Leadership

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October 17

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Telling the Truth vs Blowing Doors Off.

No matter what men may say; no matter how blustery they get; no matter how often a person might say, “Tell me the truth;” there are times hearing the truth is hard to take…especially when it is delivered by the wrong person or mean-spiritedly. I have met people who take pride in “telling it like it is” and I honestly don’t mind that. But sometimes that person just doesn’t know how to say it.

Receiving it is often not any easier to take. No matter how vocal the person is-“Tell me straight out”- important words are often accepted like fingernails on a chalkboard (you do remember what those are don’t you?).  Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Truth delivered in the right spirit to a person’s heart that is receptive to that truth is a good thing. The man of understanding- as Proverbs describes him- accepts the truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but the man of understanding grasps its intent. I’ve been on the receiving end of some much-needed reproof. Someone being honest with me, confronting me about something I’ve said or done. Hearing it is not fun, but essential.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and even harder to accept. But if it is from God, then I need to hear it. I can be obstinate and stubborn (the rest of 17:10 call that being a fool), or accepting and grateful someone loved me enough to tell the truth.

“Father, this all depends on the state of my heart also. Will I accept the reproof/rebuke or reject it? Help me not to be obstinate or too proud to hear what you are saying to me.”

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Today is Braden’s 13th birthday. Jo and I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. Interesting I should read this today from Proverbs 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (v.6a).  Not too thrilled about the aged part, 🙂 but absolutely excited and thrilled by the grandson/grandfather part. “Lord, you know the prayer I began praying the moment I heard Janna was pregnant. Please hear my heart and bring it to fruit.”

The being said, I will not be posting tomorrow morning as we will be spending the night in Ohio; I will not have a computer; and we are bringing him back for the weekend so Tami can see him. Prayers for safe travel are appreciated.

October 16

Wednesday, October 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is My Steps vs God’s Plan.

Like every child, I was often asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” (I was just asked that the other day.  Hmmmmm.  I kid. 🙂 )  I started playing baseball when I was 8 years old. There was no such thing as T-ball or coach pitch back then. I fell in love with baseball and from someone who knew nothing at all about the sport, I developed into a decent pitcher and first baseman. I wanted to be a professional baseball player.  Later, sometime around my 7th-8th grade years I remember reading a series of books on an untameable horse on an island and told my dad I wanted to be a rancher. He laughed. I grew up near Pittsburgh, the land of steel mills not horses. 🙂  Then I got into basketball in 9th grade and didn’t know how to even dribble a basketball, let alone dribble and run at the same time. I spent endless hours on the side of the court leaning how. But practice and hard work got me to a decent place. So much so I wanted to play professional ball. That would have never happened. College was the end of that. My mom used to say when all the other boys were talking policeman, fireman, heavy equipment operator or some other “hero” job, I expressed an interest in being a pastor. Well, I guess we know how my “when-I-grow-up” scenario turned out!

I thought of that when I read two verses from Proverbs 16 today. “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (v.3) and “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (v.9).

I guess we know whose way won out! My steps were established by God…not me. All those dreams of grandeur as a child were good, but in the end, they were just pipe dreams. From before my birth, eternity was stamped on my heart by God’s indelible hand print. He told Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” (1:5)

God chose Jeremiah. God chose me. God chose you. God ordered Jeremiah’s steps. God ordered (and still is) my steps. God ordered (and still is) your steps. Jeremiah was His. I am His. You are His. How much better to say, “Have your way Lord” than to say, “I’m going my own way Lord.”

“Father, I’m fulfilling Your purpose for me. It wasn’t in sports or some other pursuit. I’m being and doing what You want. You plan is better.”

October 15

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

I’m less than a day removed from cataract surgery in one eye (the other comes next Monday). I go back today for an exam and they will pop out the right lens of my glasses. I’m guessing that will help with the blurred vision.  So, that’s my excuse for errors in my typing today.  🙂

My  title for today’s devotion is Encouragement vs Discouragement.

“And seldom is heard and discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That’s a refrain from a cowboy song of yesteryear: Home, Home on the Range. It is, of course, sort of a Pollyanna song and view of life. It’s simply not possible to go through life without some discouragement.

