Leadership

...now browsing by tag

 
 

February 19

Monday, February 19th, 2024

“Like father like son.”

“Well…that fruit didn’t far too far from the tree.”

Those are both statements we use when speaking about how much like a father his son is. It could be his actions. It could be the way he thinks. It could be the way he reacts to situations. It could be the way he speaks. It could be his demeanor or even how he treats others.

And here’s the thing: sometimes its a compliment and sometimes it’s a putdown.

In the Old Testament, there is a father and son whose stories are different. The son’s fruit was nothing like his dad’s. If the dad was a peach tree, the son’s fruit was an apple. Strange, I know, but let me explain.

Saul was chosen to be the king and Jonathan was his son. Saul blew it…big time. Not once but twice actually. In I Samuel 13-14 we find the first instance. The Philistines were a thorn in the side of the Israelites. Samuel promised victory but Saul needed to wait 7 days for Samuel to show up and offer a sacrifice. The people of Israel were getting antsy and when Samuel didn’t show up Saul offered the sacrifice himself. That was a no-no. Just as Saul was done offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrived and reamed him out and told him he lost his kingdom (I Sam. 13:14).

Meanwhile, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were doing something phenomenal. They were freeclimbing a cliff to go against the Philistines with Jonathan’s words echoing into the valley: “Perhaps the Lord will help us, for nothing can hinder the Lord. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or a few.” (14:6).

Jonathan was aware he was next in line to rule the kingdom after Saul’s death. But he also knew David was God’s choice and was to be the next king. Jonathan gladly gave up his “right” and ambition for God’s plan with David.

A great story! And what proof that sometimes fruit falling far from the tree is a good thing.

For another story of Saul’s disobedience and foolishness check out I Samuel 15.  (All Scripture from the New Living Translation).

February 8

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Something to think about: Someone has said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

There is most definitely some truth to that. Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility bring honor.” When speaking to the proud and spiritually, self-righteous, arrogant Pharisees, Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:11-12).  And, of course, I think most of us are familiar with the words “Pride goes before a fall.”

Humility is not an easy virtue to see, nor is it an easy one to manifest. One can’t go around saying or thinking, “I’m humble” because that defeats the whole thing. 🙂 I read that the Hebrew word for humility literally means “being aware of and comfortable with your place.” I like that because it says, “Where I am, there I am. I’m content with my space and don’t want yours.”

In the book of Genesis we find the story of the tower of Babel. In 11:4 they say, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous (emphasis mine). It made them famous alright, just not in the way they thought or wanted. They should have stayed content in their space.

Today’s challenge: Don’t think less of yourself. Think of yourself less. See how it turns out and let me know.

{Note: All Scripture verses are from the New Living Translation}

#LivesAreChanged

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Watching a child learn to walk is an experience worth having. The first steps are a major accomplishment and come with some pain (on the child’s part as he/she falls and on yours was you watch it). When they do take those first fledgling steps I’m not sure who is more excited-the parents or the child. Of course, there will be challenges and failures (more of the latter to start with), and we expect that. The progression from those first tentative steps to wobbling to more steadiness to running to jogging to sprinting and then to long-distance running is fun to watch.

As in life, so in the Christian walk. Life is not at a standstill. If it is, the person is in deep trouble.

By the same token, if the church is not helping lives to be changed, it is in a rut also. Understand, I don’t believe the church changes lives. Jesus does that. And only Him. But we have a hand in it. if we are not reaching out and spreading the message of the Gospel, then as Paul asks in Romans 10, “How can they hear unless someone tells them?”  It is also important to see that we who name the name of Christ, who claim Him as our Savior also change. To remain the same is like a child learning to walk and at the age of 10 still holding onto furniture, taking a step or two and then falling, rolling over to their knees and getting back up. We would be concerned…as well we should. 

I’m continuing my series on WELCOME HOME…where… 

  • The Gospel is Preached
  • Jesus is Honored
  • Grace is Offered

This week’s message is WELCOME HOME…where…  

LIVES ARE CHANGED

Join us in person or via live stream at 9:00 or 10:45. We would love to hear from you.

