Leadership Cycle

But a good leader plans to do good, and those good things make him a good leader. (Isaiah 32:8 NCV) 

A recognized good leader → Plans good things → Does good things → which makes that leader more recognizable, and on and on it goes. 

A good leader has to make good plans and has to followthrough on those good plans in a good way. The leader may have started off with just the title of “leader” but the good followthrough on good plans will help that leader be recognized by others as a good leader. 

That recognition of a leader by his/her teammates makes it that much easier the next time to make the good plans and then followthrough on them. 

This is a virtuous cycle that pays dividends for everyone involved!

They Came For Freedom (book review)

I was first introduced to Jay Milbrandt through his book The Daring Heart Of David Livingston. I was so captivated by Jay’s writing style that I had to seek out more of his books. They Came For Freedom is the story of the first pilgrims that came to this land we now call the United States of America. 

Jay uses his training as an attorney to sift through the voluminous historical documentation that was available for him to use in the writing of this book. Just as an attorney is trained to evaluate the evidence to be presented in court in light of the biases of a witness, Jay does the same thing with the many people who documented the story of the pilgrims. 

What Jay really wanted to try to capture in this history was the reasons why people wanted to come to this new world. Were there religious motivations? Were there commercial considerations? Were they just adventurers or maybe malcontents? So Jay goes back further into history to set the stage and give us some of the motivations that went into the decision to make such an arduous voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. 

In reading this book, undoubtedly you will hear some names of people and places that sound familiar to you. But I’ll bet you are going to see these people and places in a way that your school history books never presented. I found this book absolutely fascinating! I felt about They Came For Freedom the same way I did about Jay’s book on Dr. David Livingston: This is history that reads like a novel. 

You may think the story of the first pilgrims coming to these shores is so well known that this book isn’t going to be worth your time, but I can assure you that you are guaranteed to learn something you never knew before. Well done, Jay! 

Spirit-Empowered To Do Good Works

Micah the prophet’s name means who is like God, or more literally: “who but God?” The implied answer, of course, is no one! 

Micah opens his letter by telling us his name, and then he closes his prophetic words with a play on his name when he says, “Who is a God like You?” (7:18-20). Who else but God could…

  • …pardon sin?
  • …forgive transgressions? 
  • …not stay angry at sinners? 
  • …delight to show mercy? 
  • …have such boundless compassion? 
  • …tread our sins under His foot?
  • …hurl our iniquities into the sea?  

NO ONE! 

In light of this, how should we respond to this amazing God? Micah asks a series of rhetorical questions about what sort of religious practices would somehow “balance the scales” for God’s amazing gifts to us. But here’s the deal: there is no way for us to balance the scales! Instead, Micah tells us this, “God has showed you what is good. What does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” 

In other words, our response to God’s invaluable gifts must transition from a have to lifestyle to a get to lifestyle! Micah makes it clear that God’s Spirit empowers us to live this way (Micah 3:8). 

It is the Holy Spirit who empowers Christians to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. 

The apostle Paul agrees with Micah, even echoing some of Micah’s own phrases—God’s great love, His rich mercy, His unearned grace, His forgiveness of sin, His kindness, and His salvation (Ephesians 2:4-10). Why did God do all of this? So that we could “do good works”—like acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly—“which God prepared in advance for us to do”!

I am saved by grace SO THAT I am free to do grace-filled, Spirit-empowered, good things. 

All of this prompts me to ask myself three introspective questions:

  1. Do I continually remind myself that I was saved by grace and not by works? I need to check my have to vs. get to attitude. 
  2. Am I aware that people are watching me? What are they seeing? Do they see godly justice, loving mercy, and humility? 
  3. Am I living like Jesus? Peter explained that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Can that be said of me too? 

Who but God could call us, forgive us, and forget our sins? NO ONE! 

Who but God could empower us to live in such a way that others see His greatness too? NO ONE! 

Let’s never, ever become self-reliant or works-dependent (that’s have to living), but let’s stay so Spirit-reliant that we cannot help be get to people! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series about major lessons from the minor prophets, you can find the full list by clicking here

Poetry Saturday—Growing Old

They call it “going down the hill” when we are growing old,
And speak with mournful accents when our tale is nearly told;
They sigh when talking of the past, the days that used to be,
As if the future were not bright with immortality.
 
But it is not going down; ‘tis climbing high and higher,
Until we almost see the mountain that our souls desire;
For if the natural eye grows dim it is but dim to earth,
While the eye of faith grows keener to discern the Savior’s worth.
 
Who would exchange for shooting blade the waving golden grain?
Or, when the corn is fully ripe, would wish it green again?
And who would wish the hoary head, found in the way of truth
To be again encircled in the sunny locks of youth?
 
 
For though, in truth, the outward man must perish and decay,
The inward man shall be renewed by grace from day to day;
Those who are planted by the Lord, unshaken in their root,
Shall in their old age flourish and bring forth their choicest fruit.
 
It is not years that make men old; the spirit may be young,
Though fully threescore years and ten the wheels of life have run.
God has Himself recorded, in His blessed Word of truth,
That they who wait upon the Lord shall even renew their youth.
 
