Leadership

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November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

October 27

Thursday, October 27th, 2022

Last night during my 66 class (66 books of the Bible), we were studying Ezra. I know what some are thinking. “Ezra! OT! B-O-R-I-N-G!”  Among all the adjectives one might use to describe Ezra, boring is not one of them.

Let me give you a brief background: The kingdom split after Solomon’s death-10 northern tribes (known as Israel) and 2 southern tribes (known as Judah). The 10 northern tribes went first, taken captive by Assyria. 130 years later Judah was captured by and exiled to Babylon (a small remnant was left behind, but Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple a charred ruin). Babylon was eventually overtaken by the Medes-Persian army, led by Cyrus, the king. Cyrus, in his first year as king, signed an edict allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They went in three waves. Ezra was in the second.

Ezra was a priest, a descendant of Aaron’s line. Tradition tells us Ezra was a devout man of God who loved the Word of God and was considered one of the best instructors.

He took his responsibility seriously. While the people were rebuilding Jerusalem, Ezra was helping rebuild lives (7:6). Ezra called for a fast for God’s protection as they traveled. After he arrived in Jerusalem, he saw the terrible state of the people, especially in the area of mixed marriages (heathen and Jew not black and white), and laid himself out before the Lord in mourning and repentance (9:5-6). Ezra led the people in reconciliation with God by calling out their sin and “demanding” confession of sin! BTW: names are even listed in 10:18-44. WOW!

One thing I appreciate about Ezra was his inclusion. Like Isaiah (Is. 6) and David (Ps.51) and others, he included himself in the sinfulness of the people. Even though he was not guilty of marrying foreign wives, Ezra took ownership of his sin instead of pointing fingers.

May I be that honest and forthcoming of my own sin. And may I be a godly pastor/man who sees his responsibility to shepherd the people and be diligent in it.

What about you? How do you approach God? High and mighty or with humility and repentance?

October 19

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

There are some commercials I have trouble watching. To be fair, I (or have Jo hit) the mute button when commercials do come one, but there are some I refuse to watch. This time of the year are the interminable ones on open enrollment, i.e. Medicare/Medicaid. UGH! And the actors they use who don’t have to worry about things! Another one I can barely stomach is the save-the-pets one. Not because I don’t have a heart for the dogs (and maybe cats 🙂 ). The ladies voice is so…put on…so drab…so annoying. It’s not that I have a heart of stone. I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s because if a pro-life commercial was made with ultrasounds and life it would probably be cancelled, because after all, animals are more important than babies.

Okay…off soapbox.

But there is one group of commercials I watch one time and mute them when they come on. The children. The children with cancer.  You know…the St Jude ones. They wrench my heart out. I watch; I tear up. Guaranteed. We have friends of a family in church who have a 4 y/o boy with a brain tumor-a glioma- that without a miracle from God will probably not see age 5.

My highest praise goes out to those doctors and nurses who see them every day, but keep on. My highest praise goes to the pregnancy centers who talk about life for all-born and unborn. My highest praise goes to those who take children in through fostering or adoption because they love children and want to give them a chance in life.

Jesus once said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Mt. 19:14 NLT)

Children are a precious gift from God. In Jesus’ day they were add-ons, often without care, and certainly without a “place.” Jesus changed all that. He rocked the Greek and Roman world with His love and stand for children (I suspect even the disciples raised their eyebrows a few times). He gave them importance.

“Father, may I never forget Jesus once said I was to become like a child in my acceptance of you. May I never brush them off or hurt their hearts by my words or actions.”

October 12

Wednesday, October 12th, 2022

If I was to give this devotion a title, I’m thinking God’s Impeccable Timing would be a good one.

I/we often hear or read of people who are recipients of something at “just the right time.” God came through in the nick of time.  I, personally, have seen God do that. One time our family made it home from a week at a Christian camp on 1/2 tank of gas. The drive was close to 3-4 hours. Unexpected expenses hit us and I prayed desperately. (This was before I used a credit card which I no longer do). The gas gauge never moved. But there was still the matter of food to eat when we got home. In the mailbox was a check for $100. This was July. It was from a speaking engagement in December where the pastor found out I had not been paid for speaking.

Yeah…God’s timing.

I could tell you more stories. So could Peter and C0rnelius in Acts 10. Peter had to be the most amazed though. Cornelius simply did what he was told to do. It was Peter who was experiencing God’s perfect work and God’s impeccable timing. I’d like to ask you to read Acts 10 for the full story. Pay particular attention to verses 1-23. (The rest of the story is great as well). I like what verse 9 says. And after reading that, please pay attention to verses 19-20.

God’s impeccable timing. Cornelius was sending men as he is told by God to do. As they approach where Peter is staying, he is on the roof having an encounter with a sheet filled with unclean food.  God was preparing Peter for his meet and greet with Cornelius’ men. That is called God’s impeccable timing.