But…I can go a long way toward not being part of that discouragement simply by watching what I say. Today’s devotion is a bit of a piggyback of yesterday’s on speaking too quickly (losing our temper) vs allowing time between what happens and our words. Today’s has more to do with what I say. Are the words I say encouraging someone or discouraging someone?

Proverbs 15:26b says, “…but gracious words are pure.”  Verse 30 adds, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.”  Those verses tell me my reaction to others and events and their response, is largely determined by the way it is presented. That also reminds me that what I say is important but the way  I say it is equally important. Some questions flood my mind. Do I pass along good words? Kind words? Gracious words? Or do I pass along words that sting and hurt and are like barbs to a person’s soul? Are my words encouraging or discouraging someone? Do they rejoice someone’s heart and refresh someone’s bones?

Some people seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Do my words ease that burden or do they add to it and make it heavier? There is no doubt in my mind what and which words the Father would have me use and share.

“Father, may my words be those which lift other’s up. May they be words which echo Proverbs 15:30 and lift a heart and refresh the bones. Let my words today be words of encouragement and not discouragement. To put it another way: let them be words of life.”

October 10-11/Weekend Extra

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

I was in Ohio the past couple of days and didn’t take my computer so I am using my journal entry from Thursday morning to be my entry for this weekend.

My title for this devotion is Holy Speech vs Vulgar Speech.

I’ve been hit two ways this morning. First, in my Scripture reading from Proverbs 10: 11 & 19- “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

Then as I sat waiting for Jo while she was taking care of some things, I was listening to my Spotify playlist and “Only a Holy God” by CityAlight came on.

I know I’m from the older generation (you know how it pains me to say that?  🙂 ), especially as a pastor, so what I’m thinking comes from that perspective. I have noticed some common characteristics of the younger generation of pastors. They seem to be a generation (and I am making a general statement here) that loves their beer (especially); loves their cigars or pipes; and loves to use salty language. Not all but many. There was some of that in my generation, to be sure, but it seems more acceptable and widespread today. I’m not judging someone who wants to down a beer or two or smoke a cigar or pipe (I have done neither), but I’m more concerned about the words that flow from the mouth, sometimes indiscriminately. I  keep thinking of James’ words in chapter 3: “Can blessing and cursing come from the same mouth? My brothers these things should not be.” I’m not young and Many younger pastors seem to be taking the freedom in Christ and His grace a little too lightly. In my mind and heart, vulgarity has no place in the pulpit or even in everyday language. And even though it is not considered vulgar or blasphemous, I cringe every  time I hear the word “sucks” or “screwed” in conversation, let alone from the pulpit. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe godly speech is or ought to be one of the hallmarks of a man of God. I reiterate: I’m referring to a pastor or someone who feels God’s calling on his life.

And lest it be perceived I’m only shouting at those who cuss or swear, how about those of us who gossip? Or belittle? Or those who shade our words with sexual innuendo? Or criticize? Or (fill in the blank)? And so yes, I’m including myself. My speech in total reflects my heart and who controls it.

“Father, may my speech be that which builds up and encourages rather than tear down. May it glorify You in all ways and in all things. As the song says and Ecclesiastes 5:2 repeats: “Let my words be few.” All for You and for Your glory.”

Here is the CityAlight song that got to me.

October 4/Weekend

Friday, October 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Clear Conscience vs Guilty Conscience.

I’ve been reading slowly and digesting as slowly John MacArthur’s short book called Remaining Faithful in Ministry. It is subtitled “9 Essentials for Every Pastor”. There has been some very valuable information passed on (not just for pastors but for all Christ-followers). In what I read today I gleaned the following:

That is the value of keeping a pure heart (Paul’s response in 2 Cor. 1:13 to false accusations). It doesn’t matter what comes at you; if your conscience is clear, no accusation sticks. The conscience is a gift from God. It’s like a skylight or a window, not a lamp. In and of itself, it’s not a source of light, but when kept clear and illuminated by God, the conscience let’s in that light-even in a world of darkness. Conscience is an invaluable tool for revealing our true motives. A clear and biblically informed conscience will either accuse or excuse us, depending on whether we are guilty or innocent. (p.37)

That’s correct in what it says. But what if we do something so much our conscience no longer has the ability to discern right from wrong? What happens if we do something so often we are no longer able to see it as wrong?