And when the eye, now dim, shall open to behold the King,
And ears now dull with age shall hear the harps of Heaven ring,
And on the head now hoary shall be placed the crown of gold,
Then shall be known the lasting joy of never growing old. —Anonymous

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind

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

Do Not Fear The Spirit’s Wind 

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8) 

     Sometimes the wind comes with a sweep as though it were going on forever. It comes past and dashes through the trees, sweeping away the rotten branches. Then away it goes across the Alps, dashing down an avalanche in its course, still onward. And as it flies, it blows away everything that is frail and weak. And on, on, on it speeds its way to some unknown goal. And thus it is sometimes the Spirit of God will come right through us, as if He were bearing us away to that spiritual heritage that is our sure future destiny, bearing away coldness, barrenness, everything before it. We do not lament then that we do not pray. We do not believe that we cannot pray. ‘I can do everything’ is our joyful shout as we are carried on the wings of the wind. …  

     The lower branches of the trees are scarcely moved, but the top branches are rocked to and fro by it. [The wind] is a great leveler! So is the Holy Spirit. He never sees a man high but He brings him down. He makes every high thought bow before the majesty of His might. … Now do not let this make you fear the Holy Spirit. It is a blessed thing to be rocked so as to have our hopes tested, and it is a precious thing to have our carnal confidences shaken. And how blessedly the wind purifies the atmosphere! …  

     So the Spirit of God comes and cleanses out our evil thoughts and vain imaginations, and though we do not like the hurricane, yet it brings spiritual health to our souls. …  

     The Holy Spirit is the great testing power, and the result of His operations will be to show men what they are. … Thus also we try the doctrines of men; we bring the breath of inspiration to bear upon them. … True Christians and sound doctrines have ballast and weight in them; they are not moved nor driven away. But empty professors and hollow dogmas are scattered like chaff before the wind when the Lord will blow up on them with the breath of His Spirit. Therefore examine yourselves; try the doctrines and see if they are of God.

From The Holy Spirit Compared To The Wind 

We are wise to fear the Wind of God. 

By fear I mean a holy reverencing, an appreciation of the awful weightiness of God’s presence, an ever-growing awareness of the awesomeness of the thought of standing before The Judge of the Universe—the All-holy and All-righteous King of kings. I don’t mean cowering in the corner, afraid to approach God, nor afraid of Him approaching us. 

In the first Church in the book of Acts, we see a married couple trying to lie to the Holy Spirit, a sorcerer thinking he could learn “the tricks” of the Holy Spirit, and King Herod trying to claim the majesty of God’s presence for himself (Acts 5:1-11, 8:18-24, 12:21-23). The Holy Spirit dealt powerfully and decisively with all of these pretenders. The result: the power of the Holy Spirit was unmistakably and unquestionably acknowledged! So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things. 

True Christians welcome the wind of the Spirit. He cleanses, purifies, prunes, fills, and empowers. He blows away what is impure so that He can impart more of Himself to us. 

Let us never, ever treat the Holy Spirit lightly. Let us never, ever try to put the Holy Spirit in our own little boxes. But let us be open to whenever and however He wants to blow His wind through our hearts. 

 

Impossible To Unstoppable

King David was a unifier. He took people that were territorial and possessive of their own tribes and unified them into the strong nation of Israel. 

The way he responded to the murders of Saul, Abner, and Ish-Boseth prompted this response: “All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything that the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner” (2 Samuel 3:36-37). 

The leaders of Israel’s various tribes then followed the lead of Abner—“All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron” and “all the elders of Israel” joined with David (5:1, 3). 

David accepted all of this in confident humility. He knew that it wasn’t his doing but God’s. He made sure to stay reliant on God (5:19, 23), keeping in mind that he was leading to win victories for all Israel: “Then David knew that the Lord had established him as king over [all] Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel” (5:12).

Result: “[David] became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him” (v. 10). 

God delights to empower leaders who have a humble heart to unify God’s people. God will let self-made leaders struggle in their own ability, but He will unleash all His resources to help the humble, God-dependent leader.

These God-empowered leaders are the only ones who can bring lasting unity. 

Leading on my own strength: Impossible.

Leading in God’s strength: Unstoppable! 

[read all of these passage in the Bible for yourself by clicking here]

Jesus Says

Jesus says, “I will… 

…make you fishers of men” (Matthew 7:23; Mark 1:17) 

…acknowledge in Heaven those who acknowledge Me on earth” (Matthew 10:32-33) 

…give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) 

…build My church” (Matthew 16:18) 

…give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19) 

…show you whom you should fear” (Luke 12:5) 

…drive out demons and heal people” (Luke 13:32) 

…never drive away those who come to Me” (John 6:37) 

…give My life for your life” (John 6:51) 

…rise again from the dead” (Matthew 27:63; Mark 14:28; John 2:19) 

…raise up believers to eternal life” (John 6:40, 44, 54) 

…come back to take you to be with Me forever” (John 14:3) 

…do whatever you ask in My name” (John 14:13, 14; 16:28) 

…not leave you as orphans” (John 14:18) 

…ask the Father to give you an Advocate” (John 14:18) 

…give you words and wisdom that are irresistible” (Luke 21:15) 

…see you again and give you eternal joy” (John 16:22)

Oh, what a Savior!

