4 Leadership Requirements

I love studying leadership—leadership principles, leadership practices, and leadership people. There’s a great leadership case study in the Bible in the life of Joshua that always intrigues me.

Joshua had been through extensive preparation to become Moses’ successor. He was a recognized leader in his tribe, the general of the army, and an aide-de-camp to Moses for a number of years. But his most important leadership qualification: He was called by God.

As the story of his leadership opens in the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, God gives four requirements for Joshua (and you and me) to be effective in our leadership roles.

1.  Be yourself. God didn’t say, “Be like Moses.” In fact, the only time God talks about Moses to Joshua is to reassure him, “I will be with you like I was with Moses.” But never once does God uses a “Moses Grading Scale” for Joshua. God simply says, “You will lead these people.”

2.  Have an objective measuring stick. Feelings may change, but God’s Word never does. So God counsels Joshua to always rely on the Book of the Law.

3.  Guard your thoughts. Leaders have so many people “in their ear” wanting to lobby for their way. So God tells Joshua to not only read the Bible but meditate on it as well. One definition of meditation is to hum God’s Word. In other words, humming God’s Word will help a leader know which lobbying voice is in harmony with God’s Voice, and which lobbying voice is off-key.

4.  Guard your attitude. God repeats this to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Even doing everything they are supposed to be doing, leaders can become afraid to make a change, or discouraged because people aren’t following along. These feelings must be driven out with one firm declaration: “I know the Lord has called to this leadership position, so I know the Lord is with me. He will enable me to complete what He has called me to do.”

God’s direction to Joshua is still great counsel for leaders today.

The Christian Atheist (book review)

Every time I read a Craig Groeschel book, I know I’m going to read words that cut right across all of my excuses for not changing. And I was not disappointed to find this pattern continued with his latest book The Christian Atheist.

If the title sounds like an oxymoron (you can read the definition of this funny-sounding word here), that’s because it is. Or is it? The subtitle of the book gives the right-on-target definition of a Christian atheist: believing in God but living as if He doesn’t exist.

So every chapter is titled, “When you believe in God, but…

  • …you don’t really know Him.”
  • …you are ashamed of your past.”
  • …you aren’t sure He loves you.”
  • …you don’t think you can change.”
  • …you don’t share your faith.”
  • and many more!

It reminds me of what James wrote in his letter to the church, where he called them out for being Christian atheists: “You believe in God? Good for you! Even the demons believe in Him. But you’re not living like you believe in Him.”

Brennan Manning wrote,

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today are Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

But Craig doesn’t just identify the symptoms, he gives his readers the prescriptions too. In easy-to-apply concepts, Craig tells those who believe in God how they can make the changes that won’t deny God by their atheistic lifestyle.

I highly recommend this book to you.

I am a Zondervan book reviewer.

Devilish Scheming

If you’ve ever locked horns with the devil in spiritual warfare, you know that he’s a schemer. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth to remind them that we shouldn’t be unaware of his scheming. And Peter said that the devil is always on the prowl, like a scheming lion looking for a place to attack.

So it should come as no surprise that since my message was about unity in the Body of Christ that the devil’s scheming would be to bring about disunity. There was just a weird mood happening yesterday. In fact, in our pre-service prayer time, I felt prompted to pray out loud that God would knock down any distractions to what the Holy Spirit wanted to do.

I saw it coming … I prayed hard against it … and my prayers knocked down the enemy before he could fully implement his devilish scheme.

Well, not exactly.

Yes, I did feel prompted to pray against distractions, but I should have been praying against disunity too. As a result, I could feel the fight all morning. It would be more accurate to say that I could feel something all morning. It wasn’t until I got home and commented to Betsy about what I had been feeling that I got clued in. She said, “What did you expect? You were talking about unity today, so obviously the devil is going to attack that very thing.”

Duh! Why didn’t I see that? I’m so grateful for a godly wife who catches these things for me.

