Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Enthusiasm is necessary in any worldly endeavor whether it be sports, sales, etc. God's workers must show enthusiasm or they will not attract others to Christ. Romans 12:11 tells us to "be fervent in spirit." Fervent means boiling, aglow. Ira North once said, "Enthusiasm is as powerful as dynamite and contagious as measles." Gus Nichols stated the following...
"Good preaching, soul-stirring singing, earnest prayers, all the members faithfully attending the services and abounding in good works, contribute to the making of elders and deacons (1 cor. 15:58). Some congregations are mere cemeteries in which to bury valuable talents (Matt. 25:14-30). In some places about 10% of the members are doing about 90% of the Lord's work. All Christians must work or die. It will not be easy to develop elders and deacons in a church which is filled with lukewarmness and indifference (Rev. 3:13-19). Churches need to get excited about religion, and stir one another up to good works (Heb. 10:24). The church cannot produce great men upon a diet of cold, intellectual sermons, formal prayers and songs. Such churches need to wake up and live (Eph. 5:14). The only thing many churches have learned to do effectively is to 'Quench the Spirit' (1 Thess. 5:19). Nothing will grow well in an ice house! Elders and deacons, gospel preachers, song leaders, and Bible class teachers, are best produced in the hot house of a church 'fervent in spirit.'" (from North's book "At Work for the Master" p. 65).
May we provide an atmosphere of enthusiasm in the Lord's Church so that young leaders may grow.
Monday, October 29, 2007
This is the beginning of a series of short articles on leadership. I will use this word as an acronym. Today's blog deals with the letter "L".
What is "Leadership"? Someone once defined it as the ability to direct others to the efficient completion of a prescribed goal with a minimum of friction. Notice the three key components of this definition.
1) Direct others
2) Efficient completion
3) Minimum of friction
When all of these elements are present in the completion of a task, it is because good leadership is involved.
The Church faces a scarcity of leaders today. There are several reasons for this. Many are unaware of what they ought to do as leaders. Some are afraid to step up like Moses or the one talent man. There are those who have no foresight. The lack of training has contributed to this lack of leadership. Some are not willing to pay the price.
Obviously, something must be done to remedy this situation. First, we must realize that there is a great danger in times like this. Jotham's allegory (Judges 9) shows us that if good leaders don't step up and accept the responsibility, bad men will. Second, we must realize that nothing is going to change unless we make it change for the better. The late president Ronald Reagan once said, "I don't believe in a fate no matter what we do. But, I do believe in a fate if we do nothing."
Last minute instructions and words of encouragement mean a great deal to us.Paul did this with Timothy. He wanted to impress him with certain truths. Among these was the importance of being prepared to preach. In 2 Timothy 2: 8, Paul told Timothy to "remember." This seems to be Paul's final exhortation in a nutshell.
"Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:8-10).
Paul was saying "Remember the Power of Preaching" (verse 8). The resurrection gives the gospel its power (Rom. 1:4). Just think what Christianity would be without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:13,14,19). Paul shows us the secret to the power of preaching because what is preached has the power to save (Rom. 1:16). When you see the living Christ, you will preach the soul-saving message. You can then preach with conviction, and you will keep on preaching.
Paul was also saying "Remember the Perseverance of Preaching" (9). As powerful as the gospel is, it takes perseverance to preach it. Paul suffered in order to preach. In this verse, we see the perseverance of the man. The irony is that he preached the good news yet, suffered as an evil doer. It isn't always easy to talk to others about their spiritual condition (Ezk. 3:9). We can also see the perseverance of the message. Paul said he was in chains, yet, the Word of God was not and is not chained. Sadly, Christians can chain the Word if we change the message, or compromise it, or are ignorant of it, or hide it.
Finally, Paul was saying "Remember the Purpose of Preaching (10). Why did Paul endure all things? It was "for the elect's sake." Why? It was so that they may obtain salvation. Isn't that what it is all about? This was our Lord's purpose. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15). There is no greater purpose we can have in life!
