Leadership

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August 16

Friday, August 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Power vs Humility.

There is an old adage: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I wanted to start this devotion off with a question: What is the problem with these kings and power? Then I realized I already knew the answer.

Over the past couple of days/weeks as I’ve been reading 2 Chronicles there has been a recurring theme. See if you can see what I see.

Asa: excelled in following God but then fear got to him and he allied himself with Ben-hadad, king of Syria. Asa died with a disease in his feet.

Jehoshaphat: received God’s blessing but later, after having it all, he aligned himself with Ahaziah, who acted wickedly.

Joash: flourished while Jehoiada was priest and guided him. But then after Jehoiada’s death, Joash listened to others. Bad move. They abandoned the house of the Lord. Prophecy against Joash predicted his demise.

Amaziah: did what was right “yet not with a whole heart.” He brought gods of the men of Seir and set them up to worship. After God blessed him.

Uzziah: did what was right. “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction.” (26:12)

There are more to come I know. It is easy for me to take shots at these kings, thinking “not me.” Wrong! Power is a corrupter. Anyone is susceptible. Especially me. I’m a fallen creature like all the others.

The most powerful man I know was also the most humble man I know: Jesus Christ. He is the exception to the saying about power I quoted at the beginning. May I/you learn from the mistakes of others and from the greatest example of all by pursuing humility.

“Father, pride is a downfall for so many. It has even brought me to my knees before. Help me to pursue humility so that power is not even an issue for me.”

August 15

Thursday, August 15th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Encouraging Words vs Discouraging Words.

“Home, home on the range/Where the deer and the antelope play/Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.”

WOW! Talk about a song we wish could be true! We could live all day, every day without one word of discouragement being said. I read that the night President Lincoln was shot they found some interesting items in his pockets: 2 spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocket knife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and 8 newspaper clippings, including several that praised him and his policies. Seemingly normal stuff, except for the Confederate bill and the newspaper clippings. Was the latter there because he needed to hear good things? Was he a bit discouraged from the long, drawn out war between two factions of his beloved nation? Did he need the encouragement? Did he read them to Mrs. Lincoln out loud as they dressed for the play? ‘Course we will never know.

But there is something to be said about encouraging words. Proverbs 15 has several references to this. “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” (v.4). “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the heart of fools.” (v.7). “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (v.13). But maybe the best is this one: “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” (v.23).

There is no doubt our words make a difference. How am I at spreading encouraging words? There are some whose day is made by a kind or encouraging word. The opposite is also true. Some people are hurt deeply, even destroyed, by unkind words.

“Father, help me to check my words before they leave my lips. May I speak words of encouragement, not words of discouragement to others. I never know if that may be me some day who needs those kind words.”

August 9/Weekend

Friday, August 9th, 2019

My title is Following Wholeheartedly vs Following Haphazardly.

Unexpected. That’s what I found.

First, Abijah, successor to Rehoboam. Abijah made a speech denouncing Jeroboam’s revolt of rebellion against God and against Rehoboam. Abijah knew God was with him and his army. He soundly defeated Jeroboam’s army because they relied on God (13:18)

Second, Abijah’s son, Asa. It begins with these words in 14:2: “And Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” That right there is a strong testament to Asa’s resolve. It goes on to say, “He took away the foreign altars and the high places and broke down the pillars and cut down the Asherim and commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to keep the law and the commandments. He also took out of all the cities of Judah the high places and the incense altars.” (14:3-5)  He purged Judah.

There are multiple references to his purging. Even his own mother was deposed as queen and her Asherah pole was tore down, crushed and burned.

When Azariah the seer came to see him and gave him words from God, Asa’s response was one of obedience. He and the people entered into a covenant with the Lord and sought Him will all their heart and soul.

He followed God wholeheartedly. He had involved God’s help in battle.

And then…he sought help from the king of Syria instead of God. The end result of the deal with the king was good, but not with God. His failure to seek God’s help was his downfall.