But I learned something yesterday. I learned that my prayers need to be more specifically-targeted prayers. Sort of like the “smart bombs” our military uses that are laser-guided right on target. Like Paul said, I’m not going to be unaware of the devilish scheming.

Spiritual warfare is always hard work, which is why in Paul’s teaching on spiritual warfare he told us to keep on praying for each other.

Judge Or Father?

I’m still thinking about the powerful worship time we had in our Impact youth service on Wednesday night. I can’t think of another way to describe it, except to say that it was intimate.

We sang a song written by Michael Gungor called Wrap Me In Your Arms. The lyrics are simple:

There is a God who loves me
Who wraps me in His arms
And that is the place where I’m changed
And that’s where I belong

Take me to that place, Lord,
To that secret place where
I can be with You
You can make me like You
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms
Wrap me in Your arms

Far too many people view God as a Judge. Make no mistake, God will judge all of humanity at the end of the age, but in the meantime, Scripture portrays God as a loving Father who wants to wrap us in His arms.

I love the picture in the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son: The young man who ran away from his father and squandered all of the wealth he had taken with him. When he reached the end of his rope, the wayward son turned toward home. If you were thinking of returning home after embarrassing your father and throwing away his money, would you want to return to a judge or a father?

The young man did turn toward home, and his father ran to him and wrapped him in his arms! How amazing!

On Wednesday night I encouraged our youth group to simply stretch their arms out toward their Heavenly Father and feel Him wrap them in His arms. It was so special to see tear-streaked cheeks and outstretched arms in the loving embrace of a God who loves anyone who turns to Him. Awesome!

I encourage you to do the same.

If you’ve blown it … if you feel distant from God … if you feel like you’ve let Him down … if you feel like you’ve embarrassed Him … see Him as a Father who is longing for you to return to Him. He will not judge you, but He will wrap you in His arms and make everything new.

If you wait until your life here is over without ever turning to God, then you will have to face God the Judge. Don’t wait! Embrace God your Father today.

More Than Worship, It’s Worthship

Church has often been called a “house of worship.” But I struggle with what that means exactly. Sometimes it’s a house of singing, or a house of preaching, or a house of socializing, but not too often is the primary focus of the gathering people worship.

It seems most of the time worship is something we do at some point during the singing.

Now I will be the first to admit that the atmosphere most conducive to worship is usually created when meaningful—“worshipful”—songs are being played sung. But is that it? Shouldn’t there be something more?

The definition of worship includes:

…a condition of being worthy of honor or renown.

In fact, the Old English spelling was worthship. In other words, the greater the worth something had, the greater the honor or renown that something should be given.

In my case, the Something should have a capital “S.” The Person worthy of greatest honor and highest renown is my God and Savior Jesus Christ.

So why do I have to wait to go to a certain building to express His worth?

Why do I have to wait until the atmosphere is right?

Shouldn’t I be expressing my adoration and honor to Him always?

What does it mean to always be in a place of expressing my worthship?

I’ve been mulling over this quote from Brother Lawrence:

I know that for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things; because God will possess the heart alone; and as He cannot possess it alone, without emptying it of all besides, so neither can He act there, and do in it what He pleases, unless it be left vacant to Him.

As the Apostle Paul wrote I’m trying to capture every thought during the day and ask myself, “Is this thought taking up space in my heart that should be God’s space? Does this thought draw me closer to my Savior, or further away.” I’m trying to express His worth to me in the way I think about Him throughout the day.

Worrywart

“Worry indicates we’re not willing to let God handle certain things—at least not in His way, and certainly not in His time.” —Craig Groeschel, in The Christian Atheist

Worry is a control issue

…that is, I want to be in control.

Worry is a sovereignty issue

…that is, I think I know best how things should work out.

Worry is a trust issue

…that is, I trust God only when things are happening on my timeframe.

Bottom line: Worry is sin when

  • …I allow something else to be bigger than God.
  • …I allow something else to be more important than God.
  • …I allow something to limit God.
  • …I look more to myself for solutions than I look to God.