This is a responsibility every Christian has. I'm sure Timothy always remembered the Power, the Perseverance, and the Purpose of preaching. We ought to be impressed with these facts as well. In his book "How To Build A Great Church", Mac Layton told the story of the great black scientist, George Washington Carver, who sought funding for some of his projects. He approached Andrew Carnegie for a financial gift. Carnegie listened to Carver's proposal and gave him $500 for his work. Carver thanked the philanthropist and immediately asked for another meeting. Carnegie asked why. Carver said, "Sir, I have not impressed you with the greatness of my cause." He gave the scientist another meeting and that time gave him a check for $500,000! We must be impressed with the greatness of God's message and do all we can to impress others also.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Robert B. Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under president Bill Clinton and now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, wrote an article about "Bush's God." Click here to see the article. Although this article was written in 2004, it serves to remind us that we are facing some great forces of secularism today. Especially notice Mr. Reich's last paragraph.
"The great conflict of the 21st century may be between the West and terrorism. But terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The underlying battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernist fanatics; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe blind allegiance to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is no more than preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe that truth is revealed solely through scripture and religious dogma, and those who rely primarily on science, reason, and logic. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism is not the only danger we face."
Notice, he says terrorism is a "tactic, not a belief." However, he ignores the radical beliefs that fuel terrorism. Reich paints with a broad brush which obviously includes Christians along with radical Muslims. Christians are not terrorists, but the secular leftists in our country today see this a an opportunity attack Christianity along with Islam. Statements such as these ought to make every Christian open his eyes to what we are facing today. Christians are in a spiritual war. We are at war against the forces of secularism, and he is on the wrong side.
Decisions are a part of everyday life, and those who make the best decisions in life will have a richer and possibly more successful life. However, making decisions is not always that easy. David found that out as one can see in 2 Samuel 11. Here you can see what a poor decision can do for you.
In 2 Samuel, we read how David looked (vs 2) when Bathsheba was bathing. He then inquired after the woman (3). Then he sent messengers to her (4). He should have stopped looking in the very beginning, but he didn't. How often does this happen today resulting in adultery, pornography, cyberporn, and even what some call cyberadultery? After David learned that Bathsheba was with child, he tried to cover up his sin by deceit and trickery (8, 12). David finally went so far that he stooped to murder (15).
Why did David make such bad decisions during this time of his life? He made his first bad decision in the passion and pressure of the moment. Just as Samson did with Deliah and Peter did when he denied Jesus, David made a snap decision without giving himself time to think it through. David also failed to consider the consequences. Of course, these consequences were severe (10-14). His decision was also hypocritical and could be considered rebellious. Why? Look at verse 4. The Bible says he lay with her for she was "purified from her uncleanness." In other words, he was careful to not break one minor Old Testament law while breaking a major one. The decision to murder was made due to David's own self-imposed restrictions which caused a state of desperation. David had a deadline to beat. He tried to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba to cover up his sin, but when Uriah would not do so David felt like he had to act quickly to keep the damage controlled. How often do we set up deadlines or get it in our heads that has to work out a certain way, and we end up making bad decisions based on a narrow perspective? Finally, missing from this passage is counsel. Why did he not seek out godly counsel in this matter? It was probably because he was trying to save face. At that time, covering up his sin was more important to David than Uriah's life. It was more important than repentance and more important than doing what was right.
What does that mean for us today?
1. We learn that we must SAFEGUARD ourselves against pressure. The best way to do this is to make up you mind what you will do before you find yourself in a tempting situation. Don't make poor decisions in the "passion of the moment."
2. STUDY (especially the consequences). We must train ourselves to think of the consequences of our actions. As the Lord said through the prophet Haggai, "Consider you ways" (Hag. 1:5,7).
3. SUBMIT to God. We must do this rather than rebel or act hypocritically (James 4). One of the best things one can do during a time of temptation is to pray.
4. SUBSTITUTE faith for self-imposed restrictions (Hebrews 11:6). It may be hard to turn things over to God, but it is always the best thing to do. Actually, the sooner we do this the better things turn out.
