Leadership

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January 27

Monday, January 27th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Closed vs Open Book.

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”

Jesus once said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt.15:11) A few verses later He said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (18-20a).

It’s not easy being an open book. Even though these verses show us that virtually we are, we do our best to cover up, we do our best to close up shop.

Transparency is not an easy thing to do or be. I tend to be a bit more open than I should sometimes because that is my personality. But, all in all, we try to guard as much as we can from seeing the light of day and the light of peoples’ eyes. Why? Because being transparent makes us vulnerable. It sort of lays us open before people. It says, “Here I am people!” It’s almost like the old saying, “What you see is what you get.” While that originally was often an “excuse” for “Here I am. If you don’t like it…tough!” it can be used as words for transparency. Chuck Swindoll once wrote,

Vulnerability means being willing to express personal needs, admitting one’s limitation or failures, having a teachable spirit, and especially being reluctant to appear the expert, the one with all the answers, the final voice of authority. (“Good Morning, Lord”…p.26)

I must choose to be transparent, to be vulnerable (for the right reasons). In reality, it’s being honest with who I am, with whom God sees. Besides, who am I trying to kid?  My mouth lets people know anyway.

“Father, to you I’m an open book. You see into the deep recesses of my heart. Help me to be ‘real’ to people, not a fake. Let them see me as being honest and truthful, not hiding things away.”

January 20

Monday, January 20th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Blessing vs Curse.

We use the word a lot. We use it in mundane expressions. We use it off-handedly. We use it in times of heatedness. We use it when referring to a certain food. We use it when referring to an individual.

The word? HATE.

Do I exaggerate in that first paragraph? No, I don’t think so.

  • “I hate it that that has happened to you.”
  • “I hate it when I can’t see what’s ahead.”
  • “I hate coconut…and cinnamon…and Parmesan cheese…to name a few.” 🙂
  • “I hate you.”

It is the latter which is most devastating. HATE is such a strong word. So strong I “hate” to even use it. And yes, that was on purpose. I prefer to use the phrase “I dislike it a lot” since the word hate is so strong. How devastating it is to tell someone “I hate you.” A mate to a mate. A child to a parent. A sibling to a sibling. From one person to another. There seems to be almost no finality to that word.

Not just for the user but also for the receiver. I wonder if that is what is behind the use of curses and  meaning of Pr.20:20- “If one curses his father or mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.” Sure sounds like there is a finality to that doesn’t it? It strikes me hard to realize the devastation hatred can cause. To read that a person’s lamp goes out. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people so miserable because of hatred. They can’t hardly breathe a kind word about anybody. I read a good quote today that sort of sums it up: “Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” Hatred solves nothing. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. It does nothing good. It ruins lives. It ruins homes. It ruins outlooks. It ruins relationships. the list is endless what it ruins.

IT NEEDS TO STOP…..N.O.W!!!

“Father, search my heart. If there is hate please cut it out. Reveal that blackness in my heart and perform surgery on me. Cleanse me and purify me.”

January 17/Weekend

Friday, January 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Storm vs Calm.

In September of this past year (2019) Jo and I were blessed with the trip/dream of a lifetime-a trip to Alaska. After having made the decision in early ’19 to look into a trip and then deciding to save one more year, some folks in the church I pastor took the initiative to contact others to “bless us.” In late March/early April they surprised us with the all-expense paid trip. We were blown away to say the least.

We have lots of memories of that trip-tangible ones like pictures and t-shirts. But one that hit me today was that we did not encounter any rough weather on or off land. It was absolutely gorgeous! Even the one day we were cruising Tracy Arm Fjord where it rains 100″/year, it was sunny and bright and calm. I’m glad. All my life I’ve had trouble with going in circles and riding rough, windy roads. I had not been able to ride and read in a vehicle EVER (hence my tough time studying on the bus during basketball trips in college). I finally learned a trick to be able to read on the interstate (while someone else is driving of course! 🙂 ), but rough sea weather? That could have spelled disaster on the trip.  Frankly, I did not want to find out if I had sea legs or not.

In real time, storms are a part of life. I get fried whenever I think of the smiling speaker who says I am to have my best life now. Heaven becomes a downgrade when you think about it. No thank you. Storms are a part of life. The way I see it I have either been through a storm and may be enjoying a reprieve; going through a storm right now; or will be going through one soon enough. Proverbs 17:3 says, “The crucible for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests the hearts.” In I Peter 1:6-7 Peter talks about our faith being tested to show the genuineness of it-more precious than gold. Storms are a part of life; a part of growth; a part of the life of the Christ-follower. Storms are never comfortable, but in God’s plan are always essential. A storm on a boat is dubious for me. A storm in life is expected and ALWAYS has a purpose. Among many, one huge purpose is God keeps His promise of being there. A.L.W.A.Y.S.

