Check out the new episode of the podcast where I talk about how Christians were created to thrive, not just survive!
A few weeks ago, I was giving a lot of thought to stagnant water. Perhaps all of the rain we have had over the past few months was finally getting to me, but I found myself staring at a little ponding of water near the end of my driveway. It had no where to go. The hole was created when someone drove off the road and into my yard as they came into our neighborhood.
This hole had filled with water, but because of it’s shape, it had nowhere to go. No groove existed for the water to escape out. It just sat there. Some leaves leftover from the fall had found their way to this hole and dirt had colored the water a dark brown. It looked gross.
It’s easy for us to picture how unhealthy it would be to drink out of a puddle like this. Most of us would instinctively know that you wouldn’t look at that dirty puddle and go grab a straw. But how many of us drink from stagnant waters in our spiritual lives?
Many of us have what I am going to term, “Complacency of the Soul.” To define that, Complacency of the Soul is when our spiritual life has become stagnant and we have become satisfied with things that are less than God’s ideal for our lives.
Now, this is different that being content. God wants us content. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi and tells them that he has learned to be content in whatever situation he has found himself in.Continue reading “Contentment Versus Complacency”
One of the things I’ve said before is that all of us are leaders. Some are leaders in the family, others leaders in their employment. Even if you don’t have a “title” or “position”, you can still be a leader.
Leaders are those that take initiative and keep going when everyone else stops. Godly leaders know that it’s not good enough to simply know the truth, you have to put the truth into action. You have to be a doer of the word, not just a hearer only, as James writes.
What I have found in my life is that when I put a biblical truth into action, I am tested. It seems like it’s almost immediately in most instances. I grab a hold of a new truth that God has given me and suddenly, there I am in the furnace of testing. God wants us content with his truth, but not complacent with it.
So we are tested.
When we enter into a time of testing, most of us think that we have done something wrong. For myself, I immediately start taking inventory of my life. “Where have I sinned?” But God doesn’t need us to sin to test us. He tests us for our own good. He already knows how we will respond when the furnace is turned on; it’s for our good that he flips the switch on us.
I am reminded of God’s servant Job. Job had it all, but it was all taken from him. You want to talk about being tested? Job was tested. His family, his friends, all that he owned…Job was being tested in every area of life. Most of us would not survive a testing like Job went through. But Job went through it, so we could learn from it.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth like gold.”
Job understood testing better than anyone and I love his bold statement here… “I shall come forth like gold.” Job understood the purpose of testing. He understood that God wants to refine us in the testing. He wants to get the impurities out. These impurities are thoughts and actions that only bubble to the surface in the refiner’s fire, in the testing. Job understood this.
Where are you today? Are you being tested? Do you feel like God has abandoned you? Take heart. God has not abandoned you, even if you feel like it. Job knows how you feel. In the midst of the trial it can feel like you are alone, but you are not alone. God is with you.
This is the life of all of His leaders. If you desire to lead others, you will be tested. You will have times where things don’t go the way you want them to, but it’s only a test.
I recently came out of a time of testing and I wasn’t sure I would make it through it. My emotions were all over the map, one minute I could sense a victory over the situation and a few minutes later, I felt nothing but defeat. When you are in the fire, you cannot trust your feelings. Lean into His word. God assures us that He doesn’t leave us. Hold on to His promises. True leadership is forged in fires like these.
The best analogy that I can come up with is that of an airplane flying into a storm. When the pilot flies into the storm, he can’t trust his gut. He can’t trust his feelings. He has to trust his instruments. Those are his guides. He can’t see where he is going. The storm is all around him. It’s easy to get turned upside down if you don’t follow your guides. The instrument cluster on the plane tells you where you are going and how far off the ground you are. As the pilot you have to trust those gauges. As a godly leader, your instrument panel is the Word of God. When the storm rages, check your instrument cluster and make sure you stay the course. God gave us these tools. Use them!
Too often leadership becomes about the leader. Leaders are put up on pedestals in our society. Look no further than our politicians. This is the opposite of what leadership looks like in the kingdom. God expects his leaders to serve others and empower them, not the other way around.
Leading through empowerment is one of the most effective tools a leader has in his toolbox. When you empower others, you multiply your influence. John Maxwell says, “leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”
In the kingdom, influence is with a purpose. Influence isn’t to make people adore the leader more, influence is to get people to be more like Christ. When we are granted influence over the lives of other people, it is a solemn responsibility.
Typically you find at least two ways leaders will use influence – empowerment or authoritatively. Some leaders simply wish to lord over those under them. They don’t want to see others succeed, they want to see themselves succeed. Those who use influence to garner more authority do not realize they are actually limiting their influence, not increasing it. Godly leaders increase their influence by giving their authority to others.
“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
Jesus models leadership to us in this passage. Jesus was the one with authority. He was the one with power. But, He didn’t lord that power over his disciples. He gave them his authority and power. This is the very definition of empowerment. Jesus empowered his disciples to do the work of the ministry.
