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Ever had one? One of those days where you wish you would have stayed in bed? I had one last week. Well, actually I had two of them in a row. My boy Jeremy had just gotten the cast off his arm from the break he received when he fell out of the tree 2 months ago. So, Thursday evening, we decided to take our dirt bikes out and go riding. We had ridden about an hour when Jer flipped his bike on a jump and it landed on his foot, thus breaking it. So to the house we go to get a few things before we head to the emergency room. Before we leave the house though, we should let Molly out. Molly is our 5 pound Maltese. The baby of the family. She is almost ready to come into the house when the neighbors dog comes over and mauls her. She wasn't hurt badly, only bruised and frightened, but we don't have time to comfort her because Jeremy is needing to go get X- rays. This has turned out to be a very bad day.
I wake up Friday morning, thinking, O. K. the worst is behind us. It's a brand new day, right?! Wrong. All I did was turn my head and sneeze. That's all. But now my neck has gone into a spasm and the vertebrae are out and I can't move my neck in any direction more than an inch without causing excruciating pain. So I lay on the bed for an hour. Unable to move. (6 days, and 2 chiropractor appointments later, I'm still in pain.) Boy this is starting out to be a bad day. Unable to get an appointment with a chiropractor, I suffered though a very painful day at the computer, with set back after set back on site development. Finally after a long, frustrating, painful day, my wife and I (still suffering) go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
Two hours later the phone rings. It's Kristi, our 17 year old. She was driving back from church camp, a 2.5 hour drive from Indianapolis and fell asleep at the wheel. All she could tell us was that she was in a wreck. She didn't know where she was at and the car is totaled. We asked her if anyone had stopped to help her. "No". "Do you see any road signs?" Frantic and in shock, she replied in tears, "No, I don't know where I'm at." I cannot tell you how fearful my wife and I were. Not only were we not able to tell the police where she was, but we really did not know her condition since she was in shock and unable to tell us very much.
Guessing her time of departure and the approximate distance in the trip, I called the State Police and told them the situation and to look for her on Route 65 between Rensselaer and Lowe, about a 60 mile stretch. Amazingly the phone rings 10 minutes later and the fire department has found her 1 mile off the exit ramp from Rensselaer To our relief she is bruised, but ok. God really had his hand on her. She hit the guardrail at around 65 MPH, completely destroying the guardrail and totaled out the car.
But God is good isn't He! At the end of a second very bad day, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms and thank God for keeping her from certain death. Holding her, I realized that by all rights, we should be in a hospital room seeing the worst.
We can complain about the neck spasms, dog fights, broken bones, and bad days at the office, but when it's all over we really just need to stop and thank the Lord for breath. Thank Him for our children. Thank Him for a job, any job. We would complain about the old junk car that we are driving, but we need to notice the old lady walking home from the grocery store with bags in her arms and a long walk ahead of her. How blessed we really are.
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Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me again today. Someone said I said something that I didn’t. They did it to defend themselves and their lifestyle of sin. I guess they figured if they could make me look small, it would somehow make them bigger, or at least more righteous.
Several years ago, I realized that people will (dog) the Pastor or the church in order to make themselves appear better than the church. This way, when someone comes to invite them to church, they can use this as a way of saying, “your Pastor is no better than I am. Why should I come to your church?!” And boy if you did say what they said you said. Or if you did what they said you did, now they have every reason in the world to never come to church. As if by some miracle, you were as wise as Solomon and did everything perfectly.
I believe Jesus understood this. Mary and Martha would have blamed Him for their brother’s sickness and death, but the fact of the matter was it was their own lack of faith that allowed their brother to die. And for their lack of faith, Jesus wept. Adam himself wanted to blame his wife for his own sin. As much as Eve did play some part in tempting Adam, the real one at fault was no one else but Adam.
I’m sure if you have been in ministry long at all, you have counseled people only to have them use your good counsel to try to destroy your character and reputation. Personally, I refuse to allow other peoples sin to affect me. When they want to make excuses and bring my name into the situation, I have decided to quickly turn the conversation around and allow light to come into the problem. “The real reason there is a situation, is you have had an affaire, not that I counseled you or did not counsel you about this.” I think you get my thinking here. There are several examples I could give.
“My brother would have lived if you would have been here Jesus”. No, he would have lived if you would have prayed for him to live. Why bring my name into your faithlessness. “My family would have stayed together if the Pastor would have spent more time with us.” No, your family would still be together if you would have slept in your own bed. “I’d still be in the church if that Pastor wouldn’t have offended me with his preaching.” The only thing that is offended by good preaching, is sin. Why don’t you confess your faults and be healed instead of blaming the Pastor for your unrighteous lifestyle.[ read more...]
As leaders, we have all been guilty of getting excited and all fired up to start a new project. In our excitement, we call our leadership teams together, plan it all out and set it in motion, without first answering all of the questions that need to be answered. This is great for creating momentum, but before you begin, ask yourself and your team of leaders if you will be able to sustain everything that you start.