He works in my life and your life the same way. One of the hardest things to do is “wait.” But when we keep in mind God has impeccable timing, it is in our best spiritual interest to wait.

Someone has said, “God is seldom early, but He is never late.”

You can put a nail through that promise.

And by the way: did I happen to say God has impeccable timing?

October 11

Tuesday, October 11th, 2022

I was having lunch with someone yesterday and the subject came up about my weariness which has developed over the past few months. This person asked me what kind of weariness it was. It isn’t a spiritual weariness-my Encounter Time is intact.  {As aside: this is going to be long post. Not in length but in typing. Within these first two sentences I cannot even tell you how many corrections I have had to make as I type. *eye roll*} Sometimes my ET is exciting and revealing; sometimes mundane. Par for the course. It isn’t a physical weariness, even though at 69, now 70, I can expect that. I think it is more a mental weariness-not anything drastic-just mentally tired from time to time. Drained. The reality of my age as I read and watch people die is palpable. I’m not a doomsayer. I’m not depressed.

I’m a dreamer, but I’m also a realist. I realize my life has reached the words of Psalm 90:10- “As for the days of our life, they contain 70 years, of if due to strength, 80 years.” I realize my life is closer to ending than starting. 🙂

But here’s the thing: I have so much I still want to give. I do not feel as though I have lived my life and am now ready to be put out to pasture. Philippians 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Jesus Christ.”  I want to live each day of my life as though it is the last and live it fully for Him. He knows the number of my days and whether it is one day, one week, one month, one year or more or less. All I know is I want to live each one purposefully. i want to live with passion. With wonder. With meaning. With the goal of hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

I am keenly aware that my age will slow me down some, that the vigor of my youth is waning, but I also know I’m not done yet. God is NOT done with me yet. Not as long as I have breath. As I read recently: “Time is not marching on-it’s running out.”

I can’t know the length of my life. No one can. But I can control the depth and influence of it. My moniker for years has been “Live the Adventure!” I want to live life maxed out in the end.

{All Scripture is from NASB2020}

October 5

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

There are a lot of intriguing stories in the Bible. I’d say the plethora of children’s books/Bibles is testimony to that. As a young boy growing up in the church and Sunday School (what is that?), I sat enthralled by them.

One of the most intriguing is Gideon. You can read his whole story in Judges 6-8.

Gideon was possibly the most unlikely person to lead God’s people against the Midianites.

  1. He lived in fear. We are introduced to him as he is threshing wheat in a winepress out of fear of the Midianites. I guess one could say it was advised. The Midianites were destructive, waiting until the crops were ready to harvest then swooping in and wiping them out-grain, sheep, ox, or donkey. (6:4)
  2. He lived with insecurity. When God said Gideon was his man, Gideon said, “Seriously? Me? I’m nothing.” (my poetic license). (6:15)
  3. He lived with doubt. He asked for confirmation that he was to do whatever it was God was asking him to do (deliver God’s people). (6:17-21). To top it off who can forget the whole fleece thing? (6: 36-40)

BUT…..

  • Gideon also learned to trust. He trusted God enough to take steps to pare down the army of 32,000 to 300 men.
  • He went into the enemy camp with Purah, his servant, to receive assurance of victory.
  • He show wisdom in dividing up his men and surrounding the enemy camp. At the appropriate time, they blew trumpets, broke pitchers, waved their torches, and shouted. The Midianite army fled. They pursued the enemy leaders and brought their heads back to Gideon.

There are a lot of talking points in Gideon’s story. I’ll let you figure them out. Just one to chew on: It is always amazing to see how God can transform someone from a man of fear, insecurity, and doubt into a warrior, a man of faith.

Interesting. He is still the same God today as He was back then…..

September 28

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

In yesterday’s devotion, I wrote about discernment as it relates to pastors/teachers. It is important to test the lives and teachings of those who claim to 1) be followers of Jesus, and 2) who claim to “speak for God.”

Today I want to focus more on me/us…the normal, everyday people who eke out a living both physically and seemingly, spiritually.

Although they don’t say exactly the same thing, there are two passages which could interconnect:

Matthew 5: 21-23

Luke 6: 46-49

I’d like to encourage you to take a moment and read them in your Bible rather than print them here for you.  Both have the person standing before God and saying, “Lord, Lord,” but then having their eternal destiny called into question. The Matthew passage has him confronted by his duplicity, his failure to live out his faith. No amount of pleading will change that.

The Luke passage, while similar, carries a different track. Jesus compares the man and his choice to building a house on rock or sand. The one who fails to live out his/her faith is like the one who has built their house on sand.