January 18

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

As one reads the Bible, it is not unusual to read of someone and think they must have always been like that. Case in point: the Apostle John. We read today from the vantage point of 2000+ years later and we see an apostle of love. We see the aged John-respected, loved and depicted as one full of grace and truth.

But he wasn’t always like that. John had a temper. He also had a vengeful streak. We might even call him sectarian to some degree. Mistreatment of Jesus led to he and his brother, James, wanting to call down fire from heaven to consume the city. In another incident, he and James wanted Jesus to promise they would get preferred seating in the kingdom-one on His right and one on His left. Jesus was not fond of that idea. They wanted Jesus to rebuke a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name but because he was not with their “tribe” they wanted him silenced. (Mk. 9:38).  That didn’t work out too well either.

Over time, John was changed. That’s what happens when people spend time with Jesus. John reminds me of those who are committed to the truth, who “tell it like it is.” But that is all you see. Love? What’s that? All truth. No love. Over time John became known as the Apostle of love. Shall we say “more balanced”?

I read the following:

John was always committed to the truth, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Zeal for the truth must be balanced by love for people. Truth without love has no decency; it’s just brutality. On the other hand, love without truth has no character; it’s just hypocrisy. (40 Lives in 40 Days-MacArthur-p.19)

I’ve heard it said that “all truth and no love is legalism; all love and no truth is mere sentimentality.” True that.

There needs to be a balance. We may take pride in being a “tell it like it is” kind of person, but honestly, what good is it if we turn everyone off?”

Find the balance. Truth AND love go together.

January 17

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

I used to have a haunting dream/thought. I felt like a failure. Not that I expressed it to anyone; it was something I kept to myself and, at times, brooded over. Since it was an internal musing and not expressed out loud, I’m not even sure Jo knew. In fact, I’m almost positive she did not.

Like many young men coming out of Bible college/seminary, I thought I had the world by the proverbial tail. I was going to accomplish great things. I would attend a conference and see and hear speakers/pastor/youth pastors of influence and dream that would be me someday. I would be the pastor of a big church, although I never saw myself as the pastor of a megachurch. I’m more designed by God to be a shepherd than a CEO. (I lost a job largely because of that mentality). But even though I knew certain characteristics of my personality probably held me back, I still had ambivalent emotions as I watched guys my age or younger “move up the ranks.” I know part of it was because I wouldn’t schmooze and play politics in the church world. Meanwhile, all my efforts to be a biblical, expositor preacher seemed to go unseen and unrewarded (in my mind at least). “Why not me?” reared its ugly head more than I care to admit. The twins, envy and jealousy, made their appearance, but fortunately didn’t stay very long because they were unwanted. While my friends we advancing, I was pastoring churches of 100-200, sometimes less. One was 35 which grew to 50 in 16 months but it about killed me spiritually.

Then one day, God got through to me. He didn’t make me nor want me in a big church. He didn’t care whether I broke the 200 or 300 barrier and did all that I was supposed to do to make that happen. Small churches need pastors too. Small churches need men who will love and lead them.  I broke. I realized God (almost) always does His work through ordinary people. I’ve stated it before: in God’s economy there are no little people (as the late Francis Schaeffer called them); there are just ordinary people God uses in extraordinary ways.

When I realized that, I found contentment in my work. I currently pastor a church that is less than 200. I have never been happier and more content that I have been for the past 18 years. No matter what you do-no matter how big or how small-be content and just be His. As martyred missionary Jim Elliott once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” That includes that seemingly insignificant thing or job you do.

God is not interested in you being extraordinary. He simply wants to use the ordinary you in extraordinary ways.

The Gospel is Preached

Friday, January 12th, 2024

So…if you go to my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin, you will see a post about this week’s sermon also. I’m trying to resuscitate Cycleguy’s Spin with a variety of approaches-book reviews, guest posts, upcoming sermons, and even a commentary of sorts when the “feeling” arises.   If you have been there, thanks. I have a new series starting this Sunday called WELCOME HOME…where… I have been developing it and working on it since last October.  Why you might ask? Simple. I think church needs to be different these days. I don’t mean compromising different where the gospel is withheld or not preached for fear of offending someone. But the church should be a “Safe Place.” Let me explain by using my approach for the next two months:

WELCOME HOME…where…

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Honored

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

Truthfully, the Gospel is often hindered or hidden by pastors and churches who are afraid of being seen as bigots or hardhearted or uncaring or narrow-minded. I realize those are and can be said about churches, and quite possibly, me. I don’t think they are accurate though of what the church is supposed to be. We can be firm, but friendly.  We can be convicted, but caring.  We can be solid, but sweet. We can be passionate, but pleasant.  But one thing we must never be is COMPROMISING.

