Leadership

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April 21

Thursday, April 21st, 2022

In Jesus’ message to the church at Pergamum (Rev.2: 12-17) several things stand out:

First, is the description of Jesus: “The One who has the two-edged sword.” Several verses flashed through my mind as I read that. One is “the Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword.”  (Heb.4:12).  I also flashed to the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6 which talked about the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v.17b). Jesus will yield His sword (pictured elsewhere in Revelation).

Second, we live in Satan’s realm. We are told that he is the prince of this world…for now. One day his rule will come to an end…as will he. But I like what it says about some of the saints in Pergamum: they held firmly to their faith. They refused to compromise the Name of Jesus!

Third, even though they had some who held to their faith, they also had some who embraced false teaching.  And it was ugly. Compromise central. They allowed sexual immorality (teaching of Balaam) and the teaching of the Nicolaitans (similar to Balaam and also included sexual orgies).

Fourth, God did not then, nor will He now tolerate compromise.  “Repent” were His words.  False teaching is so insidious, so sneaky, so creeping, and so sinister. Look up and its there (and one often doesn’t even realize it).

That’s a warning…for me…for you…for the church. Be aware. Be on guard. Keep the sword handy. I/you may have to do some hacking away.

“Father, Your truth stands. It cannot be compromised. You won’t stand for it. Help me to be true to Your Word.”

Lord willing, I will be back Monday with the next installment/devotion based around the letters to the 7 churches.

April 19

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Have you ever received an anonymous letter? I’m not talking about the one which included a note of appreciation and maybe even a monetary gift. I like those kind! 🙂  I’m talking about one that was vindictive, accusatory, and just downright mean. I have, but I was too naive, to feisty, and to quick to react to respond correctly. What I should have done was throw it in the trash…immediately…and forgotten about it. But instead, I chose to keep it and try to figure out who sent it. An anonymous letter is a coward’s way of spewing hate.

By contrast, there was no doubt who wrote the letters to the 7 churches…and it wasn’t John.  The author signed them. He also didn’t mince any words. Take Revelation 2: 1-7 for example, the letter to the church at Ephesus.

Commendable:

  • their deeds, labor and perseverance
  • their lack of tolerance for evil
  • their discernment of false teachers
  • their dislike (hatred) for the Nicolaitans

One bad thing:

  • they had left their first love

What does that mean? I’ve actually heard several different possibilities:

  1. Their love for Jesus had cooled.
  2. Their love for truth had waned.
  3. Their desire for truth and love had been skewed. There was an inbalance.

Does it really matter in the long run? Probably not. The words are harsh, condemning, and not easily forgotten. How do I know that? Because of verse 5: Remember from where you have fallen and Repent.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the Ephesian church got one part of the equation right but not the other. They got the love right but forgot the truth. Or perhaps they allowed false teachers to come in unhindered and spread lies and pull their affection from Jesus.

I’m wondering if this is a fulfillment of Paul’s words to the elders in Acts 20: 28-31a. (Click the link for the Scripture )

What are your thoughts?

“Father, may You always be first in my heart and thoughts. Protect me from false teachers who come in like wolves dressed as sheep.”

April 11

Monday, April 11th, 2022

A slight detour for this morning from my previous thoughts.

Yesterday, Sunday, was what is commonly called Palm Sunday.  It is considered the start of what is called “Holy Week,” i.e. the final week of Jesus’ life here on earth. As we know, it begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the crucifixion (called Good Friday) and culminates with the Resurrection on the first day of the week.

It is historically called Palm Sunday because it is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people waved palm branches, laid them on the ground, and yelled, “Hallelujah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Mt.21; Mk.11; Lk.19; Jn.12)

Luke’s is the longest account. Each gives his perspective. But there are some similarities. The one which stands out to me is Jesus riding in on a donkey. He is being hailed as a king yet rides in on a donkey.

No conquering king or general rode in on a donkey. Nothing less than a white charger would do! it was below a person of status to ride anything less. But here is Jesus-the King of kings and Lord of lords-riding into town on a donkey. A borrowed one at that.

What a picture of humility!! The accolades flow. The praise reaches a crescendo. The religious leaders get mad. But here is Jesus  riding, not a white charger, but a borrowed donkey.

Again…what humility! One act speaks volumes…for eternity.

“Father, may I exhibit humility like Jesus. When people praise me, may I accept it and act with humility and now allow it to go my head.”

April 4

Monday, April 4th, 2022

As part of my ongoing posts about lessons from Wisdom Hunter I want to leave you with this one this morning:

The local church should be more than just a preaching station where people come and sit front-to-back as spectators, and listen to a one hour lecture before returning home.  It should be a spiritual support group where Christians get into one another’s lives. (p.249)

I realize as a pastor that flies in the face of what I do on a Sunday morning, but I do agree with it. Due to the church culture I work in, it would, or probably could, be detrimental to change things on Sunday morning. To divide into groups of 5-10 and scatter around the auditorium to pray or to talk about what you have heard may sound like a good idea, but there is a time and place for something like that. In our case, Sunday morning is not it. Now…if it is a retreat or a small group then by all means.  Another possibility is if it has been part of the church culture from the very beginning of the church’s birth, that may work.