· If you don't have the right people in place to make it happen, it may be that you need to refrain from starting until you have the right people trained to take on the new project.
Jesus was a great example to us in this.
Think of what God's ultimate plan was. God was bringing into existence the New Testament plan of Salvation. To institute this plan, He robed Himself in flesh and became the Supreme sacrifice for all sin for all of time! That was the first part of His plan. In order for this plan to continue, Jesus needed the right people to make it happen.
In three years time, Jesus needed to have the right people trained and in place, and ready to carry on His ministry by the day He ascended into Heaven. That is why Jesus so often said, "My hour is not yet come", or "It is not my time." Jesus wanted to be sure that He had His disciples ready and willing to carry on His work after Calvary. He wanted it to succeed. It had to continue. It must not fail![ read more...]
One of the perceived obstacles to winning people to Christ is that the convictions we hold are not attractive to the world. I beg to differ with that. If the convictions we hold are no different than those of the world then why would they want what they already have? Why would they be attracted to what we have? Attraction, by definition, means to draw an object away from one thing towards another. The law of attraction states that the force doing the attracting has to be greater than the force holding back.
What we have is much greater than what the world has;
1 John 4:4
4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Still, there is this perceived notion, that what we have is not what this world wants. Even though we know what we have is greater, the world doesn't know. They will not be attracted to what we have unless they can see it for themselves.
In 605 BC, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem. Instead of destroying the nation, Babylon decided to destroy Israel's identity and culture. They turned Israel into a slave state. In the process of doing so, they selected the most promising children of Israel and shipped them off to be immersed into Babylonian culture.
At least four of these children were taken to the king's palace. Daniel was one of these four. He would be given and new name, a new wardrobe and taught a new language. Daniel did not protest these changes to his identity. Who could blame him? It seemed as if God had abandoned him.
Then the king asked one more thing of Daniel;
5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
This is where Daniel drew the line. Consuming the king's meat and drink meant that Daniel would be eating meat offered to the false gods of Babylon. He would not have any part of it. So Daniel asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat the king's food. This presented a serious problem for the chief of staff. He was responsible to the king for these four boys. If he gave this permission and they became pale and thin, the king would have his head. This man was not attracted by Daniel's conviction. In fact, he wanted nothing to do with it.
Daniel responded to this in unique way. We can all learn from what he did;
Dan 1:11-15 NLT
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
12 "Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said.
13 "At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's food. Then make your decision in light of what you see."
14 The attendant agreed to Daniel's suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.[ read more...]
Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rows upon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very good and can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. I personally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have read over the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact, microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader.
There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins has written. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build a Fortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously to an exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful, there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobs made Apple successful. Once a spiritual leader buys into that particular idea that he can build a spiritual church with the same techniques that a profit-driven company is built, he deceives himself and he will create spiritual mayhem with the sheep he is meant to feed.
Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It is important to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because our motives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead toward tendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by being status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He will have a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by being an extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his true feelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on the church, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extreme authoritarianism.
There are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsive leader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency to minimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. He will also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats in personal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He may even say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you oppose me you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock star for a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord.
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While musing on the things of God, my thoughts began to ponder modern day pulpit preaching in churches and gatherings around the world. I thought about the many presentation styles I have seen, the expectations of the audiences, the tantalizing titles, the packaging of sermons for media sales, books published consisting of the author’s sermons, the humanistic rankings and comparisons of our favorite preachers, and so forth. I smiled thinking that just as kids might argue with one another, “My dad can beat up your dad,” or, “My mommy is prettier than your mommy”, we might also argue that, “My pastor can preach better than your pastor”. We all tend to be pretty human at times.
This led me to meditate on the evolution of preaching just over the last century. I wondered what changes came about after Bible colleges and seminaries began teaching students about exegesis, hermeneutics, extrapolation, and the fine art of sermon preparation? How did the invention of the public address system change the delivery of preaching? How have Power Point, Bible software, and multimedia projection altered sermon preparation and presentation styles? What differences have radio, television, audio and video recorders, cameras, live streaming, and social media made? Should these and other innovations have had any impact at all on the delivery of God’s Word?[ read more...]
1. A vision begins as a concern.
As a pastor, you probably have a vision of great revival for your city. But it began as a concern for souls, then it grew into a burden for souls. It grew till it consumed your thoughts. This is the birthplace of vision. God has placed that vision there.
2. A vision does not necessarily require immediate action.
When God speaks to you, he may not be giving you a vision for the immediate. God’s timing is not our timing. When David was anointed king, he did not take the throne for many years. He went through many hardships before he finally became king.
3. Pray for opportunities and plan as if you expect God to answer your prayers.
The Bible says that the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord. Begin to pray for the right people and opportunities to be brought into your life...God will order your steps.
4. God is using your circumstances to position and prepare you to accomplish His vision for your life.
Don't let your situation blind your vision. God will use a situation that seems totally opposite of your vision to enable you to accomplish it.