This is an important principle for church ministry as well. Paul echoes this when he is describing the function of church leadership in Ephesians chapter 4, “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry”.
Church leadership really has one goal – to equip others. As leaders, we have to be willing to empower our people to do what God has assigned them to do. The point is not to get a large church so that we can say, “look at how good of a leader I am!” That’s not leadership.
I think a lot of people avoid church for this reason. They do not like to be lorded over. They want to be empowered. They have a lot to offer and they have typically been devalued by others. This simply should not be the case. I want you to know, that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you are valuable. You are valuable to God. You have a lot to offer.
Don’t think that you are unworthy. Jesus empowered Judas even though he was going to betray Him. Leader, sometimes the people you empower will hurt you, but you can’t let that stop you from doing what God expects from all of his leaders. Empower others. It will multiply your ministry.
Seek And You Will Find… – Everyday Jesus
“What a friend I have in Jesus,” starts the old song, but did you know that God isn’t friends with everyone? It’s true. God reserves his friendship for a certain group of people and this thought was something I had never considered. I have always thought that God was simply a friend to all.
We know that God was friends with Moses. In Exodus 33, it says that Moses built a tent of meeting outside of the camp in order to spend time with God. Moses and his servant Joshua would go out to this tent and it says in Exodus 33:11 that Moses met with God “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”
One obvious conclusion here is that God is a friend to those who want to meet with Him. He is a friend to those that will remove all distractions and spend time with Him. Moses was that kind of guy. He knew the importance of spending time with God. But I think there is more to friendship with God than just that.
Jesus tells us of those that aren’t his friends in Matthew 7 at the tail end of the Sermon on the Mount, even though they know all of the religious lingo and they do good works.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to the, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Jesus says that just because you may say the right things and do some good works, does not mean that He knows you. What a sobering statement. Many who go to church may fall into this category — they know how to walk the way and they know how to talk the talk, but they don’t know Him. What a scary thought!
The key to knowing Him is found in the first sentence, “not everyone…will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father…” Jesus here is saying that if you want to be known by Him, if you want to be a friend of God, then you must do His will. We must seek to accomplish His desires. In one sense friendship is all about what you can do for others, not what they can do for you. And friendship with God is very much like this. Jesus is saying our friendship with God is dependent upon us doing the will of the Father. And doing for Him requires a relationship with Him.
One of the problems we have is that we have watered down that word “relationship” so much, that it’s almost void of any meaning at this point. “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship,” we hear people saying. But this isn’t just about a self-identifying verbal acknowledgement from us, it’s deeper than that. Paying God some lip service or simply “showing up” on Sunday mornings doesn’t constitute a true relationship.
So how do we become friends with God? The Bible gives us the answer.
“The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”
The fear of the Lord truly is the beginning of wisdom and it’s also the beginning of friendship with Him. If we truly see Him for who He is and we honor and respect Him, guess what? We are His friends! God reserves His friendship for those who revere Him!
Just as Moses feared the Lord, we too should fear the Lord. Just as Abraham feared and honored the Lord, we should do the same. When we become friends with the Lord, he allows us to enter into a place of special knowledge. He makes known to his friends, his covenant. In other words he enters into a special relationship with His friends. Do you want that today? Then the answer is to fear Him.
I believe life to be a struggle. And I think its that way because that is the way God designed it. He wants us to struggle so as to encourage us to put our trust in Him. When things go smoothly, its much more difficult to admit your need for Him. But when things are falling apart, you are forced into His arms confessing your need for Him.
In leadership, there are points in your journey that God purposely puts there to reawaken the leader to his need for God. Sometimes a leader can become so reliant on their giftings that they will rely more on themselves than they do on God.
Godly leadership must always come from a heart of knowing that we are utterly dependent on God to accomplish his calling in our lives. When we take the calling that He has given to us and try to accomplish it in our own strength it will always fail.
Think about the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Abraham was given a prophetic promise from God – a calling. God had given Abraham and Sarah the promise of a son and truly more than that, a promise of offspring that would be innumerable.
But after years of believing for that promise, they began to doubt. It was not a lot of doubt, but they began to doubt. And when doubt creeps in, one of the tendencies in leadership is to try to “help God out” and in our strength try to bring about the promises of God rather than waiting for God to fulfill what He has promised us.Continue reading “Leadership 101: Holding On To The Prophetic Word Given To You”
So you want to be a leader? Sounds like fun, right? Well for many people, leadership is something that they aspire to be a part of, but never quite make it. They spend their lives studying and wishing that one day someone would put them into a position of leadership. They really want to show the world what they’ve got.
The problem is a lot of people never get past that point. They get bogged down in the day to day schedule and never actually get that opportunity. And what they fail to realize is, leadership has very little to do with your title, but it has more to do with your character. You can be a leader without ever actually owning a leadership title.
