Leadership

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January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”

January 25

Monday, January 25th, 2021

It is easy to feel (what word am I looking for?) less or inferior. Read the Bible and one reads stories of men and women who display magnificent faith and trust in God. Abraham. Jeremiah. Isaiah. Samson. Elijah. Peter. Paul. And we feel less than. Maybe inferior is the right word. We read Hebrews 11 and see theses giants. We even call that passage God’s Hall of Faith. But take a closer look at some of those people.

  • Abraham. Twice he tried to pass Sarah, his wife, off as his sister. (If I tried to do that? Oh boy). Ran ahead of God and gave into Sarah’s “push” with Hagar to have a child.
  • Samson. God’s chosen leader was more interested in lust than leadership. In the end God used him to bring down the temple and defeat the Philistines.
  • Elijah. He defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel then runs from Jezebel and wallows in self-pity wishing he was dead. 
  • Peter. So afraid he denies Jesus three times. A few months later he is standing before the Jewish leaders saying he wouldn’t back down and stop preaching and wouldn’t shut up.
  • Paul. Murderer. Hater of Christians. Converted and he becomes the greatest missionary ever.

God takes us as weak and frail as we are and uses us. He infuses the weak, powerless people with His supernatural Power. That’s me. That’s you.  Will you make yourself available to Him?

“Father, replace my weakness with your power. I am not inferior because You don’t see that. You see a vessel You want to use.”

January 20

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

I have a confession to make and it pains me to do so. I always wanted to be one of those rare birds. You know, the one who could say, “I’m me. I am unique.” In a sense I can say that. I am those and more. I’ve always believed-and still do-that God made me as I am and there is no one else like me. But then again, I am not quite that unique that I don’t share some qualities with others. Here’s one:

I.     H.A.T.E.     W.A.I.T.I.N.G.

Well, maybe hate is a strong word. How about “despise passionately”? 🙂  Anyway, you get my drift. There are times I do well with waiting, especially when it is someone else waiting on a decision!! 🙂  But me? Not so. You would think I would have learned by now. But there are times I have a hard head…or is that a hard heart? I’ve seen God come through on so many levels in the past-big, small and medium- that I ought to relax and trust. But like so many others on this planet- followers of Christ or not- I want…

INSTANT FULFILLMENT. Now! Not tomorrow. Not even later. Now! But instant fulfillment, whether we are talking national or personal, or anything in between, may satisfy our desires but does little for the relationship between me and God or me and another person. Sometimes it is in the waiting that the greatest blessings come. Trusting God’s promises and trusting in His promises bring a rich reward. I get to watch and see God move. In the process I can also see my relationship with Him deepen. And what can be better than that?

“Father, help me to wait patiently and trust your heart for me.”

January 13

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I actually had two thoughts bouncing around in my head this morning and thought I would use them both. But I was unsure how to tie them in together. As you will see, that was not necessary. Maybe I’ll do the other one tomorrow.

My first thought was after reading Matthew 23. I’d encourage you to stop right now and read that chapter. If this is an “on-the-go” devo reading, I’ll summarize it for you. It is what is called the “7 Woe” passage, where Jesus pronounces 7 woes against the Pharisees. He’s blunt. He minces no words. I have a sneaking suspicion He wasn’t smiling trying to soften the blow of His words. I also have this feeling He didn’t look at the sky and drop His eyes and look at His feet. No, I can picture Jesus with eyes boring right through the chests and into the depths of every Pharisee’s heart and soul as He spoke.

He had enough of their hypocrisy. Let’s clarify that: self-righteous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one thing; self-righteous hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother level. I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. I know I am. Why do I say that? Because not always does my walk back my talk! Yep, that’s me. Saying one thing but doing another. I recognize that and can honestly say I don’t do it maliciously or purposely. That is the sinful nature, the old man in me, who wants to still make an appearance.

Self-righteous hypocrisy is different. It is doing something then trying to cover it up with self-righteous talk. Religious talk. It is looking down on someone but not acknowledging my own sin. That is Matthew 23 in a nutshell. The Pharisees could not see their own sin because of the self-righteous log in their own eye. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They were tombs and monuments that looked good on the outside but were fill with dead man’s bones. There is more, but you get the point. Time to stop being a self-righteous hypocrite and put the cards on the table.

“Father, help me to be real-to You, to myself, to others. You see me as I am. Help me to stop pretending.”

January 8

Friday, January 8th, 2021

It is my humble opinion that one of the hardest things to do is to accept blame-responsibility for something. As a younger pastor I can recall a number of times saying, “If this hadn’t happened” or “If this hadn’t been done” then none of what took place would have. I’m not as bad as I used to be, perhaps maturity has entered the picture (I hope) OR understanding God’s love and grace and plan more has made a change in me (my greater hope).

