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.

6 Quotes From “The Global War On Christians”

The Global War On ChristiansYesterday I shared some eye-opening statistics from The Global War On Christians by Jeff L. Allen, Jr. Below are some of the quotes which especially stood out to me. If you want to read my full review of this book, please click here.

“Spectacular outbreaks of violence are often produced by less intense incidents, such as believers being harassed on the streets, slurred in the media, shunned in the workplace, and hassled as they gather to worship. The usual cycle is for complaints to be made about these incidents, which are then ignored or dismissed. That failure to act usually serves to emboldened the perpetrators, who then may become more likely to move on to even more lethal assaults, in effect testing the limits of official tolerance.”

“The bottom line is that the global war on Christians will never be won as long as the myth persists that nobody’s really responsible for it.”

“Perpetuating the idea that Islam is by far the primary threat facing Christians in the early twenty-first century also stokes the idea of a ‘clash of civilizations’ between the two faiths, adding fuel to the fire of those who long for a new holy war. That doesn’t do justice to the complex reality of the situation, as there are examples of both conflict and coexistence, and for every virulent and dangerous current in the Islamic world there are also movements and individuals devoted to peace.” 

“Politically correct silence does no one any good, and arguably insults the dignity of those who run risks to life and limb on a daily basis to keep the faith alive.”

“Politics distorts perceptions of the global war on Christians in another sense. Ideological bias tempts observers in the West to see only part of the picture. Those on the political left may celebrate martyrs to corporate greed or to right-wing the police states, but fear to speak out about the suffering of Christians behind the lines of the Islamic world. Conservatives may be reluctant to condemn the situation facing Christians in the state of Israel or in regimes that are presently in fashion on the right has allies in the ‘war on terror.’ Either way, the result is a reductive reasoning of the true score of anti-Christian persecution, and a double standard when it comes to engaging its protagonists. If we want to see the global war on Christians clearly, we have to stop looking at it through the funhouse mirror of secular politics.”

“Historically, waves of persecution have fueled major advances for Christianity. … Today, it’s no accident that zones where persecution of Christians is the most intense… are also the places where Christianity is growing the most dramatically.”

Ho Hum, It’s Election Day

Calvin CoolidgeSadly, that’s the attitude of far too many people in the United States of America. And it’s flat-out wrong! 

If America is to stay true to the designs of our brilliant Founding Fathers, we must vote intelligently. In this age of easy internet access, there is no excuse for you not to find out where each candidate stands. So get informed and go vote!

Almost 90 years ago President Calvin Coolidge had some challenging words for Americans which should still grab our attention today—

“All the opportunity for self-government through the rule of the people depends upon one single factor. That is the ballot box…. The people of our country are sovereign. If they do not vote they abdicate that sovereignty, and they may be entirely sure that if they relinquish it other forces will seize it, and if they fail to govern themselves some other power will rise up to govern them. The choice is always before them, whether they will be slaves or whether they will be free. The only way to be free is to exercise actively and energetically the privileges, and discharge faithfully the duties which make freedom. It is not to be secured by passive resistance. It is the result of energy and action. … Persons who have the right to vote are trustees for the benefit of their country and their countrymen. They have no right to say they do not care. They must care! They have no right to say that whatever the result of the election they can get along. They must remember that their country and their countrymen cannot get along, cannot remain sound, cannot preserve its institutions, cannot protect its citizens, cannot maintain its place in the world, unless those who have the right to vote do sustain and do guide the course of public affairs by the thoughtful exercise of that right on election day.” (emphasis added)

More Spirit-Filled Leaders

MosesMoses was so right on the mark when he cried out, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me!” (see Numbers 11:14)

It takes a confidently humble man to ask for help (see Numbers 12:3). But God gives more grace to that humble person, while He stands aloof from those know-it-alls and those I-can-do-it-all-by-myselfs.

God anointed leaders to assist Moses. He took the same Spirit that was on Moses and imparted it to those 70 leaders. But—note this carefully—the Spirit on Moses was not at all diminished!