It is possible to look at this as an anomaly. Is Jesus saying works save us? No. What He is saying is that our lives will exhibit His truth in the way we live our lives. It is what James is speaking about in James 2. I heard it put this way: it is faith alone that saves us, but the faith that saves us is not alone.  Simply put: we are saved by faith, but faith is always seen in the way we live.

To be truly discerning, I must start with myself. To point the finger at another without an inward look is just wrong…and sinful…and dangerous.

September 27

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

One of the hardest things as a pastor is to be honest with oneself. I have a specific honesty in mind as I write that. The honesty I’m thinking of is spurred on by the Scripture from I John 4: 1-3:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now it is already in the world.”  (NASB2020)

That phrase “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” stands out to me. That phrase must stop at my front door, THEN it goes to other doors. It is common for pastors, etc to point fingers at another teacher, call them “False”, and never once look at their own heart or teaching.

As I discern myself, and as I check out (test) others, what criteria do I use to “test the spirits?” I think there are two qualities/characteristics I can look for:

  1. A teacher’s character. Character can’t be tested by measuring eloquence or giftedness. There are those who are talented speakers but have a questionable character. There are also those who have a stellar character but are not very good speakers. It is better to choose the latter and hope he gets better at speaking, than the former. {A great example of that is Billy Graham and Charles Templeton. Google it and check it out}.
  2. Content of the teacher’s instruction. This is where real discernment is needed. Is he teaching truth? Not man’s truth but God’s truth. Not everyone who names the name of Christ is a true teacher of God.

There has always been false teachers. They seem to proliferate these days, I think, in large part thanks to media. But because they are “successful;” marry a rock musician; have a private jet or two; have crusades all over the world; claim healing; and live in mansions, does not make them true teachers of God’s truth.

Be discerning. Be alert. Be wise. Don’t be afraid to follow the clear teachings of the Scripture and stand against falsehood.

September 20

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how there are some people who seem to want to be left alone? They don’t need or want any help. They can do it on their own.

Even children.

Who of us has not seen a child rebuff a parent’s help? Moms try to dress their child only for them to say, “I can do it myself.” Not really, but how can one argue with a determined child?

That carries on as the person gets older. They don’t want any help with homework. With solving a problem. With a relationship.

There are also those who just want no human intervention or interaction. Granted, there are time we all need space. But I’m talking about those who prefer to be alone…most of the time, if not permanently. I visited an old friend the other day. I hadn’t seen or heard from him since he dropped off the planet in, I’m guessing, 8 years. I went to his house to say hi and his reaction was sort of rude, to say the least. When I said hi, his words were, “Bill, what are doing here?”  I said, “I was going through a file looking for some papers for a bike rack I was giving (_______) and I came across some papers for the bike hitch you bought for me back in 2012. Your address was there as well as your phone number and email address. I tried the phone and email and they both came back so I thought I would drop by and say hi. I have no agenda. Just to say hi.” His words? “I find that hard to believe (referring to me not having an agenda).”  I even sent him a note this past week reiterating that.

He prefers to live as a hermit with his brother. Sad.  Someday maybe he will realize his need for a friend. But truthfully, some want to be loners.

Tragically, there are Christ-followers who want to be left alone. They want to hide who they really are. Masks weren’t just for COVID. Loners cut themselves off from others, especially from fellow Christ-followers. Whether it is pride or fear or distrust, who knows?

But no follower of Jesus can survive on his/her own.

Principle #7: Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth.

Are you willing to trust others?

August 23

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2022

Want to feel old? Have your youngest daughter celebrate her 43rd birthday today. Now that makes me feel old. 🙂  Happy Birthday Janna!

Now for the task at hand. First, a recap of the first two principles:

#1- God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance. 

#2- Make sure you are all in for Jesus. Psalm 25:14 says, “The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” 

I have spent the past couple of devotions writing about #2.  A summary:

  • Trust the Father He knows best.
  • Know Him first and foremost.

What we find out is one-just one- of the issues with today’s church, and by proxy many individuals, is the latter principle. There are too many who want to test the waters but not commit. It reminds me of the person who sticks a toe in the water; then maybe a foot; then may their leg or legs, but then that is as far as they go. They might be afraid of the water. The water might be “too cold.” It might be too crowded for their liking. Who knows? But for whatever reason they won’t go all in.

Need I make the application? We all know people (maybe even us) who will “commit,” but only so far. They are sort of half in and half out.

Of course, Jesus speaks to that state of affairs. In Rev. 3: 15-16 he says to the church at Laodicea: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” (NASB2020)

I take this principle to mean that being all in for Jesus is essential to “hearing” His voice and following His path…no matter where it may lead. BE. ALL. IN.

Review those first two principles again. is God your strength? Are you all in?

Tomorrow we move on.