How To End The Sin Of __________

C.H. SpurgeonCharles Spurgeon was addressing drunkenness in this passage, but what would happen if you filled in sin you are most prone to commit in these blanks…

“You cannot wipe out all the national iniquity, but if each man reformed himself of __________, by God’s grace, this great evil would cease. … Have you heard ringing in your ears the precept, ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy’? Has the Holy Spirit by His mighty grace kept you from indulging in __________? Have you in any way fallen into lightness of talk and thought, and so helped to increase the flood of __________? … Let us bow our heads in penitence, and seek the God of all grace.”

Heavenly Father, may I be more sensitive to the sin in my life than I am aware of the sin in the world. Amen.

Liquid Leadership (book review)

Liquid LeadershipIn Liquid Leadership, Brad Szollose proposes to teach leadership principles for those who have younger employees, or for those who lead organizations that need to relate to a younger demographic. Brad says that liquid leaders are able to flow effortlessly between older and younger generations.

Brad’s seven laws say that a liquid leader…

  1. …places people first.
  2. …cultivates an environment where it is free and safe to tell the truth.
  3. …nurtures a creative culture.
  4. …supports reinvention of the organization.
  5. …leads by example.
  6. …takes responsibility.
  7. …leaves a lasting legacy.

I agree with all of these points: not just for “liquid leaders” but for all leaders. If leadership principles (or laws, as Brad calls them) are true, then they are also applicable in every setting: Gen Y or Baby Boomer, for-profit or charity, Western or Eastern.

The “meat” of Liquid Leadership comes in the opening chapter, with the remaining chapters consisting primarily of Brad’s personal experiences, or his observations of other success/failure stories, to help bolster his point.

If you are looking for a book with good stories to make your case for leadership, check this out. But if you are looking for a book about serious leadership development, look elsewhere.

The Fearful Privilege Of Being A Pastor

PreachingI was studying the life of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, and I jotted down some thoughts in my journal of what God was speaking to me. But I also felt like this was a message for my fellow pastors as well. So here are my unedited thoughts, just as I penned them in my journal. 

The Lord said to me, “Son of man, look carefully, listen closely and give attention to everything I tell you….” (Ezekiel 44:5).

I have to take personal responsibility for this. This is not something I can pass off to anyone else―“instead of carrying out your duty in regard to My holy things, you put others in charge of My sanctuary” (44:8). No, never!

I have been given the privilege and heavy responsibility for souls in this community. I must, therefore, hear what God has to tell me about this city and these people. He knows, and He wants to share with me. He calls me to look carefully, listen carefully, and give careful attention to what He’s saying. He is desirous that everyone in this community will see His radiant glory (43:2), and―wonders of wonders!―He has asked me to deliver His message of life to my community.

Who am I that You would choose me? But you have, and I am grateful. I am also filled with holy dread that I carry out my duties in a way that pleases and glorifies You, my King. I need Your help. I need to hear Your voice. I need Your Spirit to stamp the image of Christ ever more clearly in me.

May I only live to bring You praise!

Don’t Misuse God’s Name

Representing God's nameYou’ve heard the old nursery rhyme: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. We all know this isn’t true: words do hurt, and names that people call us may leave lasting wounds.

Words and names are important to God. God used His word to create the universe (God said, “Let there by light”); Jesus was called The Word (see John 1:1); God has named people and even renamed them to reflect their character or destiny.

The most important name of all is God’s own name, so the Third Commandment says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God…” (Exodus 20:7). How can we misuse God’s name? There are five ways—

(1) As emptiness or nothingness

  • Are our words empty? Do we use filler phrases like “Oh my God!” that neither talk to Jehovah or about Jehovah? We shouldn’t use God’s name unless we’re talking to Him or about Him in a respectful way.