Unexpected. More way than one. But a warning for sure. What led Asa to seek outside help? Did he get prideful? Filled with fear because he forgot where his help came from? We aren’t told. But a warning to me. To you.

“Father, success is yours; failure mine. Credit is yours; pride is mine. Help me to trust you not outside help. Help me to stay true all the way to the end.”

August 8

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

My title is Listening to Wise Counsel vs Foolish Counsel.

I read each morning from the ESV Reader’s Bible. It has no verse numbering or chapter divisions. This morning I started reading Proverbs 8. It sure seemed to be a long chapter but I thought “Oh well.” Unbeknownst to me, the pages turned together and I found myself in chapter 9. I found that out when I went to journal. I underlined verse 9 when I was reading: “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” By itself seemingly simple. But combine that with a story from 2 Chronicles 10 and it is amazing how Scripture can be tied together.

It’s the story of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam (R). Following Solomon’s death the people came to R and made a request: “Please lighten the load your father put on us and we will serve you.” So he told them to return in 3 days for their answer. He sought counsel from the older men who worked alongside his father. They suggested he do just that. His peers, guys he had hung around, suggested making it harder (using quite descriptive language). R chose the latter.

A wiser man would have listened to his elders. The ensuing result was the disgruntlement of the people and their refusal to follow R. Ultimately, the kingdom split. R showed himself to be a fool.  He should have heeded his own father’s words.

“Father, may I be a man of wisdom-one who seeks your counsel and the counsel of other wise men. I’m not an island and at times I cannot and should not be an arbitrary decision-maker. Help me to seek wise counsel on tough decisions and then heed it.”

August 7

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Slow Burn vs Flash Fire.

I often hear people say, “It just happened. I wasn’t expecting that.” Or some form of that. But if my experience tells me anything, it tells me it didn’t happen overnight. Let’s call it a slow burn.

This hit me as I was reading Proverbs 7 today. The whole chapter is a warning against the adulteress but several slivers caught my attention. After detailing how he watched the young man put himself in a bad position, verse 21 says, “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.” Notice the word seductive. That’s a word that fits slow burn.

The tragedy is he put himself in her path. He meandered toward her. The description of his fall (a stag and a bird) is further proof of what happens. Slow. Wandering. Trapped. He didn’t wake up and say, “I think I’ll go be seduced by a prostitute today.” That would be a flash fire, a purposeful decision, even one made in “the heat of the moment.” No, like most people, it was a slow, sometimes aimless drift.

Two other verses are sobering and telling: “He does not know it will cost him his life.” (v.23b). But the more telling one are these: “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng.” (verses 25-26)

Be careful of the slippery slope. Be careful of the gradual slide. Be careful of the slow burn. That is far more common than the flash fire.

“Father, I play too close to the fire at times. Someone has said, ‘When you play with fire you either get burnt or smell like smoke.’ Help me not to see how close I can get, but how far away I can stay. Help me to stay out of the trap.”

August 2/Weekend

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Words of man vs Word of God.

It is not uncommon today, or any day for that matter, for people to put their trust in men. It has been happening since the beginning of time. I guess we see it more now since it affects us directly. We have seen the “rise” of superstar people because people have put a lot of stock in what they say. I’m speaking of the religious community specifically. We have “Christian celebrity” preachers who are millionaires or who make well into the 6 figures because gullible people hang on their every word as though it is true. They fall hook, line, and sinker for their lies. It seems ungodly and is appalling for these “Christian” speakers to live in the lap of luxury while many of their followers live from day-to-day looking for that elusive golden egg. The deception of false teaching is sad. The hero status placed on the heads of these people is nauseating. A man hawking miracle water. Grave sucking. Destiny cards. False healings. “Holy” laughter. Speakers making spectacles of themselves. It goes on and on.