Think of Joseph, he literally had a dream of his brothers bowing down to him, the sun, the moon, and the stars made obeisance to him...he was going to be a ruler of people. Of course that didn't happen for a long time, God used circumstance after circumstance to prepare him for that vision. Joseph could have easily become blinded by each of those, but instead God used each situation to advance him closer to His dream.
5. What God originates, he orchestrates.
If God started it, He will finish it. Many are the times when we can't see the way through, but nothing shall be impossible with God. The Red Sea crossing is a beautiful example of God orchestrating Moses' vision of deliverance for his people.
6. Walk before you talk; investigate before you initiate.
Remember a vision does not require immediate action, a lot of planning and preparation needs to be done in advance.
7. Communicate your vision as a solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately.
Jesus told his disciples, 'the harvest is great but the laborers are few.' Later in the book of John, Jesus said, "The fields are already white to harvest." Jesus was communicating His vision to His disciples in a way they could understand. Fields turn white after they turn golden, today we harvest golden fields of grain. In essence, Jesus was saying, It is almost too late for this harvest, I need laborers right now!
8. Cast your vision to the appropriate people at the appropriate time.
In Acts, chapter one, Jesus has some very important words for some very important people. He waited until this very critical time to cast His vision to them. The Holy Ghost would come after He ascended to heaven, and the Holy Ghost would give them power to be witnesses to all people.
It is very interesting to note that the number of people there was 120. This was the exact number which the Jewish people required to form a council in any city. There were others who had been followers of Jesus, but for one reason or another had departed from this group.
Jesus used these last words to cast His vision for mankind to the appropriate people at the perfect time. The result was life changing revival for millions of people around the world even to this day!
9. Don't expect others to take greater risks or make greater sacrifices than you have.[ read more...]
In his research of leaders, both historical and contemporary, author Robert Clinton found that few leaders actually finish the race well. His two books, The Making of a Leader (NavPress) and The Mentor Handbook (Barnabas), explain that finishing well could be defined as a life that until its end is increasingly more in love with Christ, more committed to His service and more devoted to godly leadership.
What causes a leader to continue to grow, to stay on track and to finish well in life and ministry?
Five Habits of effectiveness. Effective leaders learn to become intentional about their character growth and formation. In this development of a leader we can make three general observations:
- God develops a leader over a lifetime;
- God uses people, circumstances and ministry assignments to shape the life of a leader; and
- Leadership plateau is often indicative of a growth issue within a leader's life.
To help us become more intentional about our health as leaders, let's explore five insights from leaders who have finished well.
- Healthy leaders are lifelong learners. Leaders pursue three types of training: personal training, (personal growth, projects, personal research); informal training (workshops, seminars, conferences); and formal training (continuing education, degree programs).
- Healthy leaders are committed to serve and develop others. Be alert to potential leaders in your sphere of influence (II Cor. 1:3-4; II Tim. 2:2).
What are some of the principles that greatly impact our lives and help us become mature, growing, productive people? Listed are principles to guide your life:
- Your attitude determines your altitude.
- It’s not what happens to a person, but what happens in a person that makes the difference.
- Every problem has a hidden possibility and a seed of victory in it.
- Failure is not final. Learn from it and go on.
- Limitations are guidelines, not stop signs.
- Expect the best and express the best.
- There is not much difference between success and failure. The successful usually gave just a little bit more.
- Each person can increase a little. You can improve your attitude, relationships, priorities, determination and credibility a little each day.
- Helping others succeed helps you to succeed.
- Be yourself – that’s who God made.
- People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Live what you teach.
- Pay now and play later.
There’s a difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving and planning. If you go to any management course, you’ll find it revolves around those three things. But leadership consists of communicating your Vision and Values.
If you don’t clarify the purposes as the leader, who will?
Here are a few guidelines:
Believe it or not, the bigger your vision, the easier it is to reach. People are rarely motivated by small visions. They will follow a big vision easier than a little one. People need a purpose. Giving them a grand vision will enable them to connect as some level with that vision. If your vision is narrow, you may fail to interest some people. However, if your vision is large, it will leave plenty of room for others to get involved.
Don’t worry about solving the problem before casting the vision. A good example of visionary leadership would be the United States President, John F. Kennedy. Regardless of what you think about his politics, Kennedy stood up one day in the early 1960’s and said, “We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” He was clear; he was precise; and the vision was something people could look to. Now, here’s the interesting thing – when he said it, the technology to put a man on the moon hadn’t even been developed. That’s visionary leadership! Just because you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle just yet, does not mean that you can't share the vision. Let others come along side you who will bring those pieces to the table.
Your God determines how big your goal is. So, how big do you think God is? The issue is not who do you think you are, but who do you think God is? In your dreams for ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do? What can God do in this place?” Then, use every single tool and resource that God puts in front of you - no matter what it looks like. Judging whether or not a resource if "of God" will limit God's ability to bless you in your work for Him.[ read more...]