Moses’ responsibility was to pick the 70 “who are known to you as leaders” (11:16), then the Lord placed His Spirit on them (vv. 17 and 25). There were 70 who prophesied but Moses correctly desired “that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them” (v. 29).

Leadership is necessary, and it is meant to be shared. From the senior leader, this requires (1) humility, (2) responsibility, and (3) willingness.

Oh Lord, raise up more Spirit-empowered leaders!

Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn (book review)

Sometimes You WinIf you’re like me, you grew up being able to quickly finish the phrase, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you… lose.” But John Maxwell gives us a far better way to finish this well-worn phrase in his latest book Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn: Life’s Greatest Lessons Are Learned From Our Losses.

As in his other books, Dr. Maxwell shares very candidly about his own missteps, and the lessons he learned from them. He also brings in the insight from other friends and authors who have also learned the value of making mistakes and learning the hard lessons from them.

What always amazes about John Maxwell’s writing is the depth of insight. On the surface you would think there wouldn’t be much to say about learning from our losses except another well-worn cliche, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But that try-again spirit is only one part of the learning process. John shows us the value of:

  • Humility
  • Reality
  • Responsibility
  • Improvement
  • Hope
  • Teachability
  • Adversity
  • Problems
  • Bad experiences
  • Change

Following through on all of these aspects leads to the most important step in the learning process: Maturity.

The insight, historical stories, personal anecdotes, and wisdom of other been-there-done-that people are woven together with John’s unique teaching style to give us a book that is highly beneficial. I’d especially recommend this book to parents, coaches and mentors.

I am a Center Street book reviewer.

Thursdays With Oswald—God’s Word In Hard Places

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

Oswald Chambers

God’s Word In Hard Places     

To search for a word of God to suit one’s case is never Divine guidance, but guidance by human caprice and inclination. The Holy Spirit Who brings to our remembrance what Jesus has said and leads us into all truth, does so to glorify Jesus Christ. Divine guidance by the Word always makes us realize our responsibility to God…. 

     How often have our misunderstandings of God’s Word proved to us the need for the penetrating words of our Lord, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now.” In our prayings, in our desirings, in our patience, does our knowledge of God enable us to say and really mean, “Speak, Lord; for Your servant is listening”? Would we really hear God’s Word, or are we not rather in this immediate tribulation waiting for God to persuade us that our own way is right after all?

From Christian Disciplines

There is a difference between saying, “God get me out of this” and “God, what do You want to get out of this?”

There is a difference between praying, “God, please bless what I’m doing” and “God, please show me what You’re blessing so that I may do it.”

We need to be very careful that we don’t read into Scripture something that will justify what we’re feeling or doing or experiencing. Instead, we need to let the Holy Spirit speak God’s Word to us clearly and without any hidden agenda.

I know your situation may be tough, but don’t try to find a shortcut out of it. Let God accomplish what He wants to accomplish; let His Word be your guide; let the Holy Spirit make that Word come alive to you.

15 Quotes From “Stopping Words That Hurt”

Stopping Words That HurtThere was so much for me to process in Stopping Words That Hurt by Dr. Michael Sedler (you can read my full book review by clicking here). If you’ve ever been hurt by someone else’s words about you, there is help for you in this book. If you’ve ever hurt someone else with the words you’ve spoken, there is help for you in this book.

Bottom line: this book can help cut-off hurtful words and evil reports before they gain momentum. Please read this book!

Here are just a few quotes that stood out to me—

“We are so brainwashed into believing that it is permissible to violate one another verbally that it takes a concentrated effort to begin to have a new thought pattern.”

“It is imperative that you understand this truth: Just listening to an evil report can do tremendous damage to your perspective, viewpoint and overall spirit. … Joining in a negatively-driven conversation, no matter how small the participation, may destroy the testimony of a life. Listening to grumbling and ungodly attitudes eventually contaminates the spirit. The more we allow discontent to be taken in by our spirits, the greater the tendency to compromise our own speech patterns. We are being called to a high standard of living where the rewards for our faithfulness are eternal.”

