complain.
It has been over 11 years since that night and I have regretted it ever since. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God to forgive me for allowing that negative spirit to work through me that night.
The real reason I feel so bad about that particular night, is that in fact the church people had been absolutely wonderful to us. They treated us with respect. They often blessed us financially. They always encouraged us. They took us in when we had nothing to offer them in return and placed us in leadership. As I said they were wonderful to us!
I bare my soul today only to point out how simple it is at times to feel justified to complain. I believe it is true that the majority of people who complain, are complaining about people who they actually owe a great debt of gratitude to.
Some time ago we had a man in our church who was a graduate of the school of complaining. This guy had a Masters degree in it. At first, I thought he had a valid points. However, as the years went by and we all grew weary of his negative verbiage, we also began to see the real problem. In fact he was his own problem.
The people he complained about were actually wonderful people who he owed a great debt to. Even his boss who he often attacked, had to have been an angel to have kept this guy employed. The boss was actually trying to help the man by keeping him on. Yet all the time this guy did nothing but talk bad about him.
This man finally left our church. I am thankful for the strong folks in the church who would not listen to him destroy their Pastor. I am also thankful he is gone. I did not realize at the time how much of my energy was being spent trying to please a man who could never be pleased.
The day after he left, the sky was blue and the birds were again singing. In fact they were singing to me. They were singing me praises and telling me how good I am as a Pastor. They were singing these praises from the tops of the trees for all the world to hear. Opps...sorry about that...reality check! O.K. so it wasn't the birds, but it was one or two wonderful people who attended the church I Pastored. They saw what the man was trying to do and thwarted it with praises.
Praise someone today!
The title of my article is borrowed from a book of great truth. Some books, although not biblical in origin, bear great truth nonetheless. Had I read this book several weeks ago, I may have saved myself a great deal of labor.
Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo, is more than a child’s book of the Dr. Seuss series. It is in my opinion a manuscript of sacred truth often unrealized in the life of a leader.
Let me explain, in Because a Little Bug went Ka- Choo, Rosetta Stone describes the extreme chain of events that unfold as a result of a little bug sneezing. At first a seed is dropped. Of which a worm gets hit, who then gets mad and kicks a tree. Because he kicks the tree a coconut drops causing the turtle to get bopped… And so on until the final scene describes the entire town turned into utter chaos as fire trucks and town parades collide into a frenzied explosion of pandemonium.
A friend gave me this book the other night after I finished the complete renovation of her kitchen. The inscription she wrote inside the first page of the book says, “Jim, let this book be a reminder the next time someone calls you to help them install just a stove."
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Some leadership styles are role-specific, but several traits of leadership styles seem to work in all congregations.
Twelve Traits For Maximum Effect:
1. Spiritual consciousness. In the Middle Ages, being knighted gave someone a special relationship with the king. Likewise, the words and behavior of Christian leaders point people toward God.
2. Enthusiasm. Meaningful ideas delivered in a dull, listless manner can seem irrelevant. The same ideas communicated with enthusiasm can light the fire of commitment that leads to positive change.
3. Joyful attitude. Joyfulness and a sense of humor help people relax and enjoy their work. They also send the signal that having fun while working together is as important as the work itself.
4. Spiritual optimism. People who dispense the quality of hope in their conversation are appreciated like rain after a drought. They attract allegiance to themselves and their goals.
5. High energy level. Effective leaders can maintain a fast pace and juggle several demands simultaneously. As Lewis Carroll says in Alice in Wonderland, “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.”
6. Self- discipline. Some people accomplish two to six times as much as coworkers during a 40-hour week. Such productivity comes from a high-energy level charged by motivation and self-discipline.
7. Positive appearance. Neat apparel and shiny shoes do not bring people into the kingdom of God. But, if the package is shabby, people may not bother to examine its contents.[ read more...]
Twelve questions to keep your personal accounts in order.
- Am I content with who I am becoming? Every day I get one day closer to who I will ultimately be. Am I satisfied with who this will be?
- Am I becoming less religious and more spiritual? The difference: I can control religion, while spirituality controls me.
- Does my family recognize the authenticity of my spirituality? If I am growing spiritually, my family will recognize it.
- Do I have a flow-through philosophy? As a Christian I am to let the blessings flow through me to others.
- Do I have a quiet center to my life? There is an important difference between the fast track and the frantic track. Peace is the evidence of God.
- Have I defined my unique ministry? Unless you know the things you can do uniquely well, you end up doing many mediocre things just to please others.
- Is my prayer life improving? One test is: Do my decisions have prayer as an integral part, or do I make decisions out of my desires and then pray?