“Father, storms serve so much more of a purpose than calm. Although calm is nice, storms have a purpose and will benefit my growth. Help me to trust You that storm comes.”

January 15

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

My title is Me, Myself and I vs. Us.

Years ago I read something that came back to me twice recently. Once as early as this morning:

  • Education says, “Be resourceful; expand yourself!”
  • Psychology says, “Be confident; assert yourself!”
  • Religion says, “Be good; conform yourself!”
  • Epicureanism says, “Be sensuous; enjoy yourself!”
  • Materialism says, “Be satisfied; please yourself!”
  • Pride says, “Be superior; promote yourself!”
  • Humanism says, “Be capable; believe in yourself!”
  • Philanthropy says, “Be generous; release yourself!”

Do you notice the common denominator in all of those? “Yourself.”  As we would say, “It’s all about me.” I’ll call it the Me, Myself and I syndrome. There is in all of us-ALL of us-a desire for more. After all, I have three people to feed- Me, myself and I.

Consider then the impact of these two verses I read this morning:

Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Pr.15:16-17

Those verses tell me 2 things-well, more but two stand out: 1) Be content. Stop always reaching and wanting more. 2) Life is better than we sometimes think it is. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

Recently I have said to people, “You know it is nice to have money to live comfortably, even better than comfortably. But it is much better to have peace of mind, health, a love for a job, and less stress than all the money in the world. You can’t buy those things.”

I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been. Probably never will be.  But I do have all I need. I have the love of my wife and family. I have peace of mind, health, and I absolutely love my job and the people I get to shepherd. There is no price for that. It is not me, myself and I; it is “us.”

“Father, thank you for keeping Your promise and promises. Thank you for meeting my needs. Thank you for peace of mind and health and all that comes with that, knowing it’s not all about me and my wants/desires. Let my life be about You and the people I love and serve.”

January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

January 13

Monday, January 13th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Life vs Death.

It’s been “one of those weekends.” Now…when those kinds of words are used we tend to think, “Oh boy. Here it comes. He’s going to lay out his sob story about all that went bad, how his weekend was the weekend from h-e-double hockey sticks.”

Relax!  It’s not that at all! Since Friday’s devotion-January 10-I have continued reading Proverbs 10-11-12-13. All weekend long a common theme ran through my reading.

“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” 10:11

“When words are many, transgressions in not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” 10:19

“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” 11:12

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” 12:25

“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” 13:14

See what I mean? Notice a common theme? Words. All weekend long I read about my words. Bookended by 10:11 and 13:14. My words can build up or tear down. My words reveal who is in control within me. My words can either lift someone’s burden or make it heavier. There was no way I got off the hook this weekend. It culminated in today’s Scripture- 13:14.

To be honest though, the one that struck me the hardest was actually 12:25. Do I realize; do I remember; do I remind myself that my words can either add to or lift a burden? “Words fitly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” 25:11

“Father, touche’. Your sword struck paydirt. My heart. My mouth. One day at a time-may my words be words of life to someone, not words of hurt, despair, discouragement, or even death.”

January 10

Friday, January 10th, 2020

My tile for this devotion is Stretch: Growth vs Ease.

I attended a JV basketball game last night of our local high school. I don’t really know any of the players except by name only, but since I was taking tickets I watched the girls game and then took tickets for 1/2 of the boy’s game.  Our JV boys have two young men who are Sophomores. One is 6’4″ and the other is 6’8″. Both play on the JV, both dress for the Varsity, but both are misfits. By that I don’t mean they they aren’t any good, uncoordinated, or all hands. On the contrary, they both, especially the 6’8″ guy, move with some pretty good fluidity.

But they are misfits. Why? Because everything came too easily. The shorter of the two worked fairly hard, Compared to the other team he was more on their plain. But the taller guy was not being challenged. No hands were in his face when he shot. His shot wasn’t really challenged. He hardly had to jump. My question was this: why is that boy not starting on the Varsity? The varsity team is not setting any fires this year. They have one Junior who started as a Freshman and if he stays healthy will get a scholarship somewhere. But there is not reason why the 6’8″ young man is not playing varsity. He could be getting so much better by being challenged.

Growth happens when we stretch, not stay with the status quo. Growth happens when we are challenged, not when things come easily. James 1:2-4 backs that up. Stretching is painful; hurtful; sometimes excruciating, but oh so necessary.

“Father, stretching hurts, but status quo does too. Just in a different way. As much as I like ease that is not the way of a Christ-follower. Stretch me. Grow me into your likeness.”

January 9

Thursday, January 9th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Believing vs BELIEVING.