“It is usual for most of us to listen without questioning. We oftentimes want to support a friend, supervisor or person of influence. In fact, a messenger may single us out because she knows we will not disagree with or question her. Are we being used because of our own gullibility and blindness to negative speech patterns?”

“We must have our antennas up and be prepared when we hear negative comments and subtle innuendos about others.”

“If we are unable to recognize the potential destruction caused by negative words, we will eventually cause injury to those around us. And, sadly, we often deceive ourselves into believing there was justification for our actions.”

“It is rude to knowingly be a part of gossip. It is not good manners to listen to verbal assaults and blatant character assassinations of people who are not present to defend themselves. It is foolishness and ignorance. We must open our eyes and discern when we are listening to evil reports in order to be accepted by the crowd.”

“A bold positive response can put out the fire.”

“Learn to avoid the trap of falling into emotional identification by getting information for yourself. Compare your feelings and thoughts with the Bible’s guidelines. Look for corroboration or contradictions as you assess the situation. And, finally, give a little more weight to the perspective of those who have been faithful, trustworthy and proven people of integrity than the words of a stranger or ‘expert’ who has no track record of honesty.”

“Fear can draw us toward God or pull us away. It can create a desire in us to cling to the truth or alter our perception of the truth. While satan wants to use fear to rob us of our faith in God, we need to continue to speak words of truth and confidence regarding our place with Christ.”

“Impurity occurs when we hear evil reports with our natural ears and minds without seeking spiritual wisdom and understanding. If we accept the words of others as truth, we will become filled with a mixture of philosophies, attitudes and beliefs.”

“A person who has responsibility over others also has great influence. If he or she shares a negative report with the general population, those with unguarded spirits will become contaminated.”

“I speak a strong word of caution to husbands and wives, significant others and close family members. We often take on the offense when a loved one is wronged or slighted. And though they may work through the issue, we still hold on to the anger and bitterness.”

“It is difficult to ‘have ears that hear’ at this point in the process. First of all, we do not see ourselves as defiled or polluted. We think we are right and can handle everything ourselves. We are suspicious about counsel. We question the motives of those giving it. We actually fight the process of cleansing using words such as manipulating, self-centered and controlling to describe the interventions of others. We accuse even our closest friends and supporters of being insensitive and uncaring. Whereas once we received challenges and guidance from others, now we meet each comment or suggestion with disdain and animosity. It is during this phase that people have a tendency to reject the process of cleansing, choosing instead to walk away from purity and to blame and curse others for their lack of support and love.”

“In order to heal with words, we must be willing to be persistent with them. Jesus frequently verbalized His love for His disciples. Once is not enough! Encouragement, praise and positive words continue to feed the soul in the same way water moistures the soil. Soil will eventually dry out and need another dose of fresh water.”

“Great people of God find a way to speak hope into others. They give a sense of purpose, of calling, of future, of destiny to those around them.”

22 Quotes From “The Ragamuffin Gospel”

Ragamuffin GospelThe Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning really resonated with me. You can read my full book review by clicking here, but below are some of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“The institutional church has become a wounder of the healer rather than a healer of the wounded.” 

“Personal responsibility has replaced personal response. We talk about acquiring virtue as if it were a skill that can be attained, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In the penitential seasons we focus on overcoming our weaknesses, getting rid of our hang-ups, and reaching Christian maturity. We sweat through various spiritual exercises as if they were designed to produce a Christian Charles Atlas. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal disciplines and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time.”

“God has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do.” 

“Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.”

“The Word we study has to be the Word we pray.”

“We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of knowing Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.”

“Whatever past achievements might bring us honor, whatever past disgraces might make us blush, all have been crucified with Christ and exist no more except in the deep recess of eternity.” 

“It is unimaginable to picture a wooden-faced, stoic, joyless, and judgmental Jesus as He reclined with ragamuffins.”