We have a mandate in the Bible. Check out Col. 1:3-14. I Cor. 1:18-31. Romans 1: 16-17.  I found this to be quite revealing:

The goal of the Gospel is not just that we might pass some kind of test by accurately recounting the importance of Jesus. The goal of the Gospel is to produce a type of people consumed with passion for God and love for others.

As you can gather, this first sermon is on the Gospel being preached without compromise. I can honestly say that I am more excited about this series than one I have preached in recent memory. I am so looking forward to it! I hope you will join me in person if possible. If not, we live stream our service at 9:00 and 10:45 a.m.

January 4

Thursday, January 4th, 2024

Just a reminder: Please check out my review of my friend, Martha Orlando’s excellent trilogy called The Glade Series at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin. You can access that review here.

I have mentioned a number of times about my practice of reading Proverbs every other month. One chapter= that calendar date. Today, for example: January 4= Proverbs 4.  Maybe it is because I’m reading this year from the New Living Translation (NLT) or that I paid particularly close attention, but some seriously good stuff stuck out to me this morning. The whole chapter goes on about the importance of wisdom: Pay attention. Get it. Don’t turn your back on it. Prize it. Etc.

Beginning in verse 23 are some simple “rules of life” or “advice to live by” given. Here they are:

Verse 23- Guard your heart

Verse 24- Avoid perverse talk; stay away from corrupt speech.

Verse 25- Look straight ahead, fix your eyes straight ahead.

Verse 26- Choose the right path.

Verse 27- Don’t get sidetracked.

I thought I would give each a new heading, a new “wording” that might be easier to learn:

  • Be careful what you expose yourself to.
  • Watch your speech.
  • Don’t let your eyes wander.
  • Stay true.
  • Stay focused.

Wise advice to follow today and every day. Choose wisdom. Then you will hear the ancient words: “You have chosen wisely.” (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) 🙂 

November 21

Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

I’d like to follow up on my devotion from yesterday.

There is another rule of interpretation/Bible study besides the one from yesterday (“Let Scripture explain Scripture”). The one for today is “A text without a context is only a pretext.”  Interpreted: the failure to see surrounding verses, historical narrative and setting can lead to a whole lot of problems.

Yesterday’s passage was from Matthew 7:1-5. With that I presented the very common comment, “You have no right to judge me, to tell me that I’m wrong, or that my behavior is unacceptable in God’s eyes.” That is used in defense of sin: adultery, homosexual activity, “white” lies, and just about any other sin we want to justify doing.

But remember the context quote? Check out Matthew 7:15-16- “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act.”  (NLT) That section ends with verse 20 saying, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

Question: how can we identify a wolf in sheep’s clothing if we don’t (ahem) judge them? It is called discernment. But here’s the thing: it is not discernment based on our bias or personal opinion. It is based on…wait for it…what the Bible says. Every thought, every opinion, every decision, every judgment we form or express MUST BE and MUST FIND its source in the Word of God! If what we say or do does not find its root in God’s Word; if it does not find its anchor in God’s Word, then its a pretty fair assessment that it is false.

We need to be “fruit inspectors.” (Matt. 7:16-20). Last I looked a fruit inspector has to form a judgment and decide whether the fruit is good or not. The Apostle Paul wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (ESV)

So, judging/discerning is an absolute must. Always compare what you are being told and taught to the Word of God.

November 15

Wednesday, November 15th, 2023

Some people today like to complain about the church: “It’s made up of a bunch of hypocrites.” (Most definitely true). “All the church does is tell you a list of what is right and what is wrong and the wrong is always longer than the right.” (There is some truth to that). “They are insufferable and no better than me.”  (Given that we are all sinners that is a true statement).