I am a conundrum. I am a puzzle. I am an enigma. I am a mystery.  I am a mixed bag. Maybe an example would help.

Peter. Not Peter Rabbit. Not Peter Pan. No. Peter the guy in the Bible who became the spokesman for the rest. There was a guy who was a conundrum!

  • Question: “Who do people say I am?” “Who do you say I am?”
  • Answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
  • Statement: “Blessed are you Simon…”
  • Jesus’ statement: “The Son of Man will be delivered to be crucified and raised on the third day.”
  • Peter’s response: “Not so.”  Actually, it says, “No. Lord!” (Can those two words actually go together?)
  • Jesus’ statement: “Get behind me, Satan.”

To go from “Blessed” to being called “Satan.” Ouch!  But that is not the only place. Jesus makes a statement later about Peter being sifted like wheat. Peter says, “I will follow you anywhere. I would die for you.” Not much later he is denying that he is a disciple of Jesus. To a servant girl. To one who recognizes his Galilean accent. Not very threatening people when you think about it. Not soldiers. Not a religious leader with power. Just common folk.

That’s me. I say, “God is in control and has a plan.” I tell people that! I did just yesterday. Then I turn right around and do my own thing, go my own way. Or worse: I question His plan. I say I believe, but do I really BELIEVE? That’s why I’m a conundrum. Saying one thing; saying and BELIEVING is another.

How about you? Are you a conundrum?

“Father, only you can solve this puzzle called “me.” Only You understand me.  Help me to do more than just say. Help me to truly BELIEVE.”

 

January 8

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Left Behind: Worthy vs Temporary.

Am I that far off in saying that we all want to leave something behind for which we will be remembered? I don’t think so. We all (or most of us anyway) want to leave behind a legacy, a point of reference where if our name is mentioned people says, “Oh yeah. I remember (such and such) about him/her.”

In the media world, for example, actor Tom Hanks was recently honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. In his craft, that may be the highest honor to be bestowed. Known for his body of work, he will now be known for another (higher) honor.

The Sports world has its honors also. Hall of Fame. MVP. Super Bowl champs. Stanley Cup. College football #1.

Music. Stage. Lifetime Achievement. The list is seemingly endless. People want to be remembered-hopefully for good and not for bad. Think Al Capone. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliott Ness. Billy the Kid. And others.

In the OT is the book and story of Job. I’m pretty sure we all know that story. Everything is taken away from him but his life, but Job still said, “I know my Redeemer lives.” When everything he loved was wiped out, Job’s response was, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21)  When encouraged by his wife to curse God and die he said, “Shall we receive good and not evil from God?” (2:10)  (He also called her a foolish woman but we won’t go there! 🙂 ) In Job 19:32-24 he wished “his words were recorded, engraved in rock forever.” Funny thing is? They are. In the pages of THE BOOK.

What is it I want to be known for? Kindness? Generosity? Giver of grace? All the above. All are well and good. But the greatest? He was a Lover of Jesus. Yeah. I like that.

“Father, may the legacy I leave behind not be one of fleeting memories and temporary awards. May it be that I loved you first and foremost, above all, and that you were the reason I lived.”

 

January 7

Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Change vs Stagnation.

At this writing I am 67 years old. Lord willing, I will stay that age for at least 10 more months. 🙂 A lot has happened in those 67 years. Times of unadulterated joy; times of unmitigated tears. Times of excitement; times of boredom. Times of closeness to God; times of distance from God. Times of warmth; times of stone coldness. You get the picture.  But there is one constant in all 67 years on this planet: C.H.A.N.G.E.

My philosophy has been either change or be stagnant; either show signs of life or signs of death. Some change is painful-it is required due to life’s circumstances. Some change is easy-it is crystal clear that a particular direction is the right one. But the constant is change.

There are some things that don’t change. God-His Word. Jesus-His love. The Spirit-His presence. The Bible-His standard. In all of those (and more) it is not them that change. It is me. The Apostle Paul was so grateful for the change brought about by God’s presence in his life. The older he got the more like his Master he became. From the initial rigid, rule-demanding Pharisee and killer of Christ-followers, he became the Apostle who wrote about God’s magnificent grace. Paul changed. From the persecutor to the one who was persecuted. Paul changed. As he got older and changed more, God’s unending grace became more and more evident.

Can I say that? Can you? Am I more grace-filled at 67 than I was at 60? At 55? I’d like to believe the answer is a resounding yes!! I have no problem answering that question when comparing 67 to 25 or 30 or 35 or 40. I hardly knew what grace was back then so there is no question. But I must still be changing and never stop.

“Father, keep changing me. Please help me to see stagnation is not a way to live. Allowing your change to be evident in my life is how I want to be.”