All of their garbage teaching is based on “the Lord told me.” “The Lord told me to tell you to give to my work and you will be blessed many-fold.” What they don’t tell you is how lined their pockets are. We simply MUST weigh every word said by the Word of God. The Scripture twisting they employ MUST be checked. Some will say, “How can I do that?” Proverbs 2:6-8 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth came knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.”

Come to Him with a sincere desire to know and gain His wisdom. If we could set aside our desire for earthly gain we can see His clear Word. Paul told Timothy this would happen, that people would want their ears tickled. It has been, is now, and will be what happens. There will always be someone to come along as the “next best thing.” It will continue to run rampant UNLESS we stop seeking earthly ease and satisfaction and start seeking Him. God has not promised health and wealth to His people; He has promised His presence in and through all things.

“Father, Your wisdom is perfect. Your Word is perfect and it is life. May I seek your perfect wisdom in all things. Help me not to be enamored by things here, but keep my eyes on You.”

August 1

Thursday, August 1st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Isolation vs Companionship.

There is a foolish bent many people-especially men-have. They can go it alone. They don’t need anyone. A number of years ago there was a book called The Friendless American Male which focused on that vein of thought: men thinking they don’t need anyone. ‘Course that simply is not true.

We all need someone in our corner. As I was reading I Chronicles this morning, in a list of people which included military leaders, leaders of tribes, David organizing the priests and Levites, and a whole host of other lists, there are three verses I know I have read before (unless I skipped over them… 🙂 ), but saw for the first time today. Here is what it says:

Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, being a man of understanding and a scribe. He and Jehiel the son of Hachmoni attended the king’s sons. Ahithophel was the king’s counselor, and Hushai the Archite was the king’s friend. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar. Joab was commander of the king’s army.  [27:32-34]

David had someone serve as counselor for his sons. David himself had a counselor (someone he deferred to).  David had a special and close friend. David was not isolated. He used others to help make decisions. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

It all starts with God (according to that verse in Proverbs). But God also brings people alongside us who lend their expertise-whether it be that of serving as a counselor, a sounding board or someone to bounce ideas off of-or as a friend. No man is to be isolated or to live in a isolated environment.

“Lord, help me to gather around me people with wisdom and character and grace. People who are not ‘Yes’ men, but those who are honest and straightforward. Men who love You more than anyone else. Help me to find wise men to be my counselor and friend.”

July 31

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

I actually wrote the bulk of this Monday morning at Jo’s sister’s apartment that would see us for the final time that day. I was going to title this An Observation. But this morning I went back to it and reworked some of it, mostly by adding some thoughts. But when I reworked it this morning I decided on a different title:

Stretching vs. Atrophy.

Here is the reworked devotion:

This Monday as I read my devotion from “Faith” from an Our Daily Bread collection of devotions, knowing today would the last day we would ever see this apartment and all that has taken place over the last month or so, I had to make some observations. The author’s devotion was on Stretching. As I sit down to have my Quiet Time,  the apartment is quiet. The outside is quiet. My soul is quiet and at rest. Today we pack up and move what remains in Vicki’s apartment. It has been a “stretching” experience in so many ways.

For Jo it has stretched her far beyond her comfort zone. I have not seen her cry like she has in a long, long time. Maybe after my second bike accident when I was seriously injured and the ensuing trauma which followed. Jo has had to go to bank after bank-back and forth-many times. Talk to Job & Family Services (a government agency…’Nuff said0. Apply for Medicaid for her sister. Become POA.  Make future funeral arrangements. Nursing home. Hospital. Phone calls. Way, way, way out of her comfort zone.  She’s a saint putting up with all she has.

For me it was giving up the routine of my job. Not being there for what I consider my responsibility has been hard. It has been hard to leave for weeks (3 of the last 5 to clean out this hoarder’s apartment. Scrubbing on my hands and knees to clean up…stuff. I cannot say enough about how Ryan and Diana (youth pastor and secretary) have held down the fort. Nor can I praise the leadership of OVCF enough for letting me come and go as I have, telling me “you have got to take care of your family.”