5. SEEK SUBSTANTIVE advice. There are times we all need advice. The key is to get good advice.
It is true that some decisions are not as important as others, but the important decisions can make or break one's life.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Most people have seen pictures of the great wall of China. This wall was built to keep enemies out, but it did not work. Why? The enemy did not assault the wall, or try to destroy it. They simply bribed a gate keeper and then walked in. All of us have gates to our lives that keep Satan out. Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, "for we are not ignorant of his [Satan's] devices" (2 Corinthians 2:11). Satan has many devices which he uses to try to get into our lives.
Doubt - (James 1:6:-8) Satan delights in keeping us off balance.
Disengaged - (Lamentations 1:12) Someone once said "Hardening of the heart ages people more quickly than hardening of arteries." Satan doesn't was us to really care about other people, the Church, what the Bible really says, or our own soul's destination. As long as we don't care, he has us where he wants us.
Discouragement - (Jeremiah 20:18) What can we do when discouragement comes? When down, look up! Pray. I realize that it is easier said than done, but we must trust God during the dark times of life. Allow others to help (2 Cor. 1:4). Remember, God can do great things when we are down. In other words, keep doing what you know you can do.
Dissatisfaction - Satan doesn't want us to be content with Christ or with anything to do with Christ. That would include dissatisfaction with the Church, Christians, or the truths found in the Bible.
Division - (Psalm 133:1) Satan wants to divide and conquer. He often uses some of the other devices to get people to this point That is why the Bible has so much to say about unity and division (i.e. 1 Cor. 1:10; John 17:20-21).
Distraction - (Nehemiah 6:3) The enemies of Nehemiah tried to distract him from the good work he was doing. Of course, being the leader that he was, he did not fall for this ploy. We have a great work in the Lord's Church, but nothing brings it to a screeching halt as quickly as distraction. Too often we become bogged down in the incidentals of the work. Satan loves to see this happen.
Denial - (2 Thess. 2:11; 2 Cor. 4:3,4) Even Christians can believe a lie when we deny the sin that is in our own lives. I doubt that there is anything that has been more detrimental to the Church than Christians living impure lives.
No, we are not ignorant of the devil's devices. This is only a short list of some of his ways of getting into our lives. We must learn to avoid them.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I have heard that the most exercise that some people get is jumping to conclusions. Making assumptions is a tricky thing because we have to assume that we have ALL the facts. We are not omniscient; we are not God! Click here to look at a story from Texas to see why we must avoid jumping to conclusions.
Have you ever wondered why we are witnessing the death of morality in America today? Well there is a survey that gives what I believe to be one of the reasons for today's moral decline. To see the article click here . This survey found that more people can name the seven ingredients of the Big Mac than the Ten Commandments. When people don't know about the Old Testament command "thou shalt not kill," it is no wonder that they have no problem with killing unborn babies. This is a frightening survey.
Do you remember the "Bouncer" ads on TV not long ago. It showed what looked like a traditional type of church building, but there was a bouncer keeping some people out while only letting those who looked like a "traditional Christian" in. It was sponsored by the United Churches of Christ. Several people asked me about these commercials. There are several groups that use this name, but we use it mainly as a descriptive designation.
The Universal Church of Christ is a group that is often simply called "universalists." Some if their leaders even signed the Humanist Manifest II. Not much is heard about them today. However, reading John 5:28,29 discredits the universalist doctrine.
The United Church of Christ came to this country in 1620 on the Mayflower to escape religious persecution. We know them better as the Puritans. Later they became know as the "Congregationalists." For most of their history in this country, they pursued unity through interdenominationlism, union, or unity in diversity. They are very ecumenical. Not long ago, the news reported that they had voted 87% in favor of accepting same sex marriages. It appears that they have gone a long way since the days of the puritans.
There is also what we can call the Church of Christ (Instrumental). This is basically the same as the Christian Church. Three distinct religious movements ultimately developed from the restoration movement of the 19th century (i.e., Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and churches of Christ).