“We miss Jesus’ point entirely when we use His words as weapons against others. They are to be taken personally by each of us.” 

“The saved sinner is prostrate in adoration, lost in wonder and praise. He knows repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness; it is what we do because we have been forgiven. It serves as an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness. Thus the sequence of forgiveness and then repentance, rather than repentance and then forgiveness, is crucial for understanding the gospel of grace.”

“Maybe this is the heart of our hang-up, the root of our dilemma. We fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we save ourselves. We develop a false sense of security from our good works and scrupulous observance of the law. Our halo gets too tight and a carefully disguised attitude of moral superiority results. Or we are appalled by our inconsistency, devastated that we haven’t lived up to our lofty expectations of ourselves. The roller coaster ride of elation and depression continues. Why? Because we never lay hold of our nothingness before God, and consequently, we never enter into the deepest reality of our relationship with Him. But when we accept ownership of our powerlessness and helplessness, when we acknowledge that we are paupers at the door of God’s mercy, then God can make something beautiful out of us.” 

“Honesty is such a precious commodity that it is seldom found in the world or the church. Honesty requires the truthfulness to admit the attachment and addictions that control our attention, dominate our consciousness, and function as false gods. I can be addicted to vodka or to being nice, to marijuana or being loved, to cocaine or being right, to gambling or relationships, to golf or gossiping. Perhaps my addiction is food, performance, money, popularity, power, revenge, reading, television, tobacco, weight, or winning. When we give anything more priority than we give to God, we commit idolatry. Thus we all commit idolatry countless times every day.”

“To be alive is to be broken. And to be broken is to stand in need of grace. Honesty keeps us in touch with our neediness and the truth that we are saved sinners. There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are. … Getting honest with ourselves does not make us unacceptable to God. It does not distance us from God, but draws us to Him—as nothing else can—and opens us anew to the flow of grace.” 

“When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past, we are disdaining God’s gift of grace. Preoccupation with self is always a major component of unhealthy guilt and recrimination. … Yes, we feel guilt over sins, but healthy guilt is one which acknowledges the wrong done and feels remorse, but then is free to embrace the forgiveness that has been offered.”

“The evil one is the great illusionist. He varnishes the truth and encourages dishonesty. ‘If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth has no place in us’ (1 John 1:8). satan prompts us to give importance to what has no importance. He clothes trivia with glitter and seduces us away from what is real. He causes us to live in a world of delusion, unreality, and shadows.” 

“At Sunday worship, as in every dimension of our existence, many of us pretend to believe we are sinners. Consequently, all we can do is pretend to believe we have been forgiven. As a result, our whole spiritual life is pseudo-repentance and pseudo-bliss.”

“The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith. How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the sin-scarred wino on the street, how I respond to interruptions from people I dislike, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my reverence for life than the antiabortion sticker on the bumper of my car.” 

“A little child cannot do a bad coloring; nor can a child of God do bad in prayer.”

“The call asks, Do you really accept the message that God is head over heels in love with you? I believe that this question is at the core of our ability to mature and grow spiritually. If in our hearts we really don’t believe that God loves us as we are, if we are still tainted by the lie that we can do something to make God love us more, we are rejecting the message of the Cross.” 

“There are some real problems with projecting the perfect image. First of all, it’s simply not true—we are not always happy, optimistic, in command. Second, projecting the flawless image keeps us from reaching people who feel we just wouldn’t understand them. And third, even if we could live a life with no conflict, suffering, or mistakes, it would be a shallow existence. The Christian with depth is the person who has failed and who has learned to live with it.”

“We project into the Lord our own measured standard of acceptance. Our whole understanding of Him is based in a quid pro quo of bartered love. He will love us if we are good, moral, and diligent. But we have turned the tables; we try to live so that He will love us, rather than living because He has already loved us.” 

“No greater sinners exist than those so-called Christians who disfigure the face of God, mutilate the gospel of grace, and intimidate others through fear. They corrupt the essential nature of Christianity.”

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