Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Shadow of Your Wings

Time for reflection and meditation is a precious commodity.  Finding time is very difficult and when we do find time attempting to calm down from our daily activity can be a difficult task.  I've found that listening to meditative music is helpful and one of my favorite albums to listen to is The Shadow of Your Wings by Fernando Ortega.

As you listen to the music reflect on the greatness and grander of God, His mighty works in creation and salvation in His Son Jesus.  I pray that God will bless your time as you listen to the still small voice and find yourself refreshed by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, February 18, 2011

The Beginning of Something Bigger - A Book on Leadership?

I've recently taken a class in Biblical Foundations for Leadership.  In an attempt to sum up the class I wrote this paper.  While quite lengthy for a blog, I found the word count of 1000 - 1200 words (this is closer to 2000) to be woefully short of what would have been necessary to do the class justice.  The topic of leadership itself would require much more, but here is my paper none-the-less.  As I look at the work, I see the beginning of a book which I may write someday on leadership.  Until then I will just keep adding to my blog what I learn.  God Bless and feel free to comment I would appreciate others perspective and wisdom.

In the course of history hundreds, no thousands of book (maybe more) have been written on the subject of leadership. You would think with so many books that we would know how to lead by now. But there still seems to be many questions about what makes a good leader, how one goes about learning the skills of leadership, what are the important elements of leadership. The amazing part about leadership is that what we truly need to know about leadership can be found in the Word of God. An ongoing study of God's word will lead us to the greatest understanding of leadership and give us a biblical foundation which all the books written on the subject can never match.
As we begin our journey on establishing a biblical foundation for leadership we should take a look the greatest leaders of all time Jesus. In a span of three short years Jesus began a ministry which has lasted over two thousand years and is ongoing today. He began this ministry with just twelve men who in themselves amounted to little in the world and instilled in them the ability to lead in some of the most difficult situations imaginable.

Jesus as Our Example
Jesus began his ministry with a perspective that put the the Father's ultimate plan as his end goal. Jesus speaking in John 6:38 says “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” And what was the will of the Father, Jesus goes on to say in vs 40 “that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” For Jesus ministry was about what his Father was doing in the world. We need to lead with a heavenly perspective. As we minister to those around us we need to pray and ask God to show us what he wants to do in our life and the lives of others, we need to read and study his word to see what his plan is and then act upon the insight we are given through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus also led with rhythm as he took time to heal, teach, rest, spend time with his disciples, rest and pray. Life is full of rhythms in which we must live and when we fight against the rhythm of life we tire ourselves out, when we work with the rhythm we find ourselves refreshed and ready for what God brings our way. The most basic form of rhythm was established by God at the foundation of the world when he created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. While God did not need to rest he was setting an example for us in how we should live because he knew our limitations and knew what we would need. The resting on the seventh day is not just a cessation from work but should include worship of God, and meditation on his Word. Jesus tells us in Mark 2:27 “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” What a wonderful gift God has given us when we remember that the Sabbath does not have rule over us, instead the Sabbath was made for us.
Jesus also took action. We might first think of his healing or teaching as some of the actions that he took, but his most important action was the action of prayer. And as leaders this is where we must begin. Before taking any other action we need to be in pray for God's direction for our life and ministry. In the high preistly prayer Jesus prayed for you and for me specifically when he said “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” As Jesus prayed for my joy, perseverance, sanctification and ministry. We should let this be a model for us in our ministry as we take action to carry out God's plan of redemtion.
Have you asked any good questions lately. Jeus was famous for asking questions. The questions that Jesus asked often brought out the true motives in peoples hearts or caused them to look deeper into the question they were asking. The questions we should ask ourselves should challange us to reflect on our life and ministry to make sure our motives are proper and the direction is the direction God would have us to take. In this short review we have just scratched the surface of Jesus as a leader. There is much more to write about but I would like to touch on several other topics in the are of leadership.

Where We Lead
In a basic journalism class we would learn to ask the five “w's”; who, what, where, when, and why. We can use these same questions when talking about leadership. We will start with where do we lead. Leadership can exist in five directions: leading self, leading up, leading peers inside, leading peers outside and leading down. When we lead we must begin by leading ourselves. In leading ourselvs we must learn to take care of ourselves emotionally, phsically and spiritually. We must also lead ourselves in personal development: growing in our understanding of the Bible and our part in God's ministry.
Leading up seems to be an odd direction to lead but we can and should lead those who lead us (with humility). This can be accomplished in several ways. By asking good questions concerning our position, or by recommending reading or listening material we can help those who lead us to begin to think about what we do and how they might be better able to understand our job. We can lead our peers within the organization as we get together and mentor each other. The Psalm 27:17 tells us that as “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” We can also lead others outside our organization as we meet with people in like postions who are not working where we work: pastors breakfasts, youth pastors from the local area getting together and swapping ideas. And the last and most obvious direction we lead is down as we lead those we have authority over. Leading in all five directions take time, but in the end will be well worth our effort as we build a team around us and work towards the sames goals.