What Christians Believe (book review)

C.S. Lewis remains my all-time favorite author. His ability to explain concepts of theology is unparalleled in both his own time and into modern times. What Christians Believe is a classic case in point. 

During World War II, the BBC was looking for something both inspirational and educational to carry on their airwaves to the British troops abroad and the war-weary British citizens on the home front. They discovered a little-known professor of literature that presented something so fresh and revitalizing that his notoriety immediately skyrocketed throughout England! Part of what he presented as a series of audio essays for the BBC is captured in this book What Christians Believe

One of the things I enjoy about Lewis is his ability to simplify complex topics without feeling like he is “talking down” to you. What theologians had made so complex and out-of-reach to many of the uneducated, Lewis made accessible to a vast audience.

If you have a friend or family member that has asked you about your Christian faith, but doesn’t see to “get it” when you explain it, the short essays in this book may be just the thing to get the conversation started again. Better yet: read the chapters along with them and then get together for a time of discussion. I think you will be pleased with the doors that C.S. Lewis may open for deeper understanding and more productive conversations about your Christian faith. 

The Role Of Prophecy

Micah may be classified as a minor prophet, but the prophecies in his book are fulfilled in a major way in as little as 20 years and as far out as 2700+ years! 

Here’s a question for us to consider: What exactly is the role of prophecy in the life of a Christian? 

Micah introduces himself in the opening verse. He was ministering in the country while Isaiah was in the city of Jerusalem at the same time. Micah’s ministry spans three kings of Judah in the south, and he overlaps the defeat of Israel in the north.  

Check out some of Micah’s most notable prophecies: 

  1. Judgment is coming to Samaria/Israel (1:6-7). This was fulfilled about 20 years later when the Assyrians defeated Samaria and took the Israelites into exile. 
  2. Judgment is coming on southern Judah (1:9-16). This was fulfilled about 30 years later when Sennacherib attacked Philistia and southern Judah, coming “even to the gate of Jerusalem” (v. 12). At the gate of Jerusalem was the miraculous deliverance God gave during Hezekiah’s reign (see 2 Kings 18-19; Isaiah 37). 
  3. Judgment is coming on Jerusalem (3:12). Micah even prophesied the Babylonians would defeat them (4:10). This is noteworthy because Assyria was the dominant world power at this time; it would be another 100 years before Babylon would even begin to rise to power. This prophecy was fulfilled about 160 years later, and this prophecy actually saved Jeremiah’s life around that same time (Jeremiah 26:7-19). 
  4. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem (5:2). This prophecy was fulfilled about 700 years later when Jesus was born (Matthew 2:5-6). 
  5. How people will respond to the Messiah’s Advent (7:4-6). This prophecy was partially fulfilled 700 years later in a direct quotation from Jesus (Matthew 10:34-36). 
  6. The coming of the final Kingdom of God (4:1-3). This prophecy will be fulfilled at Christ’s second Advent. 

[you can read all of these prophecies yourself by clicking here

So what is the role of prophecy? 

First of all, fulfilled prophecy reminds us that God is sovereignly in control of everything (Isaiah 46:10). But right on the heels of that, fulfilled prophecy reminds us that there is still more prophecy left to be fulfilled (2 Peter 1:20-2:3). 

The Bible tells me that when I sin, God’s first response is not anger toward me but broken-hearted grief. In a similar fashion, the prophecies of coming judgment on sinners are intended to show us the incredible mercy of God in the forgiveness of sin that He made available (Micah 7:18-20). 

Prophecy is never, never to be used as a club to beat people into submission to God. When Micah prophesied the destruction of Israel and Judah, he wept (Micah 1:8). 

So did Jesus (Matthew 23:37). 

And so should we! 

We live in an age today—as Micah experienced and as the apostle Peter said would be coming—where people won’t want to hear the news that unforgiven sin brings God’s judgment. Our response to this should be brokenhearted grief, tears, and a steadfast commitment to speak the truth in love that Jesus has provided the only means to be rescued from that judgment. 

If you’ve missed any of the other posts in this series on the major lessons from the minor prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here.

Poetry Saturday—Judge Not

Judge not; the workings of his brain
And of his heart thou canst not see;
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain,
In God’s pure light may only be
A scar, brought from some well-won field,
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.

The look, the air, that frets thy sight,
May be a token that below
The soul has closed in deadly fight
With some infernal fiery foe,
Whose glance would scorch thy smiling grace,
And cast thee shuddering on thy face!

The fall thou darest to despise—
May be the angel’s slackened hand
Has suffered it, that he may rise
And take a firmer, surer stand;
Or, trusting less to earthly things,
May henceforth learn to use his wings.

And judge none lost; but wait and see,
With hopeful pity, not disdain;
The depth of the abyss may be
The measure of the height of pain
And love and glory that may raise
This soul to God in after days! —Adelaide Proctor

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