As the attack of Mansoul continued by Prince Emmanuel’s troops, the second captain came to the Ear Gate. The first attack had come from Captain Boanerges who was absolutely confident in what he had to say. Captain Conviction, whose main assistant was Mr. Sorrow, was just as confident but his attack on the Ear Gate came in a bit different manner. Their uniforms they wore were pale and their insignia was the book of the Law that issued a flame of fire. He said to the inhabitants:
‘Hear, O Mansoul! Thou, O Mansoul, wast once famous for innocency, but now thou art degenerated into lies and deceit. Thou hast heard what my brother, the Captain Boanerges, hath said; and it is your wisdom, and will be your happiness, to stoop to, and accept of conditions of peace and mercy when offered, especially when offered by one against whom thou hast rebelled, and one who is of power to tear thee in pieces, for so is Shaddai, our King; nor, when he is angry can anything stand before him. If you say you have not sinned, or acted rebellion against our King, the whole of your doings since the day that you cast off his service (and there was the beginning of your sin) will sufficiently testify against you. What else means your hearkening to the tyrant, and you’re receiving him for your king? What means else your rejecting of the laws of Shaddai, and your obeying of Diabolus? Yea, what means this you’re taking up of arms against, and the shutting of your gates upon us, the faithful servants of your King? Be ruled, then, and accept of my brother’s invitation, and over-stand not the time of mercy, but agree with thine adversary quickly. Ah! Mansoul, suffer not thyself to be kept from mercy, and to be run into a thousand miseries, by the flattering wiles of Diabolus. Perhaps that piece of deceit may attempt to make you believe that we seek our own profit in this our service; but know it is obedience to our King, and love to your happiness, that is the cause of this undertaking of ours.
‘Again I say to thee, O Mansoul, consider if it be not amazing grace that Shaddai should so humble himself as he doth: now he, by us, reasons with you, in a way of entreaty and sweet persuasions, that you would subject yourselves to him. Has he that need of you that we are sure you have of him? No, no; but he is merciful, and will not that Mansoul should die, but turn to him and live.’
Captain Conviction comes in and takes a different but just as effective method of preaching to Mansoul. Where Captain Boanerges relied on authority, Captain Conviction relies on passion and fervor. Notice how that he confronts them with their sin and their rebellion against God. He also establishes the fact that they have sold out their allegiances to a king who is far less superior to what King Shaddai had been toward them. He tells them that their actions are going to cause them increasing misery as time passes on if they do not respond to the gospel call. He tells them that they are to humble themselves before God because this is their only way of escape.
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The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
It is fair to say that Levi, or Matthew, was not a man of good character. He had accepted the office of tax-collector for the Romans. And being a Jew this did not go over too well. The Jews did not take too fondly to an office that put them in subject to the Romans. Therefore, they gave these tax-gatherers a bad name. They had a certain hatred for them.
But when Jesus went out looking for disciples to come and follow him, one of the first places he went was to this tax collecting booth and simply said to Levi (Matthew)"follow me." Levi, who was rejected by so many because of his occupation, was in disbelief that Jesus had sought him out and selected him on purpose. Luke writes that "he left all, rose up, and followed him. "
Jesus was used to hanging out with people who were down-trodden. First a leper, then a paralytic, and now a tax collector! If Jesus were running for public office he ought to be more careful about the company he is keeping. But Jesus has a higher mission than popularity: "to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18), and the needy aren't always clean or respectable.[ read more...]
Problems. If you're going to work with or minister to people, you are going to have problems. Sometimes big problems. Moses was one person in the scripture who had people problems. Millions of them. Everywhere he looked - people problems. How to feed them. How to water their livestock. How to settle their petty problems. How to settle their big problems. Where do the tents go? How about the toilets. Everywhere problems.
Surely with all these problems, the solution must be complex. Big problems should mean big, intricate, thoroughly researched and analyzed solutions - right? Not necessarily. In fact, very often, the solution to one's problem is asymmetric to the problem itself. Big problem, small solution.
When our problem is large or complex, we too often feel that the solution has to be the same. Because of this we usually miss the obvious, simple answer. In Moses' case, it took his shepherd father-in-law's simple mind to figure it out. A shepherd understands that a flock can get too big. When it does, it can begin to overgraze the fields and ruin the good pastures. This simple sheepherder was not educated by the most learned teachers of Egypt as Moses was, but he did understand something about having too many sheep in one place. He knew that when you have more sheep in a field than what that field can contain, you have to hire an under-shepherd to take part of the flock to another field. With that elementary laymen's thinking Moses was able to correct very simply, the extremely complex dilemma the nation of Israel had found herself in. Jethro told Moses to break the number of people down into smaller segments and then place leaders over these small segments. How simple.
The biggest problems that your ministry is facing today probably could very well be corrected with a simple solution. Too often however, we go shopping for the big answer: The complex answer. The expensive answer. The time consuming answer. Here's why: We focus on the negative instead of the positive. Seriously, nearly everyone does. Did you know that in the English language, 62 percent of the "emotion" words are negative, vs 38 percent that are positive. A group of psychologists once reviewed over two hundred articles and concluded that for a wide range of human behavior and perception, a general principle holds true: "Bad is stronger than good." Ask yourself, do you remember more of the bad that you hear about others or do you remember more of the good. A vastly larger audience of people remembers the bad instead of the good.[ read more...]