What we Lead
As we begin to expore what we lead we should start with God and how he leads us. God leads us using four methods. First God leads by the power of the Holy Spirit in our life. From the time he calls us to our dying breath God has given us the Spirit to teach us (Acts 1:8). Second God leads us through his word (2 Tim 3:16-17). Third God uses circumstances in our life to give us direction (Acts 10). And last God uses others to lead us and one of the greatest examples from the Bible is found in Paul leading Timothy and others in the ministry. We should take note that in all these methods of leading God never forces us to follow. Leadership influences but it does not manipulate. God has built us with the ability to think, feel and choose and he works with these attributes as he guides and directs. As a professor, Michael Holt, from my college days once told me “God is a genteman, he will never make you do what you do not want to do.”
There are several ways you could influence others as you lead. One way is to resources them. I have a very dear friend who does a great job at research. She can come up with the most amazing resrouces from the internet. By sharing these with others we can lead them to be more like Christ, whether the resource is an inspirational musician or a great new Bible study.
We can also influence people by getting out of their way if what we are doing is hampering there efforts, we can add something to their tool box if we have something they don't (maybe some good questions to ask). The ways to influence are endless requiring only our own thoughful prayers and actions to bring them to light so that we might act upon them.

Why We Lead
The last of the W's I would like to tackle is why we lead. There are many reasons why someone would enter into a positon of leadership. Some good and others not so good. But as we consider our positions as leaders we need to deeply examine and take seriously our motive. Our motive will influence our thoughts and actions as we lead and could possibly be the greatest stumbling block to our leadership.
Before we begin to discuss the good motive for leadership, lets discuss the wrong motive. I believe the wrong motive for leadership can be boiled down to one word: pride. We see the greatest display of pride from Satan. Satan says “I will make myself like the Most High” ( Isaiah 14:14). From this starting point Satan leads a host of angels aways from God and is still attempting to lead others away to this day.
Our motives are to be the exact opposite of Satan's. Paul states our motives well in Romans 16:17 “to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.” Our movtives for leadership should be an acknowledgement of who we are in light of a soverign God. We should be humble, seeking to give God all the glory for everything we do, for we can do nothing apart from him (John 15:5). Are we seeking our own good or that of others, and ultimately God glory.
When I was a student at CIU a young man had arrived on campus early. He noticed one morning that one of the toilets was clogged and needed to be plunged. Not seeing a plunger and not knowing what else to do he called the front office to report the problem. After about fifteen minutes he noticed a workman in the bathroom fixing the problem. He though little of the event until several days later. While sitting in chapel he saw the janitor who had fixed the toilet introduced as the president of the school. Now that is what I call leadership. Are we ready to get down and dirty for the minstiry, to do what ever needs to be done, to humble ourslelves and serve others.

I believe we have just scratched the surface of a foundation for biblical leadership. There is so much more to be written. I would like to leave on this note and that is that our leadership should be based on faith, hope and love. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The opposite of faith is fear, and we need not fear for God has taken away our fear. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations . . .” (Romans 4:18). The opposite of hope is dispair not believing that God will carry us through to the end.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Cor 13:4). The opposite of love is lust. Lust is me getting without regard or care for others around me. Only though a biblical foundation can we find true leadership that will succeed, not man's definition, but God's. To God be the glory and may we never stop searching for him as we lead his people.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Principles of Ministry: Ministry is Reproducing

2 Timothy 2:2
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

I recently saw the quip "Never make yourself irreplaceable, you'll never get promoted."  This short phrase got me to thinking about what I am doing in my church.  Am I so irreplaceable that I can not be moved else where.  Currently I am the only one who works the sound system.  The youth pastor and a few others can muddle through when I'm out sick, but they need more. The church needs someone who is trained and can work the board well.  I have started training one of the teens to do the job.  Just like Paul, I want to train others to do the work of the ministry.

Paul journeyed through many parts of the world spreading the gospel.  His goal as he stopped at each town, made disciples, and planted churches was to be able to move on to the next town to plant another church.  He could not accomplished this goal if he became irreplaceable.  He needed to train others to lead the churches he planted.  Paul also passed on the advice to Timothy.  As Timothy led the church at Philippi he was to train other faithful men who would continue to pass on the teachings of the word of God and lead the church.

