Leadership

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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.

August 17

Wednesday, August 17th, 2022

As I said in yesterday’s post (and so eloquently put by Ryan in his comments), one of the hardest things to do is to give up control, or at least the semblance of it. This is especially true when a decision needs to be made and one has several options.

Back in the early 80s, I found myself in a situation like that. I had been pastoring a church that just about killed my spirit. It was very legalistic, i.e. “We are right; you are wrong; and we will argue about it.” I didn’t know that at first, plus I was desparate to find a church since I’d been asked to leave from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor. To make matters tougher, money was very tight and I went through some burn-out.

Anyway, I interviewed at one church and scheduled a time to preach. In the meantime, another church asked for an interview which I had. The conundrum was the second church was more inviting to me but I had no promises with them. Church #1 has already had me come to preach and asked me to come.  (I had scheduled the interview before the “trial” sermon). What should I do?

I asked a friend. His words were wise: “Bill, there is no right or wrong. Take church #1. You already know their decision. You can’t make a wrong decision in this because God will be with you no matter what you choose. He will not abandon you.”

He was right. While the 3 years there were good ones, learning ones, and ended dubiously, the other church never called me back. In fact, several months later-six maybe-a young couple from that church reached out to me and found out what happened. They not only profusely apologized but sent some expense money (out of their own pocket).

My issue was control. I was unsure at the fork in the road and needed to make a decision. I wanted it to be THE. RIGHT. ONE. At least in my mind. I reached out to my friend because I wanted him to tell me what only God could. In a way, he did.

He told me to “Trust God.” He doesn’t make mistakes. And even though I may choose the one that gives me a rockier road, He will not abandon me.

TRUST GOD at the fork in the road. Seeking His desire does not give a wrong choice. One may be tougher and bring some learning lessons, but neither can be wrong.

August 16

Tuesday, August 16th, 2022

INSTALLMENT #1

The basis for The Trail by Ed Underwood (see my August 15 post) is that God’s will is not some thing that is mystical or otherworldly (my words). We make it out to be that way as we search here and there; throw out fleece after fleece; say “If this happens a certain way or time then I’ll know” and other ideas like that.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is clear: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Some translations say: “He will direct your paths.”

I think…(and this is my thought so blame me if you disagree  🙂 )…we have such trouble with knowing God’s will, and then even following it, because we like to have control. Different personalities look at life differently, and even having control differently. There are some who like to fly by the seat of their pants. Sort of like “go with the flow”. There are those who like to have some control. They enjoy the adventure but still want to kinda, sorta have some control. Then there are those who want to know every twist and turn, every nook and cranny of following Jesus. What’s next? What’s around the corner?

That phrase “He will direct your paths” is key. Why? Because it takes faith to follow. Like holding the hand of a parent, a child trusts his father/mother to lead him/her to safety or in the correct direction. There is security in that hand. The opposite of faith is control. How different it is for a child to hold the hand of their parent and go willingly vs holding the hand and constantly tugging or fighting. In most cases, the parent knows best (given our humanness); the child is wise to follow. “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.” (p.14)

The reality is that we will never understand all that is ahead. God is not asking us to. But He is asking us to trust Him. Frankly, if I understand all that is ahead that puts me in the “I-am-God-category” and personally I am just not ready to say that! 🙂  Isaiah 42:8 (which I read this morning) says, “I am the Lord, that is My Name. I will not give my glory to another; nor My power to idols.”

Nope. God won’t share His place with anyone. That means I need to trust His wisdom and accept His strength.

First principle from My Trail: “God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need to trust His strength to recognize His guidance.”

“Father, help me to do as Proverbs 3 is telling me: not to rely on my own wisdom and strength, but on Yours. I’m not God; You are. Help me be willing to follow Your direction.”

July 18

Monday, July 18th, 2022

During my Encounter Time this morning, I read from Mark 10. There were several “clumps” of verses that I highlighted:

1. 10: 6-9– God’s original intention of marriage being one man/one woman for life.

2. 10: 14-15- Jesus speaks about the heart of a child-their acceptance of His message and us becoming like one.

3. 10: 23-25– In His encounter with the rich, young ruler, Jesus talks about the difficulty of a rich person getting into heaven. It is not that they can’t or won’t. it comes down to who owns his/her life.

But the one which stuck with me this morning:

4. 10: 43-45– Jesus speaks about being a servant and then uses Himself as an example. Can there be any more telling verse about Him and His purpose/mission on earth than verse 45? “He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus shows what true servanthood is. He shows us what true humility is. He shows us that being #1 is not all its cracked up to be. There is greater joy and greater reward in being a servant, of being the one who gives her/her life away for others than to live for self and self-promotion.

“Father, may I be a servant to all. Help me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” 

July 7

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Today is an exciting day for the church. For 2-3 years now, maybe longer, we have been dreaming of putting an addition onto our building for several reasons. One, is so the adults could all worship together. Two, to save on our volunteers, especially the Worship Team. When we moved into this building in 2010 we knew it was too small. But we bought it and called it “our own.” Done renting a dirty, nasty place with a way-too-small children’s area. Then came the devastating news of embezzlement to the tune of $200k+. But within two years the folks were so generous and God was so good that we were able to remodel and make a way for us to function. But we almost immediately had to go to two services, so that meant we needed space. However, instead of adding on to our worship area, it was decided the real priority was a youth addition. Modest, but functional. Paid for in cash. At that point, thanks to an inheritance and some wise financial management by our Finance Team and the phenomenal giving of our people, we were debt-free. Completely.  But now it was decided that we needed to focus on an area big enough for the adults to worship together as one body. There was one caveat: we wanted to do it debt-free.

So we have waited. And saved. And waited some more.