Who are we? We simply follow the Bible in all things. This is the only valid basis for religious unity. We believe the old saying, "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty; and in all things love." When Jesus promised to build "His church" (Matthew 16:18), he was saying it would belong to Him. That is what the phrase "church of Christ" means. It is His church. The Bible refers to the church in a universal sense (as in Mt. 16:18), and also in a local sense (as in "the churches of Christ" in Romans 16:16). You can read about the establishment of this church in Acts 2. This is the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to build it. He paid for it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Finally, Jesus will present it to the Father one day (Ephesians 5:27). This is the church of Christ.
It takes man and his worldly reasoning to make God's simple plan confusing and difficult to understand. We must forget what man may say and listen to God and His Word. He is the one who sent His Son. Jesus is the one who shed His blood, and only He can save us by His grace. Remember Jesus said, "He that rejects me, and receives not my words, has one that judges him; the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48).
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Someone once said, "Thoughts are the children of one's brain, and words are the garments they wear. Too many people dress their thoughts with words that make them look like tramps." Solomon said, "Keep thy heart will all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Words are our tools of communication, and they are powerful. They can wreck homes, destroy lives, ruin businesses, and leave congregations torn asunder. Words stir human emotions and passions to great heights or horrible depths.
Words that hurt include tale bearing (Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; 18:8; 20:19). Some words are not based on facts, such as unjust criticism. Sarcasm or jesting at a serious moment can pierce like a sword (Proverbs 12:18). Even flattery can hurt because by its very nature it is insincere (Proverbs 26:28; 29:5).
On the other hand, there are some words that help. There are healing words (Proverbs 10:11). So many people are longing for healing words today. When passions are high and difficulties arise, stop and think, weigh words, speak and let the answer be a soft one. Some words are uplifting (Proverbs 12:25). They lighten heavy loads. Words need to be spoken in a timely fashion (Proverbs 15:22,23). Saying the right thing at the right time is an art that is learned. Words must also be skillful (Proverbs 25:11,12). The word that is "fitly spoken" is both skillful and valuable.
It takes the right kind of heart to use the right kind of words in the right way and at the right time. This is the heart all Christians must have. No wonder Solomon had so much to say about our words and the way we use them. We must also remember the words the Psalmist, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
The Bible is the most influential book in the world. Yet, sometimes even Christians don't realize just how much it has influenced our culture. There are many well known sayings that come directly from the Bible ("A house divided against itself..." Matthew 12; "A little leaven... 1 Corinthians 5:6; "The salt of the earth" Matthew 5:13). Notice some saying most of us have heard, yet, many of us don't realize came from the Bible.
"The Skin of My Teeth"
"My bone cleaves to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth" (Job 19:20). Do you ever feel that life is overwhelming you? Job knows how you feel and then some. He didn't even know how he was still alive. However, God will see us through even though we don't know how.
"A Fly in the Ointment"
"Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor" (Eccl. 10:1). One moments sin can cause a lifetime of heartache. We must be careful that we don't "sacrifice the day for the hour." Don't let one moment's indiscretion wipe out a lifetime of righteous living.
"A Drop in the Bucket"
"Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance; he takes up the isles as a very little thing" (Isaiah 40:15). Here the insignificance of the nations of the earth are compared to the immensity of God. How many times have nations tried to destroy God's people or overthrow God's purpose? The only success the nations ever had was when God allowed it because His people brought it on themselves due to their disobedience. Remember, God is in control and He is able to accomplish His will.
"The Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots"
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may you also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23). When all is said and done, people are still prone to sin. Temptation plagues us all. Yet, this does not mean man cannot change. It means we will always have the same struggles. Therefore, we must never let our guard down.
"The Apply of My Eye"
This is found in Dueteronomy 32:10, Psalm 17:8, and Proverbs 7:2. The apple is a metaphor for the pupil of the eye, and it is associated with a person or thing that is highly valued. In other words, you are the apple of God's eye, and that means you are precious to Him. We in return must make His law and His will the apple of our eye.
Don't live your life by the "skin of your teeth" because of the "flies in the ointment" of your life. Remember that the powers of this world are but a "drop int he bucket" compared to God's power. Furthermore, just as the "leopard cannot change his spots," we may stumble along the way, but we can always rejoice that we are "the apple of God's eye."