Stretching is painful. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery and stretching was vital to recovery of motion. I’ve had meniscus and collarbone surgery. Stretching was vital to recovery.  One of the most important recovery mechanisms after a bike ride is stretching. In the life of the Christ-follower, stretching is vital to growth. It hurts to stretch muscles that want to curl up and atrophy. It hurts to stretch spiritual muscles that will do the same. But it is absolutely a necessity. Stretching helps us to focus not on what has been but on what will be. In our lives, stretching will help us focus not on what we have been, but on who we can become. It is easy to see ourselves with all our failures and shortcomings, but God looks beyond that to see who we are as His new creation through the power of His Spirit.

“Father, thank you for stretching me. Thank you for giving me (sometimes) unpleasant situations that challenge me to break out of sameness and safety and step out onto the water. As I take those steps-present and future-help me to keep my eyes on You, not the waves kicking up. And help me to remember this is all in your plan for me. Stretch me where I need stretched.”

July 12

Friday, July 12th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Deaf Ears vs Hearing Well.

It is Friday and the weekend. My favorite part of the week will be here in two days: Sunday. I love Sundays! Oh sure, I get to preach-probably one of my favorite things of all. I get to see people I have grown to love. Interact. Laugh. Cry. Hug.  But I also get to take a “look” into God’s Word. This is a high and holy privilege I simply don’t want to take for granted. This has been heightened this morning by reading a portion of Psalm 119 (I have been here all week). Rather than “pontificate” on the Scripture, I’m going to let the Scripture speak.

“Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all genertations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” [v.89]

“Oh how I love your law! It is my mediation all the day.” [v.97]

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” [v.105]

“You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” [v.114]

“Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes.” [v.124]

“Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.” [v.135]

Simple. Profound. Convicting. Punchy (to the point). Encouraging. Revealing. Applicable. Can’t get much better than that!! I liked them all (obviously), but the one I re-a-a-a-a-lly liked was the last one. We all have a sin or two or three or ……. that seems to dog our tracks. The Scripture seems to be saying if I walk His path and stick to His Word, I can have victory over sin, especially those I struggle with on a more consistent basis.

“Father, may Your Word be my refuge and my guide, not just this weekend; not just this coming week; but for all time. May Your Word be a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

July 9

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Nonchalance vs. Excitement.

What kind of attitude do you have toward God’s Word (GW)? How do you approach His Word? As I read today in 2 Kings 15-17, an overwhelming sadness hit me. But, at the same time, an incredible awareness of the patience of God toward His faithless people also crept in. At least until He’d had enough. Then enough was enough.

It is easy to read large sections like that; to read of the faithlessness of the people; to read of the long-suffering patience of God, and to get jaded. But I don’t want my approach to GW to ever get jaded.

Nor do I want to approach it nonchalantly. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” The right approach to GW starts with a prayer for open eyes. Whether that be open eyes to see its truths, or open eyes to be receptive to its teachings, the first approach to understanding is to ask for open eyes to see.

I think a second necessity is to enjoy GW. 119:24 says, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” There is something to be said about an eagerness approaching GW rather than a drudgery. Or even a nonchalance seen in a “whatever” approach.

A third necessity is a clean heart. 119:29 says, “Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!” Sin is a barrier to learning. That barrier needs to be broken or at least lowered so GW can do its thing. When the clean heart is evident, the desire to seek becomes stronger. Psalm 119 also uses words like “I have chosen” [v.30] and “I cling” [v.31] to describe what I see is a hunger for GW.

Finally, one of my favorite verses in this chapter is verse 32: “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart.” Physically, an enlarged heart is extremely dangerous. Spiritually, it is a by-product of love for GW. But it can also be dangerous. Who knows what can happen when God enlarges the heart!

“Father, Your Word is life to me, to all Christ-followers. May I never take a nonchalant approach to Your Word. Bring Your Word to life as I read it with open eyes. Enlarge my heart.”