With $211k+ in our Building Fund, we are moving forward to see what can happen.

Hence the excitement for  today. The Building Team is traveling to Graber Post Buildings about an hour away to see what is possible and what our next steps can and should be.

Waiting. Waiting is never popular. We prefer to “hurry up and wait.” Better yet, we prefer to have it now. After today, we may still have to wait. Who knows? And we are okay with that also. With the economy in the state it is in right now, it might be “wait some more.”

Even though that is hard, I’m okay with that. God has proven Himself faithful over and over the past 17 years (how long I have been here). In fact, in my 69 years I have NEVER seen Him not be. I have no plans to start doubting that truth about Him now. Nor do I have any inclination to do so.

If God says, “Hurry up and wait” that is exactly what I’m ready and willing to do.

All in good God’s time.

July 6

Wednesday, July 6th, 2022

Have you ever given much thought to names? For example, my name means “Conqueror” or “Determined Guardian.” But to be honest, I don’t think my parents gave much thought to the meaning of my name. I was named after my dad (but not a Junior). I can truthfully say our daughter’s name, Tamra (Tami), was not chosen because it means “palm tree.” I liked the name and the spelling of her name was mine. After 47 years she has not complained about it. 🙂

At Christmas we talk a lot about the names of Jesus.

Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Emmanuel (which means “God with us.”)

How about these names?

  • King of kings
  • Lord of lords
  • God of gods
  • Bright MorningStar

Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and End.

Here are 2 more significant ones:

LordRuler. In charge. Boss.

MasterHead over me.

It is important to acknowledge and recognize Jesus as Lord. It is equally important to acknowledge and recognize Jesus is my Master. For that to happen it is more than mere words. It is action. Submission. Awareness of my inferiority and His superiority. A need to acknowledge his greatness and my lowliness.

Jesus is both Lord and Master. He is the Ruler over all creation. He is also the Master over my life. Therefore, all honor and glory goes to Him.

What better name could there be for me than Servant of the Master?

June 28

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

After I finished Revelation and my analysis of it (It started with the April 18th post), I did what I always do. I started reading the NT again, beginning with Matthew 1. It will be a challenge to finish it on or close to December 31. I am now in Matthew 23. This will be my first of two posts from that chapter.

Matthew 23: 1-12

My first inclination was to comment on the “do as I say not as I do” scenario we find ourselves in as Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their hypocritical double standards. But as I read further with that thought in mind, I came to these words in verses 10-12: “And do not be called leaders, for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Jesus is the Leader. My leader. The logical conclusion to that statement might look like this:

  • Jesus is the Leader.
  • Jesus is Greater than me.
  • Therefore, I am to be His servant.

Being a servant sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires a dose of humility (for some of us more than a small one). It requires the willingness to raise others up and put myself down (not in false humility). My purpose is to make His Name great.

The Pharisees didn’t do that. They couldn’t! They were too busy promoting themselves and their own self-righteousness. That’s the whole gist of verses 4-7. Self-promotion can never promote the great Name of Jesus. Self-promotion can never honor, exalt, magnify, glorify and make great the Name of Jesus.

We are to live for the fame of His Name. I/we cannot do that when we are clamoring for the microphone.

MAKE GREAT HIS NAME!!

June 6

Monday, June 6th, 2022

Have you ever been to the grocery store to buy one thing and then been overwhelmed by the options before you? Take, for example, cereal (which one can barely afford these days). I have certain ones I like and they all begin with chocolate. 🙂 Chocolate LIFE is one of them. But there are also multiple varieties of LIFE.  Or how about ketchup or mustard? Generic. Store brand. Organic. Jalapeno. Hot. Spicy brown mustard. Yellow. There is even Catsup! You get the picture. And don’t get me started on the different types of bread or cheese. Sheesh!

Many people think or take that same approach toward God. We live in a pluralistic society where there is a god for everyone. Every religion has its god. “Take your pick!” “Pick one which best suits your fancy!” Hindu. Buddhist. Islam. Animist. And so on. Even God.

Many Christ-followers fail to see God is not one of many gods. He is the ONLY God. The rest are just cheap knock-offs. They couldn’t h0ld a candle to Him even if they could (which they can’t since they are just stone or metal). The prophets of Baal once tried that. They even cut themselves begging Baal to set fire to the altar. No go. But Elijah’s God-the one and only true God-displayed His power by consuming the altar and water surrounding it and the sacrifice. What a display of power!

Jesus once said He was the only way. Not “a” way. Not “one of” the ways. But the way. The supremacy of Christ is one of the core teachings in the Bible. Colossians 1 is devoted to that, as are several chapters in Hebrews.

Jesus above all. That’s a vital truth we must grasp and hold on to.

“Father, may Jesus reign supreme over all things, especially in me and my world.”

I have a couple of prayer requests to add to your prayers:

First: my friend, Ryan, and his wife, Amanda, left for Mayo Clinic Sunday (yesterday) and will arrive today for a series of appointments. I believe it is 3 in three days. Pray for their safety and also for answers to Amanda’s pain (besides Ryan). 🙂  Love you Ryan!  Jo & I have known them almost 15 years and they have become dear friends of ours. Their move to another town about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes away allows us to get together upon occasion. 

Second: Jo, Tami, and I will be leaving today for a short jaunt to Ohio. Braden plays a game tomorrow (unless it gets rained out). We will be returning home Wednesday, Lord willing.  That also means I will not be posting here unless I sense God saying something and I can put up with my phone. 🙂

Third: I have back surgery scheduled for June 14. Please pray that all goes well with the prep I have to do and that I stay healthy for the surgery. Part of my daily regimen is vitamins. I have to stop taking them tomorrow (Tuesday)…one week before surgery. I’ll let you know next Monday what the surgery is all about.