That is a problem, but there is also a solution. It is found in a daily submission to God and His Word. It is grounded in the daily desire to be holy. Did not Jesus Himself not say, “For out of the heart comes…?” Submission on a daily basis is necessary for me to keep an active and clear conscience.

“Father, help me to find myself going to You and Your Word for my direction. May my daily strength and guidance be found in You. Please help me keep my conscience pure.”

 

September 26

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Preaching Myself vs Preaching Christ.

If you have had a chance to read my other blog you can read between the lines and see I’ve been asking myself about my role, my purpose, as a pastor. Even though I am 66 and in less than two weeks will turn 67, I still love what I do and do not see retirement on the horizon any time soon. So I think its healthy to ask questions and do introspection upon occasion. Guilty as charged. You’ve caught me voicing my questions.

I’m reading Job right now, which can be a challenge on its own. 🙂  But I’m also reading Remaining Faithful in Ministry by John MacArthur. The following quote from his short little book caught my attention this morning. In the Introduction he wrote these words:

The gospel is a message about Jesus, and at all times He is to be the singular focus of the message we proclaim. False apostles and hirelings always seem to find a way to shift attention to the themselves. They make themselves the central character of every anecdote. They point themselves as the hero of every story they tell. Thus they make their preaching little more than a display of their own egos. Pulpits today are full of men who constantly preach themselves. (p.15)

Ouch! That is a rather sobering and scathing observation and rebuke. Sadly, it is true. I wish I could say I was innocent of that. I shudder when I think about how often I preached and it was more about my ego, my impressiveness, than it was Him and the fame of His Name. That’s enough to give even the most hardy person nightmares. I know I cringe when I reflect back over my years of ministry. Ugly.

But its not too late! With what remaining years I have left it needs to be all about Him. What about you?

“Father, my prayers this morning is for my life to be all about You. My preaching. My teaching. My talking. My laughing. All about You and the fame of Your Name.”

September 2

Monday, September 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Placing Blame or Taking Responsibility.

One of the escapes of many people is placing blame. The idea of taking responsibility for their sin, their mistakes, or ever their job is not on their radar. It seems to be much more “reasonable” to place blame than to take responsibility.

This came to me as I reflected on today’s meaning (Labor Day) and as I read Nehemiah 1-2. Hang in there with me as I make the connection. Nehemiah sees taking responsibility as a very serious thing in two ways:

  1. In Nehemiah 1 he hears about the broken down walls in his hometown (Jerusalem) and immediately prays. He first praises God then asks him to listen. But what struck me was the end of verse 6. As he asks forgiveness for the sins of the people, all of a sudden he says, “Even I and my father’s house have sinned.” That seems strangely familiar to Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 6.
  2. The second, and different, area of taking responsibility is in chapter 2. Given leave of his job as cupbearer by the king, Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem where he inspected the walls at night and “rallied the troops” to take on the job of rebuilding the walls. These words are jewels: “Come, let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that we may not suffer derision.” (2:17). Notice the use of the words “us/we” in that statement. Their response had to be music to Nehemiah’s ears: “Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” (2:18b)

Nehemiah could have stayed in his cush job as the king’s cupbearer.  Instead he took responsibility-for both his sins and for rebuilding the walls. It is way too easy and way too common to pass the buck onto others. Taking responsibility is the real way to go-for sin and for doing what needs done.

“Help me, Father, to be one who takes responsibility for my sin. Blaming someone else as the cause or pointing a finger at someone is not the way of the Christ-follower. Nor is letting things go so someone else can do it. Help me to take responsibility where I need to.”

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Even though Jo and I leave later this afternoon for our trip to Alaska, I wanted to post this morning. I also hope you will tune into this blog each day as I left you a special message. Have a great week! Thanks for reading.

August 30/Weekend

Friday, August 30th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Remembering vs Forgetting.