There is an old saying: “Remember, whenever you point a finger at someone there’s always 3 pointing back at you.” (I guess the thumb is a non-entity, an extra, but don’t cut it off!) Finger-pointing is nothing new. Do you remember the Garden story when God confronted Adam and Eve? What did they do? One thing they didn’t do was accept the blame. Nope, not them.

  • A: “The woman. It was her fault.”
  • E: “The serpent. It was his fault.”

That’s taking one for the team, isn’t it? Nope. And as you well know, nothing has changed. Like my feeble attempt to explain away, i.e refuse to accept responsibility for a failure or wrong action, we still do that. I suspect on a daily basis. Oh sure, we mature so we (hopefully) accept responsibility a little more readily, but I know within me there is still this little man pointing his finger at someone else. I wonder when that happens if that is a little bit of what Jesus was referring to in Mt.13:14-15. I realize that passage deals more with hearing the message but the same closed heart for the “seed” can be the same closed heart for hearing and accepting the truth. And responsibility.

Here’s a thought: For every time we accept responsibility and stop trying to pass the blame, perhaps grace has become more real to us. Grace helps us see ourselves as we truly are-definitely not as good as we think we are-but willing to accept responsibility for the mess.

“Father, help me to stop pointing fingers at someone or some thing and to start seeing ‘me’ as the culprit. Then help me to allow Your transforming grace to do its work.”

January 7

Thursday, January 7th, 2021

Who am I meant to be? A slight variation of that is the question asked by millions of people since the beginning of time: who am I? I think every teenager asks that question. In all honesty, it isn’t a question just for teens. I know adults-in their 20s, 30s, 40s- who still wonder what they are here for. I’m one of them.  I should say I used to be.

My mother once told for as long as she can remember I talked about being a pastor. Other than the unrealistic dream of being a professional baseball or basketball player, I never dreamed of being a fireman or policeman or any of the other “hero” vocations. Except for a 2-year period (6th-7th grade) where I spread my wings verbally (you can draw your own conclusions), I always had a heart for God. I stood out like a sore thumb in high school when I wouldn’t fight, riot or even go out Friday night to get drunk so I could throw up and drink some more. How stupid is that? But even though my heart leaned toward, and even though I did become a pastor, there have been times I’ve questioned that. When I got fired or dismissed. When the church failed to grow. When my own heart grew cold and sometimes bitter. When I stood and compared myself to others. It was tough but what brought me back was knowing what I was created for. Two things: 1) I was made by God to have a fully restored relationship with Him; and 2) I was made to be transformed by Him.  It’s the icing on the cake.  It’s the cherry on top of the ice cream.  Everything else is, well, superfluous.

“Father, I was created by You to be Yours and to be transformed by You. Please do Your work in me so I will know my purpose.”

December 23

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

When I was a youngster, and if I was a betting man/boy, I would have bet my last dollar (which I had none of back then) that my mother had eyes in the back of her head. She was like “See all/know all” to me. I had 3 brothers-all younger- and we all had the “Not me’s.” I’m sure you have probably seen that Family Circle comic strip where the mom asks “who did it?” and they all say, “Not me.” Well, I think the cartoonist had it right and must have used my family as the model for that particular day. I can remember there being a time that something would happen or something was missing and mom would line us all up and say, “Okay, who did it?” Not even the “It is better to tell the truth than get caught lying” line would stop the “Not me” from flowing out of our mouths. But strangely mom would say, “Okay, Robin or Garry or Curt (never Bill), why did you do it?” and the cover would be thrown off the perpetrator.

You know, I may have escaped my mother’s piercing eyes (and disappointment) but with God it is different. As Paul David Tripp writes:

God’s grace will expose what you want to hide, not to shame you, but to forgive and deliver you.” (40 Days of Grace- Day 4-P.14)

Little did I, or my brothers, know that revealing to mom our (there I admitted it) infraction actually set us free. We didn’t have to skulk around like Golem wondering if we were going to get caught. And we no longer have to hide our sin (we can’t anyway). God’s grace brings that sin out into the light and pierces it, obliterates it. Exposes it. All for the better.

“Father, you have shined your light of grace on my sin. You have exposed it so it cannot control me. Thank you.”