Any worry should be a call to prayer: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Any extended worry should be a call to repentance: Jesus commands us four times, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:25-34).

Worry can be disguised in a lot of different forms, but it’s still worry. And it’s still sin. I’m working on this.  

The Pits

I recently finished reading two books that both have “the pits” in their title, and they both are solidly based on Scripture. But they couldn’t be more different.

Get Out Of That Pit by Beth Moore is based on three verses in Psalm 40: I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

Beth’s book is all about getting out of a pit. Those places we’ve slipped into, been shoved into, or keep going back to. Those things that limit our perspective on life. Those hurts that keep us from enjoying the full life Jesus wants to give us. In a word, this book is all about deliverance from a pit.

In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson is based on two verses in 2 Samuel 23: Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, who performed great exploits. He struck down two of Moab’s best men. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

Mark’s book is all about going into a pit. Benaiah was an initiator. Mark leads us through Benaiah’s life to show us that sometimes problems come as opportunities disguised as Moabite warriors or roaring lions or huge giants. And in order to live the full life God has in mind for us, we have to seize those roaring opportunities. In a word, this book is all about taking the initiative to go into a pit.

The pits can limit your life. Either you can be stuck in one, or you can be afraid to go into one. God wants you to live a victorious life. Whether you are stuck and need deliverance, or you are stuck and need initiative, these books can help awaken in you the great things God wants to do through you.

Both books have discussion questions to go along with each chapter, which makes them excellent for use as either an individual or small group study.

Ready? Go get out of that pit—or dive headlong into one—to live the full life God has for you!

I Don’t Have To Be A Know-It-All

I’m still reading through Craig Groeschel’s book The Christian Atheist. This morning I read a statement that Craig quotes from Andy Stanley:

“You don’t have to understand everything to believe in something.”

I don’t know about you, but this gives me such freedom! Especially in my role as a pastor where sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to understand it all.

I don’t have to have an answer to every question to point people to God.

I don’t have to be able to unravel every theological mystery to tell people Jesus loves them.

I don’t have to know how He does it to lead people to the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t have to know why everything happened the way it did to care for hurting or confused people.

The bottom line is I can only know the part—the infinitesimal part—that the Holy Spirit has made alive to me. But that part is more than enough for me to keep on loving my God and my Savior!

Fasting

We’re fasting today.

I believe in this: Prayer + Fasting = Breakthroughs.

Even though this looks like a mathematical formula, it doesn’t work like a formula. Jesus challenged religious people who fasted just because. Jesus was really echoing the words God spoke in Isaiah about religious people simply going through pious acts, but their hearts were still far away from God. They thought God operated on a formula: “If we fast, then God has to….” It doesn’t work that way.

We met together for a time of worship and Bible study last night, and we’ll conclude our fast with corporate prayer this evening. We are focusing on our heart attitude. Not fasting just because or even the pastor asked us to. But fasting because we are hungry for God to move … for Him to break chains … for Him to set people free … for breakthroughs!

I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in us and then through us as we spend this time seeking His heart. Prayer + Fasting = Breakthroughs.

Knowing God

I read a line in Craig Groeschel’s book—The Christian Atheist—this morning, and several thoughts have been swirling in my heart and mind. He wrote, “Get to know God. When you do, you will never be the same.” Maybe this resonates with you too.

To know God.

To really know Him.

Not just to know facts, or recite a history, or to know what He said. But to know HIM.

To know Him better. Better today than yesterday. To know His mind, His heart, His thoughts. Not knew (past tense) but know right now—this very moment.

What pleases Him? What does He long for? What breaks His heart? What are His plans for me?

Am I knowing Him?

Am I pleasing Him?

Am I living for Him today?

Am I walking in the path He wants me to?

Do I really know God?

I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit who helps me know God more. He helps me develop a more intimate knowledge. I’m so grateful that the Holy Spirit helps me to know that I am knowing God—intimately, personally, increasingly.

I will not stop my pursuit of God. I cannot stop. I don’t want to stop. I must know Him more today.

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