I’ve been reading the book of Ezra the past 3 days in my Quiet Time. While the beginning of it is rather dry with a list and number of exiles, there are several turning points:

  • Ezra 3:11- “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
  • The response of King Artexerxes to the letter about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and his negative response. The rebuilding stopped.
  • But King Darius changed that and made the decree that the rebuilding happen.
  • In chapter 7 Ezra is sent to teach the people the Word of God. Artexerxes changed his mind. (I don’t know the timeline but was he the same king ruling when Queen Esther approached him? And when was this?)
  • Today’s reading was a stab. After Ezra’s leading brought about reform and repentance, word came to him about the intermarriage of priests to the foreigners. The people confessed their sin and abandoned the intermarriage. Even a list is given of those who did!

Returning to Jerusalem was a great gift from God. Even Psalm 126 shows that. But with that return came some heart-wrenching decisions. Yes, there was joy. Yes, there was laughter, singing and recognition of God’s work. But there was also the need for remembering what was to be. Not a dead book at all…Ezra…but a book filled with joy and caution and warning.

“Father, help me not to forget that along with joy also comes a word from you about faithfulness. I need to remember who you are but also that you want faithfulness.”

August 29

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Poor vs Rich.

We live in a day and age when wealth is king. Actually, I guess it has always been that way. The saying is “The rich get richer; the poor get poorer.” And I suspect in most circles, and in most people’s way of thinking, that is true.

But there is something much greater than being rich. Integrity. There is a lot of talk, especially in Proverbs, about the rich and the poor. There is also a lot written about integrity. One of the most pointed is in Proverbs 28:6: “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” There are so many ways to look at that verse and make application. One I’ll make right here: “What good is it to be rich but not have integrity?

I was speaking recently to a businesswoman in my community and she said something to the effect of “I’m a businesswoman in this community. My reputation for honesty is everything. If I don’t have that I don’t have anything.” She was speaking of integrity and she’s right. Consider those who bring a business or organization back from the brink of ruin due to a lack of integrity of the former owners/managers/etc. The new owners stake their reputation on their integrity.

As a pastor, the quickest way to lose influence is lose integrity. A teacher? The same? Doctor? Nurse? Waitress? The same for all.

There is, obviously, nothing wrong with being rich or wealthy. Unless it was gotten by mismanagement, theft, lying, or other nefarious means. What is missing in all of that? Integrity. It is better to be poor (or not so well off) with integrity than rich without it.

“Father, help me to be a person of integrity. Help me to conduct my life-all of my life-with integrity. And help me not to judge someone by whether they are rich or poor. Help me instead to look into their heart.”

August 21

Wednesday, August 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is The Battle is His vs The Battle is Mine.

It is easy to feel overwhelmed. Things come up; things pile on; we get to feeling ourselves being weighed down; we are soon unable to move. Whether it be real or imagined, it just gets too much. At that point, we have two choices. Carry the burden and fight the battle ourselves or say, “God, I can’t do this. It is yours.”

We will say the latter is the right choice. And it is. BUT saying and doing are two different things. It is easier to say, “Here Lord” than to actually do “Here Lord.”

A good example of this is found in 2 Chronicles 32. Hezekiah was king and he had been THE man. He brought renewal and reform to Judah. He restored God to His rightful place of prominence. Hezekiah brought sweeping reform-both materially (tearing down altars, etc) and spiritually (renewing the Passover, feasts, worship of God, etc). But in chapter 32, it is all put to the test. Would Hezekiah’s plans be thwarted? Would his commitment be seen as a “say” or a “do”?

Sennacharib king of Assyria invaded Judah and came against the cities to make them his. Jerusalem was one of them. Hezekiah and his people made all kinds of preparations and had to listen to Sennacharib blaspheme God. Big time. But in 32:7-8 Hezekiah tells the people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him…With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.”

Were those just words or did he truly believe that? He believed them. He and Isaiah (the prophet) prayed and cried to heaven and God sent an angel to fight the battle and Sennacharib went home in disgrace. It was so bad even his own sons killed him.

God’s words are true. Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Hezekiah says, “Yes indeed! I can attest to that!” 

Question: Can I?

“Father, this battle is yours. My sword is feeble and over-matched by my enemy’s. But help me to let you fight my battles. Help me to trust you as Hezekiah and Isaiah did.”