But I also agree that there does need to be some interaction. Frankly, except for small groups meeting on other nights and using the sermon as a jumping off point, I’m not sure I have an answer. In fact, I know I don’t. Look in my eyes and see a big “L” for Lost on that topic.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any idea how we can change our church culture to be more participation-oriented than spectator-oriented? I would like to hear your ideas.

{NOTE: This will be my last post until Thursday morning this week. Jo and I left for Ohio right after the second worship service was over to spend the evening with our family there. We also plan to visit her sister in a nursing home in Sandusky on Monday, then stay to watch Braden play a game both Monday and Tuesday night (weather permitting). Lord willing, I plan to be back home on Wednesday in plenty of time for my Wednesday night “66” class.  I will post another devotion on Thursday morning. My plan to post ahead of time didn’t work out.  🙂 }

March 28

Monday, March 28th, 2022

When I was in my teen years I was different. I had been raised to treat people with respect. To answer with “Yes mam” and “No sir.” Growing up in PA near Pittsburgh in the 50s and 60s the use of the “N” word was very common. But not to my mom. No sirree! I was taught not to use that word or to make fun of others, especially those who were handicapped.

I chose not to smoke, drink or chew for several reasons. I played sports. I was scared of my dad. And more importantly, my faith was important to me and I didn’t feel that represented Jesus in a good light. When the riots took place in the late 60s and black and white kids who used to be friends were duking it out, I chose to withdraw and not take part. I found there were others who were like-minded (Jeff Goldblum was one of them).

Peer pressure was there but was not a defining thing for me. Harder for me was when I “came out of the closet” spiritually and chose to leave my legalism behind. God had been working on me for awhile, but I resisted. It was when I found myself surrounded with a legalistic bunch that I finally gave up and surrendered my pride and my “legacy” to God. I went through some semblance of burnout as I struggled with leaving the comfortable and stepping into the unknown. It wasn’t over then. A new church said, “You’re done here” (I’m putting it nicely) after 3 years. The reason I was given was “I didn’t preach on water baptism and other mainstays of the Christian Church/Church of Christ enough.”

Strange. I was able to resist peer pressure but it took me longer to yield to the Spirit’s pressure because of the unknown than it ever did to peer pressure.  Pastoral peer pressure existed in a big way. I’m glad I finally said, “Goodbye” to that and submitted to the Spirit’s pressure.

At that moment (whenever it was), I went from Pharisee to tax collector. One of the best moments of my life.

My prayer is that I will continue submitting to the Spirit’s pressure and not worry about peer pressure and what others will think. That pressure to be liked is a far greater one that any peer pressure. But following the Spirit is so much more satisfying…even if it isn’t always popular.

March 22

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

I cracked open an old friend the other day. No, not the Bible! 🙂  Years ago, 1994 to be exact, I read a book-a fiction book-which literally changed my life. I read it once and thought it was good as an addition to Christian fiction reading at the time. A year later I went away for a 3 day retreat of prayer and fasting. I took the book with me. At the time, I am not sure why. I soon found out it was a God-thing. I started reading the book during some self-imposed down time at the retreat and was blindsided by it. I found myself weeping-not because it was an emotional book of tear-jerking love stories-but because I saw me. And I didn’t like what I saw.

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur is the story of Jason Faircloth, an authoritarian, legalistic, know-it-all pastor whose life was turned upside down by two catastrophic events. These events led him to abandon his “pastor calling” and go on a search for wisdom and truth.

I can relate to Jason because I, too, was an arrogant, pompous, know-it-all. God used that book to dig deep into my heart with a pick-axe. The only ones Jesus had trouble with in His ministry were the religious, know-it-all, legalistic Pharisees. I didn’t want that anymore. I wanted to be open to His Word, to His leading, to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and to being taught new and exciting truths.

I’m there again. Not the legalistic, pompous (least I hope not), know-it-all. I want to learn more. I want an insatiable hunger and thirst for God’s Word. I want to “know Him and the power of His resurrection” as Paul puts it in Phil. 3:10 (that word “know” literally means “to know intimately”). I’m not anywhere near the legalistic pastor I was back then (I NEVER want to go back there again), but I do want to crave a relationship with the Father and seek His wisdom.

I’d appreciate your prayers for me.

{Note: It is very possible the next couple of devotions will include some thoughts from the book that especially touched me…then and now).

March 21

Monday, March 21st, 2022

Happy Birthday to my brother, Rob, today!  He turns…well, he was born in 1954 so I’ll let you do the math.  I just won’t tell you his age. 🙂

I missed reading yesterday Proverbs yesterday (Sunday) so I read chapters 20 & 21 this morning. I noticed an anomaly in chapter 20. Stop for a moment and read verses 10 and 23. Different wording yes. But they are essentially saying the same thing.

I drew a line from verse 10 to verse 23 in my Bible and wrote two words along the line: honesty matter.  I’m not too old that I don’t remember when a man’s handshake was good enough.