December 22

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

These days, in fact many days in the past, Christmas gift-giving in our household is an interesting study in perplexity.  As in most households, we start asking, “What would you like for Christmas?” around or before Thanksgiving Day. Tami and Janna have always been fairly easy to buy for since they were pretty much upfront with their list. Braden is not so upfront but I figure Ohio State or Reds clothing or a gift card to Dick’s or Chik-fil-A will do him well. I’m pretty content with what I already have so I would suggest a gift certificate to a bicycle site (names included) and some jigsaw puzzle sites. It didn’t matter though because for the most part those suggestions were ignored. 🙂 But Jo?? She is extremely hard to buy for. She doesn’t wear jewelry (for which I am grateful for since I see what some wear and its cost). She doesn’t even wear a watch. Her Fitbit is most often in her pocket. She doesn’t wear perfume very often and was always picky as to what she would wear (Coty Wild Musk was a favorite). I don’t dare buy her clothes. Too big or too small I can’t win! 🙂

So one year I decided I wasn’t buying anything. I decided I was going to give myself. How’s that for a real treat? I made each one of them a booklet of 12 coupons. Any time during the month stated they could cash it in. I’m not very handy or creative so I can’t remember much about it. I do KNOW they liked the Date Night-a meal and doing whatever they wanted. I remember Janna and I actually seeing Back to the Future 3 on one of them.

Point: The greatest gift we could give each other is ourselves.  While other gifts fade away, that one lasts forever and there are no returns. No too big or too small. No wrong color.  There is, however, lasting impact and unforgettable memories. Give the best gift possible…YOURSELF.

“Father, you gave yourself in the person of Jesus. ‘The Word became flesh’ is the way it is put. May I always remember it isn’t the presents under the tree that matters but my presence.”

December 21

Monday, December 21st, 2020

I want to continue with some thoughts that further my devotion of December 18. I had them then but word limit tends to keep a restraint on me. And that’s good! 🙂

There is no doubt that Christmas is a unique time. While we (especially pastors) say, “Take some time to reflect on the birth of Jesus, etc during this holiday season,” the busyness belies that. No one has a handle on slowing down during this season, except for maybe the hermit in a remote cabin who has no cell phone, Amazon, or endless Hallmark movies. 🙂  According to Chuck Swindoll there are four dangers we must be aware of.

  1. There is the doctrinal danger of substituting the temporal for the eternal. Let’s ask ourselves this: Why are we celebrating Christmas? Seriously. And please don’t flippantly give me the old “It’s Jesus’ birthday” answer. Seriously now, why?
  2. There is the personal danger of impressing but not imparting. What does it say to others when we are just as frazzled as our friends and neighbors? Are we trying to impress others or share some love, joy, and peace…the real kind?
  3. There is the economic danger of spending more than we have. I can hear Dave Ramsey now! I’m grateful for his material. And I’m grateful for my bank’s Christmas Club. I have only so much to spend. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
  4. There is the psychological danger of getting built up for a letdown. I hate to admit it but a lot of Christmas is hype. What will we do when the “high” is over?

We offhandedly say, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” Let’s make it a reality, not a slick saying. “Father, help me to be a leader in celebrating Christmas. Not the hype but the beauty and passion of the Christmas story.” 

December 17

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

This is Day #3-the third and final day-of my thoughts on ideas found in the Introduction of Paul David Tripp’s little book 40 Days of Grace. I’d like to suggest you read Day 1 (December 15) and Day 2 (December 16) in order to prepare yourself for today’s thoughts.

There is a big different between “will” and “might” or “possibly.” In this final devotion, Tripp lists several ideas of what Grace will do.  Here they are:

  • Grace will remind you again and again that you have no ability whatsoever  to earn God’s favor, but it will dispel your fear of not measuring up. I could linger on this one a long time. How many go through life living in this fear?
  • Grace will repeatedly put you in your place will never harm you by putting you down.  I have to ask this question: Am I really a worm Mr. Watts? ( Think the hymn “Alas and did my Savior bleed?)
  • Grace will call you to examine yourself with honesty and humility, but will free you from being paralyzed by fearful introspection. It is good to examine; harmful to bludgeon.
  • Grace will keep reminding you of what you are not so you will receive God’s welcome to what you can now be. That is the result of a new life in Christ.
  • Grace will blow up your little kingdom of one while it introduces you to a much better, more glorious King. My kingdom of one is such a small package.

Grace is more than just a story, it’s more than just a theology, and it’s more than just a powerful force-no, grace is a person, and His name is Jesus. Jesus is the grace of God.

Celebrate Jesus. Celebrate grace. I’m typing this in my office and I just looked up from the computer to take a drink of my nutrition shake and saw a plaque I have above me on the shelf of my desk: Grace changes everything.  How can I argue with that?

“Thank you, Father, for your grace. Thank you for the impact it has made on my life and continues to make. Help me to celebrate Jesus.”

The comments in blue are quotes of Tripp’s from his book.