So my answer to those statements? Yep. Yep. And Yep. And I’ll also say, “Welcome to my world.”

I don’t say that because I’m a pastor; I say that because they describe me. I am a hypocrite at times because I don’t always practice what I preach.  (Shocker!!) I don’t always live up to the standard God has set. I am sometimes judgmental (although I try really hard not to be). And sometimes I am no better than anyone else, in that sin gets its grip on me.

All this hit me last night as I sat and read. I’m rereading a novel called Dancing Priest (DP) by Glynn Young, a fellow blogger. It is one of 5 in a series about a young man named Michael Kent. I’ve read DP several times before, but it has been a few years since I last read it. I look for books to read at home which are different from my normal fare, so I have decided to read the entire series again. In DP Michael is assigned a parish (church) in San Francisco…much to his surprise. He applied for Malawi in Africa. In the ensuing conversation with his sponsor, he found out why.

Michael, the future of our church is in grave doubt. If there is a future, then you and others like you are that future. It will be better for you to be on the periphery than at the center because the center is rotting and collapsing. The future of the church is at the edges, and there you’ll find a willingness to abandon what’s dead, to meet the spiritual need, to fearlessly preach the Gospel-that is our way to survival. (p.163). A few paragraphs later he tells Michael, “You are a remarkable young man. You will do great things, Michael, not as the world defines them, but great in the way God defines them.” (p.164)

Honestly? That’s what I want. At my age (71) I know I have less years to live than I have lived. But nothing says that with the remaining years I have to sit on the sidelines and watch the world go by. I want to abandon what’s dead and to fearlessly preach the Gospel.

To my way of thinking, nothing else will do.

***************************************************************************************************************

Note: Check out Dancing Priest and the whole series by Glynn Young on Amazon. Start with DP and I guarantee you will decide to get and read the rest.  And no, Glynn did not pay me to say that! 🙂 🙂 🙂

November 1

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

I’ve toyed with something for the last few days because I didn’t know if this was the right venue to “put it out there.”Then I decided, “Why not?” So, here you go…

This past Sunday the church I pastor (OVCF) celebrated our 19th anniversary. You can hear the sermon here. If you prefer you can watch it here. Along the way I gave a mini-history of OVCF. I also showed our Mission and Vision and discussed how it motivates us. But here is where I want to take you and get your thoughts. First, the backstory: I gave a brief rundown of the Mission and Vision, but then shared a story. On Wednesday night- the 25th- I woke up from a sound close to 3 hour sleep and could not get back to sleep. The sermon for this past Sunday kept running through my head. Rather than toss and turn and wake Jo up, I went to my recliner in my ManCave. Since I could not get the upcoming sermon out of my mind, I turned the light on, grabbed my journal, prayed, and began writing. What came out was a softer, less technical version of the Mission and Vision. It was not intentional. I believe firmly in our Mission and Vision, but I have not felt totally comfortable with its seeming rigidness or strident approach. I’ve never been able to explain my thoughts clearly until that night. I invite you to to go our website and click on About. The menu will come down and you will see Our Mission and Our Vision in the menu. But that sleepless night, I was finally able to put pen to thoughts and sensed God’s “You got it” when I was done.  (Fun fact: I finished at 12:50. At 12:51 I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. By 12:53 I was back in bed and slept like a rock until the alarm went off at 3:30). Anyway, here is what I came up with-a softer, less technical version:

WELCOME HOME

where…

The Gospel is Preached

Jesus is Lord

Grace is Offered

Lives are Changed

Obedience is Encouraged

I have received some very positive feedback on the “new” version. They love the WELCOME HOME. My desire is that OVCF be home. A home to all. A soft and safe place to land. No compromise (I will show that tomorrow), but a place for people to feel welcome. Not necessarily where everyone is spoken to (although that would be ideal), but a place where the warmth of God’s grace and God’s people is palpable. For those hurting from a bad church experience, may they find rest and healing.

It’s your turn now. What do you think? Positive and negative is welcome.

Side note: I’m considering trying to find a word that begins with “A” to put in place of Offered. The acrostic would then be P-L-A-C-E.  I have a word in mind “Afforded.” What do you think? Any other ideas?