“A man’s word is his bond” we used to say.

“Honesty in the best policy.”

It used to be honesty mattered and cheating was an abomination. Sadly, not any more. Politics. Education. Media. Sports. Taxes. Churches. Cheating seem to be running rampant. The saddest? The latter. Above all, the church should stand head and shoulders above the fray. But we don’t and haven’t. Churches are made up of people-flawed people.

Because we represent Christ, we need to be hyper-aware of the signals we are giving. We are to be people who are honest and integrity-driven. Let me close this devotion with a passage from chapter 21: “Every person’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord examines the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is preferred by the Lord more than sacrifice.”

“Father, may I be a man of honesty and integrity and truthfulness.”

February 16

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

I listened to someone yesterday. You might say, “That’s not unusual. I listen to people every day.” And I suspect you are right. But when I say I listened to someone, I mean I L.I.S.T.E.N.E.D. to someone.

Let me explain. In wanting to do something, and unsure of what direction to go in, I gave multiple options. That’s not bad except the way I presented it was confusing (so this person said). It was too many options. And confusing. After doing something one way, I was thinking of shifting gears. Did I say it was confusing? The other person thought so anyway. I can honestly say I was seeking the multiple persons’ opinions when I gave the options, but I was muddying the waters.

There is more to the situation that I have been able to describe but I won’t bore you with the details. My point in all of this rambling is the importance of listening. Really listening. Taking advice. I’ve not always been the best at doing that (and I suspect I am not alone). I often shoot from the hip and think later. I also have pieces to pick up sometimes. I could have saved a lot heartache, headaches, and wounded bodies if I had sought advice first.

Taking advice is not easy. I’m reading a book right now on Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry by Michael Mackenzie and one of the common threads of those who do so is the failure to listen, to take advice, to be accountable. Ego enters the picture. A know-it-all attitude. An air of invincibility. A superhero complex.  Pr.12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a person who listens to advice is wise.” Listening to advice separates the wise and the fool. “A wise person is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

I’m not sure how this situation will turn out, but for me, at least it was a step in the right direction.

Do you listen to advice or do you tend to be deadset in your own ways and in you own agenda?

“Father, continue to teach me to listen and learn.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

February 14

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Our Daily Bread had a really cool story about 2 octogenarians, one from Germany and one from Denmark. They had each enjoyed 60 years of marriage before they were widowed. Though living only 15 minutes apart, their homes were in separate countries. Still, they fell in love, regularly cooking meals and spending time together. Sadly, in 2020, due to ‘rona, the Danish government closed the border crossing. Undeterred, everyday at 3:00 p.m., the two met at a border on a quiet country lane and, seated on their respective sides, shared a picnic. “We’re here because of love,” the man explained. Their love was stronger than borders, more powerful than a pandemic.

I believe that is what I Cor. 13 is all about. Love that has no borders.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not brag. Love is not arrogant. Love does not act disgracefully. Love does not seek its own benefit. Love is not provoked. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices in the truth. Love keeps  every confidence. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. Love never fails.  (NASB2020)

A love like this come from above. It was perfectly modeled by a loving Father. It was perfectly exemplified by a life-giving Son.

How do you love?

“Father, may my love be a reflection of Yours in me.”

January 24

Monday, January 24th, 2022

Note: I wrote this Sunday morning (yesterday) as I awaited the opportunity to preach knowing things would be greatly different. These are my musings.

As I sit here this Sunday morning, a mixture of emotions flow through me. Due to the state and county both being in the red (COVID-wise not politically), the decision was made to do live stream only this morning.  Add to the state and county statistics the fact that some of the church people are also testing positive or simply struggling with illness, it seemed the wisest thing to do.

Am I happy? I would be lying if I said I was.  But I also understand. As far as I’m concerned, someone getting vaxxed and boosted is a matter of personal choice and I will not take a side on that issue. It is not for me to impose my will or thoughts on someone, even though Jo and I have both been double vaxxed and boosted. She will be 71 next Sunday and I am 69. Yeah…she robbed the cradle. 🙂

No, my issue is not even a health issue. My issue is how much I look forward to Sunday morning and seeing people. Sure, I do get to do what I possibly love more than just about anything-emphasis on “just about.” I know I’m a social creature and I really look forward to seeing people, laughing with them, hugging them, fist bumping them, and just all around greeting people.  I love seeing smiles and the joy of connecting with people I have grown to love. I love seeing new people and the fact we have some “mo” right now makes it a bit harder to take this break. But that is the way of life in 2022…and in 2021…and in 2020.  I just think there is great value in meeting together.

But thankfully, we have live stream-a vital second to our ministry. Where would we be without it? Given today’s scenario, we would have had to cancel services or require (gasp) everyone wear a mask. I’m thankful for the live stream. I remember how we started in late 2020 with nothing more than an iPhone.  The live stream has really been a life saver.

My personal hope is that this will just be a one week glitch. If not, we will use whatever means we can to get the message of Jesus to others. I pray God will bless our efforts and I am going to take Him at His Word that His words will never return void.