What about you, are you making yourself irreplaceable.  I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nathan an executive pastor at a church in Virginia.  He was brought on board at his church for the express purpose of replacing the senior pastor at some time in the future.  Until that time he was in "training."  What an awesome example of 2 Timothy 2:2.  How many pastors do you know who would consider such an action as to make themselves replaceable.  My pray for each of us is that we are always looking for the "Timothys" in our lives so that we may train them to carry on the work of the ministry.  Someday we will all be promoted to our heavenly home and God has given us the responsibility to train others to carry on the work of the ministry.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Christians Get Depressed Too

Christians Get Depressed Too by David P. Murry is a wonderful book for those suffering with depression or those who know someone who is.  Pastor Murry has done a wonderful and thoughtful investigation into the difficult subject of depression.  He comes at depression from a well balanced biblical perspective allowing for causes which could stem from heart, body or soul.

In six chapters he discusses why we get depressed,  how to study the topic of depression, what depression is and then covers different methods to deal with depression.  He discusses the physical, spiritual, mental approaches which have been taken up in the past and explains the strength and weaknesses of each.  In his last chapter he address caregivers (spouses, pastors, friends) and gives timely advise on how we can help those dealing with depression.  This is a great resource and I am glad to have this book on my shelf.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dad's Like to Have Fun Too, Just for Laughs

Every once in a while we just need a good laugh.  And hey dads doesn't this look like a fun activity to do with your kids.

Thanks Mike for the laugh.


Friday, February 4, 2011

10 Tips to a Great Sermon by Pete Scazzero

I just ran across "Ten Distinctives of Emotionally Healthy Preaching" by Peter Scazzero.  I would highly recommend taking a few minutes to read them.  Listed below are the highlights.

1. Is my “heart at rest?”
2. Have I spent adequate time with the Father so that I am not preaching from a reflected sense of self?
3. Have I allowed the text to go deep beneath my own iceberg?
4. Am I eager for a “live encounter” with people?
5. Am I living with integrity?
6. Have I finished editing and simplifying the message?
7. Am I fighting or surrendering to God’s process?
8. Am I being prudent, thoughtful and honest in my preaching?
9. Have I honored the principle of walking “two by two,” i.e., the power of community exegesis?
10. Is my life different as a result of this Word before I stand up?


Principles of Ministry: Ministry is taking a Sabbath

When the TI-30 calculator first came out I was in my early teen years and I got one for my birthday (thanks dad).  In the back of the manual there were calculations for determining your biorhythms.  Supposedly you could figure out when you would be at your peek physically, emotionally and intellectually, not that this ever did me any good.  I think the teachers scheduled the test when I was down intellectually.  Interested in math I had fun with the calculations, but I never took them seriously.

But there is a  rhythm in life we should take seriously and that is the rhythm that God established from the foundation of the world.  The calculation is very simple: 6W + 1S = 1C.  In Genesis 1:1-2:3 Moses describes the basic cycle (1C) of life.  God worked for six days (6W) and took a Sabbath on the seventh (1S).  God did not rest because He was tired but as an example for us in how we should conduct our own affairs.

While there are many cycles in life, the most critical is the cycle that ends with the Sabbath.  Our body, mind, and spirit needs a time of refreshing and renewal.  Without this period of rest we will run ourselves into the ground.  Take time each week to rest, really rest and fix your mind on God, meditate on His word, communicate with Him in true worship, in spirit and in truth.  Then you will be ready for the work which God will bring into your life for the next week.  May God grant each of us the wisdom to know how to take a Sabbath.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Principles of Ministry: Ministry is Change

Mark 10:45
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

The disciples gathered around Jesus on the road into Jerusalem.   James and his brother John, looking for an opportunity to further their position in the kingdom, asked if they could sit at his right and left when he tossed out the Romans and reestablished the kingdom of Israel.  What the brothers failed to realize was that Jesus had not come to establish a political kingdom.  The kingdom which Jesus had come to established was beyond anything they had ever imagined or thought.  Jesus had come to establish a kingdom based on ransoming His life for those who would repent and follow Him.

I imagine the disciples were shocked when Jesus said that he had come to serve, and to ransom Himself for many.  They were even more shocked when Jesus demonstrated what he meant as He washed their feet during the last supper.  And can you imagine their surprise when they saw Him crucified.  This is not what they had left their families, friends, and business' for, they were following the man who was to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel.

What the disciples would experience over the next couple of months was profound change.  This change was based on the realization of what Jesus had been teaching them, and the culmination of their experience came with the empowering of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2).

What about us, do we have any ideas of ministry that need to be changed?  Are we looking to the Word of God to guide us and direct us in our ministry or are we trying to follow the whims of the world, the latest fad, or the programs of some mega-church?  When we make the Bible the functional authority for our ministry (1 Tim 3:16-17) we align ourselves with God's game plan for our lives and our churches.  We must continually evaluate our ministry and make sure that what we are doing aligns with God's word and if necessary make any changes to keep with the His plan.