Leaders are not born, they are grown. I’ve heard people speak of another person and say something like, “That guy is a born leader.” And while they may have some wonderful talents, leadership isn’t something you are born to do. It’s who you are. It’s your inner character. It’s something you work at. Leadership is not something that you are appointed to. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of people appointed to a position of leadership and later it was discovered that their character wasn’t up to snuff. But, in honesty, they were appointed because they had some giftings, they didn’t earn that title.
Too many people within the church are more concerned about elevating giftings and not character, which is why we see so many leaders falling into sin. They may be extremely gifted speakers, but their character has been completely ignored. God is more concerned with your character.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Jesus gives us a great comparison on wise and foolish leaders. Wise leaders will build upon the rock, foolish ones will build upon the sand. We know that storms will come. That’s a given. The question is whose house will be standing once the storm hits? Well we all know the answer, the one who built his house upon the rock. If you have been to church for any length of time, you know the rock is Jesus. But here’s what people miss about this story, the very first sentence…”therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…”
The context of this verse is that it’s located at the very end of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has spent an entire sermon talking about character. He has spoken of being meek, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, loving your enemies, giving, etc. This verse ties all of that together. If you want to be a wise builder, you won’t just hear the words that Jesus has spoken, but you will do them.
James, the brother of Jesus, encourages us to not just be hearers of the word, but to be doers (James 1:22). If we only hear the words of Jesus and never put them into practice, then we are being a foolish leader. Too many leaders are busy doing stuff, but they aren’t busy working on character. Get rid of your pride and spend time before the Lord asking Him to transform you into a merciful leader. Ask Him to make you into a peacemaker. Stop spending some much time working on your gifting and spend more time working on your character. That’s what true leadership is all about.
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:12-13
The Bible is filled with tough verses to interpret. Many verses are tough even for seasoned Biblical scholars. If you have been a Christian for any length of time you know that we believe that salvation is not works based. Meaning that no matter how hard you try, you cannot work your way into right standing before God. Your good works are as dung before God. He accounts them as nothing. We need the perfect work of Jesus Christ to be counted as holy, so as Christians we put all of our faith in Him and his finished work on the cross of Calvary.
In light of that, this verse in Philippians can be a tough one to figure out. At first it seems to imply that our salvation is based upon what we do. But this is not what Paul is saying at all. If you have read Paul’s letters, he clearly states that salvation is not based on works, but on faith alone in Christ alone.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
So Paul is not saying that we need to work for our salvation. What he is saying is that our salvation is working in us and it is our responsibility to let that process work through us. It’s not a completed process. So Paul is encouraging us to work out our salvation.
In one sense our salvation is complete. Jesus finished the work of salvation on the cross. He died for our sins. That is complete. But in the sense Paul is speaking of here, our salvation has not worked out completely in us. Salvation is a process. Once the process is started in our lives, salvation links up with sanctification. The reason these two link up is to work in us and to make us more like Jesus. The goal of salvation is not simply to save us, but with the process of sanctification, it is to conform us into the image of Jesus.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29
Now the question is how are we to work out our salvation? Paul says “with fear and trembling.” Now why do you suppose he uses these two words to describe this process? I believe it is because that is how we enter into the kingdom in the first place. Remember, God does not give grace to the proud. The fear of the Lord produces humility in us and that holy fear is what Paul is referring to in this passage.
Once we are saved, we can become so comfortable with God, that we forget to have reverence toward Him. While the Bible encourages us to approach his throne with confidence, that doesn’t mean that we throw out any reverence for His name and who He is. We must always remember that we are drawing near to a holy and perfect God. He has grace and love towards us, but we show our love toward Him by showing Him respect. So Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with this fear in mind.
Some people fear change. They love the normalcy of life. They look at life and hope that everything will always stay the same. They do not embrace the many changes in life. After all, if things are good, why would you want things to change?
I heard a wise person say once that the only certain thing in life is uncertainty. Or another way of looking at that is that the only thing in life that stays the same is change. Change always happens around us. We grow older, we get married, we have children, our children grow up, we retire — things change.
Change is a healthy part of life. We enjoy the benefits of new seasons in our life because of change. For example, when my wife and I first got married, I wasn’t sure it could get any better than those first few years! We lived in a condo on the water and we spent our evenings taking walks down by the water with our little dog. It was very picturesque. And even though we both worked a lot, when I was home, it felt like we were on vacation together.
But change is inevitable. We knew we couldn’t stay in the place forever. We wanted to own a house and have children. So we moved and had four wonderful children and they brought us even more joy than we could have imagined. So things changed around us, but God was good to us in the change.
Now external change is one thing, but internal change is another. Internal change, or change in the heart, is much harder to come by. I’ve known people will a lot of self-inflicted problems get fed up and decide to move to a different city. What they soon find is that their problems have followed them to their new destination! They never addressed the internal issues, so the change in external situations didn’t result in the happiness they were seeking.
Now in church, we are no different. Many people hop from church to church and are full of complaints. They leave one church because of some minor issue that they have blown out of proportion when in reality, the real problem is not in the church, it’s inside themselves.Continue reading “The Fear of God Produces Change”