(2) In vanity

  • In reality this means calling ourselves a Christian, but speaking in an un-Christlike way.
  • “Giving God a ‘bad name’ might diminish or demolish people’s belief, respect, and awe for God, a tragedy for a world that needs holiness. … It is a major responsibility to represent God; one which should not be taken lightly.” —Dr. Laura Schlessinger

(3) Being insincere

  • Are our promises empty, or is our word our bond? If we have to use phrases like “I swear to God that I will…” then that means we cannot be trusted on our own merits. When we claim to be Christians but cannot be trusted, we undermine the trustworthiness of God in the minds of other people.
  • “The godly man, therefore, will make promises cautiously but keep them conscientiously once they are made, knowing that irresponsibility and unreliability here are great and grievous sins.” —J.I. Packer

(4) Having an unholy vocabulary

  • Holy means something set apart for a special use. Perhaps there are words we use to describe God that we are also using for lesser things. It might be good to listen to how the Holy Spirit would challenge us to have a unique vocabulary to talk to or about our unique God.

(5) Worthlessness of conduct

  • As the cliche goes, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you are saying.” So we need to make sure that we both talk like Jesus talked and live like Jesus lived.

Anything less than these standards just may be misusing God’s holy name and character by misrepresenting Him or giving Him a “bad name.” What do you think?

I am continuing our look at the Ten Commandments in our series The Love In The Law next Sunday. I would absolutely love it if you could join us!

A Leader’s Nudge And Covering

Nudge & coverLeadership carries a heavy responsibility. I often paraphrase what the Apostle James wrote, “Not many of you should presume to be leaders because you know leaders will be judged more strictly” (see James 3:1).

Consider what was said to Jeroboam, the king of Israel: “And God will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit” (1 Kings 14:16, emphasis added).

A leader’s action has consequences not only for himself, but for all the people under his care. Sure, some Israelites were going to sin regardless of how Jeroboam lived, but his sinful lifestyle gave a nudge to those who took their cues from him. In other words, Jeroboam’s sin made it that much easier for others to sin.

I’m sure there were some Israelites who didn’t follow Jeroboam into sin, yet they were now exposed to God’s “jealous anger” (1 Kings 14:22) because Jeroboam’s sin removed the covering of God’s blessing on those northern tribes.

These principles still hold true today for me as a dad, a husband, a pastor, a citizen of Cedar Springs. And they hold true for you in your role as a spouse, a parent, an employer or employee, a Christian. Your sin may be the nudge to others that causes them to sin; your sin will remove God’s covering and expose people to His judgment.

Leaders best serve by staying wholly committed to God. 

It’s only as I am wholly—and holy—His that I can nudge people toward righteousness and preserve the covering of God’s blessing.

May our lives never arouse God’s righteous anger, but may we be a blessing by wholly serving Him all the days of our lives.

Painting With Your Words

My dear fellow pastors, please heed this admonition from A.W. Tozer. Our responsibility of presenting the Good News of Jesus Christ must include mastery of the language in which we will be speaking. We must not be lax in this!

Tozer“For the very reason that God has committed His saving truth to the receptacle of human language, the man who preaches that truth should be more than ordinarily skillful in the use of language. It is necessary that every artist master his medium, every musician his instrument. For a man calling himself a concert pianist to appear before an audience with but a beginner’s acquaintance with the keyboard would be no more absurd than for a minister of the gospel to appear before his congregation without a thorough knowledge of the language in which he expects to preach.” —A.W. Tozer

Boomerang

BoomerangI was very hesitant to enter the pastorate. As I look back now, I see God had been preparing me for this all my life, but I was reluctant to take on such a heavy spiritual responsibility.

When I finally submitted, I made a covenant with God: “I never want to preach a sermon where my finger is pointed at the congregation, where I am saying, ‘You people better listen to this!’ But I only want to share what You have been challenging me to do and become. I want the congregation to hear an overflow of the work being done in me.”

I recently read a paragraph from Oswald Chambers that validates that covenant I made—

“It is an easy business to preach, an appallingly easy thing to tell other people what to do; it is another thing to have God’s message turned into a boomerang—‘You have been teaching these people that they should be full of peace and of joy, but what about yourself? Are you full of peace and joy?’ The truthful witness is the one who lets his light shine in works which exhibit the disposition of Jesus; one who lives the truth as well as preaches it.

My pastor friend, don’t preach it if you’re not living it! Or